I’ve always loved reading advice columns. I may just glance through the longer articles in a magazine, but I always read every word of the advice columns. There’s something so fascinating about reading the questions, conundrums, and struggles of those writing. Even if my circumstances don’t match, I’m drawn to the undeniably human and connective act of asking for advice. And I love the thoughtful, sometimes surprising answers the columnist gave.
Advice columns are an oasis of empathy—a recognition that we’re all just trying to figure it out. And while our impulse when we feel stuck is to ask someone else what we should do, often (at least the best advice columnists) bring us back to our own intuition. They offer the gift of feeling heard, of framing the challenge in a new way, and giving us the invitation to “live out what we already know to be true.” (Cheryl Strayed)
As a marketing consultant, I have the honor of working with a lot of amazing, smart, and capable business owners and leaders. So often, they reach out thinking they need help with their website or redesigning their brochure. But the core of marketing is so vulnerable and personal. The work I do gets at the heart of why they’re in business and attempts to wrap words around the things they’re most passionate about. Marketing is about attracting ideal customers and growing a business, but it’s also about being confident in who you are and the distinct ways you’re making the world a better place.
Sometimes, being a marketing consultant feels like being an advice columnist. So, I’m leaning into that in this new series. Based on the vulnerable questions and conversations that come up in my work, I’m starting my own advice column with thoughtful, empathic, and perhaps surprising answers about the challenges of running a business that can keep us up at night.
I hope that it’s an oasis of empathy for anyone who feels caught up in the overwhelming nature of trying to run a successful business.
I own a boutique hair salon. I’ve been in business for about three years, and a lot of the business I got was through social media. I never really felt like I knew what I was doing with social media marketing, but for a while, it felt like every time I posted, I would get a few
The problem is I HATE social media. I feel like I am supposed to post every day to be successful, but it’s the thing on my to-do list that I end up dreading. I get stuck in my own head and can’t figure out what to say. Then, whenever I do end up posting, I care way too much how many likes it gets, and that sends me into a tailspin. Now, I see my competitors posting all these videos and reels, and when I try to think about doing that myself, I just cringe.
Here’s the thing—I’m with my customers all day, every day. In between customers, or at the end of the day, I just don’t feel like doing something that adds to my exhaustion and anxiety. But everyone says social media is a MUST when it comes to successful business strategies.
Do you have any advice for me? Any ideas for how to get out of my own head and feeling better about this necessary evil?
Daunted and Drained
Dear Daunted and Drained,
As a business owner, you have a gift to give the world. We need you to be fully available to give that gift.
The service you’re offering your customers is so much more than just a haircut. You’re offering the gift of connection, the chance to sit and talk one on one with someone who listens well and asks good questions. For that hour in their chair, they get to slow down for just a bit or simply soak in the therapy of having their hair combed and washed and their head massaged. Your customers walk away with more than a cut and wash—they walk away with a renewed sense of confidence, that fresh haircut glow.
Let me say it again—we need you to be fully available to give those gifts.
At the end of the day, marketing is about intentionally building relationships with your customers. It starts before they walk into your salon. They hear from a friend that you’re their go-to hairstylist. They see your salon on Yelp, and as they read the reviews, they build trust with you. Or they see a picture on Instagram and think, “Yes! That’s the look I’m going for!” But that relationship deepens as they experience your service. So how you show up for them while they’re in your salon is just as much a part of marketing as what you are or aren’t doing on social media.
Social media doesn’t have to be evil, and despite what everyone says, I don’t think it’s always necessary.
I like to think of social media like a cocktail party. You get dolled up and show up, where everyone is presenting their best selves. You’re there to meet and greet others, hopeful of making some connections. It’s often bright and flashy and can be lots of fun. But it’s not productive or fun to be at a cocktail party when you feel drained and resentful that you’re there.
Social media, just like a cocktail party, is built on the premise of connection—the chance to chat with friends, meet new people and be entertained. But that’s not always what happens, right?
Sometimes, you show up to the party, and you feel overwhelmed. The music’s too loud, and it feels like everyone else knows what they’re doing except you. You felt like you were “supposed to” be there, but now all you want to do is go home, put on your comfy pants and read a book.
So I’m giving you permission to leave the party. Just for a while.
Step away from social media completely for six weeks. I want you to actually delete the apps from your phone. For the first two weeks, replace the time you would be on your phone scrolling through Instagram or trying to think of something clever to post and spend it connecting with yourself. Journal. Go on a walk. Take a bath. Bake cookies. Take this seriously, and don’t skimp out. You can’t keep giving from an empty cup.
Then, over the remaining four weeks, set a timer for just 15 minutes every day and intentionally reach out to your current customers. Send a text to someone who hasn’t been in a while. Write cards and send them by snail mail. Bring those cookies you baked to the salon and give them to your favorite customers.
The goal of this break is to help you rekindle the connections that are at the heart of your business—connecting with people one-to-one in your salon chair. If you have been feeling exhausted and anxious from social media, Drained and Exhausted, then chances are your customers are also sensing that. And burnout is not good for business.
Social media is this new dimension we’ve created for ourselves, and regardless of what the influencers and experts say, we’re all just figuring it out. Social media can indeed be a powerful tool to grow your business, and you’ve seen that firsthand. But it’s easy to forget it’s just that—a tool.
Intentionally building relationships with your current customers is actually going to help you grow your business much more effectively than trying to spend your time and energy capturing new followers on social media. What if, rather than trying to work up the courage to create videos where you’re pointing to words on a screen, you made your marketing mission to just surprise, delight, and connect with your current customers?
My hunch, Drained and Daunted, is that with that as your focus, you’ll be able to get out of your own head. Because connecting with your customers is what you love most about your job. Eventually, you might find that logging into Instagram doesn’t fill you with dread quite as much. You can approach a post much like a snail mail letter—a whimsical and sincere opportunity to connect with your customers.
These platforms come with pitfalls of comparison and impostor syndrome. But it also has great potential for connection and creativity. So for your own sake and your customers, take a break from this complicated world, then re-enter with renegotiated expectations for how to best use this tool.
P.S. Do you have a marketing quandary keeping you up at night? A challenge within your business that you need help processing? Write in and let me know! I may feature your letter in the next series!