When we start out on our own, most of us are strapped for cash – thinking about marketing your product? Before you go there, let me set out a first few steps.
Starting a new business is itself an adventure. Before you get caught up in designing logos, looking into social media or spending money with a publicist, here is some suggested preparation that you can choose to do: it helped me enormously.
1. Discover your personal style
We don’t see this being talked about much because it is a women’s magazine cliché. I think it’s one of the most important aspects of your life and indeed in some respects, your business. Your style is unique. No one’s views about how you conduct your life are as important as yours, because you are that fine amalgam of experience, pleasure and pain, which sets your heart rate and stretches your face into the shape of your smile. You can be helped to uncover it, in some ways, but nobody else can define it.
Why do it? A marketing style based on your personality and belief system will set you apart because it will show that you took the trouble to get to know the real you – so maybe, you will understand what your customer wants as well.
Why we don’t do it. Not many of us ‘go inside ourselves’ easily. Sometimes our parents have made it unsafe (by being afraid of it themselves) and sometimes we are led by trauma or deceit into thinking that it is a place of fear or anger, or sorrow. However, if you summon your courage, visit your inner self, and then use that spiritual part of you to set out your own limits and preferences, then you have done something which will define (and refine) the essential you. This will give you key insights into who you are and what are your limits of behaviour or taste. Why does your comfort zone look like it does? Whose approval motivates you? Who matters to you, and to whom do you matter most? Your place in the world is important – know it yourself. It might surprise you.
I remember a client whose business was running an old people’s home. ‘I don’t think he knows that what he is asking for is trouble, when he asks me to call his daughter’ she said of an old gentleman in her care. I thought this was presumptuous at first. I asked the gentleman what he expected to happen after that request, at an opportune moment. ‘Oh she won’t call my daughter easily. My daughter hates coming here, and she has a drinking problem. That’s just my way of saying that I am worried about something’. I expected to find dissent. Here was mutual understanding. I went back to the owner, and asked what gave her the confidence to take the view she does. ‘Well, I think it comes of knowing that all you can do is your best. But it has to be your best.’ She emphasised the word ‘your’. She had met herself, and was sure of her best – a pleasure to see.
Those who have done it, say that this very self-awareness makes you ready for empathy, and will have you standing out in all your efforts – being a parent or marketing your company, being a daughter, or a magistrate on the bench, being a mentor, or a class mate or even a killer salesman setting out the offering of a fine and useful product.
2. Once you have discovered your personal style, set an objective
Here I have nothing to offer – it is yours – other than to say: don’t let it arise out of a reaction to something else – like revenge/ redress (reaction to loss or pain), or jealousy (reaction to envy). Let it be a positive thing which stands for the good, and if it is, then to generalise dangerously, you can’t get it too wrong if what you do to achieve your objective also makes people feel special.
Whether you are writing a newsletter for your business or a letter of thanks for that dinner last week, always write it showing that you know the particular person and appreciate him/her. If you play an instrument, imagine your most cherished love in the audience. My colleague, Charles Matthews, a pianist, often does, with outstanding results. Everyone wants to feel special; to be known, to matter. If you are selling something, make sure you think about the customer’s purchase, rather than your sale – start from the point of view of the buyer – and the empathy which you need to do this will have arisen from having defined your own style first. Think about where your customer will have heard of you, what his needs are, where he is in his professional or personal life, and how and why he is buying what you have to offer – then you will get your pricing spot on….
The first impressive bit of marketing I ever came across was from a small publisher in Boulder, Colorado. This was a newsletter describing the year the press had, and it had me wanting to meet this man – he was so very erudite and amusing. I won’t say I developed a passion for him, but I would have gladly eaten a couple of lunches with him, to see what other amazing connections his mind was able to make.
3. Keep in touch with the world – most importantly, family
Don’t be afraid to email your friends or indeed potential or current customers; live openly, show your beliefs in your personal life, as in your marketing efforts. Vanilla isn’t always inspiring, nor does it always do to play it safe. It’s only natural for people to admire those who know who they are and live with courage (comes from the Latin for heart) that is what ‘charisma’ is made of. Share your opinions and show people how they arise – what you read, what you listen to, and how these inputs percolate through you. If you worry about the implications of texting on the English language, embroider for relaxation, or listen to Fleetwood Mac whilst cleaning your motorbike, don’t be shy about it – that is you, being you. (Yes, one of our clients is a motorbike fanatic, and we encourage him to let that side of him be known). Insight into an individual’s idling time can be fascinating. I am not advocating putting a picture of your breakfast on Facebook (yes that is narcissistic) but don’t hide behind a bland persona that isn’t you either: find a middle way – your own middle way – everyone’s will be different.
Remember not to leave your family out of the loop – they will be your bulwark on the dark days when nothing seems to go right. Yes, the disasters will still happen, but you will be a more competent surfer on those waves. As you let your true self shine through your actions, and reactions, your market place will find you, and hopefully follow you all the way to the bank. Your family will smile, which is reward in itself – if they find lovely ways to reciprocate, then you are truly blessed.
4. Remember the need for gratitude
Remember to be thankful for all that was good, and the rest that was educational – if you can learn, whilst all around you are blaming others . . . (sorry, Mr Kipling). Gratitude will become your consolidation tool, so that each ‘tomorrow’ you are able to re-join the fray with trust and optimism. Some clients of ours taught me that – many years ago we advised an addiction clinic – the head nurse, let us call her Jasmine, was keen on emphasising the need for trust and optimism, and her tool of choice was gratitude for what progress had been made at the end of each day. So was it the most important tool used by an international banker, (when Williams and Glyns was absorbed into a Scottish enterprise, he left to set up on his own) who learned the rules of Islamic banking and started off a new bank in Istanbul in the 1980’s. Where did he find the courage I asked him once. He said it was terrifying, ‘I know that I am not alone in this, and I thank everyone for all aspects of my day, silently, every evening’. We all have the capacity for humility – not all of us cultivate it of course, because overt self-reliance is seen as the mark of a successful person.
Not an easy list you might say – but then, nothing which is worthwhile is really ever easy.
Give it a go – you will discover the rewards throughout the life of your business. When your business is bigger and you are balancing speed of execution, rigour of analysis, the quality of your output in response to changes in the market, what will matter is how quickly you can move. We can only move quickly, if we are sure of ourselves. (If you haven’t read a book by Antonio Damasio called ‘Descartes Error’ I recommend it. It talks about how we actually make decisions – is it our analytical ability or our ‘gut’ which holds sway?) It will also give you the good sense to leave perfection to higher powers.
Now go and read all that stuff about social media and marketing technique, and get a good website done. I am not saying all that isn’t important. If you have done the basics, then you are armed with a ‘sincerity detector’ which helps you at each step; as each advisor talks to you, as each of your customers describe their experience, as your competitors thrive or fail, and you take in that information, your touchstone will be that inner self that you have visited, understood, refined and polished.
Your friends and customers will hopefully recall your last communication as something which was interesting, real, containing something of yourself. That is what makes an impression which lasts beyond a few seconds.
This is the beginning of success – no, more than that – stylish success.