6 Ways to Put People First in Your Marketing

A lot of marketing treats prospective clients like garbage.

From psychological techniques to fake authority before it actually accrues, to the widely-accepted advice to ‘touch their pain’ in order to connect, is it any wonder so many are left with a desire to hose themselves off?

Thankfully, there is another way.

It starts with rejecting the idea that we need to “suck it up” and treat prospective clients in a way we don’t like to grease the gears of a sale.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

1)    Think about how it feels to be on the receiving end of a specific tactic. One of the members of our Write Club community recently reported the experience of interviewing a copywriter about the possibility of working together, only to be badgered by threatening follow up emails that used stock phrases like “you’re leaving money on the table” and artlessly trying to change a no into a yes on email. Not only is this desperate, it’s tacky.

PRO TIP: Before you reach out to anyone in your business – especially a prospective client! – ask yourself: is this what I would like to receive? Is it delightful? Am I contributing in a meaningful way?

2)    Don’t do anything the way most people do it. A colleague of mine recently texted me a simple question during regular business hours:

. It was simple, clear, and personal – and heaps better than the cut-and-paste generic emails I get from people I don’t know who confuse me with a woman who says yes to garbage.

3)    Spend time each week building relationships with colleagues. Set up 30-minute conversations to follow up with people you genuinely like and who have their act together. Ask what they are up to, how you can help them and then do it. Don’t be a lone wolf! It’s harder and less fun than having a crew of people who are cheering you on.

4)    Slow down. Our culture conditions us to move fast, but this actually disconnects us from other people (and our own wisdom). This disconnection leads to a feeling that we are separate from other people, which causes all sorts of problems – one of them being that our marketing is unoriginal and no one cares. Dare to reject the dominant paradigm and explore the bounty that can only find you if you shut up and get present.

5)    Get in conversation with your clients. Ask your clients (or if you’re new, the people you want to be your clients) for clues about why they hired you. You’ll probably need to sift through their answers for the gold you can use in your marketing. The trick is to listen for themes and phrases that keep coming up.

PRO TIP: Ask your favorite clients: What was your #1 challenge that led you to hire me? What had you tried before and did it work? What’s the biggest benefit you’ve gotten from our work together?

6)    Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want done to you.  One of my friends tells the story of being at a coaching event where she was followed into the bathroom by a salesperson who wanted to ‘coach’ her into buying a coaching program.  Man, was she pissed! (No pun intended.) While hilarious, it’s also tacky. If you don’t enjoy being on the receiving end of high-pressure sales tactics, don’t do them to other people. Remember: this is your business. You’re the boss. There is more than one way to market and sell your programs and services.

On our quest to increase our client list and revenue, let us remember that how we go about it matters. The way we conduct ourselves in business signals our values.

Do we fundamentally believe our prospective clients are so mixed up that only we know what’s best – and get to use high-pressure techniques “for their own good”?

Or are we truly on a mission to help everyone we meet to see themselves as the hero of their own story – and relinquish our right to exercise ‘power over’ other people because that’s not how we roll?

To be clear – there’s nothing wrong with making money. Far from it. But if you’re truly on a mission – as many of us are now — to help people become the proverbial captains of their own ship and cocreators of a culture that works for more people, make sure it starts with the marketing and sales techniques you use.

Stella Orange teaches her clients how to effectively market their business by telling a better story in their marketing— the story of the hero answering the call to more. A professional copywriter whose writing has generated millions of dollars in sales, Stella knows that the story we tell in our marketing matters a whole lot, because on a fundamental level, it shapes how people think about themselves and what’s even possible for them. Three times a month, Stella hosts a 90-minute Shut Up And Write session via videoconference for members of her Write Club community. She is based in Buffalo, New York, where she lives with her husband, the Philosopher, and their dog, Chachi. Get a copy of Stella’s position paper The New Marketing: How to Create Clients Without Feeling Gross, Icky or Manipulative at www.stellaorange.com/newmarketing.


  1. Stella, you’re a genius and I love you! Fab article. You continue to inspire me! Happy New Year!
    Diane 💕

  2. Stella, thanks for always cutting the crap, telling the truth, and embodying sincerity & humanity instead of being a sleazy marketing machine. The world needs you!

    • Stella

      You bet, Lisa. Thanks for reading!

  3. Excellent article. Finally someone who thinks like I do.

    Thank you Stella!!

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