Getting Big Results with a Tiny Marketing Department

42% of the small businesses we surveyed invest less than 3% of their revenue into marketing. And only 14% of them outsource their marketing, public relations and advertising.

This is notably different to how they handle the complementary tasks of graphic design and website design: 54% of small businesses outsource those.

Even in-house efforts tend to be scaled down. One study found that 71% of small businesses have marketing teams made up of five people or less. And that’s no outlier, either. Another study found that 68% of marketing teams were made up of one to three people.

But you probably knew all this. You know all too well about the tight budgets, the small teams, and the need to keep your company’s marketing in-house. You’re on one of these tiny but mighty teams. What you need to know is how to get the same results as teams with a dozen or more marketers. Well, it is possible.

You can beat your competitors, even if they have much larger marketing teams.
You just have to be smarter than they are. Here’s how:

1. Track your results
Small and micro-sized teams have no margin for error. They much spend their time on high-return tasks.

This requires two things:

They know what works
They have an action-based plan for how to do more of it
Let’s focus on that first bit. To “know what works” more specifically means you’ve got something like goals set up in Google Analytics for all the major events that happen on your website. You know where your leads and orders are coming from and how well and where they convert.

2. Have a documented marketing strategy
What’s the one marketing best practice that separates the successful marketers from the rest?

It’s not the size of their budget. It’s not the size of their team. It’s having a documented marketing strategy – a plan on paper – that’s data-backed and specific enough to keep your team on track as the deadlines fly and the campaigns keep coming. A road map, if you will.

It’s especially important to include goals in your marketing strategy. A survey of content marketers done earlier this year found that successful marketers are 4.3x more likely to set goals than average marketers.

3. Automate everything you can
Just because there’s work that has to get down doesn’t mean your team has to do it. It doesn’t mean any human has to do it, either.

So invest in some basic marketing automation. Do stuff like:

Automate your onboarding emails
Automate running reports
Automate sending invoices
Create a good enough self-support area on your website so customers and prospects can actually help themselves.

4. Outsource everything you can
Your small team works hard. Very hard. They have to do a lot of different tasks – to “wear a lot of hats”, as some people say. It’s good that they should be constantly learning new skills, but some skills may not be worth learning.

Take video editing or sound editing, for example. It needs to be done, but learning the software, and doing this very specialized task can take a lot of time. And there are dozens of people on Fiverr who are total pros at video and sound editing. Those pros can get more done in an hour than your team member can do in a day. And they’ll charge less than what you’re paying that team member.

So outsource those edits.

5. Invest in good tools
Smaller teams need to maximize every minute. So if that means they need a couple of marketing or social media services or tools that will speed up their work… get them those tools.

6. Invest in training
Some skills should be outsourced; some skills should be maximized. So buy your team some training. If you do, you’ll automatically be in the top 21% of small business marketing teams.

Our survey found that only 21% of small business owners plan to “invest in training or tools to improve employee productivity.” That’s not so great, but it could be competitive advantage for you, if you’re willing to invest.

7. Have SOPs (standard operating procedures)
Creatives call these workflows. Whatever you call them, everything should have a procedure. And ideally, everything should also have a checklist.

Checklists are awesome for people who operate at maximum efficiency but cannot afford any mistakes. That’s why pilots use them. A good checklist, always checked, can save literally tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of mistakes every year. Not to mention all the time used up and the stress created by mistakes and emergencies.

8. Use an editorial calendar
Here’s another way to avoid surprises: Know what’s coming down the pipe. Editorial calendars make everybody’s life easier. They’ll also keep your team from overcommitting. Burnout is neither productive nor profitable.

9. Steal from your competition
Ethically, of course. So by “steal”, I mean track what your competitors are doing. Test what you see them doing.

Word to the wise: Just because your competitors are doing something doesn’t mean it’s working for them. Or that it will work for you. But if you monitor their moves carefully, you may be able to piggyback on some their work.

10. Build a “testing culture”
Thanks to the tracking you set up, you know what has worked in the past and what works now.

But things may not stay the same. And there may be ways to get even better results than you’re getting now. The only way to know is to test. An ongoing, statistically valid program of A/B split-tests (perhaps one per week) is a great way to be constantly improving.

Don’t let being part of a small team diminish your goals. Some of the most effective, admired marketing teams in the business are “only” about 3-5 people.

A small group of talented people who work hard and smart as a cohesive team can often beat larger teams. Even much larger teams. Especially in markets that change fast. The agility of smaller teams can often trump the resources larger teams wield.

So dream big, little teams. Use your competitive edge.

