Lindsay LaShell: How a School Teacher became a Marketing Activist
Lindsay LaShell is a self-proclaimed marketing activist. Her mission is to help entrepreneurs who are doing good in the world do better by having effective marketing without spending a lot of money. She believes "if underrepresented and under-resourced entrepreneurs, and business leaders have a better marketing, then their businesses will be stronger, they will have more economic power, they will have more access, they will have more opportunity."
Marketing is a source of tension for many entrepreneurs and creators. It is necessary to do, yet a hard skill to master in addition to all the other responsibilities. After working in and running her own marketing agency, Lindsay has observed, "mediocre marketing is easy to accomplish with a lot of money."
With so many do-gooders in the world having limited resources, Lindsay wants to make sure these social entrepreneurs aren't falling into the trap of expensive mediocre marketing. A solution she's able to offer because of her unique background.
Lindsay is a testament to the power of piecing together a career from seemingly disparate areas of expertise. After college she worked for startup's in the Bay area. "Because I was a woman with an anthropology degree, I got stuck on accounting and administration and marketing...I feel like it gave me a really strong background for what I do today."
After a few years in startups, her idealism pulled her into a completely different field. Lindsay became an elementary school teacher. "Like most many teachers, I burned out" after five years. While she was looking for a next thing, "a serial entrepreneur that I had worked with in the first round, recruited me back out and he said, I'll teach you everything you need to know, you can work from anywhere with an internet connection on the planet, and I'll double your salary. And I was like, who says no to that I got student loans."
This was the beginning of the next phase of her career. In this job she focused on producing digital content for marketing. At the time "I had no idea that there was such a thing as a marketing agency." But the skills she was developing were pertinent to agency work.
So Lindsay took a few jobs working for marketing agency. Sadly, two of those workplaces were toxic for her. Despite her years of experience and innovative ideas she stopped getting promotions. "It finally got to the point where my boss, who was the owner of the agency said, 'You're a rabble-rouser, you're never going to have more control or more power in this agency than you have right now. I'm never gonna let you hire a team.'"
Lindsay felt quite distraught at this time. She felt such immense pressure and kept looking for other jobs, nothing was panning out. "I finally gave up. I took out a loan that was secured against my five-year-old Toyota. I quit my job and started my agency. So I had one client that had followed me and followed me through a couple agencies and I went to him first. I said, I'm thinking about going out on my own. He said I'm your first client, let's do it. And it just went from there."
The creation of her marketing agency occurred due to the perfect storm. At the time, "I was taking anxiety meds to get through my work day. I was taking other like antidepressants to be able to sleep at night. I was a mess. I genuinely would not have started my agency if I thought that I had any other option. So when I say I gave up, like it felt like I gave up trying all of these other things."
Lindsay's drive to start her agency came out of a primal need for self-preservation. "I need to survive, I need to be a happier person, I need to make money, I need to like have a life. And this seemed like the easiest way to do it. And you know, what? Ever since then I've insisted like entrepreneurship sucks. It's not easy. But yeah, for me personally, and especially for me in that time, it was what I had to do."
The agency grew, she had grown a team. It was quite successful, until, "the wheels just started to come off. And I had this moment where I sat myself down. I was like, 'Okay, there's going to be some reinvention here.'"
Lindsay took herself on a solo retreat where she reimagined her future business endeavors. She had a vision where she combined her love for teaching, writing and speaking with marketing. "And I immediately rejected it. I like wrote down all this whole thing of what I wanted and immediately was like...'nobody wants to pay you you're gonna make a life like just selling what's in your own brain? Don't be an idiot.'"
So she tried to rebuild her agency but the world had other plans for her, named COVID. In the beginning of the pandemic she tried to simultaneously keep her agency afloat despite losing 80% of their revenue while stepping into a new role as a marketing consultant.
As Lindsay course-corrected, she acted "on what is observable, and not on what I think is true... there's been a lot of moments in my life where I'm just like, 'I don't think of myself that way.' But if you look at the evidence...it's undeniable that this is how people think of me...I'm like constantly fact-checking my assumptions against what's observable."
Lindsay had already developed a DIY marketing frameworks for non-profits that she adapted as a consulting offering. She put it in front of 5 perspective clients and closed three of them. "That's the evidence that I needed, that there was potential that I maybe shouldn't have disregarded this vision that I had so easily, because there were, in fact, people who were willing to pay me for doing this thing that I wanted to do."
With this new evidence in had, Lindsay closed down her agency and stepped full-time into consulting. "This is my dream job. I am happy every day. I'm working with my clients in a new way. My life is easier because I don't have employees like it's it was a revelation. It's really amazing."
We conclude the interview by exploring what co-creating means for Lindsay in her current work. "Basically, the process is my client brings with them all of their expertise, and passion and experience and everything that they know about their work and their people. And together, we organize it into the framework. And that is the thing that gives us the most efficient, most empathetic marketing plan that we could build... I need my clients to be bought in on what's going to happen. I need them to experience it with me."
And here's a bonus for all those wondering, what to do about all the social media channels you have accounts for but no time to post on regularly? Lindsay suggest putting together nine images and posts that include "What do you want people to know about you? What are the calls to action?... And then leave them there and never change them so that everybody who finds you on LinkedIn or on Instagram knows exactly where to go to get more information, exactly what you're trying to tell them. But you're just not active. You're not wasting your time there."
Connect with Lindsay:
Open Lines Website - https://open-lines.co/
Lindsay on LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/lindsaylashell/