How not to hate marketing (part one)

For many people who run small businesses, marketing is hard. I’m no exception. I’ve been researching why we hate it so much…

I’ve been doing a lot of marketing recently.

I’ve been making connections on LinkedIn, sending emails to people who might need my skills, applying for freelance gigs I see online– a round of cold calling, in the sense that I am writing to people who I don’t know and who don’t know me.

I’ve been doing that alongside all my usual work, which these days is mainly writing.

And then came a proofreading job. Proofreading is time-consuming and detailed. You sit at your desk and concentrate, and cross-reference and cross-check. like this: if it says “see page 29″, does page 29 actually contain the content? If it says “44 widgets” on page 33, are there in fact 44 widgets mentioned on page 22?

Since proofreading comes at the end of a production process, it is usually done on a tight turnaround. So I took my marketing tasks out of my diary for a couple of days, and prioritised the proofreading.

Halfway through the first afternoon, sipping tea and considering whether a picture on page 19 was an artist’s impression and if so, should the caption say so?, I realised that what I was feeling was a sense of deep relief.

Relief at doing something real and tangible and useful and familiar.

Something that wasn’t nebulous and uncertain and scary

Essentially, I was glad to have something concrete and timebound to do that took up so much time that I had an excuse not to do marketing.

Marketing sucks, okay?

I know I’m not the only one who feels this – time and time again, people say in online forums or to me in person that they also “hate marketing’ or “don’t like talking about themselves”.

Propelled by my feelings about the contrast between “real work” and the horribleness of selling myself, I decided to dig into marketing: why is it that people don’t like the business of selling either themselves or their service or product?

Internet searching commenced, focusing on feelings about marketing (rather how to do it or not do it).

Those searches led me to something useful; I found a point of view I hadn’t considered. I’ve been trying to conquer marketing for years, and the online advice I find is usually aimed at businesses like mine, that sell a service. But there are people in the world who do a much more frightening form of marketing: they make actual sales calls to potential customers. At this coalface, I found an article where I learned that there’s a name for that icky feeling of not wanting to “do sales” – it’s termed “call reluctance”

(READ: Understanding Sales Call Reluctance and How to Overcome It on a website called Sales Ethics Inc)

The article describes call reluctance like this: 

You’re about to pick up the phone to dial the next number and reach out to a warm lead — and then it hits you: A wave of uncertainty and a million different ‘what-ifs’ begin playing in your mind… Rather than just sitting there and nervously clutching your phone, you decide that, instead of making calls, you should probably go through your CRM one more time to triple-check that all of your contact information is up to date on your leads. Deep down, you know you should be making calls, but this overwhelming anxiety feels like it’s too much to overcome.

Take out the detail of having to make a call, and that sounds exactly how I feel when I think about marketing. I suspect most people feel the same.

What lies behind call reluctance?

The article outlines possible reasons for the anxiety, starting with fear of rejection. That’s what I’ve always thought was the problem. But then the article takes it a step further, looking at how you can fuel the rejection cycle by not doing certain things. Those are:

You’re not properly qualifying your leads: The article says: “Your role as a salesperson is that of a trusted advisor… you are ultimately there to help your customers solve their problems” and goes on to advise that the salesperson should ensure that the product or service “is a good fit for your prospect”. And if your prospect hasn’t been “pre-qualified” that increases the likelihood of rejection, “further reinforcing any negative thoughts and feelings you have concerning your ability to sell effectively”.

I don’t think of my potential clients as prospects, nor do I have a means to do “pre-qualifying”. But the nugget of usefulness I take away is this:

I should be looking for and talking to people who actually need what I offer. And that because I haven’t done that in an organised way in the past, I have set myself up for failure, time and again.

Secondly, you don’t have a thorough understanding of the value of your product or service: The nameless but wise writer at Sales Ethics says that “a deep and up-to-date knowledge of your organisation’s products or services is absolutely crucial”. There’s another step, contained in the words in bold (my emphasis) in this paragraph:

Without [knowledge], you’re left looking unknowledgeable should your customers or prospects have a more nuanced question concerning how your offerings might be of use to them. This increases the chances of you being rejected, compounding the existing negative feelings that are fueling your call reluctance.

The takeaways:

The first step in not hating marketing then is to understand that you fear being rejected – and then to do the work so that you don’t find yourself in a cycle of fear and failure. And my research says that these are the things you should do before you put yourself out in the world:

* You need a deep understanding of what you offer.

* Then you need to find the people who need what you offer, but you also need to know how it is useful to them.

        My next steps

        I’ve been sitting with these thoughts, and deciding where to go next. At the beginning of 2024 I set myself the goal of finding effective ways of marketing what Safe Hands offers, and finding my own path to effective marketing.

        I’ve started looking into the practical aspects of understanding my offering and finding my target market, and have some promising leads. But a lot of work is needed. Part 2 of this journey will be with you in two weeks!

        And please, if you are grappling with marketing, or have any thoughts about the underlying feelings, let me know! I would love to make this a collaborative effort.

        Main picture: Melanie Deziel, Unsplash

        How to reach me

        Contact me if you would like to chat about how I can help with all your communication needs (writing, editing, coaching and training, social media).

        I write a post every week, some about my professional life and work, and some about broader issues. You can get either of those, or both, in your email, by subscribing here.  

        Comments are closed.