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By Emily Soccorsy + Justin Foster

Your ego has served you well in building your business. (We define ego as the mind part of you, the one that is constantly building logical arguments for or against everything you do.)

It has provided drive and relentlessness over those long weeks, months and years and given you fortitude for all the highs and the lows involved in constructing this business of yours. Your ego gave you a database for all of your knowledge and expertise so you could make decisive decisions. It set in place the high standards you have for yourself and your employees.

There’s nothing wrong with your ego. Except … it’s likely making you a terrible marketer by creating blind spots that hurt your branding and marketing. These blind spots are caused by an over-emphasis on linear thinking and aggression – two common traits of being over-booked and overwhelmed.

[We acknowledge that calling you a terrible marketer might bruise your ego. Keep reading!]

So take a pause, go to your heart and consider these five ways your ego is making your organization less than awesome at marketing:

    1. Website malaise – You think of your website too much like you think of your office furniture. “We paid $50,000 for this thing in 2005! It’s good enough … and my customers don’t look at my website anyway.” Oh, so not true! But this doesn’t really dawn on you until you are confronted with the fact that your customers are moving to competitors because of their better looking websites (in addition to word-of-mouth recommendations, their better collateral materials and their message and brand cohesiveness). And when you realize the superstar you were recruiting backed away when she saw your company website and got the clear impression your organization is way out of date. To you these incidents may seem to be gross injustices because you are so committed to the idea your website has very little to do with the success of your business. But that. Is. dead. Wrong.
    2. Pre-judging – With experience and success comes a blind spot of “that won’t work for me.” Whether it’s changing your culture to be more attractive to Millennials, trying new kinds of marketing technology or changing up your marketing language to be more human, you often pre-judge the effectiveness of new ideas. This creates a “slow to hire, fast to fire” mindset for outside marketing advice, a continual bias against trying new things and unreasonable expectations about how marketing should still work. One specific example is pre-judging how long a marketing, branding or well-defined digital campaign should take or it’s perceived value. The bottom line is: trust your experts and keep an open mind about new strategies, asking questions about how the mechanics of these strategies and how others have implemented them.
    3. Not listening – Listening might have been a skill you honed as a less experienced entrepreneur or leader. It probably helped you greatly. But now that you’ve made it through the recession, the real estate collapse, and all the changes to business regulations over the last decade, you may have stopped listening. There’s a lot of noise out there, we acknowledge. But that noise has caused you to stop listening to your contemporaries, to the rising leaders in your organization and to those you have hired to provide a professional service to your business. Time to resurrect that early skill and consider opportunities to listen as a chance to recoup your beginner’s mind.
    4. Measuring before doing – Obsession with tactics is a sign of insecurity in a leader. To deal with this insecurity, many leaders often go quickly to math before making a decision. They want to see endless sets of demographics, case studies, competitor analysis, benchmarking tables, web traffic stats — prior to any strategic execution. While they help inform your decisions, these “proofs” may really be designed to make you feel you’re making a foolproof decision. In overly focusing on them, you are likely completely disregarding the one thing that built your business: your instinct. Your gut has given you the hard-earned advantage of almost always knowing more than focus groups or analysts. Sure, you need to measure investments in marketing, but do that in combination with the ideas your gut says “go” to.
    5. A logo is branding – “We already have a logo … and we like it,” say blinded leaders when the topic of a brand re-introduction comes up. But a logo — whether brand-spanking new or outdated by decades — does not a brand make. A brand today is made up more of the experience — the experience of learning more about the brand, the experience of becoming a customer of the brand, and the employee experience of the brand’s culture. Most of all, a brand is a reflection of what’s in your heart as a leader. It is a monument to what you believe.

So what’s the opposite of ego? We believe it is … your set of beliefs. When you go beneath the bias of your mind, you will find your heart. And in your heart is a set of beliefs that are all the reasons you started this business to begin with. It is why you have been kind to your employees, focused on customers, produced quality products and services and been a part of your community.

So go back there. Go to that place, where there is no ego, only your brand and clear vision.

Emily Soccorsy + Justin Foster are cofounders of the intrinsic branding practice known as Root + River. Together with their defiantly different clients, they uncover then articulate the foundational elements of the brand. Then, they provide brand strategy and brand coaching as the brand is rolled out internally and externally. Obsessive about language and differentiation, Emily + Justin are also authors and speakers. Follow @rootandriver @fosterthinking and @emilyatlarge.

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