I had my ear chewed off by a man at a party recently. For 2.5 hours to be exact – that’s how long it took for him to acknowledge that there might be some value in digital marketing. Most of those 2.5 hours were spent listening to him lament the “good old days” of advertising – when taking out a newspaper ad in the arts section of the Sydney Morning Herald would pretty much guarantee a certain number of calls – a predictable proportion of which would become new clients of his business.

I’m happy to talk business – even at parties – but what made this particular conversation painful was the man’s attitude. He simply wanted to complain about how the world of marketing and business had changed and wasn’t open to learning new ideas, techniques or strategies. I’d be surprised if my enthusiasm and knowledge of digital marketing shifted his approach.

I understand his frustration, I do. Because I’m a small business owner too. I know exactly how frustrating it is to pour considerable time, effort and dollars into a marketing strategy and have it all change. Over the last seven years that I’ve been running face-to-face courses on social media and digital marketing, I’ve consistently upgraded the course materials, techniques and tech recommendations. It’s frustrating, yes.

If you’re nodding furiously, is it also quite possible that you’re overcomplicating marketing?

If you frequently feel overwhelmed, are often bamboozled or even completely jaded by the volume, technology or complexity of digital marketing, here’s your bare minimum marketing plan, including the minimum tech skills required to market your business effectively.

Stories are central

At its heart, marketing is clear, compelling communication. And you cannot be compelling by constantly talking about your business and asking people to buy. That’s not marketing – that’s promotion, and promotions are only useful when the people you’re promoting to are interested (and happen infrequently).

It’s impossible to attract new people through the internet or to keep them personally interested and invested in your business if you only share your list of services, your timetable, or your upcoming events. There has to be something more to it.

Your business needs to stand for something. And not just jumping on the bandwagon of whatever conversation is trending – you don’t attract attention or earn respect for being a “me too” business, but by contributing something original to existing conversations that move the needle forward on a debate.

Your business blog is the vehicle to share your business’s stories – from cornerstone content, answering FAQs, to unraveling the complexities of what you do, why you do it and how you differ from the competition. Your blog allows you to share your professional opinion and build your reputation around this. Publishing one original blog per fortnight is a good routine to stick to.

Useful, relevant, valuable stories and information

Any participant at my courses has heard me repeat “useful, relevant, valuable” as a content marketing mantra. The content your business puts out into the internet must be useful to your audience; it needs to be relevant to their particular worldviews; it should be valuable to their lives.

People will stick around for as long as your marketing satisfies these three things.

The only two tech skills you need

The only two technical skills a business owner needs is the ability to quickly and easily update their website without engaging a website designer, and the ability to put together and disseminate HTML mass emails. That’s it.

That fancy lead page software? The automated, evergreen webinars? The Facebook ads campaign? None of these are relevant if you’re unable to do these two things.

Updating your website quickly and easily enables you to publish blogs regularly and putting together an email newsletter ensures you can share these stories with your community and keep in touch and top-of-mind. Don’t tell me that you’ve got someone to do it – this is an essential skill that you need to ensure your business can respond quickly and your web designer has gone AWOL.

Email marketing is about committing to your relationships

For all the new-fandangled software and platforms and analytics emerging seemingly every day, so few businesses do these two simple things: tell stories through blogging and disseminate these through email.

If you’re holding back emailing your list regularly, ask yourself why? Is it because you don’t want to annoy people and cause them to unsubscribe? Or because you don’t have anything to sell or promote right now?

This is missing the point of email marketing: the only way you’re able to develop a rapport with your email subscribers is by keeping in regular contact. And if you’re only emailing people when you want something from them, where’s their motivation to stay on your list?

Committing to sending regular mass emails is committing to relationships – I can’t overstate this. If you’re serious about marketing and making business cash flow stable, predictable and hopefully, growing, then you must commit to emailing regularly the same way you commit to keeping in contact with your friends.

Rapport is next-to-impossible to develop when your contact is sporadic and self-interested. Sending your email newsletters at least once a month, every month, is a good routine to develop and maintain hundreds and thousands of relationship with one click of the ‘send’ button.

Reaching out

So we have maintaining your website, regular blogging (aim for once a fortnight) and email marketing (at least once a month). What next?

The third and final bare minimum marketing is to make reaching out a habit –picking up the phone, sending emails to strangers, attending the occasional event or course and otherwise widening your circle.

Way too many business owners sit on Facebook all day long and wonder why their digital marketing isn’t working. The big guns – those with email lists numbering in the hundreds of thousands – aren’t just advertising on Facebook. They’re reaching out to others, introducing themselves to other business owners, meeting face-to-face and planning collaborations.

Making the act of reaching out to strangers as routine, rather than something to be over-planned, over-thought and overwrought, works wonders for your marketing. It challenges you to keep an open mind and an open heart. It challenges you to be relevant. It widens your circle and shortcuts your growth. And it keeps your perspective and attitude fresh, so you don’t become a party bore standing in the same place year in, year out in business, lamenting the “good old days”.

Ready to upskill, keep your digital marketing skills relevant and learn the art and craft of telling stories? Then join me at Blogging for Business and Social Media Savvy courses coming up in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane.

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