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8 ways for small business owners to manage marketing overwhelm

I want to let you in on a little secret. Marketing overwhelm is real. I know marketing sometimes feels very overwhelming for me. And I know I’m not alone, I haven’t met another business owner yet who hasn’t felt the same way. 

Because on top of my day-to-day responsibilities – working with clients and helping our team – it just ends up being a little bit too much. There was actually a long period of time where, for some strange reason, I didn’t seem to count it as an ‘essential’ part of our work. I would try and fit it into evenings, weekends and lunch breaks.  

And I’ll admit, I still haven’t worked out how to overcome marketing overwhelm entirely (is that even a possibility?). But thankfully I have been able to discover a few helpful ways in which to manage marketing better, for both my clients, and myself. 

Question whether it really is marketing that is the issue.

With everything that goes on in a small business (especially when you’re wearing many hats), it can be difficult to clearly see where the real problems are. 

I’ve worked with plenty of business owners who are not only trying to run a business but also deal with things like staffing issues, rapid growth, cash flow or even personal concerns. And with so much to juggle, we’re often on the precipice of burnout – unable to put the right amount of effort into anything. 

And while I’m always going to be a cheerleader for marketing (give me an M… give me an A), it’s okay to realise that sometimes there are more important factors to consider. 

So in this situation, I recommend stepping back while recognising you are making a conscious decision to do so – and give yourself a realistic timeline to come back to it when you’re ready to give it the attention it needs. 

You need to be patient – marketing is about playing the long game

There’s no question that consistent marketing, over a long period of time, will help your sales process to flow a lot more easily. You’ll just know when it’s working, but the results from it feel almost effortless. 

But, and here’s a big but, that feeling comes from time, patience and sticking to the game plan. 

We normally say that it can take about six weeks before you’ll start to see things starting to ‘happen’ from new marketing activity. And at the start of that six weeks – it feels like a really long time, especially when you think there might be some quick fixes that could get things happening now (like making a pile of cold calls, or turning up to a market.) 

However, if you continue to just focus on the urgent tasks, you’ll struggle to get the results that come from planning a long term marketing strategy. 

Treat marketing like a client – book it in your calendar 

If you’re anything like me, if you don’t book marketing into your calendar (and no, not after hours) then it has less chance of ever making it to the top of the priority list. 

I’d say around four hours per week is suitable for a solopreneur. When you are just starting out, it may be more, but believe me when I say you can get quite a lot done in four hours! This block of time could help you create a whole heap of content in batches, enabling you to work in advance and never feeling like you’re under pressure. 

If you have extra resources, I then calculate it out as four hours per full time employee. No, it’s not perfect science – but it is a good guideline to help you work out capacity. Just keep in mind I haven’t included time for replying to comments on social media posts, this needs your attention every day. 

At Identify we give our clients a spreadsheet to help with organising their social media content – you can take a look at it here, and download our free daily planner sheet here (no email signup required!)

Set yourself up for success by being realistic

New challenges are so exciting! And if it is anything to do with marketing I normally jump in head first with lots of great intentions. But keeping it going long term, that can be a very different story. 

So I suggest that it’s better to start at a pace you can maintain. Commit yourself to a small amount of weekly marketing and once this starts to feel automatic and easy – add to it. I often say ‘it’s better to be consistently average than sporadically brilliant’. 

Your business will benefit from having your marketing efforts show up regularly over a period of time, helping people to remember you. 

Many business owners I work with will email their list three or four times in a month, and then forget to get back to it for eight months (or not set aside time to do it) then do a few more emails…. then forget again. And this lack of consistency will end up just frustrating your audience. 

So if you’re learning a new skill, break it down into simple steps in order to build a habit you can stick to. For example – if you want to use LinkedIn, set up your profile and then over two to three weeks, just get into the practice of logging in everyday to read a few posts and connect with others. 

Then for a few weeks begin commenting on other people’s posts. And when that feels comfortable, start posting yourself. Every day if you can! 

For it to work, it needs to be manageable, and this will enable you to actually experience growth over time. 

Avoid shiny object syndrome

My achilles heel – shiny objects in marketing. So to make sure I don’t derail plans I already have in place, I have learned to stop. Take a closer look. And then honestly ask myself – ‘is this something that positively adds to my current strategy’, ‘is this something my clients will be interested in using’, ‘is this something I really need right now’? 

When Clubhouse came out earlier this year, I was instantly attracted to it. But if I was to use it properly, it would have taken up a whole heap of my time that was actually best used elsewhere. My clients don’t use it and weren’t interested in it. And I also realised it was my ego that wanted me to be on it, more so than the need to serve my business. 

So while it was hard to do so – I stepped away. Did I miss out? Maybe. But there are only so many hours in every day and it didn’t pass my test of being a fit for the business right now, so I moved on.  

Stay in your own lane – there’s no traffic there

I often have to remind my clients that they can not be expected to have the same level of output as me when doing their own marketing. Why? I’ve been a content writer for over twenty years. I work as a marketer, so it’s just what I do, and I have others in my team who help me with design, writing and the admin of marketing. 

And my point is – you don’t know what help others (i.e. your competitors) are getting for their marketing. They may have more time because they aren’t as busy as you are, or because they are sacrificing something else in their lives (like sleep!) 

So try to just focus on what you are doing. There’s simply no need to be looking over your shoulder and comparing yourself to others.  

Pick a few experts to follow and stick with them

To protect my time, I’m very careful to check who I follow and read online. I’m also constantly learning to develop my knowledge and skills by following other marketers and writers – particularly those who are recognised leaders in their space. But I also make sure they have similar values to mine.  

A lot of the content I read is American – so it needs to be ‘Kiwi-ised’ for our specific needs. This means I spend time fact checking, or going directly to the source. This is important because I’m often advising our clients of updates and this is a part of my ‘proper’ work. 

Don’t forget about getting advice to help yourself too. But – be careful to not become overwhelmed by taking in too much conflicting information and being unable to dedicate time to work out what is the best fit for your business.  

I regularly see people asking questions online like ‘What’s a great CRM?’ or ‘How do I advertise my business?’. And I watch (through my fingers a little) as people kindly answer with something that worked for them, but may not be the best fit for the business owner who asked. So if you’re going to use Facebook groups to get support, make sure you write a detailed breakdown of your business, the stage it’s at and what outcomes you need before getting answers. It’s also a good idea to ask people why they would recommend it.  

Then choose someone who you relate to and can easily understand. There are plenty of marketers out there who I really like – and others who just make me anxious! So I give the latter a wide berth. 

I actually asked the people in our Facebook group what advice they would give to someone who felt overwhelmed by information overload and Heather Carrigan (from Flax Floristry School) suggested just choosing on one or two people at a time to learn from. Of course there’s no rules to say you have to stick with them forever, but just find someone you trust and try to commit to just listening to them for a month or so and applying the advice they give. If it works, you’ll probably become a loyal follower. 

Consider outsourcing as an option

If marketing isn’t your thing, getting help certainly makes it easier to manage. We recommend you put aside money for three months before you bring anyone on and to potentially start with a marketing virtual assistant who can help with the admin side of marketing (like posting regular content). Then, as you grow, you can use other team members and potentially more external resources to keep the ball rolling – with the aim to work towards an in house marketing manager whose job is to focus solely on marketing. 

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