How to uncomplicate your marketing

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Marketing doesn’t have to be complicated, but we make it a lot harder than it needs to be. In today’s episode, I’m chatting with marketing genius, Kyla Roma, all about how to uncomplicate your marketing!

Visit Kyla: Kyla Roma | Twitter | Instagram


Erin Flynn: Welcome back to the Successfully Simple Show. Today I am here with my friend Kyla. Kyla Roma is a marketing strategist and founder of the Uncomplicated Marketing Academy. She’s spent the last decade helping overwhelmed online business owners and course creators take control of their client inquiries and their income. She’s also a toddler mom and her family’s breadwinner, who believes that your definition of success is the only one that matters, and that attracting clients should be fun. And for the record, no, that is not asking too much. You can learn more about her at, and Kyla, thank you so much for being here today. I’m so excited.

Kyla Roma: Thank you for having me.

Erin Flynn: So I have a lot of questions for you, all about marketing, because this is one of the things that I think my audience struggles with the most. But before we dive into the questions, I think we should all get on the same page about what marketing really is.

Kyla Roma: Absolutely. So marketing is basically, it’s promoting or selling your work. So if that’s product or services, it encompasses everything, including advertising, paid advertising, and then more organic or unpaid work that we’re doing. So that promotion that we’re doing, the social media, it’s all part of it. I think it’s a lot of where our anxiety kind of tends to come up around our businesses. It’s that piece of the puzzle of like, well, how the heck do people discover me?

Erin Flynn: Excellent. Okay. I like that definition so much. All right. So I mentioned this already, but this is one of the things that my audience struggles with so much, and so many service-based businesses, so many freelancers struggle with, is their marketing. Why do you think that this is such a struggle for so many people?

Kyla Roma: Well, I mean I could talk about this for a year, but I won’t. I think it comes down to a few key things. The first one is that just to really recognize that this is an entire discipline. You can can go to business school and just focus in entirely on marketing. So I think that we often take it for granted. We feel like this should be easy, this should be simple. We have all these preconceptions about how it should end up playing out for us, and the reality is, is that all the businesses that make it look easy and simple, it’s because they have a staff doing it, an entire staff. They’re not trying to balance doing this job alongside running their businesses.

Kyla Roma: I think the other piece of it is just that a lot of Instagram famous teachers and educators, they’re running product-based businesses, and for product-based businesses, even digital product, it is an entirely different game. Their time looks completely different than what service-based business owners’ time looks like, and we really have to have a plan that is going to allow us to be successful, because we can’t pour these exponential amounts of time and energy, and all these things into our marketing, and most of us don’t have a fleet of virtual assistants to be able to put out anything that comes up.

Kyla Roma: So I think it’s really a lot about that time piece, is a huge one. We’re really kind of shifting between our own businesses, and then working on our client’s stuff, and client work just takes priority oftentimes, at the end of the day. But I have a really, a simple kind of visual way for us to think about this. Basically, if you can draw a circle, I can tell you whether or not you are going to still have a business by this time next year. I’m really obsessed with this idea right now. I’m calling it the circle test.

Erin Flynn: All right. I’m getting out. I’m getting out a pen and seeing if I can draw a circle.

Kyla Roma: Okay. Let’s see. So-

Erin Flynn: I really am, for the listeners.

Kyla Roma: I can verify. So the idea is that you draw a circle, and then what I want you to think about in your mind right now, is you are going to be thinking about, you’re writing down basically everything that you’re doing to grow your business or to be able to reach potential clients, okay? So that’s what’s going to go down on this piece of paper. So inside the circle, you’re going to put anything that gets you in front of people who haven’t heard about you yet. Outside of the circle is everything else.

Erin Flynn: Ooh. [inaudible 00:05:03]

Kyla Roma: Now, if you don’t have at least two things inside of that circle, my experience tells me that you need to drop, really drop some stuff and solve that problem immediately. It needs to become one of your top priorities, because if you don’t solve that problem, your business is going to start… just the field of people that are able to even see your stuff, it’s going to start to rapidly narrow. And most of us aren’t selling, most of us don’t like to sell. We’re not putting our work out there, so all these things start to kind of compound the problem, but really and truly, if you think about the things that we do to grow our businesses, we’re posting on social media, we’re networking with the people who we’re already kind of friends with.

