The #1 Most Powerful Marketing Secret (That No Guru Will Teach You)

I’m about to give you what is beyond doubt the single most powerful secret to marketing success.

I don’t know why it’s so secret, but people sure seem to avoid talking about it. Ready? Here it comes…

be . . . useful

That’s it. I didn’t say it would be mind-bogglingly amazing or obscure or complex. It’s very simple, because marketing is simple, it’s just about doing simple things right. And this is the most important simple thing to get right.

Just be useful, incredibly, beautifully useful if you can. Go the extra mile to design your entire offering or business strategy to delight your target market.

Let’s unpick it now, because there is a little more to this secret than meets the eye.

Sell What They Need

Being useful means that you’re directly solving a problem. Of course, solving problems is what marketing’s all about. If you have a problem, and I can show you my thing can solve it, you’ll likely buy the thing. If I fail to prove that to you, you won’t.

One of the most common mistakes in marketing strategy is trying to sell something that isn’t very good. And that’s really hard to do.

The antidote to that is to be useful. Be good, be great! Be single-minded about your intent to deliver exactly what your prospects need.

The trick to making selling easier is to make sure you’re selling something people actually want or need. If you’re selling crap they don’t want or need, I think you’re making life difficult for yourself.

You know the correct term for persuading people to buy something they don’t really want or need? It’s “scamming”. Check out the snippet at 3m 27s into the Scamworld documentary where Frank Kern appears to be teaching from the stage that, when you have the right marketing tricks, “The product is really irrelevant.”

Of course Frank also acknowledges that a kick-ass product is better than a crappy one, but this highlights a worrying dogma in Internet marketing circles that marketing is more about persuasion, more about executing trickery than delivering true value.

Why Does Nobody Teach This?

No marketing “guru” will teach you to provide the most useful service you can, because service isn’t sexy. It takes courage, heart, love, willpower, and hard bloody work. And that doesn’t sell courses.

The gurus are in the business of selling you hacks, mind tricks, shortcuts. It’s like magic diet pills that promise to shed inches off your belly while you carry on eating pizza.

The thrill of their outrageous promises (and the sheer weight of bonuses) persuade you to pull out your credit card, and when the results don’t magically appear, you get an emotional dip, just ready for the next launch to come along offering you the next magic pill shortcut, keeping you as a marketing shortcut junkie.

The truth is, just like losing weight and getting into shape, marketing isn’t an obscure, arcane dark art. It’s about doing simple things right, and then doing those simple things better. There are really no secrets and no shortcuts.

So let’s go deeper into the hidden power of the simple things…

Hack The Circuit

You have WAY more control
over what and how you sell
than you believe you do.

It is often said that there are two ways to be a marketer or entrepreneur:

  • Get a product or service and then find a market, or…
  • Spot an unserved need in the market and then develop a product or service offering to meet that need.

Both approaches are valid, and yet they don’t tell the whole story. To understand it better, we need only look at The Circuit, the model we use in Open Source Marketing to map out any offer or campaign.

The Circuit has five basic elements:

  1. The brand. Who’s making the offer?
  2. The product or service. What actually gets delivered?
  3. The offer. How are you promising to solve a problem?
  4. The problem you’re solving.
  5. The market, i.e. the community that shares the problem.

If you think about it, you can actually change any of these elements. Too often, we get stuck in default thinking, assuming that the pieces of the Circuit are set in stone. In reality, I think that is rarely the case. You can hack it all.

Working in reverse order…

  • You can research and target different markets (i.e. problem groups).
  • You can choose the problem(s) that your solution addresses, or change its focus.
  • Your offer is clearly very flexible. (This is where scammers focus most of their attention.)
  • Of course what you deliver can vary tremendously.
  • And finally, you can also change who you are.

I appreciate that last point could be challenging. It may seem odd to say you can change yourself. But when you think it through, you’ll see there is a lot of flexibility, it just comes down to how flexibly you allow yourself to think.

