I chose to start two businesses. No one forced me to do it. Working for myself seemed like a dream to me. No more bosses demanding silly tasks from me. No more wasted time sitting at my desk waiting for something to do. I had skills and dreams and knew the world would love my offerings. How hard could it be?
But the world I worked in, the one with real people overwhelmed by thousands of marketing messages all day ever day, caught me unprepared. The real world didn’t accord with the world I had created in my fantasies.
Just get your marketing plan together! How hard can it be? I did get it together. More than once. And then again and again. Little seemed to work. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
I began to hate marketing.
Marketing makes the flesh green
No one begins their business career liking marketing. I didn’t.
But I had no idea how much marketing would come to petrify and paralyze me.
Sending out campaigns that resulted in zero sales crushed my confidence and sped up my hatred of marketing. In fact, promotion and marketing came in dead last on my list important business actions.
I derive from a broody lot of people, and so I brooded a lot about why I hated marketing. Instead of actually marketing and getting better at marketing, naturally.
I erred in my thinking. Finding the reasons why I loathed marketing might propel into liking it.
Maybe it’s lack of experience
I consoled myself with the belief that I had no experience. That if I’d possessed a robust marketing career, all would be well on the sales front. My work background offered me experience in many areas but not marketing.
My lack of experience offered a reason why I hated marketing.
Yes, that’s it.
Except I forgot about the statute of limitations on this excuse. Because that’s what the true nature of this belief is.
It’s an excuse. I excused my poor marketing performance on being new.
Because being new at anything last a very short period of time. Very short. So short I shot through it the first week I began marketing.
Even I knew using this excuse made me look like a loser. I needed a different excuse, something more profound.
Maybe it’s imposter syndrome
Profound arrived in the form of imposter syndrome.
Before I get nasty emails I declare for the record that imposter syndrome lives within the hearts of most creative individuals. And I count entrepreneurs as among our most creative people.
Imposter syndrome lived within my own heart (and sometimes still does, but more on that below). The feelings of being found out and of discounting my accomplishments shot through me. Who am I to think I could start and run a business. I’m a fraud.
People knew I was a fraud. At least I thought they knew. I knew. How could they not know?
Evidence of my imposter status abounded everywhere. My lack of sales success reflected my imposter status. My lack of anything sales wise underscored my imposter status.
Every marketing campaign filled me with horror. Every time I hit send I knew I would be exposed as the fraud I thought I was.
Sufferers from imposter syndrome see their failures reflected everywhere. I felt the same way.
I hated marketing because I lacked the confidence in my own accomplishments. That must be it.
But I kept getting caught up in my feelings about my own worth. And feelings indicate very little that lasts.
In my case in one minute I might feel three or four different things, all about marketing. I knew dwelling the feelings of being an imposter discouraged action.
Mantras to the rescue.
I urged myself through my broodiness. Get to work! You can do this! Don’t be so hard on yourself!
These voices in my head told me to get after it. So I did.
And then smacked right into a really true, deeply deep reason I hated marketing.
Maybe it’s sleazy
Marketers are often a dirty and disreputable lot. Scam tactics abound.
But wait there’s more! Buy one get one free! Time is running out!
People sometimes accuse marketers of being propagandists. It’s easy to see why.
Edward Bernays, Sigmund Freud’s nephew, pioneered what we know as public relations. We have Bernays to thank for so much manipulation in marketing.
Manipulation. Propaganda. Sleazy new and used car salesmen. Scantily clad twins in bikinis selling gum.
Surely this was the reason I hated marketing. The whole process and practice is seedy and sordid!
How could I not hate marketing?
I could and did. But finding it sleazy absolved me of nothing. I needed to market my books and services regardless.
Knowing what I needed to do offered me nothing moving forward. A potent cocktail of imposter syndrome and the sick nature of marketing stopped me dead in the water.
Then I learned the real reason I hated marketing.
The real reason I hated marketing?
The truth only seems to reveal itself when I’m ready to hear it. A mentor delivered it a kind manner, for sure.
