Dear Everyone Who Works for a Startup, Business and Company of Any Kind

My name is Josh Hoffman (better known as Social Media Josh).

I’m an international social media and content marketing consultant, but you don’t give a f*** about social media and content marketing (unless you run a company that sells one of these two things, which you probably don’t.)

What you really give a f*** about is how you can get more customers and increase their lifetime customer value. Nothing more, nothing less. Everything else is deafening noise and meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

However, over the last three-and-a-half years of consulting brands, organizations and start-ups of all shapes and sizes across the USA, Europe, Israel and China, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend that is the fundamental difference between growing and going out of business.

The trend is that you believe, by and large, that your product or service is awesome — and for all I know, it probably is. But based on that belief, you also believe that people who buy what you’re selling will also think it’s awesome once they experience it.

I’m sorry to tell you, but the fact of the matter is that no one outside of you, your employees, your family and close friends, and maybe a handful of your customers gives a single sh*t about your product or service.

No one really cares that you make the best sandwich in the United States, or that you developed a piece of technology which revolutionized the carbonated beverage industry, or that you‘re transparent about your “costs of doing business” on your website, or that you have an SaaS or app that is going to “change the game.”

“But Josh, we’re not your average startup / business / company / organization. We’re actually really good at what we do.”

I’m not here to dispute that, but I would simply challenge you to ask yourself (and be honest with yourself): If we stopped doing business today, how many people would legitimately care 6 months from now?

The answer to that question is all you need to know about how much the average person really cares about your product or service. Unless you’re curing cancer or developing human life on Mars, if it’s not your product or service, it’ll be someone else’s. That’s how little consumers care about your business, my business and everyone else’s business, product and service.

That’s why it’s absolutely critical to understand and comprehend that your product or service is not what you’re selling. In this case, understanding means knowing, and comprehending means executing on that knowledge.

“But I’m not selling anything,” one startup founder recently told me. “We have a totally free version.”

Actually, my friend, even though you’re not asking for someone’s money, you’re asking for something that a lot of people value more than their money.

You’re asking for time. You’re asking people to take their time —which is already in low supply and very high demand— to download your app, or to sign up for your free service, or to read your email, or to drive to your location, or to engage with a social media post in a world where everyone already has already downloaded too many apps, signed up for too many free services, received too many emails, has too many miles on their car, and sees too many posts in their News Feed as it is.

You’re asking for people to trust that you won’t waste their time, even though they’ve probably never heard of you and have had too many other experiences in which other companies have in fact wasted their time.

You’re asking for attention. You’re asking people to take time away from work, from exercising and other hobbies, from being with their family and friends, from doing anything else that could, in their eyes, be more meaningful or worthwhile for them.

You’re asking for space. You’re asking people to make room for you on their computer and mobile phone, or in their email inbox, or in the News Feed, or otherwise in their life — all places that are already way too overcrowded. Again, very low supply of extra space, and ridiculously high demand of it.

Once you come to terms with the fact that what you’re really selling is not your product or service, you can start to drive your business toward a place where people will give you their time, attention and space. However, that requires a psychological shift in how you view, operate and think about your business and, perhaps more importantly, how you view and engage with consumers.

Just watch this TED Talk about what consumers want, and you’ll start to understand that consumers primarily want authentic experiences. Give them content that enhances or problem-solves an authentic experience outside of your product or service, and they’ll give you their time, attention and space. It’s really that simple.

But don’t just take it from me. Take it from some of the biggest brands around the world.

Take it from Uber, which understands that it doesn’t sell car services; it sells time and convenience.

Take it from Red Bull, which understands that it doesn’t sell energy drinks; it sells adrenaline-pumping experiences and adventure.

Take it from WeWork, which understands that it doesn’t sell office space; it sells a like-minded community of hustlers.

Take it from Buffer, which understands that it doesn’t sell social media scheduling; it too sells time and convenience.

For three years, I sold social media and content marketing, until I realized that no one in my “target audience” gives a single f*** about social media and content marketing.

For the last six months, I’ve made a conscious decision to start “selling” more exposure to relevant prospective customers and higher lifetime value with existing ones — because that’s what the potential of social media and content marketing represents, and that’s what my “target audience” really wants. And I “sell” these things by putting out content that hits these pleasure and passion points, rather than talking about what every other social media consultant is talking about: Facebook, Twitter, content, crap, crap and more crap.

The digital age didn’t invent this way of thinking and doing — it just made it harder to execute on because today, everyone across multiple aspects of our personal and professional lives is vying for our time, attention and space in places that are way too crowded to begin with.

The question becomes: How can you stand out amid the noise? The first step is to start looking at your product or service the way every consumer looks at it — just a means to an end — and then to go ALL IN on content that focuses on that end.

Good luck,
Social Media Josh


Josh Hoffman (better known as Social Media Josh) is an international social media consultant, instructor and speaker, as well as the creator of The Social Media Freelancer (a digital hub exclusively for current and aspiring social media managers, consultants and strategists who want to build or boost their freelance business).

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