Step Out of the Marketing Echo Chamber

This article is a call to put more intention into the way we market our products and services – because our actions inform how we perceive ourselves, which affects how we think and act subsequently.

It started with a conversation with a seasoned entrepreneur who had built several businesses, including coaching/consulting and technology.

We talked about the fatigue and skepticism that’s growing around all the marketing and promotional tactics flooding our space right now.

The blueprints and formulas that make everybody sound the same.

The hype that lures newcomers in the door with big promises of rainbows, unicorns and magic bullets; The churn and burn to make room for the next wave of new prospects.

I’m on the list of several “big wigs” in the “coaching” space (just to keep my ears on the ground) and I noticed how they’re pumping out the same cycles of content year in year out launching the same programs – some of them twice or three times a year!

This churn and burn fatigue is getting worse. The cycles are getting shorter. Some marketers don’t even bother to build relationship with their audience.

They may pay lip service to providing value… but we can smell clone-drone marketing from miles away. Might as well just go straight in for the kill.

The intention back in the beginning is threadbare – the collection of motions we’re going through has been stripped of its meaning. It’s hurting all of us.

The “rinse and repeat” makes not-giving-a-crap OK and encourages intellectual laziness rather than evolution and innovation.

I don’t care how sparkly the sales pages are. I care about what comes up at the other end. That’s what I see and hear – from the trenches, boots on the ground:

People get dumped out of the hamster wheel – dizzy, dazed, frazzled; feeling like a loser who takes 4 steps forward and 3 steps back, and not knowing what to do with themselves.

This is not right. We can’t expect to get the whole “running a businesses” thing in just a year or two. (By that I mean really get it, not regurgitating jargons or reciting feel-good fluff.)

Yet this is the “life-cycle” of getting sucked into the machine, got churned and burned then spat out with a scattered bunch of tactics without the experience or perspective to tie them into a cohesive whole.

Leaving those with big ideas and good intention disillusioned, deflated and often out of funds.

We’re done with those 4-video launches, 5-email sequences, 6-figure sound bytes and funnels with a dozen up-sell, cross-sell and down-sell permutations.

I’ve tried them. Sacrificing my voice and seeing the same thing happening to others made me sad.

I wish I had a “solution.” I’m in as much of a pickle as everyone else.

If not more. Because somewhere along the way I’ve fallen in love with clarity, discernment and words…

Not only to do everything with utmost intentionality, but also to express the intention undiluted and unapologetically.

We’ve been around the block a few times. We’re done with the cookie-cutter BS and ready to do something differently – with clear intention to create meaning.

We’re in the gap where the old is wearing out and the new hasn’t fully emerged.

We’re stuck with the same “formats” we’ve grown to be skeptical about.

So much so that sometimes I resist taking action because I feel like I’m just going through the motion.

I don’t want to be pessimistic. I don’t want to throw in the towel.

Yet sometimes, it feels like there’s nothing new under the sun and cutting through the clutter has become a futile exercise in fighting with myself.

I’ve spent a good part of the year “detoxing” from the “how things are supposed to be done.” Maybe the questioning and self-scrutiny only made life harder.

Of course the format of delivery shouldn’t be the hurdle. I want to believe that intention and messaging are what matter.

Alas, amidst all the noise and distraction, we’ve built mental shortcuts to survive. We’re conditioned to tune out.

While we may still have to work with the same mode of expression for the time being, I believe we can get behind on what’s emerging:

Less information, more conversation…

… for how we communicate, and how we’re being communicated to.

Lead with our action, vote with our response.

Wake up, be discerning (no 60-minute webinar can give you the magic bullet to get all the clients you want while sipping cocktails by the pool) and don’t insult your audience’s intelligence.

Don’t spoon-feed your audience stuff that some blueprint or formula say you have to say. If you don’t buy it, why should your peeps?

I started out in the “coaching world” but I never take to those cookie cutter promotional tactics.

