In todays show I share 8 lessons I've learnt in 8 years of digital marketing. This episode will challenge you to rethink your approach to marketing and the consumer experience.
P.S. For the parents listening, this show is only explicit because I recommend a book title that has a swear word in it.
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Eight years ago I was growing my very first start-up: Strong Liftwear.
My business partner at the time, Andrew Coleman and I were working from his tiny apartment in St. Kilda, our living room was a sea of cardboard boxes exploding with gym wear.
I was studying full-time and working part-time. During my lectures I would post to social media and respond to customer enquiries, on my breaks I would rush to the post office to send orders.
By the time I finished my degree, I was able to work on the business full time alongside Andrew.
Since then, I’ve played a major role in a diverse range of start-ups.
It’s been a wild ride, I’ve worn a lot of hats and the digital landscape has changed significantly.
This week, I wanted to do something a little different and share with you a few of the lessons I’ve learnt over the past 8 years.
As a self-confessed perfectionist, mistakes and failures are the end of the world to me.
The fear of failure and the mistakes themselves have been something that has caused me a lot of unnecessary anxiety, pointless regret and negative self talk.
I can tell you, after 8 years of being in business, I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that failure is inevitable and a problem we all face. The very nature of being human, is being imperfect. It’s a part of the human experience.
This entrepreneurial lifestyle has forced me to become comfortable with the uncomfortable and realise that failure is essential to growth.
You need to be willing to try new things and fail in order to figure out what works and what doesn’t, it facilitates the possibility of change and improvement.
The only way to innovate in your industry is by doing what hasn’t been done at the risk of failing.
If you're like me and are worried about stuffing up and looking stupid, these are two things that have helped me manage this:
a. Reading other peoples experience with failure and vulnerability. I highly recommend ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck’ by Mark Manson and ‘Big Magic’ by Elizabeth Gilbert and
b. Bypassing those internal cues of feelings of dread and anxiety and instead look for external evidence of your failures. Are the peoples reactions around you equal to how you’re feeling? Or is it all in your head?
Don’t be afraid to fail. Don't miss out on opportunities because you're afraid of failure.
2. BE YOURSELF
Have you noticed that everyone online starts to look the same? We mimic trends, influencers and celebrities in an effort to fit-in.
For the 90’s babies I’m going to take you back to Groove Armadas track “If Everybody Looked the Same” . The song goes “If everybody looked the same, we’d get tired of looking at each other”. This has never been more relevant.
The best way to stand-out in an environment where everyone is starting to look the same, is to be yourself.
Opt-out of the uniformity on social media and surround yourself with influencers and brands who represent diversity and inspire you to show-up authentically.
Don’t get me wrong, you’re not going to please everyone. But this is a blessing, not a curse. By being yourself you will attract the attention of the right people.
Marketing is just as much about deterring the wrong people, as it about attracting the right ones.
I suggest writing out 3-5 values and the same number of beliefs and living by them.
They will keep you accountable, authentic and unique.
For example, one of my values is purpose. When I show up online, I do my best to serve my community by providing value.
One of my beliefs is “stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things is the best way to grow”. Recently I started exploring Reels.
My values and beliefs drive my actions in a way that is true to me.
3. HUMAN BRANDS CONQUER
In a world that is fuelled by algorithms, automation, artificial intelligence and virtual connection, being human is now a competitive advantage.
It’s not enough to exist online purely to sell anymore.
When I began this journey 8 years ago, technically 9 because there was a solid year that went in to the launch, the focus of businesses was telling consumers what they want and promoting the hell of out it.
Brands were faceless, but now, people want to see themselves in the brands they endorse.
They want brands to reflect their values, beliefs and commitment to worldly issues.
According to a 2019 study by Braze, a customer who has had an experience with a brand they perceived as being human, is significantly more likely to love that brand, make a purchase, feel satisfied and recommend them to a friend.
Right now, creating authentic experiences for your consumers and having human conversations is key.
So how do you make your brand more human?
Your communication should be natural, considerate and personal…
A helpful exercise is to think of your brand as a living, breathing person.
You can think of this person as an extension of yourself or someone you know and write a list of the personality traits it has and doesn’t have.
Give it a name!
How does it talk? Formally or casually? Does it use slang words?
What does it value and believe in?
Keep your brand personality in one spot so you can regularly refer to it when showing up online and in your business.
