Hustle your marketing with this canvas.

Marketing is fucking easy. Or at least, the brainstorming is.

Marketing is the process of introducing your target demographic to your product. It’s as simple as that. So how does that happen? Through a lot of different ways, many of them unique to individual products, market places and people.

I’ve been working in this field for close to 10 years now. I have worked with global companies, small startups, punk bands, a skateboarding company, government offices and a dude who I’m 80% sure was in the Russian mafia.

In that time, I've learned that marketing is fucking easy.

In that time, I’ve learned that no matter what you’re marketing or where, you need to define the same information and lessons, or you will not succeed. This applies if you’re a startup, an artist, a WordPress dev house or a gorecore metal band.

  1. What is your product?
  2. What are its marketable elements?
  3. Based on that, what is your key message?
  4. Who is your target audience?
  5. Who are their influencers?
  6. What free channels do you have access to?
  7. What paid channels do you have access to?
  8. What are your goals?
  9. What are your first three phases?

I’ve put this into a canvas that I use regularly.

It’s inspired by the lean startup canvas. I know this isn’t an original idea, I’m certainly not claiming to have invented it. There’s other marketing canvases out there.

But I did make this one, and I’ve found it works every time. It gets the people I work with thinking about the direction of their marketing and establishes a high level plan.

This isn’t a total marketing plan. It’s definitely a bird’s eye view, intended to be used as the starting point, before you further develop and define what you’re doing. For many people, the initial brainstorming around their marketing never happens, or it doesn’t go anywhere. Try this instead.

Looks simple enough, right?

When I work with a new project, going through this canvas is my first step.

Let me walk you through it. I’m going to invent a fictional startup called Learnable. Let’s say Learnable offers a monthly newsletter that curates a lesson plan to teach subscribers something new every month, completely free.

1. So we’re going to start with the Product and Unique Marketable Elements squares:

You are going to have to forgive my appalling handwriting. It’s never been a strong point of mine.

So this is the first section. You’ll hopefully have thought about this already, when you were laying the initial plans for whatever you’re doing. We’ve defined the product:

Emails that compile lesson plans based on public blogs and videos

…but we’ve also gone ahead and defined what about the product is unique, marketable, a hook:

Free, high quality curated content, wide range of lesson topics

2. Next — what’s the one, key message?

Based on the product description, and what we believe is unique and marketable, we can write the key message. This is the one thing we want to tell everyone about the product.

“Learnable is the best way to use the collected knowledge of the internet to learn free, high quality lessons”

3. Who should hear that message? Who influences them?

You cannot market something if you don’t know who you are marketing to. That will not work. Remember, your audience is never “everybody” — it is always, always somebody.

Who is the audience for an email based product that requires you to learn on your own time, following a certain plan? Well, based on the content I would curate — coding, design tricks, management processes, writing etc. — I would say it is:

Professionals; entrepreneurs, developers & designers

Okay, so we know who to target. But let’s take another shot. Who are the people that will influence that audience?

Authors, speakers, investors, bloggers and personalities.

So we have two targets now. The main audience — the people who will use Learnable — and the influencers, the people who will encourage others to sign up.

4. We know who we want to reach. How do we do it?

Working out what channels you’re going to use is where most people go off the rails.

We should be on every channel! Look at our website — it has links to Vine, Snapchat, Tumblr, Quora, LinkedIn, Peach, Facebook, our Blog, our Medium, our YouTube, our Podcast, 7 different Twitter accounts & a garage sale!

Nope. False.

A — marketing channels does not mean exclusively social media platforms.

B — not every channel is the right match for you and your product.

You have to think about the targets. Right above, the people I highlighted, I know that they can be reached through the following channels, and I know that these channels are areas where I can communicate effectively:

ProductHunt, Tech blogs, Twitter, my own personal network, Medium, my own blog, and Quora

How about paid channels? Well I don’t have much cash to put into this, so I don’t want to go overboard. I can probably do this:

Social ads (in a limited Facebook ad budget) and one or two Podcast sponsorships

5. Setting goals…and determining the phases.

Okay, so now I know what my key message is. I know who needs to hear it. I know how I’m going to put it in front of them. What are my goals going to be? How will I lay out the next steps?

I haven’t gone too deep with these goals. But essentially, I want to communicate the key message to as many people as possible (A), achieve X number of signups to Learnable (B), and gain media coverage that I can use to build out the profile of the product (C).

I’m going to do this in three phases:

  1. Launch build up. This involves letting people know what the key message is, and announcing when the product will go live.
  2. Unleashing the product when I’ve built up a head of steam.
  3. Capitalising on sign ups and coverage to lay the ground work for future plans.

Here’s what my canvas looks like:

With this brainstorming document finished, I can get started on an in-depth marketing plan that covers those goals in more detail and sets out plans and schedules around those three phases.

I’m on my way to having a full blown strategy to market Learnable, and I’ll be able to maintain an overall vision of what my marketing is supposed to be about.

Photo Credit:

The reason people pretend that they don’t market is that it feels somehow dirty. Sleazy. Shitty. And yeah, if you go around talking to social media and digital marketing gurus, that’s the kind of marketing you’ll end up doing. But it doesn’t have to be like that.

Marketing is not a process of yelling at people on Twitter, offering free bad ebooks that nobody wants to read and paying for clicks that aren’t worth a cent from social platforms that will bleed you dry.

Marketing is any activity that is designed to introduce people to what you do.

Writing a blog post, giving a talk, sending an email, volunteering in a school — even investing in a product or business. It can all be a part of a marketing strategy, and it often is. But it needs to be laid out with a direction and an overall idea of what your tactical and strategic moves are going to be.

Try the marketing canvas. I use it, I swear by it, I love it.

If you enjoyed this article, please click that little green heart below. That would be incredible.

I’m Jon Westenberg. I’m passionate about writing, marketing, business and creativity. You can ask me to work with you, invite me to speak at your event, or set up a conversation on your podcast. I’m excited to hear from you!