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How to Systematize Your Online Marketing


How's business going for you?

Great, or "could be better"?

  • Great? As the owner of a successful small business you've got so much to juggle, it's understandable that your marketing falls by the wayside. You've got enough revenue coming in, so why bother with marketing?
  • Could be better? Then knowing where to direct your efforts to pull in the clients or customers you need is tough—especially if you're devoting all your energy to keep your business afloat.

Whether business is great or could be better, you do need to keep marketing. It's only by marketing that you ensure things keep going great, or—if necessary—that you turn things around.

Why, then, does marketing so often slip? Two reasons:

  1. Uncertainty. When you don't know the how to direct your marketing efforts for the best results, it seems easier to avoid marketing altogether. This is especially the case when considered alongside the second reason that marketing is often let slide...
  2. Time. You've only got a limited number of hours each day to devote to your business. Marketing can be a huge time drain. And with online marketing, as it's so easy to get distracted by social media or an interesting article.

What can you do to overcome these two problems to make sure you're marketing your business online, every day?

The answer lies in systematization.

How Systems Improve Your Marketing

When you create a system for your online marketing, you establish a set of processes for you to follow. These processes will help you know:

  • How and when to update social networks.
  • How to choose which social networks to update.
  • What to blog about, and how often to update your blog.
  • How to get feedback on the effectiveness on your marketing.

By having these processes in place, you'll no longer feel like you're floundering around in your marketing, unsure of what to do. Instead you'll sit down at your computer every day for a set amount of time, and complete your marketing tasks. In other words, systems make marketing simple.

Another consequence of systems is that they create results (in systems language, these are "outputs"). Your outputs may be the results you expect—or they might not be. Unexpected results could mean you need to tweak your system. Or they could be a pleasant surprise. In her marketing classic Get Clients Now, C. J. Hayden explains:

There is an interesting phenomenon that occurs when you get serious about marketing in a focused, consistent way. You begin to get results in unexpected places… Don’t make the mistake of thinking these out of the blue opportunities are accidents. There is a direct connection between the level of effort you put into your marketing and the results you get out of it, even when it seems as if the results are completely unrelated to your efforts.

In a moment, we'll look at how you can build a system for your online marketing. But before you get too excited about systems, let's consider what systems aren't.

  • Systems aren't automatic. Systematizing your marketing doesn't mean you can take a "set it and forget it" approach. You will have to devote time to making your systems work. In systems language, you'll be responsible for the "inputs" into your system, and for monitoring whether your system is effective.
  • Systems aren't set in stone. All systems need regular maintenance and tweaking. This is good news, because it means you don't have to create a perfect system right away.

Now, let's dig into how you can create a marketing system.

Step 1: Set Your Marketing System Goals

All systems have an input and an output.

Inputs are the work you put into your marketing. We'll look more at inputs in step 2.

Outputs are the results your marketing creates, such as increased revenue, or more visibility for your brand.

Before you create a system, you need to know the output you expect from your system. That way, you can monitor whether your system is effective and creates the outputs you want. If your system doesn't create the outputs you expect, then you can adjust it.

Examples of ideal outputs you might set for your system include:

  • getting two new clients each month
  • growing your Twitter follower count by 10% per month
  • having a conversation with five new influencers in your niche each week
  • increasing page views by 50% over the next six months
  • doubling the size of your email list

You set your ideal outputs. Remember that you can tweak your system later, including the expected outputs.

Note that some of the example outputs we've used are about revenue and sales, while others are about increasing the visibility of your business. Note also that they are specific, measurable and time-bound. Any marketing related goal works well as an anticipated output, as long as it is SMART.

I recommend starting with a simple goal, such as growing your Twitter following by 10%. Keeping things simple makes it easier to maintain your system and track your results.

Once you've got a simple system up and running, two things will happen:

  • You'll grow in confidence at using a system, so you'll feel ready to develop a more complex system.
  • You'll notice unexpected outputs. Some of these will be positive, so you can start to track them. For example, you may find that growing your Twitter following also leads to an increase in sales.

Step 2: Establish Your Inputs

Outputs aren't in your direct control, though you can track them (more on that in a moment).

Inputs are the things you can control. They're the actions you take to make your system function.

Inputs are specific actions. They have to be things you can tick off a list when you've completed them.