Let’s say you’ve always designed websites for a living. You’re a web designer, right? Well, yes, but also not necessarily… Let’s look at how you can spin the combination lock of The Circuit to come up with a range of options

  • You don’t have to serve a general market. You could choose to specialise in a particular niche, which I would argue is a very good idea. For example, you may become THE web designer for small businesses in your home town. Or you could specialise in e-commerce sites for florists, or church websites, or independent financial advisers. The options are almost endless.
  • What is the problem that unites your market? Is it finding new clients, running more efficiently, presenting a smarter image? “I need a website” is not a hugely motivating problem, as most businesses already have one, or can make one for practically no cost. So what problem are you really addressing? You get to select one, or more than one, and focus your offering around that.
  • What are you offering, then? Don’t assume your clients are just buying a website. They could be buying an ongoing monthly marketing service, a branding overhaul, a new sales channel, a multi-lingual customer service portal. A website is a tool. What does that tool do for people? That’s what they’re buying, the ultimate benefit, a genuinely useful solution to their problem, and you get to choose what that is.
  • What product or service will you actually deliver? Years ago, people would quote prices for a “ten-page website” but today you could offer a package that includes any of website publishing, copywriting, email marketing, SEO, PPC, social media. You could sell blocks of time each month that you devote to developing your client’s campaign.
  • And you can see how the combination of the options above could mean that your brand can take a variety of forms. You don’t have to be “web designer”. You can be the marketing specialist for auto bodyshops, the copywriter for alternative health practitioners, pretty well anything you like!

Ultimately, you get to choose. Whatever you choose must be useful, of course. If you have chosen your market, problem, offer, solution and brand wisely, I’m sure it will be.

Level Up

Spinal Tap: But it goes to eleven

Even after you have chosen an elegant and integrated Circuit, I always like to ask, “How can we turn this up to eleven?

  • Can you reach out to a bigger, more challenging market?
  • Can you tackle a deeper, more motivating problem?
  • Can you present a more powerful, bolder promise?
  • Can you deliver something that will fulfil your customers’ dreams?
  • And, finally, can you be a bigger, better, badder version of YOU?

Of course, we all work within the constraints of our skills, strengths, weaknesses, experience, education, aptitudes, and preferences. All those things can focus our range of choices. But even within those constraints, we have a degree of choice that is ultimately limited only by our self-image and our imagination.

Designing YOU

The incredible choice that’s before us really is the challenge of the #1 most powerful marketing secret. It’s exciting, and it can also be quite terrifying.

You don’t have to be who and what you are now!

You can choose to be whatever you want… with one provision.

Who you choose to be should be integral to who you really are.

What I mean by that is, can you get into a place where you can believe and declare, “I am…” with authority, power, and integrity? Can you mean it? Does it excite and inspire you?

Is it a true reflection of YOU — not just the YOU that you have been, but the you that you aspire to be today, tomorrow, in ten years’ time?

What is the vision of the world that this YOU offers and is working to make reality?

What is the stand that this YOU is taking? What tribe do you wish to attract with your message? Whom do you wish to repel?

Why will you love this YOU? Why will other people?

How will your market, your people, instantly know and trust YOU? What aspects of the true YOU will come through in every element of your business that triggers that trust?

Are YOU an individual, or a company, a team, a group, a tribe, a movement? Why would people want to join YOU or identify with YOU?

Is this YOU something that will get you jumping out of bed every Monday, eager to carry on, something that makes work appear as not-work?

What do YOU love to do? What do YOU do well?

What don’t YOU love to do? (Why waste time on that? Either design your life so you don’t need to do those things, or partner with others who love to do them.)

That’s why the secret is “be useful”, not simply “sell something useful”. You can choose to be whatever you choose and declare yourself to be. Why choose to be not you? Why choose to try to be like anyone else? Why choose to be anything less than your truest and highest expression of YOU?

I believe that, for each of us, our truest expression will naturally inspire not only us, but people around us. Our life’s mission, when we choose it (or it chooses us), will reach out to address a real need.

So I guess I’m saying that to be useful, you just need to be YOU. No pretence, persuasion, or trickery needed. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

(For an easy free course in finding more about YOU, check out my Path Program.)

Ben Hunt

About the Author

Ben Hunt

Ben Hunt has over 20 years' experience in web design and marketing, and has written numerous books, courses, and presented at seminars round the world. In 2010 Ben created the world's most complete web design course, and in 2015 founded Open Source Marketing.

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Dave Streen

Brilliant as always!


love this. I have become so jaded over time with what is now incessant $driven marketing hard sell, that it is so refreshing to read something with genuine integrity – with a call for something higher than the latest scam trend, a call for something higher of ourselves. Thanks Ben


Hi Ben

Its great to read an article about “just being YOU”. All too often the general noise of life and what everyone else is doing is so loud, that it’s hard to focus on just being useful.

