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The Anti-Strategy For How To Grow Your Business Online

When you start a business, putting yourself out there can be kind of extremely scary.

You look around at what everyone else is doing, and you wonder how the hell they were able to get so much exposure!  You feel like a really little fish in a big pond, and it can be overwhelming even knowing where to start.

So your logical first step is to start to immerse yourself in the best online marketing and business growth strategies out there. You do a few Google searches, find some great courses, and start to build a strategy for getting the word out about your new business.

You read the blogs, and follow the gurus, but at some point, you have so many business building strategies that you have no idea which ones to do or where to start. According to them, you should be guest posting, and creating a freebie for your opt-in, and getting interviewed, and doing free talks, and commenting on other people’s blogs, and being on Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook and Pinterest and the list goes on.

You get lost in the business of business-building, and it all becomes about the latest strategy or trend… to the point that you start to forget WHY you started your business in the first place – to help people.

There are 3 main problems with most of the common strategies for how to grow your business online:

  1. They don’t take our differences (as human beings, and as businesses) into consideration
  2. They place the focus on business building, rather than being of service
  3. They turn basic human values into “strategies” and “systems”

If you have been struggling with your marketing and business building because all the tricks and tools just don’t quite seem to “fit” for you, it’s time that you kick “strategies” to the curb and take on the anti-strategy in your marketing.

How to Grow Your Business Online With an Anti-Strategy

1. Account for Your Strengths, Weaknesses, Skills, and Uniqueness

As small business owners, most of us tend to run businesses where WE are the main focus (this is especially true for service-based online businesses). And where most business strategies fail is that they usually take on a one-size-fits-all approach. Do interviews. Be on Twitter. Write guest posts. Host free calls. Create an affiliate program.

But last time I checked, my personality, my strengths, my skills and my business was not identical to anyone else’s. Even if you DO the same thing in your business as someone else, you (as an individual and as a brand) are different. So it’s bogus to assume that there is just ONE strategy that will work for everyone.

It’s essential to not only be aware of your strengths in your business, but to leverage them in your marketing.

StrengthsFinder and the Fascination Advantage are two fabulous tests that help you discover your true talents (the latter being particularly clever, as it focuses on what it is that makes people drawn to you).

Playing to your strengths in your business will make business building so much easier (and WAY more fun). If you suck at writing, guest posting will likely feel really challenging for you, and you might want to focus your energy on videos or interviews instead. Likewise, if you’re not very skilled at speaking on the fly, you don’t have to pitch yourself for interviews (and you don’t have to have “TED talk” on your list of big business dreams!).

Try this: Get out a notepad or open up your Evernote, and write a list of all the business-building strategies that you have in your head that you think you “should” be doing.

For example:

“I should start tweeting more.”

“I should pitch myself to get interviewed.”

Then, go through your list and change “I should” to “I want to”, and see how each statement feels now.  If the statement feels true, great – keep it on your to-do list. If you can’t honestly say, “I want to ____”, scratch it off. It’s not the best place to focus your energy right now.

 

2. Come From a Place of Service First

The most important thing to remember is that you are in business for a reason that is bigger than “building your list”. All the tactics and strategies you learn are secondary to the real reason you started your business – to help people and to do some good in the world.

Business building becomes easy when you take the focus away from “how can I get people to sign up”, to “how can I be of service to people in a bigger and better way”.

One of the most common questions I get asked by my clients is “How can I grow my email list?” My answer is always the same, “Why should people be on your list?”

And most of them don’t have an answer. They were just told they needed a big email list. So I take them back to basics – who do they serve, what problem do they solve, what do they offer, and then finally, how can they help people for free on a smaller scale that would feel really fun and easy? Create from that space, and list building becomes easy.

Many of the traditional business building methods are still great, but the key is to come at them with a mindset of being of service, rather than growing your business.

Everything from your Twitter posts, to the comments you leave on someone else’s blog, to your own blog posts should be done with the intention to provide value and help people. The business growth it may or may not get you is secondary.

