After working alongside some of the best marketers in the world at Facebook, Mint, AppSumo, and SumoMe—companies who have reached a combined 1.5 billion people—I've learned one very important thing: Great marketing isn't so much about strategy and tactics as it is a state of mind.
Great marketing isn't so much about strategy and tactics as it is a state of mind.
That's what separates the wannabe marketers from the real ones who get stuff done, bring in customers, and drive revenue growth.
Wannabe marketers can read all day about marketing hacks and what another successful company did to grow revenue. And they do. Real marketers don't have time for that—they're out in the field, talking to potential customers, putting out their message, trying, failing, and trying again.
That's why this marketing tools list is different from any tools list you've read. Sure, these eight tools will help you to execute on strategy X and tactic Y, but that's not why they're important. They're important because they teach you to cultivate the winning marketer's mindset—the one that can move mountains for your company.
1. Don't Fear Rejection
Over the years as an entrepreneur, I've spent $150,000 of my own money and at least one-and-a-half years of my life on businesses that have failed.
I've had a lot of failure. It's my specialty.
Fortunately, I've been able to repeatedly create multi-million dollar businesses. I'm not trying to brag, but I want you to know that there are ways to systematically acquire customers and create a successful business.
After giving speeches across the country to thousands of "wantrepreneurs" and having worked closely with a number of them, I've noted the top reasons business ideas don't get past the idea stage:
Fear that your idea isn't as great as it is in your head
Fear of their friends and family seeing the idea fail
Fear of not really knowing what to do or where to go for help
Notice a theme?
It's all about fear, and a huge part of that fear is the fear of rejection.
This is massive, because it's that fear that stops you from taking the first step towards turning your idea into a business, and that's through validating your idea. Validating your idea triggers that fear of rejection and weak knees, because your target customer could invalidate your idea.
It turns out that you don't need to succumb to your fear of rejection. You can overcome it.
A great tool to do that is Rejection Therapy—a game whose basic rule is to get rejected by another person, at least once, every single day. I tell people to start with something basic like asking for a 10% discount on coffee at Starbucks.
It's surprisingly difficult. You'll make up all kinds of excuses for why you shouldn't do it.
But if you go through with it, your mindset as a marketer will be forever changed. You'll realize that rejection isn't personal—it's not about your self-worth. It's an external event. When you come to this understanding, you'll finally be able to start moving forward with your idea.
To get there, you'll have to push your comfort zone—when your heart beats a little bit faster, and then you get through it. Those are the moments where you can feel yourself growing. And that's what it takes to move from wantrepreneur to entrepreneur and to be a great marketer.
2. Tell Your Own Story
You want press, so you hire a PR (public relations) firm, right?
Wrong. Hiring a PR firm is one of the most frequent mistakes that I see young marketers make.
They're expensive, they're time consuming to vet and manage, and they don't know your business. They normally cram you into their existing templates, spam journalists, and make nothing happen.
JustReachOut.io is a tool that helps you reach out to journalists directly and tell your own story. It gives you an easy way to search news articles for particular topics, identify the journalist who wrote the article, and reach out to them in a tailored way based on their interest.
The reason that this is so important is that talking to people about your product story is like oxygen to a marketer.
That's where you see what resonates, what people don't care about, and then refine your story bit by bit. You're testing your ideas every day through these micro-conversations. Storytelling is the heart of great marketing. Don't think of the process as a chore, think of it as soulcraft.
I love the philosophy behind JustReachOut.io, and it should be the mantra for every marketer. Just Do It. Don't outsource it. Don't defer to an "expert." Don't wait until some imaginary time where you'll really be ready.
In the words of Shia Labeouf, "Yesterday, you said tomorrow."
Just reach out.
3. Ask for Exactly What You Want
A marketer's fundamental job is persuasion. A marketer writes words on a screen. Those words show up on your screen. Somehow, great marketers write words that appear on your screen that convince you to do exactly what they want you to do.
One important way they make this sorcery happen is by stating a single, clear call to action, and making it incredibly simple for you to take that action.
For example, I see this lazy call to action all the time from marketers who want their emails to spread: "forward to a friend." The problem is that most people never forward emails to friends.
It's annoying—you have to click forward, then write a blurb at the top explaining the forward—so most people don't bother. People are lazy mofos! (Get 'em Sam Jackson.)
