How much time do you spend promoting your business? You’re on Facebook telling your friends that course you’ve been waiting for is finally ready. You’re at the local networking event hustling for a new client. You’re writing blog posts every week and hoping people click from post to buy now button.

Promoting your business can feel like a full-time job.

And even with all the time you spend on it, you still want more! More tactics for building your list, more techniques for getting seen on Facebook, more ideas for putting your business in front of your ideal clients.

As a small (or micro, or large) business owner, marketing truly is one of the most important aspects of running your business. But promotion is not.

Promotion—content or communication, paid or free, that’s express purpose is announcing your product to the right people—is the absolute smallest part of marketing.

What’s the biggest part of marketing? Listening.

Listening is powerful: why great marketers are great listeners

Listening is powerful. When you’re truly attuned to the people you want to serve, you see how what’s most important to them is actually the key to connecting them to what you’re selling.

That’s why I’ve always made listening and observing such a priority on social media and at in-person events. I’m not just listening for opportunities to pitch myself—in fact, it’s the furthest thing from my mind.

I listen for what people’s goals are, what they’re struggling with, what they might be confused about, and all the things they’re trying to accomplish (whether it’s a good idea or not).

What I know about you, for instance, is that you’re really stuck on promoting your business. You hate being self-promotional, but most of the time your promotional posts are all about you or your offer—not about your clients. You don’t like it but you don’t know what to do different.

I also know that no matter how much I suggest testing a product before you bring it to market or finding the natural sense of urgency behind what you’re offering, you’ll come back for more tips on promoting your business.

It makes sense. Promoting what you’re selling seems like the shortest route to making money.

Except it’s not.

The shortest route to making money—the one that puts tons of time back into your schedule—is listening for what’s most important to people and giving them what they want.

How? Here’s the gist:

1) You observe their present reality.

You take the time to listen and observe. You take much more into account than just the messages or updates that seem have something to do with your business.

You listen for where they’re stuck, what their values are, and how their life unfolds on a daily basis. You figure out what they really want to accomplish—big or small.

2) You respond to their need.

You come up with a product idea that helps them accomplish whatever it is that’s important to them. It could be something incredibly simple (impulse buy) or something far more complex. But your product idea is a direct response to what they want.

3) You present them with a message that resonates.

You don’t tell them that new course is ready. You don’t tell them you’ve got 3 openings this month. You don’t get all excited about your new service and humble brag your way through a few Facebook posts.

You don’t waste time shouting from the roof tops about what you’ve made and why it’s awesome.

You talk to people about what matters to them (their relationship, the way they feel when they wake up, the deadline that’s looming over their head, etc…). You get specific because you know them so well (see Step 1).

People can’t help but get sucked in. They’re sucked in not because you’re selling them something or trying to convince them to buy, buy, buy but because you know them so well and have created something just for them.

That’s marketing.

That’s what works.

And it’s also what feels good.

If you’re feeling sucked in right now, it’s because I’ve spent the last 7 years trying to master those 3 simple steps. Of course, it’s not easy. I still mess up. But I have a feeling I’ve hit the nail on the head with this one.

If you’re ready to buy yourself some time, stop promoting your business, and start creating resonance, I’ve written a new mini-book just for you.

It’s called The Observation Engine and it turns those 3 simple steps into a whole system for taking the guesswork out of marketing (and sales, and product development.)

Click here to buy the multimedia pack (it’s just $4.99) or click here to buy the Kindle version directly from Amazon (it’s just $2.99).