Top Experts Dish with their Best Kept Marketing Secrets

I asked some of the world’s top marketers, small business experts and bloggers one short and sweet question:

“Please share one of your best kept marketing secrets”

Without further ado, here are their marketing secrets:



– Seth Godin, “Make promises and keep them. So obvious, it’s become a secret.”

– Jackie Huba, Church of the Customer — “Attracting is the new selling. It is the least-visible, and least-examined principle behind most companies today that are growing quickly through word of mouth.”

– Jonathan Fields, Awake at the Wheel “Decide whether you want to feed your ego or your family. Sexy, expensive image-building campaigns might win your ad-firm a Clio, but, with rare exceptions they don’t put money in your bank or food on your table … at least at the level small businesses can afford. So, drive your branding efforts with free PR in the early days and spend your money on measurable direct-response marketing that delivers X dollars of revenue for every dollar spent on marketing.”

– Toby Bloomberg, Diva Marketing “Forget what your mama or your preacher taught you. The Golden Rule does NOT work for developing marketing strategy. Your customers do not want to be treated “as you would like to be treated.” In understanding your customers you might discover that their values, needs and expectations differ from yours. New Golden Rule For Marketers: Do Unto Your Customers As THEY Would Like To Be Treated.”

– Scott Shane, Author of “Illusions of Entrepreneurship” — “The data show that most entrepreneurs compete on price, but doing this leads companies to perform worse. New companies are better off competing on service, quality or some other dimension.”

– Tim Berry, Planning Startups Stories “One of the most expensive myths in marketing is that lower price produces higher volume. That might be true for coal or gasoline, but not for most businesses. Lower price means, well, ask yourself: do you always eat at the lowest price restaurant? Buy the lowest price clothes? Do you drive the lowest priced car? Pricing is your best statement of value.”

– Andy Birol, Author of “The 5 Catalysts to 7 Figure Growth” — “In striving to please their customers, too many marketers believe they must exceed expectations. Better yet, marketers should just ask and listen, for what they will learn and hear is often a different, more modest need, which when fulfilled, will profitably delight the customer.”

– Drew McClellan, Drew’s Marketing Minute “Do Less. One of the most tempting aspects of marketing is the veritable smorgasbord of different marketing tactics that you can toss into a marketing plan. It’s almost overwhelming.

Many marketing professionals make the very understandable mistake of believing that more is better. But they’re wrong.

You will be vastly more successful if you do less, but do them better. Pick 3-4 marketing tactics that you think are really going to be valued by your audience and drive the behavior/action you’re looking for. Then, figure out how you can do them in an extraordinary way.

100% consistency. 100% relevancy. Do less. But do them better.”

Communicating your message the right way


– Scott Ginsberg, That Guy with the Name Tag “Don’t have a business card. Have a philosophy card. In order to do so, ask yourself the question, ‘If everybody did exactly what I said, what would the world look like?’ Come up with 5-10 answers, then print them on a nice, thick, laminated card. Include your contact info, picture, branding, etc. Give it to EVERYBODY. It will be the only card they will not throw away. This marketing tool has made me well over $50,000 in new business.”

– Brian Moran, Publisher, Small Business Edge “LESS IS MORE: In today’s cluttered world, your customers are being bombarded with thousands of messages every day. In order to rise above the noise level, you need to capture their attention immediately and then hold it while giving them your pitch. You must be able to deliver your message, if necessary, in 25 words or less. Include your main feature and the main benefit in the message. If you hook the potential customer, they will gladly ask you for more information.”

– Yvonne DiVita, WME Books — “The best, very best marketing secret I have is: Show enthusiasm. I blog, I attend networking events offline, I speak, I personally answer 95% of the email I get … and in all of that I present a focused, happy, enthusiastic face to whomever I’m speaking to. I do not have to feign enthusiasm because I am truly excited about people. What they’re doing, how they’re doing it, and why they’re doing it. And I take more business cards than I give – the better to connect with a personal note later on. I’m fascinated and eager hear about new businesses or products.

This doesn’t bring me business, and it isn’t intended to. It’s intended to validate the listener’s idea – and sometimes offer atidbit of advice. Because of this, people remember me. And they send me referrals. Most of my business is achieved via referrals. I do not have to spend a lot of cash on marketing – because my best marketing tool is my own enthusiasm for the people I meet. It’s memorable – and it creates word of mouth better than anything else I do.”

– Siamak Taghaddos, GotVMail Communications — “People don’t like to be sold. If they did, they would spend all their free time in car dealerships. Instead, people want to be informed, they want to be educated. You’ll find your best customers are those you educate about your product or service and who then decide to purchase it because it is a good fit for them.

Prospects who buy your product/service but are not educated about your offering will be disappointed. They will not be return customers. Worse, they will tell others how they got ‘sold’ by you. In the Internet age, this can quickly be very destructive to your business.”

