Running a service-based business means we get busy serving others–that’s what brings in the cash that pays the bills. Finding the time for marketing very often falls by the wayside.
But keeping your client pipeline full and attracting new clients to you is crucial for overcoming the “feast or famine lifestyle” — busy with clients one day and waking up to the sound of crickets the next. Marketing is the key to business growth and the freedom to be choosy about the work you focus on and who you do it for.
So let’s set some priorities for attracting clients when you’re short on time!
Priority #1 Make sure your website is working hard for you
When you’re operating a solo or tiny service business, it’s important to consider your website like an employee: its job description is to perform the task of bringing you client leads (while you’re doing the things that pay the bills).
That means optimizing your site for converting site visitors into leads and eventually into customers. The top things to pay attention to:
- Immediately tell your site visitors what’s in it for them. Think about why your site visitors have come to your site in the first place…what are they struggling with? What questions do they need answers to? How are you going to help them? Use clear language and bonk them over the head letting them know what’s in it for them right on your home page.
- Make sure it’s clear what you expect them to do next. Each page of your website should have a goal. Ask yourself, “After reading this page, what action do I want my site visitors to take?” And then make sure your call to action is unmissable.
- Remove any roadblocks that might be preventing site visitors from taking the action you want them to. Make sure your site is loading fast (use GTMetrix.com to test), optimized for mobile (around 50% of your site visitors will be on mobile), and make sure you have a “contact” page linked from your main navigation and repeated again in your footer.
In summary: if your website needs improvement, fix that first, otherwise, any marketing efforts you take to drive traffic to your hardest-working employee (a.k.a. your website) will be a wasted effort. You don’t have time for wasted efforts.
Now let’s get to the marketing…
Priority #2 Create a traffic acquisition strategy that focuses on one thing at a time
Once your website is empowered to work hard for you, now it’s your job to bring it targeted traffic.
There are a few main ways to get potential customers to your site: content shared on social media, organic search, and paid traffic (advertising).
When you’re short on time, you want to pick one area of focus rather than dabbling with everything.
It’s better to “go deep” in one area and make actual progress.
Option #1: Social Media
Getting traffic from social media requires two things:
1. A social media audience
2. Content you can share that’ll get people clicking through to your website
Building An Audience When You’re Short On Time
What a lot of people do is they try to “be everywhere,” but you’ll want to focus on one channel only to start and do it really, really well. Your OBSESSION should be this one channel.
Where are your customers most likely to be?
Once you decide what channel to focus on, learn absolutely everything you can about optimizing your presence and show up consistently.
If you decide it’s Twitter, forget about “also being on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram…” You just need a way to reach your customers, not fifty billion ways. Do everything you can to grow your audience with targeted followers on Twitter before you move on to the next channel.
To learn more about creating a traffic strategy, read:
How To Drive Traffic To Your Small Business Website For Free
Creating Content People Will Click On
Because everybody else is creating content and competing for your audience’s attention too, your content needs to be extremely targeted and valuable. That means before you create anything, get clear about:
- Who your dream customer is
- The questions they have that you can answer (with your content)
- The reasons why you’re the one they should trust to help them solve that problem
- Your strengths — if you don’t feel confident in writing but you love public speaking, you don’t need to write blog posts, you can create video content instead
The main takeaway is: don’t even try to be everywhere and do everything.
Focus on your strengths and create kickass content that’ll get your dream clients’ attention, and focus on one social media channel to start. It’s all about narrowing down and going deep rather than a “spray and pray” approach.
BTW, Social networking works a little differently This method of client attraction is not about driving traffic, but showing up to where your customers are likely to be and interacting with them online.
That might be on Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook groups or some other niche forum or community online.
The danger to this approach is that we can easily get sucked into “just doing things” and forget all about our business goals. We join the wrong communities (you’re unlikely to meet a potential client there) or we engage in conversations that serve no business function (e.g. you’re looking to “get helped” rather than showing up to help others).
