Michel Fortin is a marketing advisor with 30 years of experience who has worked with thousands of clients throughout his career. His expertise is in identifying visibility gaps and opportunities, and in providing strategic advice on how to address them. He combines modern SEO techniques with positioning, content strategy, and digital PR to achieve greater awareness and demand.
Michel’s innovative marketing strategies have helped tens of thousands of businesses worldwide achieve higher visibility and growth. His pioneering work was instrumental in generating over a billion dollars in sales, and his teachings are behind some of today’s most successful digital marketing practices.
Michel Fortin is also the author of Power Positioning: How to Stand Out in a Hypercompetitive World and User-First SEO: A Modern Approach to Growing Your Online Visibility. He’s a marketing consultant and fractional CMO working with clients ranging from professional firms to enterprise-level C-suites to increase their exposure, build their traffic, and grow their businesses.
Hi, my name is Michel Fortin.
As a young child, I used to browse bulletin board services using a monochrome computer and an agonizingly slow dial-up modem. It was rudimentary technology back in those pre-Internet days, but my fondest memory was playing the first multiplayer role-playing game via a local BBS. Interacting with others online fascinated me and was the beginning of my love affair with digital marketing.
In 1988, I started my career selling insurance but failed miserably due to my intense fear of rejection, which is common with people with ADHD. I despised cold-calling and knocking on doors. But when I started using marketing and copywriting to attract clients instead, I succeeded. Eventually, and for a fleeting moment in my young adult life, I became the top salesperson for the company.
Using what I learned, I hung my shingle as a marketing consultant in 1991. My first gig was with a hair restoration clinic where I also wrote their marketing pieces, created their ads, produced their TV commercials, and even developed their first website in 1992. With my help, they grew and opened up several new locations.
During the next few years, word got around as more clinics hired me. Seeing that I was primarily helping doctors succeed, I decided to incorporate my consultancy in 1995 and became “The Success Doctor, Inc.” I then launched my website, which led to working with clients stretching from New York to Florida to California.
In 1997, I became the editor of an email newsletter with 120,000 subscribers that was owned by the world’s first Internet marketing company. The exposure propelled my career as it led to speaking engagements on stages worldwide in front of as many as 10,000 people. I subsequently developed training businesses of my own, one of which grew to 77,000 active subscribers.
Since then, I’ve pioneered many game-changing digital marketing strategies, including the first million dollars sold online in one day in 2004. I became so busy that I started to outsource parts of my work. This led to the launch of my own agency, where I eventually met the person who later became my partner.
We married in 2006, started a coaching program together, and even spoke on stage as a couple. But after she passed away from cancer in 2015, shortly after losing both of my parents, I decided to sell the business and returned to being an independent consultant.
In the years that followed, I took on in-house roles within several marketing agencies as a director. I led cross-functional teams and managed multiple departments, including SEO, communications, paid ads, content, digital PR, and social media. I oversaw hundreds of client accounts while helping the agencies with their own SEO.
Today, I offer visibility marketing advisory and training services, where I help clients increase their exposure, build their traffic, and grow their businesses. Using a combination of modern SEO and positioning strategies, I help create awareness and momentum for them that translates into revenue, growth, and profitability.
Throughout my career, I’ve helped countless businesses achieve record growth. The media often quotes my work, and many events and organizations invite me as a guest expert. Among many, here are some notable accomplishments and career highlights:
- I was instrumental in generating over $1B in career revenue, and in pioneering many record-breaking sales and digital marketing strategies, such as the first-ever online marketing campaign to sell a million dollars in a single day in 2004.
- I rebuilt entire marketing departments from the ground up, and repositioned a firm’s entire product line, resulting in an increase of 148% in MRR and 233% in new business.
- I led cross-functional teams that successfully developed and deployed marketing campaigns, with profit-and-loss oversight and budgets ranging from $25K to $2M, and with clients ranging from small retailers to multinational enterprises.
