Here’s why it’s hard to do your own marketing
The more conversations I have with other marketers, the clearer it becomes. It’s hard to do your expert work for yourself. Here’s how to fix it.
Marketers - is client work mostly a breeze for you, but your own marketing feels like a chore? If so, you’re not alone. As I’ve discovered in 20-plus years as a marketer, doing your own marketing is unexpectedly tricky. It’s surprisingly common for marketers to underestimate the problem and let incomplete projects pile up.
Those blog posts that never get published. The lead magnet put permanently on hold. The podcast launch we push from month to month. But there’s a psychological burden to this behaviour. Our brains can’t help fixating on unfinished projects. They weigh heavily on our minds (it’s called the Zeigarnik Effect). Interrupted tasks bubble up in our brains like a telling-off. They make us feel uncertainty or self-doubt. It’s hard to dismiss them.
So how can marketers tackle the tasks they put off? I’m going to show you how Hemingway and Big Bird can revitalise your own marketing.
How does this problem affect startups?
If you run a marketing or comms startup, you might be aware of this issue already.
Or maybe you’re the founder of another type of business, but you have a marketing background. Maybe you can’t understand why your industry experience doesn’t allow you to breeze through your own marketing.
I tried this. (It didn’t work)
What can you do to fix it?
In the past, I tested different ways to overcome this problem. For starters, I created endless tasklists (hello again, Zeigarnik Effect). It was impossible to ever get to the bottom of this nagging wishlist of projects.
My other instinct was to look for shortcuts. I considered using templates and swipe files, trying to speed tasks up. Or just get them off my to-do list. Anything to get the job done. Ironically, ‘shortcuts’ often led to more clutter on my desktop and in my head.
The first thing that helped was to give myself a break. I reluctantly accepted that doing my own marketing was a challenge. And then (because my specialism is psychology-driven marketing) I wondered why. I looked for ways to overcome the obstacles.
Many of us resist doing our own marketing for sound psychological reasons.
Marketing psychology seeks to understand the cognitive biases we cling to when we decide to buy. Cognitive bias also affects our behaviour at work. Even experts aren’t immune to this. Here’s how to understand (and counteract) some psychological forces against you when you’re marketing your own business.
Here’s the most likely problem - you know too much
Granted, it doesn’t sound like a problem. But it might be. As a marketer, you’re expected to have countless hard and soft skills. You might need to communicate on many different platforms. You know endless tactics to drive your client’s marketing strategy.
All this knowledge means you’re in danger of overcomplicating your own marketing. That’s because we can make poor decisions for opposite reasons.
Yes, we can make poor decisions if we have too little information or knowledge. In that case, you need to fix a skills gap. But we can also make poor decisions if the information we have is too complex. Too much information leads to decision fatigue. We suffer from choice overload. And this slows us down (Hick’s Law shows that the more choices we need to make, the longer it takes us to reach a decision). Guess what might also happen when we’re faced with too many options? We feel overwhelmed and don’t pick anything.
You might recognise this as endless procrastination with your marketing tasks. Or you could give it a name like Writer’s Block. Either way, it feels like overwhelm. It feels like not knowing how to start. And then there’s Availability Bias. Our brains prefer solutions that reinforce what we already know. Simply put, we are biased towards the solution that springs to mind quickest.
That means we might overlook new ideas, because we’re reluctant to explore them. Because of this, our cognitive biases can also inhibit marketing innovation.
Couple these brain biases with the perfectionism that often strikes marketers. Here’s how that goes. You’re a marketer, so your own website/copy/message should be amazing, right? We often put ourselves under this kind of creative pressure.
What’s the solution?
One way to overcome this is to make a conscious effort to challenge your own behaviour when you tackle your own marketing. When you hold too much information in your brain, the obvious solution is to simplify as much as possible.
Simplify, don’t make shallow. Simple solutions are often more effective than complex ones. When I work with marketing clients, we often start by getting back to basics and working on foundational messaging first. It’s like building some scaffolding to support your business concept. I’ve got a phrase I love to describe that process.
Big Bird your message
One of the joys of copywriting is discovering new words and phrases. Big Bird is now a verb.
According to the Urban Dictionary, you can now officially 'big bird' something. It’s when you describe a concept the way Big Bird explains things to a child on Sesame Street. Marketers – you should big bird your message. Not because your audience lacks intelligence or maturity. But because you may assume that what’s obvious for you is clear to everyone else too. Remember, you know too much.
When you big bird it, your business message becomes clear, memorable and repeatable. Take a close look at your tagline, elevator pitch, or the cornerstone content on your website. Ask yourself - can you big bird it? Could it be clearer? Simpler? More memorable?
Hemingway your words
As well as simplifying your message, you should use the available tech to edit your content. Many copywriters use the Hemingway app [https://hemingwayapp.com] for editing their work and clarifying their message. You can see quickly which words could be made simpler.
Call yourself a client
Follow your client processes when you do your own marketing. This is a favourite trick of mine. Ask yourself - what’s stopping you creating a brief for your own project? And how would it feel to pay yourself the going rate when your job is done?
If you remember only one thing about this article, remember this. It’s normal for marketers and copywriters to struggle to do their expert work for their own business. In fact, it’s not just marketers who have trouble doing their expert work for themselves. Other industries have this problem too.
How would you feel about a doctor who writes her own prescriptions? Medical professionals generally frown on this for good reasons.
You can counteract this perspective problem by inviting more eyes into your business as you grow. Often marketing/content teams are small - 76% of marketing companies have a content team of less than three people. That’s why it helps to have conversations with other marketers.
Seek feedback on your marketing but choose carefully. When in doubt, seek advice from someone who’s been where you want to go. Find a mentor. Do a skill swap. If your team is growing, consider hiring two part-time marketers instead of one full-timer.
Any of these psychological obstacles are sound reasons to outsource your marketing or invite an expert to work on it with you.
As a marketer myself, over the course of 20 years I’ve been on the service-provider and client side. My preference is not to outsource most marketing tasks entirely. For some projects, outsourcing the whole job is unavoidable.
For example, most in-house marketers don’t have the time it takes to produce a white paper. If your budget allows, outsource a job like that every time. But for many marketing tasks, your project will get a boost from working alongside an expert, instead of handing the job over. You also gain skills through mutual expertise.
This also adds some outside accountability, so now you can get the day-to-day marketing tasks done with overwhelm or procrastination. YOU are your own best marketer. You might just need some back-up.