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The Anti-Strategy For How To Grow Your Business Online

  • Rebecca TraceyRebecca Tracey

When you start a business, putting yourself out there can be kind of extremely scary.

You look around at what everyone else is doing, and you wonder how the hell they were able to get so much exposure!  You feel like a really little fish in a big pond, and it can be overwhelming even knowing where to start.

So your logical first step is to start to immerse yourself in the best online marketing and business growth strategies out there. You do a few Google searches, find some great courses, and start to build a strategy for getting the word out about your new business.

You read the blogs, and follow the gurus, but at some point, you have so many business building strategies that you have no idea which ones to do or where to start. According to them, you should be guest posting, and creating a freebie for your opt-in, and getting interviewed, and doing free talks, and commenting on other people’s blogs, and being on Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook and Pinterest and the list goes on.

You get lost in the business of business-building, and it all becomes about the latest strategy or trend… to the point that you start to forget WHY you started your business in the first place – to help people.

There are 3 main problems with most of the common strategies for how to grow your business online:

  1. They don’t take our differences (as human beings, and as businesses) into consideration
  2. They place the focus on business building, rather than being of service
  3. They turn basic human values into “strategies” and “systems”

If you have been struggling with your marketing and business building because all the tricks and tools just don’t quite seem to “fit” for you, it’s time that you kick “strategies” to the curb and take on the anti-strategy in your marketing.

How to Grow Your Business Online With an Anti-Strategy

1. Account for Your Strengths, Weaknesses, Skills, and Uniqueness

As small business owners, most of us tend to run businesses where WE are the main focus (this is especially true for service-based online businesses). And where most business strategies fail is that they usually take on a one-size-fits-all approach. Do interviews. Be on Twitter. Write guest posts. Host free calls. Create an affiliate program.

But last time I checked, my personality, my strengths, my skills and my business was not identical to anyone else’s. Even if you DO the same thing in your business as someone else, you (as an individual and as a brand) are different. So it’s bogus to assume that there is just ONE strategy that will work for everyone.

It’s essential to not only be aware of your strengths in your business, but to leverage them in your marketing.

StrengthsFinder and the Fascination Advantage are two fabulous tests that help you discover your true talents (the latter being particularly clever, as it focuses on what it is that makes people drawn to you).

Playing to your strengths in your business will make business building so much easier (and WAY more fun). If you suck at writing, guest posting will likely feel really challenging for you, and you might want to focus your energy on videos or interviews instead. Likewise, if you’re not very skilled at speaking on the fly, you don’t have to pitch yourself for interviews (and you don’t have to have “TED talk” on your list of big business dreams!).

Try this: Get out a notepad or open up your Evernote, and write a list of all the business-building strategies that you have in your head that you think you “should” be doing.

For example:

“I should start tweeting more.”

“I should pitch myself to get interviewed.”

Then, go through your list and change “I should” to “I want to”, and see how each statement feels now.  If the statement feels true, great – keep it on your to-do list. If you can’t honestly say, “I want to ____”, scratch it off. It’s not the best place to focus your energy right now.

2. Come From a Place of Service First

The most important thing to remember is that you are in business for a reason that is bigger than “building your list”. All the tactics and strategies you learn are secondary to the real reason you started your business – to help people and to do some good in the world.

Business building becomes easy when you take the focus away from “how can I get people to sign up”, to “how can I be of service to people in a bigger and better way”.

One of the most common questions I get asked by my clients is “How can I grow my email list?” My answer is always the same, “Why should people be on your list?”

And most of them don’t have an answer. They were just told they needed a big email list. So I take them back to basics – who do they serve, what problem do they solve, what do they offer, and then finally, how can they help people for free on a smaller scale that would feel really fun and easy? Create from that space, and list building becomes easy.

Many of the traditional business building methods are still great, but the key is to come at them with a mindset of being of service, rather than growing your business.

Everything from your Twitter posts, to the comments you leave on someone else’s blog, to your own blog posts should be done with the intention to provide value and help people. The business growth it may or may not get you is secondary.

Try this: Anytime you are stuck on what to create (maybe it’s your opt-in freebie? Or your next blog post? Or a new service or program?), take 5 minutes to come back to the core message of your business. What did you set out to do? What problems do you LOVE to solve for people? What is your bigger purpose (big question, I know!)? Then brainstorm a list from that place.

You’ll find that it’s easy to come up with new ideas when you come from a place of service rather than just trying to arbitrarily “grow your business”.

3. Be Yourself. No, Really.

When “authenticity” becomes a strategy, you know something is wrong.

