I love marketing.
I love having conversations about marketing, planning marketing strategies, learning new techniques — because I believe in what I do and I’m not shy about getting out there and selling my products.
A lot of entrepreneurs are excited to start a business because of what they want to create or the people they hope to serve… but aren’t as enthusiastic about marketing.
But here’s the truth: you can’t have a successful business or make a positive impact without marketing.
Businesses must make money. To make money, you’ve got to sell. To sell, you need to tell people about what you do. That is marketing.
If you believe that marketing is unethical, slimy, and salesy — and diminishes the beautiful and beneficial work you create — don’t despair. The most effective marketing is rooted in generosity, creativity, honesty, and transparency.
I’ve been in business for over two decades, and I’ve helped more than 64,000 entrepreneurs create their dream businesses with my online program, B-School. None of that could have happened if I kept quiet. And nobody wants to buy from someone who’s pushy or aggressive.
In this guide, you’ll learn 12 authentic marketing strategies I’ve learned over the years.
In this guide
1. Meet people exactly where they are
2. Inspire customers to buy with their hearts
3. Stay connected through email
4. Build a website that sells for you
5. Be generous
6. Give voice to their fears (without fear-mongering)
7. Establish credibility
8. Deliver value, for free
9. Deliver an outstanding customer experience
10. Master copywriting
11. Ask your customers what they want
12. Know when to quit and when to commit
12 Authentic Marketing Strategies to Supercharge Your Growth
Ready to take your business to the next level? Here are the time-tested steps to marketing success. They come from over two decades of business experience and some brilliant marketing mentors.
Each strategy includes an Insight to Action step to help you move beyond thinking and into doing. Keep a notebook handy, and give yourself 5 to 10 minutes to work through the prompts in each step.
1. Meet People Exactly Where They Are
Do you think you know what your customers need — more than they do?
As creatives, we fall in love with our products and services. But when sales don’t take off, it makes us want to scream, “How do you not know how amazing this is?!”
Here’s what you have to remember: Your business exists to serve your customers. And the best way to do that is to meet them exactly where they are. Start by helping them reach the goals they want to achieve. Use the language they’re using to describe their pains, frustrations, dreams and aspirations.
For example, a new customer might not be ready for the advanced dance class that you want to sell (like Joana in today’s episode), but if you meet beginners with compassion and help them get results based on where they’re at, they’ll not only tell others how great you are, but be more likely to continue onto your advanced offerings.
Approach your customer with compassion. Meet them exactly where they’re at. The golden rule of marketing is don’t fall in love with your product, fall in love with your customer.
Insight to Action: Think about your ideal customers and answer these questions with them in mind:
- What are the biggest pains, concerns or frustrations your ideal customers are experiencing right now?
- What can you do to demonstrate that you understand their emotions and that you can help them achieve results?
2. Inspire Customers to Buy with Their Hearts
Do you know what you’re really selling?
Customers rarely buy what you think you’re selling, so you’ve got to get clear on what they really want.
For example, if I buy a garlic press, I’m not buying a kitchen tool. I’m buying future memories of cooking the perfect pasta dish for my friends. If I buy anything from CosaBella, I’m not just buying undergarments, I’m buying the extraordinary comfort, confidence and beauty of Italian-made lingerie.
The key to getting customers to open their wallets is getting them to open their hearts, imagination, and emotion.
Insight to Action:
- In the center of a page in your notebook, write down the product or service you’re selling, and circle it.
- Around it, write down the emotional benefits people associate with that item. What feelings — the non-obvious hopes, dreams, and aspirations — does it help them experience?
- Circle the benefits you genuinely provide, so you can highlight them in your marketing.
3. Stay Connected through Email Marketing
A lot of businesses have an email list… but they do nothing with it.
If this is you, one of your best marketing tools is right under your nose! An email list means you have a slew of raving fans who’ve raised their hands to stay in touch with you. That’s pure gold, my friend.
These email subscribers are your potential customers. That’s why it’s important to make growing and nurturing your email list a core part of your business.
