How do you create an effective marketing strategy for yourself and your business if you’re just one person? Do you need to hire a team? Can you reach enough people without investing in paid advertising? If you find yourself asking these questions, keep reading. I have good news to share with you.
The short of it is, YES. You can build an effective marketing strategy for yourself and your business without a team. Keep in mind that having a team in place doesn’t mean that you’re employing a permanent group of full-time employees. Other people (a team), however, can most definitely help you expedite the building process.
The same goes for paid advertising. Paid advertising can speed up the overall process and get your message in front of more people faster than just about all the alternatives. However, you do have other options. Options that are arguably just as effective, if not more so over the long term. The issue here is – time.
Five people can get the job done faster than let’s say – two people or one person. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, it will take longer. It’s totally up to you.
Likewise, paid ads will get more eyeballs on your product much faster than generating traffic organically (think SEO) will. So, if you’re a Solopreneur and you find yourself with a mini-budget (or no budget at all), let’s talk about a practical, realistic path to success.
Where do you start?
Get Clear on Your Messaging
First, let’s start with your message to the world or your message to your marketplace. People value transformation. Think caterpillar to butterfly. Another way to put it would be the BEFORE STATE and the AFTER STATE. If you can take one person from a Before State to an After State, how could you express that experience in one or two sentences?
For example, if I were in the health niche, I may say something like, “I help skinny men in their 20s, build muscle and strength without lifting weights.” That’s an example of a transformation. The “without weights” part would give the message a sense of uniqueness in a crowded market.
So, for now, stop thinking in terms of the product or service you offer. Instead, think of the transformation the product or service brings because that’s what you’re selling.
You’re selling the “After State” to people. Right now, your clients may feel unsure. After working with you, they’ll feel confident. Again, you’re selling the result. If you’re struggling to think this through, go back to the traditional niches (like health, wealth, and relationships) and think about how these topics have been marketed over the years.
Visualize a worst-case scenario for each of those categories and imagine how the individual would feel. Next, think about the best-case scenario for the same individual.
How much different or how much better would their lives be? That’s before and after. That’s what you must offer. No, it may not be as dramatic as a 400-pound man losing 200 lbs. and getting his life back, but you’re offering a transformation, nonetheless.
So, get clear on your messaging. That’s where you start!
Stay with Your Strengths When Getting Started
If we examined your skillset in detail, we may very well find that you’re proficient in multiple areas. You may know how to write, how to make videos, understand basic design, and so on. For the sake of your messaging, though, you’re still going to focus on selling the transformation you’re offering and not the individual skills.
It’s the combination of the skills that create the transformation or the before and after experience. That, when all is said and done, is your true strength. Now, let’s keep on going.
Seriously ask yourself the question, “Why did my current clients choose me over my other competitors?”
Think it through and list three or four things your clients value in you. List them in order of importance from the highest to the lowest (even if there is only a slight difference between them).
When I first started my business, there were four things I really wanted to be good to great at. I’m talking about four skills that, when combined, would create the outcome I was looking for. That said, I was only good at two of the four things at the time. My skill set wasn’t completely ready for prime time yet, but I was getting there. Meanwhile, business-wise, I found it easier to focus on selling the kind of results I was already capable of delivering on a professional level.
The rest came with time and experience.
You can go from good to great much faster if you stick with your strengths. And yes, you can acquire other skills along the way, but don’t spread yourself too thin. Especially if most of this is new to you.
Define Your Products & Pricing
Over time, I’ve learned the importance of “productizing” everything I do. I even view my services as products at the end of the day. Very seldom will I take on a customized type of project. With a product, everything is pre-measured and priced. Like small, medium, and large.
With some services, you may find this difficult, but you can simplify things by creating a base price. For example, maybe you build websites starting at $1,200? Or, maybe you manage social media campaigns starting at a certain price per month?
The idea here is simple. People want to know exactly what they’re going to get and how much it’s going to cost them. Don’t be vague or ambiguous about it.
Specific pricing benefits you as well because you’ll know exactly how much of each product you’ll need to sell per month or quarter to hit your financial goals. You’ll be crystal clear on where you stand financially at any given point in time.
Also, consider taking the time to explain why your products are the best choice (or one of the best) in the marketplace today. Maybe you combine certain elements that your competitors don’t? Or maybe you use a unique process?
Marketing Styles and Options
Once you’re clear about your messaging and clear about your pricing, you’re ready to package that message and deliver it to your audience. There is where things begin to break down for many solopreneurs. There are many attractive options on the table, but you can’t choose all of them.
