TBT 130 | Marketing Message


Entrepreneurs need marketing experts to help them create, communicate, and deliver value to their customers. However, marketing experts also need other marketing others to help them see their own blind spots and make sure that they’re focused on what matters most. On today’s podcast, Penny Zenker chats with Peter Sandeen, who is often called “the marketer’s marketer.” Peter is known for creating a marketing message that makes people immediately feel like, “That’s perfect for me.” Our messaging is one of the core fundamentals of drawing people in. Don’t miss this episode to learn if you have the right messaging and how you can stay relevant in challenging times.

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Focusing On What Matters Most: How To Have The Right Marketing Message With Peter Sandeen

On this show, we’re looking for ways to help you to work smarter, to think smarter, and to achieve your goals faster. I have Peter Sandeen with me and he is best known for creating a marketing message that makes people immediately feel like, “That’s perfect for me.” He’s often called the Marketer’s Marketer because over half of his clients are other marketing experts who want to see their own blind spots and make sure that they’re focused on what matters most. You know, as an audience, that’s what we want to do is to focus on what matters most. Peter, welcome to the show. I’m excited to talk to you.

Thanks for having me.

Why are marketers attracted to you? I know you said to get their blind spots, but what’s the unique marketing message that has those people so attracted to you that’s interesting?

Honestly, it is because I focus primarily on the messaging and few people do that. Even if you do that, you still need help with it. A lot of my clients are specifically marketing messaging experts because they know how important it is to get it right and they also know how impossible it is to do for yourself very effectively. If I ever tried to do it based on my gut feeling, it’s terrible. I have to follow my own process religiously to get to a good result. You have to get around those blind spots somehow and that’s what I’ve been doing for so many years.

Another thing is that I started out as a copywriter and I specifically wrote for other marketing experts. I told them that if I can’t beat your current sales page, you don’t pay me. I generally beat them. I still sometimes get those inquiries. I’ve done conversion optimization, which is interesting for marketing people. I’ve done a lot of funnel stuff and specifically not the fancy stuff that takes forever to build, but how do you build something that fits your situation? I’m happy to go all fancy with advanced stuff, but you shouldn’t use it anyway. Most of the top-level people who do funnels are people who are all about the fancy stuff.

That’s what attracted me to you. It’s more pragmatic. You can do that stuff, but you can do basic fundamentals that work and you don’t need to do the fancy stuff.

Most marketing is like that. There are a few things you need to get right. When you get those few things right, you get the good results. You can then go from there to amazing results with all these fancy tricks and such, but you don’t need any of that to get you good results.

People skip that step. They want to go to the amazing results. They don’t start and realize where they are and how quickly they can get some good results. There’s an expression that says something about you procrastinate or because of perfectionism of trying to be great that you don’t even get to the good.

Perfect is the enemy of good. What I always say is done is better than perfect. I’m not sure if I’ve stolen that saying from someone but that’s what I keep telling myself. I don’t want to attribute it to myself because it might be that I’ve taken it from somewhere. What people often forget is that all that advanced stuff, it doesn’t work at all if you don’t get the basic stuff first done. If you have the basics right, nothing else is going to compensate for that. That’s something that a lot of people who do this for a living, they forget how those simple things are so obvious to them. They’ve already figured it out in the last 5 or 10 years that they’ve been doing it. They sell the same thing. They know exactly how to do it so they’ve now spent years looking for the next thing that improves their already very good results. They’re understandably excited about it but those advanced things don’t help others than those who already get good results.

It’s in the wrong sequence. Important and valuable but not in that sequence. Let’s get back to what you said that you were all about the messaging. The messaging is one of those core fundamentals. Why is it so hard? Why do people get it wrong? We’ll talk about some tips on how to get it right.

The basic thing is that you’re too close to your own thing. Whatever you think is important is completely irrelevant. It doesn’t make any difference what you think to what the other person is going to think. What you know to be true, to be valuable, and to be different, none of it matters unless your customers can understand it.

We’re not our perfect customer.

With marketing, there are a few things you need to get right. When you get those few things right, you get good results. Click To Tweet

Unless you pay for yourself to buy the thing, it doesn’t matter what you think. You need to understand how your target customer is thinking. That’s one of those things that when people talk about target customers, they think about, “How do we describe the target customers? What do they look like to us?” That’s good if you’re buying TV ad space or such. It’s good in many other cases too but that doesn’t tell you what you need to say. You need to understand how they view you, what you’re talking about, and what you’re selling. It’s hard to do for your own thing, even if it’s relatively easy to do for somebody else because you’re not so close to it. You don’t know it so well. That’s what causes the trouble.

