What the Zodiac Killer Can Teach Us About Marketing Ourselves

I have a confession to make: I love true crime. I listen to true crime podcasts, I watch Investigation Discovery, and if I see a true crime documentary on Netflix that looks even remotely interesting, I’ll watch it. It’s part morbid curiosity, and part fascination with the psychological aspects of true crime stories that draws me to them again and again. And before you think I’m weird, I’m hardly alone; according to the Los Angeles Times, Investigation Discovery finished out 2015 as the most-watched cable network among women ages 25-54. But I digress.

I was recently listening to a podcast discussing the Zodiac Killer when I realized that, in a weird way, the Zodiac Killer did an excellent job of marketing himself. He was so good at it, in fact, that he became one of the most successful serial killers in modern history. He had widespread notoriety, and he was never caught or firmly identified (if you’ve never heard of the Zodiac Killer, you can read about him here). As small business owners, sometimes the hardest part is marketing ourselves. While we want to attract clients, we don’t want to seem too “salesy” or pushy – so we refrain from putting ourselves out there and showing people our talents. But it’s an integral part of business development! So what is a small business owner to do? Take a page from the Zodiac Killer’s book! Except this time, everyone lives, and you make money. 

1. Establish your brand identity. 

Your brand identity tells current and potential clients how you want to be perceived, and does so via elements such as logos and tone. Your logo, the tone of your written communications – these immediately let clients know it is you without having to research. The Zodiac Killer, whether intentional or not, established an effective brand identity by designing a personal logo which he included in his written communications to newspaper outlets. The communications themselves – taunting letters daring people to identify and catch him – had a distinctive tone and look that told people who they were from before they were actually read. As a result, he got widespread notoriety. Establish a strong brand identity for your business, make yourself easily recognizable, and you will stand out and attract clients. 

2. Actively seek out opportunities, and take advantage.

Let’s see, how do I put this delicately…the Zodiac Killer didn’t waste any time when he saw an opportunity that allowed him to do what he did. Neither should you. Reach out to your LinkedIn contacts to see if there is anybody who could use your services. If you’re a web designer and see a company website that could use a little help, proactively reach out and tell that company how you could improve their site. Look into Facebook advertising. And when you do find someone who is interested in learning more about what you can do, start a dialogue immediately. Don’t wait. Your competitors sure won’t. 

3. Let people know what you do. 

The Zodiac Killer had no problem broadcasting his crimes to the world (going back to those letters he sent to newspaper outlets) – he wanted credit! Similarly, you need to take credit for what you’ve done. Have a portfolio readily available to send to potential clients (or put it on your website for easy access). Blog on topics pertaining to your area of expertise and establish yourself as a thought-leader. Communicate with potential and current clients via social media and let them know what you’re up to and how you can help them. If you can’t champion yourself, how can you expect others to recommend you? 

I know you were skeptical when you read the title of this blog, but just remember this: even the most unlikely of sources can illustrate some valuable truths when it comes to marketing. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to watching Who the (BLEEP) Did I Marry?




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