It's easy to get caught up in endless theory, and difficult to pull practical marketing techniques out of the fluff that permeates the books, blog posts, and podcasts available today.

Earlier this year (in my annual review) I committed to learn with greater focus throughout 2016.

Practically, that means for the first quarter of the year I had a single focus―marketing.

Progress Report: My First Focused Learning Semester

For my first attempt at this type of focus, I had moderate success.

My goal was for 90% of the books, blog posts, podcasts, and other content I consumed to be related directly to marketing in some way.

While I did a pretty good job of maintaining that focus, I didn't cover as much material as I would have liked to by the end of month three.

That said, each book that I did finish seemed to complement the others in a way that got my marketing gears turning.

The best unexpected benefit I found in this experience was that it was much easier than usual to ignore blog posts, podcasts, or recommended books that didn't fall into my marketing lens.

The Five Marketing Books That Led to This Post

  1. 80/20 Sales and Marketing by Perry Marshall
  2. Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff
  3. Permission Marketing by Seth Godin
  4. To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink
  5. Epic Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi

Best non-book resource: The Building a Story Brand Podcast[/su_note]

Actionable Marketing Techniques

1. Make Every Subject Line Either Useful or Intriguing―Not Both

When customers sit down to check their overflowing inbox, they are selective in what content they consume.

Your audience typically falls into one of two broad categories of motivation.

A) They're motivated by extrinsic needs, such as utility (“What can this do for me?“), or

B) They're motivated by intrinsic needs, such as curiosity (“This looks interesting, what's it about?“)

Typically, which category a customer falls into depends on their email load and attention span combined with other factors like time of day, how they check email, etc.

Use a reader survey to get a clear audience profile, so you'll know whether to write subject lines that are obviously useful (“Create and launch an online course in just 30 days”)  or mysteriously intriguing (“You won't believe how fast we launched our last course”).

2. Focus on Experience more than Features for Whatever You Sell

You may have heard the expression “People don't buy drills, they buy holes in wood” which is clever, but not 100% true.

People don't really buy holes in wood, they buy new storage space in their garage or a fun project with their son, which the drill makes possible in the end.

In the majority of consumer purchases, buying decisions are made based on anticipated experiences.

If you're selling an online course, don't focus on the fact that your course includes 25 lessons that are each less than ten minutes long. Position your course as the means to experience real change in your customer's life because of what you provide.

3. Add A Negative Clause to Your Sales Page to Persuade Your Customer to Buy

This was the most counter-intuitive piece of marketing insight I ran across, but it's brilliant.

As it turns out, if your sales page is full of nothing but examples of how your product is great, customers may start to wonder if what you offer is too good to be true.

In many cases, adding a single disclaimer or negative clause can actually reassure your customer that your product is realistic, and help them decide to buy in the end.

Consider adding a section to your sales page that reads “This Product is Not For You If…” or mentioning a limitation on the content inside your course.

Of course, be sparing. If you provide too much negative information you'll be giving people reasons to avoid buying from you.

4. Date Your Customer to Develop a Lasting Relationship

The central message of Seth Godin's Permission Marketing is worth repeating because it's so powerful―yet simple to understand.

“If you want to create sustainable business, start by dating your customer.”

In the world of email lists and social media, much of what we do comes back to Permission Marketing.

Every time someone signs up for your email list or follows you on any social media site, they're giving you a basic level of permission.

Once you recognize that, it's your responsibility to care for that permission and nurture that relationship into something deeper (which ultimately may lead to a sale or multiple sales).

Seth Godin's 5-Step Process for Getting the Customer to Say “I Do”

  1. Offer an incentive (such as an ebook or other free download)
  2. Educate the customer about your products (your onboarding email sequence)
  3. Reinforce the incentive (offer a next-level resource or related freebies packed with value)
  4. Increase your level of permission (gather data and deepen your customer engagement)
  5. Leverage your permission into a profitable win-win scenario.[/su_note]

5. Rely Heavily on Data in Marketing, Rather Than Trusting Your Gut

This was a common theme throughout many of the marketing resources I consumed over the last three months.

Effective marketing is a science, which relies heavily on analytics, systems, and specialized skills.

As one example, check out what data you can learn from people's searches using Google Trends:

There's a lot of skill involved with using each dataset or system. Rather than trying to learn every skill-set at once, you need to hyper-focus on one specialty at a time.

Whether that's list-building, copywriting, or any other marketing skill, you need to pick one.

If you're considering the writing side of marketing (or just want to learn more), check out Copywriting 101―this month's new tutorial series.


John Meese is the author of the #1 bestseller Survive and Thrive: How to Build a Profitable Business in Any Economy (Including This One). An entrepreneur himself, John is on a mission to eradicate generational poverty by equipping entrepreneurs with the tools and training they need to build thriving businesses from scratch. He is the CEO of Cowork Inc, co-founder of Notable, and regularly publishes interviews and insight at

11 thoughts on “Simple Marketing Techniques For Real-Life Results

  1. Love this write up. I’m an engineer by training so systematic approach is my weakness. Your statement on being just “1 focus” is real good. The danger to that is always being tempted to want to get too deep in a particular marketing topic, restraining to defining what is your “enough” would be a good way to solve it I believe.

    I think honestly though list building would always consist of two elements #1 copywriting and #2 building awareness. Then the backend would be like, monitoring readership trends (pageviews/subscribers/conversion rates) to supplement in the next marketing move, headline or writeup perhaps?

    **Side Note: read up some stuff about DisQus (, wondering if you were planning to embed this at “The Centrifuge” site too, why or why not?

    1. Hey Vern, thanks for commenting!

      Yes, list-building involves a combination of many different skills. Just trying to simplify wherever possible.

      As far as Disqus goes, I actually disabled Disqus on my blog for about six months after questioning it’s utility, but saw no change in number of comments (possibly a couple less per post, but not significant).

  2. Lots of focused learning, John. Way to be an animal! Haha, but wow when it comes to making data-driven decisions I know that I have to make many investments in my education to understand the numbers. We have more data than ever before as entrepreneurs, yet I get so anxious staring at graphs and not knowing what to change. Are you naturally a numbers guy?

    1. I majored in Economics in college, and I was home-schooled… So I’m an all-around nerd, I think using numbers are just part of that. I’m hoping to share more information here on the blog to help people interpret business metrics, though!

      Any particular numbers/metrics you’d like help understanding?

      1. You were busy “painting” Excel sheets in college while I was in the art studio. It’s your unfair advantage in business! I don’t know where to start, really. I’m a first-time Google Analytics user, and I have no idea what I’m looking at it for other than page view trends. Where is a good place to get started with online business numbers when you are only building a readership and not yet selling a product?

        1. If you’re still building an audience, Mike, I would recommend focusing on two (and only two numbers):
          1. Total number of subscribers
          2. Total monthly pageviews

          If you want to get fancy, you can calculate your overall site conversion rate (number of new subscribers divided by the number of unique visitors in a given time period), but those first two metrics are a good start!

          1. Great! That’s where I’m at. And those figures are slowly but steadily climbing. My hyper-focus has been in the creation of high-quality content to start. Now that this feels somewhat easier it is time to begin learning how to get that content into the hands of the audience more effectively. That’s where the data comes in. It’s a lot to take in, but hank you, John, for this article. I need to up my book reading!

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