When you don’t know what works, marketing your business feels like a gamble.
Each new article, email, social media post, podcast episode, or video feels like it could be a home run or it could be just another invisible effort to get your business seen.
To make matters worse, the instinctive response to not knowing what will work seems to be to try everything. You chase every new platform, tactic, or fad that bubbles to the surface.
But by the time you’ve had a chance to try the “hot new thing,” it’s stopped working and you’re back to square one.
Tactics, platforms, and fads don’t make for great marketing.
Instead, great marketing comes from an acute understanding of what makes your brand, your offer, and — yes — even you, the marketer, a standout. Great marketing spotlights your brand not because you’ve executed a particular tactic perfectly but because you’ve tapped into something bigger, deeper, and more meaningful.
When you stumble onto great marketing, it’s because you’ve accessed an inherent capacity for influence that every person has and every brand should have. The “trick” is discovering how to tap into that capacity over and over again so that you can create great marketing more consistently and earn more visibility for your brand.
Marketing is about visibility. Visibility is about power.
In his book, The Power Paradox, Dacher Keltner shines some light on how we can connect our brands and their missions to powerful marketing through the lens of how individuals gain power in groups. He writes that power is really the ability to influence others and make a difference in the world.
Brands need power and influence to woo the right group of people and change their lives (in big ways or small) through their products. In essence, your marketing is an effort to establish power in your community or marketplace. When people are paying attention to your marketing, they’re granting your business the power to influence them.
So, marketing and power go hand-in-hand. Which is why we, as marketers, need to pay attention to what Keltner discovered are the 5 ways to earn more power in any group. While we might assume that there are sneaky methods or coercive tactics at play, power (and visibility) is really the reward granted to those who practice a more subtle art form rooted in authenticity.
We have a deep cultural intuition that nice guys finish last, that one must step on others to rise in the ranks, and that acquiring power requires the cold-blooded dispensing of rivals and even allies. But nothing could [be] further from the truth.
Visibility and power are found at the intersection of authenticity and strategy.
The 5 non-obvious ways to earn power that Dacher outlines can become a guideline for 5 strategies for crafting marketing that earns visibility through authenticity. Instead of marketing on a whim or eschewing strategic action to just do your own thing, you can combine intention and planning with a truly personal approach.
You and your brand determine what works for you but you create a strategy so it’s no longer a gamble.
Let’s take a look at these 5 non-obvious ways to put your business in the spotlight and how each are being applied by other small business owners:
The first way to earn visibility is remaining open to new perspectives, feedback, and information. It requires genuine curiosity, creativity, and plenty of communication.
Jenn Giles Kemper, the founder of Sacred Ordinary Days, used Openness to fuel the launch of her latest liturgical year planner. She’s created a community around her brand and uses that community to solicit feedback and suggestions for making her line of planners better.
The company had its best day yet when it released its latest iteration. Jenn even received emails from people saying, ‘You really listened!’ They appreciated the honest and curious way that Jenn asked for feedback and responded with an overwhelming number of sales.
At CoCommercial, we invest heavily in Openness too. Unlike other social networks that are algorithm-based, we pride ourselves on being human-powered. Our community managers are paid to invite new members into the network, show them the ropes, and solicit feedback. We could automate more of this process and reduce cost but the human touch means that we’re truly able to remain open to feedback and stay curious about ways to improve the experience for members. In turn, our members reward us by sharing the network with their friends and colleagues — meaning we earn the kind of word-of-mouth marketing that money just can’t buy.
Your turn: What can you do to incorporate curiosity into your brand or product marketing?
While certainly some brands and media outlets garner attention by riling up a frenzy, sustained visibility and influence comes from offering a sense of calm and a fresh perspective. Instead of syncing up with the latest freakout, your brand can represent a different way of looking at things.
The market rewards brands that don’t react frantically every time there’s a change or new challenge.
Take a look at Productive Flourishing founder Charlie Gilkey. While other business strategists flail around every time there’s a new hiccup in the marketplace, Charlie is calm, focused, and reliable. He consistently creates exceptional content that markets his sane approach to building a business in the 21st century.
In our marketing at CoCommercial, we provide an alternate Perspective by highlighting the real efforts of business owners who have been there, done that, and are still doing it every day. Instead of relying on experts or gurus — and the personality cults they create — we’re focused on distributed expertise.
We know there is no 1 expert who can have all the answers, so we shine a light on how different business owners handle different situations. We do this through the Help Yourself blog here on Medium and in a series of weekly live Help Yourself shows. This has been a great way for our members to find a safe-haven for discussion and alternative approaches to their pressing challenges.
Your turn: What are you willing to say or do that is counter to the current freak out?