The most effective way to grow your list is to offer a free opt-in, sometimes called a lead magnet. It’s a relevant, valuable freebie you give away in exchange for an email address. It’s usually digital (so it doesn’t cost you much to give away), and could be something like a:
- Chapter from your book
- Free PDF or online course
- Coupon code
A great freebie establishes trust with your new subscriber, lets them get to know your brand, and demonstrates the value you have to offer.
But here’s the key. You have to stay in touch! Once you bring people into your world with an enticing opt-in, follow up with an automatic sequence of welcome emails to continue to earn trust and nurture the relationship. Then, choose a frequency (every week, 2 weeks, 1X per month) and be consistent with your email marketing.
Insight to Action: Think about your customer, and answer these questions to make a plan for your winning opt in offer:
- What do they need help with?
- What’s a major frustration they’re struggling to solve?
- What do they want most (e.g. money, guidance, time, a specific result)?
- What tips would your customer benefit from learning?
- What resources would genuinely help them?
4. Build a Website That Sells for You
A great website isn’t just about pretty graphics. It has to serve your business goals: getting people on your email list, delivering value to visitors, and generating sales.
Focus on getting people to opt into your email list, so the right people have a chance to learn more about your products down the road.
This is important: Don’t clutter your site with elaborate design or functionality that distracts from your top business goal. Don’t install every shiny new widget that doesn’t support that goal.
Everything on your site should convey a brand that’s real to you, inspires trust, and confidently sells what you offer.
Insight to Action: Choose a website platform to host and build your site. About a bajillion exist, but here are four that our students love:
- WordPress — for any kind of content creator.
- Shopify* — if you sell physical or digital products.
- Squarespace — easy drag-and-drop builder for artists, ecommerce, podcasters, and more.
- Kajabi* — all-in-one platform to market, sell, and deliver online courses.
- MightyNetworks* — bringing together your website, online courses, and memberships in one platform.
*Note: We’re proud affiliates of these products and services, and we do receive a small commission from each sale.
5. Be Generous
Worried about being heard above the noise?
My friend and marketing master Seth Godin says differentiation, the way we traditionally approach it, is selfish — it’s about making a thing and convincing people they want it.
Instead, realize the person you seek to serve has a problem they want to solve, and they don’t know who’s best to help them solve it. Your job as a marketer is to help customers get what they want, not to convince them they want what you sell.
“Differentiate” yourself by providing what people need and aren’t getting from other businesses in your market. In other words, be generous.
Insight to Action: Make a chart to find the hole in the market you can fill.
- Draw an X and Y axis, so you have four quadrants. Label each axis on a scale representing options in your industry.
- For example, a florist might draw “romance versus funerals” and “cheap versus bespoke.” If businesses in their market already provide bespoke romantic arrangements, cheap romantic arrangements, and cheap funeral arrangements, but no one is offering bespoke funeral arrangements, the florist could fill that gap.
- Which quadrants do your competitors live in? Which quadrants are underserved? Position yourself in the underserved quadrant to serve the needs that aren’t being met.
6. Give Voice To Their Fears (Without Fear-Mongering)
Appealing to fear is a long-established marketing strategy. Because it works. You might think it’s unethical, but effectively using fear in your marketing doesn’t have to mean fear-mongering.
If you use fear tactics with discretion, you’re actually practicing compassion. Great marketing strategies come from understanding and connecting with what drives your customer. Depending on the solution you offer, that might be fear or pain or frustration or excitement or aspiration.
Empathize with your customers and communicate through your marketing that you understand where they’re coming from. Give voice to their very legitimate fears and show them how you can assuage those fears — ethically, honestly and transparently.
Insight to Action: Pull up reviews from books, products, and media your target audience consumes. Copy and paste quotes that jump out at you and answer these questions:
- What’s the biggest fear your ideal client has about their current situation?
- How can you empathize with their concerns and fears, validate them and show them how to overcome them?
