Want to Be Great at Marketing? Read these books…

Marilyn Wo

Books alone do not make you successful, but they sure bring you closer to your goals.

With my goal of removing myself from my business, exiting the world of freelancing to becoming an entrepreneur, mastering sales and marketing is key.

Instead of always relying on referrals that are hardly something I can control, I knew I have to get better at getting visibility.

This article chronicles lessons I’ve learned from reading books and some of my reflections on my wrong view of thinking.

Take this as a mini journal of sales and marketing “good reads”.

I used to think that marketing is only about promoting and selling what my business does. Boy was I dead wrong.

Sales and marketing is about building trust with as many people as I wish to work with.

If you can relate and want to find out more, read on:

The Ultimate Sales Machine: Turbocharge Your Business with Relentless Focus on 12 Key Strategies by Chet Holmes

Chet Holmes published this book in 2008, and I got to know about it in 2014.

But I read it only just recently because it says “sales machine” and at that time, I thought it’s not something I needed in my business.

At that time, regular clients were recommending my service to their friends and clients and my biggest mistake was to think that I don’t need sales in my strategy.

Although now that I’ve read it, it’s a big regret that I did not read it much earlier.

The takeaways from this book?

See the screenshot below with the underlined areas. The one in pink was the game changer for me and my business:

The Ultimate Sales Machine: Turbocharge Your Business with Relentless Focus on 12 Key Strategies by Chet Holmes

How important could your product be if you go away after a single rejection or two? — Chet Holmes

In the early days, when people tell me they don’t need my service, I stopped contacting them altogether, thinking that I would be a nuisance by reaching out again.

Worst still, I stopped selling to others as well, thinking that if they don’t need it, the rest also think the same way.

Why should I bother to try selling to find myself falling flat in my face and feel bad by the multiple rejections?

When I came across this question, it prompted me to see selling my design service as making the life of others better than before I existed.

In this way, I don’t see myself as someone asking for money in exchange for something that people don’t want.

Instead, I’m offering something that serves a purpose, hence it will help others by being persistently reminding them about my service.

Even with a rejection, I can counter offer something free, like a regular newsletter that delivers useful stuff that can help their business and life.

I should have continued the conversation, not to expect something in return, but keep checking in with them on the problem I know they have.

The Brain Audit: Why Customers Buy (and Why They Don’t) by Sean D’Souza

Focus on the Problem , Not the Solution

Reminding people of their problems before the solution is one of the least known business building strategies I see around.

Somehow it’s more popular for all startups to promote their ideas and solutions more than anything else.

Why talk about the problem? Isn’t this a negative way to sell something? Would this turn the customer off?

Let’s look at this another way.

It’s great that you’ve found a solution to a problem. But have you realised, when you try to sell your product or service, most people won’t buy although it proves that it helps them.


Because selling them the solution first is showing them too many steps ahead of what they should know first.

Without feeling the pain, they don’t see the reason to spend the money at that point in time.

The only way to make them pass you their cash willingly is if you are able to pinpoint a problem that they have been experiencing and then present the solution to eliminate this problem.

Check out the snippet I’ve bookmarked from the book here (focus on the highlighted areas):

The Brain Audit: Why Customers Buy (and Why They Don’t) by Sean D’Souza

You see, most people may not be facing the problem when you approach them.

They may have been banging their head against the wall last week and today when you approach them to sell them the solution, they may have forgotten they were trying to solve it last week.

As Sean D’Souza mention says, bring the hurt back by reminding them the problem they were facing first, keep on rubbing the salt to the wound, do not give the medication first.

They wouldn’t want to take any medicine if there’s no problem.

This is Marketing by Seth Godin

There’s no reason to talk about a new kind of chocolate you really like. It doesn’t make your life better if others eat it. On the other hand, you spend a lot of time telling people about Snapchat or Instagram or Twitter, because if your friends followed you, your life would improve. — Seth Godin

Seth Godin struck a chord here.

He’s right.

Facebook and Instagram did not just pop up in my mind when they were launched, nor did I click on an advertisement to sign up for them.

I did not see the reason to be part of them.

