One of the common complaints I hear from clients is that they have trouble making time for marketing. And I totally get it.
Even as a marketer myself, there are weeks when it’s a struggle for me. We are all busy people, and especially when marketing isn’t a skill you already have, it can be hard to move from good intention to action.
No matter what kind of social impact organization you lead or serve at, I know there are a lot of demands on you. A lot of people need your time. A lot of tasks need your attention. A lot of fires need putting out.
But I’d encourage you to make time for marketing. Why? Well, first of all, you’re already doing it in some capacity. If you have any sort of process for communicating with the people who buy from you or donate to you (like social media, email, and events), you’re a marketer. So, you might as well strive for making it more effective.
Second, as you can see from the statement above, marketing is non-negotiable. Your nonprofit or social enterprise may be sitting pretty right now, but that may not always be the case. So, strengthening your marketing muscle is worth the investment. And, just like getting in shape, you only get stronger with time and practice.
Third, and building what we’ve already talked about, if making time for marketing isn’t a regular practice, you’ll never find extra time for it. Like most everything else, something you don’t deem as a current priority will never beat out “more important” tasks. Unless there’s a crisis. So, do yourself a favor and start easing into the habit now, before you’re forced to find the time in a state of panic.
I’ve got good news, though. There are any number of ways to fit marketing into your busy schedule. Today, I’ll tell you about four of my favorites. I’ll even give you a few tools to help maximize your time, as well as a suggested “bare bones” marketing strategy.
Fitting Marketing Into Your Busy Schedule
One simple Google search will probably give you numerous other tools and ideas for tackling marketing on a weekly or monthly basis, but these are my favorites. I don’t take credit for any of them, and I’ve tried all of them. I also recommend them all on a regular basis because I think each one has a lot of value.
1) Planning Your Week in 15 Minutes - Podcast episode + Workbook
I know it sounds too good to be true, but Steph Crowder has come up with a really great process for planning her weeks. Like a lot of us, she has a schedule that fluctuates constantly, so her system accounts for that. it was a technique she developed because she couldn’t find a planner that fit her needs.
Steph’s method is a variation of the popular “rocks, pebbles, sand” illustration. You look at the immovable “rocks” in your schedule like meetings and appointments, add in the “pebbles” which are important tasks that need to get done, and then finally fill up with “sand” which are less important tasks that should get done but take up time, yet remain flexible. Hint: the “pebbles” are where the magic happens. Click the link to hear her explain the process on her podcast. It’s worth a listen whether you decide this is the right route for you or not.
One of my good friends loves this system, and uses it regularly. The other great thing about it is that you only need a sheet of notebook paper. So, you can grab one of those beautiful $70 planners if you want, but it’s totally up to you!
2) Learn Time Blocking
There are a lot of ways to utilize time blocking, which is one of the reasons I like it. You can block minutes, hours, or even days. But the point of it is to set aside a chunk of time for a specific task—and nothing else.
For example, I typically practice “Marketing Mondays” and “Follow-Up Fridays.” On Mondays, I generally write blog posts, schedule social media, create additional content, and things like that. Fridays are for wrapping up anything I need to get done for Signify before the week ends. This leaves Tuesday through Thursday for meetings and client work.
Structuring my week this way ensures I’m working on my business, not just working in it. I can make progress on moving my own mission forward outside of the deliverables I need to create for clients.
For me, it’s just easiest to have these days set aside rather than rotating them each week. That’s why this method ended up working better for me than Steph’s process. It was one less decision to make, and helped me protect my time better.
You can read more about creating themes for your days and weeks in my guest post for Orange. (I love a good theme!)
However, one of my clients sets aside 10:00 a.m. to noon each day for her marketing and meetings. Another generally works from home, so he comes to the office for focused time to work on marketing and communications. His staff knows that when he’s in his office with the door closed, he needs quiet time to get these things done.
Another extremely popular take on this is the Pomodoro Technique. Not to be confused with the sauce, this method has you work in 25-minute chunks. It’s a very hyper-focused session that can be easily replicated throughout the day. (Short attention span? This may be your best bet.)
If this is a method you’d like to test, I also recommend reading my friend Carey Nieuwhof’s post on creating an energy management list. It’s a terrific reminder to keep in mind when you personally work best, and use that to your advantage.
