What Makes Marketing Hard?


I’ve been spending more time lately teaching folks who are new to marketing, and I’m finding it really fascinating.

The same themes come up again and again. These are people who had an interesting idea for a product to sell or a service to market, but they run up against a horrid scary intimidating wall: marketing.

(And even scarier, its evil twin, selling.)

It seems impossibly hard. It seems like something for “other people.” It seems like they’d need a personality transplant to make it work for them.

And I totally get this, because I used to feel exactly the same way.

I only ever drifted into marketing because I was drawn to writing, and so when someone needed help with a marketing task, they tapped me on the shoulder.

I wasn’t that into marketing (I’m the worst salesperson in the history of the human race), but I was into communication, and hanging out with customers, and answering questions, and making the product work better for them.

It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out that all that stuff was marketing.

To quote Keanu, Whoa.

Two resources to make it easier

If marketing seems horrible and hard for you, I’ve got two things coming up that I think will make it easier.

The first is a free five-part series on What Makes Marketing Hard. I’m going to be delivering it by email to everyone who’s signed up for my free content class, so if you’re already getting that (or the marketing tool kit), you’ll be in good shape.

If you’re not signed up for it, it’s a pretty great class (if I do say so myself) and I think you’ll get a lot out of it. The main focus is email newsletters, but the information is also very usable for bloggers and other content marketers.

Sign up for the free content class right here.

A new Sonia-style marketing course

The second resource will be a brand new marketing course that I’m creating.

I’m still hammering out details, but here’s what I know now:

  • It’s going to be CHEAP, but only for the first group of students. You’ll be my beta-testers to refine the course and make it absolutely perfect as time goes on.
  • It’s going to get EXPENSIVE later. I’m modeling it on Teaching Sells, which started out at $97 per quarter (when I signed up), and now goes for about $1600, with the price climbing each time the course is released. The price goes up because new content gets added and the format keeps improving, making it ever more valuable. That’s going to be my model here.
  • Charter members will get lifetime access at the original CHEAP price, so those of you who are ready to sign up now will get a killer deal.
  • It’s going to be a step-by-step blueprint, showing you exactly how to put together a marketing system that works for you and your business.
  • It’s going to include a members-only community forum, so you can ask questions, share problems, and get answers from me and from your peers.
  • It’s going to focus on marketing that is fun, reasonably easy to implement, and that respects you and your customers. Nothing yukky or creepy, because I hate that stuff as much as you do. I might actually hate it even more than you do.
  • It’s called the Remarkable Marketing Blueprint.

What to do next

If you think something like this would be valuable for you, sign up for the free content class and you’ll get all the details. Plus you’ll get the five new lessons I’m putting together on “What Makes Marketing Hard,” and a free lesson or two from the paid course.

Sign up for the free content course & bonus good stuff

Those of you who are already on my lists know that, while I do make an offer every once in awhile, my email lists have tons of great free material and zero high-pressure sales squeezing.

Of course, if you’re not digging it, just unsubscribe. It takes maybe 15 seconds and I won’t mind a bit. (And obviously, I don’t ever share my email list with anyone or use it for any evil purposes. I hate spam with a fiery passion, and I know you do too.)

What makes marketing hard for you?

I’ve got my own list based on the folks I’ve been coaching, teaching, and talking with. But I’d love to hear yours.

What makes marketing hard for you? What is it about marketing you hate, or you think you’d hate if you tried it? What’s scary? Creepy? Just plain intimidating?

Let me know in the comments, and I’ll try to find some answers to make it easier for you.

Flickr Creative Commons image by cpt.spock


  1. Sonia Simone says:

    Man, I really need to figure out where to reformat those bulleted lists. :)

  2. Meredith says:

    It’s funny: I’ve spent the last 14 years marketing the product of the company I work for with no fear.

    But, when I started my own website, things got scary for me. What if people don’t love it? What if they don’t love me? What makes marketing scary for me is that now…it’s personal.

  3. I don’t find marketing scary, and I can market for my clients like Ogilvy Lite. What is hard, and I mean hard, is turning that same objective eye on my own business. I’ve only been struggling for three months with “what is my USP,” for instance. Argh.

