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 a marketing plan that works for you, rather than trying to fit into the mould of what others tell you that you ‘should’ be doing?
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, 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.
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.
I also want to take a moment to acknowledge and encourage YOU. Yes, you, reading this right now! Let me tell you something...you’ve got what it takes. And 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. I priced my offerings based on other people’s advice, instead of looking at where my audience and ideal customers were at the time. 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.
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:
Let’s break those down a little further.
Getting comfortable with your intuition and gut feelings means one thing, and one thing only: 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 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. 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 making that brave, courageous decision to follow your intuition that often leads us down the most surprising + rewarding + aligned paths that we could take.
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, and to go after that feeling like nothing else matters.
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. 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 or work that you’re doing or creating, 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.
What I want to show you know is a list of marketing strategies that you may deem ‘typical’ - but what you can do if these don’t feel good to you, or an alternative. 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.
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.
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.
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.
If running a challenge feels like too much work - or maybe you feel like everyone is running a challenge - then why not create more community, connection and emotional depth with your clients and ask questions from the heart on the regular.
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 any time I’ve done this it’s built huge amounts of trust between myself and my audience.
If you sign up to receive emails from anyone online, it’s likely that you’ve given your email in exchange for a free gift of some sort - 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, at least in exchange for getting on their email list, as you tend to get lower-quality leads. Instead, they’re focusing on giving huge value in their email newsletters.
If you’re struggling with the idea of running your own podcast - and alllll that comes with it - 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!
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 matters, 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!
Rachilli is a creative studio dedicated to empowering every independent creative, business owner + small business to brand their business authentically, aligned to their core values, mission + vision.
We also want to empower other's with chronic illnesses to carve their own path and create a life + business that works for them, and to lead the way by creating a platform for, and being a voice alongside, those with chronic illness in business.
Rachel, the founder, is an award-winning designer + photographer, published logo designer + author, and is mama to two - slightly crazy - dogs, Storm + Jasper.