The Complete Newbie’s Guide to Marketing


Think it’s the lack of advanced techniques that’s been holding you back?

Think your blog isn’t finding readers because you don’t have the coolest plugins? Or that your sales page doesn’t convert because you couldn’t afford the 1,999 Secrets of Ninja Marketing Masters product that got released last month?

Think the secret to successful marketing and running a profitable online business is some piece of Jedi mastery that you would need to study for years to learn?

Not even close.

Most businesses (online and off) just get the basics wrong.

So here’s what works. Get these right and you’ll be ahead of 98% of your competition.

And if you’re just getting started, you’re in luck, because you don’t have a lot of bad habits to unlearn.

Describe benefits, not features

I know you’re rolling your eyes. This gets covered on the first page of Marketing for Blithering Idiots, but we don’t do it.

We get wrapped up in what we do, and we forget to translate that into what our customers get out of it.

The insanely simple and direct way to handle this is just to put a bulleted list on your sales page (or About page or Hire Us page, wherever it’s relevant) under the title:

Here’s What [My Product] Will Do For You

List out the seven most important wonderful things that your customer will experience as a result of doing business with you. Make sure this list can be seen “above the fold” on the screen — in other words, without the viewer needing to scroll.

Make them a nice mix of logical and emotional benefits.

Benefits are the little black dress of marketing: always appropriate. Try tucking them into your headlines, or writing entire blog posts around key benefits.

Don’t forget that testimonials and case studies are a great way to show benefits rather than just telling people about them.

Make your advertising too valuable to throw away

I got this from copywriting legend Gary Bencivenga, and it’s even more applicable today than it was when he used it. Since he made millions of dollars as one of the most successful copywriters in history, I pay special attention to what he has to say.

Advertising is, almost by definition, junk. Direct mail, infomercials, billboards — we see these as garbage, even though they do sometimes influence us to buy.

Bencivenga instead positioned his direct mail advertising as valuable content. He perfected the art of the “magalog” — a commercial mail piece that looks like a magazine. His magalogs contained valuable stock tips, health information, or expert financial advice.

Many of the products Bencivenga promoted were early versions of information products — specifically, books and newsletters. He didn’t pull the “B” material from those books and newsletters to give away in his marketing. He found the very best tips, the juiciest and most beneficial advice, and sent it to prospects for free.

Sound familiar?

(What can I say, I only steal from the best.)

Bencivenga’s technique works perfectly with content and email marketing. The more genuine value you create in your marketing materials (which includes your blog, your Twitter stream, and your forum posts), the tighter relationship you build with your customers.

Address objections

It’s hard to keep your cool when you create a business. You put so much work and care into it, the idea that anyone doesn’t love it as much as you do can be hard to fathom.

You need to get over this.

Most people who see your marketing messages won’t buy from you. But many of those would buy from you, if not for some unanswered question in their minds.

Objections are all the reasons prospects think your product might not be for them.

Objections boil down to fear — fear of feeling dumb, fear of making a mistake, fear of wasting money. Give your copy enough time to address those fears and overcome them.

And one super-secret technique

OK, this one really is a ninja trick. Check out this Copyblogger post on the sneaky, ultra-advanced sales technique that most marketers miss.

But shhhh, don’t tell anyone. Otherwise any newbie could do it.

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

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Reader Comments (59)

  1. says

    True marketing genius. I was just reading a post the other day that said not only does your customer want to know what you do…they want to know what you can do for them.

    Being able to talk the talk is one thing but people want and expect you to walk the walk.

  2. says

    I have to tell ya, I’ve invested thousands in expert’s courses and have two degrees from college – this post alone will get anyone looking to build a business online 90% of the way there.

    The only way to get started is to take action. That’s the bottom line.

    — Jason

  3. says

    I particularly loved Tip #2, “too valuable to throw away”. That’s genius. I think I do something like that free information reports. I give away lots of valuable information, but they also serve to presell another product.

    In a way, this blog is an example of that. You give away lots of great information, and that helps to publicize and promote your paid products.

  4. says

    I think the best quote demonstrating this is:

    People don’t WANT to buy a 1/2 inch drill bit…they NEED a 1/2 inch hole.

