7 Marketing Rules I Broke (And You Can too) - Christine Kane

NOTE:  This is not an anti-marketing rant.  This is not a new set of rules to follow. This is my story of what worked for me. 

I’m going to walk you through 7 marketing rules (that I spent over $1M in coaching and mentoring to learn) and the reasons I decided they didn’t work for me. You’ll also hear why I believe I was still able to build two pretty darn successful businesses despite my choice to go rogue.

Get my candid take on traditional strategies like list-building and joint ventures. Find out what I think of social media as a marketing tool. Then I’ll dispel some marketing shoulds, nevers, and always-es that actually block your ideal clients.

I’m also sharing some exciting news about Uplevel Café. And, proposing a business challenge to help you make the most of this summer while the world opens back up. 

My hope is that by telling you what I’ve done (and haven’t done), you’ll be inspired to dig deep and figure out what works best for you, too.

Episode Transcript

When you have a strong enough intention, it does surpass any and all of these weird ass rules out there.

Welcome to The Soul-Sourced™ Podcast, unconventional business advice for the highly creative, secretly sensitive and wildly ambitious entrepreneur. I’m your host, Christine Kane. Let’s do this.

Welcome friends. This is episode number 46 of The Soul-Sourced™ Business Podcast, and I am clearly nervous today. This is the third time I’ve hit record, because this is a big topic.

I’m going to be talking about marketing rules and in particular seven marketing rules that I broke and you can too. And I have some caveats before I begin, that I want to get off my chest. One is that, notice that I’m saying you can too, I am not saying you should, too. All right, there’s no shoulds involved here. Just telling my story, all right? That’s number one.

The second caveat is that this is not a rant on how you don’t have to do marketing. I am a big fan of marketing. In fact, one of my biggest regrets about business is that I did not learn marketing sooner when I was a musician. I think the idea of marketing really brings up so much inside of us, and those of us who are secretly sensitive, as I call it in my book, The Soul-Sourced™ Entrepreneur on, in the subtitle, those of us who are secretly sensitive, we look at marketing and we think, oh my God, I have to put myself out there, everyone’s going to hate me. I will be crucified. I will be burned at the stake. Something bad will happen. And we hide. And we see people out there doing marketing who are very aggressive, who are very left-brained, they seem to be very robotic. They seem to be all about the numbers and we don’t see ourselves that way, and so we hide and we stopped marketing.

And I did this with music for a long time. And the thing that really, really woke me up about marketing, when I started to do it in music, I saw so much growth, it was unbelievable, but when you do marketing right, and if you read my book, The Soul-Sourced™ Entrepreneur, I’ll say it again. There is one little section where I described marketing and I talk about all these things that we often think that our marketing, like Facebook and social media and YouTube videos and blogs and articles and email lists, those are the vehicles of marketing. I call those like the cupcake tins, but real marketing, because the vehicle can change, the cupcake tin can change. You can put your batter in anything but real marketing is that thing that I call the batter. Meaning, you have to, when you really do marketing well, you’re understanding what I call the Foundation Five, the five foundational pieces of marketing. And I’m not going to go into them because I teach them on other episodes here on the Soul-Sourced™ Business Podcast. But it’s things like who I serve and the message I teach and the results I deliver, the value I offer and all those kinds of things that no one else can tell you. Like, even a coach cannot tell you what those things are, but they do exist. They’re already there. Your job is not to quote unquote, figure them out and grab them, your, your job is to mine for them, like really dig for them.

And even back when I was a musician before, you know, I, I think I’d started understanding a little bit more about marketing at this point, but I was doing, uh, a friend, a show with my friend, David Lamotte, and we were up on stage doing soundcheck, and some people had come into the theater and they were putting their stuff on their seats to reserve their seats, and then they were going back out because the doors hadn’t opened. And I looked over at David when we were on stage, and I said, oh, those two right there, they’re there. So your peeps. And he looked up and he started laughing. He goes, yeah, they are. And he goes, and then another people came in and he says, oh, those are your peeps. And what’s weird, is that you could tell who was there for who and, and granted that there could be some crossover, but we already knew, what in marketing parlance, could be called our ideal client. Like we all, we knew it. And most of us know who that is, but marketing is about understanding how to mine for them and then talk to those people.