What are some tips that you can give the audience of how they can start to get out of their own way, to step aside and get clear on how to message that’s appropriate for their product or service?

One of the simplest things is to think if you can only say one outcome or one sentence and not a long one just like, “You will get this outcome,” then what can you say? Something that the person you’re talking to, whether it’s one person or a million people online or whatever that they would be like, “Tell me more. That sounds good.” What would that be? If you can figure that out, you’re already far ahead of most of your competitors.

Let me use me as an example because people can relate to samples and examples. I’ve got a message that relates where I say, “I help people to think and act more strategically,” but how do I know that that’s the right messaging?

If it works, then you know it’s good. If I had to start nitpicking, I would first ask what does that mean? I have no idea what it means. I can guess based on what I already know about you, but what does it mean to think and act strategically. That means completely different things for different people. I’d already be like, “Is that an outcome? Is that something people get? Is it something that for you describes what you do?” It might work but it is one of those things that I’d immediately consider, is there a better word than strategically? The word strategy is so overused. No one knows what it means anymore. Some companies have a strategy for how to implement strategies. I get what it means, but still like, “Are you serious?”

To pick this out for the people who are reading, it’s to get clear that the words that you’re using are not jargon or not too high level and people can get clarity on that. That’s what you were saying in your bio was that people say, “That’s me.”

That’s perfect for me. If I told you that I’m a value proposition expert, that doesn’t mean a whole lot. If I’d say that I can tell you the words you need to use so people want to buy from you. That’s the same thing, but you’re way more likely to pay for the second one.

It doesn’t have to be short and concise is what I’m getting. Some people say the shorter, the better.

It doesn’t need to be. It depends on the context. If you’re writing a Google Ad, it has to be short because there’s no space. I started out as a copywriter. I learned that the longer, the more sales you make. As long as it’s interesting, good, and there’s nothing too much. If you write a 2,000-word sales page, I can beat it with a 12,000-word sales page. If you already have a 12,000-word sales page, it’s going to be much harder to beat if it’s good. People are way too concerned about, will people have the patience to listen to this whole sentence? Yes. Generally, people will listen to a sentence if it sounds like it’s going to be good.

At one point I had a 45 minutes video training that people could get that would lead to another 30 minutes video that would only talk about what I do. At the end of the first one, I tell that like, “If you’re interested, go watch this other video. Twenty-five percent of the people watch to the end of the first 45 minutes video.” They would look at me like, “That’s impossible.” That’s before any driving people back to it or anything. If it’s interesting, people have time. I asked people like, “How long do you think it can be?” They are like, “Three minutes.” If you’re interested, you do watch. It’s not about being super short. It’s about saying things people want to listen to.

It’s being relevant. That’s a word with all pandemic, the pivot, and the shift in our business. That’s so important as being relevant to people.

Relevance is one of the key things. One of the other things is, do people want it? If people don’t want it, then you’re going to have a hard time. A lot of marketing is people trying to convince other people to want to buy something they don’t want to buy. It’s not impossible but it’s hard. It’s much easier to sell something people already want. It’s much easier to get them to listen if you’re saying something they want to listen to. It’s obvious, everyone knows this. There’s nothing new to it but people forget it. They follow some instructions on how to write an ad, how to write a sales page, how to do a video or something. They don’t remember to think, do people want this? If they don’t, they’re not going to watch unless you’re there with a gun on their head like, “Now, watch this video.” They will stop. That’s why most videos even short videos on websites don’t work. They get 5% or 3% of people watch to the end. Even if they’re two minutes, almost no one watches to end. It’s not the length.

TBT 130 | Marketing Message

Marketing Message: A lot of marketing is people trying to convince other people to want to buy something they don’t want to buy. It’s not impossible, but it’s hard.


I did want to bring that up because that is a myth that people have about length. I was always trying to find that short statement. I use longer statements and you’re right, I get more traction with people from the longer statements that I use.

I get the question about length, but it’s much more about clarity. Do people understand what they can get from you? If they don’t, then few people are going to pay attention to figure it out. Few people are going to ask you, “I didn’t understand what you’re even about. Can you explain?” That rarely happens if they see your ads and they don’t understand what it’s about, it’s not like they click and be like, “This is interesting. Let’s see what this is about.” If they come to your website and they don’t understand what it’s about, they leave. It’s the same with, if they get an email from you and they don’t understand what it’s about, they have to be a loyal reader to be like, “Interesting.” Most people don’t open it.

You need to buy their attention.

Rather be clear, no one’s ever going to say, “Damn, your marketing is way too easy to understand.”

