Ultimate Marketing Refresh Guide for 2023 (With Worksheets)

Four friends reflect on revamping their marketing in the new year.

You’re a savvy independent, but it’s easy to overlook the details. There’s no time like the present for an online marketing audit so you’re ready for the new year!

Four friends reflect on revamping their marketing in the new year.
The end of the year is around the corner. Have you audited your marketing?

When was the last time you read through your social media “about” section? Verified that all the links on your website still work? Checked the greeting message on your voicemail? This is what an online marketing audit is for.

It’s easy to “set it and forget it” when it comes to the initial creation of your marketing materials. Unfortunately, this can lead customers to outdated information and the occasional 404 if everything isn’t in working order.

Take this opportunity to refresh your marketing for the 2023 year with an online marketing audit. Here, I’ll show you how!

Make sure your branding is consistent

Your brand is what differentiates you from other businesses, anchors your business to an engaging image and color scheme, and creates a stable visual relationship between you and your target market. A stable, undeviating brand encourages client trust; it gives your brand an air of professionalism on first contact.

What is a brand?

A brand comprises

  • an outer personality, or your logo, typography, color palette, photography, and
  • an inner personality, which includes your brand voice, vision, and values. Inner personality is understood through elements like your website text, social media captions, and more.

The intention of inspecting your brand in an online marketing audit is to make sure the colors, fonts, and brand voice are the same throughout all your marketing materials. Look at your website, email newsletters, social media post graphics, business cards, rack cards, event flyers, ads, etc.

By ensuring that all your marketing materials and digital platforms adhere to your brand, you build brand awareness and familiarity with potential customers. Your business will also look striking and professional!

If you are starting from scratch

One easy way to make your audit repeatable each year is by creating a brand guide. A brand guide is a (thorough) cheat sheet that contains the HEX codes of your brand color palette as well as font names.

If you worked with a graphic designer on your branding, they may have already sent you one. If not, it’s not too difficult to make one on your own with the materials you already have! Consider the psychology of a strong brand when pulling together your brand guide. Your goals are to:

  • Choose colors that represent your brand’s personality and evoke mood and feeling
  • Use words that inspire purchase that also fit your vibe check
  • Use the above to create a sense of community a potential client desires to belong to

According to the University of Southern California, the psychological strategy of successful brands trends towards one of five core elements: excitement, competence, sincerity, sophistication, and ruggedness. Be mindful of these characteristics when creating your brand guide for the first time. Think about which word your brand aligns with most closely. Need a little help? Download our brand guide worksheet below!

Update your social media profiles

There are so many layers to the backend of social media profiles that it’s easy to overlook sections. Updates to your information, hours, location, and contact information are especially important if you’ve made changes in your business. Check the following sections on your social channels to be sure your work is up to date. Use a chart, like the following image, to stay organized!

Verify that your contact information is correct

Even if some of your contact information isn’t public, it’s wise to check that it’s up to date. Check the email address associated with your account, and any customer-facing email addresses. Also look at your phone number, address, and business hours.

Refresh your bio

The bio (or about) section – no matter how short – can be the line that converts admirers into customers, or not. The standard formula is:

“I help [target market] with [their problem] by [your offer].”

This is certainly effective, but you’re welcome to have fun and mix it up a bit. Just make your bio clear. You can also use emojis for emphasis and to make scanning easier!

Use a photo of you or your logo as your profile picture

If you’re an independent and the face of your business, I recommend using a professionally shot picture of yourself that shows your brand colors. Make sure you’re looking right at the camera to build a connection with your audience. Looking away from the camera can make you seem aloof.

If using your picture doesn’t compliment your brand, use your logo mark, which is the icon in your logo minus your business name.

It’s best not to change your profile picture too often, as it’s typically present next to every single post, comment, and interaction. Maintaining the same, on-brand profile photo or image is the foundation of building brand awareness on Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter.

Optimize your website link in your social channels

As business owners, we’re often promoting multiple offers at a time. And that one “link in bio” isn’t going to cut it. Enter Linktree.

Linktr.ee is a free service that allows you to create a page with numerous buttons. You’ll use your Linktree link in your Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, or Twitter bio’s website line and whenever someone clicks on it, they’ll be brought to multiple buttons to click on.

