You are not a marketer

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You are not a marketer.

Unless you are. Which is just fabulous, if it’s what your soul is called to do.

But because you’re here, reading my blog, it is more likely that you are a coach, wellness professional, artist or guide.

Maybe you are a professional organizer or you create retreats and workshops that facilitate meaningful shifts in people. Whatever you do, it’s in service of ease, pleasure, growth and/or well-being in others.

There is nothing wrong with being a marketer.

Marketing is an important job. My own work dances in the realms of marketing. I am a huge fan of marketing. One of the most common ways my clients use their finely crafted message is to put together their own marketing programs and campaigns. They craft speeches that call forth droves of their best clients – a marketing move that trumps all others. We can do a fine job of marketing our services with a beautifully crafted message that calls out to the right people.

But make no mistake – crafting your message and calling forth your best clients doesn’t make you a marketer.

No matter what you hear out there on the streets of the internet. Don’t believe them.

All it means is that you are doing your own marketing – for now. That marketing is one of the things you do.

Think of it like this: I bet most days you cook yourself and possibly your loved ones a meal, right? Does this make you a chef?

Of course not. It makes you a someone who provides nourishment for yourself and your family.

You and I engage in marketing activities because it serves the overall good of spreading our life-changing message and work.

We market our services and products because marketing is the way we let people know we are here to serve them and their greatest desires or help them resolve their overwhelming struggle.

Why am I telling you this?

Because sometimes, when you put yourself out there to attract clients, you won’t get the results from your marketing efforts that you expect and wish for.

If this happens and you think you are a marketer, you might make up that you aren’t good at your work. And that would be very, very wrong.

I’m writing this note to you as a remider that your work is that heart-centered message you have for the world. Your work is changing real-lives and making things better for those you serve. Hone that craft to its greatest brilliance. That message of yours – that’s the work of your soul.

And yes, you still need to get out there big and wide with that invitation to your right clients, letting them know you are ready and willing to make their lives better.

You will engage in trial and error. Some things will work beautifully – and some won’t be so effective. That’s okay – you’re not a marketer anyway. You’re a messenger, a mentor, a guide – and person with lives to change and make better.

And as soon as you are able, find yourself a team of soul-inspired marketing experts to take as much of that part off your plate.

(You and your message will still be your biggest marketing magnet anyway, but you won’t have to manage the systems so much. Whew!)

Because your brilliance shines most brightly when you are dancing in the center of your greatest strengths. Dance there often – and wildly!

And don’t worry, I will still do everything I can to help you get the word out about your beautiful work. You and I just know that whatever results you experience are not a reflection of your great work, right? Good.

Results from Small Business & Private Practice Marketing Survey

Jeez, I feel so lucky and warm inside from all of your responses to the nine question survey I put out there a few weeks ago. I had 35 really rich, engaged, fabulous responses. I think my favorite thing about this is that I didn’t offer anything in return for the time you all spent filling out this survey. I’m not surprised that you are a generous bunch, actually – it’s just so lovely to have such a clear demonstration of said generosity. Thank you all.

I’ve decided that I am going to share the results of this survey – in a somewhat freeform discussion style – because so much of it was interesting and, I believe useful, for all of us to know about our fellow small business owners (at least the ones who filled out this survey.)

For reference, here are the questions from the survey:

1. What is your business type? (therapy practice, NLP Practitioner, non-profit, counseling, massage practice)

2. How long have you been in this business?

3. Are you the owner (or a partner-owner) in this business?

4. How satisfied are you with the number of clients you have right now?

5. How happy are you with the type of clients (including the kinds of issues they are bringing to you) you are seeing in your practice right now?