  4. Chris Hinkle says:

    A few of the things I find hard:
    1. Building a funnel that walks people naturally from curiosity, to interest, to trust, to sale (like Brian has done with CopyBlogger. It was incredible watching from the sidelines as he sold 500 seats at just under $1600).
    2. Creating a product mix that correlates well with the content I can produce.
    3. Moving my content from readable, but dry, to compelling.

  5. After battling myself with the idea of marketing recently a switch flipped inside and I now have no problem with the idea of it.

    The switch was: it’s not about me at all – it’s totally about them (them being potential clients) – meaning there’s no judgment on Alex if they say no to buying.

  6. Andy Hayes says:

    Looks great, Sonia.

    And Meredith, I agree – it’s always easier helping clients with their marketing stuff than doing your own.

  7. Ken says:

    What makes marketing hard for me (as someone who has a busy practice but who wants to take it to the next level) is finding someone skilled who will actually take a hands on approach. It seems that the marketing world is filled with gurus and future gurus all of them trying to sell you courses, coaching and consulting. None of them seem to want to actually do anything in an accountable manner.

    Everyone I’ve ever read who holds themselves out as an expert in marketing is pedaling their course/system/coaching but never actually sell “hands on” services. This approach may serve them economically but it doesn’t serve me and many other members of their potential customer base that actually are able and willing to pay for someone with expertise who actually does something instead of charging a fee to tell their customer (either orally or in writing) what they should be doing.

  8. It’s easy to brainstorm for someone else, partly because it’s fresh material. I get tired of looking at my own stuff, and really tired of thinking about it sometimes.

    The hardest part in doing my own marketing is starting. Once I get past the beginner’s freak-out stage (this is my third microbusiness, and I still get the heebie-jeebies at launch time), it often becomes easier.

    Momentum is a good thing.

  9. Meredith says:

    You’re right, Alex. It isn’t about me or someone’s assessment of me or my website. My focus needs solely to be on how I can help my readers. That should make marketing easiser, if I lift the insecurity load off of it. Thanks for sharing your shift.

  10. Relationship with money, “filthy lucre”.

    Or not feeling qualified enough – no letters or equivalent behind my name, so I’m a fraud.

    Lost in a strange town with no road map – is this the right way? Eh, not sure. Maybe should have …..

  11. Sonia,
    Something I struggle with is implementation across multiple platforms. What does a message look like in an article versus blog post versus email versus twitter? What sequence and frequency? Building a plan for consistency.

  12. I find it hard knowing how to put across an effective sales pitch that isn’t cheesy or just misses the mark. It’s knowing how to put my product across in a way that is in tune with the audience. And to do it successfully, not scaring off potential customers.

    A step by step formula would be very helpful with a list of do’s and don’ts. I know I’d eventually get there on my own but who can afford trial and error – I want a sale first time! Thankfully there is time to learn as I’m still developing the product, so not started on the new website yet.

  13. Louis says:

    That’s exciting!

    Are you starting Remarkable Marketing Blueprint alone? or JV with Brian and company?

  14. Dennis says:

    How do you know if you’re marketing and sales efforts are on target when you don’t have millions of dollars to spend on research?
    I know it’s ultimately sales, but what should you do in advance to find out what the market really wants?

  15. Dominic says:

    Thanks for a useful post – I’ll look out for the course. I think it’s a fear of coming across as a used car salesman by ‘selling’ that usually puts me off…

    @Alex Fayle – thanks for the great insight about it being about them rather than me! I think that may just have flipped a switch inside me too!

  16. Sonia Simone says:

    Carol & Meredith, yeah, I’ve been in that boat as well. It’s a very different critter to sell your own stuff.

    Alex, yes, isn’t that a great way to reframe? Havi Brooks is insanely smart about that. It can really un-gunk your thinking about “marketing.”

    judyofthewoods, yeah, I think relationship with money (and fraud syndrome, which seem to often go together) is at the core of a lot of the discomfort. “Who am I to ask someone to pay for what I do?” Huge, huge issue.

