How to re-think and overcome your marketing fears
Do you have marketing fears that prevent you from promoting your business in a way that will make it grow as you dream?
I think we all do, to some extent. But for some of us, they run so deep that they block us and prevent us from evolving, from reaching those we can help, from making a comfortable living with our businesses.
This past year, I’ve been trying to pin-point where these fears and blocks started for me, how I could avoid passing them on to my kids, and how to get past them myself.
Because I didn’t always have these blocks.
When I was growing up, back in Argentina, I used to spend hours pouring over glossy magazines, and was frankly more interested in the ads than in the content itself. I even looked forward to new TV advertising, because I enjoyed the creativity and the emotional pull they frequently had.
Yet, when the time came to market and promote my business, I felt paralyzed, and started wondering why. Was it my Catholic country upbringing, that praises the poor, focuses on giving, and sees the pursuit of material gains as greed? Was it the times I was reminded to be humble , not to brag, not to be loud? Was it my experience in the non-profit world which influenced my discomfort with selling? It’s hard to tell. It was probably a combination of all the above.
But I realized that, if I wanted my business to grow, I needed to put myself out there, and that in order to do that, I needed a new way of thinking about marketing, a complete re-frame that could help me embrace it. I had to come up with a way to market my business that was efficient, strategic…and that felt good to me.
What I needed to find out, and what I devoted last year to do, was which practices felt off because of my values, and which ones felt off because I was simply scared. The first ones, I knew I wouldn’t do. The second ones, I had to find a way to look at them differently to beat resistance and move forward.
I found the answer in two simple questions: why do I do what I do? who do I do this for?
MARKETING IS NOT ABOUT US, IT’S ABOUT OUR CLIENTS.
It’s about what they need, what they desire, how they want their life to change…and how we can help them achieve that.
The fantastic Leonie Dawson says that business is just one person offering her gifts to another. That’s it.
I have this, do you want it? Oh you need this? I can help.
It sounds so simple, yet so many of us feel so embarrassed, pushy, salesy and insecure when offering our services or products that we’re almost hyperventilating all the way to clicking the send button on an email, and our language (and energy) is borderline apologetic.
We feel we don’t have the right to interrupt people’s lives with our words and we assume we’re an unwelcome distraction.
Unsubscribes make us feel like a failure, launches become an emotional roller-coaster…we act as if we were tricking people into giving us money. And this energy of doubt, shame and not enoughness affects everything we do.
When we don’t feel like we’re good enough, when we don’t feel the right to speak your voice, when we doubt about our ability to impact people’s life we are less likely to take risks…and when we stop taking risks, we are less likely to leap forward as we want to.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my own entrepreneurial journey it’s that all change starts with changing our mindset. When we believe in what we do, in our capacity to help others, and in our own capacity to achieve our goals, we do. We move earth and sky until we do. When we don’t believe in ourselves and our abilities we sabotage the heck out of our growth.
When your message is bigger than your fears, you can move mountains.
So, here are a few of the mindset re-frames I use, in the hope they can help you connect every marketing act to your purpose, and your message, and kick all fears down the curb.
- MARKETING AND SELF PROMOTION
When I started preparing this post, I asked in a few Facebook groups what made women most uncomfortable about marketing, and how it affected their business. Lots of women commented, and I could see that many of us share one overwhelmingly common fear: not being liked.
Have you ever felt afraid of people rolling their eyes with frustration at the sight of yet another of your emails? Have you ever reworked your sentences a million times and erased word after word because you’re afraid of others thinking what you say is stupid and making fun of you (like in 5th grade)? Have you ever stopped yourself from contacting a prospect because you thought you’d be perceived as pushier than a used cars salesman? I’ve been there too.
Your business provides a solution to someone else’s problem, and those persons are out there looking for a solution that they can’t know exists unless you get out into the world and let them know about it.Unless you send that email. Unless you post that Facebook ad. Unless you write for that other blog they like to read so they can find you.
Marie Forleo said once something that stuck with me since then: “If you don’t market the heck out of your business, you’re stealing from those who need you the most”.
