One of the things I always found amusing whilst working in agency-side, was that we would be truly dedicated to producing polished websites and social media pages for our clients – but never prioritised getting our own house in order! It’s such an easy trap to fall into. When we’re setting up for the day ahead, staring down at a mammoth task list, we can easily prioritise client work over our own work- but the truth is, we need a balance of both!
I find that so often, we humans struggle with making decisions that live in the grey. It’s simpler for our brains to think in “all or nothing”/“black and white thinking” capacity, but in my experience, this is rarely where true progress is made.
My greatest successes for both my clients and myself have come from maintaining a balance. Some days, this looks like only 20% of time being dedicated to furthering my own goals and 80% in service of others, other days- it can be the opposite!
What I commit to now, is dedicating myself to at least one item that will move the needle on my own business or the development of myself or my personal brand, no matter how much I am being spread thinly or pulled into a hundred different directions.
“If you don’t prioritise your life, somebody else will.”GREG MCKEOWN – ESSENTIALISM
THE DAY I WENT VIRAL
The day SPT went viral was just like any other day. It wasn’t immediately as I hit the “publish” button on my latest post, but within the same week after Google had crawled the page, Pinterest had picked up on the keywords in my pin and I started to gain some traction from users who found the content valuable.
The post that “made it”? A free resource. A simple, minimalist calendar that didn’t suck up the ink from your computer and (what I didn’t know then but turned out to be one of the reasons the calendar became such a hit), it started on a Monday!
Why is this important? Well because (although I didn’t know at that time), there was a shortage of printable calendars on the internet with a Monday start-day. This means I’d filled a gap in the market that there was existing demand for and while in this instance I simply got lucky, this served as the key insight that would lead to my blueprint for re-creating “viral” (or at least, highly successful) pieces of content for my clients in future years. I find these “silver bullet” content pieces through running a detailed risk and opportunity analysis which encompasses a “competitor impact mapping” audit built to help spot these “right” opportunities for us to invest in. But I’ll get to sharing that with you as the weeks go on…
In fact, if you want to see the full vision for what steps we’ll cover off when building out your winning digital marketing strategy, you can view (and bookmark!) my exhaustive list of digital marketing executions which is essentially, the ultimate digital marketing inside for every piece of content you’ll see from me as time goes on. It’s basically my content strategy and my “to do list” for the items I intend to share with you.
Bookmark this page and refer back to it as you work through your strategy. I hope that you’ll use it as a quick reference guide to navigate through the chunky insights across smallpaperthings.com.
If you’ve read my story, you’ll know the reasons I started Small Paper Things and where it all began, knowing that it was first created as merely a hobby, my petri-dish for testing and learning about new digital marketing initiatives which I brought back into my 9-5. It therefore, contained content about anything and everything I was interested in. From health and fitness, home decor, organisation and marketing. Building and sharing my Minimalist Printable Calendar just started with sharing a resource that I genuinely wanted but couldn’t find myself.
So needless to say, I was not at all prepared for the
hundreds millions of eyeballs across my little hobby blog. I became truly shocked and paralysed with indecision as to what to do next. I didn’t know what I’d wanted “Small Paper Things” to be – heck I didn’t even know who I wanted to be in the world and suddenly, with great public attention came a great deal of pressure to start making calls about what the future of this website and what my career should look like – and fast.
I now know of course that these things simply cannot be rushed! So, despite this exhaustive list of “mistakes”, they weren’t really “mistakes” at all – for I was not operating with a plan back then other than using the real estate as a place to test and learn – and test and learn I did! Throughout this process, I was schooled faster and harder than I ever was in my 3 year Bachelor’s degree in Marketing.
Navigating this virality and making these mistakes was the absolute best lesson of all. So much so, that I now have a list of everything I didn’t do and what you should do if a great traffic opportunity were to come your way at any point in your career.
So without further ado, let me share with you exactly what hindsight has taught me. Every single “mistake” I made and what I could have done better when I hit the traffic jackpot circa 2016.