7. Establish Credibility — Fast
When you’re brand new to business, you’ve got a tricky task: You want to appear legitimate and trustworthy, so you need testimonials and success stories. But you’re brand new and don’t have a track-record — yet. It’s a real “chicken or the egg” kind of situation.
So how do you establish credibility to attract those first customers who will eventually evangelize your business?
Here are five easy ways to get street cred from the get-go:
- Improve your online image. A clean and professional website is a must in modern marketing. It doesn’t have to be expensive or award-winning — just functional, simple and clear. It shows you take your business seriously.
- Highlight your experience. Even if you haven’t sold anything yet, you still have experience that makes you qualified to offer the products or services you sell. Detail your experience on your about page to inspire confidence in customers.
- Communicate what you do clearly and confidently. Being confident about what you sell demonstrates professionalism and shows your faith in your offer. Don’t pull punches when you describe exactly what you do and how it can make a difference in your customer’s lives. Passion is contagious.
- Get client reviews early. Before you make sales, offer services for free or for a discount, and ask new customers for testimonials and reviews in exchange.
- Get press. Pitch local and online press, and do some guest posting. Once you’ve landed notable placements, stick those logos on your website — logos im-PRESS people, so don’t be afraid to brag!
Insight to Action:
- Choose one credibility-building step from above and do it now.
8. Deliver Value, For Free
We love a free sample, don’t we? Those little bites of smoked gouda on a toothpick at the cheese counter? Can’t resist!
Even though you might not buy a meal immediately after you accept that free sample, you’ll silently thank the restaurant for the bite that warms your belly. Most importantly, you’ll remember that restaurant and keep coming back for more.
You can use the same strategy online. Even better, it’s a lot cheaper to give away something digital.
Tons of free tools exist to help you share your ideas with the world. I do it through this blog, MarieTV, The Marie Forleo Podcast, MF Insider emails, and even free products like my free training, “How to Get Anything You Want”.
I love sharing ideas with readers, listeners, and viewers, whether or not they ever buy from me.
Giving away value freely is the perfect opportunity to serve your target market and delight prospective customers. Plus, if something is good and free, it can spread like dancing parrot videos, so it’s an organic marketing strategy.
You can’t begin to make your impact on the world unless you have attention and trust from your audience. You earn those through customers experiencing your products or services, and you can expedite those experiences by offering a few nibbles for free.
Insight to Action:
- What can you offer for free that’ll genuinely help your customer get closer to their desired outcome? Be generous.
9. Deliver an Outstanding Customer Experience
Marketing doesn’t stop once a customer decides to buy. The experience you deliver is one of your most important marketing strategies.
Follow these four steps to go the extra mile with your customer service:
- Make an A+ first impression. Be intentional about the first thing your new customers experience — whether that’s an ad, social media, your website’s home page, your email welcome sequence, or the front door of your retail store. What frustrates them about competitors in your industry? How can you solve those challenges? From the second someone says “yes” to your product or service, give them a royal treatment.
- Use your customer’s language. Your customer wants to feel like you get them. An easy way to let them know is to speak their language. What words and phrases do they use to talk about their problems and needs? That language is the jet fuel that’ll help your business take off.
- Details matter — go the extra mile. What perks will knock the socks off your customers? What extras are other brands stingy about that you can include for free? Think free wifi or snacks on a long flight or a free recipe book with your new blender.
- Have your customer’s back. Remember: Your job is to help your customer get what they want. Use all of your communication with your customers — from your sales pitch to troubleshooting emails — to help them achieve their goals.
Insight to Action:
- Draw two columns on a page. On one side, write down everything that’s dazzled you as a customer in the past month. On the other, write down everything that’s frustrated you. Now, think about your own business. How can you make customers feel more of the wow and less of the waaaah in your own business?
10. Master Copywriting
No matter what you sell, you’re going to use copywriting. Copywriting includes the words you use on your website, emails, ads, video scripts, graphics, social media, product labels — in other words, everywhere you interact with customers.
Compelling copywriting is crucial to successful marketing.
