Here’s an assumption that I make in my marketing – that my readers are intelligent, curious and won’t take what I write at face value. I hope to present some new information, challenge some assumptions, and provoke people into trying out new things for themselves in their business.
Unfortunately, the world is full to bursting with a number of stupidly simple beliefs, techniques and strategies that need to stop right now. They make the people propagating them look stupid, and they’re potentially disastrous for your business, should you act on them.
1: Tying self-worth to income
This one really irks me because it preys on people’s vulnerabilities – those who are most lacking in confidence are the most likely to be sucked in by it. Why is tying self-worth to income stupid and, I hazard, unethical?
Because your income has nothing to do with your self-worth – just ask a parent, grandparent, ambulance driver, school teacher or childcare worker. Are these people inherently lacking in self-worth because they’re unpaid or low paid?
And no, it’s not a different story for entrepreneurs, like entrepreneurism is some magical portal.
Multiple, complex reasons influence what you earn, including your marketing, branding and copy writing, testimonials and case studies, your positioning, your confidence to raise your prices (very different to self-worth), the geography of your business, your competition, and your product landscape.
Self-worth has nothing to do with income. If someone tries to suggest this, take this as a sign that you should run a mile, and don’t look back.
2: If you give it away for free, people won’t pay
Will this one die, already? How can people know of your expertise, your experience, your perspective, attitude and philosophy if you don’t give a little away? You’re not selling flashy cars that you can show off by cruising around town with the hood down. You’re selling services – services built on expertise. So stop being stingy and give a little away.
This doesn’t undervalue what you do and it doesn’t mean people won’t transition from free to paid offering.
But please! For the love of all things chocolate, resist the temptation to discount to get people in, be firm with your terms and conditions, and ensure your free offering has a limit. Make sure people appreciate that this is not the basis for your business, but a lead into your full-priced offerings.
3: Being too focused on branding
This one seems counter-intuitive and, believe me, branding is essential for businesses of any size. However, there’s a growing trend, especially among young entrepreneurs and hobby businesses, for too much introspection on branding and positioning at the expense of, you know, actually making money.
If you’re a brand new businessperson, you need your first client to help you get a second, and your second client to help you get a third. Then you funnel (some of) these earnings back into your business. You move incrementally towards awesomeness, paying a little more for branding, graphic and web design and copy writing at each step along the way. You’ll need to move beyond DIY because this will hold you back and you’ll need to keep challenging yourself as you get used to greater costs, greater prices, greater business.
Unless you have an investor or bank loan, you can’t afford to be overly focused on branding and positioning. If you’re boot-strapping your business, you need to make money first, before you can spend it.
You’re feeding your family, not your ego. Yes?
4: Social media doesn’t pay
There’s a lot of hate for social media marketing (as well as a disproportionate amount of love) and, like all emotional debates, much intelligence becomes lost in the argy bargy.
For the skeptics, it’s mostly a case of misunderstandings and resultant fear.
Two major things are at play here – first, we don’t like some of the ways some individuals use social media and so we write-off the entire phenomenon. We conclude, having seen some narcissistic twit taking duck-face selfies, that all social media is narcissistic and stupid. We conclude, having read a few newspaper articles, that social media is responsible for rising depression and anxiety, social isolation, falling literacy rates and political apathy.
We’ve thrown out the baby because there’s a turd floating in the bath water.
Second, we don’t like the idea of being exposed, public and receptive to feedback. Social media marketing feels naked and asking for, and receiving, feedback in public feels excruciating.
I’m sorry sister, if you’re in business you are, by definition, in public. Being in business for yourself means putting yourself out there. Seeking feedback on your business is not only smart, it’s essential if your business is to keep up with trends and demands, and continue to innovate.
There are countless stories of how social media marketing doesn’t pay. And countless stories on its high return on investment. Say what you like, but please speak from experience.
5: Coaching and training is imperative
Another curly one, because knowledge and education are wonderful, and essential. I’m a business coach, speaker and trainer and pretty handy at spending money on training, courses and seminars. I buy so many books that I’ve read about a quarter of the books I currently own (with more online purchases on their way).
If we’re to grow, in business and in life, self-education is essential. Nothing beats curling up with a good book in bed on a rainy day, sun bathing on holidays, on the toilet, waiting for the toast to pop, or in bed at night (reading in company is the sign of a rigorous friendship methinks).
The problem stems with the amount of business education, coaching and training available and the myth that we must, as business owners, be constantly improving ourselves. That’s all fine and dandy, but what time is there left over to, you know, actually work?
The rise of course junkies, jumping from course-to-course, hopping on planes to attend international and interstate conferences, reflects the rise of educational consumerism. We need time to implement our learnings, to test and experiment with new techniques and strategies, and to focus on one thing at a time.
Course junkies are in the grips of FOMO (fear of missing out) and don’t slow down enough to implement anything.
Business education needs to be implemented. Each course, coach or training you undertake should be reflected in your business balance sheet. For your business education to be useful, you need to follow through and do the work.
It’s education, not entertainment.
