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Maggie Patterson is the founder of Scoop Studios, a boutique content marketing agency, and the creator of Small Business Boss. With a 20+ year career in client services, and 15 years of being a business owner, Maggie brings a unique perspective to service-based business owners. She serves freelancers, creatives and agency owners through her mentorship, mastermind, and podcast, The BS-Free Service Business show. 

I am really really excited to welcome Maggie to the show. I’ve been following her for a while, and she has a refreshing take on the online business world that really resonates with me and the way I want to build my brand. I hope that after listening to this episode, you’ll agree too!

Tune in as Maggie and I discuss and debunk a lot of the sketchy business and marketing tactics out there – because there really is another – better and more ethical – way to do business!

TL;DR: If you want to connect with Maggie, here’s how!

Podcast: BS-Free Service Business Show
Instagram: @smallbusinessboss
Freebie: Trust Audit Checklist

Disclaimer: The following transcript has been auto-generated and then edited by me and while the general flow of the conversation is there, it’s most certainly not 100% accurate.

P: Hi Maggie and welcome to the show. 

M: I’m so excited to be here. Thank you for having me. 

P: It’s my pleasure. I’m super stoked to have you on as a guest, because I believe that the work you’re doing with exposing all of the shady online business practices out there is so important. I’ve been in the online business for… coming up to five years now. And when I first started my business, I turned to the great big internet for inspiration – like, I imagine so many other people out there are doing too. I looked at some of the established names out there, some of the celebrity entrepreneurs so to speak, to see how they were doing things. And honestly a lot of what I saw gave me a bit of a sour taste in my mouth – because what some of these people were doing felt totally wrong. It felt unethical to me. But being a n00b in the online business world, I just reckoned that this was the way things had to be done. And then after a year or two, I started to question these “truths” a bit more, and I started to discover another kind of parallel online business world where the people who were more aligned with me and my values were hanging out. And then I realised that we don’t have to be sheep. You know, it is possible to build a brand and a business without screwing people over, without conning people… Yeah, and that brings us here. So today we’re having a conversation about how to build an outstanding brand without all the sleazy and sketchy stuff, right?

M: Yeah, my favorite topic to talk about. 

P: So I don’t know. Should we start by talking about the state of online business in 2021? 

M: There’s so much to say, but I think something you called out in the intro… I think this is really kind of an important distinction for people if they get into the online business world and… They have the experience you have. They have the experience I had back in 2013, where you look at everything and you go “wait a second this is not what I started a business for, I don’t want to do these things!” So then it has these ripple effects. And what I use with clients all the time is; when you’re using a really sleazy sales strategy, guess why you’re just gonna try not to sell anything. So you’re taking in all this information, thinking this is the way you’re supposed to do it – and then you avoid doing the things you’re supposed to be doing and the things you really need to be doing to run the business. And I think what’s interesting here in 2021 is we look at this and we go okay, there’s this entire segment which is very loud, very shiny, very noisy in online business. They’re using tactics that most of us don’t really wanna be using… don’t feel aligned with our values, but that’s the example we see. But then there’s this alternative economy, if you will. And I think what’s so interesting about that is we were acting like those are blazing a new trail. I’m like “guess what? This is how marketing and sales and service is just actually done in the real world, outside of online business. Like there’s nothing new in the kind of more ethical sphere, is just a focus on business fundamentals and getting back to basics. And because of everything that happened in 2020 I think, you know, on multiple fronts – we had a wake up call around the pandemic, online business got super noisy. I feel like it got a lot more predatory. And then we had the racial reckoning in the US. We’ve had all these things that chipped away and exposed the problems that I think more and more people now are like “Wait a second. I don’t want to give my money to this person, and I don’t want to use that kind of tactic because it’s stripping away the humanity, treating people like a commodity. And that’s not what I started a business to do.” And then you know, the psychological impact of all of this on us, is it chips away at our self trust, our agency… we don’t trust that we know what we’re doing and we’re stuck in this cycle of constant investment, where we keep spending more and more money to try to find the one the thing; the special, the special answer that will fix our business… And really, running a business, no matter what kind of business it is, all comes back to some pretty basic fundamentals. It’s just we all… we’re all seeking something like sexy or fancy. 

