01/20/2015 09:40 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Three Lessons from Perry Marshall -- Marketing Pro Extraordinaire

Perry Marshall is a rare breed among entrepreneurs -- a top-shelf creative marketing pro with an engineer's experience and perspective. Marshall's skill at integrating left brain and right brain thinking has catapulted him to huge success, and helped him provide a roadmap for fellow business owners looking to reach the next level.

A reluctant marketer, Marshall went into sales after being laid off from his engineering job. His innate talent at using direct marketing to reach potential clients helped the tech company he worked for boost its sales from just $200,000 to more than $4 million in just four years.

Since then, Perry started his own consulting firm and has gone on to become one of the world's top marketing experts, working with clients in more than 300 industries. He's also a best-selling author of such books as The Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords and 80/20 Sales and Marketing.

Perry recently shared with AES Nation his best advice for marketing and for achieving huge success as an entrepreneur.


Lesson #1: Leverage emotional logic. In marketing, the message matters. But so does how you deliver that message -- and unfortunately, many people choose precisely the wrong strategy to deliver direct marketing messages to a target audience. Telling a compelling story that resonates emotionally with the listener is a challenge for many of us.

To illustrate this, consider a hypothetical example. A motor's ball bearings wear out, leading to a fire that burns down a house and sends its residents to the hospital with major injuries. Most people -- especially the more "left brain" entrepreneurs among us -- would tell this story in a linear, chronological order starting with the ball bearings failing and ending in the hospital. That's rational logic at work, says Marshall. "Instead, we have to turn that whole [story] upside down by switching from rational logic to emotional logic."

Emotional logic, says Marshall, is a way to frame the story around what will truly resonate with the listener. And that often means rearranging the order to lead with the most engaging parts that typically occur at the end. In this case, it means skipping over the cause (the failed ball bearings and the fire) and starting the story with the effect -- a description of the family in the burn unit of hospital. The result: a marketing message that people will notice instead of ignore. "It plucks your heart strings, says Marshall. "You can't not pay attention to it."

Lesson #2: Go deep with the Pareto Principal. I can't think of a successful entrepreneur who doesn't adhere to the Pareto Principal, which essentially says that 80 percent of our revenues come from just 20 percent of our customers. Marshall agrees with that principal, of course, but also believes that the 80/20 rule can be applied much more deeply than most entrepreneurs realize -- to tremendous effect. "Everything in marketing and everything in business, if you go to any of the basic good advice or best practices, there's always an 80/20 explanation for why it's done that way. It's become my ultimate simplifier."

Take the pricing process. For every group of people buying your product or service, roughly 20 percent will provide 80 percent of the revenue. But Marshall figures that the top 20 percent of that initial 20 percent will spend more money -- perhaps four times as much. And the top 20 percent of that group will spend even more money. "It keeps going until you get to the upper-most people," he says. "There's three to five times more money in that audience without going and getting any new customers."

The upshot: The 80/20 rule can help you see that there is a pot of money you're missing out on. And the 80/20 rule can help you see that some people want to spend more than your current pricing lets them spend. For instance, say you are selling memberships to your consulting business for $10,000 each. If you invite 200 guests to a seminar and sell 100 memberships, that's a nice paycheck. But what if some of those guests were willing to pay more than $10,000 -- and in some cases, much more -- for something more valuable? As an entrepreneur, you need to think of ways to capture that additional money by coming up with pricing structures that will serve all kinds of customers, from low-budget clients to big spenders.

Lesson #3: Carve out space for yourself. Being busy is a badge of honor among entrepreneurs. (Indeed, Marshall believes we are addicted to it -- "We're do-ers and we like action," he says.) But Marshall points out that there is a time and a place for being busy and for not being busy.

He emphasizes that not being busy doesn't mean not being productive. In fact, he argues that you'll actually be a better entrepreneur by slowing down and leaving blocks of time open in your schedule. "Make space for serious thought and serious exploration," he says. "That space requires you to greatly reduce the amount of input -- the phone calls, the text messages, the social media, the e-mails."

Reducing or eliminating such external distractions can help entrepreneurs focus on solving the real-life problems facing their business, whether it's developing a new product or untangling a staffing issue. "What is the best way to crack this [problem] open? What is really the thing I should be doing?" Marshall says. "It's very hard to ask those questions of yourself and come up with good answers when you are in frenetic activity mode."

Looking for ways to accelerate your success as a business owner and live a life "on purpose?" Visit AES Nation for insights, tactics and actionable strategies from today's top entrepreneurs.