The word has many connotations.
It sounds businessy and powerful, doesn’t it?
This intimidating little word makes you feel hopeful, frustrated, and queasy at the same time.
Am I getting warm?
You’re not alone.
You’re beginning to realize marketing’s role in your potential success or failure, and that ticks you off a bit.
You’re a writer, and most days you wish you could avoid business altogether.
Leave it to the numbers people.
But you understand what it takes to make a living from your art, from your hard work and creativity. We won’t even mention the sacrifices it took to get you to this point: the years of study, showing up at the page every day, hammering out your heart without any guarantees.
You’re a soldier. You’ve committed yourself to this calling, yet you find yourself backing down each time you try to promote yourself and your work.
Why can’t you get this little marketing engine running? Why can’t you just flip the damned switch?
Read on to discover 23 reasons why you’re failing at marketing.
You’re Afraid of Marketing
It’s time for some honesty, isn’t it?
Face it. If you’re not actively marketing yourself, something’s holding you back.
Often, that something is fear.
One of the ways we typically handle fear is by avoiding it. We tell ourselves we don’t have enough information yet, that conditions are less than optimal. Unfortunately, these lies keep us stuck.
We’re afraid to put ourselves out there. We’re afraid to risk rejection, failure, and the potential loss of self-esteem.
So we play it safe, remaining on the sidelines, allowing our dreams to wither and lose their power.
We sit back, waiting for our stars to align, for the perfect opportunity, for the right mindset to magically appear. Some of us wait for some “other” to show up and rescue us, someone to push us through those barriers that keep us locked in place.We sit back, waiting for our stars to align, for the perfect opportunity, for the right mindset to magically appear. Some of us wait for some “other” to show up and rescue us, someone to push us through those barriers that keep us locked in place. Click To Tweet
Without facing it, the fear grows and assumes control. Ironically, the easiest way to diminish the fear is to face it, to act upon it, to do the unthinkable: to put yourself out there, all out there, all on the line.
When we take action, the fear shrinks, creating just enough room to move forward, to see progress, to gain momentum.
We’re scared of marketing because it’s full of unknowns. But we must realize its power, its role in creating an audience for our products and services.
Marketing is essential. It’s also inescapable.
So, it’s time to begin where you are, roll up your sleeves, and get to work.
You Think Marketing Is Sleazy
After spending decades in creative industries, I understand this feeling of unease around the subject of marketing. Sleazy salesmen, impossible promises, and underhanded tactics come to mind.
As a creative person, wanting to express yourself authentically and positively, marketing might feel like you’re losing control of this benevolent bubble you’ve created for yourself.
You’re afraid you’ll turn off your audience. Or worse, you’re afraid that your marketing messages will lead to intense scrutiny, making you a target for heavy-handed criticism.
You’re afraid your message and your integrity will get lost or mistranslated. Once the marketing machine begins, you’ll be unable to stop it.
Remember that you are in control.
It bears repeating:
Remember that you are in control.
You can control your message. You can market yourself in an infinite number of ways that reflect and protect your integrity. No one can force into dishonest territory.
You Hate Marketing Yourself
For those of you with marketing experience, you may find it easy promoting others. You have no trouble detaching when working with other people’s products, services, and marketing messages because it’s not your reputation on the line.
When it comes to marketing yourself, however, you feel too close, too invested. This attachment becomes an obstacle. You’re afraid to make the smallest mistake.
To conquer these issues, it helps to create a profile of your ideal prospect, a person who cares about your work, a person who understands and values your work.
As writers and authors, we may discount the value of our work, viewing it as art for art’s sake rather than a valuable product. When we shift our thinking toward connecting with a friend or colleague who needs our help, we can begin matching our marketing message to that customer image.
By choosing to view your “product” as a service, this shift is enough to gain perspective and balance. Any valuable service deserves payment. From this new vantage point, you’ll find it easier to detach from prior associations.
You Don’t Have a Marketing Plan
Organizing our thoughts, desires, and actions causes problems for most of us.
As creatives, we love to fly by the seat of our pants, to respond to inspiration as well as the varied twists and turns our days offer us. By telling ourselves that we’re living authentically in the moment, we fail to make adequate progress.
Constructing and following a plan helps us bypass the everyday challenges that might otherwise derail us.
A plan makes us accountable for our own progress. A plan forces us to take daily action– even when we can’t guarantee the outcome.
Marketing has no guarantees. Accepting this gives you an edge; it can also help you detach a bit.
You can try different strategies and test their effectiveness, understanding that trial and error is the path.
