in Building a business, Marketing

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Marketers who want to stay on top, spend a lot of time learning from other marketing blogs.

The inherent problem in how marketers are learning from other marketers online. They watch what leading marketers say. Not what they do.

Here are a few classic examples:

  • If you follow Gary Vaynerchuck, you might mistake the marketing lesson to be “hustle” and “work hard.”
  • If you listen to Tim Ferriss’s podcast, on “how to deconstruct your sleeping habits” and focus on the content alone – you are missing the point.
  • If you read Neil Patel’s “10 SEO quick wins every blogging newbie can get” and think that what you are reading are the real tricks – you have been fooled. Again.

What marketers say – doesn’t matter. It is what they do that you should pay attention to.

It’s easy to get distracted because the main content they are selling you is the “how to do X, Y, and Z,.”

It makes you focus on the content you consume instead of following the framework or tactics they use.

Yes, the knowledge they share is valuable. You can learn a lot from it – but you will probably miss the real lessons.

In this post, I want to try and shine a light to how you can learn the tactics top marketers use. Not just talk about.

I want to teach you, how to look beyond their content, and reveal their strategy.

The lessons can be easily sum up to 2 thumb rules:

  • The important lesson is usually not the topic they write on.
  • You have to look at the “how” and “what” of their doings.

By the end of this post, you will be able to deconstruct and understand how great marketers The interesting.

Yes, you can write like Brian Dean – but his writing is not the punch.

Quick note:

I want this post to be actionable for you and just another “ 5 ways you can do blah blah.”

Before you move forward, choose a marketing expert or a brand you love and do this exercise with me.

You can download the free “Deconstruct your favorite marketer marketing tactics” worksheet here and fill it as we go.



To keep this post coherent and to the point as possible, I will only use a few marketers for the consistency of the process.

Step 1: What are they trying to achieve/ promote at the moment?

Your first step is to understand what are they currently promoting. What’s the goal and they’re trying to achieve with their marketing efforts?

Understanding your chosen marketer’s goal is key.

Everything they do will eventually lead to the growth of that KPI.

For example:

A while back, Neil Patel ( ran an experiment to grow his Facebook page.

At the time, the most important thing to track on Neil’s blog and social was what he was doing to grow his Facebook Page. Not the content he wrote.

If you followed Neil at the time, you’d notice two specific actions:

  1. He added ‘Welcome Mat’ (or pop-up) on his blog asking you “Like” his page
  2. He started posting “inspirational quotes” on his Facebook page. Later on he started posting “personal” photos.

He didn’t talk about it – but if you ever wanted to ask Neil Patel: “Hey, How could you increase engagement on your Facebook Page?” This is what how he was doing it and what he was testing.

Your job was to track his Facebook page growth and see what works and what not.


Knowing the marketer’s end goal is what will help you analyze their actions.

The main KPI and key metric goal change from time to time based on what the marketer tests, so keep track of that.

By the way, the best time to learn from a marketer is when he or she is on the move with a new project. That’s where their actions count.


Step 2: Map what social media/ content outlets are they using

What marketing channels is your favorite marketer using to achieve his / her goals?

  • Is it Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? Snapchat, Youtube? Blog?
  • Is he spending money on paid media? Where?
  • Is it traction through a newsletter?
  • Is he collecting emails?

The reason you want to map those channels in advanced is that this is where all the action takes place.

If you want to see the full scope and nuance of their strategy – you’ll need to keep track of all channels the marketer might be using to play his move.

For example:

You can easily learn how Gary Vaynerchuk built his following on Snapchat so fast, (besides the fact that Gary is a known brand ). All you needed to do is follow his actions on social media.

Here are some of the things he has done:

  • He changed his profile pic on both Facebook and Twitter to his Snapcode
  • He posted his Snpacode on Instagram inviting people to engage with him.
  • He increased engagement by prompting people to ask him questions. Making Snapcat a better channel to get his attention on
  • He added a “follow me on Snapchat” logo to his shoes: #AskGaryVee and Daily Vee.

These are only some of the things he has done.

I see so many people asking Gary “how can I grow my Snapchat followers.” He answered this question here:

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If you want to learn the nuance and tactics, he used, simply follow his actions. It will be a better answer since the practice and day-to-day are already there.


Step 3: What platform is their marketing efforts focused on at the moment?

Most marketers focus on one or two main marketing channels. All the rest – are supporting channels.

Usually, there’s one platform in which they have leverage on, and the others are “just there” or not handled properly.

What is your marketer’s social media forte?

Gary Vaynerchuk is more focused on the format (video) than the platform.

His main story runs through “Daily Vee” and “#AskGaryVee” making Youtube his core channel. Other marketing channels are supporting the video content.

In Gary’s case, the heavy lifting is done by video, but the content is promoted on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook &Snapchat.

His other channels are managed extremely well, and he practices what he preaches, but the main focus is leading you to his videos.

