When it comes to marketing, the word “courageous” isn’t often one we associate with self-promotion. “Sleazy” maybe. Or “pushy.” Or “uncomfortable.” But … courageous? Surely not.
Perhaps our discomfort with the term “courageous marketing” points to a deeper question we ask ourselves on a daily basis. In a world where mass marketing is forced down our throats at every turn, and rarely appeals to our intelligence, is it truly possible for anyone to market their work in a way that feels, natural, powerful and loving?
Is it possible to get past the sense that we’re “pushing something” on someone else—and actually feel like we’re coming in to save the day?
I believe the answer is yes. Mostly because I’ve seen some amazing entrepreneur-marketers do it, and do it well. (NOTE: I started using the term entrepreneur-marketer recently to identify those passionate souls who are building and promoting their own enterprises.)
The answer to the question of courageous marketing, however, starts with a matter of belief. In order to even begin down the path of courageous marketing, we entrepreneur-marketers must believe that what we have to offer the world truly matters and can make the right client’s life exponentially better.
Assuming we do fully grasp the worth of our own potential, there are a number of ways to know if that potential is showing up fully and powerfully in the world, so the people who need it can actually find it. As a marketing strategist and entrepreneur myself, I’ve watched entrepreneur-marketers go both ways on this. Some really step up and stand out—while others recede into the background, wondering why their businesses quickly follow.
So what separates those courageous entrepreneur-marketers from the slow (or not so slow) fadeouts? Here are ten behaviors I’ve observed time and again among the brave who put themselves out there:
1. Their marketing plan focuses on what they do want to do, not what they want to “avoid being like.”
Because marketing is viewed so negatively in our society, it’s easy to adopt the attitude (even subconsciously) that any kind of visibility or advertising is sleazy. When we approach our work this way, we’re focusing on what we don’t want, rather than what we do. And that puts us in a reactive rather than proactive stance. The most courageous marketers stop saying things like, “I don’t want to be pushy” or “I don’t want to sound like corporate marketers” start saying things like, “At the end of each post I invite my audience to take advantage of a free consultation.” Not only is the latter proactive, but focuses on generosity through a very specific action.
2. They actually launch their new website or online portfolio even if it isn’t perfect or even complete.
Brave entrepreneur-marketers are not hasty, or premature, yet they also know when their 27th draft is really just a form of perfectionism. They also know that when this happens, they’re dragging their feet because pushing “go” feels scary. So the most effective entrepreneur-marketers lean in to this fear. They constantly push “go” and refine later. They know that the longer they wait, the more opportunities they let pass them by. They also know that the perfect website isn’t what sells their services—and they avoid putting too much weight on a tool that it was never meant to carry.
3. They search and destroy powerless phrases like “please” or “would you consider” from their marketing copy.
Powerful marketers aren’t rude and demanding, but they sure aren’t so polite that they leave loopholes. Too much asking gives people an “out”—a way to reject the ask. And when we give people a way to reject us, they will often take us up on it. Brave entrepreneur-marketers show self-confidence with bold invitations like “Book now” or “Get your copy before it’s gone.” People can still make a decision about what they want to do … but at the least, the creator of the product come across enthusiastically about the awesome benefits it offers. Confidence is what sells.
4. They’re not afraid for a recent well-shot photo of themselves to be prominent on their website, business cards, and any other brand asset.
Entrepreneur-marketers who remain invisible are often ashamed of how they look or who they are as people, and it will affect their entire business. This doesn’t mean that we all need to lose 50 pounds, or get Botox. It does mean we need to actively work on loving ourselves as we are, and confidently allowing our real self to be seen through photography. It’s obvious when someone is hiding out behind a facade because they’re embarrassed. Yet study after study has shown that customers don’t want to bond with a website full of flowers or running shoes or hands. People want to connect with the real “us,” double chin, gray hair, and all.
5. They know exactly what’s keeping their ideal prospect up at night and don’t hesitate to address that fear in their sales pitch.
Fear is a powerful motivator. The best entrepreneur-marketers don’t manipulate it—because that causes more fear—but they do speak directly to that fear in order to provide solutions. Brave entrepreneur-marketers tackle the subjects the rest of us would rather avoid. They’re not afraid to play a bit of psychic and describe what their audience is feeling, right before they present the answer they have to offer. Because the best business owners know what they need before their customers do. Which is why I often tell my clients they need a crystal ball and a purple robe. And I’m only half joking.
6. They honestly speak up about their value, their skills and where they can best help clients, without worrying that they’re “bragging.”
If there’s one thing most of us are terrified of being socially, it’s accused of pride. Particularly here in the Midwestern United States, we’re taught to downplay our accomplishments by not mentioning them at all, or deflecting the praise or thanks that’s offered to us. But can I say, there’s a huge gap between acknowledging where we can be useful to others, and puffing ourselves up? And that gap is so huge, that there’s no way one can be mistaken for the other. Very often our allergy to pride causes us to cover up real, valuable information about how we can help others. Brave entrepreneurs become comfortable with expressing that value effectively.
7. They launch new initiatives, products or services regularly, test them out, and keep only the ones that work.
One of the most beautiful gifts of true confidence is the ability to fall flat on one’s face and keep moving on. Most of us only launch the projects when we think they will be completely successful. But brave entrepreneur-marketers (the ones who get ahead!) know the truth that Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn once expressed: “If you’re not embarrassed by the first iteration of your product, you’ve launched too late.” Truly brave entrepreneur-marketers roll out a variety of products and services, constantly assessing what “sticks” and what doesn’t—and keeping what does.
8. They pick one main brand identity and stick with it long enough to gain traction.
Self-sabotage is subtle, and it comes in many forms. For entrepreneur-marketers, it often comes in the form of flip-flopping or changing their brand identity so often that no one can consistently remember who they are or what they do. This can be a subtle way of avoiding success, because if we never get traction, we can’t be tied down to anything or have to deal with the fear or overwhelm we think may come when we get what we want. By committing to one 75% “baked” identity for a period of time, we actually allow ourselves to gain traction and find some success. We can always refine the identity later … but not if we’ve gone out of business first.
9. They regularly share their honest professional opinion on social media, through blogging, speaking or another public forum.
Brave entrepreneur-marketers aren’t afraid of offending their industry with their perspective, even if their solutions are completely opposite of another thought leader in their field, or critique “the establishment.” They don’t actively seek to offend or accuse , of course. But they do tell the truth. One key way we can know if we’re showing up powerfully in our industry is whether or not we find ourselves “hedging” our opinions or revising our posts to take the “teeth” out of our words. If we are, chances are we’re showing up as a watered-down version rather than our most powerful (and impactful) self.
10. People know their business exists and regularly refer qualified new prospects to them.
This one may seem obvious, but it’s pretty powerful. The more brave entrepreneur-marketers show up in the world, the more people will remember them. And the more they’ll send prospective clients. At first it might just be a trickle of one or two. But when the calls and emails start getting more frequent, to the tune of, “Hey, I know you do [insert your zone of genius here]. My friend Jane needs that …” we can know we’re on to something. Because people don’t talk about, or talk up, what they don’t know exists in the first place. This is why often the busiest entrepreneurs don’t have to spend time marketing at all: because their network does it for them.
That's just a small fraction of what courage looks like. The only question now is, "How courageous are you?"
Until next time, speak freely.
What does "courageous" mean to you? What's one act of courage you'd like to undertake in your business? It doesn't have to be big, but sharing it below will increase your resolve. Please comment!
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