Field Notes Blog
News and thoughts on UI/UX, web design, and more.
On a given day I'm in and out of a dozen client accounts. In one I'll fix a problem, another may need a new element set up, a third calls for posting a press release and a fourth is a new site we're building. Some are design endeavors but many more are simply updates that I see to quickly, focusing on getting the details right. Once in awhile though, as I'm copying and pasting along, I find a gem from a client that stops me in my tracks. As I was posting events to a client's online calendar today I came across one of those.
In her monthly update, Reverend Tania Marquez, a minister at a small congregation near the Mexican border in California shared this:
"Our times have been challenging for a while and maybe many of you have also found yourselves oscillating between contrasting emotions; nostalgia for the things you thought were givens and rage at the constant flow of news that threatens the well-being of ourselves or those we love. People often think being grateful means we accept things as they are. We can be grateful for what we have and still continue to work for change. I think gratitude can propel our actions, for it prevents us from falling into despair. I’m convinced gratitude has the power to transform our frustration and heartbreak into hope." ~ Rev. Tania Marquez, First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego, South Bay Campus
What does this have to do with running a small business? Well, everything.
Running a small business is hard. Marketing is hard. It's hard because there are so many opinions about what and how to do it. It's hard because it takes a lot of work and creativity. And it's hard because after you figure out what to do and get it done, the results are usually vague. Often times there is no surge of sales. Many are the promos I run without getting a single response. I can see how many people saw the promo and I can get likes, comments and website traffic. But the actual results are subtle.
It's more accurate to see marketing for what it really is - a practice of reaching out. It's not about selling per se - that comes later. It's about connecting so you stay on the radar. It's about creating a consistent, professional, relevant online presence. It's about crafting relationships. Once you see it not as a thing you do but as a practice of connecting, it takes on a whole new meaning.
I send out a monthly email newsletter and I have conducted many, many online marketing campaigns. In over 13 years, this is the only marketing I've ever done, yet I would bet that in all that time I've had less than 20 people respond to a specific promotion. In fact, the most commonly clicked link in my monthly newsletter is the fun video "treat" I include at the end. What does happen, however, is that weeks or months later, clients submit requests to me by replying to my email newsletter. They keep them, and even if they don't read them, they serve as little friends saying "Hey, remember that Ame's there to help if you need it".
It's easy to get frustrated by the lack of immediate results when trying to get the word out about a small business or nonprofit - especially a brand new one - but I encourage you to pursue marketing not as a discrete task but as an ongoing practice in conversation.
This is where gratitude comes in. I am hugely grateful that we have so many free ways to promote ourselves online. If you've worked with me, you have an easy-to-use website. If you've been to one of my classes you have a grasp on how to make smart use of social media and email newsletters. And if you have a cellphone you have high quality video at your fingertips along with a huge array of artsy, interesting apps to make your marketing messages pop.
You created your business or nonprofit to share your passion with the world and maybe even make it a better place. We've never had more free ways to share our story online. Marketing is subtle, so instead of focusing solely on "conversions" (the number or people responding to a promo) look at how your marketing tells your story and creates a connection. When you do so, what can be a disappointing exercise becomes transformed by being grateful for the many ways we have to connect.
What are you doing on your website to engage new visitors? Blogging? Seasonal graphics? How are you using social media to tell your story? Are you creating fun, relevant updates? Are you creating new connections online and growing your audience? I'd love to hear your ideas.
About the author
As the owner of Pixel Lava Interactive I've helped hundreds of small businesses and nonprofits with websites, graphic design and more. I hope you'll find this blog full of useful information.
~ Ame Stanko