The truth of it burn through my excuses about inexperience and imposter syndrome and how sleazy marketing is.
I’d been sprinting through my marketing strategy when I need to be running a 24-hour marathon, 7 days a week.
Marketing takes persistence
The real reason I hated marketing it that successful marketing requires persistence.
Of the everyday kind I just mentioned, of the daily kind.
I treated marketing like my old workouts (before my wife and I purchased a Peloton bike). Some days I worked out hard, some days less so. And then there were many days when I sat on the couch all day. Like my lack of working out, most days I found a series of reasons to do nothing in or on my marketing plan. Not a tweet nor Facebook post nor a call to a preferred customer.
I can’t quite explain how I hide this truth from myself but I did.
Marketing terrified me because it required me to do something every day.
Everyday meant and means consistency.
Consistency trumps everything in marketing
What? Consistency? Doing a thing day in and day out?
I hate routines. Marketing every day? No way.
But the truth is I loved routines. I loved the weekly and monthly routine of doing nothing with my marketing tactics.
I loved my daily commitment to my version of imposter syndrome. I loved the consistency with which I read up on marketing but never followed through on that knowledge.
I was very, very consistent, just about habits that continued to deliver results that stayed well within my comfort zone. I had habituated myself to mediocrity and no sales.
That last sentence has taken me years to write. I never wanted to admit how much I got in my own way. Every day, too.
What changed for me? Truthfully I just got tired, tired of failing, tired of vague references to marketing when asked by strangers what I do, tired of feeling like an imposter.
I wanted a dramatic, life changing shift in my life and mindset.
Once I realized I had a lot discipline — just to the wrong goals — I knew I could learn to commit to positive goals, to growing my business, creating marketing experiments and tracking results.
Marketing takes discipline. I had thought other people had discipline. I had discipline with regard to mediocrity, but I needed to somehow reengineer my failures into a road map of success.
I can’t say my failures were successes. They weren’t. But when I really had a hard conversation with myself, I knew I had what it takes to succeed.
The same discipline that led me to failure could lead me to success.
Looking back over the failures I’d created in my businesses, I changed my narrative.
Now I had a lot of discipline and could commit every day to my marketing plan, no matter what.
Because in the end consistent marketing will sell more than the inconsistent one. Even if the consistent marketer sells a lower quality product.
Consistent marketing also quiets the imposter’s voice. How can I be an imposter if I show up everyday and commit to a few marketing actions a day?
Upright people, the real McCoys, do the work. Imposters fail around in a slurpy pool of feelings.
Change the definition of discipline
Discipline used to be a dirty word. Bad. For the overlords and ruling oligarchs.
But, really, I now know, discipline is knowing what I want. Before I wanted to feel like a failure.
That sounds harsh I know. But I think it’s true. All my actions led to the same result: no sales, few new customers and feeling bad about myself.
Now I know my why.
Know (and change) your why
Why do I spend hours researching potential clients? Why do I send cold emails to strangers? Why do I track all my interactions?
Because I want to create a financially profitable business that transforms entrepreneurs email marketing into more sales. I want to add to my family’s financially stability. Because these days I can’t ever get enough financially stability.
And because marketing is an opportunity for me to show how much I care about their email marketing problems, I know marketing isn’t sleazy. I hate low-ball tactics, including selling services people don’t need. My own ethics dictates how I marketing. Buh bye sleazy marketing tactics.
My why will be different from your why
Do you want money to travel? Retire early? Pay your kid’s dental bills? Ballet lessons?
Do you commit to your marketing pain to gain more free time? Work with people you respect? Because you feel compelled to fix a particular problem in the world.
Great. Join me and get to work. We’ll know we’re both succeeding when we have days where the work annoys and fatigues us.
Marketing should be boring.
A strong marketing plan well executed should be boring, at least some of the time. World-class athletes and musicians put in lots of hours doing forms and scales. Boring stuff.
We should, too. After all, we’re world-class business owners.