Marketing 101 For Creative Business Owners

Marketing 101 For Creative Business Owners

Whether you are new to running a creative business, or you've been at it a while, sometimes it's important to go back to basics. In this blog post, I'm giving you The 101 on marketing.

Let's kick off with a cracking quote from Steuart Henderson Britt of Marketing Management and Administrative Action.

“Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing, but nobody else does.”

What is Marketing?

According to The Chartered Institute of Marketing (“CIM”):

“Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.”

That’s a pretty good description.

It should be, the CIM folks are proper marketing people. This description was most likely the result of a ludicrous number of blue sky thinking/thought shower sessions.

Let’s break it down.


The CIM’s definition emphasises process. This is bang on.

Marketing does not just “happen”. There are stages. Planning is needed. Marketing forms part of a larger process too: the buyer’s journey.

The Buyer’s Journey

The buyer’s journey typically looks like this:

  • Awareness: your buyer has a need - a problem that needs solving.
  • Consideration: your buyer researches and considers options for solving their problem and meeting their need.
  • Decision: your buyer makes a decision and a purchase.

The buyer’s journey shows us that customer needs are at the heart of effective marketing.

Types of Customers

Your customers might be other businesses, so your marketing is known as B2B (business to business).

Or your customers might be people who buy products or services for their own personal use. In which case, your marketing activity is known as B2C marketing (business to consumer).

With content, social media and email marketing, P2P is a better acronym to keep in mind (person to person). Running a successful business is all about relationships...

...And Money

A successful business is also a profitable one.

Money is not a dirty word. Let’s say that again. Money is not a dirty word. I know, I know, talking about money is uncouth. But we need to get over that.

A successful business is one that has great relationships with customers and prospective customers - it also makes money.

You need money to live. And that’s OK.

Marketing Tools

If marketing is a process by which we suss out the needs of our customers, meet them, and get paid for doing so, how do we do it? What are the tools and techniques we can use to achieve all this?

Your marketing toolkit combines everything from your brand design to how your business communicates with the world.

We’re going to pick three of the most relevant and accessible marketing tools from that toolkit now:

  • Social media marketing
  • Content marketing
  • Email marketing

Social Media Marketing Versus Content Marketing

Social media marketing is often confused with content marketing and, while the two are very clearly linked, they aren’t the same thing.

To promote your creative business online, without boring your followers or sounding like a big head, you need to understand the difference.

Content Marketing

Content is information, related to your product or service, that prospective customers will find useful or interesting.

Content is likely to be a combination of things you have created (your content) and curated (other people’s content). It could be anything from a blog post to a video tutorial or an infographic or e-course.

Good content can influence consumers’ behaviour. It can help them. It can make them more intelligent and improve their lives.

Content marketing is non-interruption marketing. You are not pitching your product or service to prospective customers. You are consistently (important word) providing them with valuable content.

Of course, the ultimate aim of any form of marketing is to drive sales. But with content marketing, you are playing the long game.

When your prospective customer decides they want to part with some cash, who are they going to give it to?

If you provide the product or service they need, and you’ve been providing them with top-notch content, they will reward you with their business and loyalty.  

According to the Content Marketing Institute (because they should know):

“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Get your virtual highlighter pen out - there are so many important words in that definition to think about.

Social Media Marketing

Social media is a vehicle for communicating and sharing content. If you share good stuff, other people will share it too.

It’s also a place for two-way communication.

Social media marketing, therefore, is the use of social media platforms for sharing content which will drive prospective customers to your own platform (your website) to buy your thing.

Businesses are playing the long game with social media marketing too.

Successful social media marketing relies on establishing relationships with prospective customers and, much like dating, this takes time.

With social media marketing, the focus of activity is on the social media platforms.

With content marketing, the focus of activity is your online home - your website.

Let’s Do This Then

Sounds easy eh?

Well, it’s not quite as simple as just pushing links to your content out to all the social media channels. You could do that, but you are unlikely to get the results you want and highly likely to bore your followers to the point where they decide not to be your followers anymore.

Remembering that social media and content marketing is a long game strategy, here are some tips for nailing it.

Nailing Social Media and Content Marketing

  1. Post consistently (if you only take one tip from this article, let it be this one!)

  2. Use images and video to attract more attention.

  3. Post your content more than once (repurpose your own content and share everything on social multiple times).

  4. Review your stats - what are people sharing and liking? Do that more.

  5. Interact - remember business is about relationships. Chat to people online. Reply to every comment.

Honestly, this is just the start of winning at content and social media marketing. But it’s a mighty fine start. You will learn as you experiment.

Where Does Email Fit In?

On the face of it, the idea of using email for marketing sounds a bit old-school. I mean, email has been around for ages, hasn’t it? Surely it will be replaced by something else soon? Surely?

Well, perhaps it will, but it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.

