I used to think that marketing was yucky. Manipulative, sleazy, salesy, you name it. I thought I had to use manipulative techniques, I thought I had to force sales. It felt at odd with my heart-centred, authentic business values.
I hired people to help me become better at marketing. Only it didn’t work, and I blamed myself. I thought it was me who was shit at marketing myself. After all, these people built high income, successful businesses using these techniques, so why couldn’t it? It also caused me a lot of stress as I worried about all the things that these people told me I should do, but that I wasn’t doing. I did a good job recruiting early adopters for my courses, but I felt really uncomfortable trying to sell my completed online courses. I couldn’t find a way forward.
It didn’t occur to me to think that it was the approach that was wrong. That it was wrong for me and my business. That the reason it didn’t feel good was because it was out of alignment with my values.
In January 2021, I discovered authentic marketing mentor George Kao and took on his Authentic Content Flow Course. George was the first marketing specialist who introduced me to the idea that this kind of marketing is not effective in the long term, and can even be harmful. It’s difficult to capture the depth of learning and change I have gone through over the last year, but it has completely transformed how I share my work. You can read some of my journey in my review of 2021.
If like me, you think that old school marketing is yucky, I hope you will find this post helpful. I’ve come to the conclusion that the manipulative marketing techniques that are still rife are actually a thing of the past. That they are old school techniques, and have no room in the world of heart-centred solopreneurs.
If like me you want to build your business on trust, integrity and authenticity, and attract people who resonate with your own unique way of looking at things, by engaging in these old forms of marketing you may be harming that trust, and therefore your business. And because it doesn’t feel good the energy of that will permeate what you share too.
I’m sure you have probably come across a lot of the techniques I’m talking about. The free webinars which do not contain any valuable information and are only designed to sell you products. The free 5 days challenges, at the end of which a too good to be true time limited offer for a course or workshop is given? The courses and workshops valued at an astronomical price, but available to you (before a deadline) at an incredibly discounted price? And the idea that if a course is very expensive it contains more valuable content?
I have attended many such webinars, challenges and courses. Something didn’t feel quite right. Since I started learning about the logic being these techniques (which is appealing to your FOMO (fear of missing out), I understand why it always felt uncomfortable. George Kao explains this very well in this blog post called stop marketing to the lizard brain.
Here is a story that illustrates the problem. A few years ago I took part in one of those free 5 day challenges. A friend recommended it and it sounded interesting. At the end of the 5 days challenge, which required us to share daily videos of ourselves on social media on topics about bravery, the person who ran the challenge announced what her business was really about, and gave this special offer on an expensive set of essential oils from an MLM company. The lack of relevance to the topic of the challenge felt extremely odd to me, but I didn’t say anything because I was already aware that free challenges are just disguise to sell product. There was a woman in the small group I was in, however, who wasn’t aware of this before joining the challenge. She felt angry about it (because the person running the challenge hadn’t been transparent about her motives at the start), and expressed it very strongly in the Facebook group. The business owner replied in a triggered and unkind way, before banning this woman from the group. I was very unimpressed by the business owner’s behaviour and the whole experience left a bitter taste in my mouth.
Now that I can see the tactics for what they are, it still grates massively. What also saddens me of most is seeing how many people are unaware of these tactics, fall prey to them, and end up spending large amounts of money on courses that are misaligned to their needs, just because the sales pitch was good.
I have got a recent example of my own: I am in the process of getting a puppy. Over the last few weeks I started researching and building knowledge around dog ownership. I have read books, spoken to several friends who own dogs, and even hired a local puppy trainer who I call a dog doula. Naturally my Facebook feed is now full of adverts for dog training. Last week I signed up for a free dog training webinar which on paper sounded very interesting. It only took me only about 10 min into the webinar to see that it was one of those that contains zero useful information, and was peppered with invites to buy an online course at regular intervals. I was annoyed at the business owner and at myself for falling for it. This was just wasting my time. I immediately unsubscribed from the trainer’s newsletters.
I am also wary of very expensive courses or programmes. I used to think that more expensive meant more value. And the people selling them are very good at promoting their own success and make you believe you can become rich and successful very quickly. After all they did it, so why not you? Whilst they look promising, you may not learn as much as you expect, for two reasons. First, such courses many not necessarily contain as much useful information as you think because high ticket is simply a marketing decision. A course that costs £1000 may not actually contain more useful stuff than one that costs £100. Second, the value isn’t just in attending the course, but in how much time you put into applying what you learn in it.
This blog called beware of expensive training explains the issue very well. As George explains: The journey of creating your own authentic business is not a formulaic one, as sold by those high-priced programs. The real and sustainable journey is highly individualized, and no big program can give you that kind of customized guidance and specific support.
In 2021 I started offering impostor syndrome mentoring sessions. I was saddened to hear from several birthworkers starting their career, who had spent several thousand pounds on credit card loans to buy online courses. They told me that the course lacked in both depth of knowledge and support. One woman told me that she had paid for a £7k group programme where she had no direct access to the trainer (the group calls where so large she never got to actually ask a question). She then bought a course for £150 which contained a lot more knowledge and support from the trainer and was really helpful for her business.
Expensive courses sometimes work like a pyramid scheme where only the person at the top gets rich. Interestingly, the two marketing mentors I work with have very large income figures, yet their online courses cost under £100. One of them used to sell expensive courses in the past, and felt bad about taking people’s money and seeing them not achieve results, and decided to change his model. See his blog post about it.
What to do instead?
The good news is: you don’t have to use manipulative techniques to share your work and grow your business. You can simply share for sharing’s sake, your unique message. Consistency and tiny steps are you. You also do not have to aim for a large following of people for your business to be successful ,but rather a small organically growing group of people who are genuinely interested in what you have to say.
If you decided to run a marathon, despite having never done any running before, you wouldn’t aim for a full marathon at first, and you certainly wouldn’t expect to be able to run one without a programme of gentle training that would take you many weeks. You wouldn’t signup to run several marathons at once. You wouldn’t simply watch how other runs marathons and think that it counts as training. You wouldn’t feel defeated because you have done a week of running, are out of breath, and the goal of running for 26 miles feel out of reach. It’s the same for any other new habits in your life, including for your business.
Above all, it feels incredibly refreshing to grow a business from a place of sharing rather than from a place of hustling, it removes all the pressure and it feels so much more authentic!
Think of marketing as a simply act of service. You offer something that helps people. Think of it as offering a drink to someone who is thirsty. You would offer them a simple choice of drinks. You wouldn’t say “this is the best drink in the world,”, but you might explain what are the advantage of each so they can choose (I’ve blogged about why people are experts at what’s right for them). https://sophiemessager.com/expert-in-what-is-right/
Share for sharing’s sake instead of sharing to sell. Build an audience who really wants to hear your unique voice. Grow slowly in a way that feels sustainable. When doing free webinar, make sure they contain actual useful information, and be upfront when advertising said Webinar that you will publicise your online course or programme in it.
Build networks with other professionals, from a place of care and support rather than from trying to sell your products. It pays off, and it also feels really lovely to have genuine connections with people that share your values and lift each other up.
Rather than feeling that you have to charge what other people are telling you, charge enough for you and your unique circumstances. Enough that you do not feel hard done by, and that you do not feel that you are taking advantage of your clients. I find a helpful technique when unsure what to charge to think of a price that would make me feel like I’m being taken advantage of, versus one that feels like I’m would be taking advantage of my clients, and find something in the middle.
Enrol the support of mentors and peers who share your values, and help grow your business from a place of authenticity.