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Online Marketing … Without the Arrogance

This post was written by the Web Marketing Ninja—a professional online marketer for a major web brand, who’s sharing his tips undercover here at ProBlogger. Curious? So are we!

There are many less-respectable professions than internet marketing, but even today I get a glare—“so you’re one of those guys”—when I’m introduced to someone for the first time.

For many, the word “marketing” conjures images of people whose sole job is to convince others to spend money they don’t have on products they don’t need, using every tactic possible—no matter how sneaky. The business owners I speak to all the time consciously ignore all forms of marketing because of this.

But I’m here to tell you that you can be a marketer without being a die-hard, arrogant salesman, and the secret is simple: you just need to know where the lines are.

Silence or the megaphone?

You or your product may be the very best, most valuable product in the marketplace, but if you sit in the corner in silence, no-one will ever know your name. On the flip side, if you stand in that corner on a box, and scream how awesome you are into a megaphone, everyone will remember you—but as that irritable person who just wouldn’t shut up!

The secret here is engagement. Be ready to start or join a conversation, and be prepared to listen as much as you contribute. Engagement is a two-way street, and it requires you to get out of your cave not just for face-to-face conversations, but in all your forms of marketing communication. Your customers have a voice. Seek it out, listen, and show you care.

The moral: engage, engage, engage!

Over-deliverer or over-promiser?

Do you write, “This product is going to make you a billionaire!” or “I’m going to share with you all my secrets to becoming a six-figure blogger”? These are two very different approaches to tag lines that I’m sure you’ve seen, and it’s not hard to guess which is more credible in most peoples’ eyes.

When it comes to taglines and copy, it’s very easy to overstep the mark. You’re told time and time again to focus on benefits, not features, and it’s so attractive to launch into the most outrageous, fantastical benefit you can—without thinking about whether it has any credibility, or your product can deliver on the promise.

Keep your messaging benefit-focused, but don’t claim to be able to better the human plight forever—unless you’re convinced your product actually does this. Focus on the benefit for the specific problem your product solves, and you’ll be set.

The moral: promise something great—and deliver.

Humble or egoistical?

A company that I believe has walked very close to the line when it comes to being confident in their product, but not egotistical, is Apple. They were brave with their Mac vs. PC campaign, and initially they focused on what the Mac could do that the PC couldn’t—and it was a great success. Over time, as it became harder to find new points of difference, their approach did devolve into an all-out attack on the PC, but they backed off that tactic pretty quickly.

When looking at the brand you project, as well as your products, if you can instill confidence, it can give you credibility. Arrogance will only project insecurities. Darren and Brian Clarke http://www.copyblogger.com/ are two people who are perfect examples of this philosophy in action.

The moral: be confident, but not arrogant.

Marketer or con artist?

In my mind, the difference between a marketer and a con artist is honesty. If you’re being told that the key to marketing success is to lie to your customers or leads, then you’ve crossed a line—it’s as simple as that. There are also laws designed to protect consumers against exactly that kind of behavior.

The moral: honesty is the best policy.

Friends or profit resources?

If you believe that your customers are your friends, you’ll look at what you do as a gift to the world, nothing more. And if that’s truly what you want to do, then no one will question you. The other extreme is to see people purely as resources from which to extract as much cash as you can; you judge their value by how deep their pockets are.

If you want to run a business, you need to be somewhere in the middle of this continuum. Again, it comes down to solving a problem for someone, and more importantly, solving a problem they’re willing to pay for.

There’s nothing wrong with asking people for something you value—money—in exchange for something they value—your product. It’s been happening for a while, and we’re doing okay so far.

The moral: ot’s okay to ask for money, but not to bleed them dry.

Does it feel wrong?

I have a very close network of people who act as my arrogant-web-marketing-o-meter. I seek them out when something I’m planning feels a little wrong. Just the fact that I feel I need a second opinion is usually warning enough, and in most cases, my suspicions are confirmed by a group of people I trust. Because the reality is, if it feels wrong, it probably is.

