You Already Have the Most Important Tool for Effective Marketing

“Marketing” and “pandemic” are two words that scare people on their own—it’s no wonder that their combination is a living nightmare for many entrepreneurs.

Marketing can feel like throwing darts at a bullseye with a blindfold on—you don’t know if you’re aiming in the right direction, for the correct distance, or even if you hit the target!

Add in a pandemic and heightened social tension and you’ve got what feels like an impossibility.

To simplify what can often feel mysterious, jargony, and downright impossible, we sat down with Jacqui Jones of One Degree Marketing in our recent Straight Talk With Starters. Jacqui is a CO.STARTERS facilitator and a brilliant marketeer who recently gave a TED Talk on entrepreneurial loneliness.

The conversation was led by CO.STARTERS COO Jose Alfaro, and the two of them had some phenomenal guidance for business owners who feel blindfolded and stuck.

Capitalize on your humanity.

Your shared humanity with your customer is your most important asset as a business. Small business owners should especially realize the immense value of shared experience. Marketing is little more than storytelling + empathy. 

Think about who your customer is, what their experiences have been, what nuisances might annoy them, what small things bring them joy. Use those commonalities as a springboard when you talk to that customer—the same way you would on a first date or job interview!

Move toward vulnerability.

Everyone loves to talk about being vulnerable nowadays. It’s become a buzzword in company culture. But no one seems to embrace the concept beyond words. 

“I know what you’re doing,” Jacqui observed, smiling. “You’re hopping all around on your social media trying to convince customers you’ve got a 50-employee operation when there’s really only one of you. I’ve been there. You want to be polished. Well guess what? People don’t relate to polish—they relate to human.”

This pandemic will stir in you a tendency to run from vulnerability—to seek out shelter and security. But your customers are suffering too, and you can’t connect with suffering people from a fortress. Be honest with your social media followers. Tell your customers the truth. People want to do business with people they can empathize with.

“…you can’t connect with suffering people from a fortress. Be honest with your social media followers. Tell your customers the truth. People want to do business with people they can empathize with.” –Jacqui Jones

“As much of your struggle you can show, the better,” Jacqui continued. “Take your customers behind the scenes. Post a selfie of you with your spouse. Share your mistakes and fears. Right now is a great time to showcase flaws. Mistakes are the best marketing.”

Focus on shared values.

But if I show too much vulnerability, won’t it cause my customers to trust my product less?

Jose thinks this fear has a misplaced assumption—we don’t live in a world of need-based purchases anymore. Most consumers buy from companies with whom they share values. 

“Why is it,” Jose reminded us, “that you stop buying from a company when one of their executives tweets something offensive? It’s because you want to give your money to businesses that emphasize the same values as you.”

Purchases are partnerships in identity. Show your customers how your values align with theirs—if you can accomplish this, your customers will feel that they are gaining more from the transaction than the product itself. 

Show yourself grace.

If you want your customers to show grace to you, you need to give grace to yourself. 

You’re going to make mistakes. We’re living during a global medical and economic emergency. Everyone’s riding the crest of an anxiety wave. 

In other words, we all need to give each other grace right now. But in order to do that, you need to start with yourself. You only give to others the grace you think you, yourself, deserve. 

Bonus advice: Use this time.

“Work in the shadow of this time of uncertainty to get things the way you want them,” Jacqui recommended. 

Your business activity might be at an all-time-low right now. And that sucks. But Jacqui’s challenge is an enduring one: in what ways is this national business lull an opportunity for you? What are the projects you told yourself you would work on that never received their due attention?

This final piece of advice coheres with our goal at CO.STARTERS: that we can all emerge from this crisis stronger than we entered. That mission necessitates an opportunity-shaped lens. In what ways is this time an opportunity to strengthen yourself and your business?


 Jacqui Jones is CEO of One Degree Marketing. One Degree is a boutique-style marketing firm that focuses on developing strategy for small businesses, brands, and organizations, as well as providing implementation services in social media management, website design and development, email marketing, and brand management. One Degree also offers “Elevation Academy,” an online marketing education resource for entrepreneurs who want to do better with what they have. 

Jacqui is also a CO.STARTERS Facilitator and Community Engagement Manager for Create Birmingham ,where she works to form partnerships with individuals and organizations in Birmingham, AL that work to provide resources, education, and opportunities to underserved communities.

Stuck on how to use this time to strengthen your business?

Join Rebuild. This live, 10-session program will clarify and validate the changes you make in your business so it’s even better than before. Get individualized support from a certified facilitator and accountability from a small group of fellow business owners. The next session starts soon. Apply now to save your seat.

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