Nolan Haan

Hi Ben, I’ve been following you for a while now, and all of your ideas are terrific and ask us to conisder aspects of our products and markets from a fresh perspective. Being an artist, my challenge is discovering the problem that a piece of artwork solves. Do people really NEED a piece of art? They may want to decorate a wall or add to their collection, but it’s not exactly a problem that my product solves. That said, I will continue to try to solve that question, and I remain appreciative of your open-source philosophy. All the best, Nolan

    Ben Hunt

    That’s a great question, Nolan. You’re right, very often it isn’t necessarily a *problem* to solve, but rather an opportunity to take advantage of.

    Do you create the artwork first and then try to sell it? Or do you (can you) create bespoke pieces for clients? If so, that could be a twist that lets you explore, address, and solve specific needs.

    Alternatively, how well can you identify and empathise with your buyers? How well do you actually know them? Do you have any direct contact, or could you? Could you interview them and get them to describe in their own words what they are expressing through their choice of piece?

    If you find a theme, then perhaps you might be able to brand yourself as a solution to that deep desire, rather than “an artist”?

Sharon O. Smith


What a reassuring post! I was dealing with a bit of insecurity this morning, but your comments reminded me I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to do right now.

    Ben Hunt

    Pleased to hear it Sharon, thank you.


That’s a whole lot of marketing knowledge defined into it’s simplest element. ‘Be Useful’ thank you Ben for sharing.


Great Article Ben!!! We are still diligently working to make sure our honeymoon system is going to do what we promise it will do. Thank you for the confirmation. I have been bummed it isn’t on the market yet, but I know it is better to make it work as accurately and smoothly as possible to keep people happy with it and glad they purchased it.


Thanks, Ben. You are always clear, concise, good to read, and useful… 🙂 I appreciate the reminder. I have the same question as Nolan, really, what makes music useful… but then, I haven’t really thought clearly enough about it. I suppose it’s time.

    Ben Hunt

    Great question Pippa. I’m sure we agree that we use music to affect our state, in a similar way that we might use food, fashion, or alcohol or any other drug. It could also speak to a need for identification, a way to express our belonging or individuality. Those things are real needs.

    The problem (for people who want to sell art) is that it’s very hard to speak to those needs. I wonder whether we need to use outreach (as opposed to targeting) to get your art where it may be discovered by people who are most likely to connect with it. But the “solution of the problem” must necessarily be unspoken, and instead somehow more passively infuse the product.

    Michael Gorman

    Pippa, forgive me for jumping in here, I am a musician-and I have been exploring this precise issue recently. Music is a wonderful example of how these overtly pragmatic approaches can fail to serve us when we are looking at marketing Art/Music.
    Because Music has been through a tremendous period of extreme commercialism – From The Beatles in 1963 which signaled the explosion of commercially driven musical culture, we saw the colossal power of music to drive social change – to represent and nourish entire paradigms of thinking and response to society.
    As human beings we need much more than food/shelter/well-being, as Maslow described it, we also intensely need identity and high level elements which enable us to grow spiritually and psychologically.
    The Beatles occurred as an almost mystical phenomenon – the nexus of the times combined to select these guys as being the focus of an entire generation, the vehicle for the musical counter-culture.
    Music is all about feelings, and as we all know we direct our lives from how we feel- purchasing is mostly about emotions. We forget this sometimes.
    So, Music is a powerful form of ‘Magic” – people turn to music to provide the animus, the energy which illuminates their feelings and inner world. This is why Music is abused by greedy people, who seek to influence trends and movements-it is very powerful stuff indeed.
    Sorry, this is such a vast topic that I am unable to summarize it in a comment reply!
    I am working on a genuine way to market specific types of music, through using the media opportunities of today.

Michael Gorman

The innately sane voice you manage to convey is deeply compelling Ben. I find myself wanting to respond and make some kind of connection with the vision you have constructed in these online materials.
Yes, we actually do have the right, and power to make it real. We have the leverage today to completely by-pass the middle-man tyranny of the 20th Century.
When I was a boy I had an organic response to the presented authoritarian society – I thought “Why does it have to be this way, who is pulling the levers”?
Apart from this organic rebellion I felt, I sought to visualize how it can be different, and how we can attain the real essence of how we wish to live.
Rich, valuable thoughts Ben, thank you.

    Ben Hunt

    Great to find a kindred spirit. Thanks Michael.

Miles Beckler

Grateful for all you created and share here with the OSM project! This post is an epic ‘Mic Drop’ on your way out! Cheers

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