The moral: go with your gut feel for what’s appropriate.

Don’t cross the line

In my history I’ve done things that pushed the envelope on every single one of these points. Some I regret, some I don’t, but by doing this I’ve been able to more effectively understand the balancing act that exists between being a marketer and being nothing more than an arrogant salesman.

It’s something that you’ll only really understand over time as you conduct marketing yourself, but all I ask is that you don’t let the worst cast scenario prevent you from using online marketing to help your blog or your business grow.

Stay tuned from most posts by the secretive Web Marketing Ninja—a professional online marketer for a major web brand, who’s sharing his tips undercover here at ProBlogger.

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Comments

  1. Ali Luke says:

    Great points here about finding that tough line between being a hard-nosed salesman and being so timid about marketing that you never make a sale.

    I’ve started doing paid writing coaching – after years of academic and informal experience – and it felt *really* weird at first. After so long reading friends’ work for free, I felt uncomfortable asking for money for what I do.

    The thing is, my clients are *really* happy (and so am I!) They’re perfectly willing to pay for what they need.

    You summed this effect up brilliant with “There’s nothing wrong with asking people for something you value—money—in exchange for something they value—your product.”

    Thanks for a reassuring and thoughtful post!

  2. To become an great marketer, you must understand people and learn to educate on item..not sale them on the fantasy.

    “TrafficColeman “Signing Off”

  3. You didn’t spell Brian Clark correctly. There’s no ‘e’ after Clark.

  4. I’m starting to think its better to have a few sales and increase your customer base slowly, rather than the old myth of building thousands of subscribers and trying to convert 5% into sales.

    Find a need and solve it I guess!…

    :]

  5. Markco says:

    My current project is a Cataclysm Gold Guide and after months of only selling to my own blogging audience I decided to take the steps necessary to start building an affiliate base in the wow niche.

    Let me tell you, the vast majority of marketers here are shameless to the extreme and they focus only on the marketing, not the product quality.

    I’m the opposite and only now learning how to sell a product as well as I make one. Even with my poor pitch page (new one coming in 2-3 weeks), I have a 2.2% refund rate due to the quality of my product. I probably make out better than the products selling better but with a 40% or higher refund rate due to abysmal quality.

    I would say start with great content and then honestly sell what’s in it. With regards to being timid, make a hard line of where you stop giving advice and start making sales pitches.

  6. Thanks for sharing your experience. Marketing is just one of those things that you have to learn through trial and error, unless your pockets are so deep that you can hire a marketing department. However, I appreciate your message of doing it with integrity.

  7. Joe abal says:

    Enjoyed the post and some great bullet points. As an RE auctioneer I constantly fight the megaphone versus quite in the corne syndrom. The bpottom line is always to remain honest with the client and offer my service to solve a problem. Keep up the good work..

  8. Manuel says:

    Very true… To make consistent or increasing profits with your blog or any online business, you have to engage your “listeners”. Innovative post!

  9. This is definitely something I’ve really struggled with until recently. I was trying to find my limits, see what felt right and what didn’t. I wasn’t against making money and earning an *honest* living, but I had a serious problem with marketing (which feels almost wholly dishonest).

    What helped me was to realize that I, as I suspect a lot of people do, had assigned lots of negative characteristics to the term “marketing”, like cold, greedy, manipulative.

    Once that was realized, I decided to just drop the term marketing, not because I’m against promoting products and services or earning money, but just because the stigma of the term was holding me back from doing any honest promotion of my skills.

    That was really the first step. After that, the journey has been a lot like what this post says. It’s been all about finding the middle ground, figuring out what feels right, what feels wrong.

  10. This is an excellent post. I really enjoy posts about the psychology and ethics of buying and selling online, for the marketers it helps us all to remember the experiences of the other party and i agree that the best way an internet marketer can do that is to remember that the customer uses the product after its sold. We’re all after a good trade.

