How the Most Successful Businesses Think About Marketing


Customers are tired of being interrupted with forceful sales pitches and irrelevant product offers. Whether they’re in line at the grocery store, browsing the shelves at Nordstrom, or scrolling through Facebook, it doesn’t matter. Everyone hates being interrupted and no one likes being sold to.

To be successful in online business today, entrepreneurs and business leaders need to shift their thinking from direct marketing to relationship marketing, or what many call content marketing.

Dale Partridge, founder of Startup Camp, encourages folks to think about their sales cycle like a dating relationship. For example, imagine that you met someone for the first time, and on the first date, you asked them to marry you. Would that be considered inappropriate? You bet!

What if, instead of asking them to marry you on the first date, you spend the next six-months building the relationship. You have the chance to learn more about them, and they have the chance to learn more about you without feeling rushed into anything. This scenario is highly appropriate, and it’s exactly what today’s customers are looking for.

Don’t be that guy

What most companies are doing today is making inappropriate asks for people to buy their product to quickly. People are relational, and consequently the tell-and-sell approach often leads to burned bridges and damaged relationships. That’s exactly why 70% of people say they’d rather date you, or learn about your products and services through content marketing than traditional advertising.

If all you focus on this year is keeping valuable content at the center of your marketing strategy, I guarantee you’ll see a dramatic increase in business. Here are three counterintuitive, yet smart ways to do this in your business.

Stop selling, start educating

When my first blog launched in September 2014, I followed the footprint of many other bloggers by sharing content that was focused on me and my brand. Hard pitches for affiliate products ran side-by-side with inspirational roundups and early career insights. I was only focused on me and my business—not my customer—and my marketing wasn’t helpful to anybody.In late 2015, I shifted the focus onto my audience. Instead of trying to draw in customers by shouting my interests from the rooftops, I started thinking of ways I could bring value to the very people I wanted to book my consulting services. I committed to writing for my ideal customer by answering some of the biggest questions small business owners have about growing and marketing their business. In other words, I started looking to date the person I’d like to marry.

By addressing your ideal customer's main pain points, you’re able to provide valuable to them right away, answer questions that keep them up at night, as well as answer the questions they have about your business. You’re also able to create a sense of authority and reputation in the marketplace. And the best part, you don’t have to feel like a salesperson!

When it comes time for your ideal customer to purchase your services, you knock-out the competition because you’re able to market and sell in a way that doesn’t make your customer feel sold to or pressured.

As a case study, let’s look at NewsCred’s marketing and sales strategy.

Case Study: NewsCred

NewsCred is a multi-million dollar organization that offers a world class content marketing platform. They also provide provide strategy and consulting services to enterprise organizations looking to take their content marketing to the next level.

Through research on their own platform, NewsCred has found that consumers would rather rather self-educate and do their own research through content marketing before thinking about making a purchase, let alone talking to anyone about it.. They recently reported that customers who read the NewsCred blog have helped them make huge advances in their overall ROI. Customers that read the NewsCred blog:

  • Have a renewal rate that is 41% higher than that of their overall client base

  • Are 33% more likely to be upsold

  • Pay 24% more in MRR (monthly recurring revenue) than the average client

Watch a full presentation on this topic by Amber van Moessner, Managing Editor at Newscred, at Turing Festival: Full Stack Marketing 2015.

From experience, NewsCred knows that the best way to grow their business is to educate their customers by addressing their pain points and answering questions their questions about both the problem and the solution

When you stop stop selling and start educating your customers, you’ll be able to create authority for your brand and increase revenue without the pressure of a sale.

Promote content, not products or services

Most marketers get this wrong. In fact, this is the biggest mistake I’ve seen in the last few years. If you want to increase leads and sales, stop promoting products or services and start promoting content that answers your customers questions.

It may be counterintuitive, but promoting content instead of products is nothing new. In fact, it’s the oldest trick in the book.

The Furrow

John Deere pioneered this marketing strategy over a century ago when they released their print media publication, The Furrow. Born generations before the term “content marketing” was coined, it has been a legendary example of an innovative content marketing machine. The Furrows’ sole purpose is to educate agricultural consumers on industry trends, and more importantly, the John Deere brand.

According to Kate Gardiner in The Content Strategist, “The Furrow‘s first issue was printed in 1895, and its popularity quickly snowballed; circulation grew to reach more than 4 million consumers at its peak in 1912.”

“Today, the magazine reaches about 570,000 consumers in the U.S. and Canada, and about 2 million globally, through the same legacy network of John Deere dealers that distributed the original magazine,” continued Gardiner.

The Furrow’s current publications manager David Jones, told Gardiner, “I can’t say how much we spend every year on the magazine today, but I can say that we spend a ton of money on the content—and it makes up for the higher double digits of our budget.” But, for some reason, Jones still has a job and the publication is still widely distributed. John Deere has spent over a century promoting content instead of products and they’re still reaping the benefit—cash.


Let’s go back and take a brief look at social media advertising of NewsCred. After a brief look at their Facebook page and Twitter page, it only takes a few seconds to notice that all they’re promoting is content. They’re not selling what they made, they’re sharing what they know.

For example, take a look at this Twitter advertisement.

They’re not focused on driving sales NOW, they’re looking to share what they know to build a relationship with their consumer so that when they time comes to buy, it’s an obvious decision. They understand clearly that the more content of yours that someone consumes, the more likely they are to buy from you.

Nuture the relationship

When you focus on educating your target audience and promoting content, not products, you’re going to quickly deepen the relationship between yourself and your customer.

Start deepening relationships with your ideal customer by introducing yourself through intentional content that interests them. Continue to court and woo them by providing more content and you’ll become a valuable resource in their lives.

The most successful business leaders start dating their customer and building the relationship before they ask for anything. They focus on building a relationship with their customer through content marketing, and when time comes to buy, they’ll choose you.