Breaking Out of the Marketing Echo Chamber

I am really good at what I do. Despite what impostor syndrome screams at me at times, I know this. I have spent the past decade working hard to grow and learn so that I can say that with confidence.

I am also really good at talking about what I do with others in my field. You’ll regularly find me participating in Twitter chats and I love sharing insights with fellow colleagues in my industry who are at different points in their careers. The landscape for digital marketing is constantly evolving, so we should continue to keep each other in check and learn from each other.

When I first started this blog, it was without a plan. All I knew was that I wanted a place to talk about the things I’m passionate about, in my voice, painted with my experience. There’s always the never ending struggle of “Why should I even bother when there are so many established websites/blogs out there?” My answer to that question has always been “Because no one else out there has had the same exact experience.”

This is how Amplify Yourself/Your Biz was born as a philosophy and business. As a storyteller, I’m good at helping those around me think differently about their story, their business, and how they should bring it to light.

Unfortunately, I have not been very good at doing this in my own business. It’s the curse of the business owner. Majority of my creative and strategic energy has been spent on my clients for the past few years, as expected. So this blog in particular has been in a kind of limbo.

Every time I sit down to make an editorial plan for this site, I freeze. I get stuck. I keep going in circles and then I give up because there are other more important things to focus on.

One of the biggest struggles I’ve had is taking my own advice. I tell my clients to figure out what makes them unique. I ask them to identify their target audience. I make them think about the kind of community they want to build beyond making a single sale. I remind them over and over not to be tone-deaf.

I’ve become tone-deaf because it’s easier for me to talk about marketing to other marketers instead of serving my audience and community.

The client that challenged me to think differently.

As a consultant, I have been lucky to work on projects that served small businesses but I didn’t always work directly with small businesses. I’ve worked with other marketers and journalists who shared a common passion and audience. It wasn’t until I had my first ongoing small business client that wasn’t another agency that things finally started to click.

My client was a professional right here in Seattle who is extremely good at what he does, and what he does has nothing to do with marketing. Every conversation we had felt like a challenge to me because there was a lot more educating than I was used to.

I had become rusty talking to other small business owners because I was so used to talking to marketers. 

This client challenged me beyond belief but we made good progress. More importantly, this client reminded me who I want to serve, especially with this blog.

I don’t want to talk to other marketers on this platform.

Yes, there will be occasions where the content will overlap and will help serve other marketers who are in the same boat. Like this post where I share content marketing lessons from my unexpectedly viral tweet. But I don’t want to go in circles about the same topics with other marketers.

I don’t want to talk about best practices.

I don’t want to keep having the same conversations.

I want to break free of this echo chamber.

So, who will I be talking to on this blog?

When I first began freelancing, there weren’t a lot of great resources for people like me. I was lucky enough to have an incredible network of professionals in DC who took me under their wing and gave me chances on projects, but there wasn’t a community of freelancers. Most of the resources for “working for yourself” were related to sales, or being a virtual assistant, or a writer traveling the world.

These days, I’m part of a lot of communities of entrepreneurs and one of the things I love about them is the variety. They’re not all writers. They’re not all great marketers. They’re makers who are following their passion and yes, some of them don’t have the first clue about social media or content marketing.

I want Amplify Your Biz to become a resource for these individuals who are really good at what they do but don’t have the time or money to invest in help when it comes to content marketing. Or they are ready to hire their first employee to help with marketing but they’re not sure of what they should be looking for.

I don’t want to sell my services to these individuals anymore. I want to become a resource. Trying to focus on the business aspect has stripped away my passion, energy, and most of all, mental capacity to truly be a resource.

I want to tell the stories of these small business owners. I want to break down the reports that have become second-nature to us marketers and translate them in an actionable way for them.

I’ve lost my voice along the way because I was trying to sound like everyone else. I’ve become tone-deaf not only to my audience but to myself.

What’s next for Amplify Your Biz?

I’ll be focusing more on lessons from my own adventures as a consultant/business owner, spotlighting other small business owners to share their lessons, and creating tangible resources for solopreneurs who need a little extra help other journeys.

Marketers? Don’t worry – I’ll still be around for our awesome conversations on Twitter, LinkedIn, and other blogs. But Amplify Your Biz is breaking free of the echo chamber.

See you around.

Lean Content Marketing Tips for Startups

When it comes to content marketing, you don’t need a full newsroom or a large budget to be effective. Whether you’re an enterprise-level organization or a startup, a lean content marketing strategy can take you a long way.

I had the pleasure of speaking at Seattle Startup Week 2017 about building a content team, creating a content marketing strategy that goes the distance, and getting to know your audience – on a budget.

When it comes to statistics around content marketing, my go-to resource is The State of Content Marketing from CMI and they didn’t disappoint. Here are the numbers I focused on at the beginning of my presentation.

  • 68% of consumers feel more positive about a brand after consuming content from it.
  • 70% of people would rather learn more about a company through articles rather than an ad.
  • 75% of marketers are increasing investment in content marketing

These numbers alone prove that content marketing is here to stay. The methods and the platforms may be evolving, but at the heart of it, great content marketing builds trust, loyalty, and engagement.