Marketing that utilizes Kindness is cooperative. It draws others in, recognizes their contribution, and lifts them up. When you shine a light on others, your brand also shines.
Tanya Geisler, a women’s leadership coach and impostor complex expert, is one of the kindest people I know. But she’s also one of the kindest marketers I know.
Tanya’s first thought is always to spotlight others. So much so that when she wanted to develop a weekly live podcast, she named it “In The Spotlight With Tanya Geisler.” She talks to both influencers and clients about how they approach life in the spotlight, what holds them back from taking on a bigger role, and how they’re working to fulfill their personal missions. She regularly recognizes and amplifies their brilliance — and, in doing so, amplifies her own.
At CoCommercial, we take a similar approach. In keeping with our value for distributed expertise as I mentioned earlier, we highlight the stories of our members in weekly “I Am The New Economy” Member Features and use these same profiles throughout social media to earn attention from new potential members. We also crowdsource in-depth articles and workshops like this one on how Seth Godin (but really our members) taught me the importance of Constructive Encouragement.
Your turn: How can you shine a light on others?
Focused marketing is imbued with purpose. It is driven by your Why and executed with intention. We respect Focus because it gives us context and a sense of stability. Visibility emerges from Focus slowly but powerfully. Without Focus, earning sustainable attention is nearly impossible.
Communication Rebel founder Dr. Michelle Mazur is extremely focused on her audience. She knows they want to earn more paid speaking gigs and reach bigger audiences with their unique messages. Everything she does to market her business is based on their questions, challenges, and misconceptions about how to do just that.
She hosts a podcast called Rebel Speaker that addresses her audience’s hot topics little bit by little bit. She also does regular Facebook Live videos that take advantage of that same knowledge. Whenever she puts her brand in the spotlight, it’s with the same intense Focus that’s earned her higher and higher coaching fees over the last 3 years and kept her practice full.
Similarly, Budget Nerd founder Mark Butler is so focused that his marketing is almost entirely internal. He doesn’t feel the need to be plastering his message all over social media or even regularly blogging. He knows what his target client needs, what they want, and how to deliver it to them in a way that generates new clients. Word of mouth marketing from his existing clients drives the engine.
It’s easy to think that more, more, more is the answer to all of your marketing questions but Focus allows you to truly focus on less-but-better.
Your turn: What message are you willing to stick with for the long haul?
Dacher Keltner’s research on power makes one thing clear: enthusiasm is the #1 predictor of who receives influence and power in a group. It’s the same with your business. If you allow your brand to be ecstatically enthusiastic about what it’s all about, people will pay attention.
My husband always says, “I love to listen to anyone geek out about something they love.” Let that be a lesson for the way you market your business. Geek out, go on a rant, rave with excitement, follow an idea down the rabbit hole.
Pay attention to when your Enthusiasm makes you shine. Pay attention to when it makes your brand and business shine. Recreate that light as often as possible.
Sue B. Zimmerman, Instagram expert and social media educator, has an infectious personality. Her enthusiasm for marketing small businesses seems to know no bounds! She seamlessly channels that into Instagram, live video, and live events — and her audience has grown massively because of it.
Amanda Steinberg, founder & CEO of DailyWorth and WorthFM, has a fierce Enthusiasm driven by her mission to help women manage their money better. She’s relentless in her pursuit of learning, transformation, and better ways for engaging women on the topic of money. She’s used her Enthusiasm to find funding, break into the “boys’ club” of the financial world, amass over a million subscribers, and nurture relationships with major influencers.
L’Erin Alta, a spiritual guide for women in transition, has a soulful Enthusiasm. If you watch one of her videos or attend one of her events, you can’t help but be transfixed by her presence. L’Erin is conscious of her own power of Enthusiasm and channels that into soulful writing, a podcast, and videos that show her at her best. Her marketing is a beautiful blend of the authentic and strategic.
We’re enthusiastic at CoCommercial, too. We’re passionate about transforming today’s small business owners into tomorrow’s economic powerhouses. We have a vision for influencing public policy to better support freelancers, small business owners, and the self-employed. I talk about this mission as often as possible — though, possibly, not often enough — and, every time I do, we receive amazing comments, new referrals, and fresh perspectives inside our network.
Your turn: What message makes you shine?
It’s not the platform, the tactic, the frequency, or even the production value of the marketing you use that determines your success. Any “strategy” that starts there is bound to fail.
To put your brand & business in the spotlight, your strategy needs to start with authenticity grounded in openness, kindness, focus, perspective, and enthusiasm. Look back over the 5 questions I posed with each method and allow yourself to get creative about how you or your brand could show up and embody those qualities.
There is no right way to market your business, earn attention for your brand, or find the spotlight for your message.
There is only your way.