This is where I go back to the principle of staying close to your strengths. As one person, you’ll most likely “major” in one type of marketing while you “minor” in another. You don’t need a lot of moving parts to be successful.
Let’s look at a few methods.
Video Marketing is great for solopreneurs who feel comfortable being in front of a camera and communicating their message through video. If you enjoy recording, editing, and uploading videos – this is a popular option. Why does video work so well for so many solopreneurs? Once you have the tools in place (your camera(s), software, lighting, etc.), you can put some distance between yourself and your competitors because, in all honesty, most of your competitors will not feel comfortable using video.
I believe the foundation to success with videos for a solopreneur comes down to a few simple things.
First, you have to enjoy the video-making process. If it feels too overwhelming to you, you won’t stick with it. Second, you must have some patience. Video creation and editing is a skill like any other skill.
You don’t start out as an expert. It requires a little time and patience to grow as a video creator.
If the idea of video appeals to you but being on camera doesn’t… you can always create slide presentations with tools like PowerPoint or Google Slides and present your information that way. That’s the way many course creators create their programs and people are used to those kinds of videos.
Pros – Video makes it easier to communicate your message and for others to connect with you (as a solo brand) much faster. The audio and video elements bring out the various facets of your personality in ways that are difficult for most people to achieve with text alone.
Cons – There is an initial investment in equipment to get started (camera, editing software, lighting, etc.). Also, video creation and editing process can be time-consuming. There is also the initial learning curve.
Social Media Networking
Back in the early days of social media, businesspeople spent more hours per day networking on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn than they do today. That doesn’t mean, of course, that these platforms are dead or no longer effective. It simply means that you must be willing to spend time engaging with others regularly.
Social media is more of a relationship-building medium. These relationships can lead to all kinds of opportunities down the road. This can work well for you even if you’re a bit of an introvert because this is not “live” networking. If you’ve ever participated in live, in-person networking, you know there’s a certain energy that’s required.
Thankfully, none of that is required for a solopreneur to succeed with networking on social media.
Pros – You can connect with people you would otherwise never connect with. This can open the doors to many opportunities for you to grow your business in the months and years to come.
Cons – Fewer people are spending time on social media today. Also, the time investment required is very real. If you can’t invest at least an hour a day interacting with others, you may find it difficult to find success with any social platform.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
If you’re a content creator of any kind, it’s worth taking a little time to learn the basics of SEO. What is search engine optimization? I like Search Engine Land’s definition. It’s the process of improving your site to increase its visibility when people search for products or services related to your business in Google, Bing, and other search engines.
Even learning the ABCs of SEO can help a Solopreneur’s business efforts for years to come. WordPress and a good SEO plugin (like SEO Press Pro for example) make it easy to get started. To get started, you have to be willing to create the kind of content your audience is looking for. I’m talking about problem-solving content or (at the very least) interesting or engaging content.
When we talk about SEO, we’re talking about the long game. Do you know what I mean by that? I’m talking about the willingness up front to invest in 12-24 months of content creation. I’m not saying it will take that long to see results. In most cases, I begin seeing results by month six. I’m just saying you have to be willing to forget about instant gratification when it comes to SEO. The biggest returns on the investment usually take some time.
Pros – High ranking, page one content can bring traffic to your website for years to come. No budget is required. You just have to be willing to invest time in creating content and follow the recommendations of a plugin like SEO Press.
Cons – It requires time before your content is picked up by Google, Bing, or Yahoo. If you’re in a competitive niche with established competitors, you may need to hire an SEO consultant to help you create an effective strategy to make it to page one.
Podcasting is a fantastic way to reach people who are mobile more often than not. I define “mobile” as being – everywhere but at their desk. People can listen to podcasts while driving, walking the dog, working out, etc. I started my podcast back in 2017.
Back then, I found myself thinking, “I wonder if I’m late to the podcasting party?” I wasn’t, and neither are you. Podcasting gives your content that added element of personality that’s similar to a video. If you’re comfortable speaking, podcasting may be a natural fit for you the way it was and is for me.
My approach to podcasting is a little different.
From the beginning, I did not want to commit to recording a weekly, interview-styled podcast. Instead, I decided to go solo all the way. That way, I didn’t have to rely on finding interesting guests (which seemed like way too much work).
In 2017-18 I primarily used Facebook to promote it which worked great for me. In early 2018, people interested in paid sponsorships for my show began contacting me.
Does podcasting require a lot of work or energy? At times it may feel that way. For example, you often have to do a minimal amount of editing of an audio file. You might add an intro or an outro to each episode. You may want to edit out some of the um’s or sections of the audio that don’t add to the finished product.
