July 15, 2024

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Trying to build a business in midlife? Here are 7 tips from 2 marketing masters

Midlife freelancers and entrepreneurs often get stuck wondering how to build their businesses; they might want to tune into the wisdom of marketing gurus Seth Godin and Gary Vaynerchuk, as I did via #webcreators2021, a live Zoom
event held last year.

Godin, called the godfather of modern marketing, brags that he is the author of 20 globally successful books that most folks haven’t read. The 61-year-old dazzled his audience as he explained that trying for mass acceptance was a surefire way to work on average projects for average returns and above average frustration. 

Forty-five-year-old serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk is CEO of VaynerMedia, a digital advertising agency. Known for building businesses, he transitioned his father’s local liquor store into one of the first e-commerce platforms. Because he’s a New York Jets superfan, rumors swirl that one day he’ll buy his favorite NFL team.

Here are 7 tips from these two masters:

1. Be one of a few

If you had to distill Godin’s multiple messages into one overriding kernel of advice it would be this: Identify your smallest viable audience and aim for that group. Godin’s “secret” is that your clients will tell other people about you and what you do, and that kind of marketing assures success. Either your core audience will begin to tell others or your small achievement will give you the cash flow and the social proof to begin to find a different set of potential customers.

Godin suggested saying “no” to average clients, aiming for those who appreciate what you are selling. One example was his friend Acar Altinsel, who realized he could produce magic tricks for amateur magicians. For some time, he was the only one who did that, and his business boomed. 

So the question is: What do you do or produce that some others might care about? Only when you’ve answered that question should you move on to Tip 2. 

Watch: 3 common reasons small businesses fail-and how to avoid them

2. Build your community

We live in an unbelievably open world. “You can reach people who want to hear from you, for free,” Godin said. These are people you already have permission to talk to. Tell them what you’re doing.

There are many ways to do that, as others have discovered. Social media is one, with Facebook
LinkedIn, and Instagram as the best-known platforms in an ever-expanding universe. Another is reaching out through a membership platform like Medium, Patreon or Substack, or an email service provider (ESP); googling that term comes up with many options. Mailerlite offers complimentary training.

3. Don’t overuse social media. But LinkedIn is an opportunity.

Godin said: “Don’t use social media aggressively.” His reasoning? Others will post about you and what you’re doing. Twitter itself didn’t advertise; people using Twitter told others. And when folks post on Twitter, they’re promoting Twitter.

Vaynerchuk has 30 million-plus followers across all platforms. About LinkedIn, Vaynerchuk said more people are consuming rather than providing content. His point: You have to give people something valuable.

Also see: The most small businesses since 1974 are raising prices due to inflation, NFIB says

What you need is more at-bats, he said, and every time you come up with useful content, you’re adding to your at-bats. Vaynerchuk offers a complimentary weekly newsletter, and a free subscription to his YouTube channel. On LinkedIn, he presents a monthly live video session #MarketingfortheNow, which is then available on the platform as well as on his YouTube channel.

Learn more: 6 tips for marketing your small business on Instagram

Gary Vaynerchuk in 2019.

Getty Images

4. Think about what your audience wants

Both Godin and Vaynerchuk emphasized the importance of identifying what you have that can serve the consumer you want to reach. If you provide value, they said, it will attract an audience. Many creators trip themselves up because they get excited about what they have to offer and forget about what others want. According to Vaynerchuk, we spend too much time and effort thinking about our selfish wants instead of concentrating on actual consumer behavior.

5. Don’t sell yourself short

Thinking about lowering your price to attract business? “Low price is the last refuge of someone who has nothing to sell,” according to Godin: If you don’t value what you’re selling, why should anyone else?

6. A brand isn’t a logo. It’s a promise.

Godin said so often folks obsess about finding and designing a logo. Better to go back to square one: figure out what you’re about and who you want to reach. That’s the more difficult step, the one most people skip.

The core meaning of the word “remarkable” is something that is notable, worth remarking about. If you have something remarkable to share, some people will talk about it, and you will be able to identify your community, those who share a passion for what you care about.  

7. There’s no mystery to marketing

Godin put it succinctly: “Tribes grow when people recruit other people. That’s how ideas spread as well.”

If you’re dubious about this, here’s the proof: Neither Godin nor Vaynerchuk knew this article would be written. This writer responded to an announced Zoom event because it was presented by Elementor, a web creation platform for WordPress. I registered as just another web creator, hoping to gain information as I update my self-designed website. 

Read next: How much will starting a business really cost you? These are some commonly overlooked expenses.

My experience at the webinar caused me to find out more about the speakers and to share the insights they put forth more broadly. The folks who read this article may be inspired to find out more about these two visionary men, and about Elementor. That’s how success builds on success. That’s brilliant marketing.

Leida Snow is an award-winning journalist and communications coach. Follow her @LeidaSnow.

This article is reprinted by permission from NextAvenue.org, © 2022 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved. This article is part of America’s Entrepreneurs, a Next Avenue initiative made possible by the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation and EIX, the Entrepreneur Innovation Exchange.

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