Try this: Anytime you are stuck on what to create (maybe it’s your opt-in freebie? Or your next blog post? Or a new service or program?), take 5 minutes to come back to the core message of your business. What did you set out to do? What problems do you LOVE to solve for people? What is your bigger purpose (big question, I know!)? Then brainstorm a list from that place.

You’ll find that it’s easy to come up with new ideas when you come from a place of service rather than just trying to arbitrarily “grow your business”.

3. Be Yourself. No, Really.

When “authenticity” becomes a strategy, you know something is wrong.

It’s gotten to the point where basic human values have been turned into trendy tactics.

Yuck.

But what does “authenticity” really even mean? The word has been so overused that despite its good intention, it’s starting to feel like just another slimy marketing phrase.

The basic concept still remains though – you have to be YOU.

Not a “strategic authenticity”version of you.

Not a you that is carefully planned and branded.

But the real, live, version of you.

Because YOU are what people are buying. Your energy is your strongest business building tool. So being clear on what makes you unique is crucial to growing your business.

This is often easier said than done, though. It’s so common, especially if you’re just starting out, to now really even KNOW who you are. This happens all the time: you have an idea of the brand you want to portray, but you struggle to “find” a unique voice to get your message across.

But if your voice is unique, it’s already inside of you, and not something you have to go out and “find”.

The key to being yourself is to stop trying so hard to be yourself. Ironic, isn’t it?

Try this: Here are a few of my favorite strategies for making sure that you really are being YOU in your business:

  1. Get your closest friends and family members to read your blog posts. Ask them if it sounds like you, and if not, what feels different to them. Take their words as constructive feedback! They know you inside and out, and it’s usually easier for them to see where you are out of alignment than it is to see it for yourself.
  2. Choose a topic you feel passionate about, and record yourself talking about it for 1 minute. Then, choose one of your recent blog posts or articles, and read it out loud into your recorder. The listen to both recordings side by side. Do they sound the same? What feels different about them? This is a really good clue as to where you are trying too hard to sound a certain way in your content.
  3. Poll your current subscribers (or Facebook fans, or anyone else you have in your community), and ask them to give you a list of 5 ways that they would describe your personality. You may find that people have a MUCH different perception of you than you do of yourself. This may be a good thing (sometimes people notice our strengths more easily than we do), or their image of you might be way off. You can use this data to adjust your content accordingly.

YOUR Way of Doing Business is the ONLY Way

At the end of the day, the only way to create a business that feels sustainable for you, is to do things your way.

Forget what anyone else is going. Let go of all the strategies and gimmicks and formulas.

Tap back into WHY you have your business in the first place. Focus on your strengths. Be of service before anything else. And at the risk of sounding cliché – just be yourself.

What do you think of the “anti-strategy” to business building? What conventional business building tactics are you taking off your “should” list? Tell us in the comments how you will start to build your own anti-strategy.

About Rebecca Tracey

Rebecca Tracey is the head/only honcho at The Uncaged Life where she works with clients from all over the world who want to have the freedom of working from anywhere by running their own online business. She helps people figure out what the hell they're doing in their businesses, create packages that sell, and helps them actually take action on the things they want to do. She runs an online community where thousands of entrepreneurs gather to support each other. She started her business while living in a van, loves rock climbing and riding her bike around Toronto, and is genuinely obsessed with helping people live their version of Uncaged.

80 comments

  1. Great article and couldn’t agree more with doing marketing that excites you.

    You don’t have to do marketing you hate. It’s better for you to have fun with marketing and get even better results.

    A great example of this would be podcaster John Lee Dumas. Doing 30+ interviews with excitement every month. Plus 3-6 webinars! Do what works for YOU!

  2. When I first started blogging, I was blogging and writing in my own voice and getting noticed. Then I learned alien lingo – SEO, Page Rank, Meta this that and the other and I became a programmed robot.

