How To Start & Grow Your Business

DIY Marketers Founder, Ivana Taylor, shares her secrets to success

Asher Fergusson
Mar 21st, 2016
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  • Biography

    Ivana Taylor is the publisher of, a resource for entrepreneurs who want do LESS marketing and make MORE money. She’s listed as one of the most influential people in small business by D&B and in 2010 she ranked 21 out of 30,000 of Fast Company’s Influential people on the internet. She is the book editor for Small Business Trends, a contributing author to AMEX Open Forum and has appeared on MSNBC.

  • #1 Tip for Startups

    The idea of marketing, getting customers, keeping customers, and attracting customers is a way of being. Marketing is about being and not doing. This is a really, really important distinction, because there are lots of people out there telling you what to do.

Ivana talks about her Top 5 Marketing Questions

Ivana’s background and her core beliefs

My background story is somewhat related to how I started my marketing site. I would say I grew up poor. So you know, forever looking for a way to look good on no money. I had your basic marketing trajectory. I studied marketing in school. I went to work in the manufacturing world and one of the common themes in most manufacturers is that they don’t ever have money for marketing. I really have a philosophy that just because you’re a small business doesn’t mean that you have to have the kid down the street make your website. It’s as if small business owners feel that they’re not good enough.

So that’s why I thought the thing to do would be to start a marketing site. I always found great tools and really easy ways to do things myself and not spend a lot of money. I don’t want to say like don’t spend money ever. That’s not my message. It’s not like do everything yourself either. That’s just not smart. You’re not going to grow your business like that.

But what I do advocate is putting your money in the important things and I advocate doing things yourself, because if you’re going to hire people, you need to know something about what you’re going to hire them for.

So there I was, going about my life, doing stuff and I’m a geek. I always found really cool tools and resources and people are like, “How did you do that? How did you do that?” So that’s how DIY Marketer started. I would find different things and share them with people or show people how I did things. Hacks are real popular now, but they weren’t popular when I started. So this is what I started doing and originally, it was supposed to be a membership site.

I was going to teach people who aren’t marketers how to do marketing in their business, but I never could get my marketing stuff together for that. So I just started writing content. The content got picked up and bigger brands saw it. So that’s how that came to be.

Ivana Taylor speaking at a conference

The Top 5 DIY Marketing Questions

So there are five questions that I go through and I do this all the time. It’s not like you do this once and then you’re done. No matter what you do, these are the five questions that I think are really important to answer.

1. Who is your audience?
Obviously, the more specific that you can get about that, the better. It’s counterintuitive for all you startup people. It’s counterintuitive because you think that you want to reach the most people so that you could have those people buy from you. But it doesn’t work that way when you try to sell. You can’t sell anything to everybody. When you’re talking to a giant lowest common denominator, you actually speak to no one. If you’re going to talk about accessories for Chihuahuas, that is specific, right?

Choosing a target audience is really important and taking the time to work that through is time well spent.

2. What is the problem that they’re trying to solve?
It’s not a basic problem, like get more customers. Yeah, that’s an overall problem, but what is the problem that they’re dealing with? Is it getting more clicks on their website? Is it getting traffic into their retail? What is their marketing challenge? What is that challenge that they’re trying to solve?

3. What is their perceived notion of how this problem is solved?
That’s really important because it’s not how do they solve that problem, that’s not the question. What is their perceived notion? How do they think the problem is solved? So one simple example that I use all the time is I will say something like, “You’ve been thinking that you have to do more marketing so that you can get more customers and so that you can make more money.” You see that? You’ve been thinking that this is what’s going on. So that is their perceived notion. That’s me speaking to their perceived notion, right?

4. How does the industry tell them their problem is solved?
Well, in the world of marketing, we’re like, “You should be doing social media. You should be doing video. You should be doing Snapchat. You should be doing Blab,” like whatever the latest topic is. The industry just keeps telling you that you need to do more.

5. How do you believe this problem is solved?
When I went through that exercise, what I realized is that what I believed was that you should actually be doing less marketing if you want to make more money. You should be doing less and not more. And what I mean by that is don’t spread yourself too thin. Don’t choose three strategies. Choose one and just kick it.

Ivana Taylor - Influencer

DIY Marketing – What Should You Do Yourself?

The person that I think gave the best recommendation on how to do this is Michael Gerber, the author of The E-Myth. I thought this is brilliant and I’m going to tell it to you now. So it’s not mine, it’s his. It’s great advice.

That is to make an a la carte list of all the things that have to happen in your business and this can include everything from sending emails, scheduling meetings. And you know that whole time-tracking exercise where you just sit down and every so many minutes you write what you’re doing? Track yourself. Are you sending out invoices? Are you writing blog posts? Are you servicing clients, doing training? Whatever it is that you’re doing, whether it’s a week or a month or a day, however your world works and your business works. Take a representative period of time and write down everything.

All right. Now that you’ve done that, here is the goodie. The sneaky tip is look down that list and ask yourself. What are the things that only I can do? Then you identify those things and you will be surprised at how few of them there are.

Once you’ve identified the rest of those things little by little, start grouping them and start outsourcing. But let’s say for example – I’ve actually designed my whole website. I did it myself the first time. I had it hired out a couple of times and now it’s some like amalgam, like a little bit of both, right?

That’s important to me, right? My whole site is DIY Marketers. Everything I talk about is how do you do things yourself. So in order for me to make a recommendation, I’ve made the personal decision that if I can do it, anyone can do it and I’m going to. So that’s important for my brand that I do that.

The only way I could have known that was by doing it myself, then by hiring it out and then by doing it myself again.

Favorite Tools of the Trade

You’ve asked a question we can talk for hours about. I can tell you that I went 100 percent into the cloud. DIY started in 2008, probably around that time, I was 100 percent in the cloud and my first cloud recommendation is – I love Google Apps. My entire business runs on Google Apps. I mean the price is ridiculously cheap. It could even be free, depending on your business.

