I grew up in a tiny village, attending a small Church-of-England primary school. We were helpful to others, considerate and sensitive. At 11 we all moved up to ‘big school’.
From 250 pupils to 1,600.
And I learned a painful lesson:
Ginger kids really stick out.
October 18, 1994
Today was a bad day a boy pinched my bum and I was really embarrassed then some boys called me monkey features and that upsets me. Do I really look like a monkey? Maybe it’s just because of my hair though I think not
For 7 years the taunts were relentless. I did envy friends who took the shortcut through the park at lunch while I had to walk through town (where it was safer). However I also figured this was just my lot, on account of my bizarre features and ginger hair. I wasn’t the only kid who had a hard time so I just sucked it up.
In marketing terms, If I was the ‘product’ it appeared the majority were not my target market.
Now, this is not a story about winning everyone over.
This is a story about targeting your efforts of persuasion.
I wasn’t going to change ‘me.’ So instead I had to find environments where what I had to offer would be better received.
As a result I applied my passions and skills to the following during my school life:
- I started a sweet round. Selling shop-bought sweets for a profit. Within weeks my supplier (the village post office) had to increase their wholesale order because I was taking all their stock. I was shifting around 200 units a day and had pupils approach me in the hallways because I was the girl who could ‘get you cherry drops and refreshers’ (not euphemisms). Eventually I got shut down when the head of year found out how far and wide my operations had spread.
- I loved writing and speaking and won several public-speaking competitions about topics I loved – country music for example.
- I sang in a band for 8 years. We played festivals, PTA dances, and gigged all the time during summer.
- I fronted a gospel choir
- I played in the netball team, the athletics team, tennis tried basketball, jazz club and dance club with mixed success 🙂
- I acted in every annual school drama
I couldn’t make the people who thought I looked freaky like me, but I could win over my ‘ideal customers’:
- Kids who wanted to buy my sweets
- Judges who wanted to hand out marks
- Audiences who wanted to be entertained
The product never changed. The passions never changed, but I would modify tactics to make myself more popular within these select groups.
For my sweets I’d switch the Refreshers if it looked like the Fruit Salad Chews were outselling them. I’d study the competition of other debates and public speakers to see how our team could have the edge. I’d remember the songs people enjoyed and made sure we kept them in the set, dropping the ones that didn’t work.
I didn’t know it at the time but I was delivering what others wanted so I could keep doing what I wanted.
And this mirrors a good online content marketing strategy.
Content marketing and the online popularity fear
A lot of people think successful content marketing is about being popular online.
You’ve got to have a million Facebook likes, and Twitter followers, and tons of blog comments to run a successful business (this is a myth).
Chasing these things alone can cause you to neglect the very foundation of your business.
- Your passion
- Your product
(For a great example of this, watch the short video on this home page.)
When I started copywriting, I got asked a couple of times to write sales pages for programs that didn’t exist, teaching theories that hadn’t been tested. The programs mimicked other courses and had been developed because this ‘type’ of product seemed to be selling.
They wanted popularity first, without spending time on their product, or following their passion. It wasn’t for me, and I’m guessing it’s not for readers of this blog either.
There’s a difference in capitalising on popular trends to market your product, but if you’re willing to switch and change your core product and principles at the whim of a crowd’s opinion you might find marketing your business very difficult.
At school I guess could have had a make over, maybe I could have gone blonde (which is what the 3 other red-heads in my year did and yes it drastically improved their social lives).
But changing ‘me’ and my interests in the hope people would like it?
It was much easier to find places I did fit in and build from there, rather than beg a crowd that didn’t want me.
And in content marketing it’s really important to attract people who want to be your customer.
Passion and product first, popularity second
I never thought being bullied (sometimes creatively – I once had my coat pockets filled with dirty cutlery in the cafeteria) meant I wouldn’t be able to pursue the things I loved.
I just kept doing what I loved and was good at. My passion pushed me through.
Now, writing content to promote your business can be tough.
You worry how it will be received, will you make sales? Will people read your blog? Will they share your content?
When you love your product, when you know it’s special and when your customers love it, those problems don’t go away, but you have no other choice but to figure it out. It doesn’t occur to you to give up.
Passion and product pushes you through.
Passion and product helps you stand out.
Don’t worry what the ‘gurus’ might think of you – they may not be your target market. You may never need to impress a guru in your life.
At the first ever conference I spoke at a few years ago the guru took an instant dislike to me. Guru told attendees in public that I had a ‘potty mouth’ (for saying ‘jeez’), wouldn’t let me sit at the speakers’ table and the post-conference dinner for speakers was not extended to me.
Did it hurt? Yes. But after a 45 minute talk I’d made around £1,500 in sales testing out new products.
That was enough for me. I’d found my crowd in the room, and from there I built on those products and relationships to improve sales further.
You don’t have to win over everyone.
You don’t have to be ‘popular’
But you do have to:
- Work on something you are passionate about (and talented at)
- Deliver a product customers want
- Put everything into providing an excellent service
And then concentrate your ‘online popularity’ efforts (known as content marketing) into:
- Building a customer profile
- Knowing what problems they have
- Helping them solve some of those problems
- Using copywriting to make your offers stand out
- Using blogging to build an audience interested in what you do
- Using content marketing to get the word out to as many people who fall into your ‘customer’ category
These days I am much more at ease with my chimpy chops, my simian smile and my ape-likeness. 🙂
And if I had never gone in search for people who were happy to accept me, I might never have met the amazing people, business owners and customers who make what I do a real joy.
Photo by Tambako
What about you? Have you ever felt forced to please a group online that didn’t ‘fit’ with your business? have you struggled to find the people who really ‘get’ what you do? Have you had success in focusing your powers of persuasion on your ideal customers? Let us know in the comments below!