This is Marketing

Your marketing has to resonate with the listener, to tell them something they’ve been waiting to hear, something they’re open to believing. It has to invite them on a journey where a change might happen. Then, if you’ve opened all those door, it has to solve the problem, to deliver on the promise. Effective marketing understands the customers’ world view and desires to connect with them.

The best marketers are farmers, not hunters. Plant, seed, plow, fertilize, weed, repeat. Let someone else race around after shiny objects.

This is Marketing

The best way to complain is to make things better.

It is easier to make products and services for the customers you seek to serve than it is to find customers for your products and services.

Marketing doesn’t have to be selfish. Instead, it can be the generous act of helping others become who they seek to become. Marketers offer solutions and opportunities for humans to solve their problems and move forward.

Stop hustling and interrupting. Stop spamming and pretending you’re welcome. Stop making average stuff for average people while hoping you can charge more than commodity. Stop begging people people to become your clients. Stop feeling bad about charging for your work. Stop looking for shortcuts.

Learn to See

As a marketer, learn to see how people dream, decide, and act. If you help them become better versions of themselves, the ones they seek to be, you’re a marketer.

Marketing in 5 steps

  1. Invent a thing worth making, a story worth telling, and a contribution worth talking about.
  2. Design and build it in a way that a few people will particularly benefit from and care about.
  3. Tell a story that matches the built-in narrative and dreams of that tiny group of people, the smallest viable market.
  4. Spread the word (everyone focuses on this).
  5. Show up - regularly, consistently, and generously, for years and years - to organize and lead and build confidence in the change you seek to make (everyone overlooks this).

Marketers make change happen: for the smallest viable market, and by delivering anticipated, personal, and relevant messages that people actually want to get.

Persistent, consistent, and frequent stories, delivered to an aligned audience, will earn attention, trust, and action.

You cannot change everyone. Asking “who’s it for?” can focus your actions and help you deal with the non-believers (in your head and in the outside world).

What you say isn’t nearly as important as what others say about you.

Marketing Changes People

Marketing isn’t a race to add more featurs for less money. It’s our quest to make change on behalf of those we serve, and we do it by understanding the irrational forces that drive each of us.

People don’t want what you make.

They want what it will do for them. They want the way it will make them feel.

If you can bring someone knowledge, belonging, connection, peace of mind, or status, you’ve done something worthwhile. The thing you sell is simply a road to achieve those emotions.

Stories, connections, and experiences

Powerful, nuanced, and timeless tools at our disposal as marketers.

We tell stories. Stories that resonate and hold up over time.

We make connections. People are lonely, and they want to be seen and known. They want to be part of something.

We create experiences. Using a product or a service, calling support, reading a book: each of these actions is part of a story, building connection. Offer these experiences with intent, doing them on purpose.

The Smallest Viable Market

If you’re a marketer, you’re in the business of making change happen. Your promise is directly connected to the change you seek to make, and it’s addressed to the people you seek to change.

The goal of the smallest viable audience is to find people who will understand you and will fall in love with where you hope to take them. Loving you is a way of expressing themselves. Becoming part of your movement is an expression of who they are. That love leads to traction, to engagement, and to evangelism.

Who are you seeking to change?

You have no chance of changing everyone. Everyone is a lot of people. You can’t change everyone.

You need to change someone. Or a group of someones. Once you’re clear on “who it’s for”, then doors begin to open for you.

Begin by choosing people based on what they dream of, believe and want. As marketers, we must begin with a worldview, and invite people who share that worldview to join us.

Everyone has a problem, a desire, and a narrative. Who will you seek to serve?

Forcing a Focus

Begin with the smallest viable market. What’s the minimum number of people you would need to influence to make it worth the effort?

Choose the people who want what you’re offering. Choose the people most open to hearing your message. Choose the people who will tell right other people.

Curate your customers. Choose the people you serve.

