Welcome to the third blog in our 6-blog series all about systems in your creative business. Each week we’ll dig into a different system and the specific software and SOPs you can implement to bring efficiency and consistency into all aspects of your business. We’ve already explored how a financial system can support the money side of your business, and here you’ll learn how to create a strong marketing system that fuels your sales and in turn your finances. In this post, we’re talking all about your business’s marketing system. In the next 3 posts, I’ll also help you create systems for your sales, project management, and file and asset management & organization. This is a sister series that goes hand-in-hand with my previous Rhythms Series.
Quick Disclosure: Some of the links I share in this blog are affiliate links, which means when you click and make a purchase, it won’t cost you more, but I may receive a commission for sharing this with you. I promise I only ever share what I use and love, so I’d be sharing these with you anyway!
As a creative business owner, you KNOW you need to market your offers.
This isn’t news to you.
After all, if you don’t share what you offer and who you serve, how will anyone possibly find you, let alone BUY from you?!
The trouble is, many entrepreneurs don’t know where to start with their marketing, which can leave them feeling paralyzed!
Others get overly ambitious and jump into the deep end right away!
They hop on all the social media platforms, invest in ads, get on stages, and try every strategy they come across! This gritty, go-getter approach is commendable and may even work for a time, but ultimately trying to do it all leaves these ambitious business owners feeling overwhelmed and burnt out!
The problem with both scenarios?
Marketing is either non-existent or inconsistent!
The goal of this blog is to help you create a marketing system that will get your brand in front of the right audience NOW, with plans in place for you to grow and expand your marketing efforts strategically in the future!
Simply put, a marketing system is a system you create within your business that allows you to get the word out about you, your brand, and your services while attracting your ideal customers.
You can market in a wide variety of places. While marketing in the past was reserved for TV commercials, magazine ads, and billboards… the opportunities to market in the digital age are endless (and often much more affordable)!
In today’s world, there are a plethora of paid and free marketing channels (especially for content marketing)– many of them accessible at the touch of a button!
Your marketing nurtures relationships with your audience by building a “know, like, trust factor” and helps to generate new leads, business, and ultimately…
A solid marketing system sparks audience interest and attention, attracts new leads, and encourages them to enter into the sales process with you.
Great marketing will also repel people so that the people that aren’t a good fit for your product and service don’t buy!
Not only is marketing important in and of itself, but it is closely tied to several other systems in your business. Most notably, it’s the backbone of both your financial system and your sales system and serves as a bridge between those two aspects of your business.
Let’s look at how it all fits together!
I like to think of it this way:
Marketing drives sales and sales drive your finances.
Let me break it down further–
This is why your marketing system is so crucial. It serves as a foundation for your sales and financial systems to THRIVE! Your systems work together and lean on one another to create a sound ecosystem within your creative business.
So, you’re on board with this whole marketing system thing.
“Sounds great, Erin, but NOW WHAT?!”
If you’re wondering where to start with your marketing, I’ve got you covered!
In this day and age, I have to say, social media is often the best place to start.
Not only is it free and accessible, but it is also what I call, “the lowest barrier to entry” meaning there are very few obstacles to getting started.
Now– you may feel overwhelmed with the options when it comes to social media.
That’s totally understandable because there are so many places and platforms to market on including (but not limited to):
The good news is– you don’t have to be everywhere. ESPECIALLY at first. I recommend you start with just one platform, knowing you can always branch out and expand in the future.
Don’t try to do it all at once!
That will put you on the fast track to burnout and leave you with a marketing system that is unsustainable and therefore ineffective. Consistency is key, and when we try to take on too much, it can be hard to keep up with the high bar (and the sheer volume of marketing content) we unnecessarily set for ourselves.
Start with one platform and grow from there.
Find a platform where your ideal clients spend time and start engaging with them. You can take the guesswork out of the process by:
This will ensure that you are spending your time and energy where it counts and set yourself up for marketing success!
