You know what my least favourite part of internet marketing is?

Something I dislike even more than the hard-sell sleeze-ball internet marketers who will guilt trip you into parting with every last penny for their new miracle cure for everything that ails you?

It’s the entrepreneurs who make it sound easy.

The ones who use phrases like “three years later” and “fast forward to today”.

Because they give the impression that this stuff is easy.

They do it deliberately, so that you believe their product will work for you. (And it probably will, if you do what they say.)

But the way they sell it makes you believe that you can skip from the suck to the awesome results at the end.

That there actually is some kind of magic bullet or magic wand you can wave and just get it all over with.

That you can just wake up one day and your life will have magically changed.

Like you just hit fast forward and get the things you want. Like it doesn’t take time and effort and blood, sweat, and tears, and a whole lot of fucking skill to run a profitable business.

Like you don’t have to go one day at a time, regardless, because that’s how we experience time.

Like it’s some kind of fairy tale.

Here’s a fairy tale for you:

Once upon a time, there was a drag queen named RuPaul. And she was the most famous drag queen in all the world.

RuPaul’s star on the Hollywood walk of fame. She’s the first ever drag performer to receive this honour.

All the other drag queens wanted to be like her. They wanted to stand in the spotlight and share in RuPaul’s fame.

So RuPaul sent out a call: she would host a series of challenges to find America’s Next Drag Superstar.

Queens from all across the land answered. And, eventually, the next drag superstar was crowned.

Bebe Zahara Benet. The first queen.

And the next.

“The other Tyra, Tyra Sanchez.” The second queen.

And the next.

Raja, America’s third “Next Drag Superstar”.

 

 

And the next.

Sharon Needles. Beautiful, spooky, and dumb. Queen #4.

And RuPaul’s popularity only continued to grow, overshadowing the girl she picked as her successor every year.

All the queens wondered…how do you get to be like RuPaul?

How do you achieve such a level of fame? The overnight explosion of popularity seemed…almost unbelievable.

Especially to the outsiders who had never heard of drag — or had even seen a drag queen before!

It baffled and enthralled them, but they watched and watched and watched. And, slowly, they fell in love with this “overnight sensation”.

They didn’t know that RuPaul had been in this business for years, releasing hit songs since 1993. And that she’d had her own TV show long before Drag Race.

And, one fateful day, on a search named All Stars 2…they didn’t notice when RuPaul inadvertently revealed the key to her success:

“I’m a marketing genius. I marketed subversive drag to a hundred million motherfuckers in the world. I’m a marketing mother fucking genius.” – RuPaul Charles

Cuz if we leave fairytale land for a second…

MARKETING IS EVERYTHING.

Bad marketing can kill a great product. Good marketing can make a mediocre product look amazing. Great marketing can take something like subversive drag (which inherently challenges MANY social norms and the entire construct of gender and thus makes many people extremely uncomfortable) and turn it into a mass-media phenomenon.

When you run an online business, something like 98.879% of your business is marketing.

All the networking you’re doing? The blogging, the social media, the paid Facebook ads? The endless posting in Facebook groups or on instagram or guest blogs? All marketing.

All to drive traffic, and, hopefully, get you some sales.

In a word:

When you have an online business, your business IS marketing.

And that’s why so many people struggle to actually build an online business.

Because they don’t understand marketing.

Marketing is complex. It’s one big idea made up of a series of smaller, simpler ideas.

Each idea can be fairly easy to grasp on it’s own … but when you’re trying to learn all of the ideas at once and figure out how they relate to each other?

Trying to understand how this idea shifts and changes things over here…

But then it all goes off in this other direction when you add idea #2…

And don’t forget idea #3! Adding that one in means you need to do a complete 180 on your marketing plan and strategy (and maybe even change your message…again. Or pivot your business model. Or just scrap this business idea entirely start with something new and better.)

It’s like a series of interlocking gears.

