Welcome to another edition of my Weekly Journal! I use this space to share about my journey from lawyer to jewelry business owner. In this week's journal entry, I want to talk a little about marketing. If you just started a small business or want to someday, it's important you become comfortable with marketing. Yet so many small business owners think "marketing" is a dirty word! It's something that makes them feel icky and slimy. But how can customers find you if you don't engage in marketing? You might have the solution or item they've been looking for but if they don't know about you, they can't buy from you.
Let's start with the basics. What is "marketing" anyways? The American Marketing Association defines marketing as "the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large." Basically, it's your strategy for communicating to people who might benefit from your product or service. News flash: posting to Instagram on a daily basis is not a marketing strategy! It can be one part of your marketing strategy. But, in order to work well and scale up, your marketing strategy needs to include multiple avenues for communication. In other words, it needs to be diversified. And you need to have a marketing budget. There are free communication channels (like posting on Instagram) but a real marketing strategy that has the possibility of long-term success incorporates both free and paid marketing strategies. What type of paid marketing strategies are out there? You can run an advertisement in your local newspaper, run ads on Instagram or Facebook, learn how to use Google Ads, start an email list and communicate with your subscribers regularly (and make sure you're giving them value! No one wants another newsletter in their inbox that has nothing unique, special, different, or valuable about it), run ads on Pinterest, pay for a space at a trade show if that's where you're most likely to meet potential customers, etc.
Let me insert some real talk here. You might feel a little overwhelmed after reading that and thinking about a marketing budget. But if you want a REAL business, you need to engage in REAL marketing. Selling to friends and family is not a real business - it's more of a glorified hobby. I'm sorry if that sounds harsh (and by the way, it's totally ok if you want a little on-the-side sort of business like that!). But I think most people start a small business with the hopes of growing it into something that can really support their family, with extra left over. And if that's you, you need to sell to strangers. Your friends and family can only buy so much. So how do you find strangers to sell to? Marketing!
If you feel icky or slimey about marketing, like you're some sort of used car salesman, I would suggest you work on your ideas and beliefs around marketing. Read the definition of it again - it's the "processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers." If you truly believe you meet a need and your product or service has value, why would you ever feel icky about telling people about it? You have a solution that meets their need! And p.s. you don't need to be solving world hunger! You can be solving the silliest need ever - for example, I would absolutely love if someone came up with a lotion pump that would allow you to use the last amount of lotion at the bottom of the bottle. That would be amazing! Have you ever turned the bottle upside down and used the remaining lotion? It lasts for like 2 weeks! That's a lot of money to dump down the drain over the years. So, ask yourself, what value does your service or product have to the people who'll most enjoy it? Keep your focus on the value, and you'll stop feeling like a used car salesman.
If you're struggling here, let me suggest something else. You might need to work a little bit on your confidence. If you aren't confident in your business idea, how can you expect a stranger to be? This is an issue for women in particular. It's like this - you finally get the courage to start your own business, and now you have to work on having the courage to believe in your products or services. But for some reason, we doubt. We doubt whether people will really like what we have to offer. We think, "Why would someone ever want to buy from me?" It's a mind game! I've said this before, and I'll say it again. Starting a business is a challenging personal journey and it requires you to work more on your mindset than your website. P.S. I have been there! I know what it's like. And if you need someone to talk through this with, I offer mentoring services which you can read about here.
I hope, after reading this, you're thinking about marketing in a new light. And let me end with this - marketing is going to be a huge part of your duties as a business owner. If you truly don't like it, you might want to reconsider becoming a business owner. I mean it! Of all the tasks I do each week, marketing always takes up the most time. I didn't know this before I started g+h, but I happen to really enjoy marketing. I enjoy learning about it, studying it, and taking courses on it. I enjoy looking at all the data and trends and making new strategies based on that information. I think it's really interesting, especially in this new era where small businesses can afford to advertise on social media platforms and reach ideal customers so easily. It is so inexpensive and effective compared to the days when people had to advertise in magazines and newspapers (and you never really knew how effective the ads were unless someone specifically told you they found you in such-and-such magazine).
One last note. I don't recommend outsourcing marketing, especially in the beginning. I recommend you take a few courses on marketing (I can make some recommendations if you like!) and learn about it yourself. Then, after you've tried some different things and somewhat nailed down your strategy, I think it's ok to hand over the reins to someone who can take your directions and make it happen. Why? In the beginning, marketing is just too important to outsource - it basically forms your business's personality and image, and that stuff is still forming and changing in the early stages. It's just like an infant! And if you outsource it, you're giving a stranger too much power to form your business's personality.
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