How to Stop Editing, Tweaking, and Analyzing Your Marketing to an Early Death

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With a bazillion ways to get in front of customers these days and constantly evolving technology, it’s pretty easy to feel overwhelmed by marketing ‘shoulds’ and ‘coulds’ and end up doing nothing. But, is it really the newfangled technology or a missing skillset that’s holding you back… or something else?

Maybe you’ve got that email campaign ready, but you haven’t sent it out to your list. Or your website is mostly ready to launch, yet you’ve been sitting on it for weeks now. Perhaps you took a course on marketing funnels, followed it up with another one on how to use Instagram for list building, and you still haven’t implemented a single tactic you learned. Maybe there’s an open invitation to give a presentation to your local chamber of commerce, but you haven’t scheduled it. Or you’re on round #33 for the next article going on your blog.

If I’m painting an intimate portrait here, it’s because I’ve been there. And my clients have been there. All these sidetracks and half-starts and mostly-finished-but-not-published scenarios have less to do with whatever system or remaining to-dos you have and more to do with fear about putting yourself out there.

The only thing we have to fear is when fear feels good.

You may not see inaction as outright fear. Maybe you call it being cautious or thorough. Making sure all the bases are covered, every ‘i’ dotted and ‘t’ crossed. Certainly, you don’t want to be producing subpar work for the sake of checking off the “I did my marketing” box.

Indeed there are perceived benefits to holding back. The status quo might actually feel comfortable because there’s a sense of safety in doing what you’ve always known. When you don’t put anything new or different out there, it’s easier to maintain the appearance of being everything to everyone. Plus, doing something worthwhile marketing-wise usually requires an investment of resources, so if you don’t do anything, won’t you be saving the time and money you’re already short on? And when you have paying jobs staring you in the face, it seems a no-brainer to do those instead of taking time in your busy day to work on a blog post, an email campaign, a new website or what have you where there’s no immediate payout.

Limbo is no place to languish

Here’s the deal though: inaction can cost you, too. Remaining at a standstill, however casually at first, can escalate to the point where it just feels too damn scary to put yourself out there. When you’re not reaching your customers, you miss out on their reactions which can deepen your understanding of their needs and in turn make future communications more productive. You may miss out on securing better clients and customers and partners. You start second-guessing yourself and you revamp and revise to the point of confusion and rising project costs.

The mechanics of inertia

In order to combat the inertia of indecision, we have to know what’s behind it and how to address it. I believe inaction boils down to five things:

1) Imposter syndrome

You think you’re not experienced enough to be out there acting like you know what you’re doing. Or you believe that whatever you want to say has already been said before so there’s no way you can do it better or differently.

You know what? Even the experts don’t know everything. Maybe you don’t have years and years of experience in your work, but you have a brain, a drive to serve, and a perspective to share. That’s all you need and that’s worth a lot. It really is. The only way to get past imposter syndrome is to put yourself out there. The more you do, the more your confidence in what you know at that particular point in time will grow.

2) Perfectionism

A twin to imposter syndrome, you think that doing whatever it is you’re trying to do perfectly will make up for your perceived lack of expertise. “If they see me deliver this shining example of how it should be done right, they won’t notice how little experience I really have.” Hoo! That’s a lot of added pressure in an already pressure-filled world. Besides bringing things to a standstill, perfectionism can hold others at arm’s length and that’s not what you’re going for when trying to engage customers.

Be human and real. That means be okay with making mistakes or showing the rough edges. Sharing your vulnerabilities actually generates stronger feelings of connection. It’s why people love watching TV bloopers and outtakes. That’s not an excuse to be sloppy. Pay attention to your language and ideas so you don’t inadvertently offend. But it’s alright if your webpage layout isn’t quite stellar or that an email went out before you caught the typo.  

3) Fear of ridicule

Any kind of marketing requires at least some degree of exposure and that puts you in a place of vulnerability. With the proliferation of online trolls and the scrutinizing eye of social media, this kind of vulnerability can feel very, very uncomfortable.

‘Haters gonna hate’ might sound like a snarky platitude, but there really is no way you can be all things to all people. Remember that ridicule is a thin disguise for fear and jealousy and that these emotions are only ever a reflection of a troll’s inner turmoil. The only way you will figure out how to deliver your best to your very best customers is to learn through trial and error. You may run into dissenters along the way and that’s okay. Everyone who does anything of real worth does. I’m gonna repeat that: Everyone who does anything of real impact is going to meet some degree of ridicule.

4) Confusion of message

Even if you’re not held back by fears of fraud and ridicule, you may struggle with what to say and how to say it clearly. When you feel uncertain about how effective a particular marketing effort will be, you start worrying about spending too much time and money on the wrong things.

If you put your effort into developing the language you need to articulate a strong value proposition, then everything that comes after will be infinitely easier. Plus, you’ll gain the confidence that will cure imposter syndrome and shield you from the trolls.

5) That good ol’ analysis paralysis

Inaction is often the result of indecision. Decision-making isn’t always easy, that’s for sure. An overwhelming number of options can make decisions more complicated than they should be. Besides that to make a decision is to assume responsibility for the consequences. Decision-making is especially hard when you’re required to get others input first, say from a manager or a board of directors. Then again, one could argue that a non-decision really is a decision to do nothing.

In The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz writes that decisions are binary but certainty is not. We often confuse the need to make a decision and move on with the desire to feel certain about our choice. If you’re waiting for certainty, then you will be waiting forever. Death and taxes--the only things certain in life, right? Think of decisions as forks in a road. Whether you choose right or left, you are still moving ahead.

Feel the fear and do it anyway

To remain relevant in business, we must keep moving forward despite our imagined shortcomings or the potential naysayers lurking in the corners. You don’t know how something will land with a customer or what opportunities you’re disallowing yourself if you don’t put yourself out in the world. How will you know which direction to steer your ship if it never leaves the harbor?

Once you recognize what’s really stalling you out, you can address the root of the issue and see your marketing efforts through to completion. You’ll end up using your resources much more efficiently since you won’t be spinning your wheels or chasing dead ends.

You’ll experience a new momentum that will propel continued engagement with more customers and more deeply. In turn, you’ll see your income grow alongside your impact.

So hit publish, send the email, make the call, hire the help. The world needs your contribution.

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Ready to step up now and beat that fear down? Consider booking me for a Same-day Service. In this done-with-you format, we’ll wrap up one of those half-starts that’s been languishing on your to-do list. Whether it’s finishing up a sales page, an article, or email campaign, we’ll bust through the inertia that’s been weighing you down.

Lisa Mullis