This is one of the most difficult challenges your business will face. Standing out in the sea of messages bombarding your customer, and grabbing their attention.

And then, showing them you have just what they need, and building enough trust so they are ready to hear your offer.

And if you are building a scalable business, you need to find a way to do that en masse. You know that walking around your neighborhood and randomly knocking on doors is not going to work. But what will?

Embrace Modern Marketing – a Necessary Ingredient for Scaling

Bill Lee in an Harvard Business Review post declared that traditional marketing is dead. He cites studies that show that buyers don’t pay attention to traditional marketing in their “buyer’s decision journey”. And it’s not just buyers, studies also show that even CEOs have lost confidence in traditional marketing.

According to Lee, traditional marketing just doesn’t make sense in the world of social media. Hiring marketers who do not come from “the buyers’ world does not make sense.

So if something called traditional marketing is dead, to know how to proceed in the modern world one has to go back to the basic essence of marketing .

What is marketing anyway? And why do we have to do it?

Michael Brenner in his Forbes post puts it this way:
…marketing sits at the intersection of the business and the customer – the great arbiter of the self interests of the business and the needs of the buyer.
Marketing is not about who can talk faster, or close better. It is about deep psychological understanding of customer.

From managerial standpoint marketing is defined to be, “the art of selling”. However, Peter Drucker said that marketing is not only selling but is art of knowing that:

  • Which is the target market?
  • Who are the potential buyers?
  • What do they want?
  • How to make them aware that what you sell fits their demands?

Would you like the scheme below to be your roadmap? Overwhelming, isn’t it?

Traditional marketing includes many, many activities. Advertising, public relations, branding and corporate communications — to name a few.

It’s good news that traditional marketing is dead.

It means that you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg and hope your marketing catches on. You can use a system of trial and error. Most importantly, modern marketing is more about building relationships, providing value, and building authority.

Although you could call this ancient marketing. Well maybe it isn’t ancient, but it certainly has been around a long time.

Bikini Waxer Marketing

Bikini waxing that is more than just bikini waxing.

If you have ever heard a woman talk about her bikini waxer you will get a sense of what modern marketing is all about.

“She is so good, but man does it hurt. We just talk about all the things my boyfriend does and does not do, and we compare notes on men. I just love going for a waxing. In fact, I think I feel a new hair, I will have to set up an appointment.”

Say what? Enjoying a painful experience?

Bikini waxers run a difficult customer business. To do their job well they have to cause pain and lots of it.

How do they get women to keep coming back?

By giving them something they enjoy for free – gossip, advice, and even a shoulder to cry on.

There is a high risk that women will procrastinate in getting the next waxing, meaning dwindling repeat business for a bikini waxer. Voilà, give them something they want – advice and gossip – and they will be eager to come back.

This is the essence of modern marketing. You build up a relationship with a group of customers so that they know you, they trust you, and they get great value. The best aspect this type of marketing is that it costs you very little. Talk is cheap. Yet talking and social interaction is one of the basic human needs.

So, you can think of it like this. Your product should always be addressing at least one the basic human needs: self actualization, esteem, love and belonging, safety, or physiological needs. If your product is not directly linked to one of these – i.e. bikini waxing, you would be well served to provide some of the these needs alongside your product.

Even if your product does directly provide for the basic human needs, starting out with a free offering that addresses human needs will help.

We Buy From People. People we Trust.

What does this mean for the modern marketer? How does one scale building relationships and trust – without hiring an army of salesmen?

First and foremost focus on providing something your customers want.

In the online world what people want is content – good content, interesting and entertaining content, useful content, educational content. Which when you think about providing can be quite satisfying. You are not some roadside salesman trying to pull some slight of hand or playing on people’s gullibility. By providing useful content you are already helping your customer. For free.

Hey, but why do that for free??

To build relationships and trust. By talking to people about what they care about, and providing advice for free, you start creating a trusting relationship. And by doing it well, you start establishing yourself as authority. And with authority and trust, you are 10 steps closer to closing a deal then cold pitching out of the blue.

Imagine you meet someone at the event. Instead of creating an engaging conversation, they immediately pitch you their service, and push you to close the deal right then and there. Would you buy from them?

Do you think this changes online? It does, but not to your advantage. The Web is a faceless environment filled with mistrust and fear of being scammed.

The good news is that this you can overcome. Just give of yourself, what you excel in, and let the relationships mushroom.

You do need to be careful that you grow mushrooms that will turn into paying customers. In other words, build relationships with people who are likely to become your customers in the future.

Don’t Talk about your Product. Talk about what people care about.

