9 things marketers can learn from non-marketers: secrets of hostage negotiators, lion tamers & others


You may know David Ogilvy as the father of modern marketing – but he was not a natural advertiser.

At the beginning of his career, he was an apprentice chef at the Hotel Majestic in Paris. Later, he sold AGA stoves door to door and wrote an instruction manual called – no joke – The Theory and Practice of Selling the AGA Cooker.

The manual was so good that Fortune magazine called it the “finest manual on sales ever written”.

But while Ogilvy did not start out as a marketer, he became one in part thanks to his time as a chef and a salesman. He learned discipline and attention to detail from those jobs, and these qualities helped him become an advertising guru.

(This wasn’t the first or last time a legend was inspired by a field that was not their own. Steve Jobs learned calligraphy from an ex-Trappist monk, and later used his knowledge in designing the first Mac fonts.)

The question is, what can modern marketers learn from other professions?

Find out the answer below by learning 9 inspirational quotes, and the marketing thoughts behind them.

Zig Ziglar, self-improvement guru

“You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want”

Ziglar’s words are not just inspirational, they are also true. Content marketing, where you give people value before asking them to buy from you, is 8x as effective as traditional advertising. In other words, you really do get what you want when you help others do the same.


First, because giving builds trust, a critical part of marketing. Second, because helping others shows them you are qualified to fulfil their problems or needs.

Put these two together, and the takeaway is clear: focus on what customers want instead of what you want, and good things will happen.

Chris Voss, former FBI hostage negotiator

“Don’t think, “I’m a very direct and honest person. I want people to be direct and honest with me, so I’m going to be direct and honest with you.””

Chris Voss used to be the FBI’s lead international negotiator, and he explains that while honesty is a good quality, it is not the best way to persuade someone. Being too direct about getting the sale just makes people uncomfortable.

What you want to do instead is build trust and rapport. One way to do this is through content marketing. Another is by focusing your marketing messages on the benefits the customer will get from your product.

Jordan Belfort, motivational speaker (and ex-con)

“Give yourself no choice but to succeed.”

Jordan Belfort, a.k.a. the Wolf of Wall Street, may have made his first fortune illegally… But he is right about not accepting failure as an option.

Case in point, some of the world’s biggest brands, from Instagram to Suzuki to Coca-Cola, had to fail before pivoting and finding a new way to be successful. The lesson

Jiro Ono, sushi chef

“I do the same thing over and over, improving bit by bit. There is always a yearning to achieve more. I’ll continue to climb, trying to reach the top, but no one knows where the top is.”

Jiro Ono runs the best sushi restaurant in the world. His approach is very similar to growth marketing, in the sense that it is experimental; iterative; based on long-term learning.

What can you learn from Jiro as a marketer? Success is a marathon; not a sprint. Pace yourself and focus on incremental improvements, rather than trying to hit a home run every time.

Friedrich Nietzsche, philosopher

“You have your way, I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, the only way, it does not exist.”

When Apple made a stylish, portable music player, it got the iPod. When Microsoft made a stylish, portable music player, it got the Zune. What works for one business will not necessarily work for another, so never assume that doing things someone else’s way will work for you.

Bruce Lee, martial artist

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times”

Steve Jobs started his career with a massive success: the Apple Mac. He then failed with the Lisa, and ended up getting the boot from Apple, which he co-founded. At this point, he was rich, in his twenties, and could have chosen to do anything he wanted…

But instead he continued to focus on computers, founding NeXT computers: a company he later re-sold to Apple. In other words, he continued to practice the same one kick Bruce Lee talks about, and so should you, even if it feels like you are failing.

Haruki Murakami, writer

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking”

You cannot come up with new ideas if you are doing the same thing everyone else is. Going back to Steve Jobs, the man studied calligraphy, did LSD and occasionally lived on nothing but fruit juice. He lived in a way that other people did not which helped him get ideas others could not.

His example is a perfect illustration that “out of the box” thinking does not come from forcing creativity, but rather from observing it around you. Observe what other marketers are not, and you will get results that they do not get!

Clyde Beatty, lion tamer

“When I’m in there, I don’t know if there are a hundred or a thousand in the audience. It doesn’t matter. I’ll give them anything; I’ll give them everything.”

No matter what you are doing, whether it is taming lions or marketing a product, never pull any punches. Your customers are the foundation of your business, and if you do not give them your all, you are only sabotaging your own success.

Hopefully, these quotes will help you think outside of the box in your current and future marketing efforts.

Remember: what we do as growth hackers (and marketers) is a combination of various skills, and we can always learn by looking at how great people in other fields do things. This is particularly true for growth marketing, where success depends on experimenting and finding new ideas!

Would you like more out-of-the-box ideas specifically suited to your business? Would you like to see how we can help you drive traffic, leads and sales? Then this is your chance!

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