When you feel these fears coming out, remember the times you felt relieved when finding the exact course you were looking for, the right professional to help you, the blog post that helped you get unstuck. Wasn’t it wonderful? Didn’t you feel that the Universe had heard your prayers and sent you exactly what you were asking for?
Wouldn’t you want those you can help to feel the same when they find you?
If you believe your products and services can help someone, you need to let them know they exist.
Let me give you an example from my own business: The reason I do commercial photography is because I want to help women succeed doing what they love. I believe that when women become financially independent, the world becomes balanced and more just. I photograph because I want to help women and their work become visible. I want women to step into their power and say to the world: I deserve to be seen, my work deserves to be seen, what I do matters.
Yet many of my clients come to me with big hopes, and big doubts too. They want to believe they can grow but they don’t have the certainty it will happen because they don’t see themselves objectively. But the camera does, and, as an alchemist, it captures the image of who we thing we are in one of its mirrors, and with the other shows us the reflection of the beauty, light and possibility that truly are inside of them. And I believe there are few things more powerful than seeing, in a photo, the beauty that we so often refuse to appreciate in ourselves.
I want my clients to feel safe to do the work they love, because I know their work is beautiful and needed. And because I believe that when our photos are authentic, and real, they act as energetic bird calls to our right people.
Dreaming about the possibility of helping more women come out into the world with confidence is what drives me to write these words program my social media, and hop on periscope. My big dream of a world where everybody appreciates their value, and the beauty of difference is what makes me stop hiding.
You’re not sure whether your work really helps? Ask previous customers for feedback and go read their testimonials of your work. It works wonders. I actually read testimonials before doing any promo activity, to remind myself of how I can help others.
Do you also feel paralyzed when the time comes to close the sale? When I was just starting, I was terrified of asking for the sale, to the point that I avoided doing it in person or via skype because I knew I’d start lowering my eyes and the tone of my voice and offering massive discounts.
When I was starting out, I didn’t think I was worthy of charging anything for my work. I didn’t believe in me, and every bone in my body sent that message to my potential customers.
When I worked in Argentina, I would be the one meeting with clients at first, talking about how the firm could help them, creating an experience of working with us…then derive the clients to my father, who would close the sale. I was terrified of even picking up the phone to follow up on sales, and had to practice scenarios in my head before doing so. Then I went to volunteer in UN peackeeping and I never had to have a sales conversation again…until I started my business.
And don’t get me wrong, I’m not shy. What happened was that I felt like a fraud.
Have you ever felt like this, standing in front of someone genuinely interested in your services and wondering why on earth would they choose you, unless you were the cheapest…and subsequently offering discounts that go below what’s profitable, before they ask for one?
It took me years to understand what I was doing: I was denying others the pleasure to be on the giving side of the equation.
It’s easy to give all the time, it feels rewarding at first and it’s empowering. But if we only give, we deplete our well and soon all have left to give to others is resentment over our circumstances.
Money is energy, and it is supposed to circulate. Giving and receiving are supposed to work together, in a constant cycle, where they nurture and support each other. Sue Bryce talks beautifully about it in this video that I highly recommend.
It is ok to accept money for your work, even if you are not the expert you think you should be. You can grow to become that person, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be paid before that too. It’s important (and I need to remind myself this every day) to value every step you give in your business journey, and give others the chance to value it too.
And it’s good for your customers to pay for things as well. Learning to give, learning to take financial responsibility for what we want is positive and a necessary part of being in business. When we pay for something, we commit differently to getting results than when we don’t. My brother, who is a psychoanalyst, told me once that in Lacanian analysis, price can vary to force the patient to commit to doing the work, because when things are too easy, they’re often not appreciated.
When you ask for the sale, instead of giving your work away for free, you’re helping your clients grow into their power too.
3. PRICING AND QUOTING
Tell me the truth: does cold sweat run down your spine when you need to set your prices or send a quote? Does the idea of someone telling you you’re too expensive make you want to crawl under a blanket? Do you feel guilty when a prospect tells you they can’t afford your services?
I used to. And, as a consequence, and because I’d think I was a fraud (remember what I told you above?) I’d under-price my services heavily.
