How the Buddha Solved His Marketing Problem

How the Buddha Solved His Marketing Problem

Reader Comments (126)

  1. Great post! I especially agree with “focus on the people who actively want what we’re offering.” Your company can never be anything to everyone. It is much better to go after a smaller, yet more targeted audience that you have a good chance of getting to act. Going after a broad audience means hitting more, but less receptive consumers.

    • You are perfectly right Nick! This is exactly what Claude Hopkins also brings forth in his Scientific Advertising – “What you have will interest certain people only, and for certain reasons. You care only for those people.” So, ‘focus’ is of utmost importance in marketing success. Regards, Vishal

  2. As a spiritual entrepreneur with remarkable offerings and challenges in marketing them effectively, this article really spoke to me.

    Thank you.

  3. Wow! This was an amazing post!

    I’ve been a firm believer in the principles that Copyblogger outlines, and it’s so inspiring to see them show up in other places in our culture. I love how you guys take crazy examples and make them work!

    I loved it! Thanks!!

  4. I have Steve Hagen’s Buddhism book on my shelf. He also makes a point about not treating others in a way that would be unpleasant for you (a slight rewording of the Golden Rule).

    Sometimes people forget that part, especially when they’re nervous about starting a new business, or when cash flow isn’t great, and desperation rules the day.

    The spirit of the message, so to speak, is important. Every story I read about the Buddha shows him being gracious and respectful with his audience. That’s always an important element in marketing for me.

    Great post, Mark, thanks.

    • Definitely agree with this. One of the things I love about the story of the Buddha is the emphasis on respect and common decency – two concepts that aren’t usually applied to the world of internet marketing, even though it’s something I think we all should be applying to our businesses.

      Great stuff!

  5. Inspiring post. Thumbs up! I love how you linked Buddha and marketing. Find your niche in business and grow from there.

    • Beautifully combined! Spirituality and business can actually co-exist.

  6. Mark

    Great write up. You have very well illustrated discovery and spread of Buddhism. I am a Sri Lankan Buddhist since birth and would appreciate if you consider changing Buddha to Lord Buddha, which gives due respect.

    Many Thanks for your consideration.


    • Thanks Manoj, I’m delighted it rang true for you as a Buddhist.

      Re your request, as I’ve written this piece for a general audience, it actually feels more respectful *not* to use the prefix ‘Lord’ – it feels more appropriate to reserve that term for use by devotees. I hope that makes sense.

  7. In simpler terms: a good marketer knows how to lock into a target audience and provide to their *need*; by doing so, a bond of trust is made, which makes it easier to sell something they *want*.

  8. Great post Mark!

    I love how you’ve gone deep into the story of how Buddha came to be and harvested some the richest parts of that journey and shared it with us. Thank you!

    Buddha work resonated with depth. That’s a hunger than people still have today. In fact, often the turning point in my client’s businesses is when they take the step of infusing their marketing with the depth of what they offer. My friend Soren Gordhamer, founder of the Wisdom 2.0 conference, says it this way: “To go fast, go deep.”

    Thanks again for this awesome post!

    • “To go far, go deep” ~ okay! Love this and the idea of infusing my marketing with the depth of what I’m offering. I’ve definitely stayed away from the “deeper” aspect of what I do … but it always comes up in my clients testimonials … LOL …wonder why it’s taken me so long to realize that I don’t have to shy away from the deep end in my marketing too. Shyness? Fear? Listening to (or rather being bombarded by) too many so-called “experts”? ha ha … okay, so back to the deep end. and Mark … I have certainly resisted the whole “numbers” game, but reminding me of Buddha’s “Four Noble Truths” and how he lived and taught during a time when literacy was not the norm has helped me understand more about why “numbers” help. Thank you!

  9. What a beautiful post. It was special to me because I’ve written a book on using Buddhist practices to help with chronic illness AND I blog on the same topic at Psychology Today!

    I mention in the book how Buddhists like to laugh at all the “lists” in Buddhism, especially how many concepts are on multiple lists. LIttle did I know then that lists would become such an effective blogging tool.

    I was so surprised when a post on the Buddha from this site showed up in my Google Reader! What a treat.

