Running a small business is no easy feat – as a business owner, you wear several hats to keep your day-to-day operations running smoothly all while strategizing for your business’ long term growth. But how do you find the time to get everything done?

In OnDeck’s latest Main Street Pulse Report, 61% of business owners surveyed told us they’re constantly racing against the clock, 49% said work/life balance is an illusion and 86% said time management is critical to success. So, we’re launching a Time Management Series this week to help you be more efficient, sacrifice less personal time and get one step closer to achieving that elusive work/life balance.

In this post, you’ll hear from OnDeck’s Chief Marketing Officer Andrea Gellert on how to manage time effectively when it comes to marketing.

So you’ve spent an enormous amount of time and effort getting your business off the ground and now it’s time to spread the word. But how do you attract customers and keep them coming back?

Before you map out your marketing strategy and consider the actual tactics you’ll employ (digital advertising, social media engagement, email marketing, local circulars, etc.), your first step is to really key in on who your customer is. Who are they, what is their need and how does your solution fit that need?

Once you have a clear understanding of your customer, you can put your marketing action plan in place and identify where you can find your customers and how to target them. “Effectively marketing your business requires a little strategic thinking and experimenting with the tactics that will work with your customers, and then executing your marketing plan,” says OnDeck’s Chief Marketing Officer Andrea Gellert.

Read on for more expert tips from our resident marketing guru:

How do you approach setting your marketing strategy?
To help set the strategy, I typically start by asking myself five key questions:

  1. What are the overall company goals and how should our marketing efforts support them?
  2. Has anything about our marketing vision changed or been modified that I should take into consideration?
  3. What can be short-term wins and what are longer-term investments?
  4. What does success look like and what are the key metrics of success?
  5. What are our key dependencies to succeed?

Setting strategy is all about creating clarity, focus and purpose to achieve your goals, and these questions really help me get there efficiently.

What time management best practices have you developed to keep OnDeck’s marketing department running efficiently?
The key is in prioritizing. It’s easy to get distracted with 1,000 ideas, but you can really only execute well on 1 or 2 at a time. So, focus on the 1-2 areas that have the potential to have the most impact on your business. Then, to make sure you manage your time well, create a to-do list and set deadlines as part of your daily or weekly schedule.

Additionally – and this doesn’t only apply to marketing – I encourage everyone to keep meetings short. Chances are that 1 hour meeting really only needs to be 30 minutes.

Would you recommend any software programs that streamline marketing?
First and foremost, get your business online. As important as it is to seek out your customers, you also want to make it easy for them to find you. And there are a variety of resources available to help get you set up online quickly and inexpensively:

  • Set up a website with a service like Wix or GoDaddy. You don’t need a web design background to set up a professional-looking website!
  • List your business online on platforms like Yelp or Google Places.
  • Make sure your NAP (Name, address and Phone #) is consistent across business directories
  • Get some links to your website from other local businesses or organizations
  • Make sure you’re on social media and using the right amplification tools. For example, Facebook’s Power Editor tool allows you to reach your end user in a more targeted and efficient way than a traditional timeline boost gives you. And, services like Hootsuite allow you to schedule your social posts in advance.
  • If you regularly communicate with your customers electronically, automate your email streams using a service like Mailchimp or Constant Contact.

Automation helps save time and maximize marketing resources so you can focus on other areas of your business. What’s more, these services come with analytics tools so you can see in real time how effective your campaigns are and where you might need to make improvements.

What are you favorite marketing books?
I know it can be hard to find time to read, but if you do have time, here are a few marketing books to check out:

  • “Why Things Catch On” by Jonah Berger. This book explores the science between “viral” marketing and provides tips on how to create content that will spread like wildfire.
  • “Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising” by Ryan Holiday. Learn how to achieve marketing success regardless of the size of your marketing budget.
  • “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping – the Global Consumer, and Beyond” by Paco Underhill. For all the retail small businesses out there, this book will give you tips on ensuring you’re engaging your existing customers and bringing in new ones with your products.

Any final advice on marketing and time management?
As I talk to small business owners, one of the main things I hear is that they have a lot of marketing ideas but just don’t have the time to execute them. I actually don’t think that’s the real issue. I think it’s that small businesses have felt that in the past it’s been hard to justify spending their time on marketing because it wasn’t always clear what the return would be. But in this day and age, that doesn’t have to be true, and the examples above all contain straightforward ways of measuring impact.

Additionally, it’s so important to create systems and delegate work to free up your time. David Bobbitt, president of The SCORE Foundation, offered tips in his guest post last week around getting help – whether it’s by hiring employees or using a virtual assistant, short-term contractor or service provider. Regardless, don’t feel like you have to be doing everything yourself!

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