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.
Are you starting to wonder if your business will ever make money?
We have all been there. You spend all your time working on your business, marketing it, following all the advice of experts - and yet you still have tumbleweed's blowing through your bank account. Even if your main reason for running your business isn't to generate wads of cash, we all know that a healthy bank balance makes you feel good. No money coming in knocks your confidence.
I'm going to share my story, warts and all.
In 2011 I sold a PR business that I had set up five years before. I sold it for one year's turnover. It wasn't a fortune, but it was a five figure sum. Given the business was - in essence - just me, my client roster and contacts lists, it was a good figure.
Almost exactly a year ago, having had several years off, I decided to start freelancing again. I set myself up as Melissa Talago - freelance writer and marketer. My old clients gave me some copywriting work, but basically I was going nowhere fast. I knew why. I didn't have a USP or a defined target market or a clear set of products or messages. After limping along for about 4 months, I decided I needed to change things. I had a series of lightbulb moments and I came up with the idea of Campfire Communications.
I spent all of last August creating an online PR course, a new website, new packages. I started getting super active in networking groups - both online and face to face. I launched in October.
And nothing happened.
Well not nothing, I had a few clients come in, but it was slow. A trickle. I continued to promote, promote, promote. And still nothing substantial really happened. I started to feel deflated. I probably felt more deflated than the average person because I kept telling myself: 'You are meant to be good at promoting people and if you can't do it for yourself, how can you do it for others? You are a fraud.'
The negative talk track in your head when you run your own business is a bitch.
So I ignored that negative voice and kept on trucking. I also did a few brave things. I set up a couple of webinars. I set up a few face to face events. I had no idea if anyone would come along to any of them. I decided to delete the very expensive website I had paid for as it wasn't working for me and I created a brand new one by myself. And I kept on doing the promoting and marketing.
Last week I decided that as it was almost a year since I had officially started working, even though Campfire had only been running for 6 months, it was time to do my accounts. Yes. Seriously. I had not done them once in a year. I had so little money coming in that I honestly didn't feel it was necessary. However, I did have quite a lot going out that needed sorting out.
I spent a full day doing my accounts. I ended up with a graph that looked like this:
And I thought - that looks healthy. It's growing! Then I added up my earnings for March. And I realised that in a single month, I had earned enough to pay for our family holiday to Namibia that we're having later this year.
It's a though I had turned a corner. All my months of hard work promoting my business and being brave was finally paying off. I know that I can't stop now. I know I will have other bad months. I know that promotion is an ongoing thing. You have to keep on keeping on. But when you do, you will be rewarded.
Why am I sharing this with you?
Because I know how disheartening it is when you are trying everything that the experts tell you to do and nothing seems to be working. Take heart. Nothing happens instantly. For some people, what I have earned this month will be a pipe dream. For others, it will be a seriously bad month. Don't compare yourself to others. Don't lose heart. Don't give up. It takes time to grow a business. There is seldom overnight success. Success comes to those who keep believing in themselves and don't stop.
I hope that my sharing this story has inspired you in some way or at least given you the determination to keep going. Speaking of inspiration, I was invited to talk to Steve Twynham for his Be Happy radio show in which he shares inspiring stories. I was flattered he thought I was inspiring. So thank you Steve. You can listen to it here.
Leave me your comments below.