Unlock extraordinary marketing results with a small, but mighty, crew! According to marketing expert Sarah Block, size doesn’t matter when you have the right strategy. By focusing on customer journey-led marketing and gathering valuable insights, even the smallest teams can achieve powerhouse results.
Get Big Success with Small Marketing Teams Summary
- The unique challenges of small marketing teams include time constraints and the need to be strategic about tasks due to limited expertise in all areas.
- Sarah’s customer journey-led marketing strategy emphasizes understanding and focusing on a single target customer to streamline marketing efforts effectively.
- The importance of personalizing LinkedIn profiles for better engagement, reflecting the company’s messaging, and connecting with the target audience.
Get Big Success with Small Marketing Teams Episode Transcript
Rich: My guest today has rocked the content world for 16 years. She’s supported big shots like Apartments.com and Prudential, but her heart lies with small teams. As the creator of the Strategic Spark Workshop, The Strategic Story, and Tiny Marketing Framework, she’s a master at helping tiny teams achieve big results.
With an award-winning content platform under her belt and features in Entrepreneur, Forbes, and Thrive, she definitely knows her stuff. You can catch her speaking at conferences and dazzling audiences with her wisdom. She’s like that favorite teacher who makes learning fun and impactful.
Today, we’re going to be looking at how tiny marketing teams – like yours – can get huge results with Sarah Block. Sarah, welcome to the podcast.
Sarah: Thanks for having me.
Rich: So your heart lies with small teams, and you help these tiny teams get big results. In your opinion, what are some of the challenges and opportunities that small teams, even teams of one have, compared to their larger rivals?
Sarah: The challenges that they specifically have is greatly in the time constraints that they have. When you are a one-person marketing department, you have to wear all the hats, and that’s really challenging. One, because of the time. But two, because you can’t be an expert at all the things. And the higher ups are expecting you to be, so you have to be really strategic about what you take on and what you outsource.
Rich: All right. Now you promote a customer journey led marketing strategy. How does that work?
Sarah: Yeah, so the first thing I do when I start working with a client is I interview their customers. And that helps me figure out the most streamlined way that you should be marketing. I use a 1 x 4 framework with my clients where we’re focusing on one customer that we want to clone. And then, what is that one channel that would make sense for them? What is the one core content that would make sense for them? And then one outreach strategy. And it makes it a lot easier when you have that data straight from your favorite customers.
Rich: So this is interesting. I love the idea of interviewing, whether it’s your clients in your state, your client’s customers. Sometimes people might be a little intimidated to do this. What kind of questions are you asking your business’s customers?
Sarah: Yeah, I love having these conversations. And it is easier for me because they’re not directly related to me, so I don’t have… well, one, I’m not intimidating them because it’s not like they’re knocking me specifically. They might be knocking the customer that I’m working with, and that helps me to also uncover ways we can adjust the experience that they provide for their clients.
But the questions that I ask first and foremost, what challenges are you going through? What are the hard parts of your job that you have to deal with? What triggers you to make a buying decision around X, whatever that service is that I’m working with? Where do you hang out online? What’s your favorite way of learning? When you have a question or you’re going through some sort of challenge or problem, what’s the first thing you do to start taking steps towards solving that problem?
And all of these questions really help guide what kind of content makes sense for them, what channels that they’re on, and how we can really tailor the offers for our clients, my clients, are providing to suit their actual needs instead of the needs that they’re assuming they have.
Rich: And just to clarify, these customers that you’re ultimately reaching out to and interviewing, these are the ideal customers for these businesses. Like they’ve had a working relationship with them, it’s been probably primarily positive, and we’re trying to figure out what makes them tick so we can go out and find similar types of clients who are just like them.
Sarah: Yes. And along that same vein, that’s a good point. Yes, they are their favorite customers that they’ve worked with, and those customers love working with them. But I also need to know what makes them, them. So I have to profile them. What’s your revenue? What does your team dynamics look like? What’s the business structure?
Because all of those help me identify how do we clone these people? What exactly is it about them that makes them so great? Then I can, once I have a profile with a few of their favorite customers, I’m able to start looking at LinkedIn Navigator and identifying what other companies would be similar to theirs and likely also appreciate the offers that my clients have.
