10 Tips to Grow Your Audience While Feeding Your Soul.
Marketing is not a dirty word.
It’s the magic of communication. If you are the subject that communicates — the Who — and your message (your product / service / art / creation) is the What, then marketing would be the How.
In a world of 6+ billion human beings, 295 exabytes of information stored in our digital and analog archives (equivalent to 315 times the number of grains of sand in the world), 8,700 million species (land and water combined), it’s hard for most of us, tiny specs in this ever-evolving cosmos, to make our voice sound loud and clear over the rooftops of the world.
In this new kind of Renaissance, into which so many of us are evolving, combining our gifts on a multi-colored personalized palette to offer the world, and trying to pay the bills with our passion — only a natural and logical way to be fully human, if you ask me — marketing is the third pillar and key ingredient in our communication process.
It’s not an option, it’s a priority. It’s not a duty, it’s an art. Whatever you do or say to the world, if you actually live in this world and take a part in society (any society) your message won’t be as effective without deliberate marketing.
If you’re still shy, proud or confused about the M-word, dive deeper. Once you realize that there is marketing in everything you share with the world (even with friends, co-workers, loved ones, it goes deep), you’ll be less scared of semantics and more open to taking creative conscious action in your life and business.
I happened to receive several emails this month, from people I respect and admire, asking in one breath: How do I grow my audience this year… and keep my heart beating? Maybe it’s New Year’s fever, resolutions, evolution, change… But it’s also one of my favorite topics, so let’s dance.
Here are my top 10 tips to help you turn your occasional flirting, love affair or unhealthy obsession with marketing into a long term nurturing relationship, or a second skin.
I’ll add one or two self-check questions at the end of each point to help you apply them to your life & business. You can copy and paste these questions into a new doc, and spend some time answering them over the next few days.
1. Get filled.
You can’t give what you haven’t got. Your relationship with yourself and your message is your first and most important business. Nothing comes before this and nothing should get in between you and your soul’s food: hurry, worry, friends, enemies, lovers, endless to-dos…
It’s all for nothing if You are not in the equation. The How (marketing) of your message won’t do much good if the Why (purpose), the What (message/product) and the Who (you) are not aligned.
Be abundant by practicing abundance. To give something to others — anything — you must first allow yourself to receive it. Don’t get out of bed and start walking about your day without first remembering who you are, what you do and why you’re doing it. Cultivate the extraordinary. Live in the clouds, but visit earth often. Accept your superpowers before you start using them.
Put post-its on every wall, journal, meditate,exercise, take a walk in nature, read, listen to podcasts, music, anything that makes you come alive and nourishes your soul. Running on an empty soul will make you get sidetracked throughout the day by sugary distractions.
And do it daily. Human beings are the most forgetful animals. If you eat and shower and work everyday, then you must feed your spirit every day too.
Self-check: What’s your soul’s favorite food? Can you feed it breakfast so it has more energy and passion throughout the day? What is realistic for you time-wise? Can you rearrange your day in such a way that the first thing you do is have that time to feed your soul, plan your day/week/month/life, remember your goals and realign your priorities?
2. Branding is everything.
How do you package yourself? Do you have a name? Do you choose your clothes, comb your hair, put on make-up, talk and walk a certain way, choose what you share, what you like and what you don’t? Intentional or not, that’s Branding 101.
I’m not sure what we are, really. Quantum physics says we’re empty as a galaxy inside. The people we see in the mirror and out on the street are layers upon layers of choices. If everything about you — from your eye color to the paint peeling off a park bench you just sat on — is telling a story, then what story is your brand telling?
I’ve seen so many people struggle to package their ideas and get them across. But what if you didn’t have to struggle, what if instead of bumping into others’ walls, you found out you can dance with yourself?
The secret to effective branding starts with you. You are your first ideal client. If you put your heart into creating something, then the first person that your product or message is directed to and your branding should impact is Yourself. The second person is the Other, the Client, the Recipient. It’s a conversation — and in order to speak and understand it, you must develop your critical thinking and a bipolar attitude towards your product.
