Thousands of emerging thought leaders today have found themselves thrust into the world of online marketing, much to their chagrin. The challenge for so many is that, while they long to impact others with their messages, they typically don’t want to do the hard, committed work of effectively engaging others online — it’s just not their sweet spot or their deepest passion. So, being wise entrepreneurs, they seek mentorship and, ultimately, find their way to the doorsteps of today’s online marketing gurus, some of whom loudly proclaim: “All you need is a laptop and my blueprint and you’ll be rich in 21 days.” This has left far too many well-intentioned thought leaders high and dry, with nothing more than a sheaf of fancy ideas and an expensive lesson learned.
To learn more about the worst blunders thought leaders and online marketers make, I was excited to catch up with Jason Alan Miller aka “JAM,” the cofounder and chief of optimism at PeacefulMedia.com. Jason’s team of “self-aware hippies and do-gooders” are dedicated to promoting positive people, products, and ideas. From celebrity thought leaders like No. 1 New York Times bestselling authors Brendon Burchard and Dr. Mark Hyman to first-time, “fake-it-til-you-make-it” hustling entrepreneurs, Peaceful Media is passionate about launching personal brands that inspire audiences to love more, play more, and do more good. JAM’s creative work has been featured on The Today Show, Oprah radio, Good Morning America, CNN and NPR.
Here’s Jason’s take:
Kathy Caprino: Jason, what are the top five mistakes thought leaders and online marketers make today, and how do these mistakes hurt their businesses?
Jason Miller: Here are the top five mistakes I frequently see:
Ignoring The Importance Of “Offline” Personal Development
The underlying belief: “All I need is my intellect and an online marketing machine and I’ll be ridiculously wealthy.”
Um, no. You know what they say, “If it were that easy, everyone would be doing it.” The truth is: Online marketing platforms and smart thought leaders are a dime a dozen.
What’s rare is the soul who can stand up on a stage capable of generating 1 million viewers and not get swayed, bruised, and battered by nameless, senseless haters and trolls. Success in online thought leadership requires mental toughness, radical self-belief, and unwavering self-love. Start there.
Spending Money On The Wrong Things
The underlying belief: “I gotta look just as pro as my guru.”
Far too many thought leaders are unnecessarily spending big bucks on lights, cameras, super-fancy websites, brand identity packages – all the stuff that they see their eight-figure online marketing guru using.
Put the KoolAid down for one minute and let’s get real. Your guru didn’t start with $2,000 dollar video cameras and production studios. For the first five years, she was DIY’ing and shooting videos on Flipcams.
The sad result of this underlying belief? You spend big money, see no ROI, get frustrated, bail on your dream to help people grow, heal, prosper. That’s a fail on all fronts.
The underlying belief: “I’ll start sharing my message online as soon as my online product is ready to launch.”
As Seth Godin said so poignantly in this Ask Gary Vee episode, the currency today is measured in attention and trust. Seth built that by way of his steadfast commitment to post a new blog every single day. He’s been doing that for more than a decade. A tribe formed around that thought leadership and now when he publishes books the sales are natural and steady, just like his writing.
So, unless you’re a B2B business owner and you can walk proposals in to decision makers and close deals with your wit and charm, why in the world would you wait to build an audience – via your body of thought leadership work – until your moneymaker is in the can?
Vague (At Best) Or Completely Confusing Brand USP
The underlying belief: “All I have to say is ‘I generate great results!’ and I’ll be fine.”
Yay, you help me get results. So does this can of La Croix sparkling water. Mmm, refreshing. There’s a result. In fact, what brand doesn’t help people get results?
These vague, empty promises vary, but the common theme is a severely lacking distinction in the brand’s unique selling proposition.
This mistake is especially prevalent in the soft-service industries, like coaching and consulting. You land on their websites and try to figure out “what’s in it for me” there, lose interest within 2 seconds because the branding makes you think too hard, you see a Facebook notification, and bail.
Ignoring Automated Surveys For Ongoing Market Research
The underlying belief: “I know all I need to know about my customer. I don’t have to do a survey.”
Wouldn’t it be nice if your audience just told you what they want to buy, how they want to consume it, how much they’d be willing to spend, and why they can’t live without it?
I think so. Actually, I know so. In the beta-launch of our new “Launch 31: Your Fast-Action Marketing Website Blueprint” course, we built a quickie survey into our automated drip email sequence (1-day delay) when someone signs up for the priority registration wait list.
The result? We knew exactly how to package our product and position it to meet folks’ needs and, therefore, were able to net $64 per wait list subscriber.
Too many people launching products online are creating and marketing whatever their “gut feeling” told them to do. I adore my intuition like I’m a modern day Edgar Casey, but I‘d rather ask our audience to write the marketing material.
Hiding (This In The Biggest)
The underlying belief: “When I have all of my stuff perfected, I’ll really get out there with my message.”