P: Yeah, I get what you’re saying. I mean, I used to always say that “I hate sales. I suck at sales. I can’t do sales.” And it turns out that, you know… yeah, I can do sales. I just can’t do sales in a way that doesn’t align with my values. And I can’t do sales in a way that feels like I’m conning people. And when that was the way I was expected to do sales, of course I thought I hated sales. 

M: Completely. And I see this all the time with my clients, and I think what’s funny is they’re like “Why are you so good at sales?” And because I don’t do any of that stuff. I believe I’m good at sales because I learned sales… not pre internet, but pre online business. So I just focus on the stuff that’s really practical, like showing up, being a good human, asking good questions, having a back and forth, not applying pressure. And if we start to really look at like… if I was doing this in a corporate job, or if I was doing this in another role outside online business, how would I do it? You start to strip away those layers. You’re like, “Oh, this is actually not that bad” – but no kidding you’re resisting it when it is in layers of things you just can’t get on board with.

P: Yeah, all of the shoulds. I’m not a big fan of shoulds. I’m more a fan of, you know, finding what works for you and finding what works for your dream clients and selling in a way that feels more like connecting with people, I guess. 

M: And so much of especially… I mean marketing I could go on about, but sales is really tricky, right? It’s at this point where it’s like the decision. And so a lot of things that were being taught around the sale are really to get that sale at all costs – when that is not what we want to do. And if you look at, you know, bad client experiences you have, or things that just don’t go according to plan. A lot of times it’s because there’s something misaligned in that sales process. So I think they’re so much better to take the pressure off and really lead with relationship building and trust, so that when someone gets to you and says yes, it’s an easy thing. It doesn’t feel like sales. It’s just something that happens organically. And guess what? Things are gonna be a lot easier once they’re your client because their expectations are in line. You have a real relationship. They trust you. You wanna see someone have buyer’s remorse? Push them into buying from you, and they’re now going to be a nightmare on the other side.

P: And tying that into branding as well… I think when a lot of people think of building a brand they feel like they have to follow this recipe. They see how other brands are doing things. They wanna copy what they’re doing because they see that that brand is doing stuff and they’re successful. But they fail to stop and think about what’s unique about their brand. So you end up with, like, all these kinds of copycat brands where no one really stands out. No one’s really unique because they’re all just blending together into this mush of sameness, because they’re scared to, I don’t know, stand out in a way. And scared that their values are gonna crash with other people’s values, and that they’re gonna scare clients away… And then you just end up in a hot mess, and that’s why I’m really excited for our conversation today! Because I know that a lot of the listeners I have on my show are the kind of business owners who want to do things differently, and they want to do things their way and to put their stamp on their brand, which really, you know, warms my heart.

M: I love what you said about putting the stamp on your brand because, I mean, I could point to so many examples. And I’m sure you see them all the time being that you do branding. But you’re like, really, it’s that same hex code color again. Why do all these brands look the same? Why do they all say the same thing? I mean, I’m a copywriter, right? So I’m always looking at the words. I just scrolled Instagram and I saw seven other people say that. Right down to the branding photo shoots it’s like “Why are you all wearing the same hat? Why are you all in the same location?” And what happens is; no one pays attention to you then. Like you might have a small core loyal group of customers or clients. But long term, that’s not gonna bode well for you. And do you really wanna… do we start businesses to be a sad knock off of someone else? No. I get that that’s safe, but like there’s a lot to be said for just doing you. Like, we start a business to have freedom, most of us and flexibility. Yet we do the exact opposite to ourselves by listening to people, knocking off other brands, and just being this sad, watered down version of what we could be. 

P: And I think what makes it even more sad is when these copycats or these people who are afraid to show up as themselves, they copy the brands that do all of the sleazy sales tactics. They copy the sketchy marketing tactics and, you know… bro, marketing… those kind of things. When that is what you’re copying, that becomes a problem.