- I improved a company’s high-ticket sales by 480%, fueling their rapid growth, and subsequently piloted their expansion by opening 12 new international offices in two years, where I also hired and trained their sales and marketing teams.
- I launched multiple online businesses; wrote for countless publications; and appeared in hundreds of podcasts and on stages around the globe, such as presenting at conferences in front of audiences ranging from 1,000 to 10,000 attendees.
My college education was in business administration. But in the second year, I dropped out because I found it boring. Some classes, like advanced calculus, were also difficult for me to grasp. ADHD was not as well known back then, and there weren’t many accommodations for such learning disabilities.
Fortunately, my college experience didn’t abate my love of learning. I took thousands of courses and class lectures, from marketing and psychology to business and technology. A decade later, I returned to school and became a faculty member at a community college.
I taught marketing management and professional selling, and even developed their curriculum on digital marketing, which was a new and emerging field at the time. I subsequently earned a mini MBA from an accredited online school, along with multiple professional certifications from Google and others. Here’s a partial list:
- Business Administration (College)
- CPD-Accredited Mini MBA (Online)
- Business Ethics (Diploma)
- Google Search (Certification)
- Google Analytics (Certification)
- Google Tag Manager (Certification)
- SEO For Ecommerce (Certification)
- Advanced SEO Strategies (Certification)
- Advanced Google Analytics (Certification)
- Marketing Analytics (Certification)
- Data-Driven Storytelling (Certification)
- Secret Security Clearance Level II (Government)
For a complete list of my credentials, download my CV.
I’m in love with digital marketing. Even after three decades, technology continues to fascinate me. I genuinely love learning how to harness it to help my clients gain more exposure, attract more buyers, and grow their businesses. It’s exhilarating!
I’m passionate about visibility. My advisory work specializes in helping my clients build a stronger presence and generate greater demand. It incorporates a mix of traditional and digital strategies, including SEO, positioning, awareness, content, and digital PR.
I’m a dual-brained marketer. I’m both creative and curious. The artist in me loves to innovate and strategize while the analyst loves to audit and research. My work is perfect for that reason, as digital marketing is just as idea-driven as it is data-driven.
I’m aware of today’s limitations. In a privacy-conscious world that’s growing increasingly competitive, regulations are making audiences more difficult to reach. I worked in highly legislated industries, so I’m intimately familiar with the many compliance issues and marketing challenges my clients have to deal with.
I’m drawing from vast experience. I was marketing online before the Internet was a thing. I’ve since helped myriad businesses grow from bootstrapped startups to thriving behemoths. As the Internet grew, they grew, too — and I grew along with them.
Since developing my first client website in 1992, I’ve devoted my career to digital marketing, and I’m passionate about visibility (such as SEO). I love trying to solve problems, coming up with solutions, validating them, and developing strategies to achieve them. The fuel behind my success, including some of the most wildly successful campaigns of my career, is my resourcefulness.
For example, a well-established firm came to me seeking advice on improving its dwindling organic traffic. The principals had tried several strategies up to that point but with little success. After conducting a 360° audit and diving into their analytics, I concluded that their branding and online properties were disorganized, unproductive, and poorly aligned with their core audience.
I recommended and oversaw their rebrand, which included site migrations and consolidation. It was deemed a bold and risky move, and the client was apprehensive. However, within the first few months following its relaunch, the client’s new online presence outperformed its toughest competitors and increased organic traffic, surpassing all its previous properties combined, by 1,628%.
Ultimately, resourcefulness is my biggest strength.
Whether it’s a skill or not, being resourceful stems from my ability to come up with new ideas, solutions, and workarounds. Some say I have an uncanny knack for solving even their stickiest challenges, which is why both clients and coworkers often come to me for brainstorming, bouncing ideas off of me, or troubleshooting.