– Michael Port, Author of “Book Yourself Solid” — “All sales start with a simple conversation. It may be a conversation between you and a potential client or customer, between one of your clients and a potential referral, or between one of your colleagues and a potential referral. An effective sales cycle is based on turning these simple conversations into relationships of trust with your potential clients over time. We know that people buy from those they like and trust. But as Sir Winston Churchill once said, ‘It is a mistake to look too far ahead. Only one link in the chain of destiny can be handled at a time.'”

– John Battelle, Searchblog “The best kept secret in marketing is to invest your time in eliciting and responding to your customer’s feedback, even if it’s negative. It’s the secret to building a network of evangelists who keep on giving back to your business ….”

Online marketing


– John Jantsch, Duct Tape Marketing “Become a journalist – no, I’m not really suggesting that you join the staff of some publication, but the acceptance of new media tools like blogs and podcasts has turned the marketing tables – so take advantage of the allure of areporter and start a blog and podcast and request interviews with industry leaders, community leaders, authors and maybe even your biggest prospects. Instead of asking for a meeting to demonstrate your product, ask to feature your prospect in your next blog or podcast episode. You will automatically change your status in their eyes, increase your role as an expert and create great content for your marketing materials.”

– Yaro Starak, Entrepreneurs Journey “There’s something I do that very few other bloggers do – build an email list. My secret tip isn’t to build a list though — that’s pretty obvious to anyone who markets online. It’s how you use your list and your blog together that is my secret.

Here’s one simple example. I write product reviews to my blog now and then. I write a solid review, with my honest opinion and what I think is good and bad about the product after using it. I post the article to my blog and usually make afew affiliate sales as a result.

I then write a short email to my list designed to bring people to the review and add the email to my autoresponder sequence. From that point forward at some point everyone who joins my list eventually receives the email and visits the review. This ensures I have a steady stream of traffic to that review, even long after it is hidden in my blog archives AND I continue to make affiliate sales.

This is a formula for passive income from just writing one blog article and one email, though of course you want to do it again and again with new products to multiply your earnings. Good luck!”

– Matt McGee, Small Business SEM “SEO is just like traditional marketing. In the “real world,” you want to create a great product and get people talking about it. Online, you want to create great content and get people linking to it. Same theory, and often the same techniques. Develop relationships with journalists offline; do the same with bloggers online. Engage with customers offline; engage in social communities online. Give people something to talk about (and link to), join the conversation, and you’re on the road to SEO success.”

– Liz Strauss, Successful Blog — “The best promotion is to promote other people. Promote your customers, their friends, and yours. Always be looking for what other folks do well and be the first to talk about it. Be the first to point people in their direction. There’s no better way to show that you’re a generous team player, a great judge of skill and character, and completely confident about the work that you do.”

– Maki, Editor, Dosh Dosh — “Timeliness is my marketing secret. A lot of marketers talk about networking with influencers and successfully building trust with their audience in order to evoke widespread brand adoption. While the developing of trust indicators are important, I think some of the most successful online marketing is done as a response towards current affairs, events and news. The best marketing advice I have is to be timely, to react to socio-cultural feedback and then capitalize on it by co-opting the incident/subculture’s language or frame.

Newspapers are publicity manufacturers. Monitor them closely because what your customer or audience reads influences their opinions. Observe their feedback. Market your business by riffing off and building upon the natural flow of news. Timeliness is an opportunistic and powerful way to not only build relevance but demonstrate that your business is in tune with the concerns of the community.”

– Mack Collier, The Viral Garden “Success in blogging is dependent upon having a built-in direct benefit to others. For example, many companies want to approach blogging as a way to sell products to customers. But blogs don’t work well as a direct-selling channel. The key is to first provide a benefit to readers by creating content and community that offers them value. By giving readers a direct benefit, the company then benefits indirectly by seeing sales increase as a   result of their blogging efforts. But if the company instead tries to directly promote themselves, readers will see no value in this, and the blog will die.”

– Guy Kawasaki, Truemors — “Do the opposite of what bloggers think you should do.”

Marketing through online social media


– Dharmesh Shah, Hubspot “The power of second-order Internet Marketing: Small businesses should consider the positive marketing impact of “second order” effects in Internet marketing. A second-order effect is when you do not promote yourself directly, but help promote others who have mentioned you, linked to you or referenced an idea or concept that you agree with. The simplest example is when a blogger mentions your business in an article they write (even if you are mentioned only incidentally). If you like the article, you should help promote the article in the social media sites (Digg, StumbleUpon, etc.). This is better than trying to promote yourself and can often create significant traffic, PR and marketing good-will.”