M: Yeah, If you’re knocking off bro marketing, we have to talk. And I mean, I blame bro marketing for this problem, because when funnel hacking is a thing… where you’re just supposed to take someone else’s things and deconstruct it and then reconstruct it for your business. No kidding. People are copying things. But when it comes to the marketing side, like, look at the most “just fake it till you make it.” So what we have is a lot of people that don’t have the experience or they don’t have the skills. They’re not confident in those. And they’re just mimicking the big names, the “celebrity entrepreneurs” as I call them, in the industry. And then again, it’s a sad knockoff. You’re never going to be able to compete with a big name. So why even try? Just use tactics that aren’t gross. It’s really simple. Be an expert on what you’re actually an expert on. You don’t have to know everything, stop trying to fake it. Like if you’re having that internal conversation with yourself, where like “I’m not sure if this is right.” Guess what? It’s not right. Just don’t do it. 

P: That’s sound advice. Just don’t do it. 

M: Yeah, I just don’t do it. 

P: Yeah, I think you’re right. A lot of the problem stems from the bro marketing culture and how it conditions us into copying others, into being, you know, blueprints of someone else. And at some point that’s gonna have to stop because otherwise you’re gonna end up with this whole never ending “coaches, coaching coaches, coaching coaches” thing that we’re often seeing – and then you’ve got the next expert and then that person is copying that person. Then they become visible and then someone else is going to go back and want to copy that person. How can we, as more ethical and more conscious small business owners, start to somehow break that cycle? That would be really interesting to have a chat about. 

M: So I think there’s a couple things to really think about in this, and what you just talked about is what I call the circle of indoctrination. I have a very detailed blog post about how this happens. Like coach one teaches 10 people. Then those 10 people teach 10 people, and then it’s just like these concentric circles. We’re hearing the same thing. We’re so steeped in this because it is so repetitive that we become indoctrinated. And for anyone who knows email marketing: There’s a thing called the indoctrination sequence. These are tactics being used and we don’t even realise it. It’s just like… there’s so much in common with things that we would turn our nose up about, that we would look at and go “Oh, I would never do this or that…” I’m like, there’s more happening in online business that’s in common with scammers, and it is with real world business in my mind. So when we look at that, we have to just become very aware of what the ecosystem is and just take everything with this… like a really, really solid lens of critical thinking and slowing down and being like “Okay, so what they’re saying is that right? Does this align with my values? Who did this person learn from?” Looking at the entire thing before we start whipping out our credit card, giving people money because we think of bro marketers like that cheesy guy lying on a Lamborghini. But bro marketers come in all forms. I could look like a bro marketer. You could look like a bro marketer. We look for things. There are these markers, but the most insidious, most scary ones to me, are kind of… I have names for the different types, so the BFF next door. They look super approachable. They don’t look sleazy. They look like your bestie. So you’re like “Oh, of course I’ll trust them!” and then you start to strip away the tactics, and when you’re really paying attention, you go “Wait a second. This is the same thing that guy over there is doing that I don’t want to be any part of.” So we really have to become much, much more critical consumers. And I swear, if this is the last thing I do on earth, especially in this industry, I’m going to have more people just thinking about this stuff and being like “Yeah, no. This doesn’t align with me. I’m not going to give money.” And then the other thing finally is just kind of a challenge. There’s this message that we must invest at all costs. Be really critical about how you’re spending your money in your business. Look at you know “Am I planning for my investments? What things do I actually need?” Like when I sit down with my bookkeeper (and even if you don’t have a bookkeeper, you could do this)… What things do I need to invest in for this year? What do I actually need versus being swept up in the marketing hype and really just getting caught up in it? So you know, being more intentional about all of it, and thoughtful and critical, will help us so much in terms of uncoupling from all this bro marketing thing. And just a little newsflash for everyone: Bro marketing is not new. I know it’s having a moment right now. I started talking about it in 2015. I know lots of people have been talking about it for a long time. It’s just very trendy right now to talk about it. 