Google Apps for Work

I run a digital business, so clearly I need lots of digital stuff. The reason I like Google so much is – I tried so many different time-tracking tools, project management tools and I still use some. But what is my favorite? It’s the interaction between the Gmail and the Calendar and Tasks.

It just works for me and I just think it’s a great way to do things and so I love that. Another cloud app that I use a lot is Dropbox. A lot of people do and there are lots to choose from. But I also use Google Drive. I have absolutely no files on my computer. So I use both Dropbox and Google Drive.

As I mentioned, I have a manufacturing background and one of the things I learned in manufacturing, we have these quality systems and one of the rules was if it’s on paper, it’s not current. If it’s not on Google Drive, it probably doesn’t exist and that’s actually why I use Google Drive so much. I run a virtual team and t’s just the best way to collaborate.

Another tool that I totally love is Skype. I have people that I communicate with on Google Chat and then I have people I communicate with on Skype. That’s the other thing I like with Google. I tried all different kinds of webinar platforms, I tried the expensive webinar platforms and I have to tell you that Google Hangouts wins.

Here’s a sneaky thing that people may not know about Google Hangouts. So when I do interviews like you and I are doing, I actually do them on Google Hangouts. Now there’s a sacrifice. I think recording off of Skype gives you slightly better quality, but what happens on Google Hangouts is, if you are running a Hangout on Air, you are recording and you keep your conversation to under an hour, there will be a transcript available. It’s a minute-by-minute transcript. So for someone like me that likes to grab snippets of interviews, and do mash-ups of different things, it is a huge time saver.

Recommended Reading

I’m the book editor for Small Biz Trends. So all my book recommendations are over at, you just have to find the book reviews.

Ivana Taylor Book Editor

The E-Myth, I think, is a classic. Another one, oldie but goodie, is Blue Ocean Strategy. That is a heady book. That is a book that you read and then you sort of are like, “Huh?”, but it has just got so many wonderful things and worksheets. So I would definitely recommend that.

I would also recommend my friend John Jantsch who runs Duct Tape Marketing. He wrote a book a few years ago called The Referral Engine. It didn’t get a lot of press, but I got to tell you, for a small business owner, this is brilliant because what he does is he interviewed a ton of all different kinds of businesses and he asked them how they got referrals. So no matter what kind of business you’re running, you’re going to get some ideas in there. They’re in there. You can just do what those people are doing.

Pricing is a really big issue. I am not exactly a pricing expert, but there’s a guy out there by the name of Rafi Mohammed. He wrote a book called The Art of Pricing. What Rafi does is he explains things, like the whole why do you price. He talks about how to enhance value. He talks about how increasing your price by just one percent can yield huge amounts of value and then he goes into the details of actually helping you understand what the pricing strategy is.

That reminds me of another awesome finance book called Found Money. These are people you’ve never heard of, but it’s brilliant. It’s a super short book. It’s written by Steve Wilkinghoff and what’s really awesome about Steve is that he does this reverse. He’s a CPA and he noticed that a lot of his clients were just kind of lost in the details. He flips the whole accounting thing on its ear. What he talks about is focus on your result. Not your results, but your result. So like how much money do you want to make? Start with that.

Then, he teaches you how to look at all of your products and your profits and your costs and he shows you how to structure your offer, so that you make the most money and achieve your result. So a financial dummy like me can kind of get it.

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Ninja versus Zombies

I would say the ninja would win. So here’s what I’ve learned from The Walking Dead. Zombies may come in packs, but they are stupid and they move very slowly and they also don’t see things around them. The ninja is totally opposite of that. The ninja is super hyper self-aware and super- trained. The ninja is aware of his environment, or her because there could be girl ninjas too. I think the ninja would win because they’re nimble. The other thing that’s really interesting is, if you really want to survive a zombie attack, you definitely need to have like a sword or like a weapon that doesn’t require bullets, a weapon that doesn’t require being refilled. That’s very key.

Internet Giants

All the Internet giants (Google, Apple, etc.) have identified target customers, the problem they want to solve and how they want to solve that problem with what tools. I used to run PCs and I was a huge Dell fan for a really, really long time, but in 2012, I switched to a Mac.

There’s a guy by the name of Phil Simon, who’s a friend of mine, and he wrote a book called The Age of the Platform and he addresses this issue of platforms and how they rule our live and what it all means. I see all of the Internet giants really working hard to connect with small business owners.

I was just in a TweetChat with PayPal, DHL, Canon, a huge global conglomerate and I’ve been doing some work with them and their printers. Pick the company that you feel values your business the way it deserves to be valued.

Ivana Taylor presenting at Get Ready to Launch

Her #1 Tip for Entrepreneurs

The one piece of advice that I would give is that the idea of marketing, getting customers, keeping customers, and attracting customers is a way of being. Marketing is about being and not doing. This is a really, really important distinction because there are lots of people out there telling you what to do.

Read this, use this, do it this way, but you’ve got to be very, very wise and discerning and understand who you are in the world. Who are you? What are you committed to? What can people count on you for?

Those are the only three branding questions that matter. Look at any big brand and you will intuitively see how they’ve answered those questions, because you can feel it.

So don’t sweat the doing. Focus on the being.

About the Author

Asher Fergusson

Asher has a Master's in Business Administration (MBA) degree and was the CEO of his own startup Internet marketing business for 6 years before selling it in 2014. He specializes in fields such as Search Engine Optimization and Facebook Advertising where he's helped countless small businesses successfully compete with large corporations. He is now the full-time CMO at bizHUMM sharing all his knowledge of how to start and grow small businesses in the most powerful and cost effective ways.