Neil Patel – His two blogs ( and are his main channels.

To be more accurate – his traction channel is SEO. Quality content is just the best way to win SEO at the moment. There’s not much value in how Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram account.

The interesting thing about Neil though, is that he runs experiments all the time.It gives you a chance to see how he leverages other platforms and test different methods (we will get to it in a bit).

Brian Dean (Backlinko) – Goes for the same tactics as Neil.

The big difference is that while Neil is building more brand power, Dean wants you on his email list.

Dean is using content marketing for SEO to get you into his email list. That’s where the real sale happens over time.

Sumome – Noah Kagan also focuses on getting your email.

Noahs’ main marketing channels are his blogs. He also leverages interviews for traction. But eventually, Sumome is pushing you toward their mailing list.

All other platforms are traffic generators. Which is perfect for you – you’ll understand why in a second.

It’s easy to not encounter Noah’s materials if you’re not in the marketing niche.

Neil, on the other hand, is hard to avoid. His content is the answer to every marketing related content you look for on Google. Remember, SEO is his main traction channel.

Step 4: How did they get me to do that?

This is where it becomes really valuable.

You know why you follow these marketers? Because they manage to do a great job and grab your attention. They manage to lead you through their funnel to reach their goal.

Time after time.

Now, you need to start asking yourself – how did they get from X to Y and look for clues in their marketing actions.

The Gary Vaynerchuk and gaining followers on Snapchat example I gave earlier are one.

Here’s another example:

Neil Patel and Eric Siu’s new podcast “Marketing School.”

If you’re a podcast lover, you might know that Tim Ferriss’s podcast is topping the Apple podcasting chart for a while now. Which is great for you.

Why? Because it means the Neil and Eric are on their adventure to getting traction and attention to their Podcast. And you can learn from it.

Before you wait to get his blog post on “How I got X amount of leads from my podcast in less than 6 months” – you can get the real deal.

Marketing School on Single Grain

Marketing School on Single Grain

Ask yourself, what are Neil and Eric doing to get traction to their podcast right now?

Here are some of the things you’ll discover:

  • Heavy focus on SEO title’s (Podcasts rank in Google).
  • Both Neil and Eric (including Single Grain, Growth Everywhere, etc.). Have a huge mailing list. They use them to distribute new episodes to thousands of people. Relevant people.
  • Syndication (not sure if they are working on it or not, but it’s happening).
  • Posting their podcasts episode on Product Hunt
  • They focus on Apple Itunes store ranking. Knowing subscribers and reviews impact iTunes ranking they dedicate their CTA to it. At the end of every show, they ask their listeners to subscribe and rate the show.
  • Both Eric and Neil’s companies recently added the podcast to their websites
  • Uploading to different podcasting services
  • PR and roundups (top marketing podcasts to listen to in 2016 etc.).
  • They upload a new episode almost everyday (which keeps them in listeners top mind)
  • They use the most popular content they created as podcast topics.
  • Share the podcast on Twitter.
  • Uploading each episode to youtube.
  • Embedding the podcasts on all their sites.

They are testing the effectiveness of the podcast these days. This is an initial test for the Podcasting as a marketing channel.

How can I tell that this is still a test? They are not as aggressive as they can be.

When Neil wanted to beef up his Facebook page engagement – he put a whole pop-up screen on his blog. For the podcast, on the other hand, it’s still not the main focus.

You can learn all these podcast marketing tactics just by:

  1. Subscribe to their mailing list
  2. Follow their social media accounts
  3. Run a Google search
  4. Listen to the show.

This is how you market a podcast. And guess what – they didn’t do a post about it yet.

If you want to become better at SEO, listen to the podcast. If you want to learn how to market like Neil – follow his steps as he markets the new podcast.

How Buffer is shifting their content towards business:

Buffer has been the poster boy of content marketing for some time now. As one, they leveraged the fact the industry was young and established their position as the leading blog for social media.

The way they build their blog audience originally was through:

  • Writing great long-form content
  • Guest blogging
  • Building relationships on Twitter (Remember these were the early days of Twitter)
  • The content marketing approach was rather new, so it was easier to stand out
  • The big leap was syndication with big publication

All those tactics, still relevant, but won’t bring you the same glory it brought Buffer.

Timing is important, and these tactics worked for them a long ago and you. As a marketer can not leverage on what worked back in 2011-2012.

So where’s your opportunity here?

As the market evolved and Buffer is getting bigger, their content and marketing strategies started changing as well.

Buffer is now more aggressive with it’s content for businesses and also started testing new marketing channels.

If you follow Buffer right now, you can spot they are:

  1. Heavily experimenting with Instagram – As Instagram shifted their focus to businesses. (Follow their account to keep track of their testing).
  2. Launched a new podcast (Check out how they are promoting it).
  3. Shifted from data driven and “how to” content to more case studies
  4. More focus on “Social media for business” than just “social media.”