P: Well, maybe that’s a good thing that, you know, it would bring the troll in out into the light and then it will, you know, burst. At least according to all the fairytales. But I think all of this is really interesting. And I know that you’ve just done a survey on this whole… investing in your business. And I really want you to tell my audience a little bit about that, because I want them to go over and read your findings, basically! I thought it was really good. I dug into it yesterday when the email from you came through and I was like “Oooh, this is some juicy stuff!” 

M: There was a lot to work with and a lot of surprises for me. So one of the reasons I did this survey in the first place, looking at how people were spending in their online business, was I have all these ideas. I have these things I see in with my clients, with my business friends and my larger community. But I think there were a few things that I found really surprising coming out of that. So I looked at you know, what were your most expensive investments? What were your best investments? What were your worst investments and some of the sales tactics around everything. And the thing that really just gave me chills was like the question was “have you ever bought something due to a high pressure sales tactic or FOMO?” 68% of people said yes. So that tells me the culture of sales and the kind of pushing, controlling and manipulation is very, very real. It’s not something that I’m just seeing. It’s very industry wide. I talked to 42 different people and gathered their input for this. So is it a, you know, statistically legitimate sample? No, but it’s a good cross section to provide that. And the other thing I thought was really interesting… When people talked about their best investments, their outcomes, they weren’t talking about money. They weren’t saying “Oh, I made more money.” Making money was a byproduct. It was really more about “I was able to get clarity. I was no longer confused. I felt more confident.” It was not “Oh, I went away and made buckets and buckets of money.” So when we as business owners look at how we’re selling our solutions, that tells me this promise of “you’re gonna make all this money” that we’re so led to believe is the thing we have to lead with, is the thing that matters most to people… we’ve got that wrong. There’s so many other outcomes that are much more tangible for our people and, more importantly, much more realistic. Like it’s hard to say how you’re going to go away and double your revenue. But I can guarantee you’re gonna feel a lot more clarity with your brand. You’re gonna feel a lot more confident you’re going to be consistent and cohesive.

P: I think it’s really interesting, because that’s something I’ve been taught all along in these years that I’ve been running my own business as well, is that it always boils down to money. You have to find sales arguments to convince people that if they buy this service from you, you know… bottom line is they’re going to make more money from it. And that people don’t want clarity, or that’s not what they really want. You know? And I kind of agree with you. I think clarity can absolutely be the end outcome of something, and then if you then go on to make more money because you’ve got that clarity then, you know, that’s the bonus, I guess.

M: Yeah, I think… Here’s the thing. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make more money or helping your clients make more money. But you’ve also gotta understand that’s not the only thing your clients care about. I know for me, like just the stage I’m at in my business. I’m comfortable with how much I’m making. There’s so many more things that would be impactful to me right now, including some clarity on something. So just because we’re taught money outcomes are important. Yes, we’re all trying to make money in our business. It’s not the only outcome we need to be looking at. And I think if we do that, it kind of shifts the conversation away from potentially unethical, over promising sketchy. The things that we could get into. 

P: I see it in my line of business a lot because branding is a lot about the things that you can’t actually see. So the intangible things. And money is a very tangible thing. You know, numbers. You can’t trick the numbers. Numbers are what they are. But with the brand… When you’re building a brand and you’re looking at your brand strategy, there’s a lot of stuff that you have to look at that you’re not going to be able to say this is worth X amount of dollars or euros or whatever. But in the long run they’re what’s going to become the backbone of your business And yeah, the work that you put in doing those invisible things… I’m pretty sure that you’re going to get a return on investment on them, but I can’t promise you an exact number. That has felt a little bit difficult to me at times because, you know, you want to be able to make promises that people are going to buy into, but then I don’t wanna make promises I can’t keep. And so that’s kind of a cycle of… “How can I showcase the value of what I do when I can’t actually tie it to a specific number?” And so if we can get away from this whole X amount of ROI, that would just feel like such a relief. And I’m sure I’m not the only business owner out there to feel the same. 

