Last year was big for small business in terms of dreams, goals and results. According to a report by TD Bank, 53 percent of small businesses said they planned to grow in 2018, which is up from 46 percent the previous year. We can expect even more ambition in 2019.

In order to continue growing in the coming year, digital marketing is key. And when it comes to this important growth strategy, small businesses could be doing more. In 2018, 32 percent of them invested in social media only. Meanwhile, only 25 percent invested in online marketing and 17 percent in SEO.

Those are the statistics. But we wanted to hear from our own community about their experience in 2018. After all, the best way to prepare for the future is to reflect on what worked and what didn’t over the past year and plan accordingly.

Without further adieu, here are the most important lessons, takeaways and future plans from fellow small business owners who use WiseStamp and other tools as part of their digital marketing strategy.

Michelle Mudge-Riley

Michelle Mudge-Riley
Scout Career

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Please tell us about your business:

We provide education and resources to mid-career professionals who are looking at a career transition or a second (or third!) career.

What was your biggest marketing challenge of 2018?

Our biggest marketing challenge was, and continues to be, getting heard through all the “noise” that’s out there. People are busy and it’s hard to find a way to get their attention. One way we were able to break through was through identifying a niche for our products and services so we could increase conversion once we had awareness. For us, it was concentrating on the “pain point” of being a mid-career professional who may have a strong education, technical, leadership or experience background but be miserable with their day-to-day work.

What’s a lesson that you learned in 2018?

We’ve learned that when you’re a growing company, you need to remain laser-focused on your strategy, while carefully and thoughtful planning your tactics to carry out that strategy. One thing we struggled with in 2018 was getting distracted with all the opportunities out there. For example, with all the talk about Facebook ads, social media platforms, content creation, and new tools coming out every day, it’s easy to lose focus and chase the newest and most shiny new algorithm or tool.

With that said, what is your goal for 2019?

We currently have about 500 customers who have used our product, which we would like to increase tenfold. How do we plan to achieve it? That’s where much of what we learned in the past year comes in. We’re going to double down on what’s working and try to avoid getting distracted by the shiny new tools and algorithms while remaining flexible so we can pivot on a tactic and still achieve our goals within our strategy.

We’ll continue to use Wisestamp since it allows us to consistently brand ourselves and remain top of mind every time we send an email. We’ll continue to produce fun, interactive and engaging content in video and written format. But we’ll go deep in delivering an exceptional customer experience so we retain the new customers and continue to acquire more through word of mouth referrals.

Jeanet Boothorn

Jeanet Bathoorn
Freedom Entrepreneur

Jeanet Boothorn

Please describe your business!

I call myself a “Freedom Entrepreneur.” My main project is The Freedom Entrepreneur Cruise, which takes 100 entrepreneurs on a Transatlantic crossing from Italy to Guadeloupe. My vision is to take 1,500 entrepreneurs and hire the whole cruise ship for a whole week. As entrepreneurs, we work too much and forget our ideal life.

What was your best performing marketing activity in 2018?

My best marketing activity in 2018 was to get back to old school networking, offline. I started a promo tour in Q3 and visited several main cities in Europe to talk about my business and the importance of creating time and space for yourself as an entrepreneur so you don’t experience burnout.

What was your biggest challenge last year?

My biggest challenge was and is leaving social media behind. I still am active on social media, but do not enjoy it as much as I did. I was known as a social media expert in the Netherlands. Building on my new big project, the cruise, means that I will attend more events and meetings where I can meet ambitious entrepreneurs who strain themselves, work too hard and are in desperate need of a break. I learned that actively looking for like-minded people is very effective and meeting them in person is the most effective.

And what are your plans for 2019?

My big dream is to hire a whole cruise ship for entrepreneurs only. To get started, I will take 100 entrepreneurs with me in November 2019 on a non-exclusive cruise. I will build it into a lifestyle brand that takes busy entrepreneurs out of their overly busy lives and out of their comfort zone. To achieve this I focus on building a community of travel-loving and well-earning entrepreneurs. I will, of course, do some social media marketing. But my focus will be on offline networking, hosting an event, speaking in virtual summits and doing my promo tour in Europe.

Jef Yas

Jeff Yas
YAS

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What was your winning marketing moment of 2018?

My favorite moments in design and marketing are when my deep artistic instincts pay off. When my brain isn’t involved, but my memory, heart and courage take over. I am not copying, I am not following orders, I am being original. This year my partner Sue Kramer (DOTS) and I completely re-branded the Tectonic Theater Company using a style inspired by the Russian Constructivists, and it all started with a discussion, a sketch and a great presentation. No multiple versions, no revisions, just Yes. The client immediately connected with the original drawing, and our direction was crystal clear. Now their whole brand rests on solid ground for years to come and is the envy of Broadway. As a result, DOTS + YAS is one of the fastest growing design agencies in the NYC theater community.

What was your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it, what did you learn?

My biggest marketing challenge this year was to stop working solo. I teamed up with a talented filmmaker and we now re-brand companies through a director’s lens. It’s not easy for me to ask for help, to invite critique, to design with someone else in real-time. But much to my surprise, I’m better at being me when working alongside someone I trust. Our bespoke marketing plans are infused with the synergy of our partnership, and I’m so proud to have overcome the challenge of teaming up.

What’s your advice for others in 2019?

Go big on being you. People don’t hire you because you’re the best brand marketer. They hire you because you are the best at being you. Show them something real. Tell them your story. No apologies. Just own it.

What have you got planned for YAS in 2019?

In 2019, we plan to create new brand identities for more theater, travel & wellness companies. The biggest challenge will be to effectively promote our last four successful projects, so that people in those industries are aware that there is a customized solution for their outdated brand strategies, which doesn’t involve or require enormous agencies. We will meet this challenge through effective use of social media, email marketing, hosted events, and of course using our Wise Stamp signatures to drive home our own brand message on all client communications.