These days, most of us would agree that in order to do business and market ourselves properly, you need a website.
A digital space that belongs just to you. (Not to Facebook, or Tumblr or even WordPress.com — for reasons that my friend Annie so beautifully explains.) A virtual store front where you can tell your story, connect with your customers and build your business.
Others might add that if you want folks to actually visit your website, you need to master things like SEO, social media, copy writing and various bits of technology.
So, when you’re new to the world of being an entrepreneur, learning how to market yourself online can feel like an insurmountable bunch of crazy.
I get it. Even for moi (someone who’s been doing marketing for 20+ years), there’s a LOT to get your arms around here.
And up until about two months ago, I thought I had things in the bag. My website and email list both continue to grow — not exponentially, but enough that I feel confident what I’m doing is working the way it’s supposed to. And followers of social media profiles also continue to steadily climb.
So it’s a perfect world, right? Um…
Wherein the Rose-Colored Glasses Fall Off
Actually, I’ve created for myself a perfect storm of totally UNperfect.
A storm that has me dreaming weird shit like this: I find myself in the backroom of a small police precinct. There are only 8 lockers which I take to mean that this force is limited in what we can accomplish. We’re all new here. We sit in a circle introducing ourselves to each other. Plain clothes detectives on a mission. I tell the group, “You know this is a dream, right? None of this is real.” Everyone nods slowly in agreement. Then one of the other officers asks me, “Didn’t you used to be in marketing?” And I reply: “Yes. That’s why I’m here. So I can go after the marketing criminals and take them down.”
Mr. Perfect thought this dream was highlarious. “You should blog about that,” he said after I’d told him all about it. “You could use a picture of Angie Dickinson and everything.” (If you don’t know who Angie D. is, here you go. You’re welcome.)
The point is, that I’ve been feeling a LOT uncomfortable with some of the practices I’ve encountered on the Interwebz. You may have seen the signs when I wrote this, this and this.
Here’s the Readers Digest version: It started with frustration around finding a way to help online clients make the same kind of real progress in their marketing that I’d been doing with offline clients for years. Which led to the Prosperity’s Kitchen project. Which required me to reach out to many, many “A-Lister” types and convince them to join us. Which reinforced some earlier issues I’d had with A-Listers who I’d interacted with. Which fed my fury over how this whole shebang works online.
Which prompted my asking, “Is this really what I want to be teaching my students?” (Stay tuned for the answer!)
This Post is a Long Time Coming
You should know that this isn’t the first time I’m bringing up some of these questions — it’s just the first time I’m doing it publicly.
My mastermind friends know how I feel.
And poor Zeus. He really got a dose of reality from me during this past week’s mentoring session. At least he knows where I stand on all this.
Here’s the truth: Teaching is my passion. It’s my thing. It’s what gets me excited to do the rest of what I do. And it doesn’t seem to matter what I’m teaching as long as it’s useful and fun and MEANINGFUL.
The moment I see a student’s face light up in that moment of knowing, I’m hooked. For me, it’s about helping people reach their full potential — no matter what that means to them.
And because I love to teach, I try VERY hard to be the best teacher that I can be. I invest as much as I can reasonably afford on professional development so I can learn the latest in things like:
- Instructional design
- Changing and creating habits
- Keeping students engaged and accountable
- and of course, all-things marketing related (including the latest tools)
But some marketing consultants (and some teachers) aren’t as concerned with the quality of the learning experience they’re selling. Some marketing consultants are more interested in creating 6 and 7-figure businesses for themselves than they are for their clients.
Quasi-testimonials aside, many (if not most) online marketing consultants can’t even offer EVIDENCE that what they’re doing helps their clients grow their business by X%.
Mainly because they don’t document these things, but also because their clients don’t track this sort of thing either.
Sure…some can show you copies of their own bank statements as proof that their system works for them.
But they rarely show you proof that their “roadmap” or “blueprint” has made a measurable impact on the businesses of their clients. (And when I say measurable, I mean with numbers and math.)
And THAT my friends, is how the term ‘Internet Marketer’ turned ugly. To distance oneself from the shady practices of Internet Marketing, you might bill yourself as a social media expert, a digital marketing authority or some other euphemism. But the problem remains: not enough measurable proof that what you’re doing for your clients gives them a solid return on their investment.
The Sexy Come-on
For the noobie biz owner (who doesn’t know the difference), it’s all pretty much the same: find the person with the best tools, know-how or promises (according to the social proof they provide) and plunk down some cash so you can learn the “inside” secrets to getting the best traffic, biggest list or most followers.
