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7 Big Marketing Lessons Learned From Tim Ferriss

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by David Garland in David's Blog

Tim FerrissThis week I was fortunate to have author/blogger Tim Ferriss on RISE (in case you missed it, here is the interview with him).

To say Tim is an interesting character would be a massive understatement. Just a few years ago (in 2006), nobody knew who Tim was (except probably his parents and a few others).

Fast forward to now:

  • He is the international best-selling author of The 4-Hour Workweek (#1 New York Times Bestseller, #1 Wall Street Journal Bestseller, #1 BusinessWeek Bestseller). The book has been reprinted in over 35 languages.
  • His blog is one of the most popular blogs online, regularly drawing in 1,000,000+ monthly visitors and great content that is relevant literally years after it is published.
  • His new book, The 4-Four Hour Body (out in December) (Amazon link), will definitely make a massive splash (trust me).
  • Plus, Tim is an angel investor dabbling into a variety of tech startups, including one you might have heard of: Twitter.


How did Tim do all of this in such a short period of time? Is he some kind of superman? Smarter than everyone else in the world? Is there some kind of “trick” that we don’t see?

I don’t think so.

Tim Ferriss is one of my favorite examples of someone who has marketed and promoted by being smarter, faster, cheaper as opposed to dumber, slower, expensive.

And this is something you can do as well (in your own way).

So, how did he do it?

#1: Marketing Around Your Product

Tim’s product he was looking to spread was a book. Problem? There are literally thousands of books published every year. Some are great. Some not-so-much. In such a crowded pool, how does one stick out?

The answer? Tim marketed around the product as opposed to the product itself. Most people market the product. When they are pitching media or talking to bloggers or whatever it might be, they brag about the product. How fast it is. How awesome it is. How revolutionary it is. Problem though is nobody cares about your product more than you and it is quite easy to come off as a product pusher. Nobody likes a sketchy product pusher, right?

Instead of promoting “just the book” Tim promoted a larger idea: Lifestyle Design. Lifestyle design is a combination of entrepreneurship, marketing, productivity, and much more. It is interesting, captivating, and helpful.

If you are a media source, what sounds more appealing to you?

#1: The guy pushing his book.
#2: The guy who is a trusted resource on a new trend called lifestyle design.

Which one would you want to cover?

The media covered the larger topic and oh by the way, of course they mentioned the book. Genius.

#2: Creating Content & Community

How did Tim become a trusted resource in the field of lifestyle design? Was he ordained by some “expert maker”? Did he pay someone huge amounts of money to deem him the king?

Nope. Tim simply created a blog around the topic and started creating interesting, compelling, and thought-worthy content. He has a unique style of writing (longer, fact-filled posts) and his blog made noise due to quality.

The cool thing about this is Tim was able to create a two-way community focused around a passion for lifestyle design. People became part of it. Commented. Shared. Took ownership of the idea.

Essentially, Tim created a small militia, and then an army, who believed in the idea, wanted to learn more, and looked to Tim as the leader.

The neat thing about this is when Tim was “ready” to promote something (the book), the community ate it up like a delicious Oreo cookie (assuming you like Oreos, that is a good thing).

Are you building a community WAY BEFORE you have something you might want to sell to them?

#3: YOU Are Your Best Marketer

Which route do you think Tim went when it came time to market and promote his book?

A: He hired an expensive PR firm to promote it for him while he sat on the beach.
B: He got into the trenches, made his own new and traditional media contacts, and was his own best marketer.

The answer is B…actually with a smattering of A. Tim told me during our interview that he actually DID hire a PR firm for $18,000…and they accomplished literally nothing. Ouch. (Side note: There are many PR firms that rock, this was not one of them).

Instead, Tim got busy. He went to BlogWorld and met some of the world’s most interesting bloggers. He formed genuine relationships with them. He became a one-man relationship-building machine (doesn’t this sound like something you can do online and off?).

This might be a tough pill to swallow or an elixir of amazing (depending on your view of it). But, marketing starts with you. The leader. The entrepreneur. The face.