4. YOU CAN’T ICE A CAKE THAT DOESN’T EXIST
Your competitive edge, purpose, ideal consumer, values and beliefs are the core foundations of your brand. It’s the cake.
Combined, they help guide your business decisions, including where and how to show up online in order to achieve your goals and purpose.
In contrast, the icing is the tactics, the small steps or actions that will help you achieve short-term goals.
If you’ve been trying the latest and greatest tips to beat the algorithm or generate more leads and you’re not seeing any results, there’s a good chance you’re focusing on the icing before you’ve even made the cake.
You’re throwing spaghetti at the wall hoping something will stick.
It’s a common mistake I see a lot of small business owners make and it’s the difference between the brands in your industry that all look the same versus the ones that stand out.
These memorable brands have solid foundations and communicate them clearly.
Think of it like this… you could have 2 brands that offer the exact same thing to the same quality. One brand has invested in its core foundations and is more expensive.
It's the presence of these core foundations that will cause a consumer to pay more money for a similar service.
The more expensive brand knows what they stand for, understands their consumer and communicates this clearly and effectively in their marketing.
So before you focus on the tactics, I strongly encourage you invest in your brand foundation first.
The tactics will change, but your brand foundation will remain constant.
5. YOU CAN LEARN ALMOST ANYTHING
I studied Science at University.
Most of what I’ve learnt over the last eight years has been self taught, through trial and error or forced experience.
But just as much has been from networking, reading, listening to podcasts and investing in short courses.
I’ve been an accountant, a web developer, a graphic designer, a copywriter, a customer support person, a human resources manager, honestly the list goes on.
I’m sharing this because as small business owners, we wear a lot of hats and often face challenges that feel beyond our capabilities.
I want to reassure you that you’re capable of more than you know and everything you need is at your fingertips, you just need to look.
6. BECOME A JACK OF ALL TRADES AND A MASTER OF ONE
Outsourcing your weaknesses is the dream in the start-up and small business world.
The idea is, that outsourcing will give you the time and space to focus on what you’re good at, whilst making your business more productive and profitable.
I’ve learnt that it isn’t enough to simply outsource your weaknesses, unless you’re lucky enough to have access to highly skilled people you trust.
A much better idea is to have a solid understanding of a wide range of disciplines needed to succeed in your business.
This will help when you do go to outsource these roles because you will know exactly what roles and responsibilities you need to hire for as well as avoid being exploited by people who over-promise and under-deliver because you will have an understanding of the targets that they need to meet.
7. MAKE SURE YOUR WEBSITE IS CONVERTING BEFORE YOU INVEST IN LEAD GENERATION
Website traffic is great, but if that traffic doesn't convert in to subscribers, leads and ultimately clients then it’s basically useless.
You might be thinking, “I’ll just focus on getting more visitors then” but I’m here to tell you that more visitors doesn't necessarily turn in to more conversions.
Before you focus on lead generation, for example on paid advertising, competitions, influencer marketing, collaborations or whatever you’re doing to generate more leads, first focus on making sure that traffic will convert.
By focusing on conversions first, you will get more bang for your buck when you do start to invest in your lead generation because the idea is that a greater number of your website visitors will take the next step with you.
So what do I mean by focusing on conversions?
I mean making sure your website sells. There are several things you can do to achieve this like improving your website load speed, making sure it’s user and mobile friendly, utilising testimonials and using clear and compelling language to communicate how you solve your consumers problems…
This is an entire episode in itself so I’ll go in to more detail in a future episode.
8. IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU
In 2018 I became a qualified yoga teacher. Random, I know, but bare with me.
Before the final examination which was teaching to a class, I felt extremely nervous.
I will never forget the advice my yoga teacher Amelia Schrader gave to me which was… it’s not about you.
This completely shifted my perspective. Rather than focusing on how I presented, I focused on the students and what they would get out of the experience. I showed up for them.
Marketing is much the same.
People don’t care about your business, they care about themselves and what they get out of the relationship.
This is because as humans, we have a natural tendency to think and talk in terms of the self.
So keep this in mind when you show up.
Rather than focusing on how great your business is and what milestones you’ve achieved and who your employers are and what makes them so fantastic, think in terms of the consumer.
How does this relate to them? What’s in it for them? Always circle back to the consumer, because that’s who you’re in business to serve.