While it may seem like I have a certain marketing intuition, I’m just knowledgeable and intrinsically curious, besides being creative and analytical. Someone once called me “Marketing MacGuyver.” (Now there’s an old TV reference for you!) And many have also called me a visionary, as I can often predict marketing trends before they become popular. Here are two examples:
- In 2005, I wrote “The Death of The Salesletter.” It was a treatise about the increasing importance of the user experience in online sales, including the usefulness of multistep marketing (i.e., marketing funnels), leading to the decline of long-scrolling, text-heavy sales messages and the rise of video-driven ones. Incidentally, I wrote this before YouTube launched — and the rest, as they say, is history.
- Since 2012, I’ve been teaching what I call user-first SEO. The premise is that search engines have become sophisticated enough to interpret natural language, and as such, there’s no longer a need to write for them. As predicted, Google recently released a new algorithm called “The Helpful Content Update” to penalize poor, engine-first content.
I occasionally struggle with focus and time management. I was diagnosed with ADHD late in life, but I’ve dealt with it since I was a child. Being resourceful may also stem from — or was the result of — my ADHD, because it forced me to become pretty adept at developing coping skills and finding workarounds.
For example, I’ve designed several systems to help me prioritize my work and stay on track. One of them is based on timeboxing. It’s a popular time management method that avoids to-do lists (as I often end up forgetting them) by scheduling tasks directly into a calendar or reserving blocks of time to tackle several tasks at once.
I also use an app called Reclaim.ai. It’s an online daily planner and scheduling software that uses artificial intelligence to automatically reserve blocks of time, schedule events, and prioritize tasks. It’s also ADHD-friendly as it adds time buffers in-between meetings or when travelling to appointments to allow me to decompress and prepare for the following item on my calendar.
My schedule is filling up quite fast, but I’m open to a few more opportunities right now. If you’re interested in reaching out, use this online form. Some of these opportunities include:
- Consulting work and ongoing advisory engagements.
- Coaching calls to give you guidance or a quick win.
- Public speaking at conferences or industry events.
- Being a guest on your podcast, show, or live stream.
- Being a guest lecturer at your school or college.
Unfortunately, there are certain things that I will refuse to do, and I ask that you refrain from contacting me about them, such as:
- Free advice or pro bono work.*
- Speculative or contingency work of any kind.
- Writing for your publication or blog.
- Partnership or joint-venture opportunities.
- Full-time assistance with anything.
* I might accept some limited commitments working with certain organizations or for causes in areas that are deeply meaningful to me, such as cancer research, mental health, women’s issues, LGBTQ+ issues, BIPOC issues, and learning disabilities.
I’m a big fan of behavioural assessments, not because of what they reveal but because they offer insights into, and language for, my set of competencies, shortcomings, and frustrations. They also provide a deeper understanding of my working style, so I know where I shine and where I need help. Here are a few that I took.
This assessment is similar to Myers-Briggs, but it specifically identifies working styles and how they affect productivity. There’s a total of Six Working Genius Types, which are Wonder, Invention, Discernment, Galvanizing, Enablement, and Tenacity. Each person possesses two they’re naturally gifted in and passionate about. They derive joy from activities that align with those two gifts.
My two areas of genius are Invention and Discernment.
While each type is important on its own, the pairing of the two working geniuses can be insightful in identifying one’s unique style. For example, some like to come up with ideas while others like to analyze them. Some like to create plans while others like to implement them. In my case, a person with a combination of invention and discernment is called a Discriminating Ideator.
(“The Discriminating Ideator”) is a creative, intuitive, and confident generator of new ideas who uses instinct and integrative thinking to solve real problems. They get real energy and joy from using their intuition and instinctive ability to come up with new ideas from scratch, and they are good at using integrative thinking and pattern recognition rather than data and expertise. As a result, they are particularly effective in solving problems and coming up with workable, practical solutions with a particularly high level of success.
As a Discriminating Ideator, I derive the most joy from marketing activities that align with those two working geniuses, whether it’s performing SEO audits, conducting gap analyses, developing new strategies, or optimizing existing results. If you’re curious, you can download and read a copy of the full assessment.
