Brené Brown talks about the “messy middle” of any project – the part of the journey that comes after the exciting beginning, and before the rewarding ending. It’s when you hit the wall – maybe you feel lost, stuck or start questioning why on earth you ever thought you could do this. What was I thinking!?
It happens to everyone. You started your business full of excitement and passion – and whether it’s months or years later, at some point, it is completely normal to find yourself in a rut. You’re not getting the traction you thought you would. Maybe some big plans haven’t come to fruition. Maybe you’ve suffered a few setbacks.
When this happens, marketing can be your best friend, but not in the way traditional marketing would lead us to believe. It isn’t about working harder, doing more, and pushing through. It’s about going to the source and treating the underlying cause. And we’ve found in the last ten years of our careers that these underlying marketing-ailments are at least one of these three things:
Read on to learn how we diagnose each problem and treat them in a more holistic, sustainable way than most marketing companies in today’s fast-paced world.
But first, we need to talk about how we actually view our business.
Business isn’t unlike parenthood. (But pleeeeaasseee don’t go around using the cliché “my business is my baby” … we beg you).
And here’s why:
Just like with children, your work as a parent is a lot more effective when we see them as their own independent souls, rather than a piece of ourselves, or a reflection of our own ego (that would be the classic antagonist sports-dad archetype we see in movies. You know, the ones who are living their own unmet achievements through their kids?)
This probably sounds familiar: You begin with your own dreams of where your business will go, and the exciting places it will take you too. And then, suddenly you find yourself in a place you weren’t expecting. It’s started to carve out it’s own path as it figures out who it is in the world. And it often isn’t the straightforward, perfectly-timed five-year plan you wrote about in your business plan.
Ach, if they’d just listened to you – you just wanted the best for them. You mapped out the path with the least amount of suffering.
Ultimately, their own journey will be so, so much more glorious than you imagined. And harder. Yes, sometimes it will keep you up at night, threaten to ruin your social life and bring you to your knees if you don’t continually set clear boundaries.
And on occasion, like any young soul on this earth, our businesses get stuck, especially when they’re young. It needs some guidance from you.
When this happens, it’s important to remember that your business still chose you to bring it to life. It believes in you to carry out its mission.
Kids love seeing their parents happy, living their own best life. Similarly:
Your business wants to see you thrive just as badly as you want to see it thrive.
But what do you do when you’ve hit a plateau? When there’s a client drought? When your platforms have just stopped growing?
Well, some sources would chuck quick-tip advice your way to rustle up another sugar-high:
These suggestions aren’t solutions to your growth problem. They will only serve as band-aid fixes to the symptoms of the real underlying problem. (And honestly, just make you more exhausted, stressed out and demoralized).
You don’t need that, and your sweet, impressionable business doesn’t either. We believe marketing should feel good for those who make it, and those who read it.
If a child isn’t acting like their usual self (like maybe they’re disconnecting from you, not engaging with others and being quieter than usual) we wouldn’t try to “fix them” by immediately signing them up for three new sports teams posting a cute video of them online, and enrolling them in a beauty contest so they can get more external validation and dopamine rushes. Similarly, we don’t want to do that to our businesses – if they’re begging for some internal support, this isn’t the time to expose them to the world to get a few likes.
Now don’t get us wrong, any of those “extra-curricular activities” for our brand (or our children) can be really enriching experiences when they’re integrated into our growth strategy in a mindful, sustainable way. But they are not silver-bullet healing potions that will cure our businesses when something is out of alignment.
So why do so many online marketing sources tell us to do this with our businesses when the going gets tough? When what our businesses really need is a more holistic treatment of the root problem.
This is part of what we do as mindful marketers – treating your marketing ailments in holistic, sustainable ways.
When something isn’t feeling right with your business, traditional marketing would teach us to do more, work harder, and keep pushing through. But what if this was only numbing the pain and making the injury worse? What if maybe our business just needs us to sit with it, listen to what it’s trying to tell us in its own way, and love it? Maybe that’s where we’ll find the true sources of healing.
