When Your Thing Just Isn't Selling

It is incredibly frustrating to have a product or service that you really care about and not be able to sell it.

You know it’s going to change someone’s life, but you can’t seem to get the message out there, or no one is listening.

You’ve poured your heart into making this thing and you’ve received good feedback, but the numbers don’t reflect your hard work and the passion.

I know because I’ve been there. Fresh out of college and over the years to follow, I tried (and failed) to sell:

  • Two novels

  • A dozen short stories

  • Handmade greeting cards

  • Essays and articles (to big publications, print and online)

  • Jewelry

  • Acrylic and watercolor paintings

  • Homemade decor

  • A self-published nonfiction book

I sold a little bit of this stuff here and there, but none of it ever took off. And none of it even came close to generating an income I could live off of.

It was frustrating because I believed I did my best, and that I’d created something of value. I’d believed, my whole life, that my greatest contribution to the world would be through my creative work — and so this soul-crushing reality just didn’t fit with my expectations.

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And worst of all, I felt like I must be stupid; I must be missing some critical piece of information that successful people had. After all, feedback from friends, colleagues, and even strangers conveyed I was doing some really awesome work.

But nobody was buying.

So why wouldn’t it sell? Was there some secret I was missing?

Actually, yes, there was. And we’ll get to it in just a second.

Understanding Marketing

I am totally unashamed to admit that ten years ago, I didn’t understand marketing.

Let me tell you a bit about how I “marketed” these creations of mine.

  • I sent my creative writing to a handful of agents

  • I handed out coupons for my original art to random friends at the restaurant where I worked

  • I posted flyers for my freelance writing services around town

  • I posted my home decor/jewelry/art on Etsy and sat back and waited.

None of these tactics are inherently wrong, but they were wrong for that particular product.

For each thing I was trying to sell, there were truly hundreds of different marketing approaches I could’ve taken, and many which would have worked better than others.

So here’s the big thing I was missing about marketing, and it’s utterly basic:

I was missing the ability to see from someone else’s perspective, and connect with those prospects in a way that was meaningful to them.

That’s it! It is so head-bashingly simple that you may be questioning my aptitude as a marketer.

But it’s basic because it’s true. It doesn’t matter how amazing your automations are, or how big your email list is, or how many times you post content to LinkedIn or Facebook, or how many webinar attendees you get, or how big your ad spend is.

You have to cultivate the ability to see through your customers’ eyes.

And this is so much harder to do than you may think.

Stop Looking in the Mirror and Look at Someone Else

Whatever you’re selling, ask yourself: who is this for? Your answer will be either:

a.) It’s for [type of person here].

or…

b.) I don’t know.

If it’s “B,” think hard about what your offering really does. Think about who you want to serve. You may only need to make a tiny sidestep in your target market (say, going after enterprise companies instead of small businesses) or you may need to redo your entire product or service.

How do you make that judgment call? How can you tell if your thing is something enough other people want, or just something you want?

Here are some clues that your thing is valuable, and you just need to switch up your approach to marketing:

  • You have positive feedback from unbiased audiences (not your friends, not even your colleagues — people are nice to people they know, usually. They don’t want to hurt your feelings.)

  • Other people are successfully selling something very similar. (What a serpentine sentence!)

  • You can identify at least one tangible problem that your product/service solves.

I will go right on ahead and admit that some of the creative work I tried to sell out of college really wasn’t good.

Some of it, I was simply pitching to the wrong people.

And some of it didn’t sell because my heart wasn’t in it, so I was actually at odds with myself when it came time to sell it. You can’t sell something you aren’t already sold on.

Why I Care About What You’re Selling

A good marketer will be cognizant of all of these things and a great marketer will be honest with you. I would feel like a sham if I were to create marketing campaigns or content for a company that wasn’t offering something of value, and so it’s really important to me (before I take on a client) that I understand what you do and believe in as much as you believe in it.

It doesn’t have to be a world-changing product. It doesn’t have to be the next big thing.

But it has to matter to someone, and as your marketer, it has to matter to me.

I’ve had clients…

  • Who create kickass CRM software for marketers

  • Who provide trustworthy IT consulting to local businesses

  • Who sell a sense of financial security to wealthy Canadians

  • Who put data science, AI, and ML to powerful uses for massive corporations

  • Who design and print gorgeous paper materials for SMBs

These are just some examples and they’re all over the place, but they have one thing in common — they each care about providing something of value to someone real.

You may have all of the money in the world to spend on the latest tools in marketing, but if your product or service doesn’t matter, no amount of marketing is going to fix it.

And if you look through your customers’ eyes and find out your product isn’t actually helping, it’s not time for more marketing — it’s time to make a change.

If you have a product or service that means something to someone (and want help marketing it), I’d love to connect. Book a 15-minute intro call with me (Amanda) at the link.