Case Study: How Tim Ferriss started his 4-Hour empire

Most of us have heard of Tim Ferriss, or at least heard of his book “The 4-Hour Workweek”. While the book title sure suggests that it was an easy journey toward success, the fact is that Tim Ferriss worked hard and smartly when building his empire.

When his book came out, he had his publisher’s support in marketing. But in today’s competitive market, authors need to do a lot of their own marketing as well. “The 4-Hour Workweek” was no exception. Tim had to devise a strategy to market his book. He needed a strategy that would yield the maximum impact with minimum efforts. His way to achieve that was to focus.

While everyone may find “The 4-Hour Workweek” a beneficial read, Tim knew that in order to maximize his marketing efforts, his best bet was to focus on a specific target market. The target isn’t the entire market. It is the domino you have to tip over in order to effectively reach the rest of the market. Tim defined his target market to be 20–40 years old tech-savvy males primarily on the coasts in New York and San Francisco. You cannot target everyone. It would simply be too expensive to acquire everyone. He couldn’t afford to run ads in every magazine. So, he focused on his target market.

Once he knew whom he wanted to target, he started to research how he would reach them. Where would these people go? What were the 5–10 websites these people go to? Who were the influencers in this space?

Once he identified who the influencers were, he founded the least crowded channel to approach them. Instead of blasting a spam email, he attended tech conferences. He flew around the country, and he spent time with thought leaders over coffee, in the hallway, or over drinks. He didn’t hard sell his book. He would join a group over drinks, and he would just listen in. He would ask questions (because he genuinely didn’t know that much about the industry and he genuinely wanted to learn given the rise of digital media at the time). Through the course of a conversation, eventually, the topic of who Tim was and the book would come up. And if the topic came up and there was a true connection made during the course of the conversation, Tim would send them a review copy. He would personalize the copy by marking it up with post-its according to their specific conversation. Those 1-on-1 in-person conversations were the foundation on which the 4-Hour empire was built.

Tim built his brand based on building a human connection specifically with someone who would be interested in his book. He didn’t just send a book out to a random group of influencers and expect them to write a review. In fact, he didn’t ask for reviews at all when he would be chatting with influencers at conferences. But that didn’t matter. He had built a personal connection. He had provided something relevant to that specific influencer. He didn’t ask for a review. But he provided a book, with a chapter that was specifically marked up for that influencer. And that was far more effective than the many books that influencer may receive cold in the mail from publishers or publicists. And if that influencer was in the mood to write a review, which book do you think he would pick?

So, who do you want to target for your business?

Are you ready to define the target for your business?

Need more examples and templates? Check out our Video Course.

How I learned this lesson (and how you can too): Tim Ferriss shared his story on episode 41 of the Foundr podcast hosted by Nathan Chan.

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About Jeannie Chan

Jeannie Chan founded Curious. She is a brand strategist who takes on business problems big or small. She inspires organizations to raise the questions no one dared to ask or thought to ask. She has ignited new thinking and delivered growth to Fortune 500 companies, startups, and nonprofits. Jeannie loves espressos, and lives in New York City with her two cats and her beloved. Learn more about Jeannie at
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