    Michael Fortin expanded on this by saying:
    …then find out the DESIRE behind the need for the hole and you’ve found the true benefit.

  5. Sonia Simone says

    @Paul, yeah, that one is a real favorite of mine. Free reports are a great way to do it.

    @Jason, thanks!

    @Roschelle, exactly, that “what you can do for them” needs to become something of an obsession. We humans naturally tend to get pretty self-centered, and we need to break out of that if we want to sell/persuade.

  6. says

    “List out the seven most important wonderful things that your customer will experience as a result of doing business with you.”

    So true, how will your product benefit the reader, not the other way around. Your right that far too often we get wrapped up into what we do, not the benefit to the reader.

  7. says


    Good stuff. It works in sales (my forte) as well as marketing. How many clients do I have today as a result of calling and offering to help with the metadescription of the home page, and then demonstrating the results in google?

    A ton. Giving stuff away–for free-is the way to get clients. Demonstrate your value, knowledge and expertise. And if you have none of these things, be a VA/task monkey for someone good till you do.

    The free information concept/free help just plain works.


  8. says

    I just can’t get over how cute that baby’s toes are…

    “Objections boil down to fear — fear of feeling dumb, fear of making a mistake, fear of wasting money. Give your copy enough time to address those fears and overcome them.”

    I like this idea. Gentle, clear explanations, just like how you explain to your child there is no monster in his closet. It’s okay to open that door, or “it’s okay to buy that product!”

  9. says

    More great advice. I especially like the super-secret-ninja technique. 😉

    Your advice about making your content to valuable to “throw away” is spot on. I think everyone need to really focus on quality over quantity. Quality is what keeps them coming back after all.



  10. Sonia Simone says

    @Mike, well, for me it is, but for some apparently not. :)

    @Dena, indeed, my carefully-guarded ninja trick is pretty powerful stuff.

  11. says

    Seth Godin frequently reminds his readers to get back to the basics of fulfilling other people’s needs.

    When talking with a compeditor you can spout off all the great “features” you offer, but the benefits are what sells. I love it.

  12. says

    What if I don’t want the newbies guide to marketing? What if I want the super affiliates guide to marketing? LOL just kidding nice post, I think I must just have to pick this one up.

  13. says

    Great reminders. As you said, all stuff we hear all the time but forget to do. What’s wrong with us, we won’t implement the easy stuff-thank goodness we have you folks at Copyblogger to keep drilling it in our heads! 😉

    What do you think of the traditional sales landing pages that everyone says work? You know the ones that are very are long, have testimonials, insights into product offering, etc. I know this is supposed to be the “proven” best way to sell, but I really feel like I’m standing in a new car sales room with a car salesman…not one of my favorite feelings that makes me want to pull the trigger on spending money.

    Thanks in advance for your insites!

  14. says

    Gosh, I’m sorry but I don’t quite agree with you here, Sonia. I appreciate the article, the points are excellent, but these 4 points don’t quite capture the basic core essence of marketing. They are more like tips for newbies, rather than a complete guide like the headline says. But then again, it’s still an awesome article. Thanks!

  15. Sonia Simone says

    @Charles, it’s a guide for the complete newbie, rather than a complete guide aimed at the newbie. 😉 Agree that there is a whole lot more that can be learned and mastered. But since most smaller businesses & solopreneurs get these wrong, and they’re fairly easy to fix, it’s a good place to start.

    There’s one more I should have added, which is developing a unique & compelling market position, but that one’s not quite as easy to put into place.

  16. says

    Yes, embedding advertising in valuable content is the best way to go.

    In my field of fine art marketing, creating a narrative around a product creates a real life scenario that pulls people in. Now they don’t just need the product, they WANT it.

  17. says

    While reading the post, I caught myself shaking my head because I wasn’t implementing some of the most basic marketing tactics you covered. Tactics which I will definitely be putting into action after I post this comment!

    Many thanks for the great and helpful advice!

