The most common question I get asked, from Maleny to Perth, Melbourne to Darwin, is “what’s the most effective marketing techniques”? Otherwise phrased as, “how should I best be spending my time and dollars marketing?”

Here’s my definitive guide on what marketing skills are essential to master, which marketing aspects are nice-to-have – great but not essential – and what trends are hot, and likely to stick around.

Essentials: email marketing

The number one essential marketing technique that you MUST master is email marketing. I’ve written extensively on this here, here, and here.

Email marketing is, hands down, the most effective technique because it’s a group of people who have opted in to receive your marketing messages. These people are anticipating receiving emails from you and, done well, are your VIP club of super-fans. Don’t squander this privilege by dashing off a dull email listing your new classes or events, timetable changes and prices.

You’re not doing anyone any favours by being sporadic in your emails. You’re not bothering people and the two people who unsubscribed from your last email weren’t speaking for everyone. You can’t email only once a quarter if you want to be effective.

Putting together of your email newsletter should only take about an hour, including the time needed to test your email, so if it is a source of angst or takes considerably longer than this, make it your mission to master your email marketing software.

If you’re struggling with your email tool, pick a better, easier to use email tool (such as Reach Mail) or dedicate some time and effort into learning it. This is an essential, unavoidable skill you need to have.

Essentials: regular communication

Beyond your monthly newsletter, you’ll need to communicate further with people which means you’re either on the phone a lot, producing videos, or writing.

For most of us, writing is, hands down, the easiest. You don’t have to be a fabulous writer to be an effective writer – the most important part of writing is having an insight into who you’re talking to and anticipating how this will be received.

Social media is the most effective way of reaching a large audience but it can also be trap – I regularly coach clients on how to use social media effectively, which includes how to minimise our time on it.

My advice? Get on to update, add your comments, like, share and retweet, then get off.

Do not use social media as a handy reason why you shouldn’t, couldn’t or wouldn’t do what you need to do. Ignore the hype. Be pleased for others’ successes. If you struggle to do this, then unfollow, unsubscribe, and disengage.

Essentials: updating your own website

You need to have control of your own website. Your website needs to created in a content management system (CMS) – online software which enables you to quickly and easily make changes and additions to your site.

Yoga Reach builds pretty much all client websites in WordPress (this site is a WordPress site too) apart from occasional websites in a simpler CMS.

You need a CMS – it’s the first, necessary step to learning how to drive your website so that you can use it effectively to market your business.

Essentials: phone calls

Too many people hide in their businesses, updating their Facebook pages and thinking that, miraculously, business will boom. Too often I hear people say, with a mixture of false humility and concealed pride, “I don’t need to call people. I have more than enough leads.” That’s great, but it’s a passive approach.

If you want to be an industry leader, go seek out the thought leaders, experts and authorities you admire and introduce yourself. You want these people to know who you are, that you’ve got opinions on how things could be better, and you’re making it happen (that last point really separates the wheat from the chaff).

Phone calls are also one of the most effective ways to sell. They enable you to better understand your prospects and clients, to deepen your relationship and to hear their objections, concerns, worries and dreams first-hand, and to be the helpful person who meets these.

You can avoid the phone forever if you wish, but if you’re keen to go places, phone calls are essential.

Essentials: sales funnels

Too many businesses see advertising as an end game. They take out an ad, direct it to a web page (which may or may not be related to the ad, or a landing page, or indeed include all necessary information to make a sale), and think that’s the end of that.

You don’t need to have a complex and sophisticated sales funnel. You do need to put some thought into what you’re doing if you don’t want to waste your money.

Each and every ad you have, whether an online ad or a flyer or magazine ad, needs a corresponding landing page. Ideally, your ads should capture information from people – at the very least, an email address, better yet, a phone number.

Step one should lead people to step two, then step three and four. This onboarding process allows people to begin to understand your business, appreciate what you offer, and learn how they might interact with you. It can be as simple or as sophisticated as you wish, but it requires common sense, creative copy writing and some client empathy to bring it to life.

Nice to haves: branding

This one comes with a giant caveat – branding is one of the best investments you can make in your business. Your brand has a huge job to fulfil and should last you many years in the future, appearing on (almost) all your marketing communications.