6. If you were to name one real struggle you are having in your practice right now, what would it be? (e.g. finding more clients, attracting the right kind of clients, marketing overall, juggling all of the tasks of business ownership…)

7. How do you feel about marketing your practice?

8. What marketing avenues have you tried in your business?

9. Where do you go to get more information when you need help with building your practice or other business needs? (mark all that apply)

And now, for the survey results from the small business & private practice marketing survey…

The Sample (From Counselors & Therapists to Plumbers & Video Production)

Since I tend to work with and attract counselors, therapists, alternative health practitioners, artists and creative-types, many of the responses were from people in those types of businesses. That said, I heard from people in the insurance industry, publishing, bookkeeping, real estate, floral artistry, chefs, plumbing, video production, natural health & wellness, organizing… see what I mean about how cool this survey turned out to be? Love it.

Almost 90% of respondents owned the business they are working in and many (40%) have been working in their businesses for more than 10 years. The bulk of the remaining responders (34%) have been in their business between 1-4 years.

State of Small Business Affairs

Most of the respondents wish for more clients, though just under 26% are happy with their current number of clients. 51% are unsatisfied or very unsatisfied with current client numbers. That is a frustrating place to be, I know. But the good news is, 71% are at least reasonably happy with and genuinely enjoy working with the type of clients they currently have (and over 31% are very happy) – that’s fabulous!

For those who want to grow their client list, there is good news…

For the Love of Marketing Your Small Business

They enjoy marketing more than I expected! What a fun discovery. This surprised me a little because I often hear about how much small business owners don’t tend to like marketing – especially business owners who build businesses based on their passions. This simply wasn’t the case for this sample. 69% “don’t mind” marketing and 20% actually “love it”! 25% consider marketing their small business a “necessary evil” and only 2 people said they “avoid it”. Overall, that’s more marketing-love than you ever hear about on the business wire.

So, if it isn’t that everyone hates marketing (like we often hear about), then what is getting in the way of marketing their businesses they way they want or think they should? Can you guess? I’ll give you a hint: they are the two things that get in the way of most things in small business. Yep: money & time. Actually, let’s turn “time” into “time + overwhelm”. People are just overwhelmed with all of the tasks of small business ownership, pure & simple. (I know how they feel at times. I’m guessing you do, too – no?)Then, even when they do dream up a great idea, pulling together the funds to try something they are not sure will work can be a little freaky… and, well, overwhelming.¬† Other feelings & words mentioned about marketing were “fear”, “fun”, “love networking”, “I’m an introvert”, “time consuming” and “eeeeeeek” – plus more. It’s a complex world, the marketing endeavor.

When they do decide to… endeavor in to marketing, how do they do it? What marketing techniques do they engage? 85% use networking groups (this might be because I tend to use networking groups and I’m guessing some of my lovely friends from those groups made up a good bunch of the respondents in this survey – thanks y’all!) Of the respondents, 74% have a website and 57% advertise in local publications. 51% of people give away free consultations (see, I told you this is a generous bunch!) Then we have, in order of popularity: phone book listing, referrals, speaking, newsletter, blog, publish articles. (Boy, there’s a lot I’d like to say here about missed opportunities! Watch for future blog posts…)

The Pain & Suffering of Small Business & Private Practice Business, Revealed

Everyone says small business is hard. They often say it can be very rewarding (here, here!) but that it is difficult to get to that place of peace that let’s the “rewarding” part arrive. I wanted to know why… What is the expressed pain of small business…? What compelling desire do small business owners carry in their solar plexis (or whatever chakra carries their desires) every day as they go about their work?

Here’s what I learned: It’s primarily the juggling of so many tasks (10 people actually used the word “juggling”). That was the most common answer. Second to this was “finding more clients” or “growing the business”.¬† Of course, then there are the issues of employees, the economy, branding, pricing decisions, travelthe need to wear a zillion hats (regardless of whether those hats are well-suited for you!) like bookkeeper, marketer, service provider, networker, writer, speaker, and customer service department.

Yep – a good amount of “pain” in the mix, to be sure. But that doesn’t surprise any of you, I know. You have your own business pain (and pleasure – of course, the pleasure!)

The Antidote to Pain is Connection (Which is also the Road to Pleasure, isn’t it?)

