My goal for 2022 is to finish the year with anywhere from 500-1000 paying members for Ungated. Currently, I'm at 87.

I plan to make up the difference with the following, extremely sophisticated, marketing strategy.

  • publish at least 100 things no one else but me could have written
  • make a ton of new friends, mostly by being goofy on twitter

Seriously, that’s it.

It's surreal that I'm publicly committing to this, because for the better part of the last decade, I’ve been a professional marketer with a deep love for complex systems.

Had you asked me about my marketing strategy for Ungated last year, I would have told you about my extensive niche research, my content and SEO strategies, my plan for content promotion and repurposing, how i’d do email segmentation and story-driven promotion sequences, my influencer and partnership plans, and on and on.

But frankly, none of that shit feels resonant anymore. It doesn't excite me. I've spent a good chunk of my life following the best practices of the marketing world, and most of it leaves me feeling empty and apathetic, instead of creative and connected.

That's a lesson I've had to learn the hard way, more than once—when I force myself to do things that drain me, both my business and my quality of life suffer. Those best practices rarely work as well as advertised, and when I double down on them, my business morphs into a prison of mismatched expectations and sunk costs, from which it's increasingly difficult to escape.

I've been there, done that. And I have no intention of going back.

Towards a new philosophy of marketing

This year, I’m making the explicit choice to trust my intuition and experiment with radical simplicity. Hence the strategy above.

Mostly, my goal is to have fun and take myself less seriously. I want to prioritize enjoyment in my business in a way I never have before, and see what happens.

But there are two underlying hypotheses I'm testing that have implications for the wider landscape of online business.

Over the last year, I've come to believe...

  1. That many of the marketing tactics commonly pushed on solo creators have little impact on what matters most (reaching more of the right people, fostering trust, and creating happy long-term customers and fans).
  2. That when you ignore the best practices of the marketing world, not only can you still build an effective business, but people will actually trust you more, because they're tired of status quo marketing practices.

Maybe it's just the corners of the internet I inhabit, but it feels like we're at a tipping point. Most everyone I talk to is exhausted by commodified content that looks and feels the same as everything that surrounds it. They're suspicious when they see a facebook ad promising something too good to be true. And they're wary when they get sucked into a funnel, only to be bombarded with additional ads and emails and text messages. People are tired of business as usual, and are increasingly vocal about it.

Point being, if this little marketing experiment succeeds, it'll be a canary in the coal mine for the Online Marketing Industrial Complex.™

My sense is there's a cultural sea change coming, and 10 years down the road, all of the ''best practices'' that everybody uses today will be seen as tacky, outdated, gauche, and perhaps even morally-suspect.

In the world that's coming, the creators who continue to prioritize conversion rates over connection will slowly destroy any warmth their fans once felt toward them. And those fans will leave once greener pastures become available. Coercive businesses may be the big fish today, but it won't last as the culture shifts.

Instead, it'll be the most human creators who come out ahead in this new world. It'll be the those of us rejecting commoditization, leaning into our unique perspectives, and making the work only we could make. It'll be the creators who treat fans not as datapoints in a spreadsheet, but as unique humans with agency and worth.

Those are the ingredients for a business that not only creates happy long-term fans, but makes your life as a creator more enjoyable. That's how you win the long game, by treating people well and enjoying yourself.

I’ve been saying that for years. But now it’s time to put my money where my mouth is, and get some skin in the game. It's time to stop hiding behind complex marketing and focus on those few simple things that matter most.

So if you'll excuse me, I'm going to publish some honest, atypical writing about this new world of marketing, and shitpost a bunch on twitter.

And hey, if you care to support this journey, consider becoming a fan!