Rich: This seems to be more focused on B2B. Do you have clients who are also doing in the B2C world as well?
Sarah: I work in B2B only.
Rich: All right, so that makes sense using LinkedIn then. Do you ever interview clients, customers, that maybe are not fans of your client? Do they ever give you names of people like, look, we had a really bad experience with this person or whatever it is, either to get better information on how they could do better or to find out what kind of clients you shouldn’t be cloning?
Sarah: Yeah. I have interviewed a few of them where the relationship went sour, or they’ve been working with them for a really long time. And they’re like, “I’ve always worked with them, so I continue to work with them. But this is what I would like changed.” And those conversations are really helpful. Especially the second version where they’re like, I’ve worked with them for so long and these are the things I wish were different. Because one of the things I love doing is just tweaking little pieces of the experience that my customers will get, because it makes such a huge difference. And money is made in that lifetime value being able to keep those clients.
Rich: Absolutely. Do you ever run into resistance when you’re doing these surveys, whether in the questions or even getting these people on the phone? And if so, how do you overcome them?
Sarah: The resistance usually comes from my clients, that they’re uncomfortable with me having those conversations. But it always ends up working out. So the client, my client, is responsible for choosing the customers that they want me to interview and getting that scheduled. Once I’ve convinced them that this is the way we have to do it, we need to get this data to make you better, then they’ll move forward with it and they’ll schedule those for me.
I have had some struggle when I’m doing a bigger survey to try and get that mass data, and people just aren’t responding and we have to start doing one to one outreach like, “Hey, we would really love this. I’m talking to you specifically, this is not a mass email anymore.”
Rich: Exactly. I’m thinking about a client that we just brought on who’s actually not opening their first store until 2024. Do you ever work with clients who are just getting started and there isn’t somebody to interview? And what steps could a new business take when they don’t have those clients or customers that you could interview?
Sarah: Yeah. I have not worked with anyone that’s brand new, but I have worked with customers that have want to completely shift and work with a different type of customer, so they don’t have any that really meet their ideal. And that actually happened recently, and it was a client who is opening up a new service line and they were going into B2B for the first time, and they had no contacts. They’re just starting this. So I started doing public surveys and stalking on LinkedIn and reaching out to people who met their ideal customer avatar, what they suspect was that, and having conversations with them and going to the groups that they were in online and the different forums and running surveys on there. So I was able to gather some information that way. Schedule a few little 15 minute get to know you’s with them and gather that data. And it turned out pretty successful. I was actually, it was the first time I ever had to deal with that where they didn’t have anyone who met their ideal customer. And I was pleasantly surprised.
Rich: Nice. So when you’ve completed your surveys and you have the results, what do you do with that information? How do you coalesce that into a marketing plan?
Sarah: Yeah, for me, I’m asking really specific questions that are going to guide me, so it’s so easy. Once I have that data, I’m looking at that 1 x 4 framework that I use for my clients. What channel is it that they specifically like? And a lot of times I’m surprised.
Like one time I was interviewing customers for my client and discovered that the majority really loved e-courses. Like when they wanted to solve a problem, they usually looked for some sort of e-course, which was completely not on their radar. But we worked on a Masterclass. Inch our way in. So we did a Masterclass with a workbook for them.
Rich: All right. What does the customer journey look like when you’ve mapped it all out? And how can we create the right touch points to guide them to our desired outcome, which is hopefully their desired outcome as well?
Sarah: Yeah. So I have a template that I created that I use, and so I identify all of the touch points that we have seen from these customers at each stage. How did they discover us in the first place? What pages do they go to when they’re in that consideration phase and they’ve short listed a few companies and they’re just trying to make some decisions? And then what kind of touch points, what interactions did we have when they were making that final decision? And then last, that lifetime value. How are we interacting with our clients, and what are ways that we can create additional touch points that will keep them our clients?
So those are some of the first things I’m looking at, but I also look at what questions are they asking at each point in that phase? What channels are they interacting with us at each point? And a lot of times I’m sifting through sales call transcripts to get some of that information.
Rich: All right. When you’ve got all this and you have a pretty good understanding of the framework, where do you start your messaging? Does it start at the website and then you work your way out, or are there different places that you attack first?
