How to Market Your Business When Nothing Is Working

I started my entrepreneurial journey when an interesting blog post was enough to get you attention…

…a well-crafted tweet could start a long-term working relationship with a partner, and a podcast — well, people still didn’t quite know what to do with those.

Needless to say, social media, blogging, and podcasting have changed a lot in the last 8 and a half years I’ve been in business.

Email marketing has changed a lot too. Sending weekly email used to feel like a lot but now, if you’re not sending several times a week, your emails are probably getting lost in the sea of other emails your subscribers are getting.

The fact is “what works” has changed.

In fact, for many business owners I know, it seems nothing works anymore.

If you’re feeling like you’re working hard to share your business with people who care but you just aren’t getting anywhere, it can be debilitating. After all, how can you put any effort toward the work you really want to do if you can even get people to pay attention?

After months or years of perceived invisibility, you’re likely to give up altogether.

This summer, I was speaking with Lisa Robbin Young, founder of Ark Entertainment Media, about this and she said, “When people say nothing is working, what they’re really talking about is tactics.” I couldn’t agree more.

Tactically, the marketing landscape is going through a sea change.

Power is consolidating among a few key platforms. Those platforms — your distribution channels for marketing — control how content is shared, who you can connect with, and what gets seen. Without a reliable way to spread the word about what you’re putting out into the world, even the media you own has less value to you as a business owner.

It might seem, at this point, that the situation is dire.

It’s not.

There is still a huge opportunity today for independent businesses like yours. People are hungry to buy from companies that represent their values, make them feel things other than rage or fear, and create meaningful or innovative offers.

Yours is one of those companies.

So then how do you reach the people who are so hungry to buy from you?

It’s certainly not by trying to make an end run around the Facebook algorithm, outsmart the bots on Twitter, or plaster your marketing messages all over the latest copy of Snapchat.

Forget looking for the magic marketing tactic that’s going to turn your business around and start getting real about what your marketing needs to do for you.

1.) Market one person at a time.

Maybe you got the idea that social media was going to help you reach hundreds or thousands of people at once. Maybe you thought that you could create “some content” and suddenly the masses would see, like, and share it so that you wouldn’t have to actually talk to anyone about your business.

I’ll admit, there was a time when this was partially true. That time is not now.

Marketing is, and has always been, the pursuit of reaching one person at a time with something they desire or need — be it content, a product, or a conversation.

Forget figuring out how to broadcast to more people (yes, one day your Facebook reach will become zero) and start figuring out how to connect with the exact right person who needs what you offer next.

You may very well still find them on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter — but you won’t find them by shouting out into the ether.

Next step: make a list.

I have my clients make lists of 10, 20, or 30 people they want to buy what they’re selling. Then they find ways of reaching those people one at a time. They might email, they might message them on Facebook, they might even — perish the thought — pick up the phone.

This genuine, personal attempt at connection almost always results in thousands of dollars in sales, fans for life, and a huge sigh of relief when they realize they never have to “launch” again.

2.) Focus on what you’re most enthusiastic about.

Your level of enthusiasm is a huge indicator in your likelihood of success when it comes to marketing.

Of course, since many business owners tell themselves they hate marketing, this is a big problem. Those folks aren’t going to be very enthusiastic. They’re the ones constantly trying to find that magic marketing tactic and their enthusiasm dips every time the latest fab falls flat.

Luckily for you, you can turn your enthusiasm into an unfair advantage.

Dacher Keltner, author of The Power Paradox, wrote, “Groups give us power when we are enthusiastic, speak up, make bold assertions, and express an interest in others.” He also says that enthusiasm was the strongest predictor of sustained social power in the groups he studied. Feel free to substitute “group” with “market” or “community” here.

If you want to build earn attention and power for your business, you’re going to have to show some enthusiasm!

Next step: make another list. This time, list out 10–20 ideas or topics you vehemently disagree with in your market. Then, list out 5–10 aspects or features of your product or service that you’re incredibly passionate about. Finally, list out 5–10 misconceptions your potential customers make and how your offer turns them around.

You now have a huge list of things you can speak or write enthusiastically about. Try creating emails, blog posts, podcast episodes, or videos from this list. Try speaking to local groups about something on the list. Try bringing up list items in your next sales call.

Your enthusiasm will go a long way toward connecting you and your company to the right people.

3.) Show, don’t tell.

Your potential customers are more skeptical than they’ve ever been — and with good reason.

They’re really not interested in reading, hearing, or watching something that explains something they’ve heard a million times before — but never seen results from.

Nor do they want to hear how your product is the best, most innovative, or most fun ever created.

They need to see it. They want a demonstration. They want to be shown what’s on the inside, how it works, and why it works.

If your product is really different, they want to see that difference in fine detail — right alongside the things they’ve tried before.

And yes, “show, don’t tell” applies to service-based businesses as well as product-based businesses.

Next step: Get creative, get transparent, and be willing to put your offer side-by-side with other offers to show off the differences. Create a video, slideshow, infographic, or checklist that actually shows what’s truly unique and special about what you’re offering.

What’s working is nothing new.

The strategy and tactics you’ll need to successfully market your business are not being developed in a posh office in Silicon Valley right now. They’re grassroots, person-to-person, authentic, transparent actions that have always worked to grow businesses.

Those actions–like picking up the phone or speaking in front of a group of local community members–might make your heart race the way posting 10 times a day to Facebook does not but they’re infinitely more effective.

Whether you’re just getting started and wondering how to find your first 100 email subscribers or you have thousands of people in your audience and no clue how to re-engage them in this brave new world, the answer lies in these 3 keys: market one person at a time, focus on what you’re most enthusiastic about, and show don’t tell.

This post was originally published on CreativeLive.

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