And if you want to become a super time blocker, look no further than Michael Hyatt. He talks a little about his “ideal week” process in this post, among other places, but he’s one of those people who treats his week like a budget, accounting for every hour. Frankly, it was just too strict for me—but perhaps that’s also part of what accounts for the discrepancy in our incomes. ;)
3) Eat the Frog
Made popular by Brian Tracy, “eat the frog” refers to a quote by Mark Twain: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
Tracy breaks it down here, but the gist is to do the thing you don’t want to do first thing so that it’s done and over with. Then you can move on with your day.
If you have a lot of resistance to marketing, this may be a good option for you. You can remove some of the anticipation and anxiety by sheer will.
Another option, of course, is to use this rule for your biggest and/or most important marketing tasks. Once you’ve knocked them out early on, you’ll feel a huge sense of accomplishment no matter what happens during the rest of the day.
4) Get an Accountability Partner
if you’ve been around me or this blog for a while, you already know that I’m a huge fan of having an accountability partner or group of people you stay accountable to, like a mastermind. These people have been so helpful for me, and I think everyone could benefit from this support system.
I talk extensively about accountability partners and masterminds here, but for the purposes of helping you with your marketing, the short answer is that someone else will ask you if you got it done. You might be much less likely to skip it or move it to the back burner if you know someone’s going to be checking up on you.
Which Method is Right?
Trick question! The right answer is the one that works for you. Chose one of these options and stick to it, or try them all on and see what fits best. I most often use #2 and #3 myself, but that doesn’t mean those are the best choice for you.
Tools for Managing Your Time
Here are a few tools that save me some extra time each week, allowing for important tasks like marketing:
Acuity Scheduling: How many of us spend too much time scheduling appointments? Answer: almost all of us. Acuity lets me send someone a link to schedule when it’s convenient for them, without all the back-and-forth. (Calendly is another option.)
RescueTime: If you are unsure where your time goes each week, this software will track it for you and send you a weekly report.
Canva: I love Canva because it allows me to quickly create graphics for my website, blog, and social media. Once you have a template in place, it takes little time to swap out text and photos.
Asana: I keep track of all my tasks, as well as assign tasks to my interns using Asana. It even allows you to set up reoccurring tasks, attach files, and make notes and comments.
Smarterqueue: Social media should, of course, be social. But with limited time on my hands, I use this incredible tool to schedule and recycle content on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. (I compared 13 different software options here.)
Bare Bones Marketing
Note that this is bare bones marketing, not ideal marketing. But if you just need to find a way to make marketing a part of your regular routine, then here are my suggestions for incorporating it into your week. I’ve tried to keep it as simple as possible, narrowing it to the most important tasks you can knock out in one to two hours per week.
Anything you can do on top of it is highly recommended, but this is a good place to start. These are in no particular order, except for #5, so you can move them around to fit your schedule or preferences.
And guess what? This outline also fits nicely with any of the techniques above!
Week 1: Email your tribe - Emailing people is much more effective than social media, so be sure to talk to your audience regularly.
Week 2: Meet with a VIP - This could include a large donor or customer that you’re wooing, a key stakeholder already involved in your mission, or a potential sponsor or partner. Don’t wait for these appointments; seek them out.
Week 3: Be social - Pop into Facebook groups, post on social media, email people who have fallen off the radar, attend an event, and look for other ways to interact with peers and protentials.
Week 4: Create content - If you only have an hour or two at your disposal, then writing a blog post may not be possible, unless it’s a short one. But other doable options in that time frame might include a Facebook Live, “mini blog” on Instagram or Facebook, or time set aside to work on a larger content piece or campaign. You could also include being interviewed for an article or on a podcast here. I’m including this item because it’ll give you new things to talk about and promote on a continual basis to your donors, customers, partners, and fans.
Week 5: Your choice - Obviously, not every month has five weeks. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t capitalize on it when you get the chance! Use this week to go the extra mile on one of the above items. Alternatively, this could be an hour you set aside to regularly reflect on how your marketing has gone, and what should improve, continue or change. But I’m a big fan of reflecting more than once a year!
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I’m Kristi Porter, and I help cause-focused organizations understand and execute effective marketing campaigns so they can move from stressed to strategic. Your resources may be limited, but your potential isn’t. Whether you’re a nonprofit, social enterprise, or small business who wants to give back, I’ll show you how to have a bigger impact.