I’ve been hearing whispers lately in the internet marketing space…

People don’t want to say it out loud, but they’re whispering to each other that their launches aren’t going as well as they’d planned… Their webinars aren’t converting the way they used to… Their ad costs have gone way up and conversion rates have gone down…

In short, what used to work for them in their content marketing isn’t working any more — or, isn’t working the way it used to.

Beneath those whispers, there’s a fear that somehow the well is drying up. A fear that some kind of bubble is bursting in their niche. Even a fear that the economy might be headed for a downturn or that global politics is playing a role in consumer spending.

And people are legitimately anxious and worried. They’re starting to reexamine the tactics they’re using, the channels they’re on. They’re casting around, looking for the next big thing. Is it IGTV? SnapChat?

But that’s the wrong solution, because following the crowd is what got us here in the first place.

Following creates mediocre marketing

The thing is, most of the people whispering and worried have one thing in common: they’ve played follow-the-leader with their marketing for years.

They found a guru, bought a course — or a blueprint, or a framework — and bought into an ideology. They tried it once and it worked! So they’ve been repeating the same thing over, and over, and over again, ad infinitum.

But all of the sudden, their ROI has started to plateau, or maybe even started to drop. So they start looking around for a new leader that they can follow, with a new game plan they can copy or iterate. And if they do? They’ll be in the same situation in another couple of years, regardless of what the market or economy do in the meantime.

They are a leader, but you’d never be able to tell it from their marketing. And that disconnect is starting to turn people off.

“Am I really a leader…?”

A few weeks ago, my coach and friend Tanya Geisler said something to me during my hot seat in a mastermind group. She said, “It’s tough being a leader, because there’s no one to follow.”

On the surface, that seems obvious, but wow, it made such an impact on me. I have internally resisted my role as a leader for a long time, and one big reason is that if I’m truly a leader, that means I’m truly out front, without anyone else to follow.

If you’re asking yourself if you’re really a leader in your niche… The answer is probably yes! Because here’s the awesome thing: there doesn’t have to be just one leader in any given area or topic. You can have multiple people out front, headed in even slightly different directions.

In fact, all being a leader really means is that you’re not a follower. And if you were bold enough to start your own business? Honey, you’re not a follower.

If you’re not a follower, why are you following the crowd when it comes to marketing?

As I started thinking about this topic, I started asking myself, why do so many people follow the crowd when it comes to marketing?

Even people who are clearly leaders in their business tend to follow the same formulas and blueprints that everybody else is following to market their business. And let’s be clear: some of these formulas and blueprints work; that’s why they got popular. But they don’t work every time, for every market, for every business.

So why do business owners slavishly follow them as if they do?

I think it comes down to two things:

  1. First, business owners aren’t marketers. A lot of business owners do the work of marketers to market and sell their own stuff, but that’s not what they got into business to do. So they don’t feel comfortable going outside the box to create their own marketing plan. (And, I assume, they think they can’t afford to hire someone to create a custom marketing plan for them, which is a lie, but I think it happens a lot!)
  2. And second, we really want an easy button. We all wish that there was an easy, foolproof way to market our business and get tons of sales. And yes — include me in that wish! That’s why we all desperately want to believe it when a marketing guru shares their formula and tells us how easy and efficient it is. We want to believe! But the problem is, as I pointed out above, that not everything works for every business, and what might seem like an easy button in one vertical, doesn’t work at all in another. I’m reminded of watching Oprah talking about weight loss and she said something like, “If there was a pill for this, I would have it!” Believe me: if there were an easy button for marketing, I would know about it!

The big problem with being a follower when it comes to marketing is that you (the person who is, admittedly, not a marketing expert) have to decide whether or not a particular course / blueprint / framework / formula / tactic will work for your business. And mostly what you have to go on is a very cleverly and convincingly written sales page or a call with a very eager and persuasive sales person.

So maybe you choose one, and it does work! Huzzah! You put that puppy on repeat in hopes that it will keep those leads and sales flowing.

But over time, your results start to decline. Maybe you’re still making sales, but not as many as you used to. Or your conversion rate has decreased, so you have to pump more and more leads into the top of your funnel. And your ad costs are rising so suddenly you’re not as profitable as you used to be…

And now you’re back to square one: having to decide — on your own — whether it’s you or the formula that’s not working, and if it is the formula, what you’re going to try next.

Innovation is the leader’s choice

So what does being a leader with your marketing actually look like?

It means looking at all the pieces that are available to you — webinars, videos, podcasts, challenges, blog posts, emails, guest posts, interviews, etc. — and putting them together in a unique way that will best appeal to your ideal customers and your audience.

Because a formula isn’t necessarily right for every audience, every business, every customer.

Here’s a great example: I worked on a launch last month, and the business owner wanted to do videos for her launch content, but she knew that her ideal customer is so busy they don’t have time to watch three, 20+ minute videos as part of a launch.

Instead we outlined a series of five videos each around five minutes each. We decided to drip out the content one video at a time, but also make all the videos available to binge watch at once if they had time. We actually wrote an email that said something like, “Think you don’t have time to watch this? You don’t have time NOT to!” speaking directly to their biggest objection.

And then the challenge led to a webinar designed to sell and close.

We took the elements of a video launch and a challenge and a webinar, but combined them in a unique way that’s more appropriate for her audience.

And guess what? Her first webinar (for very warm VIP leads) was last week — and she closed at 26.5%! So it’s pretty clear: her leadership marketing strategy worked.

So what’s your leadership marketing strategy going to look like? What’s kind of fun is that I don’t know the answer — I can’t help you until I know more about your business.

But we can create a unique strategy just for you, based on your business, your niche, your audience.

Because leaders have to lead. You have to be out front, blazing a new trail in order to attract the right people.

And, even more so, you’re already a leader. You wouldn’t be a business owner if you weren’t.

Why not start marketing like it?