I’m excited to introduce you to my friend Kristi Mitchell. She’s not your typical marketing guru – she’s a generalist with a knack for connecting the marketing dots. Kristi shares her entrepreneurial journey, the challenges of being a jack-of-all-trades in marketing, how she found her sweet spot, and why coaches and consultants connect with her savvy strategies.
She’s got some great resources to share with you. I couldn’t choose just one, so here they all are:
- Masterclass Replay: Marketing Uncomplicated
- Quiz: How’s your marketing really going?
- Free Resource Library
- Blog: Improve & Grow
First things first – what would your walk-on-stage music be?
When did you start your business, and why did you create it?
I actually started doing freelance marketing when I was still working in higher education in 2017. I started doing it on the side and then I got recruited to go work at a financial services company. And so I finished up my freelance projects and I let it kind of take a backseat and I didn’t do anything with it while I was working at the financial services job.
And then fast forward to February of 2019, I realized I wasn’t going to be staying in the corporate life. I decided at that point to leave and start my business full-time. It came down to feeling like I needed to build something of my own that I could run on my terms, and be able to structure my work around my family.
Tell us about your business and what makes you unique in your field.
So as a marketing strategist, a lot of times people ask me what it is that I do because marketing is such a broad topic. It wasn’t until I actually hired a branding expert that I realized what I thought was a downside in my experience being a marketing generalist was actually an upside.
So my background is in marketing; I’ve done a little bit of everything in the digital marketing space. I’ve done content strategy, inbound marketing, blogs and websites and social media and email marketing… I’ve managed relationships with outside vendors for ad placement and those kinds of things.
And that puts you in a really weird spot in the world of marketing. Because when I left higher ed, I didn’t know how those skills would translate and it was actually really difficult when I was job searching because a lot of positions are highly specialized in marketing. And so I think what I bring to the table that’s unique is that I have that ability to look at all of the pieces and figure out how do they fit together, where the gaps are, what’s working, and what’s not.
What do you feel makes your audience special?
One thing I’ve realized this year is that I have a sweet spot for working with coaches and consultants who have corporate “battle scars”, similar to me. They want to have a big impact in the world and they started their coaching or consulting business for that reason. They wanted to do it on their own terms and are highly motivated. They want to structure their work around their other priorities in life. And they’re really creative. They’re not afraid of writing. They’re usually really good writers. They want to create their own content. But they just kind of get to this point in their business where they’ve DIYed everything and they recognize that they need someone to finally help them and kind of give them that strategy, that plan, help them focus, give them that reassurance. They need guide rails so that they know what to focus on, how to do it, how to look at the results, measure how things are working and adjust from there. They don’t want someone to take the marketing completely off their plate, at least not at this stage of business. But they just want someone to show them the way.
If you could magically give all of your community members one thing in this world, what would it be, and why?
I think it would be patience. I’ve been talking a lot about patience lately because especially when it comes to the type of marketing that I teach my clients, you’re not going to see the results tomorrow as much as I wish that I could wave a magic wand to make that happen. There are rarely quick wins and overnight successes – it’s a long game. And since the people I work with are service providers, we’re not talking about selling widgets. We’re talking about selling them, selling their services and their expertise which is very different. And so it requires a level of patience that I think is really challenging, especially when business owners are pouring their heart and soul into their own marketing – to have the patience to wait and see the results and to have the confidence that the results will come can be really challenging.
Has anything surprised you about starting a business?
I remember a business coach telling me that business ownership is the biggest self discovery process that you’ll ever undergo. And I thought it was such a nail on the head moment because it’s so true. I knew that it would be a ton of work. I knew that it would be hard. I knew that there would be days that I wanted to give up, days when I questioned if I could do it. I knew all of that just from the conversations that I had had with other business owners. But I really didn’t know how much it would require me to dig deep and do my own self-discovery.
So one specific example – I realized about a year ago, I had some issues with my money mindset. And once I started digging into that, I realized how it was holding me back in my business. And so I ended up doing a ton of journaling. I read some books. I talked to other women. I listened to podcasts. I really dove in and did a ton of deep work on that stuff. And it helped because this year I definitely saw significant progress.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about starting their own business?
I would advise them to work with a strengths coach. That’s something that I did. I wish I had done it sooner because it helped me realize that the business that I had originally started building wasn’t my ideal business. In the early days, I was doing all the execution. I was strategizing, I was planning, and I was executing for clients. I was basically like a one-person agency and I quickly realized I didn’t want to hire people and that I really didn’t enjoy the execution.
And so I eventually worked with a strengths coach after being introduced to her through a virtual workshop that I attended. And I did the Clifton Strengths Finders Assessment and then I worked with her in a group setting and one on one. I came to realize how my innate strengths can be leveraged in my business but only if I’m aware of them and if I proactively build my business in that way.
So that would be the advice that I would give to someone: work with a coach if you can or at least take the Clifton StrengthsFinder’s assessment on your own and really kind of look at those things. I remember thinking like, I need to go get Google Analytics certified and I should renew all my HubSpot certifications and do all these things and I think a lot of times you feel like you have to prove yourself. It’s that imposter syndrome and really if you can lean in on your strengths and look at those as your starting point, it will help you gain clarity on how to structure your business.
If you could go back in time and do something differently, what would you do and why?
I think it would honestly go back to the strengths finder. I would definitely do that first because I spent the first year and a half of my business really kind of scrambling. You’re going to do that to some degree when you’re starting a business – trying to find your first clients and to make sure that you can do it and be successful, but it would have saved me a year and a half of stumbling and being unfulfilled with the work that I was doing.
Do you have an email list? If so, did you start it when you launched?
Another piece of advice for other business owners is to start your email list asap. The first year of my business, I went out and did a whole bunch of in-person coffee chats. This was before the pandemic so everything was in person and I just went out and met with so many people and one meeting would lead to another meeting and I never captured people’s email addresses to add them to a list. And I often wonder how many more people I could have had on my email list if I had kept track of that. So I didn’t start it right when I started my business and I wish that I would have because it would have a lot more people on it.
Is this your only job? Did you launch your business while working another job?
I technically filed my first DBA and started doing freelance while I was employed, but I didn’t fully jump into my business full-time until I parted ways with my last employer. I talk about that sometimes casually in a way that sounds like I made the choice to leave my company and start my own business. It was not that easy. It was actually a very toxic work environment and I ended up coming back from a vacation and getting pulled into a meeting room and being asked if I still wanted to work there and if I saw a future for myself at the company. And I had to say no as hard as that was because I knew that that meant I would get walked out. I had been job searching for a while and I just couldn’t find anything. The market was really tough then. So it was a very difficult transition and process to undergo. That job ended up being really difficult for me mental health-wise, it took a really big toll on me.
How do you promote your site?
The majority of my website traffic (because I look at Google Analytics) is direct traffic. And also from social media. I do a lot on LinkedIn. I’m very active there. I share links all over my profile. Some of my posts and comments drive people to my website.
Who are your favorite bloggers or podcasts right now? Or what is an influential book that you’ve read lately?
So a book that I’ve read recently was Buy Back Your Time which was really helpful from the standpoint of where I’m at in my business, going from year four to year five of my business. And just looking at, okay, where do I go from here? How do I hire some contractors to help me in building my business so that I can spend my time on those real value-add things and be able to offload some of those things that don’t need to take so much of my time.
Oh, as far as money mindset goes, I love Denise Duffield Thomas, her podcast is really good. It’s called Chill and Prosper with Denise Duffield Thomas.
I also really like the Mind Your Business podcast with James Wedmore. He’s kind of a marketing guy and a business strategist guy and he gives a lot of good information.