I find that editing audio content is a bit easier than editing video content. I use the same software for both (Camtasia Studio).
I will say this – it takes time to grow a podcasting audience. In some respects, it’s similar to SEO. It took about a year before my podcast “grew roots” so to speak.
Pros – Like video, audio can help you connect and engage with others much faster than text or text with images can. Talking directly to your audience week after week is a powerful way to grow your brand and build trust.
Cons – You have the initial investment in audio software, a microphone, and a podcasting service to host your audio files. Unless you already have a bit of a following, it can take a while to grow your audience.
For the sake of time, I’m not going to go into details on the other options that are out there. For example, you can build a blog. I would file that under SEO and content creation. If you’re not a big fan of the written word, you can always open a Google Doc and dictate your articles instead of typing. I personally use a browser extension called Grammerly (the free version) to edit my content. It’s not perfect, but it definitely helps.
You can start a YouTube Channel, create Webinars, or do anything else that involves video. We can file all of that under video marketing.
You can focus on email marketing or newsletter marketing or create other types of content. You just have to invest the time and energy to create the content that people in your market will want to subscribe to.
I publish a monthly newsletter (https://www.jimsnewsletter.com/) and I’ve found that a monthly schedule is much easier to stick with than a weekly one. Especially when I’m publishing a weekly podcast. Think in terms of a time commitment. Whatever you start, can you commit to a set schedule?
Certain activities require a commitment if you’re determined to get results. Marketing just happens to be one of those activities.
Okay, finally, let’s take a quick look at paid advertising
If you’re completely against content creation of any kind, you’re certainly not out of luck. Paid advertising is an option that’s attractive to a lot of solopreneurs because they simply don’t have the time, energy, or ambition to go the content creation route.
If that’s you, consider paid advertising. Paid advertising can work well for you, but you still need to have a good list of keywords. In that way, it’s very similar SEO. If not, you will have to invest the time (or pay someone) to create a list of effective keywords for your products or services.
Also, you must be willing to spend some time (daily or weekly) tracking the effectiveness of your pay-per-click ad campaigns (Facebook Ads, Google Ads, etc.). You must have an advertising budget in place for (at the very least) three months.
Some would suggest at least six months or more.
Finally, you must be willing to invest in ad campaigns until they become profitable.
This all requires some tweaking and testing over time.
Pros – You have the potential to reach masses of people quickly. You don’t have to invest time in content creation if you don’t want to. If your budget is big enough, you can pay someone to manage the ad campaigns for you.
Cons – You have to learn how the ad systems work (Facebook Ads, Google Ads, etc.) if you’re going to manage the campaigns yourself. You must be willing to lose some money while you refine your ad campaigns and strategy. If you stop investing in ads, everything potentially comes to a halt.
How to Create Your Strategy
So, how do we create our strategy? If you’ve never created a digital marketing strategy before, let me give you an analogy to describe what the planning process can be like. Imagine you haven’t eaten all day, and that night, you go to one of your favorite restaurants.
Everything on the menu looks great, and the food can’t get to the table fast enough.
Maybe you want to order just about everything on the menu?
When you’re hungry, you’ll find that your eyes are bigger than your stomach. You want more than you are capable of eating or more than you could possibly finish.
Planning out a marketing campaign can be that way. It’s easy to convince yourself that you can do more than you’re actually capable of doing. There just aren’t enough hours in the day or dollars in the bank to get it all done. But again, it’s not difficult to convince yourself that your case is the exception to the rule.
In all likelihood, everything will take a little longer and seem a bit more difficult than you originally anticipated.
With that in mind, consider a simpler approach.
Choose one weekly marketing activity that you’ll commit to for the next year. Is that asking a lot? That’s sort of an open-ended question I guess, so you’ll have to answer that for yourself. I chose podcasting because I feel comfortable talking about my topic
I also chose podcasting over video because I know firsthand from my experience with course creation how time-consuming video editing can be. That wasn’t something I wanted to lock myself into for the foreseeable future. For you, it may be different.
That’s why I encourage you to go with your existing strengths – at least for now.
Remember, marketing is the activity that allows you to connect with an ever-growing audience of people who can benefit from what you have to offer. Connecting is one thing. Staying connected is another. That requires consistency.
This applies to Ad campaigns as well. If you can’t sustain 3, 6, or 12 months’ worth of paid advertising, it may be difficult to make the necessary adjustments that will allow you to get the most out of your campaigns.