Kyla Roma: So much of the kind of the manual for being an online business owner, the things that we think about when people say, “Show up for your business, show up for your business,” it actually is just speaking to people who are already inside of our world, and we’re not actually doing the things that we need to be doing to be able to be seen, and to continue growing our business and growing our reach. And if we don’t prioritize that, our businesses shrink over time, and it is something that is, you can either be building momentum one way or the other. It’s either you’re either building momentum in the direction of growth, or you’re not.

Erin Flynn: Oh my God, this is so good.

Kyla Roma: Yeah. So again, you draw that circle, you want to write down everything that you are doing to grow your business or reach potential clients. Anything that is inside of the circle are things that put you in front of people who haven’t already heard of you, and outside of the circle is everything else. Again, I want to make sure that this isn’t like a shaming kind of a thing.

Erin Flynn: No, no. Not at all.

Kyla Roma: It doesn’t mean that you are bad at business. This is really how I think that marketing for online business owners is really dramatically failing us. It’s just not serving us, and we’ve got to kind of start the conversation here and really think about how can we prioritize these things and make them something that it’s not optional. This stuff is all a muscle, right? I get worried about my Instagram grid, or the things that I spend a lot of time thinking about and worrying about, I assume that they’re the most important for my business because I have a tiny little person brain, it can only hold so many things in it at once.

Kyla Roma: And this is how our brains work, right? So the things that I’m concerned about, I figure, oh, they’ve got to be really important to my business, but in reality, just because we’re excited about something or putting time and energy into it, that doesn’t actually mean that there is going to be a return on investment for our business. And I’ve had the pleasure and the opportunity to be behind the scenes in hundreds of different businesses, and it’s really shown me that we can’t judge how other people’s businesses are performing from the outside.

Kyla Roma: You really can’t tell the number of followers that somebody has, it doesn’t correlate to how much they’re actually earning, how their day-to-day feels. So it’s really important that we’re staying focused on the things that actually move our bottom line, and finding some fun ways to do that that really directly relate to how we earn a living, so that we’re taking care of stuff for ourselves, for our families, and even just to be able to keep our businesses going. Our businesses are helping other people in really important, important ways, and being able to keep the lights on in our business allows us to continue helping them, so that’s important too.

Erin Flynn: I love that. All right, so I feel like this goes similarly along, because showing up is one of the big things that I think so many of us struggle with in terms of marketing. We maybe have our best intentions, we create a marketing plan based on, I don’t know, somebody’s blog post or a course that we took, and we go, “Yes, I’m going to do it. I’m going to be on Instagram every single day, 365,” or, I’m going to do this, and we make this marketing plan, and then we realize that, oh my God, my introverted nature makes me just not want to do that. I want to hide under the covers, I want to not show up today because I just am not feeling good about myself, or I’m swamped with client work.

Erin Flynn: So do you have any advice, especially for those people who are introverted, because I do feel like so many freelancers start their own business so that they don’t have to deal with coworkers and bosses every day. Do you have any advice in staying consistent with marketing, even when we’re not feeling it?

Kyla Roma: Absolutely. This one is so tricky, I absolutely feel that. And on top of being an introvert myself, I have depression and I have anxiety, so I’ve got a whole train car worth of baggage that I brought into my marketing work, for myself. I think that it’s half and half. So if one is that, if you have chosen a way to show up in the world and to show up in your marketing for your business that you fundamentally don’t enjoy, it’s going to be incredibly difficult for you to be successful with that. So I think self-knowledge is a really important piece of the puzzle here. If you don’t ever want to talk to a camera and you don’t want to make images and plan your Instagram stories in advance, Instagram stories would probably be a pretty terrible place for you. It would be fraught, it would be really difficult for you to use that, and feel good about it and be consistent.

Kyla Roma: So I think it’s really important to be honest with ourselves about the ways that are going to work for us, so that we can make it easy for us to succeed. I think that that’s the first piece of the puzzle, is to be a little strategic about it. And then the second piece of the puzzle I think, is really finding ways to make it really enjoyable to actually do these things. So what are things that we can do at a very practical level, that can make it easier for you to be consistent? If you know that you should be writing emails to your email list and you really don’t love doing that, can you use some of the last client project’s revenue that came in, the income that came in, use that to book an Airbnb, and go there and use that as like a weekend away, and just write out everything that you have in your head that you haven’t been able to get out?

Kyla Roma: If that sounds like I’m suggesting you go on a cruise around the world, then you can literally… The way that I used to get that done for myself was I would only write for myself and work on my own marketing, when I was out at a coffee shop because to me, that felt luxurious. It felt like, “Oh, this is what an online business owner should be doing. I should be able to go and work somewhere beautiful, and be out during the day.” And so I would make sure that I was pairing it with something that was really fun and really, really motivating for me.