Once you feel confident with your marketing system on ONE platform and have been able to consistently create content, engage with your audience, and promote your business, you may decide it’s time to venture out into other platforms.
This could include other social media platforms (if you see that your ideal audience is engaging in these spaces), but you may also explore other marketing channels.
Eventually, I recommend you incorporate additional marketing channels that you can quote-unquote “own.”
This will give you more control and autonomy over your marketing system instead of building your entire marketing plan on borrowed land (aka social media) where your marketing is at the whim of tech companies who can disable your account, reduce your visibility, and create new hoops for you to jump through without any notice! So where do you go next?
I tend to recommend email marketing as a great next step for businesses that are ready to expand beyond social media marketing. I love email marketing because it allows you to take the conversations off of social media and into the inbox.
Next, you’ll probably want a website. This is like the storefront of your business online (even if you have a brick-and-mortar business, your website is your virtual “home”). You don’t NEED one to start, people run entire businesses off of their social platforms, but if you want to lay a strong foundation, you are going to want to add a website as you grow.
Your website will allow you to control the virtual client experience and customize it to your unique brand. Not only is a website great for visibility but it may be necessary if you’re interested in starting a blog or looking to curate other different types of content like podcast appearances, guest articles, YouTube channels, and more. Your website can become a directory for all of your content marketing, no matter what form it’s in!
And beyond email marketing and your website, the sky’s the limit. There are SO many options…
Here are a few of my favorite ways to grow your audience:
→ create partnerships
→ do workshops
→ create courses
→ become a podcast guest
→ guest speak on stages
→ paid ads (online/print/radio/TV)
You may choose to focus on some of these throughout the year, while other marketing opportunities may be seasonal or circumstantial!
Alright, now let’s talk about marketing SOFTWARE. Software includes the tech tools that support your systems!
Let’s start with the most common and accessible platform: SOCIAL MEDIA!
If you’re using social media to build the foundation of your marketing system, planning software can be a lifesaver!
These social content planning software options can be a game changer in your ability to plan ahead, batch or repurpose content, show up consistently, and build a reproducible system that helps you avoid starting from scratch every time you get ready to post:
My go-to’s include:
→ Plann. This is the software I currently use to schedule my social media content on Instagram and TikTok!
→ Flick. Flick is another option that provides scheduling, hashtags, and an analytics tool for managing your Instagram account.
→ Planoly. With Planoly, you can plan and schedule posts, manage multiple accounts, and organize your social media content.
→ Later. Later is a social media management platform and link in bio tool for every social network. You can use it to plan, analyze, and publish content ahead of time.
Now, on some platforms like Facebook and Instagram, you can pre-schedule your posts within the platform itself, so you may find that these additional tools are not as useful or relevant to you depending on where you are marketing.
Some of these tools have free options. Others require paid subscriptions you can choose from to best suit your budget and your needs.
There are, of course, many other software options, but these are the ones I am most familiar with and that my clients have used successfully in the past!
When you’re ready to venture into the world of email marketing, I highly recommend you select an email marketing platform.
Sure, you can get your email marketing plan up and running with a simple Gmail address– and if that’s what your current budget allows, by all means, GO FOR IT!
But, there are lots of software options that can make your email marketing look and feel more professional, while also giving you deeper insights into how your marketing efforts are being received by your audience.
Here are some of the email marketing tools I recommend to my clients because they tend to work especially well for creative entrepreneurs. Each brand charges a little differently and has different capabilities, so you’ll want to explore the features to see what makes the most sense for your business model.
These are the email marketing platforms I most recommend based on feedback from my clients:
There are SO many platforms out there but these are the ones I have found to be the most accessible, easy to navigate, and appropriate for creative businesses.
→ I use ShowIt (they specifically cater to creatives and tout a no-code required platform which makes it pretty easy and accessible to manage on your own).
→ Squarespace is perfect for product and service-based businesses alike
→ and WordPress (which is what I use for my blog!) are two other reliable, reputable options you may consider.
