I’m sitting in a room with just over 100 women, and we’re all listening to someone speak about marketing. He’s talking to us about social media and how Facebook is now “pay to play”.
With each slide, he stresses the importance of us being on social and establishing a relationship with our ideal client well before she intends on purchasing. I look around and see somen women jotting down notes. One raises her hand at the end to ask where she can get in touch with him for coaching.
Throughout the presentation, I’m nodding because I agree with what he says. He’s right, we should be building relationships prior to the sale, and many of us absolutely do need an ad strategy in place.
And then I thought: is that really all it is?
To be fair, this guy only had 20 minutes, so I can’t say what he believes about marketing overall.
However, in a room of over 100 women with small businesses (and even smaller marketing budgets), I couldn’t help but ask myself: is this the impression of marketing I would want them to walk away with?
If I had 20 minutes on that stage, what would I want these smart, brave women who want to do good in the world to know about effective marketing?
For most of my online “career”, I had no fucking clue what marketing meant. I created graphics. I wrote emails. I retweeted the shit out of other people’s stuff. I wrote long, emotional client avatar stories. I tried to create incredible products.
It felt like EVERYTHING was marketing.
If you’ve been building your business for awhile, I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of definitions from different schools of thought. Marketing is about spreading a message that sticks. It’s about persuasion. It’s about finding ways to stand out in a crowded marketplace. It’s about building relationships.
Those are all things that I believe, but between you and me, I got bored of all of it -- like eyes rolling in the back of my head, fall asleep at a party bored. I was bored by the formulas, the strategies for Facebook Live, the “engagement” we must keep up with on Instagram, the list building efforts -- all of it.
It felt empty and trite.
It’s no wonder. Looking back now on the way I marketed and what I believed qualified as “good marketing”, it was empty. Plus, I’ll be the first to admit that I had a stick up my ass whenever I created a promotion plan that was sure to take advantage of our natural human triggers.
Here’s what it came down to: I was a marketer who didn’t stand for anything. I was all about results, the next amazing piece of marketing tech, and checking tasks off of a list.
So why was marketing important to me? How could I use the skills I had built in a way that mattered? And what kind of businesses did I want to spend my life minutes supporting?
In 2008, I watched a documentary you might be familiar with: Food, Inc. It’s about how the agricultural industry harms our planet and our bodies, and I was appalled by both my lack of knowledge and my complicity within the system. So I went vegetarian, and then a year after, I went vegan.
This documentary -- the idea it presented -- moved me to action in service of making a contribution.
It helped me connect the dots between what was happening in the world and what I could do about it.
To me, that’s the value of marketing in its most fundamental state. It moves us beyond just caring about something.
It doesn’t always need to be something as dramatic as swearing off meat or boycotting a business. It can be something as simple as liking a song enough to send it to a friend or recommending a restaurant.
Great marketing inspires us to share, to be seen, and to contribute.
Everything else that I thought marketing was -- social media, emails, client avatars -- they’re all tools, and it’s easy to be distracted by them.
If you’re like me, you enjoy running a business for a variety of reasons: the challenge of building something from nothing, the sense of fulfillment after a long day, the look of relief on a client’s face, and most notably, the position it puts you in to do something that matters.
I don’t want convoluted ideas of what online marketing is supposed to look like slow you down from making an impact.
Focus on who you are as a leader and how what you have to offer makes a contribution to society before you worry about social media or your webinar funnel.
Let your idea be bigger than the aesthetics of your Instagram feed.
You’re meant for more, more, more.
This article was inspired by this piece by Alexandra Franzen and everything Kelly Diels has ever written online. Thank you for being bosses that care.