The Tao of marketing

marketing strategies work best when everyone enjoys the trip

Life can be an incredibly circular experience.

Almost twenty-five years ago, I met Steve Chapman. He took me on as a partner and taught me about drawing on creativity in ways I had never imagined to help small businesses have fun with marketing while producing incredible bottom-line results. Steve also introduced me to the Tao.

Memories of this marvelous mentor came flooding back when I discovered Amy Putkonen’s blog in July. In fact, I was so impressed with what she was doing I featured her in a post that talked about the Tao as it relates to marketing.

Amy’s Tao Te Ching Daily is a marvelous mix of small bites of Tao content and Amy’s interpretations. Her delightful approach isn’t scholarly – it’s a personal journey we all can relate to as she offers reflections and experiences.

Personally, I really enjoy getting a daily dose of Tao coming to me via e-mail and chuckle, smile and nod as I read Amy’s take on the text. I thought the readers of this blog might too, so asked Amy to provide a guest post. Here it is:

The Tao of Marketing

By Amy Putkonen

marketing strategies work best when everyone enjoys the tripThe Tao Te Ching is an ancient book with timeless principles that help guide our lives. These basic tenets can be applied to business to set you apart as a true leader in your industry.

Good leaders don’t press people to be a certain way. When you really lead people, the experience to them is that they lead themselves. It should be this way with marketing too. For a really good leader, it doesn’t make a difference whether people adore you or not. What makes a difference to a good leader is that people are inspired.

Good marketing inspires people

Inspiration is when you get that little chill that makes the hairs on your arms stand up. Inspiration is a great story that makes you want to live bigger. A smart business owner knows that her relevance is expanded when she sets bigger goals. How is she changing lives with her work? Does her work reach beyond the boundaries of products and services? Is her company changing the planet for the better somehow?

Social media is changing the landscape of business

People expect that businesses will connect with them on a personal level. As a marketer, understanding Taoist principles helps you to live more authentically. There is a natural attraction to authenticity. People intuitively connect with what’s real. There is a tremendous amount of junk being pushed out there by businesses these days. In the fight to be heard, companies are overwhelming consumers. Companies often do not recognize how they are coming across to the public in their everyday business activities. The person who understands Taoist leadership principles has a huge advantage.

Sometimes business leaders do not understand the responsibility of their language in everyday life. A good example is the recent discussion that went around the Internet concerning comments by Dan Cathy, CEO and President of Chick-fil-A CEO and President. There was some discussion about whether or not his speaking out about his personal beliefs is a reflection on the company. Of course it is. In the end, the company got a ton of bad press in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community. Now Cathy is making efforts to smooth over his mistakes by meeting with LGBT leaders to re-establish his credibility with them. All of this could have been prevented if he had recognized that he is a reflection on his company whenever he opens his mouth and behaved accordingly. Unfortunately, he learned this the hard way.

There is a huge responsibility that comes with leadership

As a business leader, what you carry out into the world is magnified. It is so important to recognize this responsibility and use it for good. Use it to inspire people to greatness. As a company, what is your brand? Are you being responsible with your brand? Bad choices go viral. When a company does some good in the world, it goes viral too.

Personal branding is about building a tribe of raving fans and putting your energy into creating value for them.” ~John Morgan, Brand Against the Machine


Chris Guillebeau is an example of someone who has been very successful with this form of leadership. There are a lot of people who have made very successful businesses for themselves by marketing in a way that is authentic and real. People love it! They love the juicy realness. People don’t want the fakey impersonal garbage anymore! People are tired of the garbage and tired of the false pretenses.

Good leadership means being proud of what you offer to the world

The cheapest thing is not the best quality thing. If you are putting out high quality products and services, you are not about being cheap and convenient. You are standing tall. This is what is really going to help countries who have lost a lot financially to get back on their feet. Small businesses are huge.

As Nanette referred to in her article, Traditional branding isn’t smart strategic marketing today, small business owners are the leaders of the economy in the U. S. right now and perhaps in the world. There is great power in that. As leaders of small communities that together make up this country, we have a responsibility to the world. It is so important for business leaders to recognize this and stand from that place of power. It is important for small business owners to team up and work together. Gathering people in your niche or community is what leadership is all about. Leadership is about pulling people together and empowering people to be great.

Leadership and marketing are intricately entwined when it comes to small business. A good leader gets the good deals because she knows everybody in town and everyone respects her and loves her because she is authentic. Today is a new day. What can you do today to make your company great?

Amy Putkonen is currently translating a version of the Tao Te Ching in the feminine voice on her blog at


20 responses to “The Tao of marketing”

    • Love the ‘more please’ comment, Alan. I suppose Amy will have to weigh in on that one – both as a future guest poster here and the host of her site :-). Of course, besides the daily dose I’m getting of the Tao from her delightful take on featured verse, it’s been almost 25 years since I’ve delved into the text. Guess it’s time to add this book back to my rather large library (so many staples disappear each year with ‘borrows’) to examine it with, hopefully more wisdom, and certainly a brain that’s feeling like it needs to be partially emptied to add more. Hmmmm – sounds like I need a bigger dose of Tao in my day :-).

      • I loved doing this with you, Nanette. For me, writing this post really opened some doors. There is so much to say on this topic! My plan is ultimately to publish my own book, so I hope that mine will make it into your library! 🙂 (I might need some help with my grammar, though!)

  1. Thanks for the great opportunity here, Nanette! It was fun to put this together and it made me realize that marketing is really so much about leadership and living big. You are an inspiration.

    • Leadership is a tough job. I think that we have some excellent leaders – they just aren’t the ones making the spotlight! lol…Our excellent leaders are the ones who are doing the work, day in and day out, but not expecting to be hailed as the next best thing to sliced bread so we don’t hear about them. YOU are a great leader, Julia. You come out every day and help people to push past their self-inflicted limitations. You find great things to inspire us. Thanks for stopping by and for being part of the conversation.

    • Thanks for stopping in and commenting, Julia. I second Amy’s comment on leaders and leadership (in fact, I even wrote a blog post about it :-)). Your focus on use and future employment issues is a great example for others to emulate. One at a time, we can literally change the world.

  2. Great article. I love the part about the responsibility leaders have. It’s a great reminder about being clear on what we put out in words, actions, etc. I’m all for being real!

    • Nice to see you here, Michele. Amy has some great perspectives, doesn’t she? Hopefully, she’ll agree to come back here as a guest poster again. I enjoyed reading your latest post on using Pinterest as a vision board, and left a comment.

  3. Beautifully said Amy and lovely comments from others to go along with it. I liked “What makes a difference to a good leader is that people are inspired.” Several of my most recent posts have been about inspiring others.
    People do respect those who are genuine with them. Thanks (and thanks to Nanette for having you as a guest). ~Debra

  4. Amy I Loved your article on marketing and the Tao. It’s a topic I’ve not thought about. I agree that marketers would find great value in working within its context. 

    Marketing is about awareness since new products and services are secrets to the buying public. As such  marketers are tasked with creating this reality in the publics mind.  There are a couple paths they could take. For example they could force awareness into the buyer through incessant propaganda. Like rushing water, it wears away the granite.   Or they could have the buyer discover seductively how this new thing will benefit their lives, where in the end they say “we shop wisely” . Both of these paths work.  Neither is more moral than the other. Both are the Tao, as the Tao teaches, you can’t have long without short, high without low. Both are  manifestations of the same thing, creating awareness, making the unknown, known. 

    That is the first  task of the marketer. Making the unknown known.  Getting them to buy, now that’s a sales job. I wonder if there is a blog in the Tao Te Ching of sales anywhere? Hmmmmmm. 

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