It’s gotten to the point where basic human values have been turned into trendy tactics.


But what does “authenticity” really even mean? The word has been so overused that despite its good intention, it’s starting to feel like just another slimy marketing phrase.

The basic concept still remains though – you have to be YOU.

Not a “strategic authenticity”version of you.

Not a you that is carefully planned and branded.

But the real, live, version of you.

Because YOU are what people are buying. Your energy is your strongest business building tool. So being clear on what makes you unique is crucial to growing your business.

This is often easier said than done, though. It’s so common, especially if you’re just starting out, to now really even KNOW who you are. This happens all the time: you have an idea of the brand you want to portray, but you struggle to “find” a unique voice to get your message across.

But if your voice is unique, it’s already inside of you, and not something you have to go out and “find”.

The key to being yourself is to stop trying so hard to be yourself. Ironic, isn’t it?

Try this: Here are a few of my favorite strategies for making sure that you really are being YOU in your business:

  1. Get your closest friends and family members to read your blog posts. Ask them if it sounds like you, and if not, what feels different to them. Take their words as constructive feedback! They know you inside and out, and it’s usually easier for them to see where you are out of alignment than it is to see it for yourself.
  2. Choose a topic you feel passionate about, and record yourself talking about it for 1 minute. Then, choose one of your recent blog posts or articles, and read it out loud into your recorder. The listen to both recordings side by side. Do they sound the same? What feels different about them? This is a really good clue as to where you are trying too hard to sound a certain way in your content.
  3. Poll your current subscribers (or Facebook fans, or anyone else you have in your community), and ask them to give you a list of 5 ways that they would describe your personality. You may find that people have a MUCH different perception of you than you do of yourself. This may be a good thing (sometimes people notice our strengths more easily than we do), or their image of you might be way off. You can use this data to adjust your content accordingly.

YOUR Way of Doing Business is the ONLY Way

At the end of the day, the only way to create a business that feels sustainable for you, is to do things your way.

Forget what anyone else is going. Let go of all the strategies and gimmicks and formulas.

Tap back into WHY you have your business in the first place. Focus on your strengths. Be of service before anything else. And at the risk of sounding cliché – just be yourself.

What do you think of the “anti-strategy” to business building? What conventional business building tactics are you taking off your “should” list? Tell us in the comments how you will start to build your own anti-strategy.

79 thoughts on The Anti-Strategy For How To Grow Your Business Online

Jamie Cheng

Great article and couldn’t agree more with doing marketing that excites you.

You don’t have to do marketing you hate. It’s better for you to have fun with marketing and get even better results.

A great example of this would be podcaster John Lee Dumas. Doing 30+ interviews with excitement every month. Plus 3-6 webinars! Do what works for YOU!

Rebecca Tracey

Great example! That definitely wouldn’t work for everyone, but if he loves it, more power to him!

Vatsala Shukla

When I first started blogging, I was blogging and writing in my own voice and getting noticed. Then I learned alien lingo – SEO, Page Rank, Meta this that and the other and I became a programmed robot.

It’s good to read and learn about others views and visions but at the end of the day, if one wants to stand out, one has to be different and there is no one more different than oneself.

I’m human again and have found my voice and it shows in my writing and my work.

I loved the voice recording suggestion. A different form of muscle testing that I really should try out. Thanks for the tips, Rebecca.

Tema Frank

Excellent article! I really liked some of your concrete tips, like looking at your to-do list from the viewpoint of “I want to” instead of “I should” . I may have just found the way to knock about 100 items of my to-do list!!

Rebecca Tracey

Hahaha that’s a lot of items, great job!

Tema Frank

Rebecca: Now I just have to find time to go through the damned list and knock them off!


It’s taken me a year to figure out that I need to use my unique voice, and be ok with it… And I love the tips and strategies (or anti-strategies) you’ve given me here… Thank you so much! I can’t wait to see where my blog will go… I’m going right back to my list of blog posts that I thought I “should” write… And see which make my heart sing 😉
Considering the fact that my strength is to create… You can imagine the fun I’ve already had creating downloadable quotes as my “opt-in”… And it was REALLY freeing to step into a place of strength! I advocate it COMPLETELY!!!
I’m also particularly drawn to your view on authenticity… And plan to do a little “authentic audit”

Rebecca Tracey

Ahh love the opt-in idea! I can totally tell it’s right for you because I hear you having fun just creating it! That’s always a good sign 🙂


Totally… I’m having a blast! …and it feels great to be authentic to who I am… hopefully the others feel it to as they move along their journey.