And so this isn’t a rant about not doing marketing. Marketing is one of my favorite things to teach. It’s one of the things that I love the most, it’s also the thing that differentiates people who can just sort of wing it with their pricing versus people who can strategically start raising their pricing. I love marketing, in fact, and I’m still on the second caveat, by the way, one of the things I see quite a bit is that there are the people who show up who, who will want to talk to me or they’ll want to like pick my brain or whatever it might be.

There is this, like resistance, may be there in the healing field. Maybe they’re in the arts. I don’t know what it is, but they often show up and they have these two weird dynamics going on. One is they hate marketing. They think it’s manipulative. They think it’s terrible. And then also they also have the energy of desperation, meaning they want me to show them how to make money yesterday. And they’ve, they’ve made a book, they’ve written a book or they’ve made a program and they want me to sell it really fast. But, and I will quote Peter Drucker here, “the aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous, to know and understand the customers so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself.” And I will add on or fits her.

But marketing is everything that you do so that you don’t really have sell. And so it’s very, very important, but it takes a lot of work on your part. So again, not a rant that you don’t have to do marketing, but it is to say that when some people understand that marketing really works, it goes into territories of, I don’t want to say, I don’t want to like name anything as sleazy, It’s just a lot of times for those of us who are really seeking to create deep, authentic businesses and operate from a place of integrity is that we can feel off or weird or whatever. And the rules of marketing tend to be hacks. They tend to be the tactics. They tend to be the things that people say, you got to do this, you got to do that. And what I have found with a lot of the rules is that they are based in fear and I don’t want to live out of fear and I bet you don’t either, but a lot of us do it. And we don’t even know it.

The last caveat I’m going to give you here is that I’m sharing all this, and I’m not the most successful marketer out there. I am a big fan of what I call, I have called since, I think I started talking about this in 2011, but I call it mini empires. A lot of times people talk about having an empire mentality and I love that idea. And we teach it, meaning that you want to think like a, a business owner, think like an empire owner, even before you’re ready for that. But I also like to place it in the context of having a mini empire, meaning your business, this isn’t all about your business having to be gigantic. And it’s not about having your list be huge and, and all those little vanity numbers we like to spout out.

So with that said, I’m at the most successful marketer. I, you know, the numbers of our podcast are not the most successful podcast out there. I want you to understand that part before I go into it. However, I have created, you know, two successful businesses from nothing. And this is, these are some of the rules I’ve been told. I have worked with a ton of coaches. I’ve worked with a ton of strategists. I’ve spent, I think, well, over a million dollars at this point on education marketing, uh, working with different coaches and all of that kind of stuff, and I’ve had a lot of people say, you can’t do it that way, or you have to do it this way or try this instead, and I haven’t, or, or I’ve tried it and I’ve quickly run the other way. And so these, this is where all of this comes from, and I’m going to give you some context with some of this, and I’m going to let you make the choice from there. Okay.

So, the first rule I’m going to dive into is a list building rule, because the big thing that people like to say is that the money is in the list, and what I would say is that the money is not really in the list, that the money is in your relationship with the list. And the rule, that’s here about list building and making big lists is that you have to do joint ventures and affiliates in order to grow your list. Like that’s the big way where the big numbers are. And so what that means is that you send emails for someone during their launch and they send emails for your launch, your list grows, their list grows and, and everybody’s happy, and everybody makes money.

And I, I, I explored that a little bit. I did it a little bit. I found that a lot of people, when I was at events and conferences, there was a lot of bad Juju behind the scenes of this because not everyone did the return email as well as you know, that person did it. Like there was a lot of like just bad, awful feelings behind a lot of those relationships, not always, but I saw that quite a bit. And I experienced someone saying, you know, people saying you mail for me, and I did three different emails for them. And then it wasn’t returned all that stuff. It’s not to say anybody is bad or wrong or whatever. It’s just once I saw this whole, like, what can I get from you? What can you get from me? And I started looking at, you know, everyone starts looking at what your list can do for me, what my list can do for you.