    Louis, this one is a solo project. Lots of fun, but I work SO much more efficiently in a partnership! On my own I get lazy. :)

  17. Fran says:

    Sonia, I love the way you present your thoughts on a
    person to person basis, making me feel that it’s OK to be
    real and I really need to have that confirmed… in this
    salesy environment.

    Just yesterday I replaced the scarcity message ‘Discount available for a limited time only’ with
    ‘I’m happy to bring you this offer at a great price” and I felt good about that!

    Your ‘lots of love’ ending your message made me feel
    good to!

    same to you Sonia,

  18. Tom says:

    Sonia: I’m a big fan of your work, and already on your list. How do I become a “charter member” of your new marketing course? I clicked the link above and was informed that I’m “already subscribed to the list”, which is true. Thanks!
    Tom Harris
    Xn Marketing

  19. Sonia Simone says:

    Ah, good question, thank you!

    I’ll be letting the email list(s) know when there’s an order form up and ready–my guess is it will be about 10 days to 2 weeks, all depending on how quickly we can get the site assembled.

    In fact, thinking of it, I’ll go ahead and let people sign on for an “early bird” list, so if you know you want in you can be sure you get the best bonuses from the charter memberships. You should get a chance to do that in about a week, so just watch your email box.

  20. Sonia Simone says:

    (Fran, I love the way you changed your message, and I love that it made you feel so great. That gives me a big smile.)

  21. Linda says:

    For me, I think I’d be less afraid of marketing if I knew WHAT to market! I’m in the new Teaching Sells course (and I’m thrilled I got in!), so I’m sure that will help me narrow my focus on what to develop. I have a lot of ideas, but the thing I hear the most from my fellow writer friends is that no one reads their blogs and what can they do about it. I’d like to take that problem/need/desire and develop a useful product to address it, and then use info learned from your upcoming marketing course to market it.

    I second what others have said about your genuineness. That alone helps eliminate my fear of posting on your blog, which, as my 2-year-old niece would say, is “just a little scary” (considering you’re an expert & I’m a total newb!)

  22. Naomi says:

    Hey Sonia,

    this sounds awesome. I really like your style of teaching – clear and effective, with a big serving of human-ness thrown in. (Is that a word!)

    The only thing is – I’m part of Teaching Sells + a job + Naomi Dunford’s thing so I have a major information overload problem right now.

    Do you have a learn-while-you-sleep version of your course? (Just kidding.)

    What about an edible version? (Totally Serious.)


  23. Jon says:

    The hardest part about marketing for me (and in my experience, even for major companies) is understanding prospects and customers on an intimate level. What drives them? What are their fears? What is the problem we’re really solving for them? I believe this is why many micro-marketers sell to people who are basically themselves—which is smart. I often don’t have that luxury. I need to understand the inner workings of people who are completely different than me.

    The ideal title of a marketing course for me would be: Visualizing your customers—how to develop personas that reveal who they really are.

  24. Sounds like a wonderful concept. I’m in the process of putting my marketing plan together for my business. I’m a member of SpeakEasy, but I could always use more help.

    I’ve signed up. Looking forward to finding out more.

  25. Priyanka D says:

    “I wasn’t that into marketing (I’m the worst salesperson in the history of the human race), but I was into communication, and hanging out with customers, and answering questions, and making the product work better for them.

    It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out that all that stuff was marketing. ”

    Wow.. i really need to think about this, cause while I like communications I wonder how I got into marketing!

  26. I’m an artist – a writer and filmmaker. I work with other artists – mainly visual effects artists and animators – and a lot of it is just plain fear of rejection.

    In other words; picture a specific person who is your audience.

    Now picture them telling you that you suck and should quit.

    And sometimes they do. Especially on the internet. They key is obviously learning to ignore that. And there’s the rub.
    .-= Lee Stranahan´s last blog ..Promote Yourself NOW! =-.

  27. Tom Wanek says:

    I agree with another poster who said that it’s hard to remain objective. Most of my clients have a hard time seeing their business real. Also, I believe that marketing is damn hard work, and most business owners are simply not passionate enough about marketing to do it well.

  28. Hi Sonia

    I have my own business and I learnt very quickly that the key was to market myself, not my products.