I had to learn to price my work in a way that felt comfortable for me, and it wasn’t easy. I read books, took courses and realized one thing: If I under-price my services, the energy of the work I do gets affected.
I’m woo. I believe in energy and that it affects not only my business and the work I do, but also my client’s business. This is why I meditate, and air and sage my studio before a photo-shoot, it’s why I light a candle and listen to abundance mantras while I take photographs: I want each and every photo to carry the best energy so they can impact my client’s business positively.
And in order to do this, and keep my energy high, I need to make ends meet.
If I’m worried about making my payments, or tired or overwhelmed because I have to take too many clients to pay the bills, my creativity gets stuck and I can’t do my best work. And my clients deserve my best work.
I now set my prices doing a double process: I first consider my costs, and what it will take for my business to grow (my costs increase as my business does, and I need to prepare financially for that), and then, I sit with those numbers and say them aloud to evaluate how I feel about them. If the number is too low, I feel a twitch in my stomach. If the number is too high, I feel out of breath . When the number is right, I feel ease. The reason I do it this way is this: I know that for me to be able to quote confidently, I need to feel at ease with my numbers and I need to believe that my work is worth those numbers.
Last year, for my birthday, I gave away 10 consulting sessions to members of my community. It was fun and lovely to be able to meet people I’d been emailing for a while, and understand what were their struggles, doubts and fear- and help to the best of my ability. After each session, I sent each person a questionnaire to see whether I had helped, what they had liked and what I could do better.
The sessions were a gift, so I never pitched my services. In my mind, pitching after a free call was a big no-no. I feared they’d feel I had “tricked them” into a free consulting with the ulterior motive of actually getting them as clients, so I didn’t do it.
When I received back the questionnaires and I read the answers, I was stunned.
5 out of 10 people had one common complaint: that I hadn’t pitched my services at the end, so they didn’t know how to work with me.
I had helped them, so they wanted to continue working with me, but I never gave them the chance to decide how they could do that.
I realized that people don’t hate pitches…they hate aggressive pitches from business they don’t know and who haven’t helped them first. But when they like you, they trust you and they believe you can help them, they want to know how to work together.
People want to spend money, in the right services and products, provided by people and companies they like! Talk about a revelation!
So the next time you’re afraid of pitching, do what I do: Make sure you help first, then offer with confidence. A pitch, after all, is just an invitation to work together, if they’re called. When there’s no pressure, no annoying insistence, a pitch is simply saying “I’d love to help you and, if you’re ready, I’m here”.
5. EMAIL MARKETING
I’ll dare say that this is the one of the scariest ways in which our fears manifest.
Remember back in the ’90s when you were disappointed if one day went by without receiving an email? While now, our inboxes and flooded every day. Last week, when we were in Belgrade, I didn’t check my personal email account fpr two days and, when I opened it, I had 120 emails in it.
Did I read them all? No, of course not. I deleted most of them, except a few. And I noticed something: The ones I didn’t delete were the same ones I consistently read every time I receive them, the ones that make me smile and look forward to them. And all of them come from people who email frequently.
Then I realized: People are not tired of email, they’re only tired of the boring, generic ones that don’t add anything to their lives.
This reminded me of something I learned from Ramit Sethi in his course, Zero to Launch. Ramit says that our launch emails should always be different and we should always make sure that we’re adding so much value in them that people would want to read them even if they won’t buy the course.
When a product is evergreen it’s easy to put promotion on autopilot and just tell the same stories over and over again…but would you trust and look forward to someone’s emails that tell the same story over and over, or would you hit the unsubscribe button faster than you can say supercalifragilisticoespialodoso?
I thought so.
So here again, as in everything, keep the focus on your clients to lose the fear. Focus on how every communication can help, and let that do the talking. It’s hard work, but it pays off.
6. UP-SELLS AND TIERED OFFERINGS
In case you are not familiar with the term, an up-sell is when put something in your shopping cart and before you can pay, you’re offered to add something else to your cart. Like when the sales assistant in a boutique says “Would you like me to suggest something to go with that dress?” or when the waiter asks you if you want a wine that pairs beautifully with your meal.