    It’s good to read and learn about others views and visions but at the end of the day, if one wants to stand out, one has to be different and there is no one more different than oneself.

    I’m human again and have found my voice and it shows in my writing and my work.

    I loved the voice recording suggestion. A different form of muscle testing that I really should try out. Thanks for the tips, Rebecca.

  3. Excellent article! I really liked some of your concrete tips, like looking at your to-do list from the viewpoint of “I want to” instead of “I should” . I may have just found the way to knock about 100 items of my to-do list!!

  4. It’s taken me a year to figure out that I need to use my unique voice, and be ok with it… And I love the tips and strategies (or anti-strategies) you’ve given me here… Thank you so much! I can’t wait to see where my blog will go… I’m going right back to my list of blog posts that I thought I “should” write… And see which make my heart sing 😉
    Considering the fact that my strength is to create… You can imagine the fun I’ve already had creating downloadable quotes as my “opt-in”… And it was REALLY freeing to step into a place of strength! I advocate it COMPLETELY!!!
    I’m also particularly drawn to your view on authenticity… And plan to do a little “authentic audit”

      1. Totally… I’m having a blast! …and it feels great to be authentic to who I am… hopefully the others feel it to as they move along their journey.

  5. All the shiny objects & tactics in the world aren’t going to work if you don’t have everything straight in your head + your heart.

    Loved this post – – you’ve won a new fan! Someone tell Matt Cutts the real reason for guest blogging

    : )

  6. Great post! The part about authenticity is so true – and I think if you address the other steps you talk about (strengths/weaknesses & coming from a place of service) then you will arrive at the authentic point in your business. I think it’s when we become distracted by the latest shiny marketing strategy that we forget why we do what we do!

    1. And there are sooo many shiny marketing strategies out there… but I actually I see that as a good thing – it gives everyone a chance to find what works for them! Thanks for reading Krysty!

  7. hi Rebecca

    Congrats on having your first post @ FP blog published. It got my interest, as I’ve always been of fan of growing a business or starting a project “your way” of thinking.

    You have such an interesting web site yourself, going to check your blog next.

    Best!

  8. That was a good read. I really like the idea of recording yourself and comparing it to your writing to see if it’s really you. Thanks for this.

  9. I liked your writing style and what you put on this page.

    “The most important thing to remember is that you are in business for a reason that is bigger than “building your list”.”

    Danny, what is your response?

  10. I love this post! I love the idea of keeping the ‘why’ in the forefront. It is the core engine for your business in my opinion and the farther you move from this, the harder all the strategies become! The light of your ‘why’ should illuminate what you actually do, want to do, and influence how you do it. The dimmer it becomes the easier it is to get off track and clouded by strategy, which by this time is often misguided.

    I also really like the idea of altering the “I should’s” to “I want to’s”. That is powerful.

  11. Rebecca,
    Once again you have blessed us with loads of wisdom! I’m so glad to see you posting here!

    And thanks for giving me permission to not tweet!

  12. The great thing about this post is that it transcends the experience levels of the readers. From newbie to audiences in the thousands- the advice works. I’m not really sure where I would if I left myself behind.
    I’m a little surprised Danny let this post fly since some of it is contrary to the audience building mentality. 😉

    Thanks for the insights.

    1. I was thinking the same thing, Rick. I cannot really be of service to very many if I don’t reach out to them. And if they never know I exist, I cannot very well do that, right?

        1. Rebecca, I guess I was thinking that if I strike through all the “should-do” entries that I don’t really want to do, I’d never do anything except write my book and avoid those with one eyebrow arched.
          However, I do understand that when the “should” entries make sense to me, I need to change my “want-to” list, and start wanting to do more of the outreach. It can seem so formidable, all this facing and tweeting, but I know, I should, whether I want to or not.
          You phrase it “need to” in this reply, and that, perhaps is the difference.
          I know.
          That doesn’t make me want to, it only makes me DO it.
          And hope my reluctance does not show.

