I didn’t go to business school. I didn’t get a MBA or ever take a business class in all my years of college or graduate work. In a lot of ways, it doesn’t make sense why I should ever have started my own business. And yet – I did.
Over the last couple of articles, I have been sharing with you about some of the most important lessons I have learned in starting my own business. They aren’t traditional lessons or thoughts, but they are precisely what God has been teaching me. This last lesson, to be honest, is the most difficult to share with you. And it’s not because I’m having trouble learning it, but because I have a hard time understanding it.
When I quit my job to pursue starting my own online business and platform, there was a massive learning curve to ride. In the start-up world, you are everything – Chief Everything Officer. I do it all. Not because I want to, but because it comes with the territory. Out of all of the segments of starting my own business, there was one in particular that made my skin crawl – Marketing.
My Bad Relationship with Marketing
I’m not sure if it’s the Facebook Ads, my Millennial mindset, or disdain for the mundane, but I don’t have a good relationship with marketing. When I think about marketing in the traditional sense, it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
It wasn’t too long into my journey of building this start-up that I began to notice my distaste for marketing myself and Adventurous Faith. It seemed so unnatural and awkward to me. I had a lousy relationship with marketing.
It took me awhile to process what my issues were. They say the first step in getting healthy is first admitting you have a problem. That’s what I did. I decided to wrestle my marketing demons to the ground and get to the heart of the issue of why marketing bothered me as much as it did. I was surprised at what I found.
As I began to unpack my relationship with marketing, I discovered something about the idea that I hadn’t seen before. Or better yet, chose to ignore.
My relationship with marketing was terrible because I only saw it from one angle – self-promotion. I had built a little box for marketing called “Promotion of self,” placed it inside, and locked it up. For me, this is what marketing was – everyone cutting cookies the same way. It’s all just self-promotion, so let’s be another cookie cutter. Join the machine and hope for the best.
A New and Better Way to Market
What I noticed as I unpacked my views about marketing, I realized an essential truth about what was going on in my own heart: I was limiting God. I had a limiting belief about what God could do in my business through marketing.
Here’s what is interesting about how I viewed marketing. It wasn’t very creative. It was mundane, boring and lame. If you think about it, that isn’t the way God moves or does things. I would never attribute those qualities to God. God and cookie cutter don’t even belong in the same sentence. And yet, that’s what I thought I had to do because everyone else was.
But that was only half the journey. There was another step I needed to make to get my mind right so I could grow this business the way God designed it.
A Life-Changing Phone Call
In the middle of me meddling through how my relationship with marketing was going to look, I spent some time on the phone with a guy named Bill who runs an online business and is a few years ahead of me in the space. He is a follower of Christ, and after sharing my current predicament, he shared wisdom with me that I didn’t see coming.
“It’s not about joining the mess,” Bill said. (And let’s be honest – it’s a mess.)
“Marketing God’s way is about strategic, God-honoring placement.”
He put it to me this way: Learn the market, study the market, reach the market.
“From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders of the tribe with their relatives. All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take.” – 1 Chronicles 12:32
Marketing God’s Way
I’m not telling you something hot off the press that you may have never heard before. This is Marketing 101. But what made the difference with what Bill shared with me was the weight of responsibility we have as Christ-Followers to be diligent, to do good and honest work, and then trust God for the rest.
When a missionary steps onto the field for the first time, there is a lot of work to be done to know the people, culture, and way of life. Marketing God’s way is the same way.
Marketing God’s way begins with being intentional, personal and effective in how we reach people.
This is how God gets it done. It sounds easy, doesn’t it? It is – but, this again is only one step closer. There is one final step on this journey of learning how to run a good marketing plan God’s way. You must learn to live in the tension.
Learning to Live in the Tension that is Set
There is a lot of great marketing advice out there. The world is not short on it – no matter the market you feel led to. This is where it’s essential to live in the in-between: the tension. This is what this looks like.
1. Work hard to understand your market & present yourself approved
This is a must. This is where all God-honoring marketing begins. Do good, honest, and hard work. Show that you are a workman approved by God (2 Timothy 2:15). Do your research, run the numbers, and discover what works for you. But then…
2. Pay attention to the leanings of the Holy Spirit.
This is where it gets very hard. The traditional marketing mindset will tell you “Do this – it works!” And our gut reaction is to do it. But that doesn’t leave room for God to do anything. It leaves him out of the equation altogether.
God will often lead you to places that are different than conventional wisdom.
Why? Because those places draw us closer to him and make us a light that shines brighter for the world to see. This tension is crucial to leading a God-honoring business.
There is a new and improved way to do marketing – do it God’s way:
1. Do your research and listen to God.
2. Make your plans and be open to God changing them.
3. Execute with everything you have and trust that God will fill in the gaps where you missed.
This is where the sweet spot is. Can I tell you what waits on the other side of this? Peace. Lots and lots of peace. Because at the end of the day, you are once again leaning into ways that are higher and greater than your own.
More significant than any marketing system our world can create, God in his most masterful of ways is calling us to something higher. This will produce fruit greater than we could have ever imagined. Trust the Master Marketer. He’ll take you to places you could have never gone on your own.