Buffer promoting their podcast on their blog

Buffer promoting their podcast on their blog

In your spreadsheet Write down the list of tactics you’ve noticed as you research your favorite marketer. Try to break it down to small actions you’ve noticed and write it in the table.

Step 5: Look at the Micro and Macro

Some marketing tactics involve noticeable actions (campaigns, shares, blog posts). Some are subtle and can be found in the small details (call to actions, Jargon, great copywriting).

You have to pay attention to both at all times.

A good marketer doesn’t do anything without reason. So when someone makes a move – you have to ask yourself why.

Some interesting Macro moves that should get your attention:

  • Why so many companies started podcasting lately?.
  • Hi, Gary Vee is hardcore selling Snapchat
  • Why did Sumome start blogging only now?

Some Micro-actions you should be aware of:

  • Why do Neil and Eric’s podcast recording say “if you enjoyed this episode subscribe and rate us.”
  • Ever wondered why Tim Ferriss always include a Facebook post in his “5 bullets Friday” email instead of just writing what he wanted to write?
  • Why did Gary Vee start uploading Screensavers to his IG and Snapchat stories? (clue: Engagement trick which leads to retention and increases LTV of attention from his followers).


Now to you

Understanding how great marketers operate will help you get 100x time better at marketing than reading their content.

Everybody wrote the “how to get more followers on Twitter” article, but why did some make it big with the same connect and some didn’t? It’s in the overall strategy.

By following what these marketers do, you’ll get the nuance of what makes them so good at what they do. You will never get that from reading their “how to”’s.

I’m super curious – which marketer did you choose to research? Leave your answer in the comment. 

Write a Comment


  1. Love this. And you’re advice is spot on. The framework and intent is more important than the upfront content.

    1. The podcast breakdown on Neil & Eric was spot on. I’ve observed a few things too: this is mvp for sure. Batch able topics so they can do several at a time, Basic audio quality, basic format, short segments, leading with eric not Neil, a “lower” level of content than Neil typically does for a “greener” audience. I sense they are testing snackable content, velocity of production with mvp quality, how to distribute in all forms fast with VA type resources and transcription, and a play for mass. It makes me wonder why they are targeting this audience and what the actual monetization will be. My guess at the moment is this is 101 material with a plan to end the series on a premium launch product. Maybe playing off of some Ramit Sethi strategies?

    2. Nice insight on Gary Vee. I’m not into his message and approach and find it hard to enjoy his video content, podcast, and keynotes. The persona… Anyway, he’s s great marketer though and I’m glad you picked up on the nuggets so I don’t have too 🙂 but I’ll say this. I think the snap chat play has more to do with his desire to experiment, explore, and occupy big fish in pond status, and he knows if he keeps moving from pond to pond he can get first mover advantage in his tribe which they value learning from him, as well as being able to pick up new folks in that channel that gravitate to his tactics, persona, and stunts. He creates high like ability fast if you’re into his style, which means fast growth. Just my two cents.

    3. For Tim, I do think there are some wildcard areas in how he does things. I think you have to know more about Tim to pick up on his plays. I mean, you have to consume more of his content, hear the stories he tells, and what he says are pain points and opportunities. For example why does he do 1 or 2 hour podcast? Why does he speed read books, listen to so many audio books, test so many topics, ideas and limits? How does that impact his marketing?

    Sorry to hijack the comment box but I loved this post and couldn’t help share my thoughts. I’d love to see a lot more posts like this. Keep it up!

    • Hi Justin,
      Don’t ever apologize for leaving such a great comment!

      I agree about Neil and Eric – 100%. I won’t be surprised if they knock out 30-40 episodes on one intense day and they have content that will last for a month at least. It sounds like a lot – but it actually will take less than a seminar.

      Gary – I love his stuff. I truly do. I get why some people won’t but as I was analyzing his work for this post I understood how much he truly understands every channel he uses deeply. Yes – Snapchat was about being first big mover and conquering the top while it’s easy. But again – that’s what he preaches. So it’s spot on.

      Tim – I think Tim is the sneakiest of them all actually. Tim makes a lot of money of the affiliate links he puts out (leverages the podcast for that too) and basically he’s just harvesting the attention (That’s how his new book is Best-Seller before it even came out). I think Tim is more authentic than all though and he is really not a marketer. I believe he is a genuine guy who found his niche in doing a podcast. I think it’s 2 hours long because it’s what it takes to make it interesting, (and takes the least edits). He does great work marketing himself, but he’s not a “marketer”

  2. One phrase was missing – reverse engineering! 🙂 Great post. I think that the reverse engineering approach works for many verticals when building companies and learning from great people, although it’s not so obvious and requires experience and change in habits.

    • You are so right! How didn’t I use that term?
      “How to reverse engineer your favorite marketer’s tactics” sounds better 🙂