How to get clients without "marketing"?

A reader asked me whether it’s possible to get clients without having to do marketing.

“I’m so good at doing my work, not so good at marketing. I just want to focus on the work itself. How can I get clients?”

​I can relate to this question. Maybe you can, too.
In the beginning of my business a decade ago, I practiced what I was taught: old-school internet marketing that felt more like war (“dominate the market”) or religion (“indoctrinating/converting audience into buyers”)…

A few years into it, I burned out. I didn’t want to do “marketing” anymore. I just wanted to help people. Why couldn't I just do my best work, and have people find me naturally?

An interesting inner question gradually became more persistent:

“What if you only had 6 months left to live?”

My response:

“If that were true, I would want to teach everything I’ve learned, and post it all online, so that others can benefit, without my needing to be here.”

So I started doing that in 2014, making videos on a regular basis, at first on my older channel Our Highest Work, and then on my current brand, simply my name George Kao (on Youtube and Facebook.)

It started as an urgent mission to not leave this life without sharing what I’ve learned.

Eventually, I started getting comments about how helpful the videos are. And then, new clients started to find and contact me.

It fulfilling my mission, and it was also building my business.

Since 2014, I haven't felt like my activities were “marketing”. Sure, others might call it “marketing”… and to be relevant, I wrote a book called Authentic Content Marketing.

But to me, what I was doing (and am doing now) feels a world apart from the kind of marketing I was taught many years ago. Back then, it was more about clever manipulation of human triggers, competing for visibility, and using persuasion tactics such as urgency/scarcity, in order to convert more people into buyers and get more profits. (Sadly, these tactics are still widespread in my industry today.)

So when someone says “Is it possible to get clients consistently, without having to do marketing?”

My response: Yes, absolutely. You don’t have to do any activities that aren’t palatable to you. 

Just focus on helping others as effectively and efficiently as you can.

Let’s stop thinking about “marketing” and instead, reflect on what a loss it would be to the world, if you left without having shared your deep store of life experiences and learnings. It’s a like destroying a whole library of knowledge.

Instead, help humanity progress. Share your experiences. Don't let that wisdom, through your unique voice, disappear.

Instead of “marketing”, think in terms of connection, service, and generosity.

What we do as authentic businesses is not at all “marketing” in the way we’ve been disillusioned by. What we do is to connect generously with others, helping them with what we know, and then letting go and allowing them to choose us.

Clients appear naturally, as we become authentically valuable to them.

And all along the way, we are doing the important work of authentically exploring what we deeply want to say, that also happens to be meaningful and helpful to our audience.

As Frederick Buechner famously wrote, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

So, if you don’t like “marketing” — don’t do it.

Instead, dive into your calling.

Just be sure to do it in a way that can benefit as many people as possible.