Sarah: I first start with documenting the messaging strategy, so I know what I want to say everywhere. And I’ll start with, I like to do it super bite sized. Like, “These are phrases that would make sense to use for this brand.” And I use what are the types of phrases that I would need to use? What are different data points I can use to show authority? What can I do to show empathy? What can I do to build trust with this audience? So I have different sections for that.
And then I start with the homepage. And then next I’ll do the sales page. And then I will start creating their LinkedIn profiles. All the places that people will see most publicly.
Rich: All right. So let’s break that down a little bit. So we’re focused on the homepage, which is always its own challenge, because we’re trying to do all the things for all of our potential clients all in that one space. Do you take some of the language that you’ve heard from these ideal customers and work that into the body copy? Or exactly what are some of the changes that you might make both in the copy and then also beyond the copy?
Sarah: So when I hear what you’re saying, we’re looking at lots of different kinds of customers and attracting them on the homepage. So when we’re doing that and we’re working with either a group of people who are making the decision or different types of customers, I focus on the challenge that we solve, and keep it really centered around that challenge and the pain that they’re going through. And I keep it there.
I have a framework I’ve created that makes it really easy for me to create homepage copy for people. Because once I’ve established that messaging strategy, it’s almost like fill in the blank these are the things that I need to touch on. One, to help them feel seen, because I’m talking about what they’re experiencing. And two, help them overcome any objections that they are coming across when they’re like, “Why would I want to work with you?” And you can do that right in the copy.
And the frequently asked questions section is one of my favorites for overcoming objections. If you hear pushback on certain things on sales calls, slap that baby in a FAQ to help them overcome that objection before they ever have that conversation with you.
Rich: Very cool. So you mentioned LinkedIn, one of my favorite platforms. What kind of considerations do you make when you’re expanding that message from the website onto some social channels like LinkedIn? Because if we are talking B2B, we have to be talking about LinkedIn.
And are you focusing that new messaging on the company pages, or are you working with the individual team members to make sure that their personal profiles are also reflecting what the company is putting out there?
Sarah: Personal profiles. Yeah, personal profiles first. That’s where everybody goes. They go there first. And then it’s not until they’re in that consideration phase that they start going to your page, and that’s just to find your website usually.
So I focus on personal profiles and storytelling in them. So anytime that you can get your message across by using a real-life story that you’ve experienced within your job, that’s way easier. Like, this is what happened, and this is how we solved it. But do it in a narrative so it’s interesting and it pulls people in.
And then make sure your headline on LinkedIn is super clear and explains who you work with and what problem you solve and how you solve it Three things, one sentence, not hard.
Rich: We started this conversation by saying you work with small marketing teams. When you’re working on these personal profiles, is it the marketing team you’re working with? Is it the executive board or the owner of the company? Is it everybody? Does everybody need to be on the same page? And does everybody on the marketing sales and executive team need to be putting out the same message on LinkedIn?
Sarah: Yes, you need everybody on board with this. Everybody who is customer facing should have a professional and engaging LinkedIn profile. Because anytime they’re setting up a meeting with a potential customer, they’re going to their LinkedIn profile. So everybody should be included.
I like to do it in a workshop so I can just get everybody on the account on the same page at one time, and we can work through your profile easily enough, and then move on to the company page and just make sure it matches your sales page. So it’s clear what you do, it’s clear who you do it for, and how you solve the problem.
Rich: Do you find that some people LinkedIn comes naturally to them and they’re more than happy to start posting two to three times a week, and other people it’s like pulling teeth? And if so, what do you do to those people?
I’ve also discovered that the further along somebody is in their career, the less likely they are to adopt LinkedIn because they’ve been doing it successfully for all these years. So just wondering if you have different strategies for winning people over.
Sarah: Yes. I completely agree with you. It is pulling teeth. So there are a couple ways you could do it.
One, if we’re creating your LinkedIn content for you for your page, we can repurpose it and you can use it on your own personal profiles if you don’t want to do it. And if you don’t want to post at all, okay, you don’t necessarily have to. But engage. If you comment on people that are within your target customer avatar and you’re taking those relationships offline or off channel, that will help a lot. And if you could just commit to one post a week, I will be happy.