This allows you to link to multiple offers, blog posts, and other links.

You can also customize the look of your Linktree (to an extent). There is a paid version, but the free one is totally usable. This tutorial will show you the ins and outs. Search your website provider (like Squarespace) then “custom Instagram linktr.ee” for a tutorial specific to your website.

Customize your Instagram highlights covers

Highlights appear below your link in the bio and above your posts. They’re in the shape of a circle and you can click on each one (just like Stories) to see the collection of Stories classified as that Highlight.

You can update the thumbnail photo of your Highlights to be on brand. I recommend designing a custom graphic to maintain the branding of your Instagram account using Canva, a free cloud-based design software.

Head to Canva and create an Instagram Story canvas. On the left sidebar, you’ll see Templates. Type in Instagram Story Highlights Covers for a jumpstart.

What about Pinterest, TikTok, and Facebook?

There are so many social profiles to update—if only everything was in one place! We’ve created a social media checklist that will guide you in keeping your accounts up-to-date as you enter 2023 and beyond.

Test and update links on your website

Nothing is more frustrating than clicking on a dead link. Not only does it leave potential customers at a dead end, but it could also discourage them from wanting to work with you.

Head to deadlinkchecker.com to verify that all the links on your website are in working order. It’s free!

Customize your 404 page

Create a custom 404 error page so that if someone lands on a broken link on your website, they’re not greeted with a boring string of error text. On a custom 404 page, you can also add popular links to give website visitors somewhere to go.

If you designed your own website, search “custom 404 page” and your website platform, such as “Squarespace” for a tutorial.

Brush up on your User Experience (UX) writing

UX writing seems opaque, but it’s a skill anyone can gain with a little reading and practice. If you designed your own website, then you know navigation labels can be tricky. Here are some pointers for labeling your website navigation well:

  • Know your audience and what they’re looking for. Each click means your reader is searching for the information behind that label. Understand your potential client’s intentions on your website, and write buttons that address that intent.
  • Maintain a voice consistent with your brand personality. Nothing is more awkward than a beautiful website with poorly written navigation. Hire a copywriter with UX skills, if necessary.
  • Keep it concise! The shorter the better. Write in plain English so your website is easy to understand.
  • Use catchy call-to-actions. For example, “Begin Your Journey” is more enticing than “Buy Now.”

Check your SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) helps your website appear as close to the top of search results as possible. It’s super important, but it can also be overwhelming.

If you’ve already set up the SEO on your website, check to make sure that your keywords are still accurate for what you do. Double-check that each page and post has metadata, including an optimized description and title. You’ll want to audit the following elements.

Page and site titles

When scanning your website, search engines prioritize your title tags, which are site titles, page titles, blog post titles, and headings on your actual website pages. Because these titles also appear in browser tabs, it’s essential that they contain the proper keywords. 

Think about your website visitor (a potential client). What intention do they have to fulfill by looking at your site? Head to Google and plug that intention in. See what kinds of keywords crop up and if they overlap with those on your site. Decide on a key phrase that addresses search intent and is naturally repeatable in your website copy.

Website copy

The actual text on your website should include your relevant keywords along with the page name. Make sure to write as you normally would and incorporate keywords naturally. There’s no need for a bunch of unnecessary repetition.

Think about your brand voice and client intent, and write copy that speaks to client intention in your brand voice. Search engines prioritize sites that deliver quality information for the searcher. Make quality and thoroughness a priority over all else.

Footer

An often overlooked place to incorporate keywords is in your website footer. Because the footer appears on every single page of your website, it’s an absolute bang for your buck to include a line about your business.

Example: Miss MegaBug offers online business and marketing courses to female entrepreneurs who are just starting their businesses.

Always include your service location, if applicable.

Example: MegaBug Photography offers wedding photography in Littleton, NH as well as the White Mountains of NH area and beyond.

Meta descriptions

Meta descriptions allow you to add more information about your website and pages. While page and site titles are brief, a meta description can be up to 160 characters.

Not only do search engines scan your meta descriptions when determining if your website will appear in search results, potential visitors read them to determine if they actually want to visit your site.

Be sure to include keywords strategically but write your meta descriptions in cohesive sentences.

