• Isabel Johnston

Tough year: Why you should keep investing in communications

What a year. Nearly a year off the blog. Nearly a year off work. I made another human – and survived raising three children in a pandemic. Catapulting myself back into self-employed business life a few months back, I’m struck by how it’s even more prudent now than ever before for businesses to invest in communications.

Budgets are tight. Very tight. But for your business to survive in pandemic everyday life, now is the time to stand out. You have less time and with changing lockdown rules, you need to be more adaptable and get yourself out there quicker.

So often marketing and communications gets ‘absorbed’ by business owners, because while accountancy, IT and legal contracts seem like an automatic outsource (let’s be honest, that bit is quite complex) - communications is often seen as something you can have a go at. Yet, many are spending the majority of their time on it. It can make or break your business.

Because actually … knowing your key messages, your audience, your channels, where to spend budget on advertising, where to get editorial, how to get editorial and even thinking about getting media coverage is something we often haven’t considered. Social media is free, which means that many of us are now expected to just get on and use it.

But do we know enough about it? Do we really think through our key audiences before we launch into promoting ourselves everywhere and always run out of time to do it all?

So many of us end up spending hours on promotion, but not in a targeted way. Such a waste of precious time, when you are juggling all sides of your business solo.

How do I start?

In many ways life as a small business owner is currently full of opportunities. The pandemic has made people more keen than ever to support local, independent businesses, so it’s your opportunity to thrive.

Start by thinking about your offering. What makes you unique? What makes you stand out? Why should people invest in you rather than someone else?

There are three top things to consider when doing your communications plan for your business:

1) Understand your key audience

Who are you targeting? And here we aren’t talking about ‘it could be everyone’. No, we are thinking about prioritising your time on who will buy your product or service today.

My own recent small poll on Instagram showed that 95% of small businesses that responded aren’t fully clear on who their key audience is. Why? Probably because we don’t stop and think about it. We don’t narrow it in. We are too engrossed in our own business (out of pure enthusiasm I may add!) that we don’t make a plan for who to target and when. The ideas pile up and we try and do it all in one go. In a non-planned, non-targeted way. Because let’s be honest – that is life quite often.

2) Be targeted – target your time on the right channels that capture these audiences

Time is precious. Ensure you don’t make the mistake of launching everywhere and not having time to maintain it. What does your key audience read? Where are they based? What do they see every day? Start there.

3) Tell your story …. I’ve written about this before.

Through testimonials. Through you as a person. Make it come to life. Don’t expect people to understand your service or product. Engage me as a person. We know that we need to hear or read a message on average seven times, before we remember, resonate or understand it. We get bombarded with messages. Anyone can write facts, but consider your audience. Consider what resonates with them. And think about what action you’d like them to take.

Yes, it will take longer to prepare than your ‘straight-forward’ quick communications …. BUT it will attract a more engaged audience and resonate with them better. It’s worth the investment in you want your message to be heard, understood and actions to be taken.

If you need ideas to raise your business profile this year, please do get in touch!