You hate marketing. You’ve established that, right? You’d rather face plant at the next networking event with your knickers tucked into your skirt than slip down a sales funnel. With your social media posts, you stare at the screen, wondering why everyone else can write the tips and sound so bright when it all seems so plastic fantastic to you. That cringe, that vulnerability, that feeling you are having – it all feels like hard work.
There’s no denying there is a reason to be wary of marketing. There are a lot of false claims out there. Cheesy jazz hands about alleged brilliance abounds. And the cookie cutter stuff everyone seems to do feels like a haze on the internet of robots saying the same damn thing over and over.
Next thing you know, you’re frozen in a stock photo in some suit. You have crossed arms, a smug look and an Instagram-destined pointer finger out and are ready to make it in this world. Forget your business. You are the product now. Front and centre is where you need to be.
Here’s why you need to stop telling yourself you hate marketing (and trying to turn yourself into the internet’s second coming) and what to do instead.
Challenge the deep roots of marketing hatred in society
You didn’t think I’d ease you in, did you? Nope. We’re going straight to the sociology section and grabbing a library bag’s worth of wisdom.
Why you hate marketing is probably connected to your childhood, schooling, and your belief system. A lot of what we’ve learned is based on Protestant Work Ethic (Calvinist models. Oooh, I’m really exciting you now!). But hidden inside the tenets of the Protestant Work Ethic are the ideas that work is its own reward, humility is virtuous, and thrift, efficiency and avoiding decadence will bring your salvation.
That’s some heavy stuff for the sincere lack of Tim Tams alone.
But if you take that lens and put it over the top of modern marketing and concepts like social media, influencer culture, calls to action or brand statements, there is a massive conflict. You can’t be efficient, humble, and thrifty if you’re doing a kind of work that is about working in an intangible space to promote yourself while talking about how well your business is going (aka making money, honey). You don’t produce for the greater good! There is no Snapchat in heaven (that’s probably in hell, TBH).
You are not a good little worker bee because intangible products and conversations aren’t the same as building a dam. Or amassing a pile of something tangible like money or bricks. And you’re not delaying your gratification or being modest. You’re Jonesing for analytics while crowing up a storm.
There is an especially painful rub as a result. And that’s why some of us can be loud and proud about all we do and others feel like it’s garish, ill-fitting and obnoxious to do so.
But it’s not the only reason.
Why hating marketing is attractive on an individual level
Hating marketing, your face in a work photo, how someone does their marketing videos, a person or an approach – it all has the same impact. It gives you a hook to hang your discomfort hat on.
When we hate something (or we think we hate it), we provide ourselves:
· A scapegoat for our inaction or inability to connect with the subject at hand. If you hate marketing, it means that not doing it is OK
· A reason to bond with others with similar discomfort. The more you say marketing is to blame, the more you will find other freelancers that feel the same. This validates your feelings all the more
· Justification for avoiding something deep down we suspect we should try. This is especially true of people who don’t like to try new things because they don’t like to be a beginner and/or have unrelenting high standards for their achievements
· A source of projection. Marketing may make you feel uncomfortable, powerless to change the course of our freelance business, or inadequate. Embracing marketing may mean challenging notions that are deeply embedded such as a fear of taking up space and shame attached to our apparent lack of humility. Instead, it’s easier to hate marketing than dig deeper into where those feelings are coming from
· A distraction from the real problems. We may want to control the uncontrollable outcome, are scared of trying something new, fear the success and what it might bring, have a form of social anxiety, struggle with Imposter Syndrome, have a history of being shamed and bullied we just can’t seem to shake that makes online vulnerability feel truly frightening, or don’t want others to laugh at us the same way we laugh at others.
It’s easier to hate what we fear, what we can’t control and what puts us at risk. It’s easier still to hate marketing is a very public act. That means any potential for failure feels magnified. You are literally marketing to attract attention. And if that fails, it’s easy to assume the marketing failure is where the attention will focus.
And what happens when you repeat the ‘I hate marketing’ mantra is the hatred of marketing becomes normalised and justifiable. So, when you encounter feelings as you create, it can give you the excuse you need to avoid it.
What do you do when you hate marketing
No amount of new course, fantastic business coach (ahem) or fun little social media posse will challenge the fundamental associations and feelings you have towards marketing. Not until you do some individual work.
That individual work looks like:
· Experiencing a marketing related situation
· Noticing the feelings that arise
· Digging into the where and why those feelings exist
· Understanding what the feelings trigger E.g. avoidance, shame, overcompensating
· Mapping a healthier way forward.
What does that look like in real terms?
Often, writing out the feelings or creating a visual mind map of sorts can build your awareness and help reduce the sensations while providing a better course of action in the process.
A very simple exercise is to:
· Think about marketing
· Take a piece of paper and write out the feelings as they arise
· Record the sensations in your body and the thoughts, negative self-talk and pervasive ideas that are attempting to move you away from the marketing danger
· Dig into where and why they exist
We don’t mistake marketing for a threat worthy of flight, fight, freeze or fawn simply through watching too many late night TV commercials as a kid!
