When I was a kid, I wanted to be a dolphin trainer.
I wanted to learn their language and develop relationships with them. I wanted to discover the secrets of the deep and teach people how to live harmoniously with these fascinating creatures. I wanted to be the Jane Goodall of the dolphin world.
Unfortunately, I never learned to swim. I did learn, however, that I suffer from claustrophobia, which makes donning a wet suit a bit of a challenge (something I discovered on a white water rafting trip).
After I reluctantly gave up my dream of working with Flipper, I quickly cycled through a number of other potential careers: fashion designer, architect, magazine editor, and wedding planner (among others). Never once did I aspire to be a marketer.
Today, I still wince a little when someone asks the inevitable “So, what do you do?” question.
Though I usually say, “I’m writer and a marketer” (which is true), I know that – though I don’t always love marketing. It’s my day job. I am not (yet) writing novels or creating “art” of other kinds. I spend my days crafting brands, designing strategies, creating content, and cultivating audiences. It’s how I make my living.
Recently I realized that my feeling in any way ashamed about this – as though people might mistake me for some kind of snake oil salesman – was not only doing harm to my own psyche, but was sending the wrong signals to my customers.
How stupid is that?
Here’s the thing – in my heart I am an artist, and as the stereotype suggests, I have a built-in aversion to anything that resembles commercialism. I’m not going to go too deep into all the misguided beliefs that are wrapped around my unease about selling and asking people for money. (That’s a post for another day.) So, how, you may ask, did I wind up making my living as a marketer and, more importantly …
… what the hell does my epiphany have to do with how YOU feel about marketing?
If you are an artist, a writer, or a creative in any other sense of the word (spiritually, artistically, entrepreneurially), it’s probable that you are saddled with the same misconceptions and discomforts about marketing. These fall into three primary categories:
Distaste: You don’t like the “feeling” of marketing. You don’t like to be in the spotlight, ask people for anything (attention, approval, cash), or have to justify the value of your art, product, or service. When you hear the word “marketing” you have an involuntary vision of Johnny the used car salesman, all decked out in his plaid sports jacket and Grecian Formula hairdo. You don’t like the way marketing makes you feel like you’re manipulating people, makes you feel like everyone is thinking that you just want something from them. You don’t like the effect marketing has on the way you feel about your work – reducing it to a transaction, a return on investment, or a commodity.
Fear: Marketing brings your inner demons out to play. You worry that you’ll do it wrong. You worry that people will condemn you for it. You worry that you’ll come up short when compared to the competition. I get it. Marketing can put you in a very vulnerable place. It can leave you feeling insecure, inadequate, and incompetent. There are endless ways you might screw up. There are countless opportunities to offend and alienate people. No wonder you’re scared!
Overwhelm: Sometimes, there’s just too much of … EVERYthing. There are too many platforms, too many networks, too many tasks, too many bells and whistles, too many rules, too many “shoulds,” too many “best practices,” and too many questions. The only thing there isn’t too much of is TIME. Marketing can make you feel like you’ve been abandoned in the middle of some vast, uncharted, and inhospitable territory with only a bottle of water and a compass. It can leave you feeling exhausted and frustrated even if all you’ve done is think about it!
I am a marketer. This is what I do for a living, and yet I still have to fight these battles with my own marketing. I still get that icky feeling. I still harbor a variety of nasty little fears and insecurities. I still sometimes succumb to the life-sucking, energy-stealing pressures of total overwhelm.
I am not immune.
I am also not at a loss for ways to push past these roadblocks:
Think of your marketing as a gift.
Whatever you’re selling, there’s someone out there who needs it – needs it, wants it, would be thrilled to fork over cold, hard cash in exchange for it. Never forget this. Your marketing is how you create a beacon so these people can find you. It’s how you articulate your “why” so that these people can recognize you in the vast Sea of Everyone Else and know, instantly, that you are the answer to their prayers.
Don’t think of marketing as an “ask,” think of it as an offer or an invitation. You don’t need to go for the hard sell. You are not Johnny the used car salesman. You are a person with gifts to offer. You are someone who wants to help. And it’s OKAY if not everyone says “yes.” In fact, you don’t want everyone to say yes – just the right people, the people who really get who you are and what your offer is all about.
Relax. There is no Right Way.
Contrary to what you may have heard, there is no one right way to “do” marketing. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. There is no silver bullet. There is only experimentation and paying attention to what works. Want to know a little secret? Half of the time, you will stumble on your most brilliant marketing ideas by accident. You will come up with some crazy concept while you’re in the shower or out walking the dog. You’ll connect two dots from totally different parts of your life, and – whammo! – genius will ensue.
And as far as offending people or being compared to the competition goes, these are things you can’t worry about. These are things that are outside your sphere of influence. All you need to focus on is your work and the connections you make with people who appreciate it. All that other stuff going on out there is just noise. Tune. It. Out.
- You have a right to be here – Marketing Mindset 101
- Marketing on the edges – where the interesting stuff happens
- Want better marketing? Go on vacation.
- Marketing Magic: Out of the Box
- Marketing fear: It’s all been done before. Get over it.
Breathe. This isn’t a race.
If, like me, you spend a lot of your professional life on the Internet, you probably feel like you’ve been strapped to a rocket like poor, old Wile E. Coyote and are just zooming around without any ability to steer or slow down or even see where you’re going. It doesn’t have to be that way. The pace of the Internet is beyond frenetic. It is frenetic times chaotic times frenzied plus feverish. Things move so fast that it’s a wonder we can make anything out before it’s disappeared from the screen.
BUT … just because the Internet moves at Warp 9 speed doesn’t mean you have to. You can set your own pace. You can choose your own path. You don’t have to be everywhere or do everything. And you don’t have to proceed without a map. Putting on the brakes and stepping back is not only allowed, it’s a critical part of your survival. Step off the hamster wheel and give yourself the chance to regain your perspective.
- Sometimes, marketing makes me cry.
- Overwhelmed by marketing? Start marketing.
- Marketing: Where to start
Marketing can be a creative, fulfilling, and – of course – profitable part of your business. It doesn’t have to feel like an extra arm that you’ve tacked on as an after thought. It can be an elegantly integrated and value-driven part of your purpose. You can transform it from the thing that keeps dropping to the bottom of your To Do list into the thing that you can’t wait to work on because it makes you feel good about what you’re doing. You can find an approach that is a perfect fit for you, your business, and your audience – something that feels natural and manageable.
Don’t hate marketing. Stop sending it to the naughty corner. It doesn’t deserve to be shunned. Get over your fears, find your groove, and ditch your dated assumptions.
I am a marketer, and – though it’s not swimming with dolphins – I kind of love what I do.
Image Credit: Leo Reynold