Martin Lindeskog

Rebecca Tracey,

I like your contrarian style. I have to check out the StrengthsFinder and the Fascination Advantage tests.

Steve Daar

All the shiny objects & tactics in the world aren’t going to work if you don’t have everything straight in your head + your heart.

Loved this post – – you’ve won a new fan! Someone tell Matt Cutts the real reason for guest blogging

: )

Rebecca Tracey

haha I don’t know who Matt Cutts is, but feel free to notify him 😉

Wayne King

Good insight, back to basics.


Great post! The part about authenticity is so true – and I think if you address the other steps you talk about (strengths/weaknesses & coming from a place of service) then you will arrive at the authentic point in your business. I think it’s when we become distracted by the latest shiny marketing strategy that we forget why we do what we do!

Rebecca Tracey

And there are sooo many shiny marketing strategies out there… but I actually I see that as a good thing – it gives everyone a chance to find what works for them! Thanks for reading Krysty!


At last! Something that actually makes sense about building an online biz! Do what feels right to you. RIGHT ON, sista 🙂

Rebecca Tracey

Thanks Razwana (and cool name!)

John Gibb

hi Rebecca

Congrats on having your first post @ FP blog published. It got my interest, as I’ve always been of fan of growing a business or starting a project “your way” of thinking.

You have such an interesting web site yourself, going to check your blog next.


Rebecca Tracey

Thanks so much John, honored to be able to share with the FP community!


That was a good read. I really like the idea of recording yourself and comparing it to your writing to see if it’s really you. Thanks for this.

Rebecca Tracey

Thanks, hope it works for you!



This is a wonderful post and thank you for your advice, it sound like you were talking to me.

Rebecca Tracey

I was… I’m watching you 😉 JUST KIDDING. I’m not that creepy.

Thanks for reading!

Saqib Rauf

I liked your writing style and what you put on this page.

“The most important thing to remember is that you are in business for a reason that is bigger than “building your list”.”

Danny, what is your response?

Rebecca Tracey

Do you think Danny would disagree? 😉


Not even a little. 🙂

A. Lynn Jesus

I love this post! I love the idea of keeping the ‘why’ in the forefront. It is the core engine for your business in my opinion and the farther you move from this, the harder all the strategies become! The light of your ‘why’ should illuminate what you actually do, want to do, and influence how you do it. The dimmer it becomes the easier it is to get off track and clouded by strategy, which by this time is often misguided.

I also really like the idea of altering the “I should’s” to “I want to’s”. That is powerful.

Rebecca Tracey

Thanks! Hope you get a few things crossed off your “should-do” list 🙂

Ayslinn Patrick

I think that I just fell in love with you Darling! I am so happy that I found you at the beginning of this adventure of mine.

Rebecca Tracey

Buckle up for a fun ride Ayslinn!


Once again you have blessed us with loads of wisdom! I’m so glad to see you posting here!

And thanks for giving me permission to not tweet!

Rebecca Tracey

FULL PERMISSION! How many times have people told me I *should* be on LinkedIn? barf.


Spot on Rebecca! My list of “should do’s” will be so long it will take the rest of the week to compile it!

Rebecca Tracey

haha awesome, write ’em down and then toss it out!


The great thing about this post is that it transcends the experience levels of the readers. From newbie to audiences in the thousands- the advice works. I’m not really sure where I would if I left myself behind.
I’m a little surprised Danny let this post fly since some of it is contrary to the audience building mentality. 😉

Thanks for the insights.

Rebecca Tracey

hahah yeah, I’d be curious to hear Danny chime in on this 😉

Danny @ Firepole Marketing

Well, first of all, we’re fine with dissenting opinions at Firepole Marketing – but why do you think this runs contrary to what we teach?


I only mean to say that there is a contrary tone by nature of the blog itself- ANTI-STRATEGY. I have been trying to absorb the wealth of strategies, tips, manifestos, podcasts, blogs, tutorials, books, etc. that Firehose Marketing 🙂 has put out. I plan on beginning the ABM next month so I can’t speak for all of the teachings. However, Ms. Tracey states:

“If you have been struggling with your marketing and business building because all the tricks and tools just don’t quite seem to “fit” for you, it’s time that you kick “strategies” to the curb and take on the anti-strategy in your marketing.”