In the offline world, we see it as a normal part of the shopping experience, but in the online world, we keep worrying that people may think we keep offering things to strip them of their money.
When I got married, we were living in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. We traveled to Florence, Italy for the wedding. We arrived one week before and spent our days doing paperwork for our marriage. Because I had been living in Africa, I had no winter clothes (we got married in January) and because I was working in peacekeeping, I didn’t have any fancy clothes I could possibly wear on the big day.
I didn’t want a wedding dress (I couldn’t see myself travelling back to Africa with a big dress that would occupy half the suitcase), but I did want to look good. I looked everywhere in Rome and Firenze but, to my disillusion, couldn’t find anything I liked.
Three days before our wedding, on a Monday afternoon, exhausted and thinking I’d have to get married in jeans and a sweater, I entered a Max Mara store around the corner from Piazza della Reppublica, in Florence. I started looking at the black suits they had on the racks when a young sales assistant approached me. She asked me what I was looking for and what was the occasion. When I told her I was getting married, she smiled, all excited and asked me if she could suggest some pieces that had not been hang yet, because they had just arrived, and that she thought would look great on me. I followed her to the changing room with a suit I had picked up and, a few moments later, she started arriving with her arms full of clothes. I kept trying things and she kept bringing more and more for me to try. She found me a pair of shoes in my size for me to be able to picture the outfit properly, she brought accesories,and suggested ways to personalize the clothes. She opened dresses and suits from the new collection- just so she could give more options.
It was magical.
I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, when Richard Gere brings her to the store where she buys 20 dresses. I felt understood, taken care of. I bought a suit, a silk shirt, a hat and a necklace, much more than I had originally planned, yes, and you know what? I was happy to do so.I would have bought much more if it wasn’t that, once back in Africa, I’d have nowhere to wear such beautiful clothes. It was the best shopping experience I’ve ever had and the reason Max Mara holds a special place in my heart.
That girl got a great sale because she made my life simple and beautiful. She turned shopping for clothes into the experience of a lifetime. Before entering that store I was disappointed and, frankly speaking, quite grumpy. I left it walking on clouds. Now every time I look at my suit, I remember how wonderful it felt to buy it, and how happy I was when I wore it. There’s no other piece in my wardrobe that I love most for exactly that reason.
People want to buy things that make their lives easier, more interesting, more beautiful. So don’t feel afraid to offer something else that may complete your offer, help them avoid hours in google, trying to find what they need. They’ll be thankful for it.
The same thing applies to tiered offerings. Not everyone needs the same level of support, or the same resources. A tiered offered is a way to provide the right level of assistance to the right people.
The key, as always, is listening. That’s when an up-sell stops being pushy and turns into a welcome anticipation of needs.
7. AFFILIATE MARKETING.
Affiliate marketing is when you get paid a percentage of someone else’s revenue when a person buys their product based on your recommendation, and it’s quite controversial because it has been abused.
I used to feel very guilty of using affiliate links in my website or emails and, since I hate feeling guilty, I didn’t use them. For years I recommended products and services I loved without using my affiliate links. And because those who are close to me trust me, because they know I never recommend something I haven’t tried before and loved, those businesses I recommended got a lot of new sign ups.
It wasn’t until last year, when redoing Lucky Bitch Money Bootcamp that I realized that, by doing so, I was, once again, blocking abundance. I was giving, without allowing myself to receive anything in return.
Because, as Leonie Dawson says, affiliate commissions are nothing other than ” Thank you moneys” . Thank you for recommending something I may love. Thank you for sending new loving customers to my business, and helping me grow. Thank you spreading good energy.
So I decided to allow and receive abundance in this way, within a certain set of rules, which are as follows:
- I only recommend what I’ve personally tried, tested and loved. I don’t sign up as an affiliate to anything that doesn’t meet those standards, nor do I offer affiliate positions to those who haven’t worked with me and loved my work. I only recommend with affiliate links that which I would recommend if I wasn’t an affiliate too.
