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Rely Just on Word of Mouth?

The case for self-employed people doing little or no marketing.

Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain
Source: Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain

Self-employed people who market well and relentlessly will usually be more successful, at least financially, than will even higher-quality professionals who rely just on word-of-mouth.

Yet, if you can afford the possible financial decrement, it may be wise to eschew marketing, except perhaps to create a mailing list of your clients and periodically give them useful bits of free content ending with a low-key solicitation. Why might you want to do no more marketing than that?

Integrity. People who succumb to marketing usually are swayed by sizzle, not steak.That inspiring interview, YouTube video, webinar, or seminar is often not representative of what you’re like in the trenches. For example, a very different skillset is required to be an excellent clinician, yoga instructor, or weight-loss coach than to hold forth in print or in front of a microphone.

But what about writing journal articles as a marketing tool? That’s equally unrepresentative and perhaps even more dubious because it appears so authoritative. For journal article-writing to be a successful marketing tool, you’re typically reporting on your own method. You may even, consciously or unconsciously, bias the reporting in your favor. You submit the article to journals until one publishes it. There are many third-tier journals eager for submissions—After all, you don’t get paid to write journal articles. And even if it’s a peer-reviewed journal, your article is typically reviewed by ideological kinsmen (kinspeople?) who may not sufficiently ponder it because reviewers don’t get paid and that activity doesn’t enhance their career. In short, journal article writing often is just a more subtle subterfuge, quieter sizzle but still not steak.

Credibility. Self-marketing can make you seem tawdry, even desperate. Don’t you think askance about a doctor or lawyer with a billboard or TV commercial? Few excellent practitioners need to spend all that money and effort.

Time. Marketing takes time, for example, begging influencers to interview you or blog about your work. Even more time consuming is to write and then flog a book. Of course, people write for reasons other than marketing, for example, because they believe they have something to share they believe is value.

The takeaway

Marketing takes time, often in excess of the benefit, and too often reduces your integrity and credibility. Should you rely just on word-of-mouth and modest emailing to your clients and customers?

Dr. Nemko’s nine books are available. You can reach career and personal coach Marty Nemko at