That I don’t love in general, especially if I’m not a hundred percent behind what that person is doing. Like if I don’t really love and I, but I have to mail because I have to mail because they mailed for me. I just didn’t like it. I’d rather be able to pick and choose and select who I am buddies with. I would rather like someone because I like them, not because they have a bigger list than me. I just don’t, I don’t like that, what can I get from you, what can you get from me kind of an energy in a relationship, but more important for me is that whole thing of, it’s not about list size. It’s not about the size of your list. It’s not about the money’s in the list. It’s about your, your list is really about your relationship with your list and what that means is being consistent with your list, being, communicating with your list well, and some of you have noticed that I have sent out emails about certain things. Like I did a podcast and I, I made it all about, um, John David Mann’s free ebook. He did not tell me to do that. In fact, he wrote me an email and said, oh my God, my list grew like 300% this week. And, and I don’t, I, I have no idea if it was just because of my podcast or other people, but he sent me this beautiful email thanking me for doing that. He had no idea I had done it, but I do that when I like something and when I think it’s going to provide value for my peeps, and I don’t ask for any return, I’ve just really realized that I operate better when I am able to operate from integrity. And so when I send out an email, it’s because it’s something I think you’ll like, or someone my list will like.

I don’t do, I don’t, I, we don’t use the word blast, email blast on my team. I don’t like looking at people as lists. I look at them as humans and I try to relate as humans. And so I just don’t do JVs and affiliates. That’s not how I’ve built my list, and it’s not been a very successful thing for me. Although I do know people who it’s been their jam, like that’s been their thing and that’s completely fine, but you don’t have to do it If you don’t want to, you can still have a successful business.

The second rule is one that I, um, I’ve heard several internet marketers say over and over again, and it is the rule of being ubiquitous. And what that means, is that you need to be on every social media channel. And I completely do not agree and like be everywhere, be out there, be ubiquitous, you know? And if you have the money and you have the team and you can make that part of your strategy, fine. But I will say the bulk of my clients here at Uplevel are solo business owners. Some of them have teams of contractors, but very few of them have enough people to make the ubiquity thing happen.

What I find is the truth about ideal clients, is that your ideal clients are typically on no more than one or two channels. And for example, if you are a B2B business, then most likely you’re going to do best on LinkedIn, focus your energy on that. And don’t worry about Insta and Twitter and everything else, do one thing well is where I would roll with it. And what we, what we do here at Uplevel is I, I, I don’t do Twitter. I’m not a Twitter person. I don’t do a lot on, let’s see, what else, what else haven’t I done a lot on, um, I haven’t, I didn’t jump right into Snapchat, even though, you know, Gary V wanted everybody to do that. I am really selective about where I’m going to be, what I’m going to post. And even with, um, Instagram, a very dear friend of mine is a super successful entrepreneur, and she walked me through her Instagram strategy. And I was with Kinsey, who’s on my team, who does social media strategy with me. And I just said, you know what? We’re going to just grow this thing organically, we’re going to grow it slowly. And we’re going to go grow it in a way that I feel comfortable, even though the person that was sharing all this stuff with me had some great tactics and some great stuff that grew her numbers really, really fast, but it just wasn’t my thing. And so, and we were sort of testing to see are our people on Instagram?

The other thing about being ubiquitous on social media, is you have to understand the algorithms and how they all change. And I just don’t know if you have that kind of time. And I, I don’t know that social media is going to be where your best marketing is done. I do think it’s important, but I think you have to be very, very clear about where your peeps are and what exactly you’re going to be sharing. I don’t think you need to pound them all the time. I don’t think you need to be an Instagram star. And you know, it depends on your business, but I don’t think you need to be ubiquitous. And that’s a key thing, especially if you’re a solo business owner and you’re just getting started, getting clients, your best bet is to start getting really good at referrals and offline marketing to start getting clients. I always say that to people, but that’s something I have not done is I have not become ubiquitous on social media. I have no interest in being like an Instagram star. I, that’s just not my jam, but if it’s yours, that’s great.