So make your plan, and follow it. Once you’re up and running, test, tweak, and revise.
You Don’t Have a Clue
Like any worthy endeavor, the hardest part of marketing is taking the first step.
However, you may not know where to begin.
Pick up a few books, subscribe to a new podcast, and spend an hour each day reading marketing advice online. There’s no good excuse. The web is full of marketing tutorials.
If you feel like you’d thrive with a mentor, hire a coach, or enroll in a course. You can find low-cost marketing courses at your local community college or online.
Maybe you’ve dabbled in marketing, but you’re not getting the results you want.
For some of us, we find it hard to be consistent. Are you marketing daily in the same venues and measuring the results? Do you check back to see what is working versus what is wasting your time?
Have you given your current marketing efforts enough attention and enough time to see results?
Commit to 30 consecutive days of marketing on a particular channel before judging its efficacy. You’ll need to invest your time consistently before drawing any conclusions.
Create a spreadsheet for your marketing activities. Log your activities, and record the dates. At the end of each month, you’ll have a clear picture.
You’ll know whether to continue or to move on to a different marketing venue.
At this early stage, resist the temptation to buy expensive advertising. It’s easy to fall into thinking someone else can bring you results for the right price. Knowledge is power, and the more you learn and understand, the better off you’ll be when it comes to making sound spending decisions.
When you’ve found strategies that work, you’ll know how and when to spend your money wisely. You’ll know when you’ve reached this point in your progress.
Any new venture can quickly become overwhelming. This is natural, because you lack experience.
The key is taking baby steps.
Begin with a single, free marketing channel. Pick a social media outlet with plenty of active users in your genre, and begin deconstructing the influencer accounts. Find the successful players, and reverse engineer their activities. Decide on a few positive, practical steps you can integrate into your daily routine.
As these new activities become part of your daily process, add new activities in increments.
Commit to an achievable, healthy goal for your first marketing channel. Don’t add to your stress and overwhelm by trying to accomplish too much too fast.
As you see yourself making slow, steady progress, the feeling of overwhelm will dissolve into a feeling of confidence and control.
You Haven’t Learned to Scale
Over time, you’ll learn that a single activity can be leveraged to ten times its power.
For example, taking a social media following from 1K to 10K can be quite easy. For every update you release, you’ll have 10 times the opportunities to connect and engage with your audience. For every potential prospect, you’ll now have 10 potential prospects to pitch your products to.
And remember, you can take every blog post or update and distribute it across 10 different channels.
Take a hard look at your activities, and consider where you’re thinking too small or limiting yourself to too few options.
You’re Not Using Marketing Tools
I can remember the first time I used a Twitter tool, that moment when I finally understood how to take my account to the next level. Excellent tools exist for finding targeted followers, tools that search for keywords that can match you with your ideal audience.
It’s important to avoid gathering followers who have little interest in your work.
Tools can help you quickly respond to replies without sifting through the clutter of unfiltered notifications.
They can help you understand the types of updates that work for you, the ones your followers actually engage with.
Tools can tell you the best times to tweet as well as the parts of the world that enjoy your content.
Tools are empowering, but choose wisely. Any tools operating outside of your social channel’s terms of service could result in an account ban. Make sure you’re using safe, reliable apps, and software. Ask around, and get recommendations.
You’re Not Asking for Help
Some of your biggest problems can be solved by reaching out. There’s no substitute for expert advice from someone who has walked the same path.
Find an expert by searching for their articles. After locating a recent, quality article on your subject, use the comment feature to ask your question. Be specific and brief. Give them the opportunity to take the conversation to a higher level.
After establishing a rapport with someone via their blog or social media, send them a short message outlining your question. While everyone won’t respond, you’d be surprised by the number of people willing to help someone like themselves, someone with the same interests and passions.
Google your questions, and find expert solutions for your problems.
You’ll never know until you ask.
You Don’t Know Your Audience
Before investing time in marketing yourself, make sure you understand your audience.
You’ll invest an enormous amount of time, money, and energy into a marketing campaign. Make sure you’re not pitching religion to atheists, trying to sell the perfect filet mignon recipe to an audience of vegetarians.
Find out what keeps them up at night, what they’re willing to spend money on.
Find out where they go online and offline.
Find out what they’ll drop everything to pursue.
And if you don’t know, simply ask.
Create a poll or questionnaire via Survey Monkey; post it in communities, message boards, and social media channels.
Go to ask.com, and gather multiple responses. Find a keyword tool, and look for the most commonly asked questions or keywords in your genre.