I am on your side Danny. Firepole Marketing is the anti-strategy of the marketing world. Build your audience! Everything that Ms. Tracey addresses goes back to that too. I can’t help “my” audience if I’m trying to be someone else. It would not be loyal to them and would diminish their loyalty to me/my brand/our community. (I really don’t have one yet.) 🙂
Though, I guess if my business isn’t making $3k to $6k in a year after starting the class, I can’t use the excuse “I just gotta be me” and expect a full refund and $1k.
Fellow Beacon,


I was thinking the same thing, Rick. I cannot really be of service to very many if I don’t reach out to them. And if they never know I exist, I cannot very well do that, right?

Rebecca Tracey

Katherine, I’m not really sure I understand the comment. You do need to reach out to people… you just need to do it YOUR way.


Rebecca, I guess I was thinking that if I strike through all the “should-do” entries that I don’t really want to do, I’d never do anything except write my book and avoid those with one eyebrow arched.
However, I do understand that when the “should” entries make sense to me, I need to change my “want-to” list, and start wanting to do more of the outreach. It can seem so formidable, all this facing and tweeting, but I know, I should, whether I want to or not.
You phrase it “need to” in this reply, and that, perhaps is the difference.
I know.
That doesn’t make me want to, it only makes me DO it.
And hope my reluctance does not show.

Rebecca Tracey

Right.. s how can you reframe them to “want to”? There will always be things that we may not initially be excited about, but the trick to a sustainable business is finding ways to have fun with all the crappy parts

Jonathan Wells

Rebecca, I appreciated each and every point of this article. Much of what entrepreneurs try is based on the outdated notion that “it’s not personal, it’s business.” We need to move away from that kind of thinking.

It is time to embrace a new model, business is personal. The more personal we make it; the easier it will be for our ideal clients or customers to relate to what we do. People want to know who they are doing business with. Make it easy for them and they will respond.

Rebecca Tracey

You nailed it! I am pretty sure I get 95% of my clients because I show up as ME and they really get who I am (which of course gives the permission to show up as THEM). Thanks for the comment!

Marcy McKay

You’re stinkin’ awesome, Rebecca. I’ve been dragging my feet in all the SHOULDS that I should be doing, but hated and didn’t want to, so was procrastinating and not shockingly, getting nowhere. I’ve joined Strength Finders and can’t wait to get into that. You’re right. It’s all about the being of service to others…the rest is just fluff.

Rebecca Tracey

You are stinkin awesome! Go get’ em!


Best paragraph on business growth/lead-gen/blogging ever… ?

“So I take them back to basics – who do they serve, what problem do they solve, what do they offer, and then finally, how can they help people for free on a smaller scale that would feel really fun and easy? Create from that space, and list building becomes easy.”

Great article.


What a great article, thank you! My takeaway was this: Simple. Keep it simple. For being a complicated person, this isn’t easy for me, but going back to the core of why you do things helps simplify so much.


Thanks Rebecca, it’s so refreshing to hear someone talk about how essential it is to be yourself in your business. The problem with some people(me for instance) is that they feel they don’t fit into the business profile, so they hide behind what they think the world wants and expects from a business person and then like you day they suffer. How encouraging to hear that it works better being yourself. Love the way you explain that in your post, and give us neat things to try out.
Thanks for being YOU and giving us a great example to follow.
I know it takes courage to talk about using anti-strategies, it’s just not “right” within the business world, so I appreciate you taking it on


Point #2, “come from a place of service first,” took me back to 2005 when I started working on obtaining a Master of Science degree in Management. Our class had to read “Servant Leadership” by Robert K. Greenleaf. The book teaches you how to ask, “How may I serve?” I recommend the book.

Rebecca Tracey

Thanks Amandah, I will check it out!

Lauren Ball

This has given me a lot of insight into defining my audience. That’s where I’m at, back at the beginning trying to get on a good, solid path. Being able to articulate what service I want to provide has to take into account who the people are that will benefit from my service. I will be referring to this post often, thanks!

Rebecca Tracey

No, thank YOU! Glad to hear it is helpful for you! Definitely always have your clients in mind when you create stuff, but balance that out with what works for you too!


Luv this idea..of asking audience of what my personality is…my question is how do I track this

Rebecca Tracey

I like to keep a doc in evernote or create a spreadsheet of all the words they use. You’ll start to see common themes come up!

Fran Civile

I really like what you’re saying Rebecca! I often find myself struggling between with applying what I should be doing to succeed and using my voice.

I’ll try some of your suggestions.


Rebecca Tracey

It can take some practice for sure to get the balance right. Common marketing tactics DO work (usually), but it’s up to you to make them fit with your style and feel real. Have fun with it! It’s all one big experiment.