Another rule that I’ve broken, and this kind of goes along with anything like this. But the particular rule I broke was that long ago, when I was doing my retreats for women, I started learning about all of these marketing rules of who buys when, who does what when, and the rule I broke was that no one’s going to come to your retreat if you hosted it around the holidays, no one will come to that retreat. And I’ve learned how to coach people through this mindset because, the, I’d hear it all the time. No one will do this thing during this time. No one’s going to come if they have this, like, there’s, there’s these weird mindsets that we have that always are like, no one is going to do this. And like I said, a lot of marketing rules are fear-based. And I always say that intention trumps everything. And I don’t like using the word trump anymore intention. When you have a strong enough intention, it does surpass any and all of these weird ass rules out there.

And so what I will tell you about my retreat that I hosted in, it was in between Christmas and New Years, I hosted a retreat, one of my women’s retreats back in two thousands when I was still a musician and doing these retreats, that was the, the one that sold out the fastest and it filled up right away. And what I, the response I got from people about that was, thank you for doing something at this time. It’s when I most need to be quiet and I most need a break. And my partner’s around my spouse’s around and they can take the kids and I can go really prepare for my coming year. And so that’s, that’s the kind of rule that you can break. There’s no rule that says, this is not going to work now. Like you can pretty much do anything, and you know, of course, I’m not saying to like, book your retreat on Christmas day. I’m just saying that you, you don’t have to look at those rules as hard and fast. You can really play with them and ask deeper questions about them. I just coached someone on this as well, who had a rule about how you can’t do an online thing at this time. And I coached her on it and it ended up hitting it out of the park. And she, she wrote and said, thank you so much for that, because I was so deep in that rule. And it was so not true.

So, the fourth rule is this rule that says that you have to get the conversion in the first 30 days. And sometimes I’ve heard it be 60 days of someone getting on your list. And this is the kind of thing I’m using this as a specific, but it’s the kind of thing that marketers like to say of like, well, data shows that everyone who doesn’t buy in the first 30 days becomes a dead person on your list or whatever they want to say. And you want to get the conversion in the first 30 days. And what happens when we hear people say things like this, is that it amps up our own fear. And like I said, a lot of the marketing rules are very fear-based. And what they basically say is you can’t trust people. And so therefore you have to club them to death and grab their credit card and take it from them, because they’re so stupid and they’re so lame that your marketing has to hook them and grab them. And what I have found is that when you operate from that way, you get that energy in your world. You get hypey frightened people, because you have done hypey fright, fear-based frightened marketing, fear-based marketing, whatever it might be.

And the way we’ve broken the rule here is that what’s so funny is how many people say to me when they get into M Club or they sign up for CK On Call or whatever is, I’ve been watching you for five years. I’ve been on your list for, for 10 years. Some people are like, I used to be a fan of your music, and I just watch when you shifted to up-level, I’ve been reading your emails and I just started a business. And you were the one I wanted to work with. What, what is stunning to me is that if you speak to someone consistently, and if you stay in relationship with them, if they are the right person for you, they will come back around. You do not need to hit them over the head and drag them back to the cave. And you do not need to convert them or worry about converting them. Now it’s not to say you can’t, but I don’t like the rule that says, if you don’t get the conversion in the first 30 days, they are going to just go away, because that just makes you hype-y and freaked out inside, and it makes your business un-fun and that’s, that’s not a good thing.

Now, the trick here though, is that a lot of, a lot of us entrepreneurs are, what’s known as a Quickstart by Cathy Colby in the Colby A Index, and we have a hard time with this thing called consistency. And we have a hard time staying in touch. And so you have to, if you get people on the list, you do need to be the one who stays in touch with them and has a newsletter, or has some way that they can continue to stay in relationship with you. Okay? But that doesn’t mean to say that you won’t have a successful business if you aren’t getting the conversion in 30 days. And I don’t even like the idea of conversions, like calling, you know, I don’t even like some of the marketing terms because it makes us so less human, but it’s a term that works because you have to be able to talk to your marketing strategists and tell them those things. But it is true. It’s when somebody opts in, when somebody purchases it is called a conversion and you want to make the ask, by the way, you don’t want to just like, oh, I just keep providing value. I keep providing value. You want to eventually have that ask. So when people become clients of mine in M club, for instance, there is a point in December when I opened the doors and I say, Hey, I’m opening the doors now. And that’s when they sign up, but I don’t just sort of hope that they figure that out. We do want to make an offer, but it doesn’t have to be in the first 30 days.