The fake scarcity. The “you have to invest a boatload in yourself or you’re a loser.” The “you’re not serious about succeeding if you don’t pull our your credit card now.”

Making people feel like crap, inadequate, wrong – using guilt to talk them into buying more stuff.

Hiding behind the disguise of “being of service” while pulling the fears and scarcity trigger mercilessly.

Most of us are swimming in this same stew, reading the same stuff and letting the same emails eat at us.

What if we step outside of the box and ask better questions?

Break out of the echo chamber. Step back for a broader perspective.

Go back to asking – what matters?

The Future of Digital Marketing: Five Trends to Leverage a Small Business Opportunity

Jameson General Store was a historical treasure in the small North Carolina Community. Jim Jameson, the owner, had been part of the family legacy over 100 years old. The company had seen bad times, including The Great Depression. However, their hard work and customer loyalty had sustained the company’s success.

Even when a neighboring community got its Walmart’s Marketplace Store, their customers remained loyal. Jim did not believe in utilizing online advertising and social media platforms. He believed that these activities were only a fad. Yet, their customers gradually started shopping online because Jameson General Store was limited in its product offerings.

In fact, most of the business that Jameson Store lost was not to local competitors, but online sellers. Jim was adamant about resisting the temptation about shopping online. Yet, when he saw his own 10-year-old grandson purchase a difficult item to locate in the area online at significant costs, Jim had to ponder his current marketing strategy with the changing landscape in the nation.

Today’s customers can purchase a variety of items online with minimum effort. Given this scenario, brick and mortar companies are fighting to stay alive with the fierce internet competition. According to a 2017 survey conducted by Square and Mercury Analytics looking at 1,164 U.S. business owners, the following observations were made:

  • 96% of Americans with internet access have made an online purchase in their life, 80% in the past month alone.
  • 51% of Americans prefer to shop online.
  • 67% of Millennials and 56% of Gen Xers prefer to shop online rather than in-store.
  • Millennials and Gen Xers spend nearly 50% as much time shopping online each week (six hours) than their older counterparts (four hours).
  • 51% of seniors have shopped on marketplaces, 66% at large retailer sites, 30% on web stores or independent boutiques, and 44% at category-specific online stores.

Marketing professionals understand the importance of the internet and how to effectively leverage this power. According to Socialmedia.com, 90% of marketers use social media for their businesses. Sadly, many small businesses do not recognize this fact. Many businesses had opted to bury their heads in the sand in hopes that this ‘internet thing’ will go away. It hadn’t!

In fact, e-Commerce is growing more than 23% annually; however, 46% of American small businesses do not have a website according to Square and Mercury Analytics research. This article focuses on how small businesses can leverage digital marketing to achieve greater success and enhance their market opportunities.

Digital marketing should be a tool that every serious small business should utilize. Digital marketing goes by many names such as e-commerce marketing, online marketing, and internet marketing. Digital marketing can be defined as “the marketing of products or services using digital channels to reach consumers.” The key objective is to promote brands the usage of the internet.

Digital marketing extends beyond internet marketing to include channels that do not require the use of the internet. Some digital marketing channels include websites, social media platforms, email marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), blogging, podcasts, and online advertising to name a few. Beyond technology gimmicks, businesses should know their customers and their core competencies. Digital marketing is not a silver bullet. Digital marketing is a tool for the savvy business professional.

Catherine Juan, Donnie Greiling, and Catherine Buerkle, authors of Internet Marketing: Start to Finish, suggest that effective digital marketing requires plenty of careful planning. They add, “The heart of getting real traction out of your internet marketing program is to tie marketing and sales data together, with metrics. Track what you’re doing, track the impact, and track the resulting sales.” Looking at the landscape of technology and internet innovation, small businesses should think strategically about the following five digital marketing trends:

Artificial Intelligence – Some people develop elaborate doom-day scenarios of machines to control the world. However, artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming a way of life in marketing. AI can be defined as ‘the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence.’ Voice Activation technology like Amazon’s Echo is bringing AI into public attention. By 2020, customers will manage 85% of their purchases without interacting with a person.