M: So I think one thing that has really helped me with this is that tip, like I run a marketing agency in addition to Small Business Boss, we do content marketing, and we’re always… what I tell my clients… a contributor to the results. We are not the owner of the results. And this is not a way of me sidestepping, but content marketing within the overall marketing plan is a portion of it. Therefore, we have a contribution to the sales. We have a contribution to the marketing. You know, marketing dollars that result in ROI on the sales side. But we can’t directly attribute it to “this one blog post caused this.” There’s not that kind of level of attribution, especially for my clients – they’re not that sophisticated in terms of that tracking. So, you know, I think there’s a lot to be said for each of us, no matter what our business is, we’re contributing to the end result of our clients business. So if your client does branding and then a series of other things in a year, and their business increases, yes, you made a positive contribution to that. I think we need to think of things in terms of contributions. But I mean, we do a lot of case study work and testimonials work on the agency side, but with online business owners I always kind of laugh when it’s like “so and so quadrupled their income” – and I’m like, “But that’s not the only reason that contributed to their income.” It’s not just because of the one coach or the one course or whatever. It’s cumulative and our success is cumulative. So we need to think a little more critically. This one investment is not necessarily going to be the thing. It’s a series of things and on the service provider or the course creator or whatever you do in your business, like we’re contributors to our clients’ result at the end of the day. 

P: I think it’s this whole promise of “join my program and you’re going to get these results!” It just doesn’t sit well with me because you’re making a promise. But how are you going to make sure you keep it? Because it’s so dependent on the person who’s actually taking your programme and what they put into it. I think it becomes problematic when someone joins the programme or they buy a course from someone who’s made all these promises, and then they feel as if they’re entitled to get the results for free without putting any of their own work in. You know, that’s just not realistic at all. Like, if you want results, you’re gonna have to put the work in. It’s not just enough to buy someone’s course, and then you will magically end up having the same success as the creator of the course. Because what you don’t see is the hours and weeks and months that that person has spent building out that course to create that value for themselves. And so when we just make these sort of blanket promises that you know “Buy my course and great things will happen for you!” you’re kind of taking the responsibility away from whoever is buying that course.

M: Yeah, okay, there’s something fascinating about this. So I have something called trust DNA, and I’m gonna be talking a lot more about this in the next little bit. But, you know, I talk about these five things that lead to trust, and one of them is results, and I think with results, and I’m so glad you brought this up. It’s so messy because there’s so many different ways that it goes down. So we take away agency from people. And now I’ve said “Hey, I’m gonna fix all your problems for you and your business and you’re gonna get these magical results.” Or… the flip side of that is I’m like “You’re not working hard enough even if my program is total crap. You’re not working hard for it. This is your fault.” And what we need to do is find out how we – with a client or with a customer – co create the result? And how do we take equal ownership? I’ve seen one of the things, I am sure so many of your listeners have seen in online business, is the sale is made and then there is non delivery. There is a subpar product. There’s a bait and switch, a number of things will happen, and then blame is shifted to the client. “Well, you don’t want it bad enough… you’re not willing to commit.” It’s like… if you sell something, you have an ownership stake in the result, as does your client. And I think co creating that, the same way we were talking about contributions a minute ago, is an important part of us as business owners making sure that we can deliver on what we promised to our clients – and that they are getting the desired results. And yes, you’re always gonna have clients who don’t do the work. And you’ve just got to go with it. 

P: Yeah, I just feel like this whole expectation that there’s a miracle cure out there – we need to get away from that.

Here’s the thing. If we are selling our solution or buying anything, thinking “this is the one!” – it’s not. There is no “the one.” I want to tell you: We all think we’re missing something all the time. That keeps us on the hook. We’re not missing anything. We just need to do our work and maybe implement the things we know. Stop making it so hard! 

P: Because it doesn’t need to be hard, right? 

M: No! 

P: I wanna take a second to talk about some of the alternatives. Because when you start using these tactics because you see all of the other people using these tactics, you become part of the problem. But what are some alternatives? How can we step away from the problematic, you know, manipulative, fear based, scarcity based tactics out there? How can we create a brand that steps away from that? 