    Toni Bernhard

  10. I loved this post and how you linked business practices to, well, “practice”. I will be indulging in Steve Hagen’s book as you suggested. Thank you!

  11. This is such an inspirational post. So frequently I hesitate to bring my favorite spiritual teachings into my work, fearing that the two worlds will clash or that people will be pushed away by references to such teachings. But this post shows me that I’m wrong. Thank you so much for posting this. What a joy to read and contemplate.

  12. Amazing Post!!
    So many people these days are solely focused on traffic and the size of the audience (as I was). I asked: “How can I get more people to my site” instead of “how do I get the right people to my site”.

    @Stacey: Yeah I like that point. If you wouldn’t want a product shoved down your throat then the chances are that your audience will hate it too. Do unto others…..

  13. Wow what a great article! What an interesting tie in focusing on Budha teaching and Marketing. I never would have linked the two but the tips are valid.

  14. It is always interesting how the most simple things can be the most effective. Great job in showing that there was nothing overly complicated in Buddhas message even though he was conveying an incredibly complicated concept, and how that same uncomplicated approach can be used in marketing your own (possibly) complicated project.

  15. Mark McGuinness…what a fantastic post. Copyblogger…you never cease to amaze me with your content, Bravo! Mark, the level of thought this article took makes me wonder how long it took to create? Was this something you “wrote in your head” over a period of time? Or did you bang this out in a day? I ask because I am conscious of the time it takes me to write–maybe self-concious–so I’m interested in the creative experience of other writers. Again…your post is a true delight to read.

    • I got the idea while ago and the basic outline wrote itself in my head pretty quickly. But it took a while to draft and craft it to the point where I thought it worth submitting to Copyblogger.

      That’s usually the way with me – ideas are fairly quick and easy, execution takes a while. But fast or slow, it’s the result that counts. Rest assured you’re not the only one who needs a little time! πŸ™‚

      • Thank you, Mark. This post has encouraged (and reassured) me about going forward with an e-book that I am determined to write. It is disheartening to want to offer something to others that would enrich their lives but to not feel confident about moving ahead. Your post has given me encouraging insights about achieving positive results.

  16. Wow. What an amazing post. Buddhism has always attracted me for its ability to apply to basically everything in modern life. You make an amazing example here using the Buddha’s story to explain marketing principles.

    Thanks for the amazing post… sometimes well all need a little Buddha in our lives to remind us that mindfulness is important.

  17. This is a simply brilliant article. However for non-Buddhists some of the references might be a bit esoteric. As I am familiar with the story of Buddha, this all made perfect sense to me. On the other hand, those without a basic understanding of the Buddha’s teaching may struggle to see the connection to their marketing issues.

    As you indicated clarity and simplicity are indeed the hallmarks of good marketing. So to is finding those who only have a little dust on their eyes. Indeed how to you share enlightenment with those who do not already seek it. Simply show them the next step on the path.

    • Marvin…I’m a non-Buddhist, and have a less than “basic understanding of the Buddha’s teaching.” I had no problem understanding the connections to marketing that Mark McGuinness wrote about. He followed his own advice “by breaking it down into simple elements.”

    • Glad you liked it. And fair point to raise the issue of obscurity. As a Brit I must admit I sometimes have to Google esoteric Copyblogger references like Betty Crocker and the Shamwow Guy. πŸ˜‰

      • Laughing. There is that. πŸ™‚

        We have a highly diverse audience! I, for one, get a bit lost when we run posts about Eminem and Fifty Cent.

  18. I do very much like the analogy and my comment is really on another note related to philosophers and Buddha. As a student, I remember never quite getting an answer to my question on why it was okay to leave everyone behind. As a mother of four, I now still find that to be of interest…as don’t we just fall apart at the thought that a son or daughter would abandon the family to find the answer. (but alas, it doesn’t overwhelm me as Buddha’s peaceful teachings have enlightened and brought me to the present often)

    “Realizing that all his pleasures and possessions would be taken from him by old age, sickness and death, Siddhartha abandoned them, along with his family and royal status, and set out on a quest to find a way of transcending suffering and death.

