Whatever sort of online business you run, it’s no doubt that at some point you’re going to need to market yourself. But the online world is full of so many “shoulds” – run a challenge, host a webinar, create a video series! But what do you do when none of those options feel quite right? And how do you create an authentic marketing plan that works for you, rather than trying to fit into the mould of what others tell you that you ‘should’ be doing?
The Difference between Authentic Marketing and Typical Online Marketing
First, let’s take a step back – I want to explain the difference between authentic marketing and typical online marketing.
Typical online marketing normally follows a recipe. You’re given step-by-step instructions and formulas to complete, resulting in cookie cutter marketing strategies for everybody. Following these recipes may help you achieve your goals, sure, but you might not feel good about the work you’re doing. I know when I’ve done them, it’s felt ‘icky’ and not just uncomfortable, but downright awkward.
Alternatively, authentic marketing is all about creating and following marketing strategies that feel good, and that you can feel yourself lighting up doing. It might well be that some of those strategies crossover with some typical online marketing strategies! But the key here is to not force yourself to fit into someone else’s ideas, and do what YOU enjoy.
Side note: I have a whole workshop coming soon on creating a more aligned, authentic marketing plan for yourself – but I also touch upon it in a part of my Get Rooted course!
For example – it might be that you love doing live video, such as Instagram or Facebook Live. If that’s the case, then you can integrate those into your marketing strategies regularly. But if the idea of live video makes your skin crawl, then there is no reason to include that as a part of your marketing. It will only come across as inauthentic, awkward, and your audience won’t connect with you on that deeper level that you know they deserve.
Abandon the ‘shoulds’ – embrace the ‘coulds’
I also want to take a moment to acknowledge and encourage YOU. Yes, you, reading this right now! Let me tell you something… despite what you might hear online, you don’t need to subscribe to the way everyone else tells you that you “should” do things if it doesn’t feel right to you.
For many years, I listened to the ways of the online world. I followed marketing strategies that made me feel small instead of expansive. Then I priced my offerings based on other people’s thoughts, instead of looking at where my audience and ideal customers were at the time. And I started exploring different marketing strategies that were plain wrong for me.
And in doing all of that, my business slowed to a point that I was worried it would never recover from. The lesson I learned is this: nobody knows your business as well as you do. And when you look outside more than you look inside, you’ll never end up with a business you truly love. And when you abandon the “shoulds” that people are telling you are must-haves, you open yourself up to the possibilities of the “coulds” – and you’ll find the right path for YOU.
Creating your Authentic Marketing Plan
So by now, we know the reasons why we want to create an authentic marketing plan. But how do we go about doing that?
First of all, you need to get comfortable with two things:
- Your gut feelings and intuition.
- Understanding the difference between being ‘out of your comfort zone’ vs ‘out of control’.
Let’s break those down a little further.
Your Gut + Intuition
Getting comfortable with your intuition and gut feelings means not ignoring that internal feeling that tells you whether you’re on the right track or not.
Have you ever got a ‘vibe’ off somebody, that turned out to be right? Or had a feeling – that you couldn’t describe – about a situation and it turned out exactly as you thought? Have you ever gone against your intuition and been proven right? And then realised that you shouldn’t have ignored that internal voice telling you to do the opposite of what you ended up doing?
That’s your intuition! And it’s a skill you need to learn to hone to be able to make decisions from a place of alignment, rather than external thoughts and opinions. It’s about making places from an internal position, rather than listening to external forces or voices instead.
Sometimes, your intuition (your heart, your soul, your yearning) might be telling you to do, be, create or follow something… But everything external (your mind, your loved ones, the media) is telling you not to do it. But it’s in making that brave, courageous decision to follow your intuition that often leads us down the most surprising + rewarding + aligned paths that we could take.
The Difference between being ‘out of your comfort zone’ and ‘out of control’
When it comes to your marketing, you need to be able to tell the difference between that feeling of when you’re pushing yourself out of your comfort zone (and you maybe feel a little scared, a little fearful, and a little out of your depth) and feeling out of control (where you feel completely out of your depth, uncomfortable with what you’re doing, and as if every single fibre of your being is telling you not to go ahead with whatever it is that you’re doing).
Now this might sound rather dramatic…but it isn’t meant to be. It’s simply about being able to recognise that feeling of when you are in alignment with what you’re doing.
Because when you’re in alignment with what you’re doing, your audience are going to feel it too. They’re going to recognise the light in you. And they’re going to feel the happiness and joy and true authenticity radiating from you. They’re going to – consciously or sub-consciously – FEEL what you feel. If you feel awkward, out of place, and truly aren’t enjoying the marketing that you’re doing, they’ll feel that. And in the same way, they’ll feel the joy when you’re doing something out of pure and total alignment.