You’re Trying to Be Original
When most of us think about marketing, we think of clever ads delivered by expensive actors, celebrities, or supermodels. We think about the most entertaining, original ad campaigns on television: those big-budget Super Bowl ads.
But these ads offer little value in reality. They’re coming from large corporations with well-known brand identities.
The rest of us waste valuable time trying to come up with eccentric campaign slogans, with in-your-face ad copy that no one will forget. Unfortunately, these creative ventures come up short.
While we’re on the subject, what about sex appeal?
A recent University of Illinois study shows that popular, sexually-charged ads do little for actual sales figures. While they’re certainly clever and memorable, they just don’t move products.
So, put your fears to rest. You don’t have to be a household name, use sexual images, or be particularly original to be successful. In fact, originality may work against you.
People buy from people they trust. People buy from people they like. Some of this likeability boils down to familiarity. If you can strike a familiar chord with your audience, your value increases.
Stop worrying about becoming unique, fabulous, and unforgettable.
Focus your efforts on making honest connections, and you’ll position yourself as a likeable, trustworthy ally.
You’ve Been Deceived in the Past
At one time or another, everyone has been deceived by an unscrupulous marketer.
Unfortunately, they’re out there, and they’ll always be part of the marketing landscape. They prey on the most vulnerable, people desperate for quick solutions to their pain and suffering.
This doesn’t mean that marketing doesn’t work.
This doesn’t mean that your marketing efforts will be viewed in the same manner.
Buyers are skeptical, and that’s healthy. There’s no need to lie, cheat, or steal to sell your products.
Furthermore, good information exists, and there are plenty of quality marketing experts out there willing to help you achieve your goals.
Be skeptical, and be willing to find out what your potential buyers are skeptical about. Part of marketing is finding a way to overcome your customer’s doubts, fears, and objections.
You can provide authentic, informative marketing materials that speak to the unique needs of your audience.
You can move them into your corner without manipulation or dishonesty.
You can find valuable, actionable marketing information to teach yourself the ropes of the industry.
Never allow a prior negative experience to hold you back.
You Think It’s Impossible
I’ve wrestled with this issue many times myself, even when I knew better.
99% of the time, you get to choose what is possible and impossible.
Often, impossible is more attractive because it prompts us to quit, to convince ourselves that action is futile. This way, we can stay in our comfort zones, settling for less, playing the martyr.
We console ourselves with if only statements:
- if only I had more money…
- if only I were involved in a higher paying industry…
- if only I’d made better choices in the past…
- if only I were more lucky…
Henry Ford said it perfectly:
“If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”
All or Nothing Thinking
As you may have guessed, mindset plays a significant role in marketing success. Getting clear about your attitudes and the ways you’ll need to adjust them is key to success.
Few mindsets are as toxic as the all or nothing mindset. It says, “I need to be first, otherwise, there’s no point.”
It says, “if I can’t compete with the top dogs–the Apple’s, the Nikes, the Sony’s, I’ll never make it.”
It says, “I have to go from 0 to 60 in seven seconds, or it’s not worth the effort.”
All or nothing thinking lies, and it keeps you stuck.
While sitting around waiting for better opportunities or perfect weather, life keeps moving, pushing us away from our goals.
Slow, steady movement holds enormous power and potential.
You Haven’t Diversified Your Marketing Efforts
You’ve heard the old adage about putting all of your eggs in the same basket. In marketing, this ancient admonition holds true.
Be wary of predictions:
- E-book sales will soon out run print books.
- Print books will outsell E-books
- Today’s Facebook will become tomorrow’s MySpace.
Like Google’s algorithm, The only thing we can count on is change. One day in the future, kids will ask, “what’s a Google?” Indeed.
Use this to your advantage.
Try new social platforms, new advertising venues; build a presence everywhere you can.
Spread your marketing across multiple platforms. Test, measure, revise, and repeat.
Marketing 101: You Haven’t Learned the Basics
We all want to excel, to become expert marketers; however, jumping too quickly into advanced techniques or chasing the latest fads will land you in trouble.
Remember article directories?
How about article spinners?
Ten years ago, directories guaranteed steady traffic. The next big thing was Squidoo lenses.
Later, people turned to Facebook likes. Finally, the guest-posting sites, connecting content writers with outlets, dried up overnight due to Google penalties.
Staying power, as well as reliable momentum, relies on learning and cultivating basic, fundamental skills.
And you won’t need an MBA. Online marketing relies on the same principles as brick-and-mortar, offline marketing.
Excellent resources exist. Check out 800CEORead and Amazon for their latest recommendations.
