Paid in Full #004: Don't pay for marketing (yet)

published2 months ago
5 min read

Read time: 6 minutes

Over the years, I have wasted tens of thousands of dollars on ads and all types of marketing to get more customers. When we started 3Skills, we spent a few hundred dollars on some posters and chalk spray to leave all around downtown Ottawa. That marketing plan didn’t work and we lost money.

There is always a temptation to spend on marketing right away. You want to get your product or service in front of more people so you can start making money as soon as possible. Don’t fall into this trap. One of the strategies I will be teaching in my new course – The Paid in Full Blueprint – is centered around marketing anything for free. That's what we will be talking about on this issue of Paid in Full. Here’s the guiding principle I learned early on:

Guiding Principle:

Everything compounds.

Did you know Einstein described compound interest as the eighth wonder of the world? But compound interest isn’t that special. The truth is, everything compounds. Doing something consistently for a long period of time can compound into something positive or negative. Our lives are the compound effect of all the tiny decisions we make. If you want to have a completely different life one year from today, pick something you can control and keep doing it over and over again. If you want to deepen a relationship with someone you care about, spend an hour with them every week for a year. If you want to build a large network, meet with one new person every week for a year.

Don’t be discouraged when you get poor results and don’t be prideful when you get great ones – just keep going. Even if you don’t increase your efforts, choose to remain patient and consistent and the results will eventually exceed your expectations.

10 a.m. every day

After 3Skills’ first cohort, we lost almost all of the initial momentum we had. Our first cohort had 20 people, but the next three cohorts had less than 10 people each. We had told all our friends and family about our service so now we needed to tell strangers. We started trying everything – Facebook ads, posters, spray chalk for sidewalks and a few other interesting ideas. We didn’t make any money from those efforts. In fact, we lost a lot of money. Most of the people that signed up for our program after the first cohort only heard about the program from someone who had taken it.

After almost a year of barely making any revenue, I decided to make a LinkedIn post based on a framework I learned during my Shopify onboarding process. Here was the post:

The post was relatable, relevant at the time and had 3Skills tagged in it. I had around 900 connections at that time yet the post got over 300,000 impressions. We had more people sign up in one day than the last eight months combined. So I immediately made a commitment to post everyday at 10 a.m. indefinitely.

Here’s what I learned about marketing from watching my simple decision compound over three years:

Start with something free

When you’re starting a new venture, you have very little credibility outside the people who know you personally. A great way to attract people is by giving away something for free. We started with a free resume workshop. I’ve seen other people start with a free template, an ebook or any other free resource.

You can run a free class, webinar or event to get people in the door. Understand that not everyone will want to buy whatever you are selling. The point is to get exposure for what you are offering – this is why open houses and test drives have worked so well over the years. Remember you are looking for people who are looking for you. The key is to make your free resource incredibly valuable so that people WANT to pay for whatever you’re offering. You can set up a webinar using Zoom, give away a free resource using Gumroad or run a free live event on Eventbrite!

Focus on ONE platform

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the number of platforms available to you when you’re trying to market your product or service. Some people will tell you to post on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit, TikTok and LinkedIn all at once so you can reach more people – this is a terrible idea. We tried this and never got any momentum. You are already stepping out of your comfort zone to build something. Make it easy for yourself by developing the habit. Instead, pick ONE platform and stick to it for at least 90 days. If you don’t like being in front of the camera, don’t start by making TikToks – you will probably spend a lot of time overthinking and will eventually burn out. Try writing on LinkedIn or on Twitter instead.

Regardless of what you choose, stick to one when you start. It will make it easier to keep going. If you don’t know where to start, use tools like Taplio for LinkedIn inspiration, TweetHunter for viral tweets or Typeshare for simple templates. Pour all your focus into one place and the content will naturally overflow into other platforms.

Set a daily (or weekly) alarm

Doing something once will not give you enough momentum. You need to commit to doing it consistently. When you start in your comfort zone, you increase your chances of actually showing up and not quitting. But people are forgetful. I tried posting consistently on LinkedIn for months. Here’s the proof:

I struggled to string together five days of posts. Then I started using an alarm. In June 2020, I set an alarm for 10 a.m. EST everyday. Even if I had nothing to say, I made a post. It didn’t matter if only one person liked it – my job was to show up and I did. Once it became a habit, it was almost impossible to break. I have now made over 750 consistent posts on LinkedIn. At the beginning of any habit, showing up is 90% of the battle. If you can’t do it daily, weekly or even monthly, use an alarm so you don’t forget. For extra accountability, tell two people about your commitment and give them permission to hold you to your word. Then be patient. Everything compounds.

To recap your free marketing strategy:

  1. Start with something free
  2. Focus on one platform
  3. Set a daily (or weekly) alarm

Recommendation of the week:

Listen to this podcast episode featuring Austin Rief.

Austin is the CEO of Morning Brew which started as a daily newsletter. It is now a massive media company. Ignore the size of the numbers and pay attention to their scrappy start, how consistent they were and how their discipline compounded over the years. I'm confident it will inspire you.

If you found this newsletter valuable, I would appreciate it if you shared it with someone who might see value in it too.

See you on the next issue of Paid in Full.


Whenever you need it, here's how I might be able to help you:

1. If you’re looking for a proven system to follow, my recommendation is to start with a simple course:

The Paid in Full Blueprint: Start building a second stream of income WITHOUT quitting your job. This in-depth course will teach you the exact process I used to generate my first $50,000 online – outside my full-time job (Launching April 3). Join the Waitlist

2. Project Pivot: Transition into a more fulfilling career. This 6-week coaching program will teach you the system we used to successfully pivot careers without taking a pay cut. Join 400 Pivoters here

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