Let’s stick with me as an example here to give people. You gave that one example about yourself with the value proposition. If I were to shift and I hope people to think and act more strategically. I’ve moved clearer because people understand about resetting priorities and being able to focus. I’m now the Focusologist on LinkedIn. I want people to be able to do that for their own. To say, “Here’s where I am now and how I describe my business.” How would you make that over? You don’t know a ton about me and everything, but just so people get a feeling of before and after.

Tell me the before and after. What is it that changes when you help people? What’s the most concrete, most obvious change from their perspective? What do they always say that’s like, “I never thought this is possible?”

That’s why I used strategic because people say the reason they work with me is that I help them to be more strategic in the way that they operate. To use other words is I help them to step back and get perspective and to not get stuck in their business. The result is that they typically end up going from being overwhelmed and overloaded to feeling like they’re in control and they double their business as a result.

There you have it. Being in control and focus so they can double their business. That’s much more of the actual outcome. I’m not doubting that people say that, but they always say to you with the context of already knowing what it is about. They wouldn’t say that to their spouse or their best friend like, “This was the best experience ever. This woman helped me operate more strategically.” I doubt that would be the wording, but they might say that like, “I’m not overwhelmed anymore. I can focus on what matters. I’m getting things done. I’m seeing results.” That’s what they would gush about. That’s not the only words to go about thinking of your message at all, but it’s a very helpful shortcut to check if your ideas work. Is it something that they would be able to say to a friend, not someone they already worked with as in you? Is that something they could say to someone who doesn’t yet know the context?

What I like about the question that everyone who’s reading can take a look at your own business. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a business owner, in sales, or any part of your business because you’re messaging even internally to each other. Thinking about the transformation that one makes from the before to the after. I interviewed John Livesay and he talks about storytelling and that’s his way of also bringing that into your 32nd pitch or whatever is, I take people from X to X. I like how you brought that up so that people can be thinking about what is the end result that people get. I guess if you do from X to X, it can also be a little bit more catchy. One time, I used the phrase, “I take people from being burned out to fired up.” That gives it a little bit more jazz.

It can work. That’s a good example, but unfortunately, most of the time when people come up with fancy words, it becomes much less clear. It sacrifices the understandability. People don’t understand what it means anymore. It sounds cool but it’s more something that they need to remember that, “It’s the person who helps me with this fun phrase thing,” rather than be like, “I will get this result.” That’s a good one. Your example might work. It’s not too hard to understand, but a lot of the time.

I get what you’re saying, because now that you say that when I had my technology business, I was in a trade show, and at that time, knowledge management was the big buzz word. That’s also something that can be completely understood in so many different ways. We had up their knowledge management system and we had nobody coming to the booth because they didn’t know what we did. What we did was we integrated two platforms which were integrating Lotus Notes and Microsoft Office. This was a kajillion years ago when those two were working together and then we had a ton of people coming to our booth when we re-messaged it and had it printed out. The next day, it makes a huge difference. Understandability is more important than the jingle?

If you want to be very artistic with words, try poetry. It’s partly a joke but seriously, it often feels that people get way too hung up on the wording. They don’t nearly enough think to what they’re saying. They’re thinking of how do I say what I want to say rather than what should I be talking about. Clarity is the first thing. You can’t sacrifice that. If people no longer understand what you’re talking about, you’ve lost them. There are few exceptions to where you can intentionally create some confusion but if you don’t know what you’re doing, then don’t. That’s not a risk worth taking. You’ll never regret being direct and understandable.

Productivity means making actual progress efficiently. Click To Tweet

What are some other tips that you have to help people as they’re gaining that clarity on their messaging?

Another thing that people often don’t think through is that what differentiates them. It’s not what makes them different from their competitors, but rather you first have to understand what you’re compared to. You should have target customers, if you don’t then fix that. It’s one of that triangle of your message, your target customer, and offer. If you have those right, you’re golden, everything’s going to be easy. If one of them isn’t right, you’re completely screwed. If you have a target customer, then first think of what are the alternative ways they will think of for solving similar problems that you help them with or for them alternative ways of reaching similar goals or alternative ways of medicating similar pains, whether they’re actual pains or emotions or whatever. Once you understand what you’re compared to, then you can start to think of what differentiates you.

If you haven’t listed those out like how are you going to differentiate? You’re telling people what’s different about your solution compared to competitors. If you’re selling, say, software, you’re compared to an Excel sheet. That’s a very common thing that the company you’re selling through, they have this old Excel sheet that has 50,000 sheets on it and everyone knows how it works then that’s what you’re compared to. In every objective way, your software is way better, but that’s what you’re compared to. You need to understand what people compare you to and how they see those comparisons before you even try to do differentiation.

Is there anything else that you wanted to share around that? I have two standard questions I ask and I want to get into those.