    Similar to yourself, you have a genuine desire to help people and that shines through more than any marketing techniques or gimics. It’s called INTEGRITY and it’s critical to your success.
    .-= Damien Clarke´s last blog ..The Truth About Goal Setting updated Mon Oct 19 2009 1:54 am CDT =-.

  29. Devon Zimny says:

    I definitely agree with Meredith. For me, marketing myself is difficult. I have always been the person that lets my work speak for itself and I have never been into self promotion (it always seemed like those who were great at self promotion never followed through with actual results). So I have never promoted myself well and now I have a service business and I have to promote myself! The hardest part of marketing is getting the confidence to do it!

  30. becky says:

    I have a really hard time marketing my own work, especially if I’m cold calling someone. One of my clients is finishing a project I was working on, so now I’ve got to replace that income. And I should already be marketing regularly so I don’t have gaps, but I’ve been so busy it’s been hard. How do you make time for your own stuff when you’re so busy with other stuff? I need to revamp my site and put up some new samples and polish it up a bit. It’s been so hard to do that, though.

    I’m going to go back to Mktg for Nice People again – and maybe that will give me some motivation to figure out where I’m stuck.

    Looking forward to hearing what you have in the works, Sonia (I didn’t miss that email, did I?). And I so wish I had gotten in on Teaching Sells way back when. It’s way out of my league now.

  31. Aimee says:

    I’d wager Im a worse salesperson than even you! I’m more likely to talk someone OUT of buying something! ha!
    I found your site through copyblogger. Thanks for sharing.
    .-= Aimee´s last blog ..who won? is it you? =-.

  32. Rocky Garcia says:

    @ Meredith – You’re just being paranoia. Relax, there’s nothing to be afraid of. Just love what you do then you’ll found out that you’ll be scared no more. :-)

  33. Now a days, the fastest growing industry in the internet is affiliate marketing. They had earned billions of extra income every year. People usually get involve with this kind of marketing without thorough planning so in the end they didn’t succeed. Are you really looking for income with no knowledge and no plans at all? Yeah. It is hard . But you have to set up goals in order to be successful

  34. To be effective in marketing, first you must enjoy what your doing because marketing is hard theres always ups and down when you are in this business and when you dont like what your doing the tendency is you will quit, second do your research you must have a thorough knowledge of the product that you are trying to sell so that you can answer all the clients question, and lastly you must have a good communication skills, you must be able to express what you want the client to hear and understand what you are talking about.
    .-= Carmen Bennett´s last blog ..Consumer’s Guide to Choosing a Divorce Lawyer =-.

  35. My biggest challenge has been doing everything I know how to and should.

    I get ‘shiny object’ oriented which leads to temporary abandonment of the fundamentals to engage in a new learning curve which stalls progress which leads to bailing on the new challenge to re-engage what brought me to the dance.

    I trust your system takes this mindset fully into account and overcomes this tendency of the entrepreneur.

  36. Lexi Rodrigo says:

    Sonia, where’s your marketing course? I’ve been waiting forever. Or did I miss it? I’m on your list; I probably signed up twice just to make sure.

    Please start the course already… before I spend all the balance in my PayPal account, LOL!

    .-= Lexi Rodrigo´s last blog ..Day 31: Compete in the Freelancing Marketplace =-.

  37. Mike Consol says:

    What makes marketing hard is that…

    1) New Media and Social Media have turned everybody into a marketer.

    2) The noise level has gotten deafening, making it very difficult to break through.

    Those with stamina and tenacity win the contest.

  38. Dick Carlson says:

    Hardest thing about marketing (for myself) is that I’ve been doing this stuff for so long I find it almost impossible to write for someone just coming into the discipline. Like any expert, I’m so immersed in the knowledge that I can’t connect with my “inner beginner”.

    So I go in fits and starts, and have a heck of a time actually being able to settle into the right voice for my audience. The personas that I design keep changing, the demographics shift, and the business drivers are all wobbly.

    But other than that, everything’s peachy. I can do this stuff for other people in my sleep.
    .-= Dick Carlson´s last blog ..No, I’m Not A “Coach” — And You Shouldn’t Be, Either =-.