Image file names

What you name the photos you upload to your website matters. Be sure to title the image with the name of your website and relative descriptors, whether it’s the name of the page your photo is on, the blog post name, or the product.

Alternative text

 Alt text allows search engines to index images on a website and include them in search results. It appears in a box while hovering over an image or in place of an image if the image fails to load. Alt text is also relied on by the visually impaired.)

Alt text is very specific. Be sure to describe the image’s subject and context, use keywords sparingly and refrain from starting your alt text with “picture of…” or “image of…”. Note that alt text is limited to 125 characters.

If you’re new to SEO, this guide will help you get started.

Make sure your hours are correct online

Comb through your Facebook page, Google Business, your website, and anywhere else your hours are posted to verify that they’re up to date.

Listen to your voicemail greeting

This one is super easy to forget to check in on! If your voicemail greeting contains incorrect information or doesn’t reflect new changes to your business (i.e., how else to reach you or if your business name changed), be sure to re-record it.

Increase word-of-mouth marketing and reviews

The most effective form of marketing is referrals. Consider offering a discount or reward for customers when they refer your business to someone who then makes a purchase from you.

To increase your number of online reviews (which you can then use as testimonials on your website), post links to your profile on industry review sites like TripAdvisor, as well as your Google Business and Facebook pages. You can add these links to your website, wrap up emails to clients, social media, and more.

Double down on collabs and partnerships

If you’re collaborating with a brand that has a strong presence, tag, talk, and advertise it. Cross-advertising your brand generates community and strengthens inclusivity. Take advantage of the group effort you put in to create more word-of-mouth referrals.

Better your marketing plan, streamline your clientflow

With all of your social synched and web presence optimized, clients will have no issue finding and contacting you. This is where your sales pipeline begins—with lead gen and capture. With HoneyBook, each engagement after the first touch is seamless and easy. HoneyBook is an all-in-one clientflow platform for independents. With it, you can personalize and automate client responses. Say goodbye to communication snafus!

How Independent Businesses are Feeling About the Economy

Woman evaluating her finances at a desk

We surveyed independent business owners to understand how they’re feeling about their businesses during the current economic climate. Find out how they feel, how they’re adjusting their spending, and how they’re preparing for the next six months.

Woman evaluating her finances at a desk

Throughout 2022, we’ve heard news that we’re heading for a recession. Supply chain issues, rising inflation, and geopolitical turmoil have left the economy on uncertain footing. We can’t know for sure what will come to pass but these conditions have shaken people’s confidence and you may be wondering what you can do to prepare your business

As 36% of the workforce, independent business owners are an important consideration in any conversation about the economy. Especially because selling professional services is different from managing an enterprise-level firm or even running a small goods-based business. Which is why it doesn’t serve us to view them in aggregate. So how are independent businesses feeling and faring right now? 

That’s the question we set out to answer when we surveyed 444 independent business owners in October 2022 to get their anonymous perspectives about the current economic climate. We gathered information about how their businesses have performed over the past six months, and what they expect as they think about the upcoming six months. 

Read on to find out what we learned and get a better sense of how independent business owners feel about the economy’s impact, what type of action they’re taking in response, and how they’re looking to support their business. 

57% of independent businesses say confidence in their business success has improved in the past six months

Despite changes in the economy, 57% of independent businesses say confidence in their business success has improved. This is likely because independents are well-positioned to weather economic downturns, unlike bigger companies that can’t pivot quickly and need to cut costs immediately to handle changes in the market. 

Since independents are working on a smaller scale, they’re nimble and flexible enough to make smaller adjustments as needed. Cutting down on expenses by downgrading or using all-in-one software and re-evaluating office space can make a huge impact on an independent’s bottom line, whereas a larger company needs to consider reducing headcount or making more drastic changes in order to stay afloat.

42% of independents say their business has been positively impacted by the state of the U.S. economy

Further highlighting how independents are well positioned, 42% say that their business has been positively impacted by the current state of the U.S. economy. 

In fact, applications for new businesses in the U.S. grew by 1.2% in October 2022, compared to the previous month. Though the reason behind new businesses may vary, the data shows that independents do still have opportunities to flourish even while the economy has slowed down.