    He travelled across India, learning from many different teachers, and trying many different philosophies and approaches. He meditated, fasted, practiced yoga and experienced all kinds of weird and wonderful states of mind.”

      • Good answer, Mark is a mystic…. then aren’t we all….read into his reply, Jane, and you will understand something deeper.

        I’ve been racking my brains for over 20 years trying to marry my spirituality and work and I’m getting there. By the way, I am also a parent – of five. What’s important is to realise life is a Process, a Path, a Journey. During this unfolding we will ‘meet’ the masters (today on this blog). But in actuality, creation is One (stay with me!)…

        The Buddha is Within. So are all the Prophets and Masters. So is God. The recognition of this amazing fact shows us the generousity and compassion of the Creator. Which is You.

        Mark, thanks for the post. I’m knocking it up into an abridged LIST to share with my community!


  19. Religions (whether or not you believe) provide some of the best examples of gamifying.

    Buddhism, according to the way I worship, also has an interesting way of maintaining engagement, because giving offerings at a Buddhist shrine brings luck, but failing to do so is unlucky, and destroying a shrine is very bad.

  20. Great post Mark. You really got my attention when you employed the Budda to draw analogies to marketing and finding your audience!


  21. Mark, this was a very well written post. What a fantastic use of the Buddah to get across the point of finding your target audience.

    Giving of ones self first in order to find what helps others is extremely compelling and so true.

    Thank you for sharing this post.

    Have a super day!

  22. Mark:

    Thanks for your contribution. It is a valuable contribution. Even so, I was pleasantly surprised to find an article about The Buddha on a marketing site. I thought I had stepped into a cult of sorts and had to check my pulse. Oops.

    Making sure I was still alive, I decided to move forward. I made progress and managed to read your entire article.
    Buddha and marketing is an interesting juxtaposition. You are not afraid to question conventional norms.

    Buddha left his wife, child and kingdom because, in the end, he would have lost them as well. In fact, he was sure to lose his own body. So, I think he was interested in an out-of-the-body experience. In other words, he wanted to transcend the body and find wisdom in the inner experience of just being.

    Long meditations later, that inner way of being enabled him to attain a certain state of mind or enlightenment. That is an important point to keep in mind. “The body is perishable, but the soul is immortal.”

    Buddha’s natural charisma meant that he would attract followers, sooner or later. Sure, it took some work, but people came to their senses. You just know when you are in the presence of the awakened one, a true guru. Such a person radiates calm and some say there is even an auro or halo that surrounds them, like a light piercing through the darkness. Cheers.

  23. I love posts like this that help me take the principles Copyblogger teaches and put them in real world context. And I promise to never again dis the “numbered list” post!

    How do I love thee Copyblogger? Let me count the ways!

  24. Mark,

    Great article. It is always important to study and understand history in order to learn from, not only the success’, but also the failures of our past influencers. In an era where there were no formal recordings, it must have been a true importance and struggle to establish a credible and understandable new idea.

    Buddha can be seen as a true historical entrepreneur and his story can easily be transcended into modern experience. Like Buddha in the woods for those 49 days, it is important to make sure you establish your companies’ beliefs and morals right from the beginning.

    It took the process of Buddha stepping outside of his sheltered walls in order to understand that there is an opportunity for, and must be, change. In order to be successful and relevant, marketers must do the same from time to time.

    As we read through Buddha’s experiences, with a new idea comes confusion. When you first introduce a new product, this is the stage where quality may be more important than quantity in terms of your customer base. Establish your value to those loyal customers (though they may be few at fist) and if they believe in your product or service enough, they will do most of the word of mouth marketing for you.

    We see the power of this through much of Buddha’s success which came from only five Buddhist monks who believed in his teachings at first. With this growth in loyalty comes growth in credibility.

    Again, great article and wonderful correlation.

  25. Mark, this is such good information for people helping people. I find that the more people want to do good, the harder it is for them to market. You’ve laid it out in a way that shows how they can remain in integrity and still connect in a powerful way with their target market. I’ve linked to the post from a Facebook group of ministers, speakers, musicians and teachers in New Thought (Unity & Religious Science) denominations because using Buddha as the model is something they can all relate to. Me, I’m going to print it out and study it. Thanks!

