How to be “horribly” good at marketing

Horribly Good Marketing

When my kids were much younger, they loved the “Horrible” series of books.

I mean “Horrible History” , “Horrible Science” and “Horrible Geography”. If you’ve ever sat and watched “Horrible History” with your kids, you’ll know just how brilliant these series are.

If you haven’t, this is History, Geography and Science with all the gory bits left in.

You know what I mean by gory bits. Bits that kids love to snigger at behind your back – blood, guts, snot, bogey and pooh.

Now when I was at school, I honestly don’t remember History, Geography or Science being such fun. In fact, I seem to remember they were completely and utterly boring!

So how do you turn a very matter-of-fact, potentially boring subject into one that is great fun?


Horribly Good Marketing

I think it’s a similar challenge that we as freelancers face when we’re trying to market ourselves or our business.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of us all selling similar services. So it’s a crowded marketplace.

And let’s face it, you could say that the service we provide is very matter of fact.

I spend my days ghostwriting. Essentially, just coming up with a bunch of words to write. Okay, so a lot of thought goes into the process, but there’s nothing grandiose about it, that’s for sure.

How do you turn the potentially bland into something that’s exciting or fun?

The “Horrible” series – including their “Wicked”, “Wild”, “Intrepid” and all the others – are deliciously good fun because their creators have taken the time to really think about how to engage with their target market – 8 to 12 year olds.

  • Presentation: There’s much use of images, presented in comic-style strips, with the ordinary or ‘boring’ facts and figures in speech bubbles. Kids love comics, so it’s clear to see why this appeals.
  • Content:  Information is clear and easy to understand, without being dumbed down. All the facts are there, warts and all.
  • Style:  It’s exciting, comical and pushes all the right buttons for its target market, i.e., either horrible, gory, incredible, or wicked, etc.

Whenever I treated my kids to one of these, they would read them from cover to cover.  And they never forgot what they learned!

So how do we get to be horribly good at marketing?  So good that our target market is rapturously engaged with whatever we have to offer?

It’s focusing on these three things:

  • Who is your audience? The more information you have about them, the more targeted your marketing will be. The messages will really ring true with them.


  • What do they want to see or hear? What problems do they need you to solve? What do they need you to do for them? Align your service so that it’s all about them and they’ll keep coming back for more.


  • How do you present what you have to offer to them?  By all means give them all the facts, but there’s no need to be pretentious or use officious speak that no-one understands.  Neither do you need to make everything so perfectly sanitised and sensible that it ends up boring everyone to tears.  Be authentic.  Be you.  If humour is your thing, don’t be afraid to use it.


Don’t be afraid to excite.

In fact, your marketing should excite you.  If it doesn’t, it isn’t going to excite anyone else.

What do you think? What tips would you add?




article updated for clarity


I’m Mary Cummings, a ghostwriter, collaborator and all round word doctor. I help business owners write and publish business books; I'm also passionate about helping creative freelancers find work that they love - their work sweet spot with work on their terms, projects they love and clients who are a dream to work for.

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