Birthday reflection: 20 lessons on marketing

I turned 30 a week ago!

It made me reflect my 20s, and I so, in this post I wanted to share 20 key marketing and business lessons I’ve learned:


1 – Marketing is perception. Wine tastes better in an expensive glass. Or does it? The better question: How do you market expensive wine glasses?

2 – People are interested in what’s new, not what’s better. Also explains why people come out with new labels such as, ‘mumpreneur’, ‘infopreneur’, ‘un-franchise owner’.

3 – Customers have 2 basics wants: To feel safe and to be in control.

4 – Law of diminishing returns. Spent RM10 on Facebook ads and got back RM20 in profit? As you scale on the same settings, often, you’ll experience lower and lower returns.

5 – Copywriting is the #1 skill in marketing. Words exist on billboards, ads, flyers, social posts – everywhere. To be a good marketer, write well. But it’s not about how complex your words are. It’s about how well you articulate your thoughts into words.

6 – Start a blog. Having a habit to constantly write makes you a better writer. It’s just like going to the gym to exercise.

7 – Invest in brand marketing. Marketing costs increase every year. If you only rely on hype marketing without building your brand, your profit margins will dip over the years, due to rising marketing costs (ads, sponsorships, etc.). You need a way for people to find your name.

8 – The future of marketing is personalization. When everyone is focusing on mass marketing (which is dying), focus on ways to personalize your marketing. Receiving an email that says “Hi, Sally!” is better than receiving one that says “Dear customers”.

9 – Get good at analytics. Numbers never lie. Say your customers tell you they hate receiving emails. But if you see revenue from emails grow 20% every year, don’t stop it. I teach this web analytics in Google Analytics Primer.

10 – Zig-zag marketing. Don’t do what everyone is already doing. Playing it safe rarely gives huge results in marketing. For example, if everyone is using ‘FB live videos’ to sell, don’t do the same. Following a zip-zag strategy, do something different. Like creating the illusion of exclusivity by selling ONLY via registered webinars.

And some business-related lessons.

1 – If someone is talking to you, you’ve got something they want. A gem from Chris Voss on negotiation.

2- Forget surveys when validating a product. Go straight to people and sell your product. Your friends and family will often be supportive of your business until you ask for their credit cards. The only way to validate a product is if you’re able to find people willing to exchange money for it.

3 – Pre-sell often. Some of my best and most exciting launches were pre-sales. Finding customers is the difficult part, building the product is usually easier. Find customers first, then build the product. Most people tend to do it the other way around.

4 – Earn the trust. Writing meaningful emails to 10 of your best customers over 10 years will earn you the trust. Exactly why I’m keeping the habit of writing and sharing consistently on this blog.

5 – Know the value you bring. If you are a gym owner, you’re not selling a place for people to work out. You’re selling a place for people to grow their confidence and status. As a business, ask yourself: ‘Am I raising the status, keeping it, or lowering it’?

6 – Your employees are assets. When faced with a financial hit, most companies will start cutting their employees. I manage a small team of people, but I’ve come to learn that coming to where we are right now would be impossible without these people. Employees are assets, not costs.

7 – Don’t hire arrogant people. Whether you’re hiring, collaborating, or outsourcing. Even if they are really good, arrogant people are stuck in their ways and will be resistant to experiment.

8 – The rule of 7. People typically need to see and engage your brand at least 7 times before they’ll make a purchase. Often re-learning this the hard way, it reminds us to continue persevering and exploring different engagement channels.

9 – Don’t get complacent. A good month or two in your business might give you the illusion that things are going well. But business and market conditions move fast. Many businesses came and go in just months during the lockdown.

10 – Own up to mistakes. It’s worth it. Just like how people make mistakes, businesses make bad decisions as well. But when you make a mistake, own up to it even if it costs you. It’s worth it because you’ll build trust in the long run.

And a final pet peeve:

Videos are powerful. You should use them as the medium for digital communication. But the #1 thing that matters in a video is sound.

Watch the video below, to know how I feel:

That’s right, invest in a decent microphone. The built-in microphone on your phone won’t do it.

Some recommendations for microphones: 

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