I remember in the early days of Instagram, a few of my friends loved searching for latest apps and were willing to spend time downloading apps.

One of them happened to be Instagram.

Thing is, they couldn’t do anything with Instagram without adding friends because even if they uploaded their photos, there was nobody for them to show off to.

The next thing they did during one of our meet ups was to start nudging friends like me to download Instagram.

As what Seth Godin explains, it takes the early adopters to kind of push the masses to be part of the network.

See underlined text:

This is Marketing by Seth Godin

That said, we can’t pray that these early adopters will pick up our product or service without doing anything.

We need to create something that gives these early adopters the incentive that’s huge enough to spread the idea to the masses such that “it will make their lives better”.

Magnetic Marketing: How To Attract A Flood Of New Customers That Pay, Stay, and Refer by Dan Kennedy

You want to only be where your who is and then you want to go EVERYWHERE they are. — Dan Kennedy

If you are constantly searching for answers online, it’s not new to you that there are many self-made marketing gurus claiming that Linkedin will be the next big platform, be good on it and you will succeed.

There are also people saying everyone is on Instagram and that’s where you should be whether your business is B2B or B2C.

Truth is, there’s no one platform that is the best for everyone, and hence the reason why there are many platforms created to provide different functions.

In this book, I’ve highlighted Dan Kennedy’s tips on what you should do:

Magnetic Marketing: How To Attract A Flood Of New Customers That Pay, Stay, and Refer by Dan Kennedy

You can put yourself on Twitter and it will still work for you these days.

Why? Is it because of how the platform works?

Yes, but for the most part, not really.

It works because most likely your target audience who need your solution probably opens up Twitter and spends time on it every other day.

I’m on Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and now Instagram. Experience taught me that all platforms work well.

Most importantly, I should do what works best for my niche.

That is to be consistently on the ones that already have more than enough people raising the problems that I have the solutions to help with.

If the community has already existed all the better.

I learned that there are so many platforms nowadays, I find myself everywhere, spreading myself thin, getting distracted from what matter most:

  • To better serve as many people as possible in the shortest time within my niche — it’s the people I want to help, not the platform
  • To deep dive into what exactly are the problems the people from my niche are facing
  • To understand what I can provide them that helps rather than just to gain their attention, get on the phone or win a sale

The platform is not the secret to success, it’s merely the place to go to take action — Just by being everywhere does not take me anywhere.

Marketing: A Love Story: How to Matter to Your Customers By Bernadette Jiwa

What your competition is doing is not the problem, but where you place your focus determines your success.

I’ve been guilty of checking out what other graphic design businesses have been doing.

Thinking that if they are doing well because they do this, then this must be the secret to their exploding sales.

Or, if they are doing well, it must be because of the copy they use on their website.

To a certain degree these could be true, but these are just the tip of the iceberg.

In the past, I shadowed all that my competitors do for sometime. Then come a time when I realised, why do I do all that when my competitor is already there doing it?

Why did I even exist?

Why will anyone care about my offers when someone else is more popular and offering the exact same things?

The highlighted areas in this book are the trigger points to my mindset shift:

Marketing: A Love Story: How to Matter to Your Customers By Bernadette Jiwa

Yes, I was obsessed with my competition.

Yet, most of the answers should come from my customers.

Will working with me solve their problem?

If they can’t see that it will solve their problem, how should I craft my message to help them get clear on what they should buy and make the right choice?

While my competitors have customers who need quick graphic designs done for their marketing collaterals, they may not be looking for speed or designs.

They may be looking for designers who have a better working process to create designs that work.

They may be looking for designers to help them save time and effort.

They may be looking for designers to do everything for them.

All “Done For You” rather than to do it themselves or DIY.

Point is to focus on my customers and find out “What do they want”, not what works for my competitors.

What Have You Learned?

In summary, marketing is about:

  1. Keep the conversations going
  2. Problems first than solutions
  3. Use network effect
  4. Who first than Where
  5. Build trust rather than sell things

Know any great marketing books? Feel free to recommend :)


Marilyn Wo

Written by

Writing about how to build a design as a service business like MeetAnders.com • Learning to go from freelance designer to entrepreneur at MarilynWo.com

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade