The following is an edited transcript of an April 2021 conversation between GetApp general manager Thibaut De Lataillade and DIYMarketers.com publisher Ivana Taylor. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Thibaut De Lataillade: Hi, I’m Thibaut De Lataillade, general manager at GetApp.
As part of our Rebuilding Your Small Business series, we’re interviewing expert contributors for practical business advice about how to improve the overall customer journey.
Today, I have the honor of interviewing Ivana Taylor. Ivana is the publisher of DIYMarketers.com, where small-business owners get low-cost tools, tips, and strategies to do marketing on about $17 a day.
Watch Thibaut De Lataillade and Ivana Taylor discuss marketing automation and strategy in this episode of the GetApp Contributor Network: Rebuilding Your Small Business series
Hello Ivana! We’re incredibly excited to have you today. Before we get started, can you tell us a little bit about your own experience of being an entrepreneur and running a business?
Ivana Taylor: I suppose you could say I was a reluctant entrepreneur—I flailed around, I did consulting, and that’s when I realized how many marketing people there were who weren't actually trained marketers. These are people who were thrust into this marketing role, and they had no idea how to function inside of [their] companies as a marketer.
That’s sort of when I started DIYMarketers, which was originally going to be a membership site teaching these folks how to do practical marketing. Like most entrepreneurs, I had a tough time getting started, so I focused on writing articles [about] tools, and I learned early on how powerful tools were, how affordable they were, and how much marketing you could do on a budget with the help of tools.
Back in 2008, people didn’t know about these tools, so that was the job of DIYMarketers. I’ve shifted DIYMarketers into really focusing on the best low-cost marketing tools, and I use GetApp as a resource all the time!
TDL: Thank you, that’s great. So, I think we’ve all had to adapt our business model to survive and thrive. Do you see small businesses restarting now that vaccination is well underway?
IT: Absolutely. I’m in Cleveland, Ohio, and we’ve been partially open since last year. And small businesses have pivoted amazingly well. What I expect this summer as more and more folks are vaccinated is that capacities will increase and we’ll see more people out and about.
The other thing I’ve seen is that professional services that used to depend on face-to-face interactions, like attorneys or financial planners, have seen increased productivity with shorter phone consultations and Zoom meetings. Everything they are doing is utilizing technology—Zoom for meetings, electronic document signing, and drive-by document pickup. I think some people in these consultative roles see no reason why they should return to the office, especially with seeing an increase in productivity.
TDL: Do you have a secret recipe or recommendation for SMBs [small and midsize businesses] when something like a pandemic or another major disruption happens?
IT: Absolutely, and it’s not going to be what a lot of people think. What I’ve seen a bunch of small businesses do is try to fix small little details—what I advise instead is to take a breath, step back, and actually look inward. [Ask:] "How did I create this situation for myself?"
Whether it’s a financial disruption, a pandemic, or natural disaster, I think a lot of small businesses pretend like nothing is ever going to happen. So you have to look back and say "What did I learn from this experience? How can I apply the lessons from this moving forward?"
This disruption has actually thrust people into using tools they didn't know how to use. But don’t just sign up for a bunch of tools because a tool will never solve a process problem inside your business. You need to learn how to run your processes in an efficient way and [then] find tools that complement them.
TDL: I totally agree on that point—tools are enablers [for] a well-designed strategy. We’ll come back to that later on, but how do you recommend that businesses adapt their marketing strategies?
IT: I think I’m very controversial in this area but I really don’t think that you should be changing your marketing strategy. There’s really only three marketing strategies despite what you see online—there’s (1) content marketing, (2) paid advertising, and (3) direct marketing. So chances are that you are living in one of those worlds, and I don’t recommend changing that.
What I do recommend is that you adapt. I have clients that do direct marketing through seminars, who go to conferences and trade shows, so maybe you shift your seminar to do something online. Again, here comes the tools and artificial intelligence and the integrations that are available to help you find the specific, ideal customer you’re looking for.
Stick with your marketing strategy, even if you have to make just a little tweak. The truth is some of these businesses are thriving because of little shifts they never would have made if it weren’t for this disruption. So look at this disruption as a gift—imagine that this happened for you and not to you.
TDL: We’ve seen that one of the main pillars of marketing is automation. On our site, the number of vendors has quadrupled since 2015. Still, marketing automation can be perceived as complex. How can small businesses make it effective?
IT: Think of these marketing automation tools as a 24/7 salesperson. If you use a really good marketing automation tool, you can guarantee your message is exactly the way you want it. You can guide people from the research phase into scheduling an appointment or whatever your service is and really increase those conversion rates. That’s going to pay for itself!
TDL: Do you believe marketing automation can be a way [for companies to successfully pivot]?
IT: Absolutely! There are training companies, for example, that use automation to keep their audience informed and, can I tell you, some of these training companies are seeing email open rates of 60 and 70%! That is the power of a targeted email list. Now you have a list of buyers that you are constantly talking to. It gets to the point where they send one email and they sell half a million dollars. I’ve never seen anything like it, and if they’re doing it, you can too.
TDL: So what about B2B marketing? What specific practices do you think will work in 2021?
IT: First and foremost, dig into your existing customer list. Really dig into that and take the time to survey them. And I don’t even mean sending out a survey; you can do a webinar, you can do some type of training—do something that is going to get that client list face-to-face with you.
Have real conversations, ask questions, ask about their frustrations and just let them talk. You want to get to what your customers are yearning for. Put your product aside and focus on what your customers really want, and understand how they want to be communicated with.
TDL: You mentioned surveying and learning about customers. What about segmentation? Do you see small businesses doing a proper job segmenting their user or customer base?
IT: Anecdotally speaking, I don’t see ANY segmentation happening at all. I really believe it’s so important to segment that email list—and you can do that very, very easily. You can insert different types of articles in that email that speak to different areas that your clients or customers might be interested in. You can actually measure who clicked on what email and it will create a segment that way. Another way is putting out content like an e-book or case study or webinar that are very targeted on a specific topic and everybody interested can be segmented.
Your CRM is also a great platform to practice segmenting your customers. Email marketing systems will do it too, and can integrate with your CRM. Today’s tools just make it so easy to segment so there’s really no excuse not to do it.
TDL: Whether it's a CRM or email marketing solution, we frequently hear from buyers that it’s overwhelming for companies to find the right software for their needs. What would be your recommendation for small-business owners?
IT: As I said earlier, you’ve got to really focus on your marketing strategy. If you have that down, that’s going to save you a bunch of effort. Map out your buyer journey—how did they hear [about] you? Map it out as it is today and then think about "What do I do repetitively that I could potentially automate?" Write those things down, and now you’ve got a little wish list of features that you’re looking for and that’s when you are ready to go to GetApp and find a tool.
GetApp has a wonderful [software buyers] guide feature that will show you the important features to consider. You can filter by business size to look and see what businesses your size use, the reviews are awesome, and you can see what experience [others have] had.
TDL: Looks very simple!
IT: It can be simple! Focus on a strategy, find the tools that support it [and] make your life easier, and double down. I’ve had people think I have a team of 10 people here—I don’t! It’s just me and a bunch of tools.
TDL: Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, Ivana. That was great and incredibly helpful. The biggest learning I’m taking from our conversation is that rebuilding your business doesn’t mean coming up with a new strategy, but really thinking about how to implement it.
Another insight from our conversation is that to be effective, businesses should embrace automation and think about their marketing automation tools as the perfect salesperson working for them 24/7!