    Wesley Craig Green
    The Geek Entrepreneur

  18. says

    When the student is ready… as a traditional technologist / CTO type turned entrepreneur I am struggling with these very issues every day and have been for the last month. I’ve read and read all the latest (Trust Agents) and classics (Predicably Irrational & Influence etc.) and yet find it astoundingly difficult to see the benefits thru the features. I took a stab at reducing these salient points to 140 char and came up with this… “Concerned about privacy? Want to communicate and never worry about your security? Visit and discover our secure space.” God I need help that doesn’t even begin to touch on the most important aspects of the platform (the ability to send afterlife messages to your loved ones) letting them know everything will be alright should you pass away unexpectedly! Anyone, anyone?

  19. says

    This tip is priceless:
    “Make your advertising too valuable to throw away” – with the current hysteria over freemiums – I have to remind myself to deliver “I can’t believe he shared that” content at every opportunity. Time to dig up my Gary B swipe files!

  20. says

    Another great post. I’ve wasted money in the past buying E-books that were going to reveal some great secret that would triple my sales. I now realise there is no secret, no magic, there’s just hard work and taking action.

  21. says

    Sonia, someone at Google needs to read your post.
    In gmail at the top of my screen, they have the message:

    “Gmail runs faster in Google Chrome. I want it, tell me more!”

    “runs faster”? So what does running faster do for me? Dig deeper Google!

  22. says

    Just one word–superb–describes this article. I have to disagree somewhat with the comment above by Charles. His implication that the “rules” for newbies are somehow different from those for seasoned marketers is misleading. ‘Taint so. The principles are the same for all of us, and newbies need to learn (and practice) them from the beginning.

  23. says

    You’re right, Sonia. As a marketing copywriter, I’ve worked with about 250 businesses selling everything you can imagine. And I’ve learned that it’s ALWAYS the big stuff that makes a difference. Get in front of people. Give them valuable information. Try to help them rather than just sell them something. It’s not rocket science. But enough people get it wrong to keep me in business. :)

  24. Sonia Simone says

    Amen to that. 😉

    When businesses get it wrong, that’s one thing. But it makes me bananas when agencies & copywriters get it wrong. Bencivenga calls it “advertising malpractice,” which I like.

    @Jody, that’s spot on. The fundamentals keep being fundamental. I’ve seen folks get hung up and think they’re “too advanced” for the basics. Bad move.

  25. says

    Great reminder that the number one thing in the mind of people is: What’s in it for me? Get their attention quick before they leave by answering that question.

  26. says

    Great article…and what I have been trying to get accross to people for years. I used to be a high paid sales training consultant and getting sales people to stop listing all the “specs” of their products and start talking about what the product or service will do for them. You never dissapoint, thanks again for all the great articles!

  27. says

    Wow. I’m really impressed. Thanks for this post. I love the dealing with objections part. I also love the idea of giving customers the most valuable information while advertising a product. Most marketers will like to hold back, but in giving, with a genuine interest in helping people, you’ll get a reward.

  28. says

    I love the initial euphoria that accompanies a marketing project. You are so clear about the means. But then after the initial toll, you seem to lose the cool and tread on these forbidden lines… We start marketing the wrong way!

    Thanks for providing the crucial bloopers :)

  29. says

    This reminds me of when I was looking at getting the next Gen console – tossing up between ps3 and xbox 360.

    I was leaning towards the PS3 because I had the PS2 and some games already but the xbox was cheaper and I was tight on cash.

    I went into one store and all I wanted to know was if the ps3 could play ps2 games. He obviously didn’t know as he kept telling me all the bells and whistles of the PS3 apart from what I actually asked. He just continually kept trying to sell things to me without addressing my question.

    I ended leaving him and his store saying ‘I’ll go and think about it’ went to another store got a straight up answer and ended up buying an xbox 360 and have been a long serving customer at that store. Why? Because they told me the benefits of what I wanted. They acknowledged me as a person with individual needs and weren’t some transparent robot acting like a used car salesman.

  30. says

    Your site is a valuable resource for new marketers. You are absolutely correct; leading with value is the priority in internet marketing. Believe me, I spent many hours and a lot of money trying to do it the wrong way. You’ve just confirmed that I’m on the right path.

  31. says

    This is a great guide for marketing insight for beginners. I’m going to suggest it to people who inquire about this topic, great information and well detailed.

  32. says

    This is great I love the idea of describing the benefits not the features, showing your customers that your product is something that they can’t live without. Thanks for posting these tips!

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