  26. What a great article! As a yoga practioner and CMO to my company, I never considered the link between “walking the path” and marketing for my company. Although a fundamental of Enlightened Marketing is showing a strong sense of social, ethical, and environmental commitment-so it does make sense. I agree it’s about paying attention to the niche that will actively listen and sit up and take notice. It’s also about having a passion for giving back. Consumers want to see more companies that actively participate in their community. In fact, it’s the reason we give a certain percentage of our membership fees to a non-profit that our clients select on our site. Business much like the human body cannot be healthy without balance, and to take we must also be willing to give of ourselves and our resources. Thank You, Thank You, for noting and discussing the importance of giving back. Companies that place an emphasis on this practice are helping others everywhere by being generous and sharing-if for no other reason than for the good feelings associated with assisting others in need.

  27. Religions have done a marvelous job of marketing throughout the centuries.

    They’ve had to because as Jay Abraham puts it, “The definition of marketing is the constant and never ending education as to why you should do business with me over anybody else.” A religion doesn’t do this, especially in the beginning, they become extinct.

    All of religions , if studied, I imagine could yield a similar pattern of powerful lessons that any business owner could benefit from. I salute you Mark for finding these truths in such a loving and neutral religion so that all could appreciate the wisdom to be found without going to war here in the comments. πŸ™‚

  28. I love, love, love this post! Is it because I’m fascinated with the Buddha, I’ve worked for nonprofit organizations for the past 17 years, or I’ve always thought the plain unvarnished truth should be enough to make people see the light? Yes, yes and yes. I plan to bookmark this post and read it over and over again. Thanks!

  29. Wow! Super Zen post! I spent a couple of years living in Asia and was fascinated by the Buddhist monks. I would often see their offering bowls outside of the doors of homes and, as you say, they were full of offerings.

    What an outstanding correlation to business today! Thanks for writing this Mark!

  30. Wonderful, very useful post — I have practiced Nichiren lay Buddhism for 42 years (SGI-USA) and have tried to inculcate it’s spirit into the business world — not always an easy proposition, but, of course, well worth the effort. I’d recommend The Buddha in Your Mirror as an excellent overview of this non-traditional, very daily life oriented Buddhism. I’ve also written two relevant books: Romancing the Buddha and The Enlightened Manager. And, I highly recommend any of the many books by Daisaku Ikeda.

    • As a nonprofit CEO and a practicing Buddhist, I loved this article and forwarded it to my marketing committee. Thanks, Mark, for putting it out in the universe and thanks Mike L for mentioning the wonderful book The Buddha in Your Mirror.

  31. I usually skim such long posts in my RSS feed, but I am glad I took a few minutes to read this completely. I especially enjoyed your breakdown of the Buddah story. Thank you!

  32. As a Brand strategist I’ve enjoyed reading your article. An excellent post, true to it’s core within a Branding process.
    Thank you for sharing and will share it amongst my audience as well.

  33. Mark – Your words are always well worth reading even though you often take us on ‘roads less travelled ‘ the rewards are rich content I can engage with and use.
    For Zen creatives it can be a slower path to enlightenment but finding copybligger is a bit like the bodhi tree – sit there long enough paying attention and enlightenment will come. Sometimes the fruit that drops is just perfect and moves us closer to our own messsage.
    Know that your efforts are truly appreciated.- I feel a ltlle closer to marketing enlightenment.

  34. Great read!

    I like the way you were able to connect Buddha and marketing.

    At first glance, it’s an unlikely tandem, but eventually you were able to wheedle your way to link these two disparate subjects with your smart choice of words, quotes and examples from Buddha’s life.

    To be honest, I just do personal blogs. But each of them has a higher purpose – to make the world a better place one blog post at a time.

    This post justified and encouraged me a lot to continue, plus it gave me ideas on how to promote the good news to others. Thanks so much.

    • Thanks Precious, glad you like it. Actually I didn’t have to wheedle – I saw a connection between two things I’m interested in, and I think it’s a genuine one.

      I was impressed by the way the Buddha didn’t just rest on his laurels after achieving enlightenment, but rolled up his sleeves and got on with the work of transmitting what he had learned to others. Plus his humility and willingness to adapt his approach when his first attempts didn’t work out very well.

