How do you make marketing work when everything you’ve tried so far hasn’t?

Joke poster for a marketing magic formula advert that is common on social media with a wheelbarrow of cash and a sleazy sales person.

Not all advice is good advice. I often hear people say, “I tried marketing and it didn’t work,” and I feel their frustration. It’s not easy to know where to start.

There’s no shortage of marketing advice out there but whether you’re watching a how-to video, a ‘thought leader think piece’, or even asked ChatGPT what you usually get is generic hints and tips. It’s often not wrong as such (just generic) but it rarely works for people who have an individual or personal brand, whose services depend on forging a relationship with a client.

If your services are relationship-based then to attract clients willing to commit you need marketing that’s more personal. Generic advice that tells you to post three times a week at 7:43am just won’t cut it.

Manipulative sales tactics undermine client relationships

Most marketing advice is, frankly, bullshit. It’s based on industrial era thinking and the goal is to “out-advertise” the competition. That can be pretty good advice if you’re selling people yet more stuff they don’t need. And especially if you’re willing to manipulate, pressure, or otherwise con people into buying.

However, if you do actually care about the client’s experience after the sale is closed, there’s very little marketing advice out there for you. It’s hard to build a coaching or consulting relationship with someone if you’ve just used some dodgy sales trick to relieve them of their money!

Ethical, non-manipulative marketing? Be open about what’s important

There is another way. You can market your services effectively and ethically. And you’ll be pleased to hear it’s reassuringly simple.

The best way to start a client relationship is to answer the questions they have. When people are looking to make a change in their lives they are looking for someone to support and guide them to where they want to go. They have three questions: who, what, and why.

  • WHO does this person work with? Are they people like me?
  • WHAT do they work with people on? Does that sound like what I am looking for?
  • WHY can I trust them to help me?

Effective (and ethical) marketing answers these questions. By doing so you’re helping people make an informed decision about working with you.

It’s no coincidence that there are three stages to doing this: connect, consider, and commit.

  1. CONNECT – You connect with people who you believe are the right fit for your work. You do this on social media, at networking events, and by building an audience. You get them thinking with your content and help them begin thinking about the change they want to make.
  2. CONSIDER – For people who show an interest, you offer to explain more about the path to change. You explain how they can get from where they are now to where they want to be and the route in-between.
  3. COMMIT – You make your promise and set out how you can help them get where they want to go.

Effective marketing is selective marketing

Rather then trying to tell anyone who will listen about what you do and why they should buy it, this method separates you from the crowd. It focuses on and attracts the kind of clients who are ready to work with you.

This approach doesn’t reply on funnels, or tactics or squeeze pages. It doesn’t even need paid ads to work.

What is does need is for you to show up consistently, generously, and in service of those who you wish to work with.

But… Someone on Instagram says I can make £/€/$ 200,00 in an afternoon using their magic formula.

Of course they do.

Look, I know ethical, non-manipulative marketing isn’t sexy, and it doesn’t have a high-ticket programme attached to it – but it does work. The reason most ‘experts’ don’t talk about this marketing approach is that – while it does work – it’s so simple they can’t con you into buying a course to learn how to do it.

The key thing to remember with internet gurus is that what worked for them (assuming it did) probably wont work for you. If they had a single post that got a million likes, you won’t. If they sent one email that made them a small fortune, you won’t. It’s applying the same, generic formula or tactic to wildly different conditions.

Instead of a fast buck, aim for genuine clients

Keep it simple, focus on the people you really want to work with, and don’t buy the magic beans. This is a tried and tested methodology for people just like you. Just because I’m not promising a wheelbarrow-load of cash doesn’t mean it doesn’t work!

To get started, use the guide on my website or – if you’d like to dive deeper – I’ve taken my 20 years in marketing and what I’ve learned along the way and put everything you need to know into a new book, Reframing Marketing: A 3-step plan for effective and ethical marketing.