Building an Audience That Buys: The One Thing You’re Probably Doing Wrong

Late last year, I was in Marrakesh (Morocco) with a group of entrepreneur friends.

The villa was gorgeous…

The pool was Instagram-worthy…

The masterminding was epic…

But it wasn’t all rosy:

The city tour we arranged for Wednesday morning took an unfortunate turn, spiralling into a big, sorry mess that would last long in the memory.


Confrontation. Anger. Finger-pointing…

It had it all.

The evening after the disastrous tour, we all sat around the dinner table discussing what had gone wrong. We realised that what we had witnessed that day was actually:

A marketing lesson worth its weight in gold!

(Or camels, perhaps.)

And in today’s newsletter, I’d like to tell you all about it.

If you ever feel like:

  • Every sale feels like a slog
  • You can’t attract the right buyers
  • There’s no sign of traction in your business

Then pay close attention…

Misadventures in Morocco


Our annual mastermind events for creators last 5 days, and are intense.

So half-way through the week, we take the day off.

Go on a day trip.

See the sights.

(Rest helps to process ideas.)

Being in Morocco, we did the obligatory tour around the medina - the traditional market in the old, sprawling city centre.

It was 10am, and we had booked a tour guide to take us round.

The dude was clearly experienced.

As we waited, he flashed his credentials, made jokes in 5 languages – all the tricks of the tour guide trade.

We started with a stroll through some pretty alleyways…

Heard about the history of the medina…

Peered through stain glassed windows.

Then, the guide led us through a big doorway, down some stairs, into a large room, decorated from floor to ceiling with carpets.


In a corner, two women sat at traditional machines, busy weaving carpets.

A large man appeared and beckoned us to sit down.

“How do you like your tea?”

Before we knew it, we found ourselves lined up like ducks, sipping on sweet mint tea, hearing all about the art of carpet making in Morocco.

By this time, we knew what was coming.

But we couldn’t quite believe it…

After all, we’d paid good money for a tour of the city, surely we weren’t going to get the hard-sell-in-the-carpet-shop on our very first stop?


Just as soon as the history lesson had finished, four other men appeared in perfect synchronization, and started laying out carpets in front of each of us.

“Which one you like?”

It was awkward.

We didn’t want to buy carpets. We were there to see the city.

The tour guide had conveniently vanished, so we confronted the boss directly.

My co-host of the mastermind was furious that we’d been put in this situation:

“We didn’t ask for this, and we don’t want to buy carpets.”

The boss got defensive:

“We are not selling carpets, we are selling art!”

We didn’t want art either.

“We are educated people, just like you!”

The game was up.

They were insulted. We weren’t buying.

We shuffled out of the shop, and spotted our trusty guide outside, a sour mug plastered on his face. He didn’t talk to us for the rest of the tour, and ditched us long before the scheduled end time.

Guess he wasn’t getting his commission from the carpet dude that day.

Everyone involved in this whole sorry episode had wasted their time.

Not only that, we left with a baaad taste in our mouths.

Guess what our TripAdvisor review is gonna say!

How To Ruin A Great Sales Process

Marrakesh city tour

What’s the lesson in all this?


Despite what you might be thinking, the problem was not with their sales process.

Their sales process.

The sales process was actually very good.

Here are some of the things they did well:

  • offering mint tea (law of reciprocity)
  • live demonstration (how the thing is made)
  • showing off the product (exactly what you’ll get)
  • backstory (origin story, reason to care)
  • no prices (not always a positive, but works here)


[-- Sidenote --]

Take a look at the points I listed above. They may seem simple, but they’re extremely powerful.

I’ve worked meticulously to integrate them into our funnels at

Have a think about your email sequences and sales pages.

Do you do a good job of each of these?

If not – well there’s your homework for the next 2 weeks. If you don’t see a 5-10% increase in conversions from implementing all that, I’ll eat my hat.


Now, where were we…

Oh yes…

Even though they had a refined sales process, we didn’t buy.

In theory, that didn’t make any sense.

After all:

  • We were Westerners on holiday
  • There were 16 of us
  • We all had tonnes of money

And still he couldn’t sell a single carpet!

How did they manage to screw this up?

Here’s how:

Our carpet-selling friend’s big mistake was that he got the wrong people through the door in the first place.


You can have the best sales people, pages and emails on the planet…

Get the wrong people through the door, and not only will you sell nothing, you’ll achieve the spectacular feat of wasting everyone’s time, ruffling their feathers, and generating negative word of mouth… all before breakfast!

Good vibes, eh?

Not so much.

But before we come down too hard on our carpet selling friends…

I see most online business owners making the exact same mistake!

Pay attention…

When Online Marketing Goes Wrong

bad online marketing

Most online businesses treat their marketing in the same way as our carpet seller:

  1. Pour as many people into the funnel as possible
  2. Use whatever tactics necessary to try and sell them
  3. Look confused when no-one buys

Rather than the opposite, which is:

  1. Get the exact right people into your funnel
  2. Make offers available
  3. Watch cheerfully as people start buying

First, I’ll show you examples of how people get this wrong in the online space.

