Be yourself,” they say. “Authenticity sells.”
And in the same breath, “Just follow these 7 steps and – ”
Hold up. Back up the truck. I call bullsh*t.
To every marketer advising small business owners to both “be themselves” and follow a magic funnel/formula/farfegnugen to success, I see you. And I’m sick of you.
To every small business owner who has tried to fit “their authentic selves” into a funnel/formula/farfegnugen and failed miserably, I see you, too. And I’m sorry.
I’ve also got news for you; it’s not you, it’s them.
Let’s be real. I’ve never met anyone whose “authentic self” fits in a funnel.
I daaare you to find me someone whose natural state is optimized for conversion.
But that doesn’t stop marketers and business “experts” from selling us this impossible to implement, utterly unactionable non-advice.
Take this infographic, “Just Be Yourself on LinkedIn — and Watch Business Boom”
The message is both “be yourself” and “follow the rules”: two contradictory statements if I’ve ever seen ‘em. The idea is that I should be able to squeeze my unique personality into a keyword packed headline aaaaand no less than 5 posts per week (but no more than 14).
Free to be meeeeee (while “freely” connecting with 25-50 new people every 7 days).
What if my “authentic self” is an introvert? What if the “real me” is too garrulous to be squashed into 120 characters or less? What if my “true self” breaks every rule she’s handed?
Be yourself, as long as “you” are a vanilla flavored rule follower who loves other peoples’ hand me down strategies.
It took me a while to figure out why this approach wasn’t working for me – or my clients. It’s as simple as this; people’s “real selves” don’t fit into pre-fab marketing systems. And because I’ve seen plenty of folks squander their fortunes trying to fit their feet into Cinderella’s glass slipper, I decided to write this post.
Because here’s the uncomfortable truth; if you want to “be yourself” in your marketing, you’ll have to do more than break the rules – you’ll need to write your own and risk things not always working out the way you imagine.
In fact, this much is true, whether you strive to show up authentically or not.
The funnels and formulas and farfegnugens making marketers rich – and you poor and insecure – only exist because their creators re-wrote the rules according to their own unique strengths, failed gloriously over and over again, and eventually found something that worked. For them and people just like them.
Trying to fit your foot into their glass slipper will only leave you bloody and limping while your “authentic self” becomes angry and bitter. (Not a great sales combo.)
So, you can either spend your life trying to find a funnel peddling marketer exactly like you and hope their hand me down strategies are still relevant or you can spend that time re-writing the rules according to your own unique strengths.
Andddd failing gloriously over and over again.
Until you find the something that works.
“Be yourself” is some of the best marketing advice you can get, as long as it comes with a disclaimer that this approach requires discovery, exploration, courage, and a willingness to fail. No pre-fab marketing systems here.
It requires you to tap into the parts of yourself that light you up and draw others to you and then play with using those parts of yourself to shine light on your business and brand message.
What does this look like? In my case, after many glorious failures, I realized that one of my unique strengths is my sense of humor, my ability to do strange and funny characters to shine light on what’s happening around me, and my fearlessness when it comes to being utterly ridiculous. Hmmm…how does one “monetize” that?
How about a weekly Facebook Live show called “Awkward Marketing” where I talk about building businesses and make fun of myself along the way? I went back and forth on naming my show “Awkward Marketing” for a long time because, well, the rules tell me my show title should be aspirational – it should paint the picture of the results I deliver or how I make my clients’ lives better. I mean, who aspires to be awkward in their marketing? But I bought the domain anyway and simmered on the idea until, week after week, I just started naming my own awkwardness on the show as it happened. (Live broadcasting will make awkward moments easy to come by.) And, then I knew the name fit like a glove.
I know that no one aspires to be an awkward marketer. But I also know that many small business owners feel awkward when they’re marketing and promoting themselves. And that feeling doesn’t go away. So, I decided to work my show around the uncomfortable feelings so many of us experience when we’re in front of an audience trying to sell stuff and not look like utter clods.
The show has become a place for me to bring my uniqueness into my business in ways that no marketer would ever have prescribed me in a pre-fab system (or funnel or formula or farfegnugen). I had to be willing to take risks, be curious, and try new things. Stuff that had never been done before. Stuff that terrified me.
Take “Facebook Live: The Musical”: my most popular episode to date. This episode happened when I tapped into one of my very non-business talents – making up impromptu songs/singing my way through the day/lifelong devotion to musical theater – and decided to try it out as a way of delivering content to my audience. I had never seen anyone do this before in the marketing space.
And I broke all the rules.
This episode was not attached to a funnel. I didn’t use it to build my list or sell a product or service. I did the episode for the sake of it – to try new things and actually enjoy myself while marketing – and four months later it still brings me leads and clients. Without a sales pitch. Without an opt-in. Without any call to action other than, “Come have fun with me.”
Because one of the reasons “being yourself” in marketing is so effective is that, when you’re on fire and loving what you’re doing, you will become a magnet that draws people in. Rarely (if ever) will you find something that excites you to your core in a pre-fab marketing system with 7 steps and a six-figure promise. You’re going to have to find it for yourself.
If you’re stumped on what that looks like for you, start with my permission slip to break the rules:
- You don’t have to be on video
- You don’t have to get on the phone with every prospective client
- You don’t have to end everything with a call to action
- You don’t have to spend all day on social media
- You don’t have to sell stuff all the time
- You don’t have to follow anyone’s funnel or formula or farfegnugen
Now that you’re free, what might you experiment with today? How might you try something new in your marketing – something you’re pretty sure that no expert would prescribe you but that would make marketing actually feel fun?
I’ll go first. Starting on Monday October 23rd until Friday October 27th, I’m going to be introducing you to a different awkward marketer each day. (I got wigs, I got costumes, I got a green screen! This is going to be wiiiiiild, guys.) Then, starting on Friday October 27th until Monday October 30th, I’m asking you to vote on the awkward marketer who makes you cringe the MOST. On my Halloween episode of Awkward Marketing, a very special guest will be revealing who you chose as the most awkward marketer of them all and one lucky voter will be winning a $250 Amazon gift certificate and a marketing strategy sesh with yours truly. (Plus extra surprises for my Instagram followers.)
This idea didn’t come about because someone prescribed it to me. It came from my love of strange and funny characters and, more than anything, calling bullsh*t on marketing tactics that hurt businesses more than they help. (And I also just love dressing up for Halloween.) You can sign up here to get notified when the fun begins: