5 Marketing Lessons from ‘surviving’ my first 5 years in business

September 16, 2022
by Charlie Whyman
B2B Marketing Mentor

If you want to avoid being the best-kept secret in your industry then marketing and selling yourself effectively is the key to success.

A couple of months ago, I delivered a brand new keynote presentation all about Clearing the AIR to help consultants and business owners avoid marketing overwhelm and increase confidence. One topic that sparked numerous fascinating conversations is the concept of permission.

In my presentation I explored the main challenges a lot of people face when it comes to marketing themselves; managing fear and uncertainty and how a lack of self-belief can be a real spanner in the works when it comes to getting results from your marketing.

You do not need permission to believe or trust in yourself. More often than not, you already know what you need to do and if you don’t, you know that you will need to ask for help if you really want to move forwards.

As a business owner and consultant myself, I’ve experienced first-hand how crippling a lack of self-belief can be. I also know that if you want to build a thriving business, you need to find a way to channel your own self-belief and overcome the permission-seeking mindset.

So let’s explore 3 key things that happen with your marketing that might be showing up so you can break free and give yourself permission to move forwards.


Deep down, most of us already know what we need to do to market our businesses, yet we avoid doing these things - why?

It all comes down to appearances and how we think, or fear other people might see us.

Either we avoid putting ourselves out into the market to show how we add value and what we can offer. Or, we avoid asking for help, or in some cases, admitting we need help in the first place.

When you’re in business for yourself, you are your product and there’s an emotional attachment. The fear of being perceived as self-promotional or arrogant can hold a lot of people back from showing up as themselves.

I work with a lot of engineers and highly qualified professionals and the fear of making a mistake, being misunderstood or even getting it wrong can cause crippling consequences.

Appearances matter and this fear presents itself in the form of a long list of things you know you need to do but avoid doing them.

If you want to move forwards with your marketing, keep an ‘I’m avoiding this list’ and review it regularly. As you work through the items of your list, explore the reasons why you’re avoiding doing these things and discuss them with a friend, colleague or coach so that you can find a solution and make a plan to move forwards with each item. This simple exercise has been known to drive incredible results in a short period of time.

Ignorance - what are you ignoring?

There are a huge amount of emotions involved when our self belief is in question and we can sometimes rely on feelings and ignore the facts. This can affect our confidence which could repel clients instead of attract them.

One of the most common questions I ask my clients during coaching conversations is: ‘is this something you believe to be true, or know to be true?’

Always seek out the evidence for any emotion or feeling that you have that might be holding you back or stopping you from doing the marketing activity you know you need to work on.

Keep a ‘Feel Good Folder’ and make a note, screenshot or copy all of the positive evidence and feedback you see and hear from your clients that reminds you that you’re doing a good job. Refer back to this folder every time your self belief has a bit of a wobble.

I’ve also noticed that when people get stuck with their marketing they also fall into the trap of ignoring other things too such as:

  • ignoring advice from other people
  • ignoring your gut feelings when something doesn’t feel right
  • ignoring signs and signals from your market that tell you to do more, do less or keep going

Get REALLY good at asking yourself questions and exploring the REAL reasons you’re ignoring these things. Don’t be afraid to follow your intuition and more often than not you will actually know more than most marketing experts you could work with.

Respond don’t React

How often do you find yourself reacting to things in the heat of the moment instead of proactively responding to things when the time is right?

When you start reacting more than responding this is usually a sign that you do not have a plan that will help you achieve your goals or your belief in your plan is in question.

Think of a marketing plan like a map with directions up a mountain towards your goals. The further you go off plan, the longer it will take you to get back and sometimes you might need to find a guide to help you find your way again. There are many routes up the mountain but the plan you’ve developed is the one you’ve chosen that will get you there using the tools and resources you have access to and are comfortable with.

If you don’t have a marketing plan then the first step would be to create one - specifically focussed around your goals and business model.

If you do have a marketing plan and someone or something is tempting you away from your route then try to understand what’s causing that temptation.

Be clear on what you’re expecting of yourself when it comes to how much time, energy and money you’re going to invest in your marketing activity and set boundaries. Schedule time instead of try to fit it in whenever you get a free moment and avoid doing your marketing in the evenings and weekends when you’d rather be doing other things.

Confidence and self belief can be infectious and it’s really easy to get distracted by other people’s energy when they are giving you marketing advice.

Instead, channel your own confidence and self belief into your own marketing. No one knows your business better than you do and the only way you’re going to attract more clients is by showing your market who you are and what you can do for them.

If you ever get stuck or feel overwhelmed, take a step back and Clear the AIR™, look at what you’re Avoiding, Ignoring and Reacting to so that you can move forwards with confidence and focus on the activities that will accelerate your business forwards.

If you need help Clearing the AIR™ please get in touch by emailing charlie@curiousb2bmarketing.com for a confidential and no obligation call. Life is too short for you to be the best kept secret in your industry.

    Watching my dad in business taught me 2 key things: 

    1. Be genuinely curious and kind to everyone – you never know who will refer or turn into a customer 
    1. If you don’t ask, you don’t get  

    I’ve always kept in touch with people, so it took just a week to find 2 retainer clients that covered my bills – all my going through my LinkedIn network and picking up the phone.  

    Whether it’s your phone contacts, people you’ve emailed, or even a good old-fashioned address book, you never know who might be looking for what you do, or who might know somebody that is. 

    Marketing lesson 3:The best marketing content comes from the mouths of your customers

    Do you know what your ideal customer struggles with? What their goals are? 

    Even better, do you know exactly HOW they talk about those things? 

    By recording your sales calls, and utilising your customers’ language, tone and context in your marketing materials, you’ll come across more authentic, and you’ll stand way above the compeittion as too few people dedicate time to doing this. 

    NOTE: use these conversations as your research – don’t go in with a hard sell. Genuine curiosity is what will set you apart. 

    Listening to your customers can also help you avoid making assumptions and developing the wrong products and services which brings me to….. 

    Marketing Lesson Number 4: Avoid making assumptions

    Just because you know what your customers need, doesn’t mean they’re willing to invest in it. 

    For me, I thought events training would help companies get a positive ROI, and avoid the common mistakes I saw at every single event I went to. 

    Turns out, the audience I was targeting would rather invest in somebody doing it for them, so that idea soon fell flat. 

    There’s a good reason the joke suggests that when you assume you make an ASS out of U and ME! 

    Your customers buy when they are ready to buy – not when you are ready to sell to them.  

    So, make decisions that backed up by research – what is ACTUALLY true, not just what you believe to be true. 

    Marketing lesson 5: Be Careful who’s advice you listen to

    Everyone appears to be a marketing guru these days – but that doesn’t mean they’re going to guide you in the right direction. 

    Most of the time, you DO know what you need to be doing. You just need a loving boot to keep you accountable and to help you move forwards by challenging your thinking.  

    Before investing, here’s what I’ve learned: 

    • Set Clear Objectives 
    • BELIEVE in what you’re doing (or risk self-sabotage) 
    • Focus on Progress not perfection 
    • Commit to the work but be realistic with what you can achieve 
    • Don’t compare to others – walk your own path, at your own pace 

    To wrap up 

    Starting your own business is tough, particularly on your own. I’ve invested in hiring help this year, and whilst I wish I’d done it sooner, I also know I’m where I need to be right now. The future is looking very exciting.  

    There were times I felt like giving up, but I’m so grateful that I’m surrounded by support and mentors that share vision to reduce overwhelm and help create simple marketing plans that generate results. 

    So, if you, or someone you know, has started a business, I hope this has given you something to think about.  

      Related Posts

      Speaking as a Marketing Strategy

      Speaking as a Marketing Strategy

      Do you know how long it takes you to build trust with your audience?  How many messages go back and forth before you’ve truly built a relationship online?  I’m guessing the...

      read more


      Submit a Comment

      Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *