Why you need to begin marketing months before selling anything

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I talk to a lot of emerging entrepreneurs who have the view that marketing starts when you have a completed website, clear offer, snappy elevator speech and crisp business cards.

This assumes:

  • Marketing is only about selling services
  • You must have your brand (and offers) nailed before you can go to a networking event
  • You can know the right offers to create without talking to ideal prospective clients

I see marketing differently.

Marketing is about:

  • Connecting with people you are interested in working with and listening intently to what they care about, and what specific problems they have. My friend Ramit Sethi is pathological about his research — he spends a huge amount of time and resources learning about the needs of his customers before developing offers.
  • Hanging out in many different environments, in person and online, and noticing the kind of people you really enjoy talking with and helping
  • Carefully collecting samples of competitor services so you can analyze both what is being offered in the market, and what is lacking in the market
  • Once you have a good idea what your market needs, what you want to offer them and how your service or product stands out above the others, you can make your marketing plan and do things like nail your website copy, have a snappy elevator speech, and amp up your social media efforts

So if you are holding back from going to networking events, attending conferences or having conversations online until your services are set in stone, I encourage you to rethink your marketing strategy.


  • Order a simple biz card from moo.com with your name, email address and phone number
  • If you must have a website, it can be this simple. http://brianwong.me/
  • Get out there and listen, listen, listen

Marketing works in seasons. Seeds you plant today will bloom in many months, or sometimes many years.

Do not wait until you have to eat to market your services. You will go hungry.

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16 Responses to “Why you need to begin marketing months before selling anything”

  1. A friend/client told me the litmus test behind those who succeed and fail these days is in the marketing. Someone can have a great product or wonderful customer service, but if the marketing is not happening, it doesn’t matter how great the product or service is.

    This reminds me of the flap between VHS and BETA video formats. People felt BETA was better but the proponents of VHS had better marketing and deeper pockets.

    I’m also reminded of the world’s fastest growing restaurant chain. They’re not known for the best food but they are known for having the best locations and excellent marketing

  2. Jason says:

    One lesson I quickly learned after starting my web business was that marketing was much more difficult than creating my website. Anyone can create a great looking website with today’s online website builders (eg easywebsitebuilders.net), but without an effective marketing plan your website and your business will go nowhere. You have to consider very carefully how you will get the word out about your product or service. If you can’t figure this out, don’t bother starting a business at all.

  3. There’s a solid truth here.

    The “millionaire formula” is:
    1. FOWTW – find out what they want
    2. GOGI – go out and get it
    3. GITT – give it to them.

    It’s a straightforward 1-2-3 kind of thing, but our natural inclination is to:
    1. GAI – get an “inspiration” and
    2. Skip to 3.

  4. Robert Heard says:

    This is so true, I can’t help but smile as I read your article. I have just started my own business and have been contemplating the same internal struggles – do I get all my ducks in a row first or just get out there and see what happens? As a marketing professional my head knows the right answer and what I would advise my clients, but when it’s your own business the temptation is to get a “nice shiny website” ready first. In my instance, I have let the head rule the heart and I am participating in networking events (offline/online)whilst refining my value proposition. If you start your conversations with known contacts and networks then they will be forgiving if you haven’t quite got the “elevator speech” right just yet.

  5. […] that you start a buzz about your project or product months before youโ€™re ready to launch. Read Why You Need to Begin Marketing Months Before Selling Anything to get the whole […]

  6. I know a lot of people who really don’t know how to summarize their product or themselves. Doing this advance marketing lets us create and/or change a product or service before it becomes our investment prohibits a change.

  7. It is hard to know what approach to take. I think I agree with Kate Courageous. We started out really ‘softly’. Got people trying our product. Then when the great results started pouring in, we got a bit more intentional.

  8. Alison says:

    I wrote an article that is a personal narrative about my experience with this situation that should be published later this month. I was stuck in the can’t-market-without-an-audience/can’t-have-an-audience-without-marketing loop myself and I was terrified of speaking with people from a position of weakness. Wasn’t I supposed to be the expert? But, I sucked it up and made myself do it, and the rewards were 1000x worth it. I hope my story encourages other people to face their fears and TALK to people. I’ll come back and link to the article once it is published.

  9. I learned this lesson the hard way, when I jumped into the online market in 2009 and thought that all I needed to do was announce a new e-course, e-book, coaching service, etc., and saw that my results were meager. At first I wondered if it was my offering, but I was confused because I kept getting great feedback from the people I was working with. I finally learned that when someone is new to the online world, and they don’t have a lot of subscribers or traffic, it just takes more time to get something launched–in essence, to market something. When I started giving 2-3 months of lead time to launch something, with what I call a “soft launch” that preceded 3-4 weeks of intensive pre-launch efforts before launch day, I saw a lot more success. I’ve also learned that the more of a time or money commitment it is, the more time one needs to market it–so if I’m promoting a retreat, I’ll give that 6 months lead time. The question with these longer lead times always keeps coming back to–how to balance the promotion of something out with continuing to deliver great resources for readers and visitors. There’s a delicate balance between making people aware and cramming a new product down their throats. ๐Ÿ˜‰ That’s definitely a learning curve for new entrepreneurs as well.

  10. […] in news this morning: Why You Need to Begin Marketing Months Before Selling Anything. Marketing is a huge part of becoming a successful business no matter whether you’re a small […]

  11. Shawna says:

    I’m still working out what I want to do to ultimately get myself out of my cube, but one of my first steps was to register my domain name and set up a simple page. Now I use it as a splash page and modify it as needed with links to things I’m working on – currently a bunch of photography-related stuff. It’s very versatile.

    In the future, when I build my portfolio elsewhere I can just change the link. Or if I get some writing or other creative enterprise going I can just add a word and link.

    It’s not a high-powered business site, but it’s serving its purpose for now.

  12. It is difficult for me to contemplate establishing a business prior to assessing the marketing. The two go hand in hand – no market, no business, no matter how great the idea.

    • Pamela says:

      I so agree David! That is why I have so many conversations with new entrepreneurs who think they have to have a final biz idea before consulting with customers.

  13. Shawn Tuttle says:

    One change that has helped me get over my angst around marketing has been to basically replace the word ‘marketing’ with ‘education’. I had been thinking of it in terms of sharing info with others, but in light of your post, it’s clearly my education, too.

  14. Ummmm….I think I did this a little backwards.:)

    • Pamela says:

      Well Cheryl, now you know! You can see what I mean, right? The good thing is that you have been planting tons of seeds these past few months, so they will start to sprout soon! ๐Ÿ™‚