We hear it every day, all day long: “Bigger is better. Size matters. Take your business to the next level…”
Unfortunately, when you consummate the relationship (after you’ve paid a crap load of money), you may find that the Big O of gratification you were promised, won’t be…er, coming, after all.
Sometimes that’s the fault of your instructor. And sometimes it’s your fault (for failing to follow-through).
Regardless, it may take you some time to learn the lesson that there aren’t any REAL secrets to marketing your business. And that online marketing efforts do NOT replace offline efforts.* They enhance them. Extend them. Also that the newest plugin, app or cloud-based service is NOT going to be the answer to your small biz prayers.
My advice: master the fundamentals before you start looking for fancy pants ways to market yourself. (And when I say fundamentals, I mean the stuff you’d do whether you were marketing online or off.) *If your business exists solely online, that just means you have to work extra hard at this relationships-thing.
Social Media is Bullshit
That’s the title of a book I just finished by one BJ Mendelson. (Stay tuned. I’ll be interviewing him soon and posting a full review.) It’s a fun and interesting read — and one I recommend.
One of the things that he mentioned was the fact that all the marketing advice we find in books is recycled from Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Which means (drum roll) there’s nothing new under the sun.
AND it’s really about relationships. But not the weak relationships we make online (usually). The strong ties are the ones we’re after. The ones we make when sit across the table from someone and look them in the eye. The ones that build after weeks and sometimes months of getting to know someone at an in-person networking event. Or, the ones that happen after years of building and nurturing friendships. These are the ones that really matter to the success of your business.
My Point (and I Do Have One)
Take all of this marketing advice with a grain of salt. Keep your BS meter on (and check the batteries often).
Slow the heck down. And listen. To your customers. And definitely to yourself. (Not necessarily to “experts” or “gurus.”)
For my part, I promise to de-emphasize the tools and tactics around here, and focus more on strategy and fundamentals. And if I can’t add anything new to the conversation (because really — everything you need to know is already out there), then I’ll keep my mouth shut.
What about you? Share your experiences in a comment below, or take a crack at interpreting my dream. I’m all ears.
L♥ve your article! You’re SO right! I recently set up a business that’s still incredibly in the bud. But I did two months of marketing training for online businesses…it sucked me dry! None of the ‘masters’ had any content themselves, besides repeating how to make money from people online, how to go for the kill and how to push and push and push. I’m an artist/(online) art teacher, so marketing is from a different planet. But my soul sang really hard that all that BS didn’t make any sense. I tried to do things their way for 3 months and all that came out of it, was that I lost audience. The assignments made me make much ado about nothing. And I hated it. But…can’t expect to learn from a training when you don’t implement what you learn, right? Well, wrong in this case. The thing is: after this period of training, and after the experiences I’ve had, I deeply believe that times have changed. Marketing doesn’t work that way anymore – especially not for internetentrepreneurs. What you say, is way more important…connecting with people, creating relationships, an understanding. It’s way more important to be 100% you and unique in that sense than to push and manipulate ‘customers’ into emptying their purses onto your bank account. Content is everything. And you sure have to be able to let people know what you’ve got. And you’ve got to keep them up-to-date in a yummy kind of way. But that’s it. If the content’s good enough, your audience will grow. If you scream, push and manipulate too hard, people will turn away. People get pushed around so much by marketing all day everyday that they’ve had enough. If you want them to come looking for you on the internet, I think you’d better make sure your environment is friendly, warm, open, pure and full of good, BS-free content. See? Learned something from those ‘masters’ anyway!
Thank you for saying aloud what I feel inside, Tea! I am a newbie at e-marketing and feeling completely overwhelmed and always behind. I have come to realize that down-to-earth connections with others is way more fun and interesting than getting 14,000 followers (how is that done anyways?). For instance, Dina (in the comment section here) and I are building a nice connection and planning on collaborating together. ps. I am an educator, too. Maybe we can connect sometime? (wiredlearningdesigns.com )
Hey Ms. Dina! So good to see you here. And to hear you here. ((hugs)) You’ve put your finger on exactly what biz teachers, coaches and mentors need to be doing (and stop doing). Blowing smoke should be a practice banned far and wide, but unfortunately I don’t think it’s gonna happen anytime soon. Until then, those of us who see that the Emperor is nekkid, need to keep calling him out. So glad to have you on the team!
