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How to love marketing (even when the very word makes you cringe)

dolphinListen to this post:

 

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?

 

Everything.

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

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 

Get mad: marketing from your dark side

Do what you love.

Follow your passion.

Lead with your heart.

I have more Pollyanna DNA than most, but this tired advice has always felt a little empty to me, a little one-dimensional. After all, life isn’t just rainbows and unicorns. Life has a dark side. The trick is learning to access that dark side for good instead of evil.

 

No one is a hero without a villain.  Click to tweet. 

Your brand is what you stand for. It embodies the things you want to be known for – speed, agility, creativity, beauty, progress, simplicity, the lowest price in town, etc. What so many people forget, however, is that the best brands also stand against something.

What is the opposing force that your brand is poised to fight? What war cry would your brand scream charging into battle? What sends you into apoplectic fits of rage and indignation? What injustice are you determined to undo? What piece of insanity do you want to wipe from the face of this Earth?

Everyone – even the sweetest, most mild-mannered of us – fights an enemy. What enemy are you fighting?

 

The villain isn’t a “who,” it’s a “what.”

Be careful not to confuse your enemy with the competition. They are not the same.

Your competitors are actually your allies, battling beside you against a common enemy. You compete against each other for the loyalty of your shared audience, but at the end of the day you’re fighting the same fight.

Your enemy is much bigger than your competitors. Your enemy isn’t a “who,” it’s an idea or a situation or a philosophy. It’s a way of life, the status quo, a lack of something, or too much of something else. It’s the thing that makes you want to write a proverbial letter to the editor each time you encounter it. It inspires you to get up on your soapbox and preach your personal gospel to the world.

 

The villain helps define the hero.

Without an opposing force, a hero is just a person who is going through the motions.

Without an opposing force, there is no fire in the hero’s soul. There is no sense of greater purpose, no fierce commitment, no do-or-die mission.

Without an opposing force, we never get to see what the hero can really do.

Like it or not, your enemy is a big part of who you are and why you are.

  • Who is Luke without Darth Vader?
  • Who is Frodo without the Dark Lord?
  • Who is Buffy without vampires?
  • Who is Erin Brokovitch without corporate corruption?
  • Who is Katniss Everdeen without the Captial?
  • Who is Liz Lemon without Jack Donaghy?

You get the idea.

What idea or status quo is your brand pitted against?

 

The battle brings critical conflict to your story.

You know that marketing with story is a powerful technique, but do you know what makes a story a story?

Conflict.

No conflict, no story.

If you haven’t identified and called out your enemy, your story lacks conflict. It will fall flat, failing to pique the interest of your audience, never mind inspire them to loyalty or incite them to action.

When you get clear about the nature of your enemy, you get clear about the war you’re fighting. You know what your battle cry should be. You can make a strong stand not only for something, but against something else.

This is important.

 

Do what you love, but know why you love it.  Click to tweet. 

Love does not exist in a vacuum.

  • I love being out in the quiet of the woods because it provides me with an enlightening escape from the overwhelming, multi-tasking world of my computer.
  • I love beautiful art because it strikes a blow against the boring and overly utilitarian.
  • I love simple, well-designed apps because they help me wrangle and manage the chaos of my life.
  • I love second-hand clothes because they help me express my individuality amidst the sea of mass-manufactured clone-clothes that hit the chain stores each season.

 

  • Quiet vs. Noise
  • Beauty vs. Blah
  • Simplicity vs. Complexity
  • Individuality vs. Mass Market

Like love, your brand exists in the context of what you’re passionate about and what makes you passionately crazy. They say necessity is the mother of invention, but being ticked off about something is often what drives someone to build a better mousetrap.

 

When you are working on your branding, don’t forget to look the dark side in the eye. Know your enemy. Name it. Call it out. Rally your troops and wage your battle. Get mad and then get even. Accept both the loving and angry sides of your passion – when you have both working for you, you will be unstoppable.

 

Can you name your enemy? What is your battle cry? How does the dark side of your passion – your anger – help define your brand in a positive way?

Image Credit: matthijs

You have a right to be here – Marketing Mindset 101

Marketing takes courage. It can be scary and confusing. It can cause you to question your motivations and abilities. It forces you to go head-to-head with your competition, sing your own praises, and make promises about what you can deliver. You have to find your voice.

Marketing takes faith. It can feel like you’re jumping into the void without a parachute. There are no guarantees and no one-size-fits-all playbook. Best practices are a myth. The playing field and tools of the trade are constantly changing and evolving. You have to keep trying new things.

Marketing takes perseverance. You won’t ever be done. Marketing is not something you can check off your list. It’s a living, breathing part of your business. You have to develop stamina, find your stride, and settle into your groove.

Marketing takes play. Creative, inspiring ideas are not born in boardrooms or cubicles. They spring from non-work experiences and a sense of fun. Your best ideas wait around the corners of your life, jumping out at you at the dinner table, in the shower, or while you’re on a walk. Be open to receiving them. Embrace the crazy and unlikely. You have to play more.

 

I talk to a lot of people who dread marketing. They don’t feel courageous, full of faith, ready for the long haul, or inspired to play. They feel afraid, uncertain, overwhelmed, and bereft of ideas. They feel like they don’t have any right to be doing what they’re doing. They are afraid that they are not enough – not credentialed enough, not experienced enough, not skilled enough, not well known enough.