Most people are so blinded by their love-at-first sight on their First Branding Date with Self, that they forget to ever go on the second date. Instead of practicing radical honesty, they manipulate the conversation and block away any chance at objectivity. If it’s true love, then truly test it on yourself, and if it passes the bullshit detector, go all the way to the edge, separate yourself from your self and take another look.
The three most important intrinsic aspects of a brand, you ask?
1) Clarity — Never ever sacrifice clarity over pretended creativity. Creativity is a modus operandi through which you face your entire life. It doesn’t necessarily imply or require a Picasso.
2) Passion — If you’re not in love with your brand, nobody will. It’s true we go through stages, but this is one fire that should never be put out. When it flickers, it’s time for a change (in you or your branding).
3) Effectiveness — Is it getting you the results you want? This is Clarity’s twin sister. Clarity makes it transparent. Effectiveness makes it resonate with your audience.
Imagine your message or product in a courtroom, sued for lack of clarity. Be the lawyer for five minutes and defend it. Be the prosecutor for another five and make it cry. Meet with your jury: find a group of people with a good eye or hire a consultant. Finally, be the judge and carry out the sentence. Practice this exercise every time you get stuck.
Self-check: Is your branding saying what you want to say? Is your message consistent in all its phases and details? What do people think about your product or message? If they haven’t already told you, can you create a 5-point questionnaire and send it to a few brutally honest friends or enemies whose opinions you value? How does it make them feel? Are they seeing what you want to show? Do they enjoy reading you / buying from you? What do they identify your brand image with? Ask for feelings and sensations, not thoughts. The heart is the most unreasonable creature. Although our brains are part of the equation, we fall in love with the heart.
3. The medium is the message.
This is part of the branding but it’s so important, I’m going to give it a whole slot.The way you do one thing is the way you do anything. Your medium (branding and packaging) should be consistent with your message or product. You can’t have a beautiful message in ugly or unattractive clothes. You can’t have a shallow message (and it can only be so if your heart is not in it), packaged in lofty clothes. There’s no such thing as artificial depth.
People can smell the bullshit. You know why? Because we’re not really separated from one another, we’re anything and everything, one person and every person. Every you is also a bit me, and every me, a bit you. Separation and the construction of self only exists in our minds, it’s just perception. Your shit is my shit.
It’s a double edged sword this medium-is-the-message thing. If you fail to understand that the way you do one thing is the way you do anything, it doesn’t end well for you. You may momentarily soar or trick people into believing you’re some kind of god, but sooner or later they will see the real you.
See, if you’re full of it and try to sell me a credit you don’t own, you’ll lose my respect. Go back to #1 and get filled first. Don’t sell me air, clouds or sunlight. I can get that on my own.
And if you’re a genius in disguise, a diamond in the rough, an honest citizen of Wonderland, and you have the most amazing message or product the world has ever known, but the way you deliver it is below this message or your branding is misplaced, ineffective or unrelated to the whole Phenomenon of You, then you’ll make me feel like you don’t know yourself enough. As a result, you can’t trust yourself or believe in your own greatness. And if you don’t, why should I?
You can hold the most beautiful creation in your hands. But if you’re unable to show it to me in a way that I can say: aha!, then half your genius is wasted.
For philosophical pondering: If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? You don’t make art to keep it in a closet. You make it to share it with the world. Communication doesn’t happen if you can’t effectively show the world your art.
Self-check: Identify the top 5 most powerful aspects of your message / product. Check your medium: branding and packaging. Does this effectively reflect these aspects? If it doesn’t, get your hands dirty.
4. Offer free value.
Why am I telling you all this for free? Honestly? Because there’s an inexplicable joy that comes from helping someone by delivering some kind of value to their life. It’s both, a selfless and selfish act on my end. I get high on oxytocin while writing this and you might get some valuable info out of it. A win-win.
Not everything is weighed in cash. What were humans like before they started exchanging their life for work and their work for money and their money for things to distract them from the remaining 5% of life they still had?
Offering free value is like inviting someone to your house for dinner. It’s not about the money or the time you spent on cooking it, it’s about the fun you have while you eat and talk and the joy it gives you to see your guest say: mmmmm! It’s a relationship. Relationships are free. Kindness is our original human currency — not money. By sharing free value, you honor this ancient form of trade and show that green damn paper who’s the boss.