Rich: All right. What are some of the KPIs that we should be tracking? If we do all this work, we’re a small team, we’re stretched too thin. Obviously, we can’t do everything, and we can’t measure everything. So where do you suggest that the typical B2B company and the typical marketer in that company puts their focus when it comes to measurement and KPIs?
Sarah: Yeah. So look at what you’re doing each quarter and set those benchmarks ahead of time. So whatever you’ve identified as most important and what you’re going to focus on, benchmark it before you even start doing it. And check those KPIs to see if they’re even worth doing. But overarching things that you should be checking is conversion rates, because all that really matters is you’re making money You need to make sales. So conversion rates, always check that where are your leads coming from. Check that you know what channel to focus on. And email click through rates to fit calls or digital products, however you’re selling, is another one.
Rich: All right makes sense. You mentioned quarterly benchmarking, which I like that idea. What are some of the things that we should be doing either monthly, quarterly, or annually, when it comes to making sure that we’re always headed in the right direction?
Sarah: Yeah, so I break it down. I have annual goals that I said, so just like an annual plan. but then I break it down into quarterly marketing plans. And this is how I do it for my clients. So every quarter I sit down, and we decide what we’re going to do for that quarter. We’re going to preset those benchmarks that say this was a learning experience or this is a real win. We’re going to keep doing it.
And then the following quarter we’ll do all of the reporting on that and see if we need to pivot what direction to go, what we want to experiment with. And we identify those things that we’re going to be doing and do it all over again. So we’re constantly evolving and improving and tweaking.
Rich: All right. We’re recording this interview towards the end of 2023. And I’m sure there are people who are going to be listening who are small teams of one, and they’re like, all of that sounds great, but it also feels completely overwhelming. If there was one place that they should start to get their stuff together and move forward as a small team, what are their priorities as they head into the new year?
Sarah: If you’re going to start with one thing, I would say identify that 1 x 4 that you are willing to do. So that one target customer you want to focus on. And along with that, what offer do they really care about? And focus just on that. Core content and core outreach strategy and one core channel.
Those four things, just pick one of each and just focus there. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but it will drive your success. Especially picking the right outreach strategy, because you need that money coming in. And there’s lots of options that you can test, but I have found virtual events to be really helpful. Networking events where you’re connecting with people. Anytime you can build that relationship by showing your face, showing what you know, like you know what you say you know. Your expertise. That’s the easiest way to move people from discovery to, okay, let me sign that contract.
Rich: It’s interesting, because so much of digital marketing does seem to be focused on the inbound. But I’m glad that you mentioned outreach, which is outbound marketing. Do you find that a lot of marketers these days are uncomfortable doing that outreach, and how do you suggest they overcome that? And maybe what channels, you mentioned virtual events, but what other channels might there be where they start to get in the habit of it’s not just waiting for those leads to come in, sometimes we have to go out and get them?
Sarah: Yeah, it’s super uncomfortable and I hated it until I started to reframe how I thought about it. One, the most effective way to get short term sales is your outreach strategy and to continue filling your sales pipeline. Inbound marketing is long-term, and it will bring people in more passively without that extra effort.
But once I started realizing I’m not trying to manipulate anybody, I’m not trying to have an uncomfortable conversation, I’m trying to just connect. And once I started thinking about, I’m just having a connection call. And if it works and I solve your problem, awesome. If not, at least I met a cool person. And rethinking about it into, “I’m just making friends”, made it a lot easier for me.
Rich: Sound advice. Sarah, this has been great. If anybody wants to learn more, if any small marketing teams are out there and they could use some help, where can we send them online?
Sarah: They can go to sarahnoelblock.com/change and it’ll be a specific page for your podcast where they can find all the things that I do and get some free goodies.
Rich: Awesome. And we’ll have those links in the show notes. Sarah, thank you so much for coming by today.
Sarah: Thanks for having me.
Sarah Block helps tiny marketing teams clone their favorite clients to achieve big results without the big budget. To learn more about Sarah’s Tiny Marketing Framework or how to better understand your ideal customer, head on over to her website.
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 25+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.