          1. Right.. s how can you reframe them to “want to”? There will always be things that we may not initially be excited about, but the trick to a sustainable business is finding ways to have fun with all the crappy parts

        1. I only mean to say that there is a contrary tone by nature of the blog itself- ANTI-STRATEGY. I have been trying to absorb the wealth of strategies, tips, manifestos, podcasts, blogs, tutorials, books, etc. that Firehose Marketing 🙂 has put out. I plan on beginning the ABM next month so I can’t speak for all of the teachings. However, Ms. Tracey states:

          “If you have been struggling with your marketing and business building because all the tricks and tools just don’t quite seem to “fit” for you, it’s time that you kick “strategies” to the curb and take on the anti-strategy in your marketing.”

          I am on your side Danny. Firepole Marketing is the anti-strategy of the marketing world. Build your audience! Everything that Ms. Tracey addresses goes back to that too. I can’t help “my” audience if I’m trying to be someone else. It would not be loyal to them and would diminish their loyalty to me/my brand/our community. (I really don’t have one yet.) 🙂
          Though, I guess if my business isn’t making $3k to $6k in a year after starting the class, I can’t use the excuse “I just gotta be me” and expect a full refund and $1k.
          Fellow Beacon,
          Rick

  13. Rebecca, I appreciated each and every point of this article. Much of what entrepreneurs try is based on the outdated notion that “it’s not personal, it’s business.” We need to move away from that kind of thinking.

    It is time to embrace a new model, business is personal. The more personal we make it; the easier it will be for our ideal clients or customers to relate to what we do. People want to know who they are doing business with. Make it easy for them and they will respond.

    1. You nailed it! I am pretty sure I get 95% of my clients because I show up as ME and they really get who I am (which of course gives the permission to show up as THEM). Thanks for the comment!

  14. You’re stinkin’ awesome, Rebecca. I’ve been dragging my feet in all the SHOULDS that I should be doing, but hated and didn’t want to, so was procrastinating and not shockingly, getting nowhere. I’ve joined Strength Finders and can’t wait to get into that. You’re right. It’s all about the being of service to others…the rest is just fluff.

  15. Best paragraph on business growth/lead-gen/blogging ever… ?

    “So I take them back to basics – who do they serve, what problem do they solve, what do they offer, and then finally, how can they help people for free on a smaller scale that would feel really fun and easy? Create from that space, and list building becomes easy.”

    Great article.

  16. What a great article, thank you! My takeaway was this: Simple. Keep it simple. For being a complicated person, this isn’t easy for me, but going back to the core of why you do things helps simplify so much.

  17. Thanks Rebecca, it’s so refreshing to hear someone talk about how essential it is to be yourself in your business. The problem with some people(me for instance) is that they feel they don’t fit into the business profile, so they hide behind what they think the world wants and expects from a business person and then like you day they suffer. How encouraging to hear that it works better being yourself. Love the way you explain that in your post, and give us neat things to try out.
    Thanks for being YOU and giving us a great example to follow.
    I know it takes courage to talk about using anti-strategies, it’s just not “right” within the business world, so I appreciate you taking it on

  18. Point #2, “come from a place of service first,” took me back to 2005 when I started working on obtaining a Master of Science degree in Management. Our class had to read “Servant Leadership” by Robert K. Greenleaf. The book teaches you how to ask, “How may I serve?” I recommend the book.

  19. This has given me a lot of insight into defining my audience. That’s where I’m at, back at the beginning trying to get on a good, solid path. Being able to articulate what service I want to provide has to take into account who the people are that will benefit from my service. I will be referring to this post often, thanks!

  20. I really like what you’re saying Rebecca! I often find myself struggling between with applying what I should be doing to succeed and using my voice.

    I’ll try some of your suggestions.

    Fran

    1. It can take some practice for sure to get the balance right. Common marketing tactics DO work (usually), but it’s up to you to make them fit with your style and feel real. Have fun with it! It’s all one big experiment.

