Use Gall’s Law to Simplify Your Marketing (and Win More Clients Faster)

6 min. read
June 14, 2024

John Gall wrote a book you haven’t read. I mean, with a title like “Systemantics: How Systems Really Work and How They Fail” why would you? Wah-wah. You’re already bored, that is, until you learn Gall’s Law.

You’ll want to bury this law deep in your subconscious operating system after I tell you a story about my friend Tim Grahl who first turned me on to Gall’s Law, and thus deserves credit and free lavender honey lattes.

With his partner Shawn Coyne, Tim founded a company called Story Grid in 2015. Story Grid helps people write and publish their books. In 2021 the company reached just shy of $600K in topline revenue. In 2022 revenue was closer to $690K. Better but certainly not the growth they wanted.

That may seem like a lot of money, but Story Grid has a team of editors. Employ enough people with lean enough margins, and the take-home compensation for founders can be underwhelming.

Those of you who have run your own business for several years can relate. You know you worked really hard. The P&L shows cash flowed into the business, but where did it all go? What do you have to show for it?

Pouring months and years of your life into a business that doesn’t produce the life-changing income you hoped for causes more than frustration. Frustration is the pale, frail, anemic cousin of Existential Crisis.

When I heard Tim tell the story, all the emotional shading came through. When we don’t get the results we want for years, we question our choices, capability, and eventually ourselves: What am I doing with my life? Does any of this matter? Who am I?

In 2023 two things happened that helped Story Grid turn a corner:

  • They hired a consultant. The consultant recommended that Tim actually talk to customers, lots of them, as many as possible. He’d fallen out of the habit and clearly there was a disconnect between what Story Grid was selling and what their target audience wanted to buy.
  • Revenue was flat, so flat you’d think the accountant forgot to add a zero somewhere. The difference between 2022 revenue and 2023 revenue was $300. Sometimes, painful as it is, the best thing for us is undeniable evidence that the current growth strategy isn’t working.

Lots of people would have given up. Tim didn’t, and it’s a good thing because he was three inches from diamonds.

three feet from gold

Like I mentioned, Tim had a background in marketing with many noteworthy successes, including having five clients on the New York Times Bestseller list at the same time.

I can’t speak for Tim, but I can speak for myself and say that the problem with marketing, and success in marketing, is that it skews toward complexity, especially over time. Experience enables you to known and bolt on more goals, plans, channels, strategies, tactics, people, and KPIS.

However, this added complexity doesn’t always bring a delta of results. More motion doesn’t mean more momentum. A team twice the size doesn’t generate twice the leads. Tripling the posts doesn’t triple the traffic to landing pages.

When all that activity doesn’t translate into meaningful growth, what do you do?

Looking back at 2023, Tim arrived at a simple yet profound conclusion: “You can’t do it like you’re doing it now.” He decided to reduce Story Grid’s “funnel” to this:

Authors can also opt in to get the Scene Writing Checklist, and I assume that they’ll land in an email nurture sequence. I haven’t verified this, but my hunch is that the sequence will culminate in the very same CTA (Book a free call with Tim).

Tim has done over 550 of these calls, and you might be thinking, “Doesn’t that require a ton of time? Isn’t that non-scalable?”

Yes, and yes.

However, the calls forced Tim to talk to people in Story Grid’s target audience. Eventually, his curiosity enabled him to notice patterns and trends and arrive at a definitive answer to the all-important question: “What do these people care about?”

If you can deduce what people do care about and give it to them in a simpler way, why wouldn’t you? And what good is a complex system if it delivers something people don’t care about?

More entrepreneurs would do well to ask those questions and consider Gall’s Law:

“A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over with a working simple system.”

Tim tore down Story Grid’s marketing and started over. He talked to people and really listened. He kept track of the questions they asked. He eventually discovered that what they cared about wasn’t what Story Grid was putting front and center in their messaging, and once he used his deep and thoroughly validated understanding to change the way the company talked about Story Grid’s two offers, can you guess what happened?

You already know. Story Grid is already on track to double revenue this year.

If you’re not getting the results you want, perhaps you need to tear down your marketing or sales process and start over. Perhaps Gall’s Law would represent a breakthrough for your business.

Perhaps you need to be less protective of your time, especially if you’re talking to real people in your target audience. Don’t speculate what they might be thinking, feeling, or wanting. Get it from them in their own words.

Start with simple, and once the simple system is truly working, you can add the complexity back.

This is what I’ll be doing with Business Redesign, at least:

  • Publishing posts on LinkedIn.
  • Offering a free 1-on-1 coaching call to freelancers and consultants already averaging $8K+ per month.
  • Taking note of what they really want, as well as they questions they ask.
  • Offering them a spot in the group coaching program if their goals align with building a $300K Flywheel.

Marketing and sales don’t have to be complex to be effective.

When you’re ready, here are ways I can help you:

  1. Free Money. A pricing and money mindset guide for freelance creatives. If you’re unsure about your freelance pricing, this is the book for you.
  2. Morning Marketing Habit. This course will help you build an “always be marketing” practice, become less dependent on referrals, and proactively build the business you want with the clients you want. My own morning marketing habit has enabled me to consistently make  6 figures as a freelancer.
  3. Custom Business Roadmap. Gain clarity, confidence, and momentum in your freelance or consulting business.
  4. Business Redesign. Raise your effective hourly rate, delegate with confidence, and free up 40 hours a month.
  5. Clarity Session. It’s hard to read the label when you’re inside the bottle. I've done well over 100 of these 1:1 sessions with founders, solopreneurs, and freelancers who wanted guidance, a second opinion, or help creating a plan.

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info

Austin L Church portrait photo.

About the Author,
Austin L. Church

Austin L. Church is a writer, brand consultant, and freelance coach. He started freelancing in 2009 after finishing his M.A. in Literature and getting laid off from a marketing agency. Freelancing led to mobile apps (Bright Newt), a tech startup (, a children's book (Grabbling), and a branding studio (Balernum). Austin loves teaching freelancers and consultants how to stack up specific advantages for more income, free time, and fun. He and his wife live with their three children in Knoxville, Tennessee.


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