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“It doesn’t work.”

I hear this ALL THE TIME. People go online and expect results right away. People read up on marketing and do the opposite. They know what they have to do, but they don’t do it. And then they say, “it doesn’t work.” Even after they’ve learned that it can take at least a year to make things happen online, they think that for them, it’ll happen much sooner.

I’ve been trying to understand why this happens. And no matter what explanation I come up with, it’s probably got something to do with psychology. There are all sorts of psychological reasons that can explain why people go about things the wrong way, even when they know better. And it’s not limited to marketing. Physiotherapists send their patients home with exercises to do, and few people actually follow through with them. Heck, most people never finish their course of antibiotics, no matter how often their doctors tell them to keep taking it. We have this thing inside our heads that tells us that we know better than the experts. We think we’re special, we’ll get lucky. Others have a deep distrust of professionals, to the point they’re skeptical of anyone with advice. And lastly, there are people who don’t believe in themselves enough to trust that what they have to offer to the world is better than their competition. They paint themselves grey instead of shining through.

Impatience and Incompetence.

I’m not a psychologist. I’m not a therapist. It’s not my job to ‘unblock’ someone, or to fix them. As a strategist, when I hear “It doesn’t work” it’s usually the result of one or both of these things: impatience, and incompetence.

No one wants to hear that they’re incompetent. So, let’s clarify: when I say “incompetence”, I mean taking the wrong approach, uploading the wrong content, not using social media properly, not updating the website, essentially doing all the wrong things due to a lack of know-how. Most of the time, it’s not anyone’s fault! It’s easy to assume that something is easy until we discover that it’s hard. So, whenever I hear people say that they failed at marketing, I always ask them how long they’ve been trying. Failure is totally ok. A repetition of failure without making any adjustments – that’s the trap that keeps most people stuck in place. Thing is, you’ve gotta fail, and then find out WHY you failed.

But, most people just quit.

Impatience can also be caused by a bunch of things, but frequently, it’s caused by a lack of awareness as to how long it takes for things to manifest online (especially with a small budget). It can also be due to a lack of realistic goals and an unrealistic timeline for achieving those goals. Let’s face it, we see famous online personalities all the time. But, we have no idea what it was like for them five years ago. Everyone who’s famous today was a nobody yesterday. We’re just not privy to their process. We have no idea how many years a Hollywood actor spent working as a waiter, living on tips in a shoddy apartment. We get to see how successful they are now, but we have no idea how they got there. It’s the same thing with building a business online. You can’t start at the finish line.

But, I need money now!

If you need money in the next six weeks, or next six months, and you think you can generate a lot of money in that time with a new online venture, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Sure, there are success stories of people creating an online store and making $100,000 in a month. But, all of these people have one thing in common: they’re already marketing experts. They see an opportunity and take it. They know exactly what they’re doing. And just because they’re able to generate a quick income for themselves, doesn’t mean that they could do the same for you. 

Heck, it’s even more realistic to tell you that it can take 1 to 5 years to start generating a regular income online. It all comes down to what strategy you take, how you apply yourself, how much time and money you put into it. That’s it. You can’t half-ass it, just like you can’t pretend to know how to fix a car if you don’t know how an engine works. 

Sometimes, it takes even longer

There are other times when, no matter how well your approach has been, it really doesn’t work. I see this a lot with artists that create work that very few people are interested in. Sometimes, it can take a really long time to find your niche and to connect with the audience within that niche. That’s why I always tell people: if you’re looking at the online world as a ‘get rich quick’ solution, you’re way out of line. Your head’s in the clouds. The online world is just like the real world. You can stand on a busy sidewalk and display your work, but if you’re standing on the wrong sidewalk, or if you’re harassing people, it won’t work. The best thing I can say to artists who create unpopular work is to diversify their offerings. Make your art, but offer other services, like commissions, design work, consulting, anything to give you income while you find your audience online.

If you think you can achieve stardom or sell things quickly online with minimal effort, then you don’t know enough about marketing to even do this yourself. Real talk here: marketing is hard. If you think it’s easy and you just have to post pretty pictures once a week, go ahead, do it. 

“But, that doesn’t work.” 

Exactly.

Learn on your own

Let me end this on a bit of an optimistic note. If you can’t afford to hire someone to help you with your marketing, you CAN learn this stuff on your own. There’s never been a better time to learn, and to practice. Doing things incorrectly isn’t a waste of time, as long as you’re able to identify what you’re doing wrong, and correct it. Take a breather, and take some online courses. All the big players in the industry (FB, Google, Hubspot, etc) have courses you can take. Watch videos. Take 8 weeks to just learn ONE new concept and then practice it until you know it really well. If you do this for a year or two, you’ll be miles ahead. Hang in there – it works. 🙂