Internet Searching – Buyers are more knowledgeable than ever with access to the internet. In fact, 81% of shoppers conduct online research before making big purchases. Thus, exploring how to utilize search engine optimization and getting your business at the top of searches is an invaluable step.

Mobile Communications – Most Americans have grown accustomed to instant gratification and easy access to technology. Mobile and tablet e-commerce will reach $293B by 2018. Smartphone and tablets are part of this wave of innovation. Mobile will account for 72% of the U.S. digital ad spend by 2019. Marketers recognize that mobile marketing is an untapped business tool.

Social Media – Social media platforms, like Facebook, allows buyers to connect with each other virtually. 65% of business-to-business companies have acquired customers through LinkedIn ads. Marketers realize this value.

Web Content – Good content will attract customers. In fact, customers are more likely to purchase from sellers with good, relevant videos/photos on their website. 52% of marketing professionals globally name the video as the type of content with the best ROI.

Faced with the tenants of competition, small businesses need to utilize digital marketing. Some small businesses may be hesitant to explore digital marketing due to their lack of trust and understanding of the internet. Philip Kotler and Kevin Keller, authors of Marketing Management, note “Top firms are comfortable using technology to improve the way they do business with their business-to-business customers.”

This article demonstrated that today’s small businesses can utilize digital marketing to enhance their market opportunities. Hopefully, gaining this knowledge will help business owners so that they will not continue to bury their heads in the sand. The internet is here to stay. Pray that you are listening to this message.

© 2017 by DD Green

Is Your Business Model Snuffing Out Your Message?

I often talk to coaches, consultants, freelancers, small business owners, authors, speakers… etc. who feel stuck.

Well, screw the label, that’s not important. They’re the “do their own thing, do something meaningful” kind of people.

They’ve done the professional training, bought the marketing program, and even built a business or two.

But they rarely go back to square one and question whether they have structured their business to amplify their vision and message.

Oh, you’re certified as a “coach” – so there’s what a coaching business model looks like: a 1:1 program, a group program, an online course, and an info product. Or, a 1-month, 3-month, and 6-month package. The end.

When people are starting out, a business model is a godsend. It gives you something to build upon and the visibility of “where the money is coming from.”

But as you evolve and refine your skills and message, it’s easy to get on autopilot and take the business model as a given.

What used to work when you needed training wheels may not work now that you’ve figured out what the heck you’re doing.

Have you revisited and validated your business model lately?

Is the suite of offerings in alignment with your message?

Are they giving you the best venue to serve your ideal clients?

Are the programs/products/services tapping into your strengths?

Are the creating the most value for your clients?

Are the formats of delivery amplifying your message… or are they snuffing out its essence?

When we try to squeeze our message into some predetermined format… due to habit, laziness, fear, unawareness, inertia, or good intention (because the gurus say so)… we may not be doing it justice.

Product-Centric vs. Client-Centric

If you start with a business model (which is essentially a collection of products, services, and pricing) instead of your message and its expression, you’re putting the cart in front of the horse.

Leading with a business model is a product-centric mindset. It’s an old-school approach and doesn’t do well when we’re evolving quickly as a society (think Kodak and film.)

Leading with an audience is a client/customer-centric mindset. It helps you stay relevant even when “the thing that people want” changes (think Netflix and entertainment.)

Leading with your message grounds your business in your Truth, connects you with the work you do, and anchors you in the community that you serve.

Have you asked your message what it wants to be when it grows up?

Are you connected with your message in such a way that you can let its expression come through without overthinking it or mucking it up with your ego?

Pop the bubble. Leave the echo chamber.

Don’t limit your message to “what a _______ business is supposed to be like.”

(If you keep digging, you may realize that your business isn’t about ________. What if you’re something else?)