Marketing strategies are useless without people

Whether you’re a seasoned serial entrepreneur or start-up, the way you envision, implement and manage marketing strategies for the long-term can help or hinder your success. The people you bring in to help can be even more critical.

marketing strategies are more about people than promotions
Are your marketing strategies reaching the right people? Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Launching your business

Trust your gut. Mine’s usually served me well. I tend to leap into business opportunities rather than noodle them to death – sort of. If you’re good at what you do and are attentive to customer service (a factor that can weigh larger than your expertise), go for it. Just make sure you represent yourself appropriately.

Be honest. Prospects and clients appreciate this more than you know.

If operating in your industry requires support from other vendors, take the time and effort to educate yourself on how what they deliver fits in with the entire project. That doesn’t necessarily mean sufficient proficiency to do their work, but at least understand what they need to provide as an effective solution that can be applied, viewed and implemented down the chain.

Spend time around others who know more than you do. It’s amazing how generous people can be as mentors to those who ask intelligent questions, don’t waste their time (prepare before you summon a request) and are willing to put in the time and effort to implement provided suggestions.

Develop a continuous learning mentality. The moment you think you know it all, you’re done. Those that are willing to invest time researching contemporary solutions get noticed, and paid for their knowledge.

Accept failures and move on. Sometimes, even with good planning and research, you miss. If you’ve spent more than two years trying to build a client base and are still struggling, consider a different direction.

Solid marketing strategies don’t always bring wins

Even with experience, sometimes you miss. A partner and I launched the Inventing Your Horse Career Series in December of 2011. Our industry savvy, market understanding and research pointed to success. Sales have been extremely disappointing.

The format was wrong for half our audience (we knew this going in). Pricing was an issue for others. We created a marketing plan, but didn’t delegate tasks so much was left undone. Reviews and contributor outreach support were a big part of the marketing mix. Reviewers didn’t deliver as promised. Many contributors had never participated in an affiliate program (or didn’t have a website or list) and found the idea too daunting even after we set up the accounts and all support tools for a grab and go. We struggled expressing this new concept to prospects.

Now we’re regrouping to offer additional formats that may be more appealing, a promotions strategy that’s more aggressive and outreach through collaborative arrangements with those who have a large niche audience. The jury is still out on whether this will fly as a profitable venture. Still, we haven’t given it enough time to log it as a failure. Check in next year for a final analysis.

You best clients may not be who you think

Working was my biggest joy from an early age. The satisfaction gained from a job well done and the independence that came from earning an income got me giddy.  Lessons learned from youth have served me well through life.

It’s easier to be appealing as a sales agent when you’re a kid. I had a paper route, was the appointed pitcher every time my parents had a raffle, event or product they were pushing with their volunteer activities, sold Girl Scout cookies and participated in various other solicitations that involved knocking on doors scouring the neighborhood for buyers.

What I learned early is the apparently wealthy are misers when it comes to opening their doors or wallets.

The middle class community with modest colonials built on ¼ acre lots were warm and supportive. Sympathetic and generous residents bought whatever I was selling at about an 80% rate.

Once we moved to a wealthier area with expensive homes on more expansive land, doors were slammed, dogs were sicked and people were rude. I probably had to visit 100 homes to sell ten, and it involved a lot more walking. Frankly, it was shocking to discover the goldmine I thought I had landed in was such a bust. Still, It was a great early education on how assumptions about prospects are wrong. This has carried through as I’ve made decisions in my adult career.

Anyone who’s sold Kirby vacuum cleaners knows the drill. The hard-cores sales process starts with the reps. They don’t tell you what you’ll be doing until you’ve invested hours of your time and the feel the need to recoup. The extra college money wasn’t worth it as I discovered the people who couldn’t afford such an extravagance were the ones ponying up. I found myself trying to talk most buyers out of the sale, which only made them more determined to buy. The wealthy homes where this product would have been a good investment only scheduled the appointments for the freebies with no intent to buy. I hated the job for the people it preyed on.