But too many people use branding as another procrastination rabbit hole to play in, avoiding the work of gaining clients, while telling themselves it’s an essential element of the process. As a business owner, you must do the work for adequate (or fabulous) recompense – that’s what makes a business a business.

Unless you’re starting off with a bank loan or financial investor, you only need to invest a small amount to start your business – including in a logo, business cards and website – and this shouldn’t be at the expense of getting on and opening your doors.

Don’t wait to hang out your shingle, go meet your neighbors, start your online community, and invite people to buy. These things are essential and you must happen as early as humanly possible. Start trading and building your community while you’re building your brand. Don’t postpone the hard work in favour of the fun work (that comes later).

Once you’ve been in business for a couple of years, you can – and should – upgrade if you want to keep your business growing. In fact, resistance to investing in your business short-circuits your growth. Trying to DIY when you’re attempting to sell higher-end offerings is like inviting friends over for a dinner party and then serving them tinned spaghetti – it’s not nice, nor classy.

Once you’ve made some money, are clearer about your approach, your ideal clients and your business goals, you can invest in a better designer, upgrade your website and marketing, invest in further online marketing training, and seek the assistance of a business coach.

Nice to haves: professional photography

Scenario: you haven’t yet got your first client nor made a single dollar, yet you think it’s essential to spend $1000 on a photo shoot? This common scenario is a nice-to-have, not an essential. A smiling, well-lit profile photo taken by Mother Dearest will do the job, thankyoukindly.

Once you’ve been in business for a while, then go ahead and get some gorgeous photography. If what you’re trying to sell is worth several thousand dollars, then professional photography and design will pay for itself.

What’s coming up next: splintered social media

Facebook is on the decline. For businesses that rely too heavily on Facebook for web traffic and leads, this exposes their vulnerability. But social media is not going anywhere – businesses just need to look beyond Facebook-Twittersphere and dive into other platforms.

Audiences are splintering into niches, and closed groups and communities within these means that the savvy business owners would do well to get really clear on exactly who they’re seeking to attract and know where to find people.

What’s coming up next: the importance of visuals

Images and other visuals are becoming increasingly important in marketing, especially on social media. To be effective, you’ll need lots of new images to use on your website, in your email newsletters, on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and the rest. We are visual creatures – we look at and share images on social media far more than text (plus images suits our ADHA online habits).

Create a stockpile of your own relevant photography to use and get handy with cost-effective stock photography and free, royalties-released photography sites and sources. Learn how to quickly and easily crop, resize, lighten, darken, sharpen and add text (check out PicMonkey or Canva).

If you’re working with a designer, become familiar with optimum photo sizes for various sites so that you can use one image edited several different ways for your website, Facebook business page, Pinterest board, Instagram and Google Plus.

What’s coming up next: online learning

The first evolution of the internet involved using the net as an online repository (or suppository, if you prefer). Each Google algorithm update, which attempt to give searches the most relevant, useful information pertinent to their search, sifts quality information from worthless information.

Online learning is an attempt to make this information digestible and easy to apply.

Why would people pay good money for information they can find for free online? Because a trusted person or organisation has created and collated the most effective information, presented it in step-by-step, easily digestible chunks, while showcasing this with their respected opinion and perspective to enable people to implement it quickly and effectively.

If you want to develop an online course or program, start by asking yourself what problem you are solving?

Get incredibly specific. Ignore what everyone else is doing. Focus on your ideal client and what particular problem, issue, worry or inconvenience they have that you’re seeking to alleviate, and go from there.

Take action

  • Write yourself a list of three specific skills you need to cultivate. Be as specific as possible. This could be: get quicker with using your email marketing tool; learn how to use PicMonkey to edit your images; spend time becoming better at using your web content management system.
  • Write down at least three specific ways you’d like to invest in your business, either now or once a certain sales or income target has been achieved. These might be upgrading your website; getting a professional video commissioned to promote your premium product; or investing in a business coach.
  • Get out your diary and write down two three-hour chunks of time when you can investigate new trends in marketing and business and how these might be relevant and useful to your business. This is also an opportunity to practice those new skills that you’ve declared you need to cultivate.