When Jim started his commercial painting business he did it all. Even though he wasn't an expert, he dove into sales, marketing, operations, management and even jumped in to paint when the job required it. As the company grew to over $10 million in annual revenue, he matured as a CEO and hired leaders to manage operations, accounting, administration and sales. The last area he held onto was marketing. Since the company grew through direct sales, networking and word of mouth, marketing consisted of little more than a simple website, a nice logo and brochures.
Jim knew that eventually his network would not support his growth plan, and he'd need to generate real leads. He also knew that digital marketing was the best way to generate leads, but he was reluctant to hire a full-time chief marketing officer or an expensive downtown agency to manage the program.
Like Jim, you probably know that digital marketing can be a powerful tool to drive leads, but with so much technology and complexity involved, it can be tempting to throw up your hands and just hire an agency to do it all for you. The problem is if you can't afford an agency, you might be tempted to just do nothing and wait too long use these powerful tools. Or worse, you'll hire an agency and not really understand what they are producing for you.
In my experience working with hundreds of entrepreneurs on digital marketing campaigns, I've found that there are four things that most entrepreneurs can do themselves before they hire an agency. By mastering these four strategies, you'll start to get the benefit of digital marketing sooner, and you'll understand the most important key performance indicators that will help you grow your business. By doing it yourself, you'll also get the benefit of knowing what you need when its finally time to hire outside resources.
1. Understand your own data.
Digital marketing systems produce a lot of data, and it can be overwhelming to read a lot of complex reports from many different systems. If you really want to understand what's happening, start by signing into a tool like Google Analytics that your web developer probably installed on your website to gather key stats about your website traffic. Look for a report on traffic by source, and discover how many people are visiting your website from sources like referrals, organic search, direct and advertising. You should also set up goal conversion tracking in Google Analytics so that you can see how many leads or sales are coming from each source.
2. Focus on the goal -- traffic, leads or sales.
Once you understand your current situation, you'll be ready to set goals for improvement. There are many digital marketing techniques that can help you, like search engine optimization, website optimization and A/B testing, but if you are doing it yourself, focus on a simple goal such as driving more traffic and leads/sales. You can start by adding a "call to action" or "offer" on your home page or landing page that makes it easy for visitors to provide their contact information. By tagging the lead as a conversion in Google Analytics, you can now connect the dots between your marketing efforts, visits and leads.
3. Test simple marketing campaigns.
If you don't have a lot of resources, focus on simple campaigns that can drive traffic and leads. In my experience, the easiest campaigns to start are email campaigns, if you have a list, or simple ad campaigns using Google, LinkedIn and Facebook. Each of these tools is powerful and highly complex, but start with the simplest form and leverage the vendor's staff to get the program started correctly. Just remember that these campaigns don't run themselves, so you'll need to check in every few days to see if they are on track and if they are driving the traffic and leads you want.
4. Get a little help.
Even if you are running your own digital marketing campaign, don't be afraid to reach out for help when you need it. It's probably not worth your time to become a certified expert in website design, video production or graphic design when you can outsource these functions to contractors when you need them. There are many websites that give you access to experts, and if you spend a few dollars you won't get bogged down on details that can cripple your progress. Upwork is one place to look for contractors that can help you get those small projects done.
By using these strategies Jim could keep his marketing hat on for a few more years until his revenue grew to allow him to hire a trained marketing leader and a digital marketing agency. The new team built a larger SEO optimized website, created more content and video, implemented larger ad campaigns using more channels and installed a full marketing automation email program. The new campaigns continued to propel his growth and Jim was confident that he understood his digital marketing metrics and the value of the new marketing programs.