The cool thing is, almost 75% of respondent’s have friends and colleagues they can go to for problem resolution. Such goodness. This is my favorite way, too. A close second place for dealing with issues is networking groups (which, in my experience, becomes a place full of friends and colleagues over time.) Third place is the Internet – and again, I wonder if a good part of the issue resolution here happens through connection with other people in online forums, on blogs, in Twitter or on Facebook… or any multitude of people-gathering places. In order of popularity from there is Mentor, Books, Publications and finally… the phone book (poor phone book, used to get so much more play before the Internet.)

So, that pretty much sums up the findings of the survey. I’m not pretending that this is a representative sample of the small business population, of course. Still, it’s some good and useful stuff. Tell me – does it reflect your own experience? Does your experience differ? If so, how? What would you add to this survey? What do you believe just didn’t show up here in the right was? I’d genuinely love your thoughts, feedback and ideas – whether they agree or disagree with all of this.

Thanks M. Kelley archaeology for the survey guy image.

Radical Clarity: The Secret to Creating a Business You LOVE

Picture this: You walk into your office and the phone rings. You think to yourself, “Ugh. I wonder who this will be…”

You answer the phone (unsmiling, of course) and the person on the other end says, “Hi! Is this [your name]?”

“Yes, it is.” You reply.

“Oh, good! My friend, Resa, gave me your name. She says you [insert a task you know how to do but dislike doing]. I need that done. Will you do that for me? And, I’m in a hurry so I wonder if you could get started right away?”

Your “ugh” has turned into a knot in your stomach. You need the money – you do know how to do this… but this isn’t what you want to be doing in your business. The problem is that somewhere along the line you started becoming known for this service and more and more people are coming your way as they hear about it from others.

What happened here?

It’s Easy to Get Off Track

You’d be surprised how often this happens in small business. It can manifest in many forms:

  • The jewelry designer who builds an empire of employees and spends all of her time managing the business and none of her time doing what she loves – designing jewelry.
  • The therapist who spends most of her days helping people with depression and anxiety when she pursued this field to help people find their intended, soulful career path.
  • The massage therapist who treats medical injuries all day because she heard it was the way to make a better living doing massage, while she pines for the spiritual practices she learned during massage school and wishes she was using those techniques more often in her practice.

It’s a subtle path, the journey to doing work you don’t love. We often start out at the appropriate starting line. The lines get wavy from there, though. We get “coached” in the wrong direction by well-intentioned friends, family, and advisors.

Business ownership is a complex ride. It is easy to get off-track.

The Road to Radical Clarity

That’s why Radical Clarity is so essential. Radical Clarity comes from asking ourselves deep questions and providing really honest answers. Questions like:

When I have “arrived” at my dream business, what will I be doing? Very specifically, what will I wake up and do each day?

What do I love about the work I do?

What is my brilliance? Where do I shine in ways that are remarkable?

What legacy do I want to leave in this life? (For my family, for myself, for the world, for the Universe…)

Listen Hard & Wide

Radical Clarity comes from being willing to hear ourselves say things that scare us, such as:

“I want to limit my practice to women on a spiritual search”

“I want to write a book and be a nationally recognized speaker”

“I love marketing and business planning. I’d love to hand over the rest to a talented person when I grow this business large enough.”

Set aside judgement in service of True Listening. When you hear the real Vision you have for your life, you can create a plan (strategy) for making that Vision a reality. Without that clarity, you let the happenstance of daily life, with all of its roller coaster of emotions, build your business. Happenstance doesn’t know your Vision – only the needs and desires showing up on any given day… and the next… until you have a business built on a series of events that have nothing to do with your dreams and passions.

Don’t let Happenstance hi-jack your dream business.

Radical Clarity is the only way to ensure that you build a business you truly LOVE. Go get it.

(I wrote this article first on my Biznik article stream but wanted to share it with you all here, too.)

Thank you Inno’vision for the happy phone call image.

