There are many scary things you will face as a small business. Here are just a few:
For today, I want to focus on the fear of communications, specifically the five fears that are probably affecting your ability to communicate and what you can do about that.
1. Fear of 'communications'
Let's start at the beginning. A lot of people actually get a glazed look when I say 'communications'. What is that? It sounds vague. You might be afraid to even lift the lid off that can of worms, preferring to stay blissfully ignorant. For others, you know it includes things like social media, blogs, newsletters, PR, webinars etc. But you don't really know what they are or how they work or which you should be doing or why. And that can result in you either doing nothing or trying to do it all and not doing a particularly good job. You might find yourself signing up to every free (or not free) course going to learn more about these things. You're desperate not to get left behind so you clutch onto every passing offer to help alleviate your fear. You can end up feeling even more fearful than before you started.
Breathe. I want to help you get over this fear of the term 'communications'.
Communications is any way in which you communicate with your target market. That could be a telephone call, at a networking event, via social media like Facebook and Twitter, through a blog or customer newsletter, or getting your story out to the media, writing articles or great web copy, or running teleseminars, webinars and hangouts. Stop thinking about it as a fancy technical term that you need to learn all about. Start thinking about it as 'talking to customers'. It doesn't matter which of the tools you choose, communications is simply about talking to your customers. Not so scary right?
2. Fear of speaking to customers
Oh. Perhaps it is still scary if you are actually scared of speaking to your customers. In which case, you need to ask yourself why you are scared. Is it because you don't feel you know enough? Are you worried they won't like what you say? Do you feel like a fraud? Are you scared of coming over like a salesy salesperson? Do you not actually know what you want to say?
Breathe. Here's how to get over this fear of talking to customers.
Start by figuring out what it is you actually do, what problem you solve for customers and who those customers are. You don't have to be an expert. You don't have to know EVERYTHING. You just have to know who you can help, why and how. Once you've got that figured out, talking to them becomes easy. Still not sure? What do you find yourself advising people all the time? When do you feel most confident talking to people? Focus on those things. Don't see customers as customers. See them as a people with a problem that you can help them with. Nothing too scary about that.
3. Fear of not knowing what to say
So you know what communications is and you know what problem you solve for which customers. But you have no idea what to actually say. Where do you start? Who will listen? Your mind is blank. This is a simple fear to overcome.
Put yourself in the shoes of your customer. What issues are they facing? Do you know how to solve that issue? Voila! You have just got your first bit of content to communicate with them. Go from there. What else are they experiencing? How else can you help? What is happening in the world that you can comment on? It's like making small talk at a party. You might start off unsure of what to say, but once the communication starts flowing, new subjects crop up. So just get started. One foot in front of the other and soon it'll be hard to shut you up.
4. Fear of getting it wrong
What if you put something out there in a blog or social media post or newsletter or press release and someone disagrees with you? What if you get the etiquette wrong? What if you really don't know how to use the technology? What if you give an opinion that is controversial and disliked? What if you don't have a fixed opinion?
Take another breath.
First of all, have a little think about just how big the wide world is, how many people are out their trying to communicate at the same time, how many Facebook and Twitter users there are, how many newsletters are sent out daily, how many magazines, newspapers and news sites there are. Now unless you do something extremely bad (think murder, racial slurs, seriously inappropriate comments) most of what you say will get lost in the ether. So if you make a few mistakes while you are starting out, trust me, no-one will know or remember. You might think, well why bother then? Because people - those customers who matter - will remember you when you consistently feed them good stuff. My point is, if you make the odd mistake in the beginning, who cares! Learn from it, even talk about how you made a mistake and what you learned from it. Be humble and human and people will understand. And remember, if someone disagrees with you, well good for you. It means you've reached someone. Enter the debate. You never know where it might lead.
Think of it this way: You know that feeling just before you jump into a swimming pool that you know is cold? You don't want to get in. You put a toe in and yank it out. You slowly creep in, one step at a time. It takes ages as you gradually adjust to the water. Eventually you're in the pool, but by then everyone else is already having cocktails at the bar. The alternate way is to just dive right in, deal with the shock but get swimming far more quickly. Just take the plunge!
5. Fear of being successful
This might seem odd. Why would anyone be afraid of success? But the truth is, success can bring more responsibility, more pressure, more commitment. Let's say you make cupcakes from your home kitchen. A local papers tries them, loves them, raves about them and before you know it you have a queue of people wanting your cupcakes. You don't know how to handle the demand and go into meltdown. So you decide it's safer not to do any of this communication malarkey in case it gets out of control.
Trust me, that is a nice problem to have. That said, growth can be scary. But remember why you set your business up in the first place. What was your motivation? Even if you only set up your business as a hobby with no intention of turning it into a major enterprise, ask yourself: why shouldn't I? Success doesn't mean having to do it all on your own. It just means you need to alter your goalposts. If your communication gives you growth, that is worthy of a high five. Embrace it. Be proud, hang on tight and keep communicating.
So my Halloween challenge to you is to get over any communications fears you may have. Still feeling fearful? Then ask questions below or jump onto my Facebook page where you are welcome to have a chat with me. Or simply give me a call. I am not scary. I can help you figure out what you should be saying, the best way to say it and help you come up with what to say. You're not in this alone. I'm here to hold your hand and make this journey less frightening.