Marketing: Find Your Flavor

As entrepreneurs, marketing makes some of us uncomfortable. A newly-minted website designer told me last week, “I’m just not sure about ‘putting myself out there,'” and I know that feeling.

Like the photographer without a good headshot (who specializes in headshots) or the web developer with a broken, outdated website, I was once a writer with nothing to say for herself. All my words went straight to my clients’ websites, brochures and other advertising.

I spent the first 10 years of my freelance career without a website of my own. Advertising my work, talents and skills made me nervous until I learned how to make authentic, heartfelt marketing work for me. So can you.

If you have something to sell, you have something to say, and a writer can help you find your voice.

Imagine marketing differently – using the methods, best practices and tools that work for you while discarding the rest. Giving yourself permission to experiment. To play.

Over-marketing and “noise” can be found all around us. Noise makes us feel “sticky,” and it’s an easy excuse for opting-out of the marketing we need to do.

What does opting-out look like? Maybe we hide, without building an online presence, or we let a website or social media channel stagnate without our attention. As I wrote in What to Ask Your Social Media Manager, do not expect visitors to come to a page you don’t like to visit yourself.

When opting-out, we might hire an aggressive marketer who hammers us with words we’d challenge in other arenas: “That’s just how it’s done.” We may not enjoy getting a chain of automated emails from other vendors, but when we’re uncomfortable about promoting what we offer and the benefits of our products or services, we want someone to tell us what to do.

Successful marketing doesn’t require noise or even using the same formulas appropriate for our colleagues. The reason their marketing strategies work so well for them is that their approach suits them, their business, their values and even their personalities.

The next time loud voices on a podcast or splashed across a screen imply you’ll be left behind unless you market as they do (or hire them), applaud their honesty as well as your right to market according to your own values and your unique point of view.

Do not confuse the discomfort of growth with the discomfort of inauthentic action.

Change can be difficult, even when it’s good, but discomfort doesn’t always signal growth. Sometimes we’re flinching because we know what we’re doing doesn’t resonate with us or our potential clients. A neon blinking sign in front of a victorian bed and breakfast might get attention, but it’s not a good fit.

Authenticity has a natural resonance. Authenticity is attractive. And authenticity (in marketing and in life) will have a definition that fits only you.

If you’re uncomfortable trying to be a marketing missionary, focused on “converting” visitors into buyers, stop pushing. Marketing is bigger than conversion, and it starts with connection. Their questions and your answers. Their needs and your products or services. Conversations teach us about our clients and educate our clients about our business, and marketing can create these conversations.

It’s not (just) about you.

Marketing is about balance; it’s about reaching out with heartfelt authenticity and connecting with your customers according to their preferences. One person’s noise is another’s favorite tune. If you have a bodywork business, your clients might appreciate steady reminders to book their next massage; that email may not be junk mail. Consider the Platinum Rule used by one of my clients: Treat others – your potential customers – the way they want to be treated.

When you change the way you communicate about your business, your business will change. The projects and clients you attract will change. And often, you will change.

Your marketing messages can affect more than your bottom line. You can connect more deeply, more fully with your business and the people you’re meant to serve. Words can help you do that. In my Minding Your Own Business presentation, I tell entrepreneurs that the words we choose can move people, including us.

Social media and other channels are just vehicles for high-quality content about the gifts your business brings the world. Those messages, including the media and timing you thoughtfully select, are organic invitations to the people you’re meant to serve. Don’t be shy about your business or the reasons you created it.  When you do the things that light you up, your light is contagious – and we need your light.