Your product does not have to be the center of your relationship. In fact, you might even argue that it should not be. It should be only tangential to your product or service.

So what should you talk about?

By now, you should have a good idea about who your customer is. If not, you need to go two lessons back. What you need to figure out next is what are the topics your customers cares about and where they hang out.

Pick a topic to talk about

Yeah, that's you. Now get to work! :-)

Here is how you can do that:

  • Brainstorm an initial list of topics, terms and phrases your customers might be looking for and talking about. Think about the problem you want to solve to them. Think about competing solutions and analyze their websites. Think about industry topics and terms, and browse through industry glossaries
  • Use keyword research tools to extend your list (just type in generated phrases and see the related phrases suggested by the tool)
  • Type the topics, phrases and terms from your list in a search engine, and browse through results
  • Search for blogs, online and offline magazines in your space, and check out their most popular articles and posts. Often, the blog or the magazine will list their most popular pieces
  • Find where your customers hang out, join in and listen carefully
    • Search for related topics on social networks like Twitter and start following people actively discussing the topics
    • Sift through online forums, LinkedIn groups, Q&A portals (such as StackExchange or Quora) and read the most popular questions
  • Based on your research, distill a list of topics that you have discovered
  • Now shortlist popular topics that interest you. Things you either already have knowledge about. Or topics where you want to build the knowledge in
  • Generate a list of 30 articles you could research and write on the topics

People want content, but good content is about more than just content.

As pointed out by Alexandra Reid on the Francis Moran website content marketing is becoming more and more like journalism. So, it is not just about the content, it’s about how it is presented that matters. She lists 5 tips content marketers should take from journalists:

  • Keep your ear to the ground
  • Tell balanced stories
  • Put the audience first
  • Get the facts straight
  • Keep it simple

Jon Morrow from copyblogger fame takes this even further and in the various interviews and webinars he gives points out that as a blogger you are more like a street performer on a New York street corner.

As a marketer you need to attract attention.

We focus here on writing, but similar is applicable for any other forms of content (e.g. audio podcast, video interviews…).

You need to think about how you are writing – not just the content. To a degree a scholarly article is more focused on content. Yes it also needs to be clear and understandable, but emphasis is on precision. Long boring passages that explain exactly what something is.

So, you have to pay attention to the tone of the article as well as some graphical aspects. Unlike a scholarly article, the use of some clichés is desirable. You want to strive to make the article feel like a conversation. Once you have had practice you can write content almost as fast as you can talk. However, too much cliché is painful to read.

You need to constantly be asking yourself if what you are writing is interesting?
How do you make it interesting?

First and foremost by letting your authentic voice come through the writing. There are certainly people who find you interesting. It may be only on certain topics or certain people, but you are interesting to someone. That is what and whom you should be writing about. So, if you are only interesting to people with the same technical background as you then you should write as if you are talking to colleagues during the coffee break at a meeting or training seminar. The coffee break aspect is important. It should be more like a conversation and not a seminar.

Take it from the guru: People want the real you.

You do need however a dose of humor and some storytelling. There is no magic formula for this, you just have to find balance.

One aspect is the graphical one. What this means by is how your article looks. Use readable fonts, remove all distraction. Use images.

However, one surprising aspect that Neil Patel points out in his QuickSprout course is that you need to pay attention to how much white space you have. This really means that traditional paragraph structure is thrown out the window.

A paragraph might only be one line long.

Long paragraphs should be broken up with offset quotes, or highlight points. Everything should be focused to the center of the page.

Start Small. Build up. Think: Minimal Viable Marketing

Building a successful blog, writing an e-book or creating any other form of content marketing channel is not an easy task. It can take months if not years to build and take off. And you need to spend lots of time learning how to get it right.

It can be overwhelming.

In the previous lesson you learned about minimum viable products (MVP). What you should do is apply the same approach to your marketing efforts.

Assume you have selected a topic. Instead of starting on a book, a first step could be a one paragraph description of a session to submit at an industry conference. Can you interest the conference organizer (someone who presumably knows your audience) in the topic?

The next test will be – how much of the audience will show up on your session? The next MVP could be your session (presentation you’ll give) – will attendees like it? What kind of questions will they ask?

Instead of writing full articles, you could start by posting short summary in an online discussion forum and see if you can get traction. This will also allow you to learn what people care about. Then write up a post summarizing the discussion and insert it as a concluding message in the discussion thread.

Or you could create a group – and launch an event in your city to discuss the related topics with your potential customers. Will people join? Will they want to come back? This could prove to be an invaluable source of insights into what your customers care about – and would build you as a local authority.