* missing words courtesy of a cranky iPad that wouldn’t let me edit. Practically every internet marketer… Students are responsible for giving feedback
You are spot on, Tea. Practically internet marketer has ‘know, like and trust’ tattooed somewhere, it’s almost a law. I see folks working on the first two like mad, sometimes in ways that make me say TMI. What’s missing is the trust. Instead of striving to ‘be known’ we, as teachere, need to strave to be trustworthy.To me, that means keeping your brand promise. Teach me what you say you will. Not some uber lite version that leaves me hanging. Teach me in an effective way. Don’t do a brain dump and leave me to figure out how the pieces go together alone. Teach me in repeatable steps so I can accomplish me goal. So often the learning rests on the teachers personality; it works because of they are not what they know. And for the love of all things holy, tell me when you believe my idea isn’t feasible or profitable. Im paying for your _wisdom and experience_ so don’t deny me because you don’t want to hurt any feelings, especially your own.Teaching is a two way street. Teachers need instruction too about their methods and materials. So, in part students giving that valuable feedback about what worked and what didn’t
Tea:It can be frustrating being an internet marketer and finding yourself painted with the same brush as others who are less than diligent or honest.My philosophy is that marketing – and by extension sales – has not changed in the sense that you still have to put the right offer in front of the right person at the right time. Period. Only difference now is that we have many more potential ways to get there.Working with clients who already get this is wonderful and unfortunately, somewhat rare. Most are coming off of a bad experience of some kind with another provider and need both education and reassurance that professionalism really does exist in the online space.
Well, definitely throw out the dirty bathwater, and if you’ve been washing in it too long, spending your money, listening to the wrong people, and feeling “icky”, turn on that spigot o’ truth and non-b.s. like fresh mountain spring water, add a little citrus rosemary bubble bath (in the form of a community beginning to share, support each other, and call out and resist this drivel), and then you can relax a little and get to business.
Well said Tea! Great post. I am with you 100% on this and it is exactly what I have been pondering as I try to figure out what the heck I am trying to do!!
Well, you can ALWAYS add something new – your voice. Sometimes it takes a certain amount of words said in just the right way, which we wouldn’t necessarily get from anyone else. :>Either understanding or literally receive.But yes, I appreciate the not gratuitously adding to the clutter – you’re right. The World is too loud as it is. 🙂 :>
Tea, for years I’ve felt an ever present and intensifying undertone of MAJOR disappointment, broken promises, deceitfulness, and mostly, “disgust”, with internet marketing. I’ve met more people (really awesome, hard-working, passionate folks!) who’ve thrown in the towel than those who’ve bravely plodded along. No wonder. It ain’t easy. Thank you for opening the door to discussion. It’s high time!!
Excellent points Tea (as always!). You said everything I was thinking. As more of us speak up hopefully we can change things. Yours is a great place to start.
The cult of personality has done more damage than good, and it doesn’t seem to matter what business we’re talking about, there’s usually some “expert” or “guru” slinging their BS 6 figure blueprint around! Something’s gotta change and it starts with conversations like this!
A “spirited discussion” on our private Facebook group … yeah that’s one way to put it, LOL. As the instigator of that discussion, can I just say how refreshing it was to hear you guys validate all the ickiness I’d been feeling? I don’t think it’s time to throw out the bathwater AND the baby, but – damn. Something’s gotta change, for sure. VERY brave of you to put it out there like this. I’m with you.
Insightful perspective Tea. I have been the teacher now more than ever and feel refreshed. Like I am making a positive impact on the industry as a whole, rather than sucking the life out of it. Even on our devices we are looking for human connections and the more we help our clients emulate that with their online marketing efforts the better.
Hi Tea,I was LOL about your dream, but not about the points you make. You are not alone in feeling frustrated with online marketing which, when it’s boiled down, and as pointed out by Mendelson, just goes back to Carnegie’s emphasis on relationships.I just read another blogger this morn who was disappointed with the stress on becoming legendary or leaving a legacy without aiming for authenticity, compassion, forgiveness and other traits for which a legacy is a by-product.There IS something new under the sun: the speed and boldness with which BS can be slung around the Internet. You have given us the best advice possible way to counteract it: slow down, listen and be more discerning. Most of us already know what we need to know. Continuing to listen to gurus rather than our customers and our inner voices dooms us to being overwhelmed and paralyzed. (Guess how I know.)We know we can count on you to keep your BS meter loaded with fresh batteries and your communications poised to keep us alert and in the loop . Thank you.