You can share free value related to your product, service or message in any way you can and as frequently as it works for you: blogging (our motto: write-or-perish), newsletters, giveaways, social media, videos, or any other medium. It’s all yours for the giving and the taking.
Remember the golden rule: Be constant and persistent. Choose your frequency and stick to it, no matter what. Diligence and persistence have done more for the world than occasional strokes of genius.
Self-Check: What are you sharing for free? If you’re a blogger, this is easy. But are you giving enough? Does it reflect your message? Does it possess intrinsic value or is it just a wash-off of your paid stuff? Are you giving people full, digestible meals or just tasteless bites that doesn’t leave them wanting more? Are you doing it consistently? What else could you do? Do you do any extra sharing on special occasions? Have brand parties, celebrations, giveaways, more reasons to dance?
5. Respect yourself.
Draw your own boundaries. Don’t turn into a whore of your work. Don’t become your own slave. In The War of Art, a book every creator should read, Steven Pressfield suggests to treat yourself like an employee of your own business. This will help you focus on the work that needs to get done and it will also free you from the 24 hour unhealthy bondage that most entrepreneurs, artists and creators impose upon themselves.
Say, how much time are you wasting on social media every day? Note — I’m not asking how much time you’re spending, but actually wasting.
Social media is an essential tool for most bloggers, journalists, entrepreneurs or anyone working online and every person’s engagement should match his or her unique needs. It is a given that you’ll use it, but use it as a tool, not a distraction. When you start practicing the conscious love and respect you owe yourself, you’ll notice when your work stops becoming your friend and it turns into your enemy.
Self-Check: Do you have a work / life schedule? In this schedule, are there times you’ve locked in for creative work, nourishing healthy meals, soul-feeding, good company, play time and rest? If you had an employee and a heart, you’d make sure their needs are satisfied. So why not for yourself? “With great power comes great responsibility.” And this responsibility begins with you.
6. Network (but not in the traditional sense).
We are made for community, not isolation. You can momentarily or temporarily lock yourself up to finish a project or complete some arduous work without distractions. But your message will be powerless if you don’t relate to and engage with your audience.
Networking is not about going to boring events, where you shake sweaty hands and get high on junk food while exchanging a hundred business cards with people as bored and tired and stressed out as you.
It’s about finding a group of people you are inspired by, whatever it is that they do, whose purpose you’re aligned with, and who want to be the change they want to see in the world as badly as you do. And then, having the time of your life through an exchange of passion and aliveness.
You can do this online or in person, what matters is shifting your idea of networking from something you have to do to get the word out there, to a natural way of connecting with like-minded people. From a duty to a joy. From extrinsic to intrinsic. From Me to We.
Self-check: What people inspire you to be the best version of yourself and make you feel like anything is possible? Get closer to them.
7. Don’t play dirty.
Don’t spam me, please, I’ll bite you. There is nothing that lowers a person or a brand’s reputation more than being spammy or forcing themselves on another person.
This applies to the entire hall of shame: unsolicited posting on other people’s Facebook walls, hitting them up ten times a day on Twitter, emailing them your offers, discounts, articles every other day, begging them to share your work, signing them up for your newsletter without permission, stop!
Just because I can appreciate or even love a meal, it doesn’t mean that you can stuff it in my face whenever you feel like it. I may not even be hungry. The point is, let ME decide what I sign up for, what I “like” and share and promote. Don’t do it for me, that’s not cool. Don’t use force. Instead, use your creativity so I can’t help but be attracted to you.
A person is a world. We’re constellations. We’re complicated, unique and free-willed. You can’t force love. But you can attract it. There’s so much trust and power in free choice. Seduction is inviting.
Effective branding is like tapping on someone’s shoulder and saying: Hey Beautiful, I’m in town, let’s go get coffee.
Shameless spamming on the other hand is like slapping people out of the blue, dragging them by the hair into a basement filled with all your work, tying them to a chair, gluing their eyelids to their forehead so they have no other choice but to watch, and dancing naked in front of them for hours. Don’t be so crazy.