With the MVP approach, not only you build your content gradually, but with every step you are testing what works and what doesn’t.

Get ready to Pitch

It goes without saying. If your product sucks, you will not be able to market it. It could do you more harm to do so, as bad news spread at least as well as the good one.

It also will not be any fun to market a product that sucks.

The first question a good investment adviser will ask you is if you have any credit card debt. If they answer is yes, he will tell you to pay that off and then come back. If your product sucks, come up with a new idea or fix it. Then worry about marketing.

Let’s assume if you are reading this part that your product does not suck. An even deeper question then is, is it clear what it is? To you it is clear, but if you were to explain it to a taxi cab driver in 1 minute or less – could you do it?

The more clear and more easy your product is to explain the easier it will be for someone to tell others about your product.

Go Guerilla

If that taxi cab driver you tried to explain your product to is in New York, you can imagine he would have lots of other people to tell about your product.

“Hey, you know who I just had in here. It was a gal who is making a [what you product is] that will [how your product makes everyone’s life easier] so that they can just kick back and whistle Dixie while people like me are schlepping around New York trying to earn a buck.”

Rough but effective.

This brings out several aspects of what is termed Guerilla Marketing. Guerilla Marketing is in essence taking care to spot and capitalize on opportunities to promote your product that are either low cost or unconventional.

It means in the first place being prepared. Having a clear idea about your product, so that when you meet someone you can capitalize on the opportunity to spread the word about your product.

More importantly it means just being present and in the right places without directly announcing you are there to market your product. Engage for the sake of engaging but be ready to take opportunities to display your wares.

This is highly relevant in real life, on events, when talking to potential affiliate partners, but especially for social media, a key ingredient in modern marketing.

Social media, an essential ingredient of modern marketing

On his blog Jeff Haden interviews Dave Kerpen Author of Likeable Social Media who relates social media to a cocktail party:

“If small businesses thought about social media as a cocktail party–listening, telling great stories, asking questions and being interested–rather than as a sales and marketing channel, then ironically, they could turn social media into an efficient marketing channel.”

He goes on to relate that you have to wait 6-9 months for social media marketing to begin to work.

In his book The Best of Guerilla Marketing Remix Jay Conrad Levinson and his co-contributors come back to one attribute of a Guerilla Marketer – Patience. It takes time to build up the community that knows and respects you and your company. It is however this community that will be the fuel that will allow you to scale.

Measure, Measure, Measure

Perhaps you don’t want to bother with content. Maybe you just want to start with paid online ads. Or you want to try a freemium model: give away a part of your product for free and use that as an attraction. There are many, many ways to market yourself.

Pick one or two.

Then measure and iterate. Iteration is the keyword here. It is not like you come up with one catchy jingle and it begins to rain customers. In order to iterate wisely you need to have data. Data on what works and what does not. Fortunately, now more than ever you can get that data with very little or no cost.

Dave McClure proposes a great framework to do just this: AARRR – metrics for pirates. Dave breaks down the path from an unaware visitor to a happy paying customer into 5 steps:

  • Acquisition: how effective are your channels in generating leads? E.g. % blog readers ending up on your landing page. Or Google Ad click-through rate.
  • Activation: how effective are you in delivering on your promise? E.g. % of visitors of the sign-up page making it to their first gratifying experience with the product’s main feature.
  • Retention: do customers come back to your product? E.g. % of users that come back 3 times in first 30 days. Or % of users that complete a significant task.
  • Revenue: the bottom line. How many customers actually pay after the free trial is up? Or, how many customers, after seeing your demo, sign the line that is dotted?
  • Referral: your existing customers become your marketers. Happy with your product, users spread invites through e-mail or social networks.
    The clue is: measure conversion between each of the steps.


Traditional marketing is dead, and that’s your opportunity. Seize it.

What you need to do to build a modern market strategy that will support scaling:

  1. Identify who your customers are and where they hang out
  2. Figure out what they care about – that you can offer or build some expertise in
  3. Begin to generate educational content: blog posts, YouTube instructional videos, Facebook, 4. Pinterest, podcasts… Start small, think MVP
  4. Pay attention to form as well as content – think like a copywriter
  5. Avoid at first talking about your product. But get ready to pitch and do not wait too long either
  6. Build relationships via social networks
  7. Use this community building exercise to learn about your customers and improve your product
  8. Look for opportunities – think like a Guerilla
  9. Be patient but persistent – this is not a linear growth strategy
  10. Whatever you do, measure and iterate.