      Once I’d seen that, the post virtually wrote itself…

      A lot of creativity works like that – it’s about having wide interests and noticing connections between them. If you do that, you don’t need to force or wheedle. πŸ˜‰

      • Sorry for the term “wheedle”. Wrong choice of word – my waterloo when I write.

        But yeah, I admire the way you were able to create this post.. Just didn’t write my comment correctly. Sorry.

        And yes, I also agree with you regarding the Buddha. I admire the Buddha in a certain degree. He is indeed one of the most influential person who ever lived! I admire his precepts and teachings too.

        Regarding your post, I also appreciate the fact that you were able to add some information about Buddha per se. In connection with this, I would like to ask permission if I could use your article as part of my resource/bibliography when I get to study Asian Drama and Asian Antiquity this coming semester. I have a feeling I will be needing your unique insights when I do my final papers for both subjects.

        On another note, I plan to do an article similar to this but using Saint Francis of Assisi. Known for the Belen, Stigmata etc. I plan to do a personal blog on how effective he was on spreading God’s word through the Church.

        Your article inspired me and your post is a wonderful template for the article. I have handful of resources and as a Franciscan youth, I received formations and information about this unconventional saint.

        I wish I can pull it off somewhat. I want to inspire people that they too can make a difference like St. Francis using simple means. Thanks for leading the way.

        Thanks again for an inspirational post.

        • Hey no worries. Yours was one of several comments about the ‘unlikely tandem’ so I thought it worth explaining how I got the idea. Creativity is one of my hobby-horses. πŸ™‚

          Yes, you’re welcome to reference the article for your studies if it helps. A mention of the URL in the footnotes would be nice. πŸ˜‰

          And I’d like to see your St Francis piece – drop by and let me know when it’s done!

          • Thank you very much for your reply.

            I actually checked out and was overwhelmed with the wide range of blog posts that’s pretty useful to me since I love the Arts. (You’re article with “the turtle with the mustache” struck me a lot!)

            Regarding the St. Francis piece, I am not much of a good writer, but I’d still love to share that blog post with you since your work helped me start it.

            As for the URL, no problem I will add it in the bibliography and once I place my final papers to my theatre blog (, like what I did with my Shakespeare’s Tragedies and Theatre History, I will link my blog post to this article and

            Thanks again for your kindness and generosity.

      • Yes Yes! (sorry enthusiasm is overriding intellectual process here, heh heh)

        “I was impressed by the way the Buddha didn’t just rest on his laurels after achieving enlightenment, but rolled up his sleeves and got on with the work of transmitting what he had learned to others. Plus his humility and willingness to adapt his approach when his first attempts didn’t work out very well.”

        big smiles!

  35. Same thing with Jesus.
    He spent a number if days in the desert (40 days) to reach spiritual maturity.
    He used parables to convey his message.
    He thought his teachings to disciples who spread his message along the generations and appointed a successor in St. Peter and the popes.

    • Yes, it would be odd if they didn’t follow the same pattern. Human nature is basically the same wherever (and whenever you go) so the same principles will come into play whenever someone succeeds in getting their message to spread.

  36. Whoa! Bowing to you Mark -> this is one of the best blog posts I have read in months! πŸ˜‰
    I am grateful to have you in my virtual Sangha πŸ˜‰
    Greetings from Slovakia.
    Keep on shipping.

  37. I resonate with “Telling the Truth is Not Enough” — the inevitability of sales is an important issue that can’t be sidestepped. But we should would like to do that, wouldn’t we? Interesting article — thanks for sharing!

  38. It seems that just as some people have problems connecting spirituality to money (they think they have to be poor to be good) there are those who think marketers are snarky and to be avoided at all costs, making us seem un-spiritual. But Buddha was a marketer; selling his ideas to the ones who needed it. I have a friend who says the biblical Paul was the greatest marketer of all times. The new marketer has to find others with similar ideals and connect with them on a trust level first. This is a great article connecting marketing to the spiritual nature of the gift of commerce. Great piece!