When things have felt out of alignment with your business, we find it can almost always boil down to one or more of these three marketing illnesses:
We wanted to share these with you so that you can be educated to diagnose and treat your business in good ways on the days it’s struggling.
And the good news is, we have cures for each of these marketing ailments!
When you’re feeling stuck, like you’ve been trapped back in the box that you THOUGHT you escaped when you left your 9-5 … you can probably be sure that Fear is the primary emotion at the root of your stuckness. It can be really insidious too, sneaking up on you dressed like Responsibility, Humility, or our good old frenemy Perfectionism. But my friends, it’s Fear, trying to keep you safe, and suffocating your business at the same time.
Common Symptoms of Fear Paralysis:
Diagnosis: When we see some of these symptoms, it’s usually not long before one of the following three fears comes up in conversation:
Treatment: We usually prescribe a mindful marketing strategy session to help you identify the fear and overcome the ways it’s holding you back in your marketing with practical tasks. When we identify the problem, it already loosens its power over the steering wheel so we can take over and let Creativity, Curiosity or Love drive the car instead.
Medically, nearsightedness (also known as myopia or short-sightedness) is when your vision is limited to objects close to you (leaving things in the distance feeling blurry). This is an interesting parallel to our perspective in business – ie. we can get too close to them! You created your business. You live and breathe it every day. You see every email that comes through your inbox, and you know every part of your website that you wish you had done differently.
Common Symptoms of Nearsightedness in Your Marketing:
Diagnosis: When these symptoms arise, we know that someone has gotten a little too close to their business. Whether you’re a solopreneur who’s had to do much of the heavy lifting on your own or a seasoned expert who knows a lot (maybe even too much) about your industry, nearsightedness can happen to anyone!
Treatment: But the good news is that the treatment for this is really simple, and the recovery rates are very high! Simple, start talking to others about your work. Talk to others in your industry, outside your industry, and most importantly, your customers. Collect the words your customers are using to talk about you, and use those words instead of your own language. Ask good questions so you can get the most helpful information. And if you need an outside perspective to guide you through the journey, we are here with strategy sessions and website audits to help you through it.
In human psychiatry, an identity crisis is, “a developmental event that involves a person questioning their sense of self or place in the world” (Kendra Cherry, Very Well Mind).
We’ve seen Brand Identity crises happen after:
a) A big success
b) A big mistake/disappointment/failure
c) A period of non-growth
Although each of those experiences feels very different in the moment, all of them have the power to change our relationship to our business – thus altering the way we see its role in the world. (And if an entrepreneur is too attached to their business as a part of themselves, a brand identity crisis can coincide with a real identity crisis for the entrepreneur too.)
But ultimately, identity crises are not something to fear – they are a difficult season that can hold a HUGE amount of magic for growth. For some, it may mean going back to the source where you may have strayed from. And for others, it may actually mean following a new path to get more aligned with the work your brand is meant to do. We’ll talk more about how to use an identity crisis to your advantage under the “Treatment” heading.
Common Symptoms that You’re Experiencing a Brand Identity Crisis:
Diagnosis: So, when we see these symptoms, we know that an identity crisis is occurring – and this is something really wonderful! This is where we’ll help our clients dig further into the “why” behind their thoughts and decisions around their business. Is starting a TikTok account something that your customers would actually want? Or just something you think you need to do? Does it make sense to invest money in Instagram posts? Or would that money be better spent on your website? The goal of this excavation is to help parse out the difference between your brand’s identity, your own identity, and your client’s needs – all very different things that must not become codependent.
Treatment: This is where we find it really helpful to go back to some foundational brand development skills and documents. Do you have a brand story? Does it accurately reflect your audience and where your business is headed? Does it need to be updated? Or do you need to make your way back to it? We’ll walk through brand story writing, ideal client humanizing, and creating a brand persona that is authentic to the mission you and your business are on together.
If you’re feeling stuck in your business growth, your marketing mindset may just be the problem and the solution.
Fear of selling paralysis, nearsighted business strategies or a brand identity crisis.
Can you identify one of these? Sit your business down for a strategy session, where we can work together to figure out the core problems that are holding you back and provide you with practical solutions to get back on track.