Here are three key tips to effective copywriting:
- Keep it clear. If you confuse people, you lose people. Don’t use cutesy, clever words where plain language will do. Always opt for clarity and simplicity. Customers have to understand what they’re reading if they’re ever going to opt in or buy from you.
- Turn the spotlight on your customer. Focus your words on the problems, aspirations, and goals of the people you serve. Customers want to feel seen, heard, and acknowledged. Talking about yourself doesn’t give them that. You do that by talking about what they want.
- Don’t ramble. Effective communication doesn’t waste a single word. Keep your copy tight and right.
When it comes to website copy, clear and customer-focused beats clever and cute every time.
Insight to Action: Use these copywriting exercises to write short, powerful sales copy:
- Let it go… Write a long, windy, rambly first draft to get your ideas down without giving into perfectionism.
- Write it rude. Write as if no one will be offended by what you’re writing. Screw all of the parentheticals and soft language that weakens your point, and just get your ideas down honestly.
- Trim the fat. Now take your first draft and edit the bejeezus out of it. Cut as many words as you can to eliminate the fluff. Cut common filler words, including: that, just, you can, and start.
11. Ask Your Customers What They Want
You’re saying, “Okay, Marie, I’m with you that I need to speak to my customer’s desires and needs… but what if I don’t know what those are?”
Have you tried talking to them??
Seriously, get in touch with the people you hope to serve and the people who’ve already been customers. Ask them what they’re struggling with. Find out more about their fear, frustrations, dreams and aspirations — then incorporate that into your marketing.
This is vital: Telling customers you care isn’t the same as actually caring. You need to put in the work to demonstrate you care about making real change in their lives.
Do the creative work behind the scenes to keep innovating and delivering something that stands out from everyone else in your industry. Take the risk of being different. Offer what you know will truly serve your audience, rather than what you think will make you money.
Insight to Action:
- Engage with your prospects and customers now. Get them on the phone. Ask questions to get them talking to you via your email newsletter. Take time to really listen and find out who they are, what they’re struggling with, and what they want to achieve. Do it because you’re genuinely interested — we can all smell fake engagement from a mile away.
12. Know When to Quit & When to Commit
How do you tell the difference between when to persevere and keep going — and when you need to cut your losses and give up on a specific marketing strategy or marketing campaign?
If you’re not seeing results, ask these questions to figure out whether you should quit or commit to your marketing plan:
- What metric are you measuring? What are you trying to increase or improve in your business? Email subscribers? Sales? Website traffic? If those numbers are heading the direction you want them to go, keep going. If they’re not, change your strategy.
- Why are you really doing it? MarieTV grew into a smart marketing strategy for my business, but it didn’t start that way. It started as a fun experiment. Creating something because you enjoy doing it provides enormous personal ROI, and often the marketing metrics will follow.
- What’s the opportunity cost of staying the course? Everything you say yes to means saying no to something else. What projects or strategies are you not getting to because your time is invested in your current strategy? If staying the course keeps you from spending time and energy on something more valuable, don’t be afraid to quit.
Insight to Action:
- Write down your answers to the above questions to determine the goals, motivations, and benefits of your current marketing strategy.
14 Digital Marketing Platforms to Boost Your Business
Digital marketing is vital whether you run an online or brick-and-mortar business. Your exact strategy will depend on your customer and your goals, but here are some channels to consider:
- Blog: Post content to connect with your audience, share your ideas, and offer free value to potential customers. Here’s how to generate a year’s worth of content ideas.
- Email newsletter: In content marketing, your list is your business. Use your email newsletter to deliver exclusive, top-notch content to wow prospective customers — and make the occasional sales pitch.
- YouTube: Videos and shows, like MarieTV, deliver enormous value to your audience and show off all your unique YOU-ness to potential customers.
- Social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms are places to open the door and connect with your customers on a more personal level.
- Search engine optimization: Help new prospects find your content and products on Google by using relevant search keywords.
- Guest blogging: Tap into other people’s audience by writing on established sites.
