Marketing When You’re Overwhelmed:
why to keep going, even when you’re afraid of a potential onslaught
Last month, I asked what your biggest marketing hurdles were on my Instagram Stories.
Someone commented: “Whether to market at all.”
If you’re proud of your work, if you want to serve more clients, if you want to help this economy by growing a business that can employ more people, then I think: Yes, you should promote what you do.
But what if you’re really overwhelmed right now?
I confess: during the first few weeks of quarantine, I was so overwhelmed.
While many were binge-watching Tiger King, I was:
- pumping out proposals
- re-writing copy
- quickly creating new content
- scrapping and re-scheduling social media posts
- revising online courses
- designing and recording workshops
- signing on for Zoom meeting after Zoom meeting after Zoom meeting
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I love doing those things. OK, maybe not the back-to-back meetings, but all the actual marketing strategy and work? I love it.
But I, too, was mourning the loss of normalcy, the loss of life, the loss of everything we had expected we’d have in March and April and beyond…
I, too, wanted to watch something stupid and drink wine starting at noon.
Typing this now still makes me feel like a monster, because I am so lucky to have a job I love — a business that’s strong and resilient and running despite a global pandemic. I am heartbroken for my colleagues who have lost their income. I am worried for their ability to pay the rent and grocery shop safely without stress. I get a stomachache thinking of all the creative works that dissolved in an instant — the choreography, theatre, and books that won’t be danced or acted or written.
Human emotion is complicated, and after confessing this to a few friends, I know I’m not the only one that felt so overwhelmed by remaining busy with work they love, they kind of wished for it to stop. I’m definitely not the only one that feels mortified by that feeling.
For some people I’ve talked to, their instinct is to slow down their marketing to try to slow down their workload. Go dark to catch a break.
I don’t think you should do that.
If you’re busy right now, it probably means you have a special set of skills that are especially helpful to your clients in this moment. Didn’t we all build our businesses to serve?
If you’re busy right now, you may have the opportunity to hire people who aren’t. Those special skills you have can be taught and transferred to your friends and colleagues who need the work. Why not hire them to help?
And most importantly, if you’re busy right now, it means your marketing was working before you even thought it was. Marketing is a long term game. Messaging takes time to sink in. Strangers require many touchpoints to become clients. Even referrers require many reminders to match you with your next best prospect.
All that said, I don’t want you to overwork or burn yourself out, out of a sense of duty. You put the oxygen mask on first, remember?
So, in an effort to help guide your marketing when you’re overwhelmed, here’s some advice. Do this instead of following a more meticulous marketing approach:
Make some small tweaks to your web copy
If your services have changed in any way or your work is taking on a new direction, make small changes to your copywriting on your website to reflect this. Don’t labor over the word choice now, you can come back and edit later. If some of your services are stressing you out more than others, take them off your site for a while!!
Scale back on spend
If you’ve been spending money on ads to bring leads into your business, and these leads require too much of your time right now, it’s safe to reduce the rate you’re spending by 30-60%. Don’t drop your ad spend to $0 — remember, not all leads become paying clients right away, you want to continue reaching and nurturing best-fit prospects, just maybe less of them at once right now.
Rely on work-in-progress and behind-the-scenes stories
Mine your current work for use in your content marketing. Talk about projects you’re working on right now instead of creating completely new or original content. Give people an inside look at the process of working with you, all while focusing on the work you’re actually doing in-the-moment.
Automate your calendar
This sounds silly but it’s a HUGE time saver, especially if you’re taking on a lot of new work and meeting with new people. Set up Calendly or Acuity Scheduling or any other automated scheduler, and integrate your marketing into your meeting notifications! Lead prospective clients to helpful blog articles or to follow you on social media as they wait for their first appointment with you.
Focus on one thing per week
Don’t try to cram five new and original things into every week. Pick something you want your best-fit client to know about and talk about one piece of it at a time, all week long.
For example, I release a new DIY marketing workshop the final week of every month. On Monday, I can tease the topic of the workshop and why I chose it. On Tuesday, I’ll open the doors to that workshop. On Wednesday, I can mention there’s a discount code and encourage people to ask me for it. On Thursday, I can talk about one lesson I teach in the workshop and how I’ve instituted that learning in my own company. On Friday, I can share reactions or responses from people who signed up…
Set clear expectations
If you usually respond to every Instagram DM, but right now you don’t have the bandwidth, say so in your Stories. If you can’t get back to email messages within your usual turnaround time, add a note to your contact page or an auto-responder that gives folks a heads up. People will understand.
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Continuing to promote what you do doesn’t mean you have to stay overwhelmed or add even more to your plate.
Use your marketing to define what you do, set clear expectations, infuse your marketing in considerate automations, scale back on ad spend, focus on one concept a week, and rely on in-the-moment glimpses of your work to tell your story.
I strategize, consult and manage digital marketing and communications for small businesses and creative entrepreneurs. I’m based in Brooklyn, because I have a thing for exposed brick, cozy, local coffee shops and the can’t stop, won’t stop energy of New York.
Because I work with small companies, I get the chance to really know my clients – what makes them tick and how and why they should stand out in a crowded marketplace. A lot of my clients have a smaller staff, a limited budget and are already stretched thin for time. This leads us to tailor marketing strategies and solutions to each company’s unique needs and actual capacity.