  39. FINALLY. Marketing concepts presented in a way that makes sense to me.

    Have you seen what Seth Godin’s been up to lately at ? And have you read “Do the Work”, the free e-book by Steven Pressfield?

    The reason I bring this up is that I want to say thanks so much for this insightful post and for “doing the work”, Mark! πŸ™‚

    • Yes, I’ve seen the Domino Project and devoured Do the Work in one sitting!

      Steve Pressfield is an inspiration. (And you might like to keep an eye on shortly re Do the Work… πŸ˜‰ )

  40. Mark,

    This is a great post. Not only did I learn a lot about the Buddha (something that is quite rare for a marketing treatise) but you also related it quite well to core and essential marketing principles.

    Quite well done!

  41. I’m surprised when this article shown in my inbox, Best post I’ve read in copyblogger. @Mark Thanks for your hard work

  42. As a zen practitioner and professional marketer, I sometimes struggle to reconcile capitalism with spirituality. This article touches on a lot of things I’ve been thinking about lately. When marketers succeed and sales increase, theoretically it creates more employment, better wages, higher standard of living, etc. I’d like to see the balance of generosity and profit carry through not just for us as marketers and our target audiences but for greater corporate entities and the ethics of business as a whole. I hope this attitude continues to become popular!

    Amazing post, THANK YOU!

    • Thanks Sarah, really glad it rang true for your as a practitioner. Yes, I was trying to encourage the business types to be more generous and the helpful types to be a little more businesslike. πŸ™‚

  43. Mark: One of the best posts I’ve ever read. Beautifully organized. It keeps coming back to the reader and what it has to do with him. I just clicked over to your blog and subscribed (something I’ve never done before). Really excellent. Look forward to reading more of your work. Susan

  44. This is increasingly becoming true, and effective lately, as marketers are increasingly becoming people who deluge customers with outbound marketing and sometimes not even deemed credible! Ironically, “fairness” becomes a competitive advantage in terms of oligopoly markets (such as telecomm companies in Canada!). This article would be of a great piece of advice to them! πŸ™‚


  45. Being from Nepal, place where Buddha was born 2555 years ago, I can relate to this post very well. You bring a good analogy here Mark. As with all the marketers, doing the basics right is the hardest yet most important lesson. Targeting-segmentation-positioning are the terms that we refer again and again multiple times yet fail to implement properly. Buddha learned those from his ‘experimentation’ to good effect, applied them, and improvised on them. That’s why he is Buddha as we know today. We might as well call him father of modern marketing if you like.

  46. Many Thank ! some time we need people to remind us the pass is for the future too.
    reading is good, reminder is better still.
    again…Many Thank

  47. Hi Mark!

    This article literally blew me away! I am an admirer of Siddartha Gautama’s life and I’ve always respected his life as Buddha and how he has influenced a totally new way of living. To be breathing life into his teachings and applying it to marketing is truly amazing!

    I have learned a lot from this post of yours. Truly enlightening!


  48. Helping people who help people to help more people is often an uphill climb.

    Thank you so much for this thoughtful, practical perspective. I’ve shared it here to help Reiki practitioners get out of their spiritual shell.

    We need to develop our businesses if we are to make a difference in our communities. We can be caring, ethical and practical–in fact, these qualities enhance rather than contradict one another.

    And so supportive to read the comments and learn how others address the spirituality/capitalism interface.

  49. A truly enlightening and inspiring post.
    Some things need to be experienced rather than described. Savvy marketers always make the effort to convey the experience in the form of benefits and advantages rather than emphasizing the process. It leads to people who are receptive approaching you to know more. How you then put up what you want to say is important if you want to hold on to your new found audience. Only then can you go into the details. Finally building a community revolving around a sustainable model ensures your efforts are not one time but self sustaining. Some great takeaways. Thanks.

  50. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Your posting is perfectly timed for me! I have my own business and have struggled with ‘capitalizing’ on my spiritual work in the world since day one (11 years ago).

    I could relate immediately to the Buddha and his approach in life and in getting the message out there. Thanks so much!

  51. Great post. You actually convinced me that Buddha was a great marketer. Actually, I believe that marketing ideas are everywhere we just have to be more sensitive and they are around us. It is up to us to absorb and utilize.

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