So of all of the tactical mistakes I’ll share with you in this list, what it truly boils down to is exactly what Greg McKeown is selling in his work on “Essentialism”; The disciplined pursuit of less. I didn’t prioritise keeping my own house in order while I was working on client accounts and being pulled into a thousand different directions. I would always think: “Oh I should totally get to that!” – and simply never would.
In fact, Greg McKeown’s book was one of the pivotal precursors to re-orientating myself towards a more sustainable life (both in business and personally, I mean, we have only one life after all and time is our most valuable asset)? If you haven’t read Essentialism, I definitely recommend picking it up. Or if you’re struggling to find the time to read, at least give his Google Talk a watch or his Podcast Interview with Tim Ferris a listen.
Back to my spectacular failure. Did I say failure? Oh, I means failureS!
Here’s the exhaustive list of everything hindsight has taught me, in the ultimate lesson in digital marketing that occurred on the pages of Small Paper Things blog back in circa 2016 when it went viral.
I INSTALLED MY FACEBOOK PIXEL & SET UP GOOGLE AUDIENCES TOO LATE
One of the first steps I recommend to anyone looking to invest in their digital marketing is to set up their “asset base” and install tracking codes on their website. Fortunately, I did have Google Analytics installed (I was able to tell that I was going viral at least) but I took far too long to set up Google Analytics audience tracking and install my Facebook pixel. Had I done this earlier, I not only would have been able to gain additional insights into the demographics and psychographics of my audience, but I would have had an opportunity to remarket to them through Google or Facebook advertising products too! By the time I installed these codes, I was still able to build up a sizeable audience, however I missed out on a key opportunity by not ensuring this had been done in anticipation of any future traffic success.
Take this lesson from me and ensure you’re setting up your tracking correctly right when you launch (or if you’re unsure as to what you’re doing, recruit a web developer to assist you).
I DIDN’T BUILD A HIGH QUALITY LEAD MAGNET TO QUALIFY MY TRAFFIC AND SUBSCRIBERS
In my case, the resource I developed that went ‘viral’ was a generic one that would appeal to a vast array of audiences. This, no doubt, was partially the reason the post achieved such a high level of traction and generated over 1M hits in the first place – because it appealed to the masses! The downside of course is that without a way to qualify this traffic and gain an understanding of who was engaging with me, I had no way to know whether my future content would be of relevance to them – or to funnel the percentage of highly relevant individuals into a separate list.
Had I crafted a compelling piece of content that answered a core pain point for the audience I wanted to engage with, those who visited my blog simply for the calendar would have downloaded it and left – while those who were a member of my target demographic, may have engaged further and been more likely to subscribe.
…This meant that
I PAID FOR TOOLS THAT WOULDN’T PROVIDE AN ROI, FORKING OUT FUNDS I DIDN’T NEED TO WHILE WORKING ON MONETISING MY BLOG THROUGH PAID PRODUCTS
As a result of not being able to segment my newly engaged list of followers (>10K email subscribers), I suddenly had a large list of individuals who wanted to see more from me, yet no idea what they wanted to see! Even still, what good would an audience be to me if they weren’t interested in the content (and value) I could offer them?
In the end, the costs associated with the email software I was using to continue to engage 10K subscribers was more than I could justify at the time because…
I didn’t link my content efforts back to my core objective (consulting leads)
…nor did I release any paid products to fund ongoing content creation
While the blog was making me some money through affiliate marketing and through advertising space, I was consulting in a 9-5 capacity on the side and business was booming! I didn’t really have a lot of discretionary time and when I did, I used this time to craft posts that would offer value to my clients and speak to my credibility as a digital marketing specialist. I wasn’t really thinking strategically about how I could funnel through leads to my consulting business, nor was I thinking about scaling my offering in the form of digital products.
In the end, I didn’t want to continue to pay for the tools I had purchased to manage all of my blog email marketing since, I didn’t know what to communicate or who I was communicating to! I was feeling completely lost. Unsure of what they wanted to see from me or how the blog could have evolved.