- I only recommend that which I believe may be useful for others too, and I provide reasons about who I think something is for, and who I think it isn’t for too. Not everything is for everyone, and it’s important to me that whoever purchases something from my links knows whether that product is a good fit for them.
- I always leave a note at the end of my posts warning I’m using affiliate links and I have an affiliate policy in my terms and conditions which you can always check. The warning at the end of this post, for example, refers to the links to Lucky Bitch Money Bootcamp, of which I’m an affiliate because I wouldn’t have made a dime in my business if it wasn’t for the mindset shifts it allowed me to experience.
Whatever rules you set for yourself, are perfect for you. I believe that, for as long as we’re honest with our readers and customers, it’s up to us to decide what sources of abundance we allow into our life or not.
How do you feel when you open an email promoting a product with a big clock at the bottom, signaling the time left (and how the time ticks) until the promo expires? Do you feel anxiety and dread? Do you feel like a loser if you miss it?
Scarcity is becoming an extremely controversial topic as more and more of us start rejecting the tactics designed to make us feel awful about who we are and how our life is going.
But if scarcity tactics make people feel awful, why does everyone affirm they work? And should you use them?
I’ll say it again: I believe we should think about our clients, first and foremost.
I personally am very careful about using scarcity as a tactic because I want the whole experience that customers have with me to be one of positivity and empowerment. I do timed promotions, not to trick my community into acting fast, but because I like surprises. A flash sale looks to me like a little treat of ” I love you, this is why you can have this bundle now which I wouldn’t normally offer. If you want it, it’s yours” And I warn them before promotions expire, because I know we live in a distracted world and I need myself to be reminded of things,so I offer them the same courtesy.
The energy we bring to what we do, matters. The words we use, matter. And our clients perceive it.
9. FEAR AND FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)
I couldn’t finish this blog post without speaking about fear-inducing words and tactics. More specifically about the famous FOMO, or fear of missing out. But first, let me tell you a story to illustrate what I mean.
About a year ago I had a discovery call with a nutritionist I had been following online. She asked me a series of questions, at the beginning, about what I had tried before, why I was interested in working with her, and why I thought I’d failed before. I answered, candidly, without realizing what was going to happen.
She offered me her program, and mentioned her prices (which weren’t in her website), which were above what I could afford at the time and I informed her so. And she then started using everything I had told her to explain to me how, without her almighty help, I was destined to fail as I had before. Instead of empowering me to stretch my finances in search for a permanent solution and show me how she could help me change that, she focused on instilling the worst of fears and painting every possible horrible scenario in front of my eyes, to get me to decide.
I’m an empath, so with every new terror story she told, my stomach cinched and my heart closed. I started to have a headache in the middle of the call and wanting to throw up. After I hang up, my energy was at its lowest for two days.
I would never want a member of my community or a prospect to feel like that after talking with me. Never.
When I say that our purpose and our ideal client should guide our marketing, I don’t just mean the act of putting ourselves out there, but also how we do it. And, to me, this means avoiding fear tactics.
Do they work? Yes, they may work for some. But there’s never just one way to prosper and it’s for us, as business owners, to decide which energy we want to bring to our businesses.
How can we say that we are here to help someone and at the same time dis-empower them? How can we affirm that unless someone chooses to work with us, their business will fail, when we damn well know that is just not true? How can we call ourselves spiritual and make those who are meant to help feel like losers?
We can’t. Or at least, I can’t. I won’t. I draw the line there.
So here’s my client-centric marketing philosophy. And please, feel free to use it too:
I market and promote my business because I want those I can help, to be able to find me.
I sell, to allow others to give, and to practice receiving.
I pitch, so that others know I’m willing to help them, if they feel calledn to work with me.
I send emails only when I know I’m adding value
I am affiliate of brands I adore, to practice receiving.
I use scarcity only when it benefits my clients.
I never use fear inducing words or anything that may diminish the members of my community.
It’s simple, really. It’s what I call the strategy of caring.
How do you feel about these marketing strategies? Do they resonate with you, or do they make you shriek?
Let me know in the comments. Let’s help each other market with intention and purpose.