 

Enough with “not enough.”

One of my favorite movies – A Knight’s Tale – is the story of a boy born into poverty, but given the gift of a father who believes it’s possible to “change your stars.” This loving father apprentices his son William with a traveling knight and sets him on a path full of possibility. Though he does not have the proper lineage or papers to participate in the royal jousting tournaments, grown William adopts a false identity in order to enter the lists and compete against “real” knights.

William’s arch nemesis is a cruel and condescending knight who scoffs at William’s efforts. At the lowest points in the story, when William has been beaten down, this knight repeatedly tells our hero, “You have been weighed. You have been measured. You have been found wanting.”

 

We are all afraid of being found wanting.

The “fraud factor” is something that inevitably comes up in my conversations with entrepreneurs. You know what I’m talking about, right? Just like William feared that his humble lineage would be discovered, you fear that some unknown force is going to out you for pretending to be something you’re not. You’re going to get caught and exposed.

Every successful person I’ve ever met has confessed to following the “fake-it-‘til-you-make-it” path at some point in the journey. Each of us has to make that leap of faith. We have to say, “yes I can” even when we’re not sure how to start. We have to be brave enough to accept the job even though we know we’re going to have to figure it out along the way.

Everyone does this. Even the most highly credentialed and experienced people have fears of inadequacy to push through.

 

“Who am I to _______?”

Most of the time, your most daunting opponent is not an outside force, but a voice inside your own head, asking you who the hell you think you are and in what alternate reality do you think you can succeed. You look at the people who have already “made it” and despair of ever being able to compete at their level. You figure it’s all been done before, why bother?

I recently went to hear New Yorker journalist and author Susan Orlean speak about her work. She had a lot of grounded wisdom to share, but my favorite quote from the evening was this, “Writing is purely an act of nerve – of saying, listen to me.”

Marketing is the same thing. You have to stand up and say out loud that people should not only listen to you, but also hand you cold, hard cash. You have to persuade them that you are worth their attention and investment. How can you do that if you’re listening to the voice in your head that is questioning your very existence on the playing field?

 

You have a right to be here.

I’m a divorced, single mom from a small town that’s ingloriously famous for fried clams. I don’t have a marketing degree. I learned everything I know about writing and marketing in the trenches and by the grace of a wonderful network of friends and colleagues who have supported and encouraged me each step of the way. I work from my home – a modest, 300 year-old antique less than a mile from where I grew up. I don’t speak at conferences, hobnob with industry celebrities, or have my own book (yet).

Sometimes I wonder what gave me the nerve to hang out my shingle at all. I mean, who am I?

I’ll tell you who I am.

I’m a smart, passionate, creative, professional who is invested in the success of her clients. I’m someone who gives a damn. I’m someone with ideas worth hearing and the know-how to execute. I’m someone who helps clients – from global brands and newbie solopreneurs – untangle their marketing challenges … and have fun doing it. I’m someone who makes a difference.

I have a right to be here. And so do YOU.

 

Who are YOU?

Marketing takes courage. It means standing up and saying why you matter. It means saying you can do it better than the other guy. That’s not an easy thing to do, especially if that opposing knight in your head is holding a sword to your throat.

Don’t give in to the fear. You deserve to be here. You have something to offer. Remember:

  • You don’t need to be the most experienced. Though you may consider yourself a “newbie” with lots (and lots!) to learn, there are people who are a few steps behind you who would be thrilled to know what you know.
  • You don’t need to know everything. No one expects you to have all the answers. It’s okay to say, “I don’t know.” It’s okay to be clear at the start about what you do and what you don’t do. You’re allowed to specialize in a particular niche and steer clear of the things that are outside your area of knowledge.
  • You don’t need to play by the rules. You can make your own rules. Have you heard of the red ocean vs. blue ocean strategy? Create your own playing field by approaching things in a new way. Don’t make the mistake of becoming a commodity; stake out new territory for yourself.
  • You don’t need to be like everyone else. Invest in some strong branding. Your brand – personal or business – is the thing that sets you apart from the crowd. Use strategic branding to differentiate your value proposition – your brand promise. A solid brand and messaging platform will clarify your position, personality, and offer so that they leaps off the page for your “right” people.

 

Before you can get serious about marketing yourself or your business, you have to get into the right mindset. That’s my first mission when I’m working with a new client and it’s what I enjoy most about my work. Getting into the right frame of mind is all about finding your voice, trying new things, working your groove, and rediscovering play.

Don’t beat yourself up if you’re feeing overwhelmed by marketing. It’s completely normal. You’re not going to instantly have the courage, faith, perseverance, and sense of play that make great marketing. You have to work your way into those things. Sometimes, you need a little help, and that’s okay too. Just remember – you have a right to be here. You have a right to do that thing you do in the way you do it. You have a right to say, “Damn, I’m good!” out loud.

Like William, you have a right to a place in the tournament lists even if you don’t have the right lineage or credentials. You already have everything you need: your story, your enthusiasm, and your desire to succeed.  Branding and marketing are just there to help you clarify and amplify your message.

 

Have you ever suffered from feeling like you didn’t have a right to be doing whatever you were doing? Did it hinder your marketing? How did you get past it? Do you see people around you who are amazing at what they do, but seem unable to promote themselves because they feel unworthy?

 

Image from A Knight’s Tale © 2001 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved – sourced from IMDB

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