DiSC® is a popular behavioural assessment that measures one’s level of Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. This version specifically measures my management style. The result is that I’m a “C” or predominantly Conscientious. However, it’s near the center, so I can be Dominant, Influential and Steady, too.
Predictive Index® is a behavioural assessment that recruiters and People Ops use. It’s like DiSC® in that it measures four similar personality traits, which are Dominance, Formality, Patience, and Extraversion. According to my PI assessment, I’m a Maverick, an “innovative, outside-the-box thinker who is undaunted by failure.”
Inspired by Derek Sivers’ “What I’m Doing Now,” here are some of the latest activities, news, and events that I’m involved in:
- I write a lot. As a contributing writer, I often write for large publications and websites. I sometimes write for my blog and currently publish The More Traffic Memo™ email newsletter when I have a chance. I’m also in the process of writing my latest book, tentatively titled The Visibility Matrix.
- I’m an avid reader and podcast subscriber. Besides reading articles on a daily basis, I listen to audiobooks and podcasts several times a day. My current favourites are “The Working Genius,” “Contrarian Marketing,” “Search With Candour,” “2Bobs,” “The Anxious Achiever,” and “SERPs Up!”
- Formally diagnosed at 52, I’ve struggled and benefited from ADHD all my life. Having ADHD Combined Type (i.e., both mental and physical hyperactivity) is a blessing and a curse. I’ve fully embraced my ADHD, which I explain here.
- I’m perfectly bilingual in both French and English. I’m a native French-Canadian originally from Quebec, and several of my clients are French-Canadian, too. In fact, my name is pronounced “Mee-shell,” but you can call me Michael.
- As a semi-professional drummer, I occasionally play gigs with several local bands. I currently play classic rock, top-40 pop, and country music. Sometimes, I work as a session drummer for recording artists, and I’ve contributed to several albums.
- For some of my philosophical views, I’m a left-leaning progressive, a science lover, a secular humanist, a feminist, and an ally of LGBTQ+ and BIPOC. I believe that love is love, Indigenous rights are human rights, mental health is health, a trans woman is a woman, and Black Lives Matter.
- If you want to know a little more about me and my background, here are 10 facts about Michel Fortin.
My favourite books are non-fiction books that were instrumental in my personal and professional growth as a marketer.
- Scientific Advertising by Claude C. Hopkins. Written about a century ago, the language and situations are outdated, but the principles it teaches are timeless. This book taught me about psychology in advertising and copywriting.
- Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz. This book dove deeply into buying psychology. The biggest takeaway was the stages of awareness (i.e., market sophistication), which I’ve adapted to SEO and visibility marketing.
- The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout. This is the book that launched my career. The creators of positioning, which is my preferred marketing concept, shared their wisdom in the form of 22 laws, like “The Law of Leadership” (i.e., don’t be the best, be the first).
- The Platinum Rule by Dr. Tony Alessandra. The rule states, “Do unto others as they would want to have done unto them.” This book introduced me to behavioural psychology in sales and marketing. It helped me understand how to use buyer personas in digital marketing and SEO.
- The Business of Expertise by David C. Baker. The author shares three foundational truths: that expertise flows from focus (i.e., specialization), diminishes interchangeability (i.e., positioning), and allows for premium pricing (i.e., value-based pricing). It helped me shift my thinking from being in the service business to being in the expertise business.
These books became the inspiration behind a few of my formulas. I’ve created them to use as mnemonics when I teach copywriting and digital marketing, whether in business, on stages, and as a guest lecturer in various universities and colleges.
Copywriting and marketing may have been my first career, but history and language were my first loves. In fact, I’m a history buff, and an armchair linguist and philologist. I love learning about the etymology and history of words.
I’m also an armchair philologist, and I’m deeply fascinated by linguistic anthropology, i.e., how language shaped civilizations, cultures, mores, customs, and social constructs. In these areas, I enjoy the work of Dr. John McWhorther and follow Luke Ranieri, who also teaches classical Latin and ancient Greek.