So unsurprisingly, I decided to shut down my email marketing software which led to…
I DIDN’T COMMUNICATE WITH MY AUDIENCE AT ALL
At this stage, I’m in complete paralysis. While I can see there is an opportunity that exists before me I’m unsure about how to qualify this audience and where to start. I couldn’t see a an effective way to achieve this while my plate was full of consulting clients and the pressure to “get it right” became far too difficult.
Spoiler alert: I can see the opportunity NOW (hello hindsight 👋🏻) and I’ll be taking you on the journey as I experiment with a funnel to “warm up” these individuals, qualify those who will be interested in my future content and re-engage them with a truly valuable offering. If you want to follow along with that journey, you can follow the hashtag #smallpaperthingsstrategy on LinkedIn or join the Digital Strategy Discussion Facebook Group as I’ll be posting weekly updates on learnings from the experiment starting October 1st.
I DIDN’T HAVE A CLEAR VISION FOR WHERE THE BLOG WAS GOING
I now know that in lieu and crafting a clear set of values, a vision, purpose and mission that would keep me clear on what service I could bring to others, I was bound to be distracted by the opportunities around me, and that I was.
Psst. Did you know that I crafted a free workbook that provides a step-by-step guide for developing your values, vision, purpose and mission statement for your brand (whether it be commercial or personal)? You can download that, completely free over here –>
In the end, it all became too hard. It wasn’t the fun little hobby of mine anymore, so I bet you can guess what happened next?
I DIDN’T CONSISTENTLY POST AND WHEN I DID, NOTHING ABOUT MY POSTS OR MY BRAND WAS CONSISTENT
I had my head in the sand a little bit and instead of taking back the reigns of the opportunity that was before me, I simply stopped posting regularly.
By the time I finally got a handle on what my audience wanted to see from me…
I TOOK TO LONG TO SERVE MY AUDIENCE WITH THE CONTENT THEY WERE CRAVING (AND ASKING FOR!)
I had no analytics and no means of qualifying them, so I guess at this point you’re wondering: How did you manage to find out what they wanted to see from you?
Well – they told me! And boy did I feel silly for not thinking about simply asking them.
I was flooded with requests for new organisational content and printables as well as blogging and marketing tips. So it turned out, a big portion of those who were following me were interested in the content I wanted to put out there. It’s funny how things work out like that. It’s even funnier (if you can call it funny) that I let the fear of getting it “wrong” stop me from engaging with a community who happened to be highly relevant anyway – simply because I assumed that many of them may not have been.
It’s an interesting thought process, underpinned by a core belief that I worked hard on busting into a thousand pieces before deciding to come back to the blogging business this time around. My core belief? That whatever I produced wouldn’t be good enough and I wasn’t worthy of the success that I’d achieved.
I was trying to be everything to everyone, was stuck in comparison and fear and in the end, I became nothing to no one.
So what did I learn? A freakin boatload.
All of which I intend to share over the course of our time together. From walking the walk with the technical best practice implementation (tracking pixels installed thank you ✔️), taking my own strategic advice for content creation and repurposing through to starting my journey with a clear set of values, purpose, vision and mission for why I am here to serve YOU, this journey is going to be a fun one, and I hope you come along for the ride.
So to get you started on YOUR journey to digital marketing success, we must first “start with why” as Simon Sinek says. Finding my “why” is exactly what led me here pursuing a life dedicated to giving you the blueprint to navigate the overwhelming world of digital marketing.
Do you know your “why”? Whether you are interested in developing your personal brand or leading your business to commercial success – getting clear on your brand’s values, vision, purpose and mission is fundamental to setting the foundation of all of our marketing communications.
After all, if we are not clear ourselves on what value we bring to the world, how would our audience be clear on our value proposition?
Setting this proposition up front ensures we remain clear on our “true north” – mitigating the risk of getting distracted, spread thinly and pulled into different directions as we navigate the ever-changing landscape (and opportunities that may arise). Don’t make the mistakes that circa 2016 Kate made. Learn from them by taking some time to fill out this workbook now!
If you think this is an indulgent exercise, then think again. As we work through the tactical implementation of our digital marketing strategies, we’ll come back to this workbook time and time again. From setting our communication pillars to building target audience personas and mapping our customer journey.