  39. I have a bunch of clients who want me to do marketing for them. It doesnt intimidate me at all as I find myself being far more creative with other peoples products than my own.
    In the last 3 months I have become involved in a JV with a guy where we split the profits 50:50 However because I have a real interest in getting this to work I find myself taking less risks.

  40. Sandy Lipten says:

    Sonia, I just want to give you an “atta girl” as you work hard to release this new product. I just realized that I’m actually looking forward to it, and this surprised me — it seems you are the one person I would actually pay to take a marketing course from. That Life cereal commercial where the boys want to have Mikey try it, because he hates everything? I’m the Mikey of marketing course consumption, an old broad (well, I feel old sometimes at 52) who isn’t easily impressed, but your articles never fail to make me re-think something, get inspired, or both. Yours is quite a talent, dear, and I can’t wait to see if I can afford the course during this apocalyptic year for my 14-year-old, formerly thriving business.

  41. Genevieve says:

    I can’t wait to join, Sonia. If your content is anything like what you offered in Marketing for Nice People, I’m sold. And I’m with Naomi, making the course edible would be a major selling point.

    I imagine whatever you want to share will be useful to me, so I’ll just put my two cents in on format – high quality audio please please please, no or little video, and text is lovely.

    So excited!

  42. Stan Lenssen says:

    Hi Sonia,
    From your articles I am learning that marketing can be fun and honest. Thank you. :-) I also truly like your style of writing. It’s compelling, enthousiastic. It really resonates with me. (while my native language is Dutch)
    You have won me. Can’t wait to join the course.
    .-= Stan Lenssen´s last blog ..Hoe je gouden ideeën kunt vangen =-.

  43. Sonia Simone says:

    @Sandy, ah ha ha, I completely love the Mikey reference. Thanks so much. Sorry to hear about the apocalyptic year. There’s a lot of that going around.

    @Genevieve, that’s really good to hear, because it maps very much onto my plan. Mostly audio, recorded in advance so we’re sure of the quality. But there will also be some Q&A calls, because I’ve found those very helpful in Teaching Sells, for example. Video is fun & interesting but takes a lot longer (for me, anyway), so if there’s any, it will be a light seasoning rather than the main dish. :)

    @Stan, always so nice to hear from you!

  44. Most difficult marketing challenge: having two primary customers rather than one: Buyers and Sellers and trying to make the site and message compelling to both.
    .-= jane bakerson´s last blog ..Are brokers in Central America playing hard-to-get with their listings? =-.

  45. Phil says:

    The hardest part of marketing, for me, is that making stuff is a lot more fun than selling the stuff I make. Trying to compromise with myself by making marketing stuff.

  46. aj says:

    Sonia…whereas there are plenty of info on internet marketing, I do not see any articles/books that clearly document costs involved setting up email marketing, PPC campaign, and affiliate network. Info with this regards would be appreciated.

  47. Mel says:

    @Alex and @Ken – totally agree with you both for your specific points.

    Like others I can advise others easily on marketing … because I am not part of the equation. As soon as I have to market ME and my business (on or offline) then that fear of being highly visible and out there gets in the way.
    Mel´s last [type] ..Make Your Own Favicon

  48. Hi Sonia,

    I’ve just subscribed to your free 10-lesson e-cource.

    I’ve looked here and could find it – where can I sign up to your new marketing course?

    I love your blog and your posts.



  49. louis says:

    This looks absolutely perfect. All these tinny details are made with lot of background knowledge. I like it a lot. This was a useful post and I think it is rather easy to see from the other comments as well that this post is well written and useful.


  1. [...] About the Author: Sonia Simone is Senior Editor of Copyblogger and the founder of Remarkable Communication. [...]

  2. [...] with these shows as a part of my life for so long,  I was amazed to notice (since I started the Remarkable Marketing Blueprint), that many of favorite songs illustrate key marketing [...]

  3. [...] have been following Susan’s work for awhile (we are both students in the Remarkable Marketing Blueprint) and have been impressed with how she approaches resistance.   And yet, because she only worked [...]