Then, I’ll show you how to do it the right way.

So then…

If the problem is getting the wrong people into your funnel, how does that happen in the first place?

By creating content that’s misaligned for your avatar, because you have no idea who your true avatar actually is.

When you don’t know your avatar, you’re destined to waste 80% of your energy.

Here are some typical examples from people struggling to attract the right audience:

  • Short-form content (shorter attention span)
  • Free webinars + pitch (attracts reactive buyers)
  • Giveaways and competitions (people only want the freebie)
  • Prioritizing social media (low buyer intent)
  • Low pricing or reliance on discounting (attracts customers who don’t see value)
  • Highly-incentivized affiliates (misaligned selling & brand damage)
  • Paid campaigns focusing on CPC/CPL rather than CAC (quantity over quality)

Now, before I go any further, let me say…

None of the above is wrong.

In fact, these tactics can be highly effective in the right circumstances.

It’s just that…

These are the kinds of tactics you typically see from people who try to hack growth, focus on vanity metrics, and end up with audience that never harbored a single thought of buying anything in the first place.

Show me the smoke and I’ll show you the fire.

In Marrakesh, the culprit was not the carpet seller, but actually the tour guide, who was the “highly-incentivized affiliate”.

He was more concerned with his commission than the good name of the store.

And look what happened.

How To Get The Right People In Your Funnel

Of course, the reason I know all this is because I’ve made every one of these mistakes more times than I’d care to admit.


I’ve been the growth hack kid – filling webinars, discounting to the hilt, running giveaways, spending big on social media.

I’ve been there, staring at an empty shopping cart the day after a huge growth campaign ended.

But it’s thanks to these misadventures that I eventually developed the properly-aligned marketing strategies that I use today, to great effect.

So, here’s how we do things in one of my businesses, StoryLearning.

To set the scene, here’s the business in a nutshell:

  • Market: Language learning
  • Niche: Learn a language through stories
  • Product: Self-directed language courses based on reading
  • Avatar: Learners with intrinsic motivation to learn a language, understand the culture and improve themselves


Take a moment to digest the notes about product and avatar.

Ask yourself what kind of marketing you might do to attract this kind of people.

Go on…

I’ll wait.


Got some ideas?


Here’s what we actually do to attract our ideal customers:

  • Books of short stories
  • Long-form videos about language and culture
  • Student communities with learning tips and support
  • Lead magnets with free practice stories
  • Podcasts with daily short stories (soap-opera style)
  • Blog posts with case studies of successful students
  • Facebook ads that tell interesting language anecdotes
  • Multi-part emails that give learning advice in story format

Ground breaking stuff?



You might think so.

In fact, this approach can seem counter-intuitive because…

This kind of marketing doesn’t always deliver you big, shiny Tiktok level of “likes and views” that you reckon you need to be successful!

But it does deliver one large number, that you might find interesting…

The $$$.


Because everything we do is laser-focused.

Think about the following customer journey:

  1. Buys one of my Spanish books
  2. Watches a YouTube video telling the story of the Spanish language
  3. Joins my email list by downloading a practice story
  4. Checks out our daily Spanish podcast
  5. Reads my email telling the story of how I learnt Spanish

(And, in case you’re wondering, yes this is all planned.)

After all this…

Do you think this person needs any convincing to enrol in one of our story-based Spanish courses?

Really, very little.


What do you suppose happens when our new paying customer enrols in a Spanish course, meets likeminded people, and learns Spanish fast because the stuff works?

They tell their friends, that’s what.

And this is the (not so) dirty little secret of all powerful, long-term, sustainable growth:

Word of mouth!


When people tell their friends, they do all your marketing for you!


This only works if you get the right people through the door in the first place.

Now do you see the real damage that was caused in the carpet shop that day?

did tell my friends…

But what I told them was:

“Steer well clear of that joint, pal!”

Conclusion - Quality Over Quantity

In this newsletter, I told you the story of my trip to Marrakesh and the abysmal experience I had with a carpet seller.

The lesson is that getting the wrong people through the door is fatal for your business and brand.

Online business owners make this mistake in the real world by falling for growth-hacky tactics that prioritise vanity metrics over quality.

But, by planning your marketing approach to appeal directly to your ideal customer, you can make a lot of money, even with a tiny list.


Whenever I hear people complaining that their business isn’t performing…

My first question?

“Who are you getting into your funnel in the first place?”

And if they’re not the right people, the question is:

“How can you change your marketing so that you get the right people in?”

And nothing much else matters until you fix that.

Hope you enjoyed this.

If you have online business friends who you think would appreciate this message, please forward this email onto them.

Really – it means a lot to me!

Got a comment or question? Hit me up on:

Until next time…



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