M: So much, especially in the sales and marketing side, is based on fear and manipulation and kind of just this underlying coercion and everything. And it’s really at the heart of it and online businesses. I’m gonna make the sale, no matter what, I’m going to convince you, and I’m going to sell to you whether you want this or not. I’m gonna make you feel so bad about yourself or so deficient, or like you’re missing something. I’m going to take those wounds and pick at them until you buy my thing, it’s an easy fix. If you look at everything that’s happening, it’s not okay. I’m gonna take that back. It’s not an easy fix, but a way to frame it up is… Okay. So fear is my one option. This fear is really poisonous. It poisons our potential clients. It’s just not good for anybody. The flip side of that is trust. How can I do this, always putting trust at the forefront of what I’m doing? So in my marketing, how can I be more trustworthy? I’m going to tell the truth. I’m going to be transparent. I’m not gonna pretend that I know things about what I don’t, I’m not gonna exaggerate my experience. I’m gonna lean on my values so that you know exactly who I am in my business. When you show up to do work with me, I’m gonna look at my results and be like, yeah, this is what I can really do with you. I’m gonna treat people with respect. I’m going to give people the time to decide, Like think about what’s going to be needed here to build trust because, yes, these fear based tactics, they totally work. But it’s at the expense of trust. It’s like constantly breaking people’s spirit, breaking people’s trust, treating people in a way that nobody needs to be treated. We can do marketing without these things, we can do sales without these things, we just need to choose to. And yes, it might go a little bit slower, but I would rather make less money and be able to sleep at night and be like a good ethical human, than doing things that will literally keep me up at night. No amount of money is worth that, and we have to choose. I also don’t think that long term if you’re shifting tactics… There might be a lag. But I don’t think leading with trust is going to impact your business to such a degree that you’re gonna, like, be losing out on revenue opportunities. I know a lot of people are afraid of dialing it back, but I think there’s a lot more options for doing business in a way that is not sketchy than we ever realised. 

P: When you think about it, branding is all about building that trust. You want to build that emotional connection with the people who you want to serve, or the people you want to impact. And so in the long run, I actually think that some of these scare tactics and manipulative tactics can be detrimental to your brand, because okay… they might work short term. But in the long run, they’re going to be damaging to your brand because how are people going to trust you if you’ve messed them about? And how is that going to affect your brand when that person tells their friends or their business friends how you’ve treated them and how they felt when they interacted with your brand? And then that snowball effect can be, you know, quite devastating to a brand. So I love that you brought values into it because that’s one of the things that I work with a lot with my clients. That you know, we really can’t start to build a really strong brand for you until you are clear within yourself what your values are, and then we can start to find ways of communicating them so that you can show up consistently, and you can show up and feel like you know… you’re not being someone other than who you actually are. And when you do that over time, and like you said: this could be a slightly longer process. But I think it’s so worth it in the long run, because when you do that over time, you’re going to build up the trust factor, and people are going to start to like you and actually want to work with you for who you are. Not for something you’re pretending to be. 

M: Yeah. I think what’s interesting for me is… in the last nine months, I’ve completely broken the floodgates open. I’ve always been talking about this stuff. I just got a little bit louder, got a little bit more clear on my values. And guess what? There is a ripple impact on my business, like I am currently enrolling a mastermind right now – and like, I’m not doing much really. I mean, I hate to say that – it sounds very… but I mean, the trust is there. It has been built. I’m not pressuring anybody, and I’m just like, this is open right now. If you want it, great! And I mean, I have more calls booked than I have ever had before, and I know that that’s got to be connected. I mean, do I have a complete solid line? No, It’s definitely a dotted line, though between focusing on the values, focusing on trust, focusing on just being really clear about what I’m all about and what this brand is for, and showing up consistently for people. And, you know, the sales are coming because of that.

P: And they’re coming from people who don’t feel scared into it or like pushed into it, which I think is going to make for some pretty amazing testimonials down the line. Which again you probably can’t put a price tag on. Definitely not in the short run. 