Enter, the Samuel L. Jackson Marketing Hack.
Read emails in an email client.
Want to send cool things to their friends.
Are lazy mofos, as scientifically stated by Sam Jackson
And that's why you have to give them an easier way to share emails with friends. Here's how you do it:
In your emails, add a simple
mailto:link so that your readers can easily click and it'll make a new templated email for them to send to a friend.
Take the text you want for your subject and your body and separately drop them into Eric Meyer's handy free URL Encoder.
The mailto link should look like this:
mailto:?subject=<paste encoded subject here>&body=<paste encoded body here>
Now you have the email written out for them that says exactly what you want it to say.
Now all the person has to do is add the recipient's email address and hit send!
The exact same idea applies to asking someone to tweet an article, except that you use this URL for the link:
https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?text=<paste encoded tweet text>.
Great marketers know what they want from people, and they go to extreme lengths to make it as easy as possible for someone to give them exactly that.
The URL Encoder is a tool that represents how far you should think through reducing your call-to-action's friction, and it should be just one of the extreme measures you'll take to MacGyver a way to get what you want.
4. Learn What Works
Study what succeeds, but never blindly imitate it.
I see marketers all the time try to imitate other marketers' successes with Facebook and Google to be successful themselves, but they lack essential context on why those strategies and tactics worked in the first place.
BuzzSumo is an amazing content marketing tool that captures that paradox well. It's a goldmine of data regarding what content is the most shared across any topic.
This is a guest post on the Zapier blog. To understand what topics I should write on or what title I should use, I can easily go to BuzzSumo and find the most-shared articles on the Zapier blog.
From there, I can dig in, gather context, and see why certain kinds of articles do well on Zapier. Then I can apply those principles to my own article.
All of the time, I'll talk to marketers and I'll ask them what channels they're using for marketing. They'll say, "We're doing some SEO, some content marketing, some Facebook ads and some referral marketing." In other words, they're doing everything and nothing. They're not focused.
That's the spray and pray approach, and it's akin to behavior I see content marketers do when they're not using tools like BuzzSumo. Rather than do careful, deep study of what content has worked on a given publication, people write a bunch of articles and just take a bunch of shots in the dark.
Don't do that. Do more of what works. And really zoom in, with context, to understand what "works" means for you.
5. Make Things Happen (Don't Let Them Happen to You)
Six years ago, I started a company called Kickflip. For quite awhile, we held the No. 1 spot as the largest Facebook app developer and we were making as much as $150,000 a day.
Every week, though, Facebook changed its API and we had to change our apps and games constantly to keep up. We were forced to play by their rules and they governed how we interacted with our own customers/players.
Kickflip eventually morphed into Gambit—a payments company that worked with Zynga, Tagged, Gaia Online, Disney and more.
Then one day, Facebook banned us.
Within 24 hours, our daily revenue dropped from $150,000 to $15,000. Imagine losing an extra $135,000 every day!
We had to play by Facebook's rules. It was their platform. It was their home turf advantage. And our dependence on it ended up killing our business.
This was a valuable lesson and I became determined not to repeat my mistake.
When you rely on other platforms to obtain customers, you're at the mercy of those platforms. When you don't own the distribution channel, you lose control over the lifeblood of your business.
What if Google moves you to page 2?
What if Facebook reduces the amount of exposure to your fans?
What if Twitter decides to block your URL?
How can you avoid making the same mistake? Control your own destiny for your business.
For online marketing, the best way is to build and grow your own email list. That gives you a direct line to your customers and not depend on other platforms for your success.
For my next company, AppSumo, I grew my email list to 1,000,000 subscribers and built a multi-million dollar business entirely on top of that list. The tactics I used to build that list became SumoMe.
SumoMe is a collection of free tools that will grow your list 2x to 4x with 1 minute of work in setting up its tools:
ListBuilder: a email capture lightbox that increases daily email signups by 20%
Share: drives 20% more traffic to your site which increases email signups
Scroll Box: a polite way to ask for a reader's email
Highlighter: an easy way to share quotes from your articles
Once you've set those up, pipe the emails you capture into your other systems like CRMs and email marketing tools using our Zapier integration.
The mission behind SumoMe is to empower marketers to build their own distribution channel over which they have 100% control.