59% of independents say they’ll spend more on their business in the next six months

Though independent business owners feel less impacted by economic downturns, it doesn’t mean they aren’t affected. In fact, 59% of independents say they’re expecting to spend more on their business in the next six months. 

Due to inflation, they’re seeing the cost of living go up, which means their cost of doing business is going up as well. Most business owners referenced their supplies, software, insurance, and transportation as categories that they’re anticipating spending more on this year. 

On the other hand, 12% of independents say they’ll be cutting costs due to less work. Though inflation is raising prices, some are looking to slow their spending overall in order to save money and increase profit margins. 

55% of businesses say their income will increase over the next six months

Despite most independent business owners preparing to spend more on their business, they’re also prepared to increase their income. Some reasons cited include marketing efforts paying off to bring in new business, increasing the quality of their goods and services, and cutting out expenses to increase their profit margins. 

Overall, it’s apparent that independent businesses still have demand for their services even in a downturn. And because they can pivot quickly and more easily scale up or down the services they offer, they have the unique ability to cut costs more quickly while also improving their value and pricing. 

In the next 6 months, 58% of independents plan to make investments to expand their business

Since most business owners are forecasting increased income in the next six months, they’re also planning on investing more in their business. Areas of investment include branding, marketing, and advertising. 

Others say that the biggest obstacle to investing in their business right now is rising inflation as well as not wanting to increase their debt. 

39% of independent business owners have reduced expenses in order to cover rising costs and inflation

During any type of economic downturn, reviewing and reducing your expenses is always a good step to take. With rising inflation, you may find that you’re spending more on the crucial parts of your business that you need to keep running. If so, you may need to cut back on other areas that aren’t as vital. 

39% of independent business owners we surveyed have already reduced their expenses. 38% also said they were planning on raising their prices, and 33% are planning on picking up extra work outside their business to cover rising costs. 

Because independent businesses are so unique, you’ll have to find the right combination of strategies to help you fight inflation. You may find that lowering your expenses is all you need to do right now to stay afloat and even increase your income, while others may also need to review their entire pricing structure. 

Business owners list financial and marketing support as some of the most helpful resources for them

Looking ahead to the next six months, the business owners that we surveyed listed three key resources that they believe will be most helpful to them.  

1. Access to capital

More specifically, 42% of business owners said grants were the most helpful type of capital right now, followed by business loans (33%) and lines of credit (23%). 

Even when the economy is on an upward spring, capital is a big driver of success for independent business owners. In good financial times, it can lead to faster growth, while this year and next it can help keep your business moving forward. 

There are usually multiple barriers that business owners face when accessing capital, which is why HoneyBook offers capital that’s directly tied to your bookings. For qualified members, we provide business loans based on your current and expected payments in HoneyBook, making it much easier for you to take on lower-risk loans that are also simpler for you to pay back in the future. 

2. Financial advice and planning

Since business owners are paying closer attention to their numbers, they also listed financial advice and planning as a key resource during this time. Out of the owners we surveyed, 37% listed 1:1 financial consulting as the most beneficial, followed by digital content (31%), and in-person events (18%). 

3. Marketing support and best practices

Independent business owners also list marketing support and best practices as one of the most important resources for the next six months. In particular, they mentioned the need for digital marketing content (27%), 1:1 marketing consulting (18%), in-person events (13%), and online events (13%). 

By leveraging more resources and best practices, you can make your marketing more impactful this year. That may mean honing in on your target audience more clearly, marketing your highest-performing service, or reserving your marketing efforts for the channels that perform the best. 

TLDR; Independent business owners are staying resilient and growing despite changes in the economy

Though changes in the economy can make independents feel uncertain, it’s important to know that the majority are actually well-positioned right now to weather instability. 

Through our research, our key takeaways include:

  • Business owners are having to make adjustments to their businesses right now, such as reducing expenses to cover rising costs and inflation. 
  • Due to inflation, business owners are prepared to spend more on their business as their supplies and general costs increase. 
  • Despite these adjustments, independents actually feel that their businesses have been positively impacted by the economy. 
  • Business owners also feel more confident, and they’re expecting their income to increase. 
  • Right now, the most helpful resources for business owners are access to capital, financial resources, and marketing support.