Usually, we will rationalise why the discomfort exists- and this rationalisation provides clues.
Try answering the following questions:
a) What value do you place on the work you do from an emotional, spiritual and then financial perspective?
b) How do you rate your worth as a person?
c) Are you avoiding your marketing because you are avoiding attention? Why?
d) Are you at odds with common techniques because they challenge norms, mores,, and values you hold dear? What are they and are they relevant to what you are trying to achieve as a business owner or creative?
e) Are they your values or the values of other people like your parents, partners or even people who have made life unpleasant for you?
f) Do you have trouble with tasks as a beginner and don’t like marketing because you don’t feel you have enough skill or knowledge yet? What are you doing to overcome that knowledge gap?
g) Is it “not the done thing” in your industry? Why? Is there space for a different way?
h) Are you defining help and assistance as concepts that shouldn’t have a financial reward attached? Why?
i) Do you have trouble asking for help, regardless? Why?
Understanding what the feelings trigger
When our brain perceives a situation is difficult, the feelings can trigger reactions and automatic self-talk. That self-talk or behaviour may no longer serve us. Understanding these behaviours can help reverse engineer the issue and help us find a way forward.
a) Can you hear repeated phrases from parents, teachers and others that counselled you against making a scene, attracting attention or taking up space?
b) Are you stuck on the mantra “good people don’t need parades to do good work”?
c) What is your relationship like with money, wealth, and the idea of affluence?
d) Are you scared because you’re not the best marketer (yet) there is no point trying when others are far more established and prolific?
e) Are you afraid of making a mistake?
These are some triggers that can lead us to run away (screaming with hands flailing) when someone suggests we work on our marketing. They usually come from deeply ingrained ideas about ethics, charity, wealth, value, and ‘staying in your lane’.
What they don’t account for is hard work, persistence, intelligence, creativity and tenacity are far more likely to determine our ability to change the world than invisibility, obedience, restriction, self-flagellation, and judging others ever could.
Mapping a healthier way forward
Once you understand the deeper motivations powering your reluctance or marketing hatred, you can start building a plan that suits.
Get to know yourself
Instead of jumping ahead to the marketing techniques, spend some time getting to know yourself and the value you add for your clients.
a) Where do you go the extra mile?
b) What are the common compliments your clients give you in testimonials or via emails?
c) How do you add value to their business?
d) What inspired you to freelance in the first place?
Zoom out and look at your business
Now, look at your business and give is some more definition. A good old SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) can do wonders for defining your business and why it exists.
What customer problem do you solve?
As freelancers, we’re in the business of helping people.
a) Write a list of the ways you help people with a focus on intangible qualities over tasks completed.
E.g. I give them confidence to talk about their business when they are networking by writing great copy on their website.
b) What burning problem do you solve for your clients?
E.g. Do you act as their marketing manager to free them up for production? Do you lift their SEO game by providing wickedly funny copy? How are you making their business stronger?
Take the time to work out who you help and why. That’s what potential clients want to know about you. They want to know that when they need help, you can offer it.
What marketing do you like?
Sometimes, it’s not the act of marketing you hate, it’s the techniques you think would get you there. Learning to create marketing on your terms helps attract the audience that suits you.
a) What kinds of marketing do you like to do?
b) What kinds of campaigns have caught your eye and why?
c) What techniques and tools do you get curious about learning?
d) What would you like to try but always put to one side in favour of other more sensible activities?
Why do you hate marketing?
a) What is it about some techniques that leaves you cold?
e) What’s the marketing you hate the most?
f) What’s the task that leads you to procrastinate, make fun of it with your freelance friends, avoid or sneer?
g) Why is that? What’s the actual feelings behind it?
h) Can you use that discomfort creatively? For example, inspiring you to try a different technique, parody of the technique’s usage, writing a blog about why it is ineffectual?
Ask your audience
Often when you hate marketing, you forget about the vital part of the equation – the audience. This isn’t the moment where you get a big “suck it up, buttercup” and get told to produce a bunch of Tik Tik videos.
· The marketing cringe you feel is shared by your audience
· 40% of the world are introverts and probably don’t like big showy techniques
· What remains is so saturated by the same old, same old, they’d probably welcome a new approach.
You don’t have to market in a way that makes someone else feel comfortable.
Instead, learn how to use the tools – and then use them in a way you and your audience appreciate.
And take the pressure off yourself
The only actual way to suck at marketing (or end up hating it) is to force yourself to have conversations with your audience that neither of you believe in.
It’s perfectly OK to:
· Discuss how marketing bores you as well as why you love your work
· Explore different methods and approaches without big investments
· Follow the joy over “what everyone else is doing”
· Avoid platforms and techniques you can’t stand
· Bump up the tasks that increase your confidence, even if they won’t be the game changers
· Build up a body of work overtime
· Create marketing that you feel happy with, even if it’s not conventional or on the standard roadmap.