For example, let's say your desired output is to grow your Twitter following by 10% per month. Sensible inputs might include:

  • Tweet ten times per day.
  • Follow five new people a day.
  • Share three retweets per day.
  • Send an @message to all your new followers.

You might also think about broader inputs you can use to help with your Twitter following. For example:

  • Write and publish one blog post per week (because updating your blog brings in more readers, and some of those readers become Twitter followers).
  • Reply to all comments on your blog (because when you're engaged, it helps to grow your Twitter following).
  • Leave two comments per day on other blogs in your niche (this boosts your overall visibility).
  • Post to your Facebook page once per day (again, this increases overall engagement).

The following are not inputs because they're not in your control:

  • getting two retweets per day from influential Twitter users
  • having five comments posted on my blog each week
  • being interviewed on one podcast per month

And the following are not good examples of inputs because although they're in your control, and they're good ideas for marketing, they're not specific:

  • tweeting a lot
  • going to networking events
  • creating tons of good content

How do you know the right inputs to achieve your goals? You can do a couple of things:

  • Make a best guess, based on your current knowledge. This is a good idea if you already know a reasonable amount about social networking and online marketing. You will be adjusting your system based on the outputs you create, so it doesn't need to be perfect right away.
  • Spend 30 minutes researching the best way to achieve the outputs you want. There's plenty of great advice online, all just a quick web search away. For example, if your aim is to grow your Twitter following, then you'd search for "How do I grow my Twitter following". Easy peasy.

Step 3: Create a Daily Schedule

Because you were specific with your inputs, you'll know how often you'll need to complete those inputs.

For example, let's say that one of your inputs is to share five articles or videos per day on Twitter. You'll need to set aside a certain amount of time:

  • every week (or every day) when you curate the content you're planning to share
  • every day when you post the articles to Twitter

So you might set aside an hour a week to find great content, then five minutes a day to update your Twitter feed.

Each item from your inputs list will need to be scheduled into your calendar. Where possible, I recommend bundling your daily inputs into a single slot in your day (at most 30 minutes per day). That way you'll get your online marketing out of the way, and you won't feel like it's taking over your life.

As well as having a daily schedule, you might also like to create an editorial schedule. This is a list of article titles that you'll write for your blog. By having the titles ready ahead of time, you'll find it easier to get words onto the page when you sit down to write.

Step 4: Automate and Find Efficiencies

A system itself isn't automatic. It requires active inputs. That said, certain parts of your system can be automated.

A really simple way of using automation in your online marketing is through scheduling. With scheduling, you line up all your social media updates ahead of time. Then they drip feed through to your social media feeds.

Two of the most popular scheduling tools for social media are Buffer App and Hootsuite, both of which have free user plans. WordPress has its own built-in tool for scheduling blog posts.

On top of automating where you can, as you start to implement your daily schedule, look for ways to make your system more efficient. For example, you can create efficiencies by sharing the same content on different platforms.

You can also create extra efficiencies by systematizing your inputs. Previously, we looked at the example input of sharing five articles or videos per day on Twitter.

To do this, you'll have to find interesting content. You can create a system for this, which has "finding interesting content" as the output. Inputs could be:

  • Check your favorite RSS reader for the latest updates and read ten posts that attract your attention.
  • Browse your Twitter feed for five minutes and click at least three interesting links.
  • Check a set of Google Alerts for keywords in your niche that you check daily.

Step 5: Track Your Outputs

So far, you've got your system up and running. Great job! Now you're ready to see what happens as a result of your system.

You already know the output you want to achieve. We've used the example of growing your Twitter following by 10% per month. If that's your goal, then it would make sense to track your Twitter follower count.

On top of that, you should also look out for any unexpected outputs, especially those related to marketing. For example, you may find that your work to grow your Twitter following also brings you more blog readers, or more Facebook likes, or sends more leads your way. Those are all great, and once you've noticed these, then you can track how adjusting your inputs impacts these outputs.

What if you don't achieve the desired outputs? Then you need to do one of two things:

  1. Adjust your goals. It's possible you've set your sights too high. If that's the case, you need to be realistic about what's possible with the inputs you're using.
  2. Change your inputs. Different inputs lead to different outputs. By tracking what you're putting in, and what the result is, you'll discover what works best.

That's Your System Made (Almost!)

By reading this article, you've learned how to create a system. Now it's time to go do it! Let us know how you get on in the comments section, below.

Graphic Credit: Gears designed by Evan Udelsman from the Noun Project.

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