– Brent Leary, Host of Technology for Business $ake Radio “Promote your book, blog, podcast series or business by using LinkedIn Answers. No, I’m not talking about spamming LinkedIn. Here’s what you do: Ask for opinions on a particular topic and link back to your blog, etc. in LinkedIn Answers. Some people will also be intrigued enough to visit your blog, investigate your book, subscribe to your podcast — they will check out whatever your question is in connection with.

Beyond that, if you quote some of the answers you receive (on your blog or use them in a radio interview or in an article you write for publication) then you could get an additional viral effect. Because those who are quoted may pass around the link that refers to them, to their friends, colleagues and family.

I did this when I interviewed Don Tapscott about his book Wikinomics. On LinkedIn Answers, in advance of the show, I asked if anyone had a question they wanted me to ask Don. I got a number of comments and used one of the reader-suggested questions in my radio show, linking to it from the show page. That reader later sent me an email saying he had passed the show link to others and also wrote his own blog entry linking to the show. And show listeners got the benefit of hearing a question that they themselves might have wanted to ask a famous author.”

– Jennifer Laycock, Editor, Search Engine Guide“One of the least utilized social media sites for subtle marketing is

I think people picture Flickr as just another place to store their images. In reality, Flickr is filled with vibrant communities of highly engaged users. There’s a discussion and photo sharing group for nearly any topic you can think of. Now it’s easy to write that off and say “there are discussion groups everywhere” but that would be a mistake. You see the discussion groups at Flickr are made up of people who not only talk about these topics, but care enough about them to take pictures and upload those pictures as well. That means the members of a Flickr group tend to be more fanatical about their topic than your average discussion board member.

There are several great ways to leverage Flickr.

1.) You can join a group and post in the discussion threads to establish yourself as an expert. This will lead people back to your profile where you can easily promote your web site, blog, etc.

2.) You can geotag your images. Flickr is owned by Yahoo!, so in my opinion, it’s only a matter of time until Flickr’s geotagged images get meshed with Yahoo Travel. Anyone who owns a tourist destination would be crazy not to be uploading geotagged photos of their hotels, grounds, nearby hiking trails or any other scenic spot.

3.) You can add descriptions, tags and even in-picture captions to your photos. You can also add links. This creates new links from a valued site and drives direct traffic to your site. The key here is to make sure you aren’t adding links to more than 10 or 15% of your photos. As with any social community, you HAVE to add more value than you pull.

4.) You can build relationships with other passionate bloggers in your niche. I’ve found Flickr can really fast track your attempts to network. When you’re talking to people via Flickr with an avatar and a photo it’s much easier to stand out.

The key here is that Flickr is only going to work for companies who have a visual component. Landscapers, gardeners, custom car detailers, chefs, salons, tourist spots ….”

And, of course, your humble author’s own tip:

– Anita Campbell, Small Business Trends “This is a tip for those of you who run blogs and online publications: Treat PR people with respect.

(1) PR people bring news your community will value and save you the time of finding it on your own. I’m not suggesting you regurgitate press releases word for word. Instead, use the release only as a starting point. Gather additional facts. Then write it YOUR way.

(2) PR reps will bring you scoops and exclusives. PR reps who come to trust you will send you news early, under “embargo.” They’ll also make company executives available for interviews.

(3) PR reps will circulate your article about their client on email distribution lists and on company intranets. Sometimes you’ll get linked back from the Press section of the client’s site. This can drive considerable traffic. (Never pander to get links. Write objectively and only about subjects of value to your audience — you’ll still get links AND preserve your self-respect.)

(4) Don’t lose your temper in public on your blog at some inexperienced PR rep who sent an awkward email pitch. Just hit ‘delete.’ There’s no upside to making public enemies of PR firms.”

Finally, I want to highlight one particular secret, from Ivana Taylor. Ivana was my “partner in crime” in this roundup. She used her contacts in the marketing field to reach out to many of those who contributed, and her help was invaluable (thank you, Ivana!). Here is Ivana Taylor’s closely guarded marketing secret:

– Ivana Taylor, Strategy Stew “Target those markets and customers that you love that love you back. In other words don’t work with jerks or people you don’t like. There are enough customers out there for everyone and the ones that love you value what you do and see so much value that working with you is literally priceless. The first step in doing this is knowing your strengths and special gifts that make you irresistible to your target audience. The next step is to love them enough to know what they want and then just give it to them lovingly and from the heart.”

share your marketing ideas


Are you are ready to share one of your own best-kept marketing secrets? (C’mon, we’re just asking for one – you don’t have to give up ALL your secrets.) We want to hear from you in the comments below. Tell us one of your marketing secrets that has worked well for you in business.

At the end of February we will take YOUR contributions from the comments and add them with the comments above. We will combine 100 of the best tips into a downloadable PDF document which you can use on your blog or website for a resource for your clients and readers; or print the document off for your marketing kit when you call on prospects. This is a great opportunity to increase your marketing visibility by being included in this document. So share your marketing tip!

Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.