The two main things is that what makes people want to buy is what they can get from you. What’s the outcome? You need to understand what they want. You also need to understand what makes your offer look like the best one from their perspective. If you get those right, you’re 90% of the way.

This is a show around productivity. I’d like to ask every guest, what’s your definition of productivity and why?

Productivity to me is the same as progress. If you get a lot done, but you’re not moving anywhere then I don’t think that’s productive. If it’s making you feel good, then you can argue that it’s productive on an emotional level, but making actual progress efficiently is what I think is productive. I talk about marketing essentialism as in do the very few things that make the difference rather than spending all your time on things that technically could work, but are not working. The best productivity tip I ever thought of is do things that make a difference. Look at how people spend their time on marketing. Ninety percent of the time goes to things that don’t generate any results and few people make changes.

When you say, do things that make a difference. In the marketing context, let’s say you have your target market, you have your messaging, and you have those fundamentals. What’s an example? People are saying, “I am doing the things that are making a difference.”

If you’re getting started, then it can be harder to tell what makes a difference because you don’t yet make sales. If you are making sales, then you should know exactly what’s generating those results. If you don’t, then it’s hard to be productive because you don’t know what’s making the difference. For a few years, I worked 1 or 2 hours a day and made six figures. How I did that was I did the free marketing and sales things. I wrote guest posts, I sent emails to my list, and I did calls with people who were interested in working with me. That’s all. I did no other marketing because I didn’t have the motivation. I took care of everything I needed to.

I got myself in front of potential buyers. I offered them something they wanted so they joined my email list. On the email list, I’ll occasionally tell them, “If you’re interested in getting help with this thing that I talked about, then click here to schedule a call with me.” That’s it. It was productive because it was effective. I only did the things that moved the needle. There was nothing excess. Once you’re at the point of you’re making sales, then everything that isn’t directly contributing to sales is unproductive unless it has a purpose other than generating sales, but it’s often hard to justify those at least long-term.

Back to basics, people. Guest posts, sending some emails and then taking some calls. Not everybody is a great writer, so doing guest posts and focusing on their email list, but they can shoot videos and talk about their content. It is so important for people to get clear on what’s working and what’s not working. We waited way too long before we evaluate that. If we ever evaluate it, it’s amazing that they’ve gone years in their business, they don’t know their numbers, they don’t know what’s working, and what’s not working.

It can be painful though to look at the reality to realize, “I’m getting the results from more or less luck or from this one thing I did years ago. I’ve now spent hundreds of hours on something that doesn’t make a difference.” It’s a lot of pain. It’s understandable that people don’t do it but if you want to be focused on the things that make a difference as in be productive in the way productivity, then you have to. You have to know the numbers. You have to know what makes a difference to your business. I’m not saying business is all about money. I do things because I like doing them. Everything I do in business is I like doing that so I make it work. It’s like, if you don’t have the basics in place, then it’s hard to make any progress. You can do a lot, but you’re not productive.

TBT 130 | Marketing Message

Marketing Message: Once you understand what you’re compared to, then you can start to think of what differentiates you.


Thank you so much for being here. I know you’ve got some course that you’ve got going on right now. Why don’t you tell us how people can reach you? Tell us about the course and then we’ll let them go look you up.

It’s about to start. It’s called Six Figure Websites. It goes through with the messaging. How do you create your target customer and the message for them? How do you make your website work? What are the few steps you need to have there? The few things you need, nothing extra, no fancy design. Go crazy with design if you want, but get the basics right first so that when you get visitors, you make sales. It’s also stuff about how you create content that attracts people there and all that. That’s the course. How you find out about it is that you have to get on my list. There’s going to be nothing about it online for a while, you have to get on the list. It’s at PeterSandeen.com. Every page has a way to get to my list so do that.

Thank you so much for being here and sharing your marketing essentialism. I love it.


Thank you all for being here. That needs to be your theme in each area, marketing essentialism. It’s your operations essentialism. Essentialism across the board in each category is what’s important. What requires your focus, what works, and focus on that and the rest, outsource or eliminate it. I know that’s hard because some of the things you’ve been holding onto, but if they’re not producing and not productive, you want to re-evaluate. We’ve got some great tips from Peter in the area of the marketing of how you can tune-up your messaging so that you can bring your website and all of your sales discussions into more clarity so that you can close more sales. We will see you in the next episode.

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About Peter Sandeen

TBT 130 | Marketing MessagePeter Sandeen is best known for creating marketing messages that make people immediately feel, “that’s perfect for me.” He’s often called “the marketers’ marketer” because over half of his clients are other marketing experts who want to see their own blind spots and make sure they’re focused on what matters most.



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