As a small business owner, it’s been important for me to pay attention to how I think and talk about my clients, and especially important for me to consider how I refer to my potential clients. This might be my background in journalism talking, but words absolutely matter, especially when it comes to marketing.
Language is something I focus on whenever I’m marketing my business, and I help my 1-on-1 clients with this, too.
I’ve heard marketing teachers on social media call the followers who aren’t interested in what they offer a bunch of unflattering names. On one end of the spectrum, I’ve heard them called cold. This isn’t my favorite term, but I get it: If you drink the traditional marketing Kool-Aid for long enough, you’ll hear this term thrown around, and you’ll begin to accept it as normal.
On the other, more harmful end of the spectrum, I’ve heard these followers-who-won’t-buy called dead fish and losers.
None of these words are kind. And I think when business owners use these terms, it shows either 1) how those service providers really feel about their audience, especially the ones the provider can’t profit off of, or 2) how entrenched they are in the kind of traditional marketing tactics that reduce people’s value to how much money can be made off them.
I think of my followers—the ones who buy AND those who don’t, in a totally different way because it feels better to me. If traditional marketing ideologies feel gross to you, you’re not alone, and there is another way—a way where we’re intentional about the words we’re using because words have power.
Sometimes I change the language I’m using and make sure I’m not talking down to people or dehumanizing them, even subconsciously. I would never call someone a loser or a dead fish because they didn’t want (or couldn’t afford) to work with me. I think these negative terms come from frustration around putting content out and hearing crickets in return, but that’s just part of being an entrepreneur.
Other times, I reframe and redefine the terminology I’m using. For example, when I think of my audience as cold—which is typical marketing jargon—that doesn’t feel great to me. It feels like a game I can win if I can figure out how to warm up these leads, make them hot, and then strike while that iron is hot to convince them to buy.
What I do instead is think of my business as a glowing, welcoming vessel. My core business values are wisdom, wellness, and peace. If people in my audience are cold, it’s because they’re either too far away to feel my warmth/energy, or they actually prefer being chilly. And I trust that they know what’s best for them.
It’s a simple mindset shift, and I know some people will accuse me of focusing on semantics, but I really disagree. Because if, like me, you’re an empathic, heart-led entrepreneur, you probably aren’t good at marketing in ways that feel manufactured. It likely feels out of integrity.
By making the shift in my mind to let my energy lead people to me and my work, I actually attract more clients and customers, not less.