With that said, the next rule is about getting people, it’s that same sort of thing. And it’s, it’s that whole idea of pop-ups on your website and doing pop-ups. And the law I’ve heard is that people use pop-ups because they work. People sign up. And if you don’t know what a pop-up is, it’s that kind of, it’s when you’re on somebody’s website and after 30 seconds, or sometimes within the first three seconds, it comes up and it says, Hey, do you want to make more money and get more successful? Get my five rules of success. And in order to get out of the pop-up, you have to click a button that says, no, I don’t want to be successful. And I’m an asshole to boot. You know, it’s just the most annoying, horrible thing. And you have that feeling like you just got a chain letter and should I send it on? And am I going to click this thing that says, I don’t want to be successful? Just all of that. I can’t stand it. And I get that it does work. But again, if we go back to the rule of your list, is that it’s about your relationship with your list?

Typically I have, I don’t know. I haven’t found it cause I don’t use pop-ups. I never have. What I’ve discovered with my own list is that it’s about the relationship with the list, not about the number of the list. In fact, we scrub our list. My, I was just on the phone with my mom. We were, we do a family zoom every Sunday, and my sister was telling me about my last podcast. And she said, oh, it’s interesting, I was at a cocktail party. And they were talking about that article from the New York times about languishing, which was what my last podcast was about. And my mom said, I don’t get, I don’t get your emails about your podcast. How come? And I said, well, you probably haven’t opened the emails in a long time. And we scrubbed the list. And part of that, it’s heartbreaking from an ego perspective, when your list gets, you know, it used to be really big and puffy and you had a big number now it’s not, but it makes for stronger conversions and open rates.

So, since we started cleaning lists, by the way, we went from having like eight and 9% open rates on my list. And now we’re up at 20 to 24% open rate, which is what I wanted. It’s where I was at when I was a musician. Some of it is just because I’ve focused on creating a stronger relationship with my list and with people and humans and just talking and not doing things like popups and stuff like that. Like I said, I’ve never done them, but I don’t think you have to do things like that if they feel weird to you. All right?

That brings me to the next rule. And the rule that you hear, a lot of people talking about is that email is dead. No one opens their email. Email is hard to get into inboxes. Nobody does email stop doing email. You don’t have to worry about it. Just be ubiquitous on social media and close on social media and get all kinds of money. And, uh, in my experience, email is not dead. We still, that’s pretty much how I talk to my peeps. It’s pretty much how I do everything. In fact, with Up Level Cafe, getting ready to open back up again, that’s that’s my community. We, um, we’ve had, uh, quite a few of you sign up on the waiting list at Uplevelcafe.com. And, um, that you’re basically saying to me, I there’s no offer. There’s no like, hey, you get this free thing. You’re just saying, hey, let me know, that you’re saying email me, you’re asking to be emailed. And so people still use email. They just don’t use it for the same things. And yes, most people aren’t as excited to get emails anymore. Especially if you’re pounding, blasting, shrieking, and doing all kinds of other stupid stuff.

But, email writing is a skillset. Subject lines matter. The body of your email matters. And I do think it’s worth writing an email, rewriting an email and I look at every email I send with an eye. Like I try to be my reader. How does this hit me? And I take writing very seriously. In fact, a lot of my, not a lot, I’ve had a few clients get upset with me for making them rewrite things so much, but it’s because if you’re going to do any kind of email campaign, especially if you’re making something evergreen, it really behooves you and it really serves your clients to really care about what you’re writing. Um, I’ve had people say, well, you know, the, when, when let’s say this just downloaded through me and it’s like, okay, but now it’s time for an edit. I’m glad it downloaded, but that’s called, that’s what Anne Lamott calls a shitty first draft, and now we’re going to edit it so that your reader can understand. Your reader does not care that you got a download from the universe and you just blurted it out on the page. Now we have to give it some structure so that your people understand what you’re trying to say. So email is not dead. It just really is a skill set that all of us could get better at, for sure. Especially if you’re learning how to see marketing as communication.

