Helpful Marketing: Gary Vaynerchuk, not Seth Godin, not Don Draper

5 1/2 years ago I stumbled across a blog post where some guy named Ries was talking about an idea called “Lean Startup”. I’ve learned a lot watching Eric, particularly the power of talking about an idea and letting even smarter people develop it. So I’m going to start writing about a strategy I call Helpful Marketing™ and why it will change everything about your business.


What is Helpful Marketing?

My current definition, which will evolve as we learn more is …

Helpful Marketing is a strategy to win customers by proving you help them solve problems.

( if you have better ideas…)

During my career I’ve seen 2 major waves of marketing. I believe we’re beginning a 3rd, an era where your success or failure depends on how much your customers perceive you as helpful.


Wave 1: Don Draper & Mass Consumer Marketing


For 50 years Madison Avenue told us what to buy. From shampoo to personal computers, companies paid money to blast us with with any-color-as-long-as-its-black mass-market messages.

Clever won, unique won, remarkable won – but mostly scale & money won.


Wave 2: Seth Godin & Permission Marketing


In the mid–1990s “The Internet” arrived and consumers began spending more and more time consuming just what they wanted. Don Draper retired to drink scotch at the beach while Sergei and Larry launched Google & Adwords. Companies suddenly had new channels to reach us like email & online ads – and what Seth Godin popularized as “Permission Marketing” was the new strategy. Want to get customers’ attention? First you have to earn their “permission”. Serve me an ad NOT when I buy a magazine – but when I’m searching for a solution. Sell me products through email – but only after I opt-in for your newsletter.


The end of Permission Marketing

Permission Marketing had a great run but it just isn’t effective anymore. Don’t believe me? Take a look at your email inbox – it fills constantly with stuff you will never read from companies with your “permission” to send. Unfortunately for them “permission” is no guarantee that you will read it.

Online advertising? Tim Ferris & Eric Ries have written about running campaigns for a few dollars/day. Those days are long gone and few startups I know even try – it is too expensive as Sean Ellis explains in the Online Marketing Arms Race.


Wave 3: Gary Vaynerchuk, a helpful person who cares


“I attract a crowd, not because I’m an extrovert or I’m over the top or I’m oozing with charisma. It’s because I care.”

Gary Vaynerchuk

When I first heard about Gary Vaynerchuk I figured he was just another guy making lots of noise to get attention – and like anyone successful, he attracts critics and controversy. Then people I respect began telling me how Gary changed their lives. I can’t tell you the number of people who’ve told me …

“I emailed Gary Vaynerchuk and he actually responded”

“Gary Vaynerchuck will do an interview with someone even if they have only 5 followers on YouTube.”



Google AdWords? So … 2009

“Here’s how I work: It’s 2013, and most marketers are operating like it’s 2009. I’m always trying to market like it’s 2015…”

Gary Vaynerchuk

What I now know is that Gary relentlessly helps people solve problems. Don’t know which wine to buy? Gary will help you figure out. Need more customers? Gary will give you some advice on how to find them.

Gary is the first to admit … there is no magic to what he does. He doesn’t claim to be the smartest guy, the most successful, or the richest. Instead he spends his time AGGRESSIVELY pursuing every possible opportunity to PROVE to YOU he will help YOU solve problems.

Gary Vaynerchuk is the best example of this new wave of marketing, what I call Helpful Marketing.


Getting customers is harder – but being helpful is your unique opportunity

I’ve worked with thousands of entrepreneurs and try to help an additional 10–20 every week. Their #1 challenge is getting customers. Whatever you think your biggest risks are, meeting more customers and building closer relationships with them will dwarf every other problem you have.

Just starting? You need to find customers to do Customer Development. If your startup is a year old you know that getting feedback from them is really tough. IPO next month? Get ready to show the bankers how you’re going to grow.

It is getting harder than ever … but only if you market like it is 2009. There is a better way.

I know this is true because I’m using Helpful Marketing to achieve these goals myself – and I’ll show you how you can do it too.


Some Helpful Marketing concepts

I’m going to be writing about concepts like these and sharing the stories I’m learning from entrepreneurs who are winning with Helpful Marketing.


Start with who & why

The only sure path to failure is trying to help everyone. You have to first know who you want to help & why. I call this person your Target Persona.


Aggressively seek opportunities to be helpful

Customers are reluctant to ask for help – we have to convince them to give us a chance to prove we can help them. “Good customer service” isn’t enough. If you wait for people to ask for help you’re going to lose to the Gary Vaynerchuk’s of the world.


Being helpful trumps originality – or greatness

Many entrepreneurs make writing and content creation way too hard by trying to be original – save originality for the PhD theses. Your customers don’t care whether you are original – only that you are helpful.

You may think your product itself has to be great, but your customers are already overwhelmed with too many products that promise the same thing. Trying to win on product alone is becoming impossible. Be the most helpful with a good product and you’ll crush competitors with a great product.


Helpful Marketing is a lifestyle

Every email,

…every phone call,

……every meeting,

………every speech,

…………every possible interaction with your Target Persona is an opportunity to make your case, to convince them you can be helpful. You can’t afford to miss one of them.


Please give me the opportunity to help YOU

Let me guess … you need to meet more customers, right?

I’m not asking – I’m begging for an opportunity help you. Want to start a Helpful Marketing strategy? I have helped hundreds of other entrepreneurs win fans and customers by being helpful – and I can help you.

Won’t you please just give me a chance?


Free resources to more about Helpful Marketing

If you’re interested in learning more about Helpful Marketing right away I’ve created two free resources for you.


Helpful Marketing 101 course

First, I’ve created a drip email course I call Helpful Marketing 101. I’ve learned a lot since writing it and will share more in the months to come.


Ebook: How to Get Customers to Call You for Help

If you prefer something portable I’ve written free ebook I call How to Get Customers to Call You for Help. I send a copy to everyone who tries SoHelpful. Although the language is directed at them, you’ll find the promotional strategies relevant to you even if you don’t want to use SoHelpful.


Gary Vaynerchuk from affiliatesummit

Don Draper from Christina Saint Marche

Seth Godin by CC Chapman


  1. Sangeet Paul Choudary February 3, 2014 at 8:42 pm #

    Couldn’t agree more with this post! This has been the one ethic I’ve built my work around.

    • kevindewalt February 3, 2014 at 8:51 pm #

      You’re a great example of Helpful Marketing Sangeet. BTW, I’ll be back in Singapore next week…we should catch up.

  2. Kevin Irah Conwell November 7, 2014 at 9:29 pm #

    Such a great post. I loved that Gary vid. I know this is the path I want to follow and need periodic reminders to stay on track. Thank you!

    • kevindewalt November 7, 2014 at 11:42 pm #

      He is amazing. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve worked with who have been influenced by him. We based our new course around what has made him successful.

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