Kyla Roma: And then another piece can just be gratitude, honestly, remembering that showing up for our business and showing up to help people in this way, it’s deeply helpful for the people that we help, and it’s something that allows us to continue doing it. So I find even just that and a plan, it can be a huge help. And if you’re finding that it’s really hard to be consistent, I would say just to really look at the plan that you’re making. Is it that you’re always playing catch up? Could you give yourself permission to not show up for the next two weeks?

Kyla Roma: I promise your business isn’t going to collapse, but start creating content, however you’re going to, on whatever basis you’re going to, but do it a couple of weeks in advance and start scheduling it out. Give yourself some buffer time so that you know that you’re building yourself an asset that’s going to be playing out in your business, and you’re not just trying to keep up with everything that you should have already checked off of your to-do list, you’re not kind of trying to keep up with it day to day.

Erin Flynn: I love that. I especially love that coffee shop idea, because I know I’ve heard people talk about checking into a hotel and then they batch all of their writing, but I can’t write for eight hours, and I don’t know how some people do. I know that there are people who do it, but for me, I can’t just spend all day sitting in a hotel room and writing, but I could definitely spend two hours at a coffee shop enjoying a ridiculously expensive coffee, and knocking out some emails that I don’t want to write. That sounds really great to me.

Kyla Roma: That’s exactly it for me too. If I can do that and I can have somebody else make me lunch, so much the better.

Erin Flynn: Oh yeah. I have to put lunch in there too. Good idea. All right, so in today’s online world, I know there are so many different platforms that we’re told that we need to be on, and we’re supposed to be marketing on them, and experts at all of them. What are your thoughts on that?

Kyla Roma: Oh man. I really feel like there’s so much pressure. I’ve been in business now for over 10 years, and when I started out, Twitter was like the only social media network that people were really using to market their businesses or to grow their businesses. So it’s a very, very different world than it used to be. I think that what’s really important, again, is being intentional for us. If you have a business that’s intentionally tiny, you’re not trying to build a company that’s going… you’re not going to be applying for seed funding, or going public, you’re not going to have an IPO. That’s just not the way that 90% of us are running our businesses.

Kyla Roma: So because of that, we’ve got to be a little counter-cultural. We’ve got to think about what is actually going to serve me, what can I realistically keep up with? And also, just what’s right for this season of my life? I know for myself, I have a two and a half year old, and I’m only now able to have enough time, with full-time childcare, enough time and mental space to think about writing in a really deep way, and for that to feel fun for me. And so it’s taken a long time for me to get to that place. Last year, it wasn’t even on my radar and I had to say to myself like, that’s completely fine.

Kyla Roma: Similarly, I’ve taken an Instagram break that started, gosh, now it’s been over six months, and I just decided I was building my program, I’m getting entirely clear on what it is that I’m doing and serving my clients, and staying mono-tasking, basically. And so I gave myself permission to be completely, to just pull out of there for a little bit. And I think that it’s the decisiveness about it and the confidence is the hard part, and I think it’s difficult because we expect confidence to come first, right? We expect that if I am confident, that’s a signal to me that that is a good decision that I’m making, and that if I don’t feel confident, that that’s also feedback about what it is that I’m doing, and the reality is just that our feelings aren’t performance feedback.

Kyla Roma: So if we’re making choices in our business about where we’re showing up, we’re not actually looking at how much of our traffic does that actually get us. I was able to make that choice, because less than 3% of my traffic comes from Instagram. Now, it’s also been responsible for, just through DMing I’ve made, gosh, it’s been over $10,000 just through DMs, but it’s still a very small proportion of my overall traffic, and so I know that when I show up there and I’m clear, and I have something to talk about and I have something for sale, and I can give it the time and energy and the space that it needs, then it’s really profitable for me. But if I’m not in that mode, if I’m doing all these other things that need my time and attention, then it’s completely okay for me to say, “You know what? I’m going to put a pin in that for right now, and circle back when I have the time and energy.”

Kyla Roma: So I think the more that you can be decisive about what is going to work for you right now, and know that it’s not the be all and the end all, that doesn’t mean that you’re never going to be able to do it. It’s a really long life, you’re going to be able to circle back, you’re going to be able to master in one spot, and then take that and be able to leverage that, be able to expand out from that.