People want to hear from you. People want to talk to you. Media wants to connect with you. Are you borrowing relationships or are you creating them on your own?

#4: Quality Matters

If The 4-Hour Workweek wasn’t a good book, would it still have become a phenomenon and best seller because Tim’s marketing was so superb?

It used to be you COULD market literally crap. Buy enough ads. Convince enough people. And crap would sell.

Not anymore. We have all become wise to the crap (and we all have a say since, thanks to social and new media, we all have a voice…be it big or small).

Quality matters in everything you do and honestly, (pun sort of intended) it rises to the top. The 4-Hour Workweek was tirelessly researched, refined, and written. Most of Tim’s blog posts are like little miniature pieces of art. Is any of it perfect? Not possible. Striving for perfection? Possibly futile. Creating the best possible piece of art of you can? That sounds like something to strive for.

#5: New Media Matters More Than Traditional

I asked Tim in our interview, if things have changed since 2007. What is more important in terms of focus (if you had to choose one): Spending time forming relationships with new media sources, or traditional media?

Without missing a beat, Tim’s answer is new media. This is exactly what Tim did when he burst on the scene. He formed genuine relationships with new media sources. People interested in the same things he was. A one-on-one relationship. Not an impersonal press release or a hard selling pitch. It was all about making friends. And people help their friends.

Does this mean traditional media is “evil and not worth worrying about.” Not at all. But as a hustling entrepreneur, I’d rather put my eggs in the basket of passionate, interesting and unique online content creators. People that have a genuine relationship with their community. People that actually give a crap.

And trust me, enough new media buzz will lead to traditional media coverage. There becomes a point where they just can’t ignore you.

#6: Hard Selling Equals Failure

The “buy or die” mentality (or “cover my book or die” mentality) can have a massively adverse effect. Sure, it might get a few weak souls to buy or cover you, but what about those other 98% of people who now hate you?

Tim is a perfect example of a soft seller. He never shoved the book down anyone’s throats. He sent it to bloggers after they said they would like to check it out and never asked for anything.

He did ask his community to support the book launch, but it was friendly and not one of those stupid “I’ve been giving you all kinds of free content. Now buy my book or get the *bleep* out of here.” Yuck.

He didn’t set up a sketchy sales page with yellow highlighters and fake testimonials.

We are in the era of the ultimate soft sell. Are you shoving your message down people’s jugulars?

#7: Human-Centered Design & Usability

This one is often overlooked. But, if you head over to Tim’s blog, there are many things you will see: articles, comments, links to Facebook, etc. One thing you won’t see? Crappy design. Tim obsesses over usability and has put in a smattering of little of touches on the blog that enhance the user experience and the connection with the audience.


  • Tim’s face at the top of the blog, reminds us that there is a real person behind this.
  • We are encouraged to subscribe via RSS with a little link leading to “7 Reasons to Subscribe” (cool idea).
  • There is a “Most Popular” plugin which rotates a variety of posts. This keeps the content fresh months after it is posted.
  • Individual posts encourage commenting and sharing. Often at the end of posts, Tim asks a question or for your thoughts. Plus, there is EASY one-click sharing to sites like Facebook and Twitter, plus the ability to email articles, etc. This creates the peanut butter effect: Easily spreadable.

Is your design personal? Does it allow for EASY sharing?

Wrapping It Up

It is fun to dissect cases like Tim because there are so many takeaways. Will you or I be the “next” Tim Ferriss and do things exactly the way he has done? Probably not. But, I bet you can be your best “you” and market and promote by being smarter, faster, cheaper as opposed to dumber, slower, expensive.

What about you? What is your take?

NOTE: Tim is one of my FAVORITE studies and I talk about him even more in my upcoming book – Smarter, Faster, Cheaper: Non-Boring, Fluff-free Strategies for Marketing and Promoting Your Business. The book is out on December 7th and I hope you will consider picking up a copy. Over two years of research, interviews, experiments and more have gone into it (including my heart and soul, haha). You can pre-order on Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

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