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How to market your business like superhero Jessica Jones

January 22, 2016
Marvel visual for Netflix promotion.

Marvel visual for Netflix promotion.

How to market your business is an age old question. Sometimes, it can be hard to keep the motivation levels high. One of the best sources is that time we take away from the business and spend time chilling. That’s exactly what happened to me over the festive season.

During the break from Christmas to New Year’s Eve, I binge watched Netflix’s gritty gumshoe detective series, Jessica Jones. She’s a hard living, hard drinking detective with super powers and PTSD. And her arch nemesis is a super villain with mind control powers called Kilgrave.

What struck me about the story was twofold. And yes, it’s some nerdy marketing lessons on how to market your business better. This isn’t a blog on making cupcakes after all!

Marketing lesson 1: Winning is only a moment. But the journey lasts a life time

Jessica Jones has super human strength and can jump so high, it’s amazing. Despite being extraordinary, Jessica was often behind the eight-ball. She struggled. Oh boy, did she struggle.

She spent an awful lot of time making mistakes, wrestling with guilt and trying to right her wrongs only to create more of the same. It was not her superpowers but her humanity that drove the story.

Even when she had a plan, things would often go awry. Unexpected interruptions, interventions and the feelings of powerlessness abounded. These feelings also made the texture and tension of the story. Nothing was neat, clean or had a crystal clear path to conclusion.

People existed with their own problems and their own desire to avoid the problems of others. And yet, they kept stepping forward to change the world, help people or use their powers for good. Even if they didn’t have any superpowers, they were trying to better the situation with what they had. Even if they got in their own way, they picked themselves off (eventually in some cases) and kept going.

It reminded me that even if we pretend to be super heroes in our industry or in life. What endear us to people are the cracks. It is the mistakes and the softer side. The overcoming of objections. It is realising your limitations and still getting up and trying anyway.

But it’s also about enjoying the things we do. It’s about walking away with a few well heeled scrapes and bumps. Not being perfect. Not expecting perfection from others.

And not putting ourselves on the payroll of someone else’s expectation in detriment to what we want to create or achieve.

How to market your business comes down to the ability to be real and vulnerable, helpful and appealing. It’s not about living up to some kind of unrealistic standard.

Neil Gaiman put it so well in 2009 when he spoke of complaints from fans of George R. R. Martin. Martin’s fans questioned why Martin could take time off to have a life while fans eagerly awaited the next book.

Gaiman’s message to these book hungry fans:

George R.R. Martin is not your bitch

How incredibly anti-audience! And incredibly smart, practical and realistic.

In my opinion, we shouldn’t put ourselves in a position where we expect anyone to be our bitch. Not in the negative sense where someone else’s ownership of us means we suffer in misery.

We also shouldn’t do it to ourselves, either.

Sometimes I believe we’ve forgotten there is no shame in being content. We’ve forgotten to enjoy life for what life is: an adventure in creation.

We spend an awful lot of our time and money trying to outdo others for little or no reason. And when we begin to believe the hype, we not only place pressure on ourselves, we place this pressure on others as well.

Sometimes, people become invested in our journey. They invest so much they think they know what is best. Often without realising they have no real clue of what our version of contentment is.

So enamoured with the win, we fail to realise the real joy is in the thousand steps we took to get there. We don’t root for the guy who is slick, stylish and has everything at his fingertips. We’re cheering on the broken down detective with the weird super power and tragic life who can’t help but help others.

Perhaps that’s what we need to remember as we all race to defeat our nemesis and climb into our business superhero costumes. That doing it for the glory usually puts you in the villain camp. Because doing it because you care is what the heroes do.

And that instead of trying to be the biggest, fastest, loudest business owner or careerist of all times, we should have more of a journey in mind.

Jessica Jones wouldn’t take out a billboard. But Kilgrave would.

And this is an essential message I think all freelancers, small businesses and startups need to remember. When it comes time to decide how to market your business, do you want to be the controlling villain or the gruff yet appealing hero?

Marketing lesson 2: Humans don’t want to be controlled

The idea of the delicious David Tennant’s character Kilgrave being a mind controller is scary. Not only because Tennant is a masterful actor.

The idea of losing our minds freaks us out.

It’s why we rail against any kind of story where we lose control. It’s why mental health issues scare people on so many levels. It’s why we value truth over subterfuge. We may love a good conspiracy on some level, but usually because we don’t want to feel like the wool is being pulled over our eyes.

Yet in business, marketing has become an issue of mind control. Everything is designed to get that email address by giving the freebie. We give, but often that giving is tied to “what’s in it for me?” to the point where truly helping is no longer on the menu. That’s why terms and conditions on products go for pages and pages.

Marketing thinks you’re easy to manipulate. This is why people in Informercials seem incapable of solving everyday problems. Girls in tooth ads can take out your retinas with the polished white glare. And everyone everywhere attempts to sell themselves with a suit and same confident, arm-crossed photography.

Give me strength. Seriously, the boredom (and the insult) is killing me! 

We’re wary of marketing and advertising because it spends so much time trying to trick us into liking something. If someone said “would you like to give me your email address for some help with what you’re doing?” it may be better received.

When you take a step back and think about this for a second, you can see why blogging has appealed to so many.

It’s a genuine conversation without having to think “OK, when will they be reaching into my pocket for the moolah?

How to market your business has become a process of filling in a checklist. Or handing over your personal details for some tidbit that might not even be that helpful. Often the expectation is for you to adopt a weird voice called business that doesn’t reflect what you do.

This week’s marketing assault in my own Inbox made me think: 

  • I don’t want a phone call for downloading an eBook. I just want the damn eBook.
  • If I register for information, this is not an invitation to bombard me with sales promotions. Let me do my own research with your assistance instead of your insistence.
  • Don’t expect a reply to your email offering a one-sided partnership. I have enough to do for my business without carrying yours for any reasonable return.
  • Why, when it’s clear I don’t carry press releases, would I suddenly decide to carry yours? If I’m such an amazing place for your client’s marketing material, how have you failed to research me so spectacularly?
  • I don’t want to be a part of your affiliate sales force with your canned sales messages. Can’t I just recommend what I like without it being in a sales pyramid?

No survivor of Kilgrave’s mind control returned to say “thanks for the trip, man, I really enjoyed not understanding what you were doing to me.” 

So why do we think it’s so acceptable in marketing?

The final word

Nothing worthwhile ever came easy. There are no silver bullets in marketing and business. How to market your business and reach your customers in an authentic way comes down to trial and error, knowing your audience and feeling around for what seems right.

The top tip when it comes to how to market your business is persistence pays.

Be aware of the person who offers you the short fix, the simple steps, the low to no effort marketing salve. After 20 years in the business, I am yet to see the person who can (in a few simple clicks) turn around their entire business.

Marketing isn’t alchemy. It’s not magic. Its consistent messaging mixed with creative appeal and a strong story.

It’s Jessica Jones. Getting up, falling down, and getting back up again. She learns. And so will you.

And that’s why it’s so damn interesting.

When was the last time you felt excited and intrigued by your marketing journey? When was the last time you wanted to attack your business like it was a mission?

Want to learn how to market your business with me? Get in touch now.

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