Self-check: This should be easy. Have you been spamming lately? You look suspicious.
8. Be transparent.
Be clear about what you offer and what you don’t. Give away free value, but indicate what isn’t free.
Don’t be shy about asking for money. We all have to pay our bills. And at this point in our evolution, I think we’ve fully accepted and internalized the fact that things, services, even people (when it comes to time and space) aren’t free. Surprise, surprise. The point isn’t having to pay. It’s who we pay and what we pay for that you need to make us realize.
Don’t be vague unless being vague is part of your branding strategy. Ultimately, this will cloud your communication and then the reader / client / buyer will end up feeling like you’ve been keeping information from them.
Be your whole package from a start, show both sides of the moon. Those who really need your services and can afford them will come. And those who don’t or can’t, will still be able to get a piece of you through your free items. Everyone wins.
Self-check: Do your prospect clients (and by “client” I mean any person who will spend any amount of money on anything that you have to offer, directly or indirectly) know what you’re selling, how much it costs and where they can buy it? It doesn’t matter if you haven’t sold anything yet or what your day job is. As an artist, entrepreneur or CEO of your life, identify what you want people to pay you for and what you are able to do for free. This will bring clarity to your work, save you time and help you prioritize your assets.
9. Be a Renaissance Person.
You may have heard of or contemplated the belief that the whole universe is reflected in every single atom, plant, creature, human…So is your whole message reflected in every little post you share on social media, or every article you publish, every breath you take.
So try, as much as possible, to offer a taste of the whole in every single bite of you. I’m not referring to the particular little topics you write about, post or share. There is a time and a place for everything — from a joke to a call for action. What I mean is, be whole, multi-layered, cultivate a Renaissance spirit, be resourceful, abundant, epic, universal.
Example: The fact that you’re a yogi and your message is your body — at least in what can be appreciated from outside — doesn’t mean that you can’t also be a poet, a culture geek, a tech genius, a fierce entrepreneur, etc. The fact that you sell yoga, doesn’t mean that you can’t sell everything else that you are, in that yoga package. In fact, these are the most powerful services — the ones that advertise one thing, but end up opening you up to everything.
Self-check: Are you limiting yourself from being a revolution? Are you pigeonholing your service, product or message too much? How can you make it richer, more nourishing, more complete? How many lives can you have? How can you give your audience a full, varied and delicious meal without skipping any essential ingredients?
10. Don’t try to convince people.
And I don’t mean the spamming extreme, but the very act of constantly trying to appear, rather than the smooth, organic process of becoming and attracting.
Be like water. Water doesn’t argue with itself, fight with inanimate objects, punch walls, scream, flash people. Water flows. And in flowing, it always finds a way around an obstacle and it attracts the thirsty passerby.
Don’t struggle to get people to notice you. This is exhausting and it builds on your insecurity. Instead, spend your energy on becoming a master at your craft.
In the wise words of S. N. Goenka,
“Work diligently. Diligently. Work patiently and persistently. Patiently and persistently. And you’re bound to be successful. Bound to be successful.”
If there’s a cynical inside you, he or she might think that if we all did this, then competition for attention would increase and there wouldn’t be enough for all of us. But this mentality is not supported by the rest of nature. In nature, a single piece of fruit yields many seeds, and out of each seed, if planted and nurtured, a tree will grow and bear more fruit and yield more seeds…
If that is not abundance, I don’t know what is. And if we come from nature, then she should be the one to regulate our markets and serve as a model for our economy. Not fear, scarcity or selfishness. As channels of universal expression, we’re infinite and highly adaptable.
Will your audience magically grow if you start practicing all the above?
To be honest, I can’t guess the future, but I have seen this work in my own life and those of others.
As Ferdinand Foch put it, “There is no more powerful weapon on earth than the human soul on fire.” And if you get that soul aligned with your highest values, most burning passion and creative clarity, your audience might just be crazy enough to follow.
Drop me a woof or a meow in the comments and tell me about your experience with your own product, service and/or message, or let me know if I’ve missed any vital points.