I’m a reluctant marketer.
When I graduated from university, I didn’t know what I wanted to do.
So I explored post-graduate options.
A few colleges in my area were offering intensive 1-year programs for university graduates.
These programs were specifically designed to get students an internship or paying job upon completion.
I applied for two: Book and Magazine Publishing and Interactive Multimedia.
It was the late 90s. The Internet was booming and our world was becoming digital.
Interactive Multimedia, which included learning HTML, graphic design, digital publishing, CD authoring, audio and video creation and editing, 3D animation and more, was the smart choice.
We were a small cohort of about 30 and we all got jobs after we graduated.
I found a web development role in a small web and print agency.
That’s when marketing became a part of my life.
We created websites, brochures, and brand identity packages…all stuff that was part of our clients’ marketing initiatives.
Within a few months, I was promoted to project manager and within a year became the studio manager. I enjoyed those first few years where everything was new and I was learning so much.
When I moved on from the agency, it seemed all the great jobs with my skills were in marketing so that’s where I stayed. (I know now that’s not true but at the time, it felt like it.)
I didn’t love it.
There is often an over-reliance on what marketing can accomplish.
It’s the sexy and fun department that has big budgets. I know firsthand that a lot of that money is wasted.
Why am I telling you this?
Because I’ve come to see that solo entrepreneurs also over-rely on marketing.
Especially in the first few years of their business.
What’s funny is that many of the business owners I’ve worked with are not huge fans of marketing, seeing it as a necessary ‘evil’ to get clients.
I’m not saying marketing isn’t essential to building a sustainable business. It is.
But when you spend too much time and effort on it at the wrong time, it will keep you stuck at the same level, not growing the way you want.
While you may not love marketing, it’s still more comfortable than the revenue-generating activities that would be more effective right now.
The courses and programs teaching copywriting, social media, ads, video, SEO, podcasting, and heck, even my favourite – email, may feel productive but they’re long-term initiatives.
And you need to be focusing on what will have a more direct impact on your bottom line:
Other than sales coaches, I’ve yet to meet an entrepreneur who hasn’t said something like…
“I hate sales.”
“I don’t want to be salesy.”
“Selling feels gross.”
These beliefs keep us safe.
We market as a way of making selling more palatable. A way that has people coming to us. But that can only happen once you’ve established that you can sell reliably.
What you need to sell reliably will also make your marketing more powerful.
Here’s what might be holding you back from focusing on and making sales:
You aren't fired up.
It’s hard to build a business. Your initial excitement is bound to fade. Especially when you’ve put so much into it and you’re not sure if it will work out.
People can tell when you’re not feeling it.
How can you spark things up?
Be honest with yourself. And don’t be afraid to ask, “Is this what I really want?”
If it is, figure out what you need to recommit to what you’re building and stay open to making changes to make things work.
You’re not clear about what you’re selling.
This one is tricky. Your clients value what you do and you’re doing great work with them. So why can’t you just keep talking about that work to get more clients
You can but this can only take you so far. The people you’ve worked with so far had a reason to trust you.
It’s likely most of them had some connection to you. You may have worked with them before. They may have come through referrals. They may be a friend of a friend.
Up to now, your relationships made up for any lack of specificity about what you’re selling.
When you sell to people outside this established connection circle, your offer needs to be compelling, clear, and solve a real problem.
Your people don’t want what you’re selling.
When you don’t have a clear and compelling offer that solves a real problem, you can imagine that people won’t get what you’re selling.
Coaching, consulting, or advising isn’t what you’re selling.
What you help people fix or improve is what you’re selling.
You don’t hire a plumber to do some plumbing. You hire them to fix the leak that keeps you up at night. To give you the peace that comes with this problem being fixed.
My clients want more clients and to grow a business they love without doing a bunch of things that won’t help them do that – you know, like more marketing.
What do your right-for-you clients want to fix or improve?
Now, I have to say that being a reluctant marketer has served me well. I have a critical eye for ineffective approaches and waste.
And I know what kind of marketing works best for different business models. It’s not a one-size-fits-all but when done well, it’s amazing fuel for a sustainable business.
Just don’t do too much too early or you may end up resenting it.