According to the gurus, this is supposed to be making you a PILE of money. Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

And when you can’t get all the cogs to line up just right to bring in all the cash and clients everyone is telling you you should be generating?

It feels like failure.

Because your business IS failing. When you run an online business and your marketing (whic is 98.879% of your business) fails…your business is failing. Because, almost guaranteed, you’re not making money.

I know. I’ve been there.

And when it sucked? When I was broke and living in my parent’s basement, trapped in a town I hated?

I pulled up my softest, fuzziest blanket, grabbed a tub of ice cream, and watched RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Hoping the sparkles could take away the gut-punch feeling of worthlessness for a few moments.

It did all that and more.

Because that’s the power of TV.

You get to SEE the transformation and the change these girls go through. The lessons play out, visually, in front of you.

Specifically: the marketing lessons play out in front of you.

Because over the course of the competition, these girls aren’t just competing. They’re selling themselves to the judges.

If RuPaul doesn’t buy you as America’s Next Drag Superstar, that crown (and the $100,000 cash prize) is going to someone else.

This is a tad fast forwarded (because tv), but it’s done in such a way that it lets you see the change as it happens. It’s cutting out the boring bits (like not showing people going to the bathroom in Star Trek) instead of not letting us see the transformation at all.

Where are you coming from, Chekov? *looks closer* *can’t tell if that’s Chekov or Lieutenant Riley*

When you read the words or just hear the story narrated to you — when one of those lifestyle entrepreneurs tells you their story, skipping the hard bits, doing a talking-head video in a beautifully styled room — it’s not the same.

You don’t get to SEE the change and the transformation.

It’s just some pretty woman sitting on a couch, talking to a camera, telling you a very carefully scripted story. One she’s calculated will resonate with you the most and get you to buy the course she’s promoting.

A story designed to help you believe that you can also do what she did. That what she did was easy and took only a little bit of knowledge and work — instead of lots of both.  

That story ignores and elides the time spent working. The days in between.

The waking up every. single. fucking. day. and having to get up and still do the fucking work.

Ignoring this makes the whole entrepreneurial journey seem easy. Like you can just wake up 3 years later and poof! Done. Business is running smoothly and making scads of money.

And it makes it all seem so easy because you don’t actually get to SEE her in the before.

There is no video footage of it. No video from her past self or anything visual to show where she was before.

And so it’s easy to fixate on her beautiful, shiny after and go “I want that” without having any idea of how to get that.

On Drag Race, it’s totally different.

You see the change in body language as contestants rise and fall and get torn apart. You SEE them grow and change through the episodes and across seasons.

(And if you follow them after the show on social media, you can often see the girls change after the show, too.)

There’s something different, something visceral about seeing that change. It drives the lesson home in the way those “fast forward to today” videos can’t.

And the thing is…Drag Race is packed with marketing lessons.

Ones you can actually SEE the contestants implement (or sometimes not) and grow from (or get kicked off if they ignore it).

So, since the first episode of the 10th season of my favourite show airs tomorrow…I’m sharing my top 10 Marketing Lessons from RuPaul’s Drag Race.

I’ll be walking you through these lessons using images, gifs, and maybe even video clips, to help get my point across.

Starting tomorrow, I’ll be sharing an article every Thursday for the next 10+ weeks, explaining one marketing lesson that I picked up from Drag Race. (While huddled under the blankets eating ice cream, of course.)

Because honestly…this show changed my life. It changed how I market my business.

Me, hard at work. j/k I’m afraid of heights and could never work here. Also not a dude.

Drag Race got me out of “fast forward” mode and let me enjoy the process again.

It made sitting down at my desk every morning to do the marketing portion of my job (98.879%) enjoyable.

Part of that did involve removing the mindset that marketing is simple or easy.

So if that’s what you’re looking for, stop here.

I’m not about simple or easy. I’m about helping you understand the nuances and the complexities of marketing…and using them to your advantage to communicate with your customers on a deeper level.

Drag Race did that for me. I hope it can do the same for you.