Blogging Leads to More of Your Right Clients

Starting a blog can feel daunting. I know because I thought about blogging a long time before I started to do it myself. Even then, I struggled to really get into blogging. I think the reasons for this struggle are similar for many of us who are in heart-felt business endeavors: 1. We like to listen to others so sharing our “expertise” in what appears to be a one-way fashion (which it’s not, but at first it really feels like it is) feels strange, 2. It takes a lot of confidence to put yourself out there in such a bold way to such a potentially gigantic audience, and 3. We already have too much to do so thinking of topics, figuring out how to write them in a way that’s interesting, and learning the technical aspects of blogging feels overwhelming.

If you can write reasonably well, you really should blog

If you listen to or read anything about marketing your business or private practice today you will hear how important it is to have an online presence – and one that attracts your Right Clients, fans and potential collaborators. The best way to do that – hands down – is blogging. (Actually, public speaking is even better, but that’s not an online endeavor, mostly… but more on that soon.) Blogging is a great way to be generous with your knowledge, invite conversation and show your expertise.

If you can Guest Blog, too, that’s a lovely bonus.

Eventually, if you keep at it for a while, other people might invite you to blog on their website, too. This is great news for a number of reasons: 1. you get a brand new audience, which means a whole new set of possible connections with you and your business, 2. you get “linkbacks” to your website, if they agree to add a link to your website – these are good for Search Engine Optimization, and 3. it is an endorsement from a third party that they think you have credible expertise.

You never know where these guest blog opportunities might show up.

After I wrote my first Working Retreat blog post, in which I talked about home swapping as a way to arrange a retreat at lower cost, I got an email from Lois at Home Base Holidays asking if I would guest blog on their companion blog about using home exchange for working retreats. (Which I did and here is that blog post.) What a cool opportunity for me. A whole new audience, and one that fits my Right Clients well because I work with solo business owners like counselors, social workers, therapists and artisans so often. Many of my clients chose to go into business for themselves so that they would have the flexibility to travel.

So, start your blog, if you haven’t already.

I really do relate to the uncertainty about beginning your blog. I know there are so many things that you could do to grow your business. And, I also know that blogging draws community and potential clients to your page. From there, it’s about creating¬† meaningful relationships just like in any other part of life. And you know how to do that. So give yourself this opportunity to reach a bit further in your connections.

Starting a blog can be really easy. If you need a few pointers to know where to start, get in touch via email or comments here. I am happy to point you in some useful directions.

Thank you to Foxtongue for the fabulous blogging via typewriter image.

How to Create a New Website with Less Angst

It took about five months to design and launch the new The Brazen Soul website. I thought for SURE I could get it done way faster – after all, I am a workhorse, willing to keep at it hours upon hours until the thing gets DONE.

But that’s not how creative, collaborative project go. You can’t rush brilliance. And you certainly can’t convince everyone else involved in the project to take on your ridiculous workhorse ways.

Creative endeavors take t-i-m-e. Time. TIME.

And patience, which I’m constantly trying to cultivate but wondering if it’s just too far outside of my strengths.

That said, looking back I realize there are a number of things I could have done differently when creating The Brazen Soul website. I hope sharing them will make your next website project – or any creative collaboration – less anxiety-provoking and more streamlined.

Here are the five biggest takeaways I’ve had from my website redesign process:

