The 6 Elements of the Small Business Marketing Stack
In our online world, marketing is increasingly a technical task. While businesses still need solid copywriting, PR, branding, business development, and the more “traditional” marketing channels, marketing on the internet is increasingly about connecting different platforms and channels via technology to automate work and deliver a premiere service to customers in a more scalable way than could be done by humans alone.
With all this technology, how does one keep up? The challenge feels especially daunting when you have not been trained in the current technical skills either.
Here is the marketing “stack,” or set of tools, that I have used for my own businesses and others. These are all relatively easy to set up, and require minimal coding skills. If you need coding help, W3.org is almost always there for your HTML and CSS needs.
Small business owners know that search engine optimization (SEO) is important, but managing it can be quite time-consuming and difficult. After the best practices are in place, how does one keep on top of keyword research, content creation and link acquisition?
Keyword Research With KeywordTool.io
KeywordTool.io leverages the power of Google Suggest to help you find content ideas. Enter the beginning of your search term (e.g. "thai food vs") and they will scrape Google Suggest and give you the suggestions. If you are on the paid plan, you can see the search volume right there on the page. If you're using the free version, you can download the terms, and use them with Google’s Adwords Keyword Tool.
You shouldn’t completely outsource your content creation. You want your content to adhere to your brand voice, and you certainly should have oversight into its overall quality. That being said, why not outsource the research part of content creation? After all, research is the most time-consuming part of it.
Websites like Wonder provide human-sourced research for your queries. If you're looking for a more formal contractor-client-type relationship, you can find many qualified researchers and writers on Fiverr and Upwork. If you trust the person enough, you can even have them upload the research directly into your site/blog’s CMS. Just be sure to not give them publishing privileges to avoid any content going live before you see it.
Creating inbound links (links that direct visitors to your site) is one of the strongest signals to the search engines that they should rank your content well, but how do you keep on top of it? The best tool you can use to automate finding link prospects and unlinked mentions of your brand is Moz’s Fresh Web Explorer, which is a paid service.
You can set up custom searches for your business name (e.g. "hiregun") or terms that your business should be associated with (e.g. "wedding invitations"). This way, you can receive an email with the most recent mentions every day, then go see if those places are good enough to email about either a branded link or other link opportunities (e.g. being a credible source, guest post, etc).
I can’t write about SEO tools to use and not mention Moz. They are the leader in SMB SEO and inbound marketing software. Though some of the tools allow you a certain number of uses for free, the paid service is worth it. It includes their weekly crawl, which automatically surfaces issues on your site, and tracks your most important keyword rankings and your brand mentions. A paid subscription also grants you access to their QA forum, and full access to their link index of the web OpenSiteExplorer.
Email marketing is, in my opinion, the single most underutilized tool by businesses both small and large. A small business that sells online, as well as in person, can use email to land content such as promotions and product recommendations directly in the inbox of people they know are interested. What great power!
There are many email tools available, but my favorite is Mailchimp. With Mailchimp, not only can you easily create great looking emails, but the service also ensures that your emails are mobile-friendly. Mailchimp is free up to a certain level of subscribers and emails sent per month. With a paid account, you can also set up a custom email drip campaign to bring new customers up to speed with your business and your offerings.
Other email providers that make email marketing manageable include Constant Contact, InfusionSoft, GetResponse and aWeber.
Social Media Management
If you’re a small business owner and don’t have time for social media, why not semi-automate it? You’ll always want to engage directly with your users with custom Twitter lists for your brand name, because oftentimes that's the first place that customers complain. Aside from addressing complaints, however, you can automate sharing most content through your social media feeds with Buffer.
To make using Buffer even more of a breeze, use their mobile app to easily schedule content from your iOS or Android phone while on the go. Install the free Buffer Chrome extension to add content to your Buffer queue from any page online, which compiles all of the content you wish to share in one place. And, last but definitely not least, use their Analytics offering to optimize your send times.
If you want to get really fancy, set your send times to coincide with when Google Analytics tells you people are most often on your site.
Finally, no marketing stack is complete without tools to manage your campaigns and to-do lists. I have two tools that I recommend: TeuxDeux and Trello.
TeuxDeux is a beautiful graphical web application (and iOS app) that helps you keep track of your daily tasks. Along the bottom of the screen, you can also create lists for other projects that have a long to-do list themselves. The best thing about TeuxDeux is crossing off items that you have done; doing so keeps you motivated to get more done. If a task is not completed that day, it automatically moves to the next day at the top of the list.
TeuxDeux costs a few dollars a month to support the team that makes it out of Friends Work Here, a co-working space in Brooklyn, New York.
Trello is another simple customer relationship management (CRM) program that works in list format. Free at its entry level, users create lists of tasks that can be dragged and dropped to reorder, and can have checklists or notes added to the task card. Once a task is done, you can archive it.
I personally use it to manage my tasks for HireGun and across two other different businesses so that nothing falls through the cracks. The most powerful setup I have found is a daily "To-Do" list, followed by other lists that specify where projects are within the sales funnel.
Tying It All Together
As talked about at the beginning, one of the biggest challenges to businesses is the multitude of tools and the fact that these tools often do not talk to each other. Some tools will have integrations with others, but these integrations are often not complete or widespread. That's where Zapier comes in.
Zapier is a company that exists to connect the various tools and platforms that businesses use to operate. For example, maybe you use Salesforce to manage your customer CRM but you use Quickbooks to manage your invoicing and MailChimp to manage your email lists. How do you keep all of these in sync?
With integrations like Salesforce to Quickbooks or Salesforce to Mailchimp, that's how. You only have to input your data in one place, then Zapier spreads it across your other tools. Imagine this—you have a signup form on your website that sends the email addresses directly to Mailchimp. When the user is added to Mailchimp, their information is also pushed into Salesforce, which then pushes the data into QuickBooks. Voila! A subscriber is now in your email marketing list, in your sales CRM for future up-sells, and professional invoices are set up to go out on a consistent basis.
Marketing can take a lot of time for a busy small business owner. But with the right tools and processes in place, business owners can automate or greatly reduce the amount of work required to manage their marketing and build their business.