I know this can feel like a lot of info, but take it one step at a time to avoid feeling overwhelmed and to ensure you find the software that truly serves your unique business and marketing needs best!
COO Tip: If you’re looking for a great place to start while implementing software into your business in a more general sense, check out this post, “3 Software Systems You Need.”
The final piece of your marketing system is to map out your Standard Operating Procedures, or SOPs. These are the uber-detailed directions often found in the form of a checklist that specifies precisely how each of your processes should be done within your marketing plan.
While every business has different needs, many businesses lean on SOPs for recurring marketing tasks like:
→ Content creation. You’ll want to know where you are creating your content and beyond that, you’ll want to decide what you’re developing content around and what your content strategy is going to be. This could include the types of research you do, how you develop or draft the content, and what your editing process is like. You’ll also want to consider if you need a review process (especially if you have a team or outsource to an editor, producer, designer, or copywriter).
→ Scheduling. Decide how often you will share content and identify if you post on certain days or at specific times. If you are using scheduling software, make sure this is clearly established and identify who is responsible (you or a team member), as well as if a review process is necessary to make sure things are done properly and in a timely manner. Keep in mind, this piece will be closely related to your marketing rhythms.
COO Tip: Remember, systems and rhythms go hand in hand but serve different purposes in your creative business. SYSTEMS are HOW YOU DO THINGS in your business while RHYTHMS are WHEN you tend to the tasks within your system. You can learn all about systems vs. rhythms in this blog post!
→ Hashtag strategy. If you use hashtags as part of your marketing strategy, make sure your current hashtags are in an easy-to-access place so you can simply copy and paste! You may also want to outline your strategy for researching relevant hashtags for each platform to target your ideal audience and the topics they are searching for!
→ Pitching. You may also want to put SOPs in place as you reach out to other businesses, platforms, or media sources. Consider: How do you do research to identify which platforms you want to be on? How can you determine where you want to be featured? Is their audience in alignment with yours? How can you propose topics of conversation that serve their audience AND yours to generate leads and optimize your time in the spotlight?
COO Tip: Please note, this is not a full list but a helpful jumping-off point to get the ideas flowing as you prepare to build out your own marketing SOPs! You may need all of these, some of these, or a totally different combo of SOPs altogether at different stages in your business.
No matter which SOPs you implement, if they are strategic, they will ensure that you have an easy-to-replicate system in place that will make the process smooth for you and make it possible to outsource or hand pieces over to a team member in the future without skipping a beat because they will know exactly how you want things done within your Marketing System!
Once you have your marketing system, software, and SOPs in place, you can’t simply set it and forget it.
As your business evolves, changes, and grows, so will your needs, your goals, and your capacity!
The system that once worked smoothly, like a well-oiled machine, may suddenly feel as clunky and outdated as the first car you bought with your hard-earned minimum wage bucks way back in high school (also known as a lemon because it had a faulty transmission, breaks, or lights that made your mom SWEAT every time you pulled out of the driveway )…
Don’t let your marketing system become a lemon!
I know this from experience.
Back in 2020, I felt like I had my content marketing dialed in.
“Easy!”, I thought.
And it was for a time.
Until it wasn’t.
My business was BOOMING! Which was great!
But, it also meant my capacity and time were more limited. The hours I used to have available to write, edit, and schedule blog posts were now being spent on client projects and other essential internal tasks.
This happens ALL the time.
So when I started to notice I wasn’t showing up consistently and in the way I wanted to in my marketing, I made a change.
I share this simply to show you that your system can and should change. Sometimes the upfront work of adjusting proactively and strategically can enhance the overall effectiveness of your marketing!
Now it’s time for YOU to take action and map out your very own marketing system.
If you’re looking for guidance as you move through the process of setting up effective systems in your business, I’m designing a self-paced online course with YOU in mind to help you build your business on a solid foundation. Click here to add your name to my no-obligation waitlist and be the first to learn about this offer as soon as it opens for enrollment.