In 2006 I set up a PR business in a sector I had zero experience in but which I knew I could figure out as I went. I sent an email to two companies that I wanted to work with and told them why and how I could help them. They both hired me. Thereafter I did a bit of PR for myself, which brought in some more clients. After a couple of years I added a blog.
Word of mouth, PR and a blog. That was the sum total of my marketing. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube didn't enter the picture. They were new tools used socially, not for business.
How times have changed! Now you need to be all over the multiple social media channels that your clients hang out on, blog regularly, have newsletters, build a sales funnel with freebie tools and downloads and a video series. You need to become a published author and invest in Facebook advertising and run webinars or host google hang outs or broadcast live with Periscope or run podcasts.
I am in marketing and at times I find it bewildering, exhausting and demoralising. I cannot imagine what it feels like to a non-marketeer.
I know that these tools and processes work. Many people have built amazing businesses using them. But even more are trying to and failing, or pretending that they have. They're hopping through hoops trying to play the game, but aren't actually growing their business. In fact, they're so distracted by trying to keep up, that they lose the obvious clients who could be available to them.
Do you know how I have got most of my business? From word of mouth, previous clients, recommendations and PR. The exact same tools I used almost 10 years ago. Yes it's a slower burn, but it's a burn rather than burnt out coals.
Now I'm not saying that you should bin all your social media or give up on your sales funnel. What I am saying is that sometimes going back to basics helps you focus and stay sane. Oh, and actually earn some money.
After seeing countless ads on my Facebook feed that all promise the earth if you will just sign up to something imperative, and become their sales funnel bitch, I've realised how many people are over promising and under delivering, tapping into people's vulnerability and desperation to 'make it'.
How many of the grand promises of 6-figure incomes and a business run from a beach actually deliver? It feels like to be in the cool money-making-business-celeb gang, you have to pay the cool prices, drink the Kool-Aid and follow a magic formula that only the cool gang know about.
How many business owners just want some help, real help? Help that will make a difference to their business without all the hype and without having to hear from a guru who has managed to achieve the Holy Grail of earning 6 figures while sunbathing in Bali.
Because although that sounds great, I don't believe it is realistic for the majority of business owners. Most business owners simply want to deliver whatever it is they do really well and make a good living (or any living!) Yet I'll bet that most small business owners - particularly those in the coaching or consulting sectors - feel that they are somehow failing because they aren't living that amazing life yet.
I am not saying you should think small and not aim for greatness. You absolutely should think big, have a vision, try out things that could help you attain it. But you should also remember that while you're climbing the path to greatness, you should keep your feet on the ground and not be beguiled by tempting promises.
I find myself stuck in a weird place where I need to give clients marketing advice, but despising the way marketing is moving. I believe that to be successful, you need:
If you are feeling overwhelmed by EVERYTHING that you are meant to be doing, please stop. Take a deep breath and go back to basics.
If you want honest help without the hype, please get in touch. I can't promise that you'll be moving to your beach hut this year. I can assure you that I will do whatever I can to help you grow a successful business. Also join a bunch of down-to-earth, no 6-figure bullshit types over in the Campfire Club on Facebook.
My children wrote exams recently. In a bid to show them how to revise, I dug out my old marketing coursework, which featured many examples of mind maps that I created when I was studying marketing years ago.
I found the coursework again this morning and had a read of the top sheet. It was the very first chapter called 'The Marketing Process'. As I read it, two key points jumped out at me.
They are blindingly obvious. I mean SUPER DUPER obvious.
But so many of us are so busy being busy that we forget these basics. We dive in, excited by our idea or inspired by a coach because we've been told that we should follow our passion. But we forget to think about the people we're trying to sell to. We've become a 'me-centric' business world, rather than a customer-centric one. I'll put my hand up and confess that I've been just as guilty.
As a result, you could be doing everything that all the experts tell you - writing blogs, creating sales funnels, using social media, doing PR, building up your newsletter list, etc. etc. etc. - but you are still battling to get clients in.
If this sounds like you, it's highly likely that you could be overlooking these two basic things.
Do you do that? Do you genuinely make your customers' lives easier? If so, how do you do that? Do you know what their problems are? When you boil it down to that, it makes it far simpler to figure out whether what you're offering is what your clients actually want.
Which leads neatly onto Basic 2:
Before you say, 'No Sh*t Sherlock!' ask yourself whether you are guilty of this? Are you continuing to offer whatever it is because it's what you've got or what you know, rather than what your clients want?
This is actually an extremely common failing. We make or sell what we have. When no-one buys, we think we're doing something wrong with our marketing. So we invest more and more time, money and energy into trying to flog this thing. And still no-one buys.
It's time to stop and go back to basics. What can you do to make a customer's life easier?
I know this may seem like a simple question but it can actually be incredibly difficult. I have grappled with this exact question myself. It can be really hard for a small business to understand what potential clients truly want because you don't have a big marketing budget to conduct extensive research. So you just start and hope for the best.
I'm a big advocate of not waiting for things to be perfect, otherwise you'll never start. But the trick is to listen to your gut and look at your bank balance. If things aren't going as well as they should be, it may be time to look at why. It may be time to go back to basics.
I've spent some time looking at this very issue and I've realised that that is a problem I can solve for my customers.
I can make your life easier by helping you figure out how to make your customers' lives easier. Take a look at my Clarity offering.
It can be really hard to figure this out on your own. You're too close to it. Which is why I work with you to figure this out. And once we've got it nailed, we'll create an awesome marketing plan to get it out there.
So tell me, are you guilty of these two basics? Feel free to share your experiences below.