You’re Short on Time
We’re all pressed for time. It goes hand in hand with being a blogger, freelancer, or indie author. But we can’t stop there, allowing this challenge to stall our progress.
Marketing is essential, and it’s equally important to the time you spend writing, researching, editing, and publishing. There’s simply no other way to make a name for yourself, to get your products to the market, to to turn prospects into buyers.
Sooner or later, you’ll need to find 30 minutes a day for marketing purposes. Whether you’re sharpening the saw through learning or actively promoting your brand, this time is essential.
You could wait forever for someone influential to discover you, or you can get to work building an online presence today.
You’re Short on Cash
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to think marketing success relies on money. Money is helpful, but until you’ve learned the basics of self-promotion, you’ll likely waste it on ineffective strategies.
Thanks to sites like Upwork and Fiverr, you can name your price to outsource marketing tasks, splitting the work into manageable chunks. For example, while you learn the ropes of social media marketing, you can outsource some of the more tedious tasks to other workers.
Due to differing currencies and costs of living, your American dollar may have greater purchasing power on a network like Upwork. Consider outsourcing common, time-consuming tasks to workers on Fiverr.
I’ve successfully hired workers for transcription, voiceover, video editing, and graphic design tasks. I’ve been consistently impressed with the results.
You’re Not Using Leverage
No matter your starting point, you can always find someone with greater influence and reach than yourself. Some of these rockstar bloggers and website owners could be helpful in growing your platform.
Think about it: your blog may be stagnating with a daily reach of 50. Another blogger in the same genre may have 60 times that number of visitors. Consider the many ways you might reach into that same audience.
While you’re actively growing your own audience, look for ways to leverage the power of larger websites, bloggers, and influencers.
Reach out to influencers by commenting on their blog posts and sharing their work across your social media channels. Better yet, approach them about guest posting. A single article on their site could bring traffic numbers you’d never achieve on your own.
And don’t forget about micro-influencers, those successful bloggers flying just below the radar of mainstream success. They may be willing and eager to accept your guest post on their established site.
Spend some time brainstorming on ways to tap into existing, large-volume traffic.
You’re Relying Too Much on Others
Years ago, when I was involved in a family business, I used to cringe every time an ad salesman came in. They often came on strong, promising the moon.
Some of them talked down to me, berating me for not spending big bucks with their agency.
When this tactic failed, they’d mention all the names of my competitors who’d already purchased ads, trying to scare me into following the crowd.
I was chosen to take these meetings because I was comfortable saying no.
I didn’t start out this way.
I remember the days of billboard ads and Sunday circular coupons, the days when these were your best options for marketing. I was easily manipulated in the beginning, thinking everything was simple:
Spend a hundred on ads and get three hundred in sales.
Looking back, I wish I’d spent those advertising dollars on vacations. At least I’d have beautiful Carribean memories.
The company spent tens of thousands on advertising schemes that produced nothing but budget deficits for subsequent quarters.
Here’s the deal: an ad agency gets paid whether their campaign brings you a single purchase or not.
My best advice? Don’t spend a dime on advertising until you understand how to market yourself.
These agencies provide a service. Most of them deliver on that service, but they can’t guarantee results. To be successful, they need time and your money to execute the same trial-and-error approach you can offer yourself. This could become expensive.
So commit to becoming a marketing student, and in short time, you’ll know enough to promote yourself effectively (and frugally).
You Want Overnight Results
We’d all like instant results, and sometimes we turn to questionable tactics out of desperation. Instead of taking the time to build a solid foundation based on time-tested skills, we shoot for the big win, and we lose ground.
- We over promote ourselves on social media.
- We flood our followers with product advertisements.
- We talk about ourselves, rather than making quality connections with our peers.
Remember, we buy from people we like and trust.
So we should begin by asking ourselves how we can serve our followers, how we can deliver valuable information, content that they actually need to achieve their goals.
When we shift the focus away from ourselves, we’re more likely to gain followers and clients.
You Have an Identity Problem
Self-promotion becomes easy when we understand ourselves, our message, our audience, and our place in the market.
When we value ourselves and the work we do, we act with integrity.
We stop worrying about offending our readers, about bending the truth, about manipulating our audience.
We understand the value of our products and the value of the people who read our words, those people who take risks on us every time they make a purchase.
Our goal becomes connecting on a powerful, authentic level.
****Here’s a list of ten classic marketing books to help you on your journey.
Now, to you.
What’s your biggest marketing struggle (or best marketing tip)?
Share it with our readers below.