Choose vendors carefully

That old, sad saying, ‘you get what you pay for’ tends to hold true. Actually, the cost of engaging an unqualified provider is usually much higher than fees with the time, stress, business interruption and bad-will that comes from prospect and customer experiences.

Cheap is rarely smart from a business building perspective. Once you’re ready to start hiring a support team, proven is usually better than eager. Seek referrals from trusted associates impressed enough with the help they’ve engaged to shout about it.

Smart marketing strategies involve a lot more than promotions

Being successful in business is all about the people you meet, engage and reach. The most clever marketing strategies only work if you get your message to the right audience. Don’t assume your prospects are those that seem able to most easily afford what you have to offer. In fact, Thomas Stanley provides a great eye-opener in The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy. This is a great book that’s been out for a while, but basically demonstrates through considerable research that people with money don’t flaunt it. Usually those who appear rich are leveraged to the hilt. Truly financially independent individuals tend to live a frugal life.

Reaching the right people in ways they can identify with and appreciate is a lot more important than how flashy or expensive your message is.

If you’re looking for help with copy for your website, brochures, letters, landing pages, speeches, media releases, article submissions, proposals, pitches or other prospecting tools, feel free to shoot me an e-mail at or call 585-554-4612. We’ll be making a discounted introductory offer in the coming weeks, but why not move your business forward now in ways and levels you may not have imagined?



By Nanette Levin

Writer, author, marketer, public speaker and small business advocate with more than 25 years of experience. Check out some of our affordable introductory deals designed to make it fun and easy for new clients to test results with small projects.


  1. The only thing I can add to this great post is to NOT feel inhibited by the marketing that’s been done before.
    With our medical product, way back when, for the buttoned down idnsutry that it was, we went for whimsy. When we opened a new plant (to be nearer some customers), we use the ubiquitous swan swaddling a baby, announcing our “new” baby.
    As we grew and built two more plants AND our own transportation and logistics company to satisfy demand, we offered wine bottles filled with popcorn… “Things are popping up all over the world” was the theme….
    Yes, folks knew we were corny. But, they listened. More importantly- they bought!

    1. Great points, Roy. Some of the best marketing campaigns I’ve been involved in have been outlandish (or contrary). Memorable is important and if you can have fun while getting to get your prospects to chuckle along with you it’s a much more powerful approach.

  2. Nanette, I am huge fan of yours and I love all of your posts but I have to say that this may be my favorite. Not only is it full of such useful reminders for business owners and for vendors, but I so appreciated you honesty and authenticity in how these practices have played out in your own business. When we own our challenges, we are so much more likely to learn from them, grow and do better the next time. Look forward to learning more about what you and your partner are up to and how everything changes with your new plan.

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words, Minette. Yep – the disappointments can be hard to stomach but if you’re open, they can provide wonderful learning opportunities. I think we’ll get it right on second try, but it is humbling to jump in thinking you’ve stumbled on the next big thing with a brilliant new product, needed service and receptive market with a message that falls on deaf ears. Sometimes the answer is to admit defeat. I don’t think that’s the case with this one. Altering our assumptions and approach may be enough to kick this thing viral. We’ll see. I will provide an update – as a success story or as fodder for the lessons learned the hard way archive. Probably more than one if the former is the case :-).

  3. Hi Nanette,

    Thank you for this post!

    I think the point that touched me most deeply was to hear you speak about “failure” so openly. Often it seems this very real possibility is swept under the rug and all contemplation of it is strictly avoided.

    As the beautiful Don Miguel Ruiz taught me – when creating anything we want it’s vital to express that clearly while at the same time acknowledging gently that it may not happen (as the results are not 100% in our hands – there’s a bigger picture here and a Universal plan working through us).

    I have found cultivating this knowledge to be extraordinarily stimulating and utterly liberating! I am so much freer to create in my business and life when I breathe and let go just a little…

    Thank you again for sharing, Nancy! 🙂

    1. Thank you, Susan, for your kind and relevant comments. Sometime we fail and the blame lies in us. But then, of course, it depends a bit on how you define failure. If you learn from it and make corrections the next time that lead you to success, is that really failure?

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