Heart-led Marketing for the Creative Soul
Marketing... ugh. Most of us tend to groan when we think about marketing. I don't know about you, but it can feel icky to me. I don't really like having to "sell" things - whether that is selling myself, my brand, or my products/services - something about that word "sell" just makes me want to forget those whole business thing completely and walk away.
But really all it takes is a simple mind shift to make marketing seem less gross, less scary, and less daunting. The next time you think to yourself "hmm, what am I doing to market to my audience"... replace the word "market" with "connect."
We crave connections. Humans are a social species, and we want to feel like we are connected to something else. Both the person in business, and the potential audience, need a sense of connection. And while if you google "what is marketing" you'll pull up definitions like "the process from which goods and services move from concept to customer" and "process of teaching consumers why they should choose your product or service over your competitors" and a focus on the 4 P's of marketing, as solo, artistic based business owners we need to focus more on marketing as a form of connection, rather than a form of self-promotion.
When you replace "marketing" with "connection" you make space for a heart-led style of building relationships with your audience.
My business is based heavily on a sense of connection. People hire me because of it. When I pour my energy into creating and maintaining connections, my income goes up. When I get distracted, burned out, or tired, and I let those connections wane, my income goes down. It's an incredibly powerful thing. It's also something I see others struggling with over and over.
Instead of just asking "how to I find and book clients?" you really need to be asking yourself "how do I connect with potential clients?"
Don't worry about selling them anything, not yet. You do need to have an idea of what exactly it is you want to sell, but don't just start selling and promoting yourself right out of the gate. Instead, first build relationships. Build connections. Invest in those things, in the people who take the time to read what you read or look at what you do, give as much as you can, freely, and you'll find it's a lot easier to sell the thing you need to sell.
There are exactly two businesses in the industry where I have spend thousands of education dollars and many hours of my time. And it's not the business I am buying from - it's the two people behind each of those businesses. I come back over and over to those two people not just because of the results they deliver - which is important, but that's a blog post for another day - but because of the connection I have with them. They get me. Or at least, they do a really, really good job making me think that they get me. As a client, that's what I want. They don't have to convince me to buy their newest thing. They just have to keep showing me that their connection to me matters to them, and I pretty much buy all the things on my own.
That's the power of connection-based marketing. On their end they are absolutely marketing to me - they have developed a product, they've set a price, they have a plan to put it in front of me, and they have a promotional strategy. But they've also tended to their relationship with me, and others like me, and that connection is something that transcends any single product's or service's promotional strategy. It's a consistent, constant, long term investment in me as a client, and the audience I am apart of, rather than a yearly or monthly promotional push on their part.
And when you build a connection-based marketing strategy, you'll find that the ups and downs of your business even out over time. You'll find that you don't have to go looking for clients as much. It does not mean it will be easy - it takes a lot of work, energy, and time to invest in an audience and build those connections. But it pays off so, so much better.
So I want to encourage you to make a commitment in 2018 to tend to your audience. And if you are sitting there right now thinking "but I don't have an audience!" - I understand. And I'll have a blog post out in the coming weeks showing you the steps you can take to start actively, authentically building your audience. But you can still benefit from making connection-based marketing a part of your workflow right now.
I'd love to see you do these three things for 2018:
1. Create a connection-based marketing schedule for yourself
These should be relatively easy, actionable things you can do daily, or at least regularly, that connect with your audience. That may be as simple as blocking out an hour of each workday for a repeated task. The key is that these should be things that will either connect directly with others, or help set you up to connect with others. I've already created my 2018 marketing calendar in iCal. I've got it set to remind me every day of one thing I need to do. And I already have my work day set up to devote about an hour a day to those connection-based marketing tasks. You can download that same calendar HERE - just upload it to your iCal or Google Calendar, and you'll have an entire year scheduled out, with one thing you can do each weekday. And as you start and get into a rhythm, you can easily edit and adjust the calendar to better meet your exact needs.
2. Commit to starting a newsletter
I have technically had a newsletter since early 2014, but I have struggled with it for 3.5 of those 4 years. It's only been in the last 6 months or so that I've finally seen what so many have tried to tell me - that it doesn't have to be a sales-based, icky thing. That it can be a super powerful way to connect with others. That it can be a personal, story-based content delivery system. And as soon as I finally made that switch in my mind, it suddenly became something that I respect and understand so much more. If you don't know where to start, start by telling a story. Introduce yourself. Say hi. Pick one person who you know and love and trust, and who cares about you and your business, and pretend like you are writing it to them. Then do it again, once a month. Don't even worry about promoting or selling. Just try and connect. Build relationships. Encourage people to reply to you. That's something I've started doing recently, and it's been SUCH a powerful way to remind myself of the real people on the other side. And when people do reply, it's such an amazing reminder of that connection, and it's so encouraging. Because I need that connection just as much as they do. Maybe even more.
And if the idea of a "newsletter" still seems icky (I'll raise my hand on that) - call it something else. No one likes a newsletter. But we like stories. We like articles. We like tutorials and insights. We like personality, warmth, and connection. Build it on those things - or start a podcast, commit to blogging regularly, or making videos - and then use your newsletter list as a way to simply inform and connect the names on that list with the content and connections you create elsewhere.
3. Don't go dark
I am SO guilty of this one. As an INFJ, I find that I crave connections just as much as I am I worn out by them. It's such a catch-22 for me, and sometimes I retreat and go totally dark - meaning I don't post, I don't write, I don't share. It's not because I'm trying to hide anything. It's just because I need to be able to breath, and I don't always know how to do that when there are too many connections. But then I get even more down because I am missing those connections terribly. Which is another reason why a marketing calendar can be so helpful. It's a simple, little nudge every day to stay connected, to not go dark. You may feel like you are connecting because you are on Facebook or Instagram, reading and looking at your feed. But unless you are also generating content, and commenting and supporting others, you aren't really connecting. You're going dark. So just be mindful of that, and remember that no one is nearly as visible as they think they are. The way the algorithms work mean that not everyone sees everything you do. Not by a long shot. So keep doing, over and over, but do it with a heart for relationships and connections, and I just know that 2018 will be your best year yet.