  21. I love your encouragement for authenticity. When I started honing in on this particular aspect, things started flowing much better for me. I still catch myself though when writing my posts. I write them, and when I read them, I think, hmm, this doesn’t quite sound like me. So I’ll start reading them aloud whenever I have this feeling. Also, thank you for the links. This was a wonderful post. : )

    1. I totally do the same thing. And sometimes i DO post things that don’t sound totally like me. but the thing is, we all have different parts of ourselves. Sometimes I get really sensitive and borderline “woo-woo”, and I don’t try to edit that part out of me – I find showing ALL of yourself makes you much more real for your readers!

  22. Super post Rebecca! I like #2 making it all about THEM, you come off much more sincere and people can tell if you are about making a buck or serving their business. I will also review my list and change a few shoulds to wants! Thanks for all the helpful suggestions.

  23. Great post! Organization, systems, tactics, and strategies to me are a mental process. They are helpful and necessary. But, the main focus must remain on why you do what you do and what it is you deliver in your authentic self. Energy, passion and purpose springs from the heart. Without the heart, what have you? Business requires reasoning, analysis, and strategies, while the caring heart creates something beautiful –the true value.

  24. Tremendously useful anti-strategy advice! While it’s great to have so much online about growing a business to read and consider, the considering part is very important. You are so right to advise thinking about how a strategy feels and to adapt those particular methods that complement the reader’s personality. I’ve tried to do this all along and know it’s the only way to go!

  25. Great advice that really hits home, Rebecca. I know I procrastinate doing a lot of the things on my marketing list because they just aren’t the right fit for my style of communicating or consulting.

    Thanks!

  26. I love the advice here. There are so many options for engaging online, no one can do them all even if we wanted to!

    I especially appreciate the advice on authenticity. I see that a lot without any follow up – as if being authentic is simple or comes automatically. Finding your authentic voice can take a lot of time!

    1. It does take time, which seems weird, because it’s a part of us. But as soon as you get online it can feel like you’re totally a blank slate. It’s important to remember who you are in real life, instead of trying to be someone different online.

  27. “uncaged,” in every respect, is what I’m learning to expect from you. Your advice is so freeing. If I can’t be ‘me,’ I’ll quickly burn out in the process. It is finding the balance between following good advice and following your own path. The two can intertwine.

    1. You’re so right Kathleen – they can intertwine. There are definitely some business systems that make sense and that have proven track records. I certainly know that some of the advice out there doesn’t work for me, and some of it does. At the end of the day it doesn’t hurt to try things, but have the flexibility to abandon things if they aren’t working.

  28. Love love love it Rebecca! I’ve been on a rant for quite a few months that there is no “one size fits all” approach to being a business owner. And believe me, I’ve tried most of those “shoulds” you talk about in your post. One of my most exciting moments was when I did a strategy session (or should I say “anti-strategy session) for someone and she said “wow, you sound in person just like you do on social media and on your blog.” Yeah!!!!!!!

    And it took a while to get there and it is ever so important.

    Laugh Lots, Love More!
    MamaRed

    1. Congrats MamaRed, that’s fantastic feedback! I just finished leading my very first retreat, and it was so cool to hear feedback that I was exactly what people expected me to be. You definitely must be doing something right!

  29. Rebecca, LOVE your post. I’m currently in business-building mode, and those are great suggestions for finding your voice.

    So good, in fact, that tonight at our Meatless Monday dinner, I’m polling my friends on those very questions.

    Your timing with this article was perfect.

    1. Ahhh that’s so cool, can’t wait to hear how it goes! It’s always so cool to hear input from people who know you. It can be scary, but remember – all feedback is good feedback!

  30. I love this post Rebecca. Especially because it ties somehow closely to something Robin Sharma says, “leave the echo chamber” basically meaning do your own thing, leave your own dreams.
    thanks for this very insightful points.

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