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