News & Opinion

The Widest Net | An Excerpt from the 2021 Porchlight Marketing & Sales Book of the Year

Pamela Slim

December 28, 2021


In the lead up to announcing the Porchlight Business Book of the Year on January 13th, we are going to share excerpts from each of the eight books on the shortlist for the award. Today, we have an excerpt from the Marketing & Sales book of the year, The Widest Net by Pamela Slim.

The 2021 Porchlight Marketing & Sales book of the year is The Widest Net: Unlock Untapped Markets and Discover New Customers Right in Front of You by Pamela Slim. 

Ever since her Escape from Cubicle Nation—both the book and the reality itself—Slim has been out in the world building something new. It is focused in downtown Mesa, Arizona and the K’é Main Street Learning Lab she and her husband built to serve that community, but she has worked with thousands of entrepreneurs around the world and reached many more through her previous books. But her new book might be the best yet. As the jacket copy states:

Companies today are more vulnerable than ever to the blinders of culture, background, and lived experience. As the author explains, social media creates a comfortable cocoon for entrepreneurs, marketers, and leaders. However, we all need to understand the entirety of the marketplace. The real world offers far more opportunities outside our field of view.

Slim has been out in that real world for over a decade removing her own blinders and showing others how to do the same—conducting research, helping small business owners from diverse backgrounds, and gaining a new wealth of knowledge and experience to share. She has distilled it all down to 288 clear-eyed, inspirational, and actionable pages in The Widest Net.

The following excerpt comes from the book's Introduction.


Building a business is hard. Even if you have done it before, even if you have done it for years, there is always that pit in your stomach when you think: What if all of a sudden no one buys my stuff?

So many business owners are paralyzed by the process of finding customers because there are so many different ways we can reach them:

Do you call up old clients?
Start a Facebook page?
Write blog posts?
Send messages to people on LinkedIn?
Speak for free?
Put up a billboard?
Pass out flyers?
Cozy up to influencers?
Start dancing to nineties oldies on TikTok?

Tough love business influencers will tell you to hustle your way to building your own personal empire. I don’t know about you, but I have no interest in building an empire. The last time I checked, empires were good for the very few people at the top, but they weren’t much help to the many workers eking out tiny salaries while making empire builders rich.

What I want is a thriving ecosystem. I want plenty of money in my own pocket to pay bills and paint my walls new colors, buy new furniture, and take fun trips around the world with my husband and kids.

But I also want plenty of money in my employees’ pockets, and in my clients’ pockets, and in their neighbors’ pockets, and in the pockets of every person walking down the street, and in the city and state coffers everywhere. I want software companies to have so much money that they build amazing tools that cut our working time in half. I want overflowing coworking spaces that incubate scores of new businesses that grow into thriving enterprises. I want busy Main Streets everywhere with happy people holding fresh cups of hot local coffee sitting outside of bustling cafés. I want community art nights and outdoor movies and restaurants with lines out the door. I want an abundance of creative writing and art and films. I want college students to have bustling side hustles and Internet entrepreneurs to hear the sound of their phone dinging with online orders. Is that just some pipe dream from my idealistic, raised in the 1970s, community-loving optimistic coach self?

I used to think it was. Until I started developing and applying a marketing model in my downtown Mesa community, impacting hundreds of entrepreneurs directly and thousands of their customers indirectly.

I used to think it was until I actively worked with business owners like Karley who found their business grew in direct proportion to their ability to connect to the ecosystems surrounding their ideal customers.

I used to think it was until I saw my clients’ sales and profits accelerate quicker, more strategically, and with less frantic effort than espoused in the sleep-when-you-are-dead hustle culture.

The advice I share is not a hypothetical example based on a cool idea I had in the shower one day. It is based on decades of real work with real people. It comes from helping thousands of clients all around the world start, grow, and scale their businesses. I have spent the last six years codifying this approach into a method, testing it with entrepreneur groups around the
country, with my clients, and in our own small business learning lab in Mesa, Arizona. I have watched it activate millions of dollars in sales, generate scores of partnerships, and strengthen the visibility and thought leadership of my clients.

The result is the Widest Net Method, or WNM for short. This book teaches you the method, how it works, and how to apply it to your own business to activate a flood of new customers. While the focus of the book is on entrepreneurs and small businesses, the concepts apply to any size organization that’s striving to develop deeper and more authentic relationships with their customers and to find new customers in places they
may have never looked before.

If you are in corporate marketing, I particularly recommend the chapters on “watering holes,” ecosystems, and partnerships. Identifying and working with others who are also striving to solve your customers’ problem will expand your horizons and open up new business opportunities.

I am not going to make you read the whole book to understand the core ideas. Here are the highlights:

  • Before you build a business, you have to make sure that it solves a problem worth solving, a problem that people will pay to solve, and a problem that you personally desire to solve.
  • You have to know how to describe and recognize the specific characteristics of the perfect customer for your business.
  • You have to craft offers your perfect customer can’t refuse because they are the quickest, best, and most cost-effective way to solve their problem.
  • You need to connect to the right “watering holes”: places, in person and online, where thousands of these ideal customers hang out.
  • You have to build relationships with them in a way that is respectful, inclusive, and that they don’t find overbearing or creepy.
  • As you build relationships, you need to demonstrate to customers that you are a smart, trustworthy person who has a unique approach to doing this work.
  • You have to be really consistent with TMAs—small activities done consistently over a long period of time that generate leads and momentum.
  • You have to know how to sell to these customers in a way that feels easy and aligned and valuable, to you and them.
  • Over time as you scale, you need to build partnerships with trustworthy allies that allow you to grow without exhausting yourself in the process.
  • And once you are in the admirable state of a well-oiled business with consistent leads of great prospects, you need to operationalize this marketing work, hire folks to work with you, and consistently plan ways to connect with new and interesting markets.

It sounds pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? The process itself is not that hard to understand.

What you will find in each chapter is a specific way to craft your answers in a manner that is completely aligned with who you are and your own definition of success. If you follow the steps, you can be assured that your work will have deep meaning, create significant impacts, and literally transform the lives and businesses of the customers who work with you. And you can scale according to your own standards. As you take this journey with me, I will tell you this: there are no miracles. No one will do your work for you. But if you use the method, apply the lessons, and do the work, you will find yourself surrounded by cool partners, overflowing with opportunity, with a full client roster, taxes paid on time and in full, and bulging bank accounts.


Excerpted from The Widest Net: Unlock Untapped Markets and Discover New Customers Right in Front of You.
Copyright © 2021 by Pamela Slim.
Reprinted with permission of McGraw-Hill Education.
All rights reserved.



Pamela Slim from Mesa, Arizona has helped thousands of entrepreneurs around the world start, sustain, and scale their businesses for more than two decades. She is an award-winning business coach, speaker, and the author of Body of Work and Escape From Cubicle Nation.

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