Spending time networking without a strategy can waste a ton of your time, but when done right, it can help you create the kinds of personal connections that’ll grow your business.
If you want to use social networking to attract clients, make sure you’re showing up as the expert, providing value to the community, sharing stories about how you solved problems in your own business (people love to hear about “wins” and strategies that are working for people) — whatever you do, don’t just show up to promote your business.
Nobody likes to sit next to the high-pressure salesperson at business networking events, and it works the same on social media.
Option #2: Organic Traffic
There are two main ways to get organic traffic I want to touch on: Google and Pinterest.
Showing up on SERP (search engine results pages) for competitive keywords and “above the fold” on Google is the holy grail of traffic.
The reason why it’s is so powerful is that people are actively looking for a solution to their problem and they may be close to making a purchasing decision.
Your job is to just be there in the right place at the right time with the right message.
Unless you’re super niche or you’re targeting a small local market, you can pretty much forget about ranking high for competitive keywords when you’re a small shop.
Non-competitive and long-tail keyword phrases are easier to rank for, but the traffic will be lower. KWFinder is a great tool to determine whether you even have a shot at ranking for your target keywords.
If you serve a niche, then SEO is a really good place for you to focus your energies.
Pinterest has become the darling of bloggers and for a reason: it provides a way to promote content and get discovered by both followers who are interested in your subject matter (which is sort of social, but not exactly) AND when somebody is searching for information (Pinterest is really a search engine).
Most people think of Pinterest as a place women go to get recipes, plan weddings and trips, and drool over fashion and home decor. That’s a myth. Pinterest has changed a lot since its early days.
There are LOADS of niche audiences on Pinterest and if your audience is not exclusively women, you might be surprised to learn that men use it too!
Go there and do some keyword searches in your own niche and see what comes up. If there’s a lot of activity, it may be a great fit for you.
It’s an easier game to play than Google and you’ll get more traffic in the short term if you’re looking to get keyword-specific and topical content discovered.
Pinterest is currently my #1 source of traffic — more than Google and all Social Media traffic COMBINED.
Option #3: Paid Traffic
Now you might be thinking, “I’m short on time, so why don’t I just BUY traffic?”
You can! And you should! But keep in mind that advertising doesn’t work like a magic bullet. If you get this wrong, you’re going to throw a whole lot of money into a void.
You’ll need to:
- Create a marketing funnel
- Learn HOW to run the ads (technically), when, and to whom;
- Test your ads to see what works best
- Use retargeting
If you don’t understand how any of that works, if you don’t have all of the components you need (a marketing funnel), and you don’t have the time to learn or set it up — But! You have more money than time! — I recommend hiring a specialist to help you set all of this up and manage it.
Priority #3 Nurture your leads
Now that you’ve got people visiting your awesome and optimized website, what happens if they’re not ready to hire you that day? (MOST will not be.)
They’ll probably click away and they might forget about you too, so you need to keep showing up wherever they found you (on social media) and you’ll want to get them into your marketing funnel when they visit your website.
For small business owners strapped for time, there’s no better way to create a funnel than to build an email list.
Your list is something you OWN (versus a Facebook group or Instagram account which you don’t), which means you won’t twist in the wind every time there’s an algorithm change or when people get tactic fatigue.
Even if your list is small, it’s a good use of your time to send out consistent, value-packed emails; get into the habit of that and apply patience, it’s the best use of time for any time-strapped business owner.
And remember, when you’re selling services, you don’t need 50,000 customers — you just need one at a time.
When you’re short on time, focus on your strengths, one channel, and one traffic strategy (not all) and forget all about doing everything and being everywhere. Focus is going to be your greatest competitive advantage (and it’ll keep you sane, too).
Taughnee Stone is an award-winning designer, brand strategist, and location-independent business owner for over 15 years. Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, she now lives in Croatia with her husband, energetic Samoyed, and three bossy cats.