M: Yeah, testimonials that make me cry happen more often than I realised. And I think this is where so much of… like, if you really look at the sales process and everything else that goes on with all my business and the status quo of everything, how it is. It just strips humanity out of it. So how can you treat people with more kindness, more respect and really just keep their humanity intact? I mean, we’re all people running businesses. How can we have a relationship? And if your brand can’t figure out how to be a good human, build relationships in a trustworthy way… we need to have a talk. 

P: I’m really loving this conversation. I can resonate so much with all of what you’re saying and this is the feeling I wanna help my clients to achieve as well: the security of knowing that it’s OK to show up as you, it’s actually good to show up as you. You don’t have to become an overnight success, because do you know what? Overnight successes don’t really exist. And if people tell you that they’ve had an overnight success, I’m guessing that they’re lying in 90% of the cases. And so it’s okay for this whole relationship building, the connections and the networking, to take time. It’s normal. It should take time. I mean, when you make a new friend you don’t just like, knock on some stranger’s door, barge into their living room and say “Hi. I’m so and so, and I’m gonna be your new best friend!” You don’t do that. I think it’s the same in the online business world, you are actually connecting with real people. So treat them however you would treat them in real life if you were to form a connection with someone. 

M: And, you know, I’m glad you brought that up because I think one of the things that always kind of floors me is when I get on a call with someone I’ve never spoken to, and they’re like “Oh, you’re so down to earth.” I’m like “Who have you been talking to?!” And I think that anyone who has any sort of elevated brand or visibility… there’s this perception. And I think this has really been part of the problem with online marketing, of like there’s this leader/follower mentality – like you’re untouchable. I’m like “Oh, do you want to come to my house and see the hot mess that is my life at times?” I’m just another person. Can we just strip away all these layers of like “Oh, they’re so far ahead of me” or whatever? We should never be putting anyone up on that pedestal, regardless of how beautiful or wonderful we think they are. The brand is everyone. They’re just people trying to get it done and like, run a business and live their lives. Yeah, I have no patience for this whole influencer… let’s admire this person’s perfect life. They’re all lying to us. Okay, they’re lying to us. So for all of us in our brands… I’m not saying show up like a complete disaster every single day. 

P: Yeah, you don’t have to get your dirty knickers out there!

M: But you don’t have to be ultra polished. I mean, hello… have you seen my hair?! Like this is not ultra polished. But this is how I would show up on any call with you. So here I am. 

P: I see your hair and I raise you. 

M: Yeah. I mean, this is pandemic hair. Not much I could do about it. 

P: What does it matter anyway? You know, your expertise is not in your hair. It’s not what defines you. 

M: I’m not a hairdresser. I think the appearance part of this is so fascinating to me as a woman of a certain age. Like how much value is put on the… and I’m sure you see this with branding, like the expectation of like what the photos should be and you should be really pretty and everything else. And I’m just like “Really? Is this what I’ve been fighting for women’s rights for all this time? So that we could have pretty brand photo shoots?” If you wanna have pretty photos; great. And if that’s you… great. But like, why am I gonna wear heels in this photo when I’m never gonna wear heels any other time? 

P: Ah, that’s such a good point. And, you know, it’s actually true. It’s held me back… this whole sort of picture perfect culture… it’s held me back from creating my brand because, you know, I’m a woman who is a few pounds overweight, shall we say. And that surely does not affect my ability to help someone create a strong brand. But what it did was; it made me really insecure because I didn’t want to show up – because I felt I didn’t fit into the narrow image of what a brand strategist should look like. And I’m taking steps now to just get out of my comfort zone and get out there. Because if I can be that person who shows up as me and shows people that you know what you could be overweight and still know your shit. Basically, 

M: I mean, as someone who is plus size, like over 50% of American women FYI, everybody. I’ll use the word fat, whether people like that word or not, but plus size fat bodies are not seen. Like… we’re supposed to hide. And I’m like “No, here I am! Take it or leave it because if you’re gonna meet me at an event there’s gonna be no denying that I am not wearing a size six.” 

