by Frank Cowell | Updated Mar 31, 2024


This is a chapter from the best-selling book
Building Your Digital Utopia by Frank Cowell.

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These days, people have more options than ever for promoting their brands and businesses. The landscape has become quite cluttered as countless point-and-click tools, service providers, and “gurus” have come on the scene claiming to make growing a company easy.

Paradoxically, all of these options are making things harder because of increased fragmentation. People are confronted with an endless array of channels and outreach methods that change almost every day. Unlike other skills, it’s more difficult than ever to learn the crafts of marketing and sales, get good at them, and refine them over time, because tactics keep changing and there’s a barrage of information that is impossible to keep up with.

It was my realization of this paradox that inspired me to find a better way.


When I began my career back in 1996, the Internet was just coming into its own, and the possibilities for promoting a business seemed mind-blowing. Back then, it was much easier to navigate available options because there weren’t so many channels or endless platforms, apps, and software to consider.

While technology has been a great equalizer, giving more power and influence to small players, it has also accelerated everything. More people are empowered to participate, so there are more competitors than ever before. For a company looking to stand out, it can be extremely overwhelming.

How can you attract customers when there’s so much noise? How do you differentiate yourself when so many competitors are vying for attention both on- and offline? Since it’s easier than ever to get started, it’s also easier for new entrants to come on the scene and blindside established competitors. Nobody is safe.

At the same time, customers have less loyalty to brands than they once did. The physical and mental cost of switching brands has never been smaller, so people are quick to make the jump, which has left companies scrambling to keep customers in an endless game of cat and mouse.

According to an article in Forbes, “The erosion of consumer loyalty among the most esteemed brands represents a changed philosophy of buying. The standard for brand switching is no longer the failure of a brand to perform, but rather its inability to seem like an entirely new and interesting option at every single purchase cycle.”

Seeing and experiencing this situation, I set out to create a framework that would help companies get back to basics, shifting away from the countless tactics and shiny objects that are so confusing. My goal was to find an effective way to raise awareness and engage potential customers amidst the noise. Above and beyond our product, how can we make people fall in love with our brand and create loyal, raving fans despite the increasing number of competitors?


In this book, I will present a holistic growth strategy that aligns your marketing, sales, and customer service teams into a single powerhouse growth team, systematically transforming strangers into raving fans in the digital age. The core focus is the belief that businesses must have a paradigm shift in how they think about sales, marketing, and service. Today, it’s no longer about closing deals— it’s about creating and elevating relationships with your target audience.

Not long ago, I met with the leaders of a company that has a whopping $2.5 million media budget, and in talking to them, I realized they had no idea what results they were getting for their money. In terms of real leads and opportunity, they had only acquired a handful of new prospects, but they kept spending the money with a “check the box” mentality.

“We’re not sure what sort of return we’re getting for our money,” they said, “but we know we have to get our brand out there. It’s part of the game we have to play to keep up with our competitors.” They’re not alone. Many business leaders and marketers are doing things simply because they feel like they are supposed to. It is this mindset that I’m trying to change. The approach of many companies today is so wide and scattered that the effectiveness of their marketing activities is very low.

Talk to anyone doing digital marketing today, and they’ll tell you that cost per click, cost per lead, and cost per acquisition are all going up, with no end in sight. Despite this, companies continue to go wide. Every time a new platform appears, they feel an obligation to embrace it.

“Oh, Snapchat is a thing now? I guess we’d better start using that platform, as well.” That’s the attitude.

The business community is so tactically obsessed that they’ve forgotten about the basics. They fail to put together a strategy centered on specific buyer personas that they have a real chance of making an impact on.

The problem has less to do with their content than with their approach. I find this is true in many areas of life, both personally and professionally. For example, I’ve met people who are miserable at work. They think their job—the content—is the problem when in reality it’s their approach to the current job that needs to change. There are people struggling in unhappy personal relationships who think the solution is to end the relationship and find another one, but all they really need to change is their approach.

The same holds true when it comes to creating and growing an audience. So many people bounce from one platform to the next: “Blogging didn’t work, let’s try Instagram. Instagram didn’t work, let’s engage on LinkedIn.” They go from tactic to tactic, activity to activity, constantly changing the content, but failing to change their overall approach.

This is a struggle at the executive level, with CEOs, COOs, and entrepreneurs constantly shifting tactics without seeing much return. It’s a struggle among marketers as well: VPs, CMOs, and others who are tasked with growing brand awareness. It’s also a source of tremendous stress and frustration on the sales side. At all levels, growing an audience has become harder, more confusing, and more expensive than ever.

My message for all of them is simple: If you will get clear on your approach to growth and relentlessly execute, you will begin to outpace your competitors. It won’t matter if your approach is less than perfect—those who relentlessly execute a halfway decent plan will always outperform those who only execute when things are perfect. Relentless execution creates the most important factor for growth: momentum.


At one time, Fortune 100 companies got most of their valuation from factors like assets and contracted revenues—all things they could touch and validate. Today, a large percentage of valuation comes from good will, which is generated through brand. Even the biggest companies aren’t immune to this change. If they’re not careful, they can be blindsided by the marketplace access that average companies wield these days.

For example, Airbnb seemed to come out of nowhere, but it has made a serious dent in the hospitality industry, becoming a threat to even the most established and entrenched players. Suddenly, companies that have been around, in some instances, for a hundred years felt threatened by a start-up that didn’t own a single set of bed linens but still managed to gain as much market share and valuation as the biggest players.

If you think you’re going to beat your competitors on your offer alone, by simply out-featuring them, you’re sadly mistaken. With such widespread access, it’s too easy for a new upstart to swoop in and match your feature advantages. Any advantage will be extremely short-lived, so you can’t bank on it.

There is one thing you can bank on, however: brand.

The future is a lot like the past—building brand will be our only path to long-term survival. As it turns out, brand makes everything easier: awareness, lead generation, customer conversion, and so much more. Building a brand creates raving fans and builds long-term value above and beyond the revenue on the books. In a world where buyers have no shortage of options, brand is what wins.

Those who know me know that I like to tell it like it is, so here’s a dose of straight talk: If you can’t embrace the idea that the future is about brand, then your days are numbered.

On the other hand, if you will begin to focus your efforts on creating meaning for a few select target audiences, a few select buyer personas, going deep with those people in a holistic way instead of aiming broadly, you will find yourself in a place of strength from which you can grow.

In the first part of this book, we will examine the problem. Something has broken in our approach to marketing our companies, and we need to acknowledge it. We’ve become like addicts, frantically chasing the next “fix,” hoping that the next new tactic, platform, or idea will finally start to generate leads. We need a framework for change that will cure us of the addiction. 

In the second part, we will examine the five core philosophies on which that framework stands, so you can get your marketing, sales, and customer service teams aligned with a service-oriented mindset and mission. You’ll learn about the power of hyper-specificity and the importance of slowing down to speed up. You’ll see how companies are developing clear buyer personas to focus their offerings and create top-down optimization for maximum performance, and you’ll find the results you’ve been seeking through commitment and consistency.

Finally, in the third part of the book, having laid the philosophical foundation, we will examine the concrete steps for fully implementing this framework throughout your organization using the Digital Utopia Methodology. I will provide a practical plan for engaging both current and future customers at every relationship level to create a digital growth system.

Even if you choose not to fully engage with the framework presented in this book, if you simply heed the warning and embrace a strategic change in your organization— getting off the hamster wheel of endless tactics and focusing on creating brand—you will be poised to win. 

This is a chapter from the best-selling book
Building Your Digital Utopia by Frank Cowell.

Next Chapter »

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Topics:Digital Utopia Methodology