Doing Email Right

If you do email marketing right, and legally, your prospective customer has given you permission to email them about your products and services.

They are saying “I’m interested in your business and I might be a customer sometime in the near future” and “I’m OK with giving you access to my inbox - something I look at every day”.

Through email, you have most likely spent time nurturing your relationship with your prospective customer. You have provided them with considerable value already (your content).

They are a “warm” prospect.

Compare this scenario to a message you might send out on, say, Twitter.

Email Versus Social Media Broadcasting

Your Twitter message is sent into a social space, for starters, where it’s not OK just to yell “buy my thing”.

Chances are, your message is going to get lost in the noise of Twitter.

Your average Twitter user follows hundreds of people and will not spend enough time perusing their feed to see everything. Social media users skim.

Your tweet needs have a really good hook to encourage a click.

Furthermore, Twitter makes the decision which tweets are pushed to the top of the pile.

Algorithms work out the type of content users want to see based on their previous behaviour and interactions and push similar content to their attention, as opposed to delivering content chronologically.

If your message does find its way to your prospective customer, you’ve only got 140 characters to hook them in. They will need to click to get back to your website and your full message.

Are they going to click? I mean, really?

Own It

Another benefit of email marketing is you own your email list. It’s extremely valuable.

Here’s why:

Just say your favourite social media platform is Facebook.

You’ve done some research, and it’s the space where your customers hang out. You’ve been working hard at growing your number of page likes. You’ve got 4000+ now, and that number is growing every day.

But what if Facebook went away? If you don’t have email addresses for your 4000+ followers, you’re a bit stumped. How do you reach them?

Granted, I don’t think Facebook is going away anytime soon. Really, I don’t. MySpace still has users, doesn’t it?

Is it a good idea to build your main platform on someone else’s turf? Nope.

You need control when it comes to the ability to reach out to your customers.  

Social media, content and email marketing work in combination extremely well, as long as you are in control.

How Are Businesses Getting it Wrong?

Businesses of all sizes get social media, content and email marketing wrong. Out of the three, social media marketing seems to attract the biggest, most public slip-ups.

Social Media Snafus

The thing is, social media platforms are, well, social spaces. Forget all this B2B and B2C stuff - let’s focus on P2P - person to person.

You wouldn’t meet your friends for a drink at your favourite bar and spend the whole evening saying “buy my thing” would you? Hopefully not.

It needs to be a bit more subtle than that.

Give first, then ask. Or “jab, jab, jab, right hook” according to Gary Vaynerchuk’s book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World.

Social media is not the place for a hard sell.  

Creative business owners need to recognise that being part of a prospective customer’s social circle is a privilege. If you mess it up, you will be ignored.

So be generous. Give lots. Interact. Answer questions. Share great content. This approach to marketing feels good - enjoy it.

Email Gaffes

Email marketing gaffes are less public than social media snafus, but they still happen.

Common blunders include adding email addresses to your list without consent. This is more than a blunder actually - it’s illegal.

Giving your email recipient a clear option to unsubscribe from your list (typically a one-click link at the bottom of your email) is also essential.

Email is a form of content marketing, so the same rules apply: provide value first, then have a clear call to action relating to your product or service.

Assuming your email subscribers want to be sold to every other day is a quick way to boost your unsubscribe figures.

If my inbox is anything to go by, the ability to craft a compelling marketing email is a skill many business owners lack. Remember - you are writing to one, person, not a list.

Other regularly observed email gaffes include a lack of engagement. Email is a two-way communication channel, not a broadcast mechanism.

Another highly efficient way to boost your unsubscribes is not segmenting your list.

Your subscribers are most likely interested in different elements of your business. If you identify who is interested in what and tag or segment accordingly, you can send targeted emails.

I guarantee this strategy will be far more effective than just blasting your email list every week and telling them about everything you do.

Once you’ve worked out how to write the perfect marketing email, consider investing in an email service provider such as Convertkit. Convertkit’s tagging and automation capabilities are outstanding.

Content Blunders

Content marketing blunders aren’t very visible. Actually, that’s one of the biggest problems.

You’ve crafted a cracking piece of content but you’ve not shared it effectively. You’ve pushed it to social media once (just a link, no image or hook). You included a link in your email newsletter.

That enough though, right? Content is king, isn’t it? If you create quality content, the internet will bring people to it? Right? Wrong.

Some content just isn’t good. It’s misaligned with the prospective customer’s needs and wants. It doesn’t provide a solution. And it’s littered with typos… PROOFREAD, people, come on!

To Sum Up

Marketing is all about your prospective customer. Focus on them and their needs. Build a relationship. Nurture them. Give them oodles of value before you try and sell to them.

Marketing and selling won’t feel sleazy if you have a relationship with someone and you are solving their problem in exchange for money.

In fact, they’ll probably thank you. And that, friends, is a testimonial (aka social proof) and we’ll cover that in another blog post. This one is long enough!