This is a (not exhaustive) list of marketing techniques I’ve used to grow audiences and attract customers to my companies in the last 25 years.
- Posting in forums and newsgroups (back in the early early days)
- Putting up posters on university campuses
- Sponsoring events (getting my company featured in print handouts, listed as an event sponsor on stage, etc)
- Writing articles on my own website that people shared
- Starting a blog and publishing posts that show up in search results in Google
- Writing guest articles for other blogs and websites
- Getting press articles written about me in news sites
- Appearing as a guest on podcasts for interviews, including hiring an agency to get me on to shows
- Recording my own podcast interviews with other experts
- Paid sponsorships in podcasts and newsletters
- Publishing my own newsletter and creating segmented email sequences
- Paid ads on Google, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn
- Cold outreach using email and LinkedIn messages
- Sharing free content on social platforms
- Publishing videos on YouTube
- Recruiting affiliates to promote my products
- Conducting product launches with coordinated promotions from launch partners
Some of these techniques were short lived experiments that failed, some I did as campaigns that started and stopped, bringing in a burst of sales, and a few I’m still doing today because they keep working week after week.
Much of these tactics I did myself, especially during the early days when cash flow was tighter, so I couldn’t afford to hire assistants.
Today I have key people helping to execute some of these tactics, which I oversee, but do not execute.
Some of these techniques are a slow burn, attracting people to my content, where they join an email list, so I was able to stay in touch over time. It could take months — even years sometimes — but eventually a small handful of subscribers become customers.
Contrary to this, there are techniques listed above that bring in ‘instant’ customers. People ready to buy today, but just need some information on what I sell before they sign up.
If you’re not quite understanding why this could be the case, go watch my video on ‘intent’ versus ‘discovery’ when it comes to marketing. It will help you understand different levels of buyer interest in your audience.
99% Of Companies Need Proactive Marketing
For all my adult life I’ve dreamed of creating a product or service that had such amazing market fit that I’d be overrun with customers coming my way with little to no effort to market it.
Word of mouth would power an avalanche of customers that I would struggle to handle, but I’d love every minute of it.
This scenario may sound common in entrepreneurship. Many of the big business success stories shared publicly tend to have some kind of story arc that involves the product or service ‘catching fire’, with a movement arising, spurring organic growth (sometimes accompanied by plenty of free publicity).
Think Facebook, Ozempic, Tesla cars, Atlassian software, dropbox or Lululemon pants.
Some of these have built in virality, where by the nature of the use of the product exposes others to it.
Others catch a moment in the cultural zeitgeist, riding the wave (think Walkman or iPod for portable music), or a certain community spreads the word among themselves (Discord as a tool for chatting while playing video games for example).
A new technology can also drive adoption, for example ChatGPT (AI) recently took the crown for fastest growing SAAS platform in history, reaching 100 million users in just two months. It’s pretty clear they didn’t have to rely on their own marketing to spur that growth.
The truth for most entrepreneurs is nothing comes easy.
Most business have to do marketing if they want to attract (and keep attracting) customers to survive and grow. This is also true because many small businesses do not operate in sexy, or culturally significant, or technologically advanced industries. They have a product or service that is a utility — it solves a problem or meets a need.
In order to make people aware that their product or service exists, these businesses need to be discovered or put in front of people.
In my career so far as an entrepreneur I’ve sold Magic: The Gathering cards, online courses, software, email management services, private coaching, membership sites, tickets to conferences, books, website hosting and design, and essay editing services.
I’ve enjoyed word of mouth and the benefits of being in the right place at the right time with a trend or new technology, but never to the point where I didn’t need to worry about marketing again.
Pretty much every business owner I’ve met in person has the same challenge. How do you generate qualified leads?
The Growth Problem
If you’ve attended internet marketing conferences, or online summits, or listened to podcasts, youtube videos or read books, you’ve no doubt heard people talk about the marketing techniques that work for them.
I shared my list at the start of this article for that reason. I wanted to demonstrate that this is the work you do as an entrepreneur. You go out there every day and find customers.
There’s a lot more to it of course…
You need a compelling offer, compelling copy to explain and promote the offer, persuasion points and trust building elements like testimonials, examples, educational content, and the most important thing — a large enough market of people with money who are motivated to spend that money to solve the problem or meet the need they have.
Over time as your business grows you can delegate tasks to assistants and other experts. Marketing doesn’t have to remain your job alone, but there has to be someone, ideally a team, along with the help of technology, which can drive your marketing campaigns for you.
In the past 25 years two of the companies I built generated multiple seven figures in revenue. Neither of them did it quickly, certainly far slower than I desired!
One was my coaching/teaching business, with much of the revenue coming from course and membership site sales of training products I created. The other is my current company, InboxDone.com, which provides virtual assistants who handle email for clients.
Both of these companies required I invest two to three years of my time and energy for no financial return, without knowing if I’d ever get any return. You’d never guess what I was doing for most of that time — marketing!
How Are You Reaching Customers Today?
The challenge for many entrepreneurs is that marketing does not come naturally. You may even dislike the need to promote and sell your product or service.
Often it’s the creation and delivery of your product or service that gets you excited. It might be the creative aspect, or the act of helping others, building systems and processes, or simply the feeling of making money you enjoy, but not the task of getting out there and telling people your company exists.
Sadly this is also why so many companies fail and why many people get stuck at income levels that don’t allow them to expand because they can’t afford to hire help.
Many people get stuck in cycles. You don’t have clients or customers, so you focus on marketing and sales. You get some customers and you have to switch focus to delivering what they paid for, so your marketing stops. Then you find yourself with no new customers again.
Unless there is automation and/or people who are consistently working to bring in the next customer for your business, you’re not growing.
In my case, as a student of lifestyle freedom as an entrepreneur, largely thanks to my early exposure to books like the E-Myth, I was always thinking —
How can I make sure new customers find my business even when I’m not working?
Thankfully the Internet helps tremendously, as you can use technology to reach people and automate processes, which can ‘do the work’ for you. If you add a few talented specialists and virtual assistants to the mix, marketing can really be done for you.
It’s important you ask yourself, what are you doing today that will bring in customers tomorrow?
This work can be done manually by you, especially if it’s early days for your business and you have no money to spend. I still do some marketing and sales manually today, because it allows me to learn about my audience, and refine and improve techniques that are working.
If you’re feeling lost about any of this, I’m always available for a month or two of private coaching to help guide your decision making. You can purchase access on my Candid coaching page.
I’ll end this with one piece of advice: Marketing is not a short term game.
Success in business happens years after you first had the idea for your product or service. It’s the sustained repetition, along with testing and improving, that gets you the rewards.