Capture the emails of people who visit your site even if they don't buy, build your list, and don't be at mercy to the whims of any third-party platform.
That's how you control your destiny.
6. Take Ownership of Your Future
Do you want to know the one key difference between successful business owners and the wantrepreneur crowd?
One group is waiting for the right ___ (fill in the blank). The other group decided to make things happen for themselves. Period.
I'll let you take a lucky guess on which group is successful in business, in love and in life.
If you haven't heard of James Clear, he's a prolific writer, marketer and impressive business guy. He's built a number of businesses and travels the world taking incredible photographs. I hung out with him in Austin not long ago, and we drove around town, catching up.
While we were driving, I asked James about why he is bald.
That's when, like a muscular buddha, he shared his bald-headed wisdom with me.
James told me that when he started to notice that his hair was thinning, he resolved to create his own solution. Instead of waiting for his hair to completely go away, he decided to shave his head.
"If someone mentions that you're balding, you have to say, 'Oh, yeah, it happened to me.' But if they mention you shave your head, then you can simply say, 'I chose to do it.'"
The sense of personal agency behind that statement is huge. Shaving his head put James in control–not his genetics. And all it took was a humble BIC razor and the will to rewrite the script.
There is an epidemic of waiting for the right circumstances, waiting for success, or waiting for everything to align just right before we take a step forward.
I call it conditional living. Look out for sentences that start like:
"I'll do that when…"
"It won't work because…"
"There's nothing available. I already looked…"
"I'll wait until I'm fired…"
How many people wait to make a huge change or take a risk until they get fired, have a baby, or face some other challenge?
It's way too easy to blame others instead of taking responsibility and creating the solution.
When you start thinking conditionally and blaming other people, try to remember the little BIC razor and my buddy James Clear.
The BIC razor is just a tiny little tool for removing hair follicles, but you can use it to do something totally transformative: take back control and start creating your own situation right now.
What am I doing when my hair is thinning?
What am I doing when my day is going poorly?
What am I doing when our marketing numbers are plateauing?
Bottom line: Are things happening to you or are you making things happen?
7. Have a Plan
When I first got the job at Mint, Aaron Patzer (the founder and CEO) told me I had to get Mint to 100,000 users within 6 months of launching. I began by making a startup marketing plan.
6 months later, Mint had over 1 million users.
How did that happen?
The biggest thing that surprises me when I talk to marketers is that they want to achieve huge results, but they have no plan to get there.
Most people have the tendency to wait for their thing to launch, email a few friends, tweet about it and get on their knees to pray it works.
Work backwards to the solution of what you need. That is the best way to guarantee success. Make a plan, and then execute on it.
Content marketing is all the rage these days, and there are a lot of tools out there to help you with SEO, running a blog, social sharing, and more.
CoSchedule is different in that it's the only tool that I know if that helps you come up with an plan for your content marketing. When you use it, it forces you into the mindset that you're going to think through and organize your approach to content marketing to get the results that you need.
Don't flail around and haphazardly do a bunch of random marketing activities in the vague hope that you'll achieve your goals. Work backwards, create a plan, and execute on that plan.
8. Always be Learning
Great marketing never lasts.
My friend Andrew Chen calls it "The Law of Shitty Clickthroughs": "The performance of every marketing channel degrades over time as the novelty wears off and it gets saturated."
The performance of every marketing channel degrades over time as the novelty wears off and it gets saturated.
Did you say that you have a great marketing tactic? Good for you—tomorrow you'll need to find a new one.
That's why you have to always be learning. I do it the old fashioned way: by studying what smart people are doing.
I subscribe to a million email lists to get a great feed of good stuff straight to my inbox. One of my favorite email newsletters is from Backlinko, run by Brian Dean. He produces amazing content on SEO and content marketing.
What stands out about Brian is that he won't just tell you the tactic, he'll explain why it works. If you pay close attention, you won't just be able to mimic him, you'll be able to use his insights to come up with your own.
The speed of change is what makes marketing just about the funnest thing you can do, in my opinion. Never stop reading and learning from smart guys like Brian, and you'll be the one introducing the next big marketing hack.
What tools do you use that are essential to a winning marketer's mindset? What would you add the to list? I'd love to hear from you in the comments.