That isn’t to say that the marketing strategies you create and follow should or will be easy – there’s a difference between pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to grow and learn, compared to pushing yourself out of your comfort zone for the sake of it and doing things you downright hate doing.
But you should be able to challenge yourself, to grow, and to learn without having to sacrifice your soul or what you truly love doing.
Need ideas for more authentic marketing strategies?
I’ve put together a big list below of marketing strategies you may think are “typical” and give you alternatives. Each strategy is accompanied by THREE people I feel are real examples of following a marketing strategy that feels incredibly authentic to THEM and who they ARE.
They say: Create a Video Channel → Instead: Create your own Podcast
If the idea of doing weekly videos sends your nerves skyrocketing, why not launch a podcast? There’s less of a barrier to entry, as all you need is an entry-level microphone and an audio editing program to get started. This is great if you value connection but crave helping people more in what feels like a 1:1 setting.
Examples of people running great podcasts:
- Jen Carrington + Sara Tasker – Letters from a Hopeful Creative
- Megan Minns – The Productive Life Podcast
- Caroline + Jason Zook – Wandering Aimfully: The Show
They say: Do Live Video → Instead: Do Instagram Stories
If you hate the idea of live video, why not start small with something like Instagram Stories? You can record them at your own pace and you can always redo them if you feel like you can’t get your message across. This is great if you value connection – but on your own terms.
Examples of people doing great instagram stories:
They say: Create your own Podcast → Instead: Create your own Videos
Maybe one of your biggest values is community, but you feel like you’re speaking into a silo running a podcast. I’d encourage you to then look at video and see if that helps you to create more of that 1:many community feel.
Examples of fab video channels on YouTube or IGTV:
They say: Run a Challenge → Instead: Ask Heart Questions
If running a challenge feels like too much work – or maybe you feel like everyone is doing it – then why not ask questions from the heart? It will help you create more community, connection and emotional depth with your clients.
Examples of brilliant hearts online:
They say: Host a Webinar with Pitch → Instead: Host a free (or paid) Masterclass
Many online strategies for launching digital products like courses include launching with webinars where you give a lot of value, and then pitch your offering at the end. Some people do this incredibly artfully – but a lot of the time, the pitch feels forced and inauthentic. If the idea of doing that turns you off, why not host a free (or even paid!) masterclass? You can give huge amounts of value, and it’s a great way to build trust between yourself and your audience.
People great at masterclasses:
- Liz White
- Krista Dickson of Blog Beautifully
- Tyler McCall of The Fan to Follower to Society
They say: Have Email Opt-In / Content Upgrade → Instead: Give Freebies Away (or give nothing away at all!)
If you sign up to receive emails online, you’re likely to have given your email in exchange for a free gift. Something like a discount to an online shop, a checklist – you know the sort of thing. But many people are now choosing to stop giving away the gifts, as you tend to get lower-quality leads. Instead, they’re focusing on giving huge value in their email newsletters. Or they give the gifts away for free, with no email needed!
People doing a great job with their free newsletter:
- Paul Jarvis
- Kathleen Shannon (Braid Creative)
- Lauren Frontiera
They say: Run your own podcast → Instead: Be a great podcast guest!
If you’re struggling with the idea of running your own podcast, why not try being a podcast guest? You’ll get to share your knowledge bombs with the world, and also build your audience and connection. There are so many podcasts nowadays that accept guests! But #protip just be sure to make sure that the podcast you pitch to accepts guests before reaching out!
Some great interview-style podcasts:
- The Simple Business Show with Nesha Woolery
- What Works with Tara McMullin
- Level Up Your Course with Janelle Allen
Bonus example — They say: Speak on Stage → Instead: Do a live masterclass!
Many people say that you’ve “made it” once you’ve spoken on stage, whatever that means. But if the idea of getting on stage in front of any amount of people (I’ve spoken to audiences of 40 – 1200! Eek!) scares you beyond belief, why not look at running a masterclass? This way, you could help maaaany more people with your topic, but it’s without the pressure of an actual stage and actual people. Quick note on this one though – even though I’ve now given 12+ talks on stage, I get incredibly nervous before every talk, and the best of us do! It’s natural to feel that way – but if it doesn’t feel right, as with everything, don’t put the pressure on yourself to do it!
So there you have it – why authentic marketing atters, and hopefully more than enough examples to show you the ways that you can switch up what you’re told you “should” do, to what you could do instead. The next time somebody tells you that you should be doing something to build your business – stop, feel into that intuition and ask yourself if it feels like something you ‘could’ do, and if it feels good. You’ll thank yourself later for it!