Sole Founder Services Marketing

I used to view marketing transactionally and anaytically, I used to think marketing was some kind of thing I did in a separate part of my business, and I used to think it was all easy.

Most all of what I thought about marketing is not true.

Thought I would share some marketing advice for all those sole founders out there selling services online.

  • It’s a numbers game. Marketing is introducing yourself to a lot of people over time. That means that whatever your strategy, you have a lot of work to do. You should always be thinking of the number of people-eyeballs you are getting for your effort. In some cases, baseball uniforms for the local little league team might be a tremendously better investment than a TV commercial. But you always have to work the numbers to figure this out.

  • It’s a long game. In services, it’s not unusual for there to be a 6-18 month lead time between contact and sales. So not only are you talking to a lot of people, you’re talking to them over a long period of time. Write and publish “evergreen” material online — articles that people will google for and read five years from now.

  • It’s all emotional engagement. But it’s not just slinging stuff out into the wild. The trick here is to form emotional engagement. That’s why you do Christmas videos like above and write articles with marketing advice. You should be wanting to participate emotionally in people’s lives. Marketing just isn’t creating full-page newspaper ads any more. It’s digging wells for poor people, participating in startup weekends, helping struggling companies compete. This is good news. It means that the values you have in life, when properly framed, are part of an emotional conversation you have with people who haven’t met you before. That’s marketing today.

  • Scale out conversations. So the trick is having these emotionally engaging, long-term conversations around shared values. This is a freaking lot harder than just doing any one thing. Great marketers use all sorts of tech for this: Facebook, email lists, blogs, article publishing, professional groups, and so on. You’re always trying out a dozen or so channels, and slowly optimizing which ones work over time.

  • Integrate metrics into the conversation. It’s not so good to live with your head in your computer. Tool companies will sell you all kinds of technology solutions to the simple problem of not owning your image and understanding how to market. Don’t spend your money on this. Instead, get into a lightweight metrics feedback loop where daily you check key numbers but don’t dwell on them. You paint a great painting by being creative and artistic, not by studying the qualities of paintbrushes or obsessing over the perfect canvas stand. Tools are important, but don’t get distracted by them. Message first, tools second.

  • Never be afraid to be yourself. Many times as a sole founders we start using “We” in our emails and marketing material. Especially in the professional services field, there’s a perception that the more people that work there, the more value you must bring to the table. Continuing down this road is a mistake. Always use a personal pronoun in your correspondence and encourage people to call or email. It’s fine to be just you.

  • Teach. The latest advice is that if you want to engage a market, teach. What this is creating is a world full of crappy advice, as everybody and their brother tries to educate the world. Hopefully this article is not another part of the trend! I don’t have the answers, but I’m willing to share my story of my own struggle. This seems to have value for many.


Take a look at the video above. It’s 40 seconds, and there’s no selling anywhere. The goal is simply to introduce myself to you, make you smile, and tell you what I do. If I get a smile, it’s a win. If I get a smile from a thousand people, it’s a big win. It’s emotions, across a large volume, driving personal engagement, over a long period of time.


It’s a slow Saturday morning. I got up and decided to share my marketing experience. I know a lot of other folks who sell services online, and I think I know more now than I did a year ago.

My wife gets up, starts brewing a cup of tea, and sits beside me.

“What are you doing?”

I think for a moment.

“I’m writing down the things I’ve learned about marketing so that I can help people online not make the mistakes I’ve made and begin a long-term conversation with some of them that might end up in a sale two years from now. But most likely not. I’ll consider myself lucky if I can just help them out in some small way a tiny bit at a time, over the next five to ten years or so.”

That’s sole founder services marketing.


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December 21, 2013

2 responses to Sole Founder Services Marketing

  1. Brian C. Lanham said:

    Marketing is the #1 area I did poorly in my business. This is helpful and I look forward to more.

  2. Very good article. Marketing has certainly changed a lot in the past 15 years.

    Driving that initial traffic and getting those eyeballs (especially without a budget) is quite tough though!

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