Do you find that your clients come to you asking for the same thing…
…and they all mean something completely different?
That’s absolutely the case for me, and for the marketing problems that send business owners looking for help from a strategist like me.
But over time, I’ve noticed overwhelming themes in where most small business marketing challenges start and why so much of what we try to solve them with doesn’t work.
Where most small business marketing challenges start
It can sometimes be helpful to visualize the flow of people moving toward your business, and deciding to purchase, like a funnel.
(This is as much marketing jargon that we get into, but please remember that you are not locked in an over-air-conditioned seminar room. You are a good person, and you are safe. NO – DON’T PASS OUT! LOOK ME IN THE EYES, DAMNIT! YOU ARE SAFE, I SWEAR TO YOU!)
Whew! Okay, back to funnels.
I’ve been a consultant for the last ten years to online business owners, government agencies, non-profits, artisans, makers – all kinds of different folx in all kinds of different industries.
And if you had to visualize where nearly all of my client’s problems are when we start working together?
It’s above the whole damn funnel diagram.
For people who are starting a new business or are pivoting their problem is starting up and maintaining the process of attracting people to their business because a funnel only works when you have something pouring into it.
For people who are trying to attract clients with a larger budget, or are specializing and need to attract more people in their new niche, their problem is proactively setting (or resetting) expectations for the people who are finding them, while attracting more of the right people.
And while my clients always think of “marketing” as one big problem, it’s almost never that simple.
The reason “marketing” is such a slippery problem for intentionally tiny businesses is that it’s actually two problems.
And if you don’t solve both, marketing never gets easier.
TWIN CHALLENGE OF MARKETING INTENTIONALLY TINY BUSINESSES:
Problem #1: The quantity of the RIGHT people discovering your business is relatively small.
So far? Frustrating but solvable.
Problem #2: The way that people find you are completely outside of your control.
Welcome to chaos.
Friend, even if this is the only project you’re trying to handle in your business, this is a combo platter that will fuck you up.
Because you end up setting income goals, or goals for a certain number of new clients.
But without an attraction engine, you don’t have a button that puts you in front of new potential customers or clients.
So you keep wishing something would change, without a clear way to change it.
…so you “show up” on social media by publishing and liking posts
…and you wait and hope that people start discovering you
…and you log in again, but it feels like you’re checking a box
…and it feels demoralizing
…and you start wondering if you’re just kidding yourself
…and frankly, wondering if you were even cut out for this at all?!
Now, if that’s not where you go with this? Amazing! But most of us get into this self-reinforcing negative cycle at least some of the time.
There’s a scary psychological concept that describes this: learned helplessness.
“Learned helplessness occurs when an individual continuously faces a negative, uncontrollable situation and stops trying to change their circumstances, even when they have the ability to do so.” (Source: Psychology Today)
How this usually plays out is that if an animal receives random shocks (my editorial comment: ugh, science…) and has a button to push to stop them but it only works some of the time? They’ll give up trying.
Now, you’re not a lab animal in an experiment and I’m not a psychologist, so if this parallel isn’t useful to you then disregard it. Not that you need my permission to do that!
But if you try to grow your business and the tools you choose don't connect to generating results – like, for instance, publishing! – then you’re at risk of burnout, and even worse?
You’re also at risk of coming to the conclusion that this is just what being a business owner is like, and that there’s no point in trying to change.
And WOW does that have massive implications for your future.
As an entrepreneur with generalized anxiety disorder, depression, and a dash of bipolar 2 I find knowing about this to be incredibly helpful because I really don't any extra barriers between me and my goals!
(And I'm betting that even if you don't have any of those challenges? You don't want any extra barriers to success either!)
I have found that knowing that creatures of all kinds will give up when they feel helpless and that this is completely normal and expected is incredibly helpful because it gives us access to a huge body of research around what prevents it – and even what can fight it.
Having no control over what wins you clients isn't just undesirable, it’s unsustainable.
It’s easy to understand that it’s risky and unsustainable to not have control of what determines your income and financial security.
It’s also not sustainable or healthy for us on a basic psychological level. It takes a tremendous toll over time and warps what we think is normal and what we see as a problem that’s possible to solve.
When this is left unchecked, I see people try to cope with this by minimizing their exposure to risk by staying quiet, not sharing their opinions, not connecting with others, not finding mentors…
And ultimately they shrink their efforts and dreams all to avoid the discomfort of feeling like they’re vulnerable.
What a terrible reason to give up on what matters to you.
If you’re anything like me, you didn’t start your business to stay the same. I think you started it to build something bigger than you, and that you know that’s not possible without growing the person who’s running it.
How to fight entrepreneurial burnout
With all of my clients inside of my program, Uncomplicated Marketing Academy, we always start by defining their attraction engine.
An attraction engine is a strategy, tactic, or set of actions that you use to get in front of potential customers or clients who have never heard of your businesses before.
It gives you back control of what earns you income.
And perhaps most importantly: it immediately takes you out of helplessness so you can start building resilience, actually enjoy your business, and stop worrying so much!
The crucial problem that will determine if your business thrives is getting in front of enough people.
Enough that you can get fully booked.
Enough to have a waiting list packed with excited people.
Enough to get meaningful feedback from invested people.
Enough to charge what feels good to you, and donate to the nonprofits that you adore.
Enough to be able to refer work to friends.
Enough to be DONE with working on the weekend.
Enough to be able to have a whole weekday (or two!) devoted to delight and rest.
Enough to buy a tiny house and have a writing shed.
Enough to get the really good cheese at the grocery store.
Or switch to the luxurious grocery store if you’re wild!
Enough on your terms. Whatever that means to you.
Knowing how to get more people’s eyes on your business is what lets you create that.
Solving that problem is so incredibly worthwhile for you, and everyone around you.
Ask yourself: How can I get my business in front of people who've never heard about it before?
All healthy businesses have them.
And if you don’t know what yours is?