Use Influencer Marketing to Boost Sales at Your Local Business

Influencer marketing is the modern-day equivalent of a “celebrity spokesperson” endorsement of your business, products or services. However, instead of appearing on TV or magazine pages, influencer marketers are found online, typically on social media, YouTube or blogs. According to Hubspot, 71% of consumers are more likely to purchase based on social media referrals like the ones made by influencers. And a study by MuseFind showed that 92% of buyers trust an influencer more than they do an advertisement.

These “influencers” have large followings of loyal fans. The great thing for you is that their fans don’t really consider these people celebrities but see them more like everyday people that have “gone viral.” This keeps the influencer real and genuine in the eyes of their followers, and most influencers stay true to that.

When your business partners with an influencer, you are essentially asking that person to mention or promote your product or business in one of their social media posts, videos or blog posts – but in a very natural, organic, non-salesy way. These influencers have earned their followers’ trust by being genuine, and most are not going to give that up for a quick buck to blatantly promote a product. So it has to be subtle. If your local business has a product or service that fits in line with a local influencer, it could be a match made in marketing heaven.

And with social media platforms like Facebook starting to lock down their algorithm, making it more and more difficult for companies to have organic reach, partnering with an influencer who has a dedicated audience is a great way to show off your business to a group of people who is already paying attention.

How to Find Local Influencers

When people think of influencers, most people think of the Kim Kardashians of the world. But chances are there are influencers in your backyard, in your own city – you just have to find them.

As an example, the teenagers in my city follow a kid that went to a local high school. His nickname is Flyy. Flyy has a YouTube channel called Flyy Does YouTube where he plays practical jokes and does other funny stuff (sometimes there is language that he bleeps out – or should bleep out — but all in all it’s good fun.) The kids LOVE Flyy and it shows with his whopping 97K subscribers! (Not bad for a 19-year-old kid from Cedar Rapids, IA.)

Flyy plays pranks and other goofy stuff around the city of Cedar Rapids, IA, with his friends, and often local businesses are included in his videos. For instance, in his Christmas video, he makes rounds through various drive-through restaurants in the city dressed as Santa Claus.

In one scene the kids drive through a locally owned Burger King restaurant. Not only do they verbally mention that they’re at the Burger King, they talk about the menu and what they want to order. (Even if you were watching the video with the sound off, you would know where Flyy and his crew were eating):

Now, do you think teenagers in Cedar Rapids will be hungry for Burger King food after watching this video — especially when they see how well the employees took this good-humored spoof? Or the next time they want to get a burger, will they be more likely to stop at the Burger King “that Flyy went to”? You bet! Smart businesses in the area that cater to teens would be wise to give Flyy a call and see if they could coordinate a video recording at their business.

The secret is to find influencers in your city with a large following of your ideal customers. These influencers can be other businesses, local individuals, a local stand-up comic, a band, local entertainers, public speakers, sports coaches, public figures, etc. The point is, you don’t have to look farther than your own community to find influencers who might be willing to partner with you in your marketing efforts.

What Happens After You Find an Influencer? The Magic of Influencer Marketing Begins

Once you find an influencer you want to work with, you need to decide on the “payment.” Sometimes influencers will work in trade (i.e. exchange merchandise, products or services for them mentioning your business) and others want monetary payment. So there will need to be some negotiation on your part. The number of fans the influencer has will also impact how much you will have to pay.

Once you agree on the terms and payment, you would then coordinate the “event” (whether it’s a photo, image, video, post, etc.) For instance, if you own a local restaurant and find a local Instagram food influencer that has a lot of followers that you want to work with, you would schedule a time for that influencer to come into your restaurant, give her your usual royal treatment and let her do what she does best – either take pictures of your delicious food, make a video at your restaurant with your food as the centerpiece or let her take in the food, atmosphere, your staff’s hospitality, etc. and then she will go home and weave your restaurant’s food into her next blog post.

The magic happens when the influencer tags your company in their next piece. The goal is to drive traffic to your social media channels or directly to your business, so you get new followers and new customers!

The FTC Guidelines for Influencer Marketing

You may be asking yourself, “What does the FTC have to do with influencer marketing?” Actually, quite a bit. With the rise of influencer marketing, the FTC wants to make sure that people seeing the “pitch” about your business know that it’s a paid endorsement (no matter how subtle the endorsement is.)

Both you and the influencer need to clearly disclose that there is a relationship between your brand and the influencer, and the FTC has created influencer guidelines for doing that. These rules are especially important for Instagram posts because typically people look at Instagram posts on a mobile device where they can only see the first three lines (unless they click “more” – which they rarely do while on the go.)

Influencer Marketing Will Become More and More Popular

With the internet becoming more crowded and social media becoming an ever-increasing source for product and purchasing suggestions, influencer marketing is only expected to become even bigger. As a local business, you should scope out and partner with your local influencers before your competitors do. Chances are, they’re not even thinking about this marketing strategy – yet. And I hope there’s a Flyy in your city. Good luck!