Once you’ve identified your smallest viable market, find a position on the map where you, and you alone, are the perfect answer. Overwhelm this group’s wants and dreams and desires with your care, your attention, and your focus. Make change happen that’s so profound, people can’t help but talk about it.

Are there peopole who want you to succeed so badly that they’re willing to pay you to producee the change you seek to make?

It’s not for you

Your work is not for everyone. It’s only for those who signed up for the journey.

This shows the ability to respect someone enough that you’re not going to waste tehir time, pander to them, or insist that they chnage their beliefs. It shows respect for those you seek to serve, to say to them, “I made this for you. Not for the other folks, but for you.”

Humility and Curiosity

A lifeguard doesn’t have to spend much time pitching to the drowing person.

As a marketer, you’re not running around grabbing every conceivable lock to try your key. Instead, you’re finding people (the lock), and since you’re curious about their dreams and desires, you’ll create a key just for them, one they’ll happily pay attention to.

Begin with an audience worth serving, begin with their needs, wants, and dreams, and then build something for that audience.

Choose Your Axes Carefully

You have to go to extremes on a few attributes on a scale, such as price and skill-level. It’s tempting to pick the ones that most people care about. If you do, you’ll be choosing a crowded quadrant. Your customer won’t know what to do, so they do nothing.

The alternative is to build your own quadrant. To find two axes that have been overlooked. To build a story, a true story, that keeps your promise, that puts you in a position where you are the clear and obvious choice.

Don’t begin with a solution. Instead start with a problem you want to solve, a group you seek to serve, a change you seek to make.

Network Effect

Every good customer gets you another one. Your best customers are your new salespeople.

Your work to change the culture thrives when the word spreads, and if you want the word to spread, you need to build something that works better when it gets spread.

The fax machine works better if your colleagues have one too.

The network effect happens when your product or service works better when the customer uses it with others.

A Thousand True Fans

  • Appeal to a relatively tiny audience and focus all your energy on them.
  • Don’t use some fancy social media to spread your ideas to the masses. Instead, rely on fans to share the word.
  • Instead of a large number of people to support a little, rely on a small number of true fans to support you a lot.
  • Pick the extremes on the axis and own those extremes.
  • Give your fans plenty to talk about and stand for. Insiders and outsiders.

You need two things to pull this off:

  1. Talent. You can’t fake your way through it.
  2. Patience. Don’t be in a hurry and take shortcuts.

People Like Us Do Things Like This

As marketers, we seek to make change happen. For most of the people, changing their behavior is driven by the desire to fit in (people like us do things like this) and our perception of our status. Once you see these force at work, you’ll be able to navigate the culture in a whole new way.

We can’t change the culture, but each of us has the opportunity to change a culture - our little pocket of the world.

The smallest viable market maximizes your chances of changing a culture. The core of your market, enriched and connected by the change you seek to make, organically shares the word with the next layer of the market. And so on. This is people like us.

Which us?

What the marketer, the leader, and the organizer must do as their first job is simple: define “us”.

  • Map and understand the worldview of the culture we seek to change.
  • Focus all your energey on this group. Ignore everyone else.
  • Focus on building and living a story that will resonate with the culture you’re seeking to change.

The Internal Narrative

We don’t make decisions in a vacuum - instead, we base them on our perception of our cohort.

It’s all built around the simple question: “Do people like me do things like this?”

Normalization creates culture, and culture drives our choices, which leads to more normalization.

Marketers don’t make average stuff for average people. Marketers make change. And they do it by normalizing new behaviors.

Trust and Tension Create Forward Motion

It’s difficult to market to those who have a set pattern. The pattern requires undoing before you can earn forward motion. When life interrupts, new patterns are established. This is why it’s so profitable to market to new dads, engaged women, and people who have recently moved. They don’t have a pattern to match.

When you market to someone who doesn’t have a pattern yet, you don’t have to persuade them that their old choices were mistakes.

Create Tension

Why do some people hesitate to ask a question during a class, but will happily answer the professor if they’re called on? We create tension when we ask someone to contribute.

