Shaunta Grimes
Aug 24 · 6 min read

I went to Powell’s City of Books in Portland with my daughter and my sister yesterday.

I thought I might buy a marketing book — something to give me some new ideas about bringing my business to the “next level.” You know, maybe something by Seth Godin or Gary Vaynerchuk or Ryan Holiday.

Powell’s didn’t disappoint. Its marketing section was two full bookcases, at least twelve-feet tall and five feet wide. In fact, it was overwhelming. But I took a deep breath and flipping through the titles.

Most of them were at least five years old. Many felt fairly irrelevant or outdated and the ones that didn’t, I’d already read.

Then I remembered reading this post the other day by Tim Denning.

It starts by telling the reader that Gary Vee has completely changed in the last five years and goes on to share all the ways the man and his message have shifted.

And I thought — that makes sense.

And I also realized something else.

There’s a lot I can learn about marketing, of course. But one of the biggest things is that I don’t need any tactics or secret tricks or gimmicks. I don’t actually need two massive cases full of books to teach me anything.

Because I already know most of what I need to know. And so do you.

I know because I’m being marketed to almost non-stop, at all hours of the night and day.

I know because I’ve read a few important books. If you’ve given any thought at all to starting a business, you’ve probably read a couple, too. Or at least you follow some of the gurus.

I know because most of it is common sense.

Social Media is about being social.

Denning talks about Gary Vaynerchuck teaching this in his post. And it’s true.

The reason why Facebook is my favorite social media tool is because I have friends there. When I log on, I have people who reach out to me and I reach back to them. The people who follow me there follow me because I actually post my thoughts— not just links I want them to click.

I’m far less effective at Twitter and Instagram and Pinterest because when I use them, I only market. One hundred percent, I use those outlets only to try to get you to do what I want you to do.

On those platforms I’m a marketer. A mediocre one at best.

But on Facebook? I’m a whole person.

You might not be able to be a whole person on more than one platform. So far, I haven’t been able to be. That’s okay. Just know what you’re doing. And know the difference.

The people you’re marketing to are people.

If you can do this one thing, you’ll never need gimmicks or tricks or anything else when it comes to marketing: Remember that your audience is made up of people.

Every time you send an email or make an ad or do any other form of marketing, you’re reaching out to people. Individual people who might be interested in what you have to say.

Some of them don’t have time for you today. And some of them aren’t in the right place for what you’re offering. But they are all people. Talk to them like people.

Since you are also a person, that makes this whole marketing thing a lot easier.

Speak to your audience the way you want to be spoken to. Deliver on what you promise, then deliver a little more. Don’t spam. If you mess up, apologize. When you sell something, make it something you’re very, very proud of and something that your audience really wants.

The only real tactic you need is listening.

If your audience wants what you create, you won’t need to trick them into buying it.

You find out if your audience wants it by asking them.

You ask them by choosing a small group that you already know is interested. Maybe they’ve responded to a blog post or requested a download that’s related to what you’re trying to sell.

Then you ask them if they’d be interested in your product. That’s all. No gimmick. You just reach out to that person individually and ask for their opinion.

And then pay attention to the response.

You’re in partnership with the people you’re creating for, after all. You can’t work without them. Your business doesn’t work without them.

You need them more than they need you, in fact. Because if you don’t pay attention, someone else will or they will stumble on to what your audience needs and create it.

Ideas are the real currency of our strange times.

When I was looking at those shelves and shelves of books at Powell’s, most of them more than five years old, my predominate thought was — ideas move too fast for this medium.

Those people have things to teach me, but they’ve already done it in their classic books. I’ll list a few for you at the bottom of this post. Once you’ve read them, the rest is about ideas that happen so fast and furious, the glacial pace of publishing just isn’t the best way to be on the receiving end of them.

If you really want to know what those men are saying, follow their newsletters or podcasts or Instagram feeds. Something that moves quicker and happens today not five years ago.

But also? Start cultivating your own ideas. They are your real currency. We live in an ideas economy and your ideas matter. James Altucher advocates coming up with ten a day, as a daily practice, and that’s one of the best (and most timeless, by the way) habits you can get into.

Challenge yourself to come up with ten ideas, every day, for reaching your audience. For connecting with them. For serving them. For things you might create for them. For ways you could partner with them.

And then choose the best ideas and do them.

Do that for six months and see what happens.

If that doesn’t give you goosebumps, you might be in the wrong business.

Some Timeless Books

Here are some books that I found particularly helpful when I was first learning about marketing, and a couple of newer ones that I’ve read more recently.

These books have timeless ideas and will give you a well-rounded education about marketing, rather than a lot of gimmicks or tricks.

The Purple Cow by Seth Godin
Permission Marketing by Seth Godin
Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday
Atomic Habits by James Clear
Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuck
Contagious by Jonah Berger
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
Superfans by Pat Flynn

(On a side note, it’s interesting to me that there are very few general books about marketing that are written by women. None on my personal bookshelf. If you are aware of any, would you mind letting me know in the comments? I’d be interested.)


Here’s my secret weapon for sticking with whatever your thing is.

Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She is an out-of-place Nevadan living in Northwestern PA with her husband, three superstar kids, two dementia patients, a good friend, Alfred the cat, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes and is the author of Viral Nation and Rebel Nation and the upcoming novel The Astonishing Maybe. She is the original Ninja Writer.

The Write Brain

Posts about productivity, business, and systems for right-brained creatives. Ideas aren’t enough. We actually have to do the things!

Shaunta Grimes

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The Write Brain

Posts about productivity, business, and systems for right-brained creatives. Ideas aren’t enough. We actually have to do the things!

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