P: Yeah, you know, there’s probably gonna be people who are listening to this who are within what society sees as a normal weight range. And they’re gonna be like what you’re talking about, but this hasn’t got just to do with your body shape or whatever. It’s just about having the guts to show up the way that you are and to show other people that that is good enough. And I think that’s part of the solution to this whole bro marketing fakeness that we see if enough people you know show up. It’s going to normalise being authentic in a way.

M: Yeah, because here’s the thing: Bro marketing… I mean, that’s code for patriarchy. It’s code for fat phobia. It’s code for ableism. It’s code for like, hyperactive capitalism. That’s all rooted in the very things that so many of us are trying to disassemble in some way, shape or form. So I mean, look at everything with that eye and go like ”Why are there no disabled people in this space? Why are there no fat people in this space? Why is everyone a size two and blonde, like what’s going on here?” And I mean, that’s the patriarchy at work. So I mean, if we want to do that work in our lives, we also need to show up in our business and be like, here’s my act of defiance. I’m going to show up as I am, and maybe I’m not wearing makeup today. Like do whatever works for you, but I think… look at it. Really, like this industry reflects our larger society. 

P: Absolutely. Oh, my goodness, there’s so much value in this conversation. We could probably go on talking for hours! But to summarise: What I feel is the essence of what we’ve been talking about today. The key to creating a really strong stand out brand without all the sketchy tactics and all the sleaze, is really just to show up as you – unapologetically. 

M: Yes, I agree. That’s the perfect summary. And there is a book. I don’t know if you’ve read it. It’s called The Power of Unpopular. It’s like 10 years old or more. It’s by Erika Napoletano.That book for me… when I was kind of pivoting my brand into this current state, that really made me think “Oh, there’s power in just being who I am. There’s power in not being palatable to everybody.” You don’t wanna work with everybody. You just wanna work with your people. So showing up as you are, getting okay with not being cool – I mean, I was never cool in high school. Not gonna start being cool now! I just want to stay home with my cats and my family and read my books and be cozy.

P: I love that! So before we round off; if you could give our listeners just one simple tip, something they could implement fairly easily, you know, even today, what would that be? 

M: So I think this really comes down to getting really curious and getting critical. So, you know, looking beyond the face value of the surface level of what you see out there, and challenging it thinking like “Oh, is that actually right? Is that what I want to be?” I know it sounds really simple, but you need to be intentional, and we need to stop trusting advice because it’s what we see our business friends doing or what some popular celebrity entrepreneurs are doing. And because the more critical thinking, the more slowing down, the more analysis we could bring – the better it’s gonna be for your brand. Because when you then decide to do something, it’s in service of you and your brand and your consumers and your clients. So you really need to just kind of slow down, get critical, get curious, and then look at how you can build a brand that you really are you’re really proud of and that is aligned with the kind of people you wanna work with, and the kind of business you want to run.

P: I’m going to round off by saying first of all: that you’ve got a podcast that I recommend everybody who’s listening to this… immediately after this episode, go and jump over on over and listen to Maggie’s podcast because it’s it’s gonna give you a new  perspective on how to to run a small business. So yeah, please tell us where people can find you and connect with you online if they want to learn more from you. 

M: So the three best places to find me are the BS Free Service Business Show, which is… wherever you’re listening to this podcast, I’m sure I’m there. Also, Instagram. That’s my preferred social media platform. I’m @smallbusinessboss. And my website smallbusinessboss.co

P: Fantastic. I’m also a huge Instagram fan. So for anyone listening, if you hop on over to Instagram, you’re gonna find me there as well. And if you feel like you need a little bit of extra support to just show up and to start being an antidote to all of the sleazy tactics that we see out there, and you just need someone to cheer you on as you do it: tag me, drag me into your conversation, I’ll be there to cheer you on on. This has been fantastic, Maggie, thank you so much for joining me today. I’ll make sure to put all of the links to where people can find you in the show notes, and I look forward to starting almost a small revolution of business owners who are done with the sleaze! 

M: I’m here for it! I’ll be there with my flag at the front of the line.

Until next time,

Petchy xx

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