- Affiliates: Incentivize supporters to spread the word about your products and services with a commission.
- Advertising: Go old-school in a new-school kinda way by advertising through Facebook, Google AdWords, video and audio commercials, and programmatic ads that find your target customer automatically wherever they are on the web.
- Influencers: Work with people who run popular blogs and social media accounts to create content that boosts your brand awareness.
- Text or chat: Just like email, you can ask customers to opt in with their phone numbers or through Facebook Messenger, and send occasional messages and promotions.
- Webinars: Especially if you sell a premium product, a free webinar is a genius way to help your audience move closer to their goal and give them a taste of your expertise.
- Ebooks and digital downloads: A free ebook, PDF worksheet, or audio or video download can entice visitors to opt into your email list AND show them exactly what kind of value you provide.
- Referrals: Enlist existing customers to help spread the word with a referral bonus, like a free month of a subscription or a discount on your services.
- Forums: Reach out to power users on forums like Quora and Reddit, and offer them free access to your product or service. Once they fall in love with it (and YOU!), they’ll naturally recommend it in response to questions they answer when it’s a fit.
6 Offline Marketing Strategies to Spread the Word
Traditional marketing strategies let you get up close and personal with your customers. These methods are often more expensive than digital options, but they help you reach a different audience and can lend street cred to your business.
- Trade shows: Great for product-based businesses who want to connect with retailers.
- Free swag: Have you ever asked a friend about a sticker on their laptop, bumper sticker on their car, or stress ball on their desk? Swag is a fun way to help fans spread your brand around.
- Get quoted in the press: Show off your expertise and your business by offering yourself as an expert source or feature story to local newspapers and TV. Connect with reporters through Help A Reporter Out (HARO), ProfNet, or a database for diverse experts.
- Publish research: A brilliant way to showcase your expertise and get press coverage is to share insights from surveys and other research you conduct at your company.
- Flash mob: Get creative, and book a flash mob! Be sure to record it, so you can use the video for online marketing, too.
- Mailers: Mail flyers to customers in a target location to introduce them to your brand and include an exclusive discount or offer.
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Insight to Action: Your Marketing Strategy Checklist
Growing your business is no cake walk. It takes consistent attention and action.
However, if you truly aim to serve, marketing your products and services can be one of the most creative and fulfilling aspects of running your business.
Below are all of your insight-to-action steps from this guide. Crack open a fresh notebook, and commit to checking one or two off your list anytime you’re ready for a fresh marketing strategy.
- Meet people exactly where they are. Shine a spotlight on your customers, and write down the ways you can help them achieve their goals.
- Inspire customers to buy with their hearts. Draw a mind map to recognize the true benefits customers get when they buy from you.
- Stay connected through email. Devise a winning opt in offer that’ll move your potential customer closer to their goal.
- Build a website that sells for you. Research top website-building platforms, and pick the one that’s the best fit for your business.
- Be generous. Make a chart to find the underserved quadrant in your market and create an offer to fill the gap.
- Give voice to their fears (without fear-mongering). Mine reviews of products in your industry to become familiar with customers’ emotions, needs, fears, and aspirations.
- Establish credibility fast through a professional online image, clear communication, and freebies for reviewers. Choose one tactic, then do it TODAY.
- Deliver value, for free. How can you offer genuine value for free to your potential customers?
- Deliver an outstanding customer experience. Make a list of the best and worst customer experiences you’ve had in the past month — and strive to be the best!
- Master copywriting. Write glorious copy by letting go or writing rude to get down a first draft, then trim the fat to punch it up.
- Ask your customers what they want. Engage with your prospects or customers in person, via email, or on social media. Listen, then deliver the best offer to help them achieve their goals.
- Know when to quit and when to commit. Determine the goals, motivations, and benefits of your current marketing strategy to decide whether to continue.
Above all, remember this: Marketing is about making change, not making dollars. Your marketing strategy is a success if it touches the hearts of the people you aim to serve and delivers the amazing gift you alone can offer the world.