Erin Flynn: I think it’s the main take away for me, personally, is giving permission to not have to be on something. I actually, I’m on Twitter sometimes, but it used to be great for me and then it just stopped, and I kept trying and I kept trying. I’m like, “This was such a great platform in 2015, why isn’t it working for me right now?” And I know it probably is still working for some people, but it wasn’t working for me anymore, and then mine actually shifted to Instagram as being a better platform for me. And so giving myself permission to kind of let Twitter go and just be where I chat with people, as opposed to kind of force sales now, has been so much better for my stress levels because I’m no longer trying to make something fit into my life in a way that just wasn’t working anymore.

Kyla Roma: Yeah, absolutely. We’ve got to give ourselves permission to name what’s happening for us now, and to be accepting of it and to work with that. I think the more that we can do that, it makes it so much easier for us to succeed and to thrive, and to just… we’ve got to be able to be imperfect, weird people with our preferences, and where we like to show up and where we don’t, we’ve got to be able to have space for that in our business, otherwise, what the heck are we doing this for?

Erin Flynn: Okay. So this one is a doozy, but I’m hoping that you can wrap it up in a nice little bow, because it is, I what everybody’s wondering about at this point, which is, can you give a super quick, simple rundown on how to make a marketing plan that actually works for a service-based business?

Kyla Roma: Absolutely. Well, this is what I’ve been spending the last however many years on, trying to solve this problem. So I have an entire program where this is the question that we really go into. But at a high level, the way that I would think about this is, first of all, how do you attract people into your business? So knowing what that mechanism is, what is the lever that you’re going to pull to be able to take control, and not just wait to be discovered. So know how you’re going to get yourself in front of people who haven’t discovered you, so that’s a huge piece of it.

Kyla Roma: Second piece of it would be being able to create content that creates certainty. So going out there and creating content that is positioning you as an expert, as somebody who’s knowledgeable, who understands the problems of the people that you help, and that creates certainty that not only can you help them, that the person that you help is able to receive help, that they are not uniquely flawed. They are actually going to be able to take action and use the stuff that you help them with. I think that’s a missing piece that a lot of us forget, that the people who we help, our clients, they have a huge amount of doubt, and they all think that they’re the unique case that’s going to kind of fall through the cracks. So, really trying to remember that we’re speaking to people who are worried and help them feel certain, is a huge piece of that.

Kyla Roma: So that’s that next piece, and then from there it’s really, I think all about creating habits and routines that really work with our life. And this is, I think, where this oftentimes, the strategy disconnects from actually being out there and being consistent, because we have these great intentions, we have these big plans, but then the way that we decide to take action on them would actually take half of a week to be able to actually implement. So being realistic about, what is your time, how much time do you actually want to spend on marketing your business? Are you doing your own bookkeeping? Are you replying to all your emails? Are you trying to do all of these things?

Kyla Roma: If that’s the case, then honestly, maybe only spending an hour, maybe two hours a week on your marketing is actually realistic for you right now. What if you worked with that? What if you picked things that were high return in investment, and really leaned into that instead of just feeling terribly, and kind of feeling guilt, and not doing anything during that time that we have. So I think it’s about building momentum and using habit, and using psychology and mindset to really work with what you have in a realistic way. I think that that is oftentimes one of the big missing pieces of the puzzle.

Erin Flynn: Oh my gosh, that is so good. If you had a microphone, I’d be like, you just need to drop it right now, but that would just be like you ripping out your ear buds and throwing them on the ground, you know what I mean? Maybe not quite as dramatic. That was so excellent. I think that is the perfect note for us to end on. I would love to know for the listeners what your big takeaway from this episode is.

Erin Flynn: You can tweet us on Twitter, I’ll have those handles, or mention us on Instagram, we would love to know, we would love to hear from you. And Kyla, where can we find you online and learn more about your offerings?

Kyla Roma: Definitely. You can go over to, is my kind of big headquarters online, and I may or may not still be on my Instagram break, you can check me out over at KylaRoma on Instagram. I may not be posting, but I am commenting and talking to people behind the scenes, so you can send me a DM.

Erin Flynn:  Awesome. Thank you so much, Kyla. This was such a great conversation. I can’t wait for us all to simplify our marketing and make it much more impactful. Thank you again.

Kyla Roma: Thanks so much for having me.

Erin Flynn: Thanks so much for tuning in. Any links mentioned in this episode will be included in the show notes. Now, if you enjoyed this episode, please do me a favor and subscribe on whatever platform you like to listen to podcasts on. And if you really enjoy the show, please leave me a review, because it helps me out a ton. Thank you so much. Now go take action.