6: Looking for business advice in books
Book are, by nature, general (see first point of article). Business books are great if you’re interested in trends, current thinking or need a jolt of inspiration. But if you think a master is going to give away their gold for $19.95, think again.
A business book that wasn’t general and delivered real value would likely be so dense with data and other detail that it would be as interesting as reading someone else’s holy book in someone else’s language (ahem).
7: Diversification bandwagon
It makes good business sense to try to spread your risk and minimise your business’s risk by diversifying. Except for when diversification it’s not based on your business positioning, skills, or a well-researched market opportunity, and makes no sense at all.
The trend towards business diversification is simply FOMO (fear of missing out) en-masse. Businesses are jumping on the bandwagon, especially online, to have a membership portal, an e-book, an e-course or program.
Much of this makes absolutely no strategic or financial sense at all. If your membership site is $20 per month, how many members do you need to cover the cost of a new website, tech support, video production and hosting and a regular stream of new content? How many $9.95 e-books do you need to sell to make $100,000 a year? Can you make these sums selling e-books and memberships with a mailing list of 200?
Offering this, that, him, her, and a heap ‘o Sundays isn’t smart, or innovative, or progressive. It’s unimaginative, it’s confusing, and it creates a glut in the market which is no good for anyone.
Do you want your business reputation to proceed you? Then stay on topic, resist the urge to create a new offering that makes no strategic or financial sense, and don’t confuse your audience by jumping on every bandwagon that trundles by.
8: Training Trainers
Related to FOMO is the old train the trainers scheme, which has been around for years but keeps being reinvented. Business owners look at what everyone else is doing, notice that others are asking them how to do what they’ve done, and start offering to train others.
This is short-sighted for three reasons – first, it creates a glut of trainers in the market, second, it creates more competition for yourself, and third, just because you can do something well doesn’t mean you can teach others too.
My father was a journalist and is a great writer. But he’s terrible at explaining his editing process or why I should start a sentence one way and not the other. My aunt is a whiz at MYOB accounting software but frequently loses her temper trying to explain it to me.
Training trainers who will become your competition means you need to be thick-skinned, flexible in approach, and have enthusiasm in bucket-loads. Any teacher in the public arena puts herself at risk of being ripped off and usurped. It’s simply a hazard of the job.
9: Being authentic
Authenticity has become a real buzzword lately. And while there’s much that’s good about this trend towards personality-driven copy and content, there’s much that stinks.
There is a problem with being too honest in business, and I’m not talking about ethical business, which should be mandatory. The problem begins with business owners without firm boundaries who aren’t able to skilfully use their personal stories and insights to draw clear conclusions to service to others.
All too often, in the name of being authentic, business owners are relentlessly self-referring and introspective, blogging about tragedies, depression and illnesses while they’re still going through them, and forgetting about being helpful to their audience. They’re using their blogging audience as unskilled, unpaid psychologists.
There’s something intrinsically interesting about others’ misery. It can be immensely helpful to read about others’ challenges that are similar to your own. Just don’t dress up narcissism, mental ill health, and a scary lack of boundaries and call it authenticity in business.
10: Internet famous
Closely related to the above, and similarly heinous, is the trend towards being internet famous. It’s not enough to work and earn money anymore, today’s business trendsetters need to be internet famous.
Thanks to social media, we can now showcase our lives to best effect for the minions watching on – from your morning meditation, green juice and slow beach walk, to your long power lunch with your similarly glamorous internet famous buddies.
The problem with the internet famous trend is that working is highly unglamorous. You can’t Instagram your spotty 20-year-old assistant, your dining table scattered with debris, or yourself sporting daggy trackie dacks if you’re building a million-strong followers. So millions of dollars are some magical byproduct of long lunch, or so it appears to your adoring tribe.
11: Turning employees into entrepreneurs
There’s nothing worse than ‘working for the man’ because you’re keen on security, enjoy working in teams, and love your job, and then some new manager comes in to create havoc. Said manager is excited because he wants employees to act like entrepreneurs.
This deplorable trend has some upsides – it’s good to think outside the square, to be experimental or to take risks. But there’s a reason why some people become musicians and others become accountants. Businesses will not inspire the best from their employees by trying to get people to conform in a “ho ho! Isn’t this fun?” kind of torture.
Group think is alive and well in all facets of society, and expecting Joe from accounts to start thinking about how crowd-sourcing and tribe-building could make the company more money will lead to Joe’s unhappiness and, eventually, decline.
12: Thinking entrepreneurism will save the world
There’s much that’s fabulous about entrepreneurism, not least of which is the necessity of creativity, the thrill of experimentation and risk, and the dizzying financial and emotional rewards.
But entrepreneurs will only save the world if that’s their focus. Romanticising tech start-ups whose mission is to look smart enough to attract funding and flip the business as quickly as possible for as many millions as possible is misguided. Their marketing may be first class but their mission needs to be clear, legitimate, useful, relevant and for social good.
We may well use entrepreneurism to save an aspect of the world, but only with the right focus, the smartest business model, and the buy-in of the paying public.
Can’t stand group think? Hate playing ‘follow the leader’? Ready to be bold and seen and possibly even outrageous in business? Then check out Hustle & Heart – open for a short time now.