When I first launched our company I would use the phrase “internet marketing firm” to describe us. At the time it seemed relevant, sufficient, and to my naive self, all-inclusive.
But was it the right description for the company? It would, after all, cover everything we did. We clearly wouldn’t miss out on anything by such a broad term. Right?
No I was wrong. I was very wrong.
Unfortunately it took me a few years to see why this was incorrect and why it was so damaging to our growth. We were growing and we had lots of clients, but the growth was haphazard. It was unfocused. And I was growing grey trying to keep up with the latest trends on everything under the umbrella of internet marketing.
Setting aside my exhaustion, the bigger issue was that we lacked branding. The very broad term of internet marketing did nothing to differentiate us from the other firms claiming to do the exact same thing. There was nothing that provided depth or interest or made us unique. We were generic.
In business – and more importantly marketing – you cannot be generic.
Looking back, I should have talked about our focus on WordPress SEO, because that was where we excelled and where we could provide the most value to our clients. But no, I talked about generic website design, organic search, pay per click advertising, social media, blogging, link building, and all the other things that so many other consulting firms listed on their service pages.
Our business was at ground zero and I was still trying to figure out who and what we were. I couldn’t articulate what differentiated us, because I hadn’t yet realized what made us unique. I didn’t see the firm for what it was and I certainly didn’t take the time to think through what made us special.
Part of this issue was my uncertain view of myself. I questioned my skills and my ability to create a company that could sustain and grow and be successful. I wasn’t sure I had an entrepreneur buried inside me.
Apparently I was wrong. I had skills and so did the team I assembled. I just needed to know that someone other than my cat knew I was special.
Once I had clients, theme buyers, and fellow marketers tell me that I was special and that our firm was special, I started to see it. I started to believe it. I started to live it.
Today we are no longer a start up, I no longer question my skills, and I am no longer confused about who and what we are. I know what differentiates us and I know what makes us special.
I’ve learned an important part of knowing who you are, is knowing who you are not.
Today I know (by choice) we do not provide social media marketing, reputation management, pay per click advertising, or infographic creation. I know we cannot help potential clients dig out from a manual penalty from Google. It simply isn’t who we are and it isn’t what we do.
Today I know we are not an internet marketing firm. I know we are WordPress SEO experts and we are preferred developers for the Genesis framework. I not only know we are good at WordPress design and development; I know we rock it and we have a lot of repeat clients and referrals to prove it.
Today I will say no thank you to projects where I don’t feel we are a functional fit. I will turn down a potential client if I feel we don’t have the same objectives. I will even turn down a potential client who needs warm and fuzzy, because I know I am not warm and fuzzy.
Today I am comfortable saying no, because I know the key to success is being true to who you are and what you do.
I look in the mirror and I see an older, wiser face with a few more wrinkles. I see myself for who I really am and not what I think the world wants me to be.
This has enlightened me and freed me all at the same time. It has taken away all of those unrealistic expectations that lead to defeat and disappointment. And I am thankful.
I see myself for who I am and I see the true potential within our employees. I can tell you what makes each employee special and so valuable to our team and process. I know their individual superpowers and I do my best to focus on that skill so they shine.
I am trying to allow them the freedom I have found for myself.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been working with a wonderful woman who is struggling with her blog. She is a reminder of who I was years ago. She hasn’t quite settled on who and what she is, which has proved difficult for branding efforts.
Branding is the marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product or service from others.
Designing a website for a given brand is easy. Looking deep within to create the initial definition of a brand is not.
I am doing my best to help this woman focus, because I know once she does, her superpower will shine and the world will love her.
The take away from my story is to look deep within and define the you that will stand out from the rest of the world. It is there. We all have it. You just need to take the time to sit quietly and listen.
Figure out what makes you special and what makes you unique. What is your passion and what makes you happy?
I now know that technology, marketing, and the design process makes me happy. This happiness is the driver for my success. I make sure I ask our team what makes them happy and I try and ensure that they are allowed to work on what makes them happy, as that will fuel their success.
Define your superpower and do so before you look for keywords, design your website, or start your social media efforts. Learn from my mistake of generalities.
Once you know what makes you special, be the peacock and strut like no one has seen you strut before.
David Bell says
Super awesome article! I struggle with this! Dave
Rebecca Gill says
Thanks Dave. I think it is something we ALL struggle with even if we don’t realize it.
What a fantastic article!
Amazingly well written – and right on the mark.
I feel like i was reading a Harvard Business Review column.
now off to review my branding…
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Rebecca Gill says
Thanks for the note Keith. I’m just writing from my heart and hoping my early stumbles can help someone else get through theirs a little quicker. =)
Jay Torrence says
Great blog and one that all entrepreneurs can learn from!
Tom Murphy says
Very obviously from your heart… and extremely well written. As you and David Bell agreed, we all struggle from this…. recognizing it and doing something about it is the difficult part. A great post! Thanks.
Rebecca Gill says
Tom in the end of your comment you made a quick, but vital point.
First you have to recognize the issue is present. Second you have to chose to actually do something about it.
Those are two completely separate events. Neither are easy.
Tony Leary says
Thanks Rebecca! Perfect timing to toss this to me in a newsletter 🙂
I’m building out what services I’d like my agency to provide. After reading this, I think I’ll focus on WordPress design and Local SEO.
Rebecca Gill says
Tony if WordPress and local SEO are your superpower, push ahead. WordPress is a great fit for small companies who are locally focused. Great stock themes (like our’s) and SEO friendly.
I’m struggling with this right now. I know I need to focus but clients expect me to be everything to them. Certainly now is the time to develop more partnerships.
Rebecca Gill says
Kym I made this transition by finding good people.
I learn to say “my friend Carla can handle your print needs” or “my friend Julie is great at content creation”. I have people who I know will take care of our clients on those tasks we don’t do. I don’t request referral fees or even a thank you. I just ask that they provide quality service at a fair price. And they do.
Once you find people you can trust, it will be much easier for you to say no because it is still possible for you to offer a solution.
And if you are in fact offering them a viable solution… you really aren’t saying “no”….