So, if you’re a startup or a small business, where do you begin? (more…)

#TuesdayThrees: Keys to Being a Successful Ghostwriter

I’ve always considered writing to be my passion.

My mom taught me how to read and write when I was four, and the running joke of my life has been that no one has been able to stop me since.

However, it was never supposed to be a career path, especially ghostwriting.

When I went into law, writing would be a crucial part of my career, but to get paid to be a writer? That seemed utterly ridiculous. So ridiculous, in fact, I wrote under a pen name for the first part of my freelance career.

I wrote for content mills, for local real estate companies, and for agencies that paid me next to nothing for my work.

I was essentially a glorified ghostwriter, and ironically, there’s really no glory in being a ghostwriter. (more…)

The Importance of Defining Your Company Culture

The phrase “startup culture” brings to mind images of foosball tables, fancy coffee machines, and interns flittering around in the open office. Sure, that can be an accurate snapshot of a startup company, but that’s all it would be: a snapshot. The culture of a company isn’t defined by its perks – those perks are a side effect of the values instilled in the company culture.

When it comes to strategy at the beginning of a company’s journey, most entrepreneurs will focus on sales, marketing, and product development. After all, these are the most important strategies. However, the most successful startups will also have a well-defined strategy for the company’s brand. What are the values behind the product? Who are the people you want to attract to your workforce? Are you creating a positive and rewarding environment for your employees? These are important questions every founder needs to answer in a clear startup strategy.

Your company is built in your image.

If you want to begin to understand the culture of a company, look no further than its founder. Your values, your weaknesses, and your vision are what will become the foundation of your startup’s culture.

For example, if the CEO of a company is competitive, then the company will tend to be more aggressive and competitive. If the CEO is too analytical, it may mean that the startup may have a harder time moving as fast as it should. A creative CEO will bring a more design-focused attitude to the company.

Consider these questions as you evaluate your values:

  • What are my strengths?
  • What do I value about the people around me?
  • What leads me to make good decisions?
  • Which characteristics do all of the people in my life have in common?
  • What qualities do I dislike in other people?
  • What are my weaknesses?

“We’re all stories in the end. Make it a good one.” – The Eleventh Doctor

Fast forward to two years from now.

What do you want people to be saying about your company? At the beginning of a startup, the focus is on product development and growth, which is why it’s important to look into the future. There’s no crystal ball when it comes to how successful your company will be in two years, but there are a few things you can control about your story.

Your culture. Your values. The je ne sais quoi that helps you stand out among a sea of startups.

Think about the way you want your employees to talk about what it’s like to work at your company. You want them to have a twinkle in their eye, a passion in their voice, and most importantly, a defined story.

“When you have a well-crafted, specific, controversial company story, it can guide everything from who you shouldn’t hire to how you settle arguments,” says Molly Graham, who was brought on to build a shared vision for Facebook in 2008.

Give your company culture room to evolve

Once you’ve identified your values and the story you want to be telling about your business, it doesn’t just live in a memo buried somewhere in your emails. Picture your culture as the literal backbone of your company. Just as your body allows your spine to grow as you age, you need to allow your company culture to do the same. There will be a natural growth, and once in awhile, it will be nourished by the conversations you have with employees and customers.

It should be omnipresent in everything you do, from emails to product descriptions to coffee breaks by the fancy espresso machine, and even job descriptions.

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, has this to say about commitment to culture: “Many companies have core values, but they don’t really commit to them. They usually sound more like something you’d read in a press release. Maybe you learn about them on day one of orientation, but after that, it’s just a meaningless plaque on the wall of the lobby.”

Be attractive to the people you want to hire

According to Rand Fishkin, CEO and founder of Moz, company culture “has a transformative power to create remarkable companies and inspire people to accomplish great things together.”

You want to attract the right candidates to bring your vision to life. Well, it’s a two-way street. Working in a startup is tough. It requires vigilance, a lot of long days, and a certain sense of passion for the company that you may not find in a corporate environment. You want your employees to feel ownership within the company (whether that’s a feeling or real stock options, that’s up to you), which also brings a certain sense of pride.

So how do you become attractive to potential employees? Think of it as your way of releasing professional pheromones to create the right kind of chemistry. When writing job descriptions, infuse your company’s story into it, and make it appealing to the person you want in that particular role. When reading a job description, a candidate should think “Yes, this job is perfect for me!” or “Oh no, I don’t want that job.”

Your company will succeed when you have a group of employees who share the same priorities, who are committed to your company’s mission, and most importantly, feel a sense of belonging when they come to work.

Think of it this way: You want your employees to be happy when they come to work? The numbers speak for themselves: Unhappy employees cost American businesses over $300 billion each year. So it pays to make sure your employees are happy.

When your employees and your customers are talking about your company years from now, it won’t be about the shipping mishap that happened on day 43.

Your values, your mission, the impact you have on the world around you – these are the stories that will stop people in their tracks and whisper, “Oh, you had me at culture.”