The Missing Piece: Why Marketing Rules are Not Working

I’m currently working with a client on her marketing strategy – which is fun! And it made me realise something more clearly: When I help her understand what marketing is for her work, the nitty gritty rules are different than they are for me.

The Missing Piece: Why Marketing Rules are Not Working

The content that would inform her potential clients will be different than mine. The rules on what best to include and what to leave out are different. Why?

Because her clients are different from mine, and they are in a different phase of their personal journey.

As service providers, we all help people with a particular stretch of their journey (and there isn’t just one journey, there are many!). When we are really dialed in to our work, our essence and our strength, then we also zoom in on a very specific problem that we help our clients with.

And those problems come with specific needs.

People looking for adventure, want different kinds of content than people who have an anxiety disorder. Makes sense right?

If you are into extreme sports, then you don’t want to hear about 3 ways you can get out of your shell in social situations. Not unless you happen to be an extrovert when it comes to sports, and super shy when it comes to socialising (it’s possible!).

Let’s just assume – for clarity’s sake – that the extreme sports crowd are adventurers in all possible ways, and the way to get their attention? Talk about adventure! Adventures they never thought of doing, or how to turn boring things into unexpected adventures. That kind of thing.

To get them together, you probably want to organise an exciting outdoorsy meetup, and not a powerpoint presentation in the library.

(So that means you need to learn/know a lot about organising live events, but you probably don’t need to learn how to approach people on LinkedIn. You don’t need to learn powerpoint either. You do need to learn how to talk about what you do in an informal setting, but you don’t need to learn how to get onstage in a suit and impress people with a meticulously prepared talk.)

The people who have an anxiety disorder on the other hand, would they want to go rock climbing? Would they love to hear what it’s like to jump out a plane? Probably not. I mean yes, in theory they might, but it’s probably not a good idea. You don’t want to confront them with things that would make them more anxious. So anything big, exciting and dramatic will probably be a turn-off for them.

It depends on the particular group of people who are your clients. They might be a unique mix of contradictions, but the point is, your marketing and the way you market to them, needs to work for them.

It doesn’t matter if an expert tells you that their technique or 5 step success formula is the best way to wow an audience – if it’s loud and exciting (a.k.a. overwhelming), the anxious clients will pull back and skedaddle. No matter how much you paid for the class.

Strangely, I don’t really see this talked about in online discussions about marketing. People talk about identifying your “ideal client” yes, but I don’t see people talking about how all the proven steps, tactics and strategies are not successful unless they suit your client’s style.

You can have the most amazing (and loud) video presentation – but if your job is to help people with anxiety, and those videos make people anxious, then it doesn’t matter how much you paid the studio to make them, how fancy the graphics are, how well your message is crafted or how good the sound quality is.

And if you have a bunch of adventurers on your list who barely read, then good luck sending them a mile-long blog post. It doesn’t matter how well-written it is.

In other words,

Here’s an example from my own work. Several years ago, I was telling people on my email list about a free call I was doing. I was doing it as a Skype Group Call at the time (not so great technically – but this was before platforms like Zoom and the like were available).

Anyway, I had learned from the pros that in order to encourage people to join something, it’s always good to emphasise scarcity. Because scarcity is value, right? If there are only a few spots, then people will rush to claim those – or so the thinking goes.

Skype Group Calls had a max of 25 participants at the time. Scarcity was built right into the logistics themselves! I figured it wouldn’t hurt to emphasise that spots were limited. I didn’t yell about it, I just told people there were only 25 spots.

What do you think happened? I don’t think you’ll ever guess.

I didn’t fill all the spots. And it’s not because people weren’t interested.

When I spoke to a few people later who hadn’t joined the call, I heard from several of them some version of this:

“You told me there were only a few spots, and I figured, there must be people out there who need this call more than me. So I figured I’d let them have the seat instead of me.”

People responded to scarcity by stepping back and giving up their spot for someone else – even if that person didn’t exist.

Because the reality was, there would have been a perfect number of spots for everyone who wanted to join.

Isn’t that the sweetest thing though? “Here, there’s scarcity, go ahead and take mine”.

I don’t think it was only kindness though – there is also that ever present pesky sense of not being worthy and not deserving something. Having just 25 spots was scarce enough that it brought up both that kindness, and worthlessness. That’s my theory anyway.

Regardless, this was a big take-away for me. It’s helpful to let people know the doors on something are closing, it’s not so helpful to tell them there are very limited seats. Because doing that encourages the people who would benefit to opt out.

It turns everything into the last cookie on the table. The cookie that is still there the next day, because nobody wanted to be the one to take the last cookie.

Am I glad that my list is not filled with people who will stomp all over each other to grab a limited item? Of course I’m happy about that! It just means that I need to take certain marketing advice with a huge grain of salt. “Hurry, only 2 spots left!” may be encouraging for other people, but it doesn’t work for my people.

And then there’s the other side of the coin

Your marketing tactics also need to suit you.

And the grumpiness that comes with that doesn’t exactly spell “hire me”.

So to market well, you need to find the overlap between the kind of things you like to share and create and talk about, and the kinds of things the people you help like to hear about, and how.

Sometimes you don’t know what will work until you try something, but more often than not, it’s listening to all the pushy marketing “formulas” that really gets you confused. Why? Because often they will try to connect to one of your core fears in order to push you to do something.

Here’s an example:

Someone was telling me recently about the pressure she felt to do Facebook lives. She didn’t want to, but she kept hearing from professional marketers that it was THE thing to do.

She read a compelling post that said that the only reason she wasn’t doing it, was because she was afraid. When she sat with that, she felt it could be true.

To that I say: Fear Based Marketing 101 Alert!

You know what people’s number one fear is?

Public speaking (go ahead, google it)

What does that mean? It means that when you tell someone, anyone: you’re not out there doing presentations because you’re afraid of public speaking, it’s true. But that doesn’t mean it makes sense for you. Here’s what I mean:

Yes, you’re afraid of public speaking, like everyone else is. Duh.

You’re probably also afraid of jumping off a building.

But if someone said to you: “the only reason you’re not jumping off that building is because you’re afraid!” – and you thought to yourself, hmm, yeah, that’s true. Would that convince you that you should jump off the building?

Let’s imagine for a moment that the fire department is down there with some kind of huge tarp to catch you, so you won’t splatter and die (I know, I like outrageous examples), would that convince you that there is a huge benefit to jumping off the building? Or would you still pass and say: “No thanks, I’ll take the stairs!”

I know what I’d do. The only reason I’d consider jumping at all is if there was a fire and there was no other way to get off the roof. If it’s jump or die, then I’ll find a way to make myself jump.

But is it “Facebook Live or Die” for your business? I don’t think so.

Do the people you love working with watch lots of videos? Maybe they don’t at all. Maybe they hate video, just like you do. And you’re sitting there trying to convince yourself that you should do video. Why? Because it’s the latest “magical” formula that supposedly solves all your business problems.

Fear only tells you that you’re afraid. It doesn’t tell you what is right for you. Maybe the right thing for you to do is a bit scary, but if so, it will also feel somewhat good and inspiring too. It won’t feel like going splat on the sidewalk.

And here’s my convinction: if you’re Highly Sensitive, taking care of your nervous system is key. That also means you can’t push yourself into fear all the time. It’s unhealthy. You need an easier way to market. Something that suits you and that you can improve upon one small step at a time.

If you’re feeling pressured by all the marketing shoulds, set up a time to talk with me here. Let’s get clear on what you really feel called and inspired to do, underneath all the stress and “shoulds”. Because having your own business is not easy, but it can be much easier when you do the things that really suit you and your clients.


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