Lynn Silva

I love your encouragement for authenticity. When I started honing in on this particular aspect, things started flowing much better for me. I still catch myself though when writing my posts. I write them, and when I read them, I think, hmm, this doesn’t quite sound like me. So I’ll start reading them aloud whenever I have this feeling. Also, thank you for the links. This was a wonderful post. : )

Rebecca Tracey

I totally do the same thing. And sometimes i DO post things that don’t sound totally like me. but the thing is, we all have different parts of ourselves. Sometimes I get really sensitive and borderline “woo-woo”, and I don’t try to edit that part out of me – I find showing ALL of yourself makes you much more real for your readers!

Carol Mortarotti

Super post Rebecca! I like #2 making it all about THEM, you come off much more sincere and people can tell if you are about making a buck or serving their business. I will also review my list and change a few shoulds to wants! Thanks for all the helpful suggestions.

Rebecca Tracey

Wooo for no more SHOULDING! xo


Great post! Organization, systems, tactics, and strategies to me are a mental process. They are helpful and necessary. But, the main focus must remain on why you do what you do and what it is you deliver in your authentic self. Energy, passion and purpose springs from the heart. Without the heart, what have you? Business requires reasoning, analysis, and strategies, while the caring heart creates something beautiful –the true value.

Rebecca Tracey

Business requires reasoning, analysis, and strategies, while the caring heart creates something beautiful –the true value. –>

Love this Susanne!


Tremendously useful anti-strategy advice! While it’s great to have so much online about growing a business to read and consider, the considering part is very important. You are so right to advise thinking about how a strategy feels and to adapt those particular methods that complement the reader’s personality. I’ve tried to do this all along and know it’s the only way to go!

Rebecca Tracey

Thanks for sharing Kate!

Sue Kirchner

Great advice that really hits home, Rebecca. I know I procrastinate doing a lot of the things on my marketing list because they just aren’t the right fit for my style of communicating or consulting.


Rebecca Tracey

Time to ditch ’em and do what feels fun and easy to you!


I love the advice here. There are so many options for engaging online, no one can do them all even if we wanted to!

I especially appreciate the advice on authenticity. I see that a lot without any follow up – as if being authentic is simple or comes automatically. Finding your authentic voice can take a lot of time!

Rebecca Tracey

It does take time, which seems weird, because it’s a part of us. But as soon as you get online it can feel like you’re totally a blank slate. It’s important to remember who you are in real life, instead of trying to be someone different online.

Kathleen Krueger

“uncaged,” in every respect, is what I’m learning to expect from you. Your advice is so freeing. If I can’t be ‘me,’ I’ll quickly burn out in the process. It is finding the balance between following good advice and following your own path. The two can intertwine.

Rebecca Tracey

You’re so right Kathleen – they can intertwine. There are definitely some business systems that make sense and that have proven track records. I certainly know that some of the advice out there doesn’t work for me, and some of it does. At the end of the day it doesn’t hurt to try things, but have the flexibility to abandon things if they aren’t working.


Love love love it Rebecca! I’ve been on a rant for quite a few months that there is no “one size fits all” approach to being a business owner. And believe me, I’ve tried most of those “shoulds” you talk about in your post. One of my most exciting moments was when I did a strategy session (or should I say “anti-strategy session) for someone and she said “wow, you sound in person just like you do on social media and on your blog.” Yeah!!!!!!!

And it took a while to get there and it is ever so important.

Laugh Lots, Love More!

Rebecca Tracey

Congrats MamaRed, that’s fantastic feedback! I just finished leading my very first retreat, and it was so cool to hear feedback that I was exactly what people expected me to be. You definitely must be doing something right!


Rebecca, LOVE your post. I’m currently in business-building mode, and those are great suggestions for finding your voice.

So good, in fact, that tonight at our Meatless Monday dinner, I’m polling my friends on those very questions.

Your timing with this article was perfect.

Rebecca Tracey

Ahhh that’s so cool, can’t wait to hear how it goes! It’s always so cool to hear input from people who know you. It can be scary, but remember – all feedback is good feedback!


I love this post Rebecca. Especially because it ties somehow closely to something Robin Sharma says, “leave the echo chamber” basically meaning do your own thing, leave your own dreams.
thanks for this very insightful points.

Rebecca Tracey

Thanks so much David!!

Alicia Rades

I really love your activity of changing “I should” to “I want to.” I’ll have to test it out!

Rebecca Tracey

Awesome, be sure to check in and let me know how it goes!

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