This wannabe is lying to himself. Sorry, not to be rude, but you might as well jump on your unicorn and fly back to your bed so you can hide some more. Perfection is a fantasyland to which not even Tinkerbell knows the way.
The successful thought leaders we work with put huge piles of massively imperfect material and programs out on there for years until they found their 9/10 execution routines. Marie Forleo, one of my online thought leader heroes, is best known for her Marie TV show on YouTube. When you visit her YouTube channel, sort the videos chronologically so that you can sample her first and latest videos. See what I mean?
This loops back to Blunder No. 1: ignoring the need for unwavering self-love.
Because the cold reality here is that most people thinking about “going online with a story/message/expertise/product” have not done enough inner work and self-growth to get over the egoic hump, the need for acceptance and validation from others. Deep down, they’re afraid of looking foolish, unprofessional, and unprepared.
So they hide. And that’s unfortunate, truly. Because we’ve seen and believe that positive people can do a great deal of good in a world that needs it.
Caprino: Jason, why do you think these blunders so common in marketers today?
Miller: A couple reasons stand out:
1. Too much guru KoolAid drinking. We need more critical thinking and less blind, cultish following of big marketing guru’s leads. Your audience, prospects, and customers should be the lead strategy guru for your marketing efforts, not the guy or gal on a hyped stage.
2. Lack of old fashioned business sense. Many people are trying to replace their corporate day jobs with an online thought leader business and, trust me, I love this notion. But launching your own thing often requires a vastly different skillset and mindset. Rarely have they learned how to build (and stick to) budgets, focus on the big picture, or powerfully position themselves. Often, the skills you use to crush it in corporate do not translate to online entrepreneurship.??
Caprino: What do we all need to do or be aware of to avoid these pitfalls?
Miller: Three things:
Get ready to hustle. Don’t make the mistake of thinking some new online marketing tool, system, or platform is going to do all the work for you. Running a business – offline or online – is a ton of work.
Get started offline. You have the hustle. You see the vision of your super-successful online business that “makes money while you sleep.” Try doing it offline first. Can you sell to someone looking you in the eyes? How about to people who don’t already know, like, and trust you??? If the answer is “no,” then what makes you think you’re going to be able to market and sell online? My heroes (and most of our clients) started with offline business development.
Get comfortable with seven out of 10. You simply must whisper “adios” to your perfectionism reflex. This perfectionistic “Critter” (see below) is so hard to shake, especially if you’ve been studying the gurus who pack 10,000+ hours of working in the trenches to lift their online businesses to great heights. I don’t care how much cash you’ve got to burn on your new online biz, Rome wasn’t built overnight.
Caprino: Are there common personality traits you see in would-be or emerging thought leaders that trip them up?
Miller: So far, I’ve identified about seven traits tripping people up. I call them The Critters.
I already highlighted one – Perfectionist Raccoon – who cannot stop washing her hands because “help, there’s still dirt in these paws! (Here’s a funny look at what I mean.)
Here are three more:
Motivational Seesaw Bear (aka “Shakespearean Bear”) – Commitment to “launch this online business thing” constantly fluctuates. One minute you’re fed up with the day job and ready to do this (“to be…”), but a couple weeks later you’re wondering if you’re really into it (“…or not to be”).
Bright Shiny Object Squirrel – We get on all these online marketing gurus’ email lists and they know just how to push our hot buttons, right? Down the sales funnel you go! Buy my course! Attend my event. Join my mastermind! And they have testimonials to prove that it does work for people. But – and here’s the critical thinking part – that doesn’t mean it will or should work for you. How many more hundreds of dollars of online marketing tools and courses do you need on your digital shelf? Tuck your credit card away, stick yourself on a bright shiny object diet, and start doing the actual work of fulfilling your customer’s needs and listening for ways you can further support their growth.
Budget Sensitive Monkey – If you’ve been holding back because “you just don’t have the budget to launch an online thought leadership brand,” then this might sting. This Critter’s eating his own tail but telling himself (and others) that he’s eating a banana. In other words, he’s lying to himself. Many major personal name brands started with a YouTube channel, Facebook page, and blog, all of which are free to set up. So while it’s more convenient to say “budget’s holding me back,” the truth is: hustle doesn’t take a dime from your wallet.
Caprino: Finally, you’ve worked with some of the most influential thought leaders in our country. What are the key hallmarks of personal/professional development experts who you sense will truly make a difference in the world and do the necessary work (and be great fun to work with)?
Miller: There are three qualities that tell us that this thought leader has the raw goods to go the distance:
1. Big heart. The biggest names in our industry put service first. Not just as a “line in our socially-oriented-so-we-look-good mission statement,” but actual, active dedication to improving the world.
2. Big hustle. You don’t have to expect a lot of work, but you certainly need to do it in order to get results online.
3. Big hair. Love us some ’80s dos. (Just kidding.) The first two are plenty to spark a wildfire of success.
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