Your Solopreneur Style of Marketing
Considering all the above, you can see why it’s important to stay close to your strengths when it comes to the tools and platforms you’ll be using. If you’re outsourcing certain elements, make sure you vet the freelancers as thoroughly as possible.
Remember, your general strategy (both long and short term) is to build connections with your audience and marketplace. And although you don’t have to follow this pattern, most people discover this is easier to do when you have audio or video in the mix.
I chose podcasting as my weekly marketing activity (https://www.jimgaliano.com/podcast/).
Now, if you’re already running a business and serving customers, a chunk of your time is already dedicated to that. You’re going to work with whatever remains.
Keep that in mind as you’re planning out your strategy.
What can marketing activity can you do once a week that’s dedicated to building a stronger connection with your market, with prospective clients or customers?
For years, blogging ticketed all the boxes. It still can if you prefer the written word. It just takes a bit longer than, let’s say, getting started with a YouTube channel.
If video appeals to you, can you create one video per week?
I’m a big fan of long-form content, but that probably wouldn’t play out too well with the average YouTube person. So, I’d have to condense the content down into smaller pieces or possibly playlists.
Content Every Week, Every Other Week, or Once Per Month?
I encourage you to use either Outlook Calendar or Google Calendar to plan out your content. I know, you may be thinking, “This is just another thing I have to do.” That’s how I thought in my “pre-calendar” days. I’m not one of those people who enjoy planning out every hour of the day.
I don’t have to eat dinner at the exact same time every night, for example.
But, I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t forget things if I didn’t schedule them on a calendar.
For me, the calendar works because I set it up to send reminders to my email and my phone. That, in a nutshell, is a simple system that keeps me from forgetting things.
Here’s an example of a 30-day marketing plan
|Marketing Activity||Week 1||Week 2||Week 3||Week 4|
|Guest on Podcast|
As a solopreneur, you may find yourself more (or less) ambitious during some months than others. Or maybe you just have less on your plate next month than you do this month? If that’s the case, you may want to create additional videos.
Some months you may struggle to do the bare minimum. That’s just life. The key is that you must be consistent – even if your marketing plan is more minimalistic in scope. The human-to-human connection you can make as a solopreneur can also be broken if you stop making content for months at a time.
People lose interest and move on to other things. It’s not that you can’t get an audience back if you lose them. You can. The point I’m trying to make is, why lose them, to begin with?
Measuring Your Progress Quarterly
Once your plan is in place, I recommend reviewing and measuring your progress quarterly. The first quarter is usually the slowest, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to identify areas where you can adjust things and make improvements.
Making Offers and Sales
Let’s talk about sales and making offers. It’s important to remember that marketing and sales are two sides of the same coin. If you’re too passive and you don’t create offers and put them out there, you’ll be leaving a lot of money on the table.
Have you ever responded to a time-sensitive offer or one that was too good to refuse? With practice, you can learn how to make better offers.
Never forget, it’s one thing to build a following, but it’s quite another to make offers to them in such a way that they’re buying your products or services.
Good offers convert. What would a good or compelling offer look like to your audience?
Maybe you’re still in the research and audience-building phase? In other words, you haven’t settled yet on a specific product to create or market. That’s fine. Just remember, there are plenty of affiliate products out there to choose from, too. Consider all your options.
You don’t have to build everything yourself. In some cases, you may find it easier to sell products made by others. This can also help you build confidence to sell your own.
Okay, let’s sum things up. If you’re a solopreneur, you do not need to hire a full-time team of employees to run successful marketing campaigns. You may want to consider hiring temporary help to build out all the initial pieces faster. It’s totally up to you.
Yes, you can do everything yourself, it just takes longer.
Next, choose the building blocks of your marketing system carefully. Think long-term. What can commit to, action-wise? Think in terms of consistency. What type of activities can you stick with for the next twelve months?
Let me remind you one last time that there are pros and cons to everything. Knowing that upfront can help you stick with the kind of plan that’s doable for you as an individual.
This isn’t about what everyone else is doing – it’s all about what you’ll be doing. Don’t worry about
Lastly, learn to enjoy the entire process. It took me a while to realize this, but marketing doesn’t have to be seen as a necessary evil. That’s how I used to see it. Then I discover that you can learn to enjoy the entire process of business growth.
It took me a while to learn this because I was forever looking for shortcuts when I was a newbie. Instead, settle down and follow a plan. Enjoy your journey!
You can do this! This isn’t rocket science or advanced studies in genetics. This is digital marketing. It can be simplified to the point where even solopreneurs can build and manage successful campaigns on their own. So, bookmark this article so you can refer back to it and go ahead and get started!