The last rule I’m going to go through here is, uh, again, it’s kind of a seasonal one, but given the time of year it is right now, it’s one that I’m going to plop on your lap and say, really rethink this one. And it’s one of those ones that marketers always talk about, but it’s basically that everyone stops working in this summer, so just don’t even bother, like don’t work, give into it, just chill. And if that’s what you want to do, wonderful. But here’s my thing with that. I have found that the summer time is, or a different seasons, like even that, that week between Christmas and New Year’s, it’s a great time to work on your business, not just run around working in your business. And so if your clients tend to maybe not use as many calls or maybe sort of press pause and that kind of thing, this is the time to get strategic and really think about your business. And I was telling this to my team recently, I got the idea for Uplevel your life, my very first program that I ever created when I was on the beach in the summer, because I was reading a book on marketing and I started to, I didn’t know what a teleseminar was, this was before this, all of this stuff was going on and, and they didn’t know what, I didn’t really understand email marketing, but I had this idea of taking these retreats that I was doing and turning them into this program. And, and I started getting real excited, but that’s, that’s what I find that the space of summertime is really great for.

And so my call to you is like that part of you that just says, I’m just going to check out because, oh, well I don’t care. And oh, I’m languishing. I’m just going to continue languaging. My challenge to you is that no, this is a really good time to use that relaxed energy and kind of ride the waves and create something new and big and get strategic in your business and work on some of these things I’m talking about here. And in fact, it is, it’s weird that, you know, the, the marketing rule would be, you know, oh no, one’s going to work on their business. Don’t launch Up Level Cafe. Don’t open the doors again, but I am going to be opening the doors to Up level Cafe and I’m going to be doing it for the summer. And part of that is a little strategic and that’s because we are going to, you know, it’s going to be sort of the, the new version of it. We’re going to be working pretty deep. There’s a lot of new content. And, um, we’re going to use the summer as a way to walk people, like re-introduce people to their business, really re-introduce people to their marketing. And it’s a really good time to do that. And that’s my way of breaking the rules and really saying, Hey, this is a really good time for this. And so, um, for those of you who do want to do that, or want to find out more, we do have a waiting list and you’re going to be the ones I write first, and we’re going to be opening it up next week, as a matter of fact, right as summer begins.

In fact, some people would say, don’t even do a, don’t oh, there’s another rule. Okay, Is that don’t do things on Sundays. And, um, we put the podcast out on Sundays, I send my email out on Sundays and we still get very high open rates. And I, again, it, part of that is because some of our best ideas, some of our biggest breakthroughs happen when we’re a little more chill and when we’re not pounding so hard and when it’s not Monday and we’re driving forward. So it kind of goes with that same rule. I’ve broken the rules in a lot more ways than I think I even knew, but yeah, that’s what summer’s going to be. So my challenge to you is to stay present. I’m not saying stay driven or be driven or drive yourself, but stay present to your business and know that this is such a great time to really go deep and look at what your strategy is. And especially now when the world is opening back up and people are doing things differently and they’re, they’re finding ways to be out in the world. This is a really good time to do that. In fact, we have an, a retreat. Our virtual retreat in M Club is coming up in June and we’re going to be diving deep into business. And it’s so funny. It’s so easy to sort of be in that mindset of checking out, but you don’t got to do that. And you shouldn’t do that. No, I don’t like to say should, you don’t have to do that. And it’s a really great time to do this and, and work on your business.

And all I’m going to do is close with, Hey, it’s Sunday, it’s the podcast is out. I thank you so much for listening and for sending me emails, I had somebody say, I just love your podcast, It’s like just turning it on and listening to you and having a great conversation with you. And so I love that. I am really grateful you’re here. Thanks for doing things in a very unconventional way with me and breaking the rules with me and let me know little ways that you’ve broken the rules as well, because all that information, all those insights really truly help each and every one of that, us here in the Uplevel world. Thanks. Y’all and I will see you next week.