  1. Direct communication with the Designer/Design team is critical. The Brazen Soul rebrand was really an offshoot of a plan to create a new website. I was working with a coach at the time and the further we got into the business details of a new website, the more clear it was that I really needed a whole new brand (actually, a new business name, too!). My coach was an excellent co-thinking partner and brilliant at helping me navigate the rebranding process. Handily, she had a design branch of her business that handled logos and websites. I like and trust my coach, so I hired her team on for this project. Turns out, her “team” was housed somewhere far far away, with a 9-hour time difference, and every single tweak or revision took from three to FIVE days. The process was excruciating. I did get a gorgeous logo out of the process, though it took something like 40 original concepts to get there (note: if you are anywhere past 5 or so original concepts, there is a serious communication problem/design skill situation.) The website creation process began to show the same patterns, so I bailed out of that arrangement relatively early. The lesson: Have direct communication with the creative team to ensure that your design wishes are heard and understood – as are deadlines and revision timeframes.
  2. Relationships make a big difference. I have a number friends who are designers. Most of them actually don’t like to work with solo entrepreneurs and small business owners. We are notoriously undecided and slim-budgeted, I hear. So, even if they would make an exception and work with me because we are friends, I didn’t want to be the one to affirm their preconceptions about entrepreneurs. The website developer I ended up hiring, Lynn, and I have worked on client projects together before as well as co-facilitated workshops and presentations together. She designed my previous website as well. As soon as I realized the error of my ways in my new website process, I called her. She hopped on my project immediately (with nary a sarcastic told-you-so comment, the lovely soul) and put me directly in touch with her favorite designer, Asha Hossain. Through lots of conversation with me, Asha (who is definitely working in the sweet spot of her strengths – she’s so good) designed a site I love. The difference in angst was night and day with these mutually respectful, collaborative relationships driving my website project. The lesson here: If you know that someone is really good and you have had great experiences working with them in the past, use them again. Don’t start anew with the unknown when the known is already great. (Jeez – this seems so obvious when I put it there like that. hmph.)
  3. A self-created wordpress blog can bridge the gap nicely. Designing and building a website takes a while, even when the whole team jumps on board immediately and everyone’s plates are empty enough to concentrate a lot on your project (which wasn’t entirely the process with mine, but damn close.) In my case, it didn’t make sense to use my old website since I had a very different new brand and business name. So, I took my amateur wordpress blog skill to the task. I went to www.wordpress.com (not www.wordpress.org, which requires your own hosting and a bit more technical skill) and chose a theme with a customizable header. After some frustration (required of most new technological ventures, in my experience) lasting a very short time, I had a temporary home for The Brazen Soul. It wasn’t fancy – but really, it worked beautifully. I made new connections every single day via that website – in all of it’s simplicity – and for me, that’s what it was all about – getting the new brand out there and creating meaningful relationships. The lesson here: Doing something now is way better than doing nothing and waiting for the perfect something (sometimes. In this case.)
  4. Let expertise drive the task while you joy ride in the backseat. Once the designer was on the task, it was all a lovely, awe-inspiring experience. We exchanged a bunch of emails about my business, the purpose of my website and details of my Brand Elan and Asha brought on her brilliance in design. Then the same process was repeated in functionality planning with Lynn of webprodigy.com. The more I let them bring the solutions and let go of controlling every detail, the more often I was happily surprised by their remarkable ideas and outcomes. The lesson here: Let go and your collaborators will bring exceptional brilliance from their strengths and Contribution.
  5. Pad the budget – time and money. Even with my workhorse ways and a ton of flexibility and commitment from my web team, the project took way longer than I hoped or planned. It just does. I changed my mind a few times. We had all these holidays in there like Christmas and New Years (annoying!). The copy wasn’t flowing as easily as I hoped it would when it came time for me to write some of the pages. We had all of those final itty bitty fixes that happen on any project of this kind. Of course, all of that mind-changing and great new ideas added design and development costs. I don’t regret a single one of those changes or additions in functionality – but I hadn’t planned for them either. The lesson here: Add at least 20% (I’m making that number up – but it’s about right for my project) to the time and budget for your web project so you have room to produce the most remarkable project possible.

I wish you great success on your website or other collaborative project. I beam happily every time I open up The Brazen Soul website so I know all of the time, energy and resources are worth it. Well, that and the fact that community is building beautifully through The Brazen Soul brand, just as I hoped. Let me know if I can be of service to you in any way as you venture into your project. I have a checklist for choosing a web team and a Website Planning Worksheet that walks you through the many planning details of creating a new website. I’d be happy to send them over to you if you send me an email with the request.

Thank you Martin Kingsley for the angsty guy image.