Effective marketers have the courage to create tension. It works. We don’t want to feel left out, left behind, or uninformed. We want to get ahead. We want to be in sync. We want to do what people like us are doing.

The only way to relieve the tension is with forward motion.

Reaching the Right People


You’ll try somehting new, and when it doesn’t work right away, the instinct is to walk away and try something else. However, there’s a real gap between when we get bored and when people get the message. We remember the things that we see again and again. The familiar is normal and the normal is trusted.

The market associates frequency with trust. If you quit right in the middle of building that frequency, it’s no wonder you never got a chance to earn the trust.

Search Engine Optimization

Step one is to make a product or service that people care enough to search for specifically.

There are a thousand pages of results. The goal isn’t to be found when someone types in a generic term. The path is to have someone care enough about you and what you create that they’ll type in your name. That they’ll be looking for you, not a generic alternative.

Build a product or service that’s worth searching for. Not the generic term, but to find you, the thing you built, the specific.

What’s a Brand?

A brand is a shorthand for the customer’s expectations. What promise do they think you’re making? What do they expect when they buy from you or meet with you or hire you? That promise is your brand.


It’s almost impossible to teach people against their will. The alternative is voluntary education: gaining enrollment. We ask people to eagerly lend us their attention. The promise is that it’s worth that effort because, in exchange, they’re going to get the insight or forward motion that they want.

Pricing is a Story

Pricing is a marketing tool, not simply a way to get money.

  • Marketing changes your pricing
  • Pricing changes your marketing

Combine multiple offerings at various price points:

  1. Free ideas that spread
  2. Expensive expressions of those ideas that are worth paying for.

There are countless ways for you to share your vision, your ideas, your digital expressions, your ability to connect - for free. Each of them builds awareness, permission, and trust, which gives you a platform to sell the thing that’s worth paying for.

When people are heavily invested, either with cash, reputation, or efforts, they often make up a story to justify their commitment.

Permission and Remarkability

Permission is anticipated, personal, and relevant

You want to deliver anticipated, personal, and relevant messages to people who want to get them.

Real permission works like this: If you stop showing up, people are concerned. They ask where you went.

Once you earn permission, you can educate. You have enrollment. You can take your time and tell a story. Day by day, drip by drip, you can engage with people. Don’t just talk at them; communicate the information that they want.

Transform your project by being remarkable

Intentionally create and design a product or a service thta people decide is worth talking about. A purple cow.

Ideas travel horizontally now: from person to person, not from organization to customer. We begin with the smallest possible core and give them something to talk about and reason to do so.

Design evangelism into the very fabric of what you’re creating. People aren’t going to spread teh word because it’s important to you. They’ll only do it because it’s important to them. Because it furthers their goals, because it permits them to tell a story to themselves that they’re proud of.

Trust is Scarce

A trusted marketer earns enrollment. They can make a promise and keep it, earning more trust. They can tell a story, uninterrupted, because with the trust comes attention. That story earns more enrollment, which leads to more promises and then more trust.

If the story is well organized and resonates, that leads to word of mouth, to the peer-to-peer conversations that are at the heart of our culture.

The goal isn’t to maximize your social media numbers. The goal is to be known to the smallest viable audience.

The Funnel

From stranger to friend, friend to customer, customer to loyal customer - the trust level changes. Everything gets better when you earn the trust.

Fix your funnel:

  • Ensure the right people are attracted to it.
  • Ensure that the promise that brought them aligns with where you hope they’ll go.
  • Remove steps, so fewer steps are required.
  • Support those you’re engaging with.
  • Most important, hand those who have successfully engaged a megaphone, a tool they can use to tell others.
    • People like us do things like this.

One of the most important thing to figure out in marketing is the lifetime value of a customer. If this customer will tell their friends and one of them also becomes a customer, then each customer is even more valuable.

What incentive do early adopters have to tell others? Give people network effect that makes the awkwardness of pitching change worth the effort.

  • What will I tell them?
  • Why will I tell them?
Written on May 21, 2023