You know that feeling you get when you see a clown? You feel that you should turn and run, but something inside says that the right thing to do is stay and pretend to be entertained. That’s how I feel whenever I sense that I’m being sold something. Of course, this serves no one. It’s just a waste of time and is frustrating for both the seller and the consumer.
I’ve been running a freelance web development business since 2004. Throughout that period, my philosophy revolved around anti-marketing and non-selling. In groups, I rarely spoke about my business, assuming no one was interested – the last thing I wanted was to appear pushy or “salesy” (I’m pretty sure I made that word up, but it fits the situation). I didn’t advertise; heavens no, not that! I felt that any product or service of any real value should be able to stand on its own. A good business shouldn’t have to sell or market. People who need and want my products should magically find me; like stumbling upon a golden unicorn in a dense forest. It was my client’s responsibility to find me, not MY responsibility to let them know what I was doing. I judged sales people as dishonest, shady, uncaring, self-interested, pushy – the list goes on. I certainly didn’t want to be on the end of that kind of judgment.
Let me underscore that this was my perception; not my reality, it’s what I had made up. In truth, I had personal relationships with many decent, loving, warm people in the sale and marketing industry.
It Was Time to Rethink My Marketing Strategy
So, how successful was my anti-marketed, non-sell business? Not good! I mean, I did good work and my clients all loved me; however, word of mouth and referrals was my only source of new projects. Thankfully, I had other income streams. So bills got paid, children got fed, and the wife got taken out to dinner. It was enough to exist, but that wasn’t who I was – just existing, just getting by. That’s not OK. My family deserved better and I deserved better. Why was this not working?
Discovering podcasts led to an epiphany, especially discovering Troy Dean’s WPElevation podcast. I listened to person after person share their experience with WordPress and what really impressed me was how many people are running successful businesses on a WordPress foundation. So I started meditating on the difference between my old freelance business model (or lack thereof) and what I was hearing from all these successful online entrepreneurs. A new hybrid marketing model gradually materialized from these meditations.
A New Marketing Philosophy Emerges
I figured that since I have something important to offer and since many people need my particular set of skills – it is my responsibility to INFORM the world about what I do and ASSIST them in finding me. My new marketing strategy was beginning to take shape:
- Don’t sell – INFORM
- Don’t market – ASSIST
- Don’t form a network – form a COMMUNITY
My new marketing strategy revolves around these key points – inform, assist, help, and serve the business community. I don’t want to push people into buying something they don’t need – I let them know what I do. If they need the services that I offer, then great, let’s get started. If they don’t need what I offer, maybe I can help them connect with someone that does have what they need. You may call this networking, but I choose to call it COMMUNITY. On this foundation, I decided to restructure my business.
So here are my new principles regarding selling, advertising, and marketing. Don’t sell to customers, inform them. Don’t market to customers, assist them. Don’t form a network – form a community. I am committed to making sure that as many people as I can reach have a crystal clear understanding of what I do. I will use whatever resources are at my disposal to tell my “story”. I will be honest and clear about what I can do, what I can’t do; along with what I’m willing to do and what I’m not willing to do.
I will continue to listen to my potential client’s needs so that I can be well informed, in order to help them find a solution to their needs. It may turn out that my area of expertise is not what they need – in those situations, perhaps I know someone who does possess the expertise they need and I can facilitate an introduction. The focus should not be about closing a sale – it should be about forming relationships in which we can all help each other. This is not a new thought process, but ancient wisdom. This is actually how our ancestors lived thousands of years ago.The focus should not be about closing a sale - it should be about forming relationships. Click To Tweet
Instead of focusing on our own agendas, we should be working together as a community to inform, assist, help, and serve in whatever capacity possible.