  11. If you want to do things right, read Seth Godin.

  12. James says:

    Great post, I especially like what you said about not being arrogant. I think that is a problem that too many of the people in this business have, although most of them will never admit it.

    More people need to understand that everything they do is about helping their customers, not boosting their own ego.

    The one problem that I see is the whole “does it feel wrong” . its not that I disagree as much as some people have no compunction about scamming people, and ripping them off. some people are scamming people, and actually believe that what they are doing is helpful.

  13. You will find that those who over-promise will never get repeat customers. Consumers want nothing to do with something that didn’t work, and that is how it is perceived should you under-deliver on what you promise. It’s as simple as that.

  14. Tim says:

    More on the over-promise issue…

    Over-promising can happen inadvertently as well a on purpose. The times I’ve caught myself over-promising in regular life has mostly been when I had a hard time saying “no” and somehow managed to overbook my obligations.

    Customers have certain expectations when they come to you. Are you available when the “sign” says you are? Does your product or service work the way you say it does?

    Don’t promise to save the world because your customers know you are human so they already know you can’t promise the impossible. Just say what you’ll do and do what you say.

  15. Com’on guys, Doesn’t matter how good your product is you are never going to make a sale if you are not a good marketer. Have you ever saw a book with “Best Written” tag its always “Best Seller”. I think Marketing is one of the toughest and best paid work you can do and that’s why we all are doing it right.

  16. I hate feeling like I’m selling to anyone! I have better results when I have personally used the product or service and honestly enjoy them. Not to mention I get better results everytime!!!

  17. I totally agree with your points. I used to be an affiliate and whenever i tell people where i was earning from, they will be like so you persuade people to buy what is of no use. So yeah you made good points for where we can know what is needed to be done as marketers and not cross our limits to get a good perception from people.

  18. vs says:

    I tread that line in my blog. The thing about a blog though (mine and many others) is that sometimes they dont start out as a way to make money. So this adds credibility because the readers (customers) can read the backstory from the beginning of the blog.

    The other thing that people need to remember when they feel a bit ‘funny’ about marketing is this…most people dont really know what they want! Which is completely normal.

    If i was being honest (which I am) when I go to buy a new Televsion – i only have a vague idea of what I want in terms of functions etc. The most important thing I want is a GOOD tv that wont break. So this is the role of a marketer – to help people MAKE A DECISION TO PURCHASE. Most people are relucatant buyers and can take forever to buy something that should only take a small amount of time.

    So I think of marketing as ‘helping people save time and money’ by providing the best information to make them buy NOW. WIn Win.

    I just bought a lawn mower and I said toi the salesman – I need you to convince me to buy something today – make me feel good about buying it and tell me why I should buy it. 30 minutes later, after some frank conversations, I had a lawn mower!

  19. jason says:

    I completely agree. If you want intimacy in a blog, you cannot have snobbery interfering as well.

  20. Best part of this post:

    “The moral: go with your gut feel for what’s appropriate.”

    Totally 100% true. If you can’t feel good about what you’re doing, you’ll end up damaging your own future improvements as the months go by.

  21. Yeah so many people cross the line. They are just interested in making money.
    Making money is not a bad thing, but I will not support anyone who chooses to make money at my expense.

    Do you sleep well at night? I suppose most of these guys would answer yes, because they are sleeping on my money.

    I hate the feeling as though I have to beg and con people to buy products. Morally I just can’t do it.

  22. Dickson Woo says:

    Agree.

    I think blogger should not focus on selling or marketing only. Sharing is a better way to get visitors, also, friends. No pays no gains.

  23. Ray Cassidy says:

    I like this article and I am pleased that it reaffirms my own feelings. I have been struggling to get off the ground with internet marketing for a couple of years now. I had a real hurdle to overcome in simply asking for money for some of the things I started marketing. It was also difficult to promote convincingly because I soon discovered flaws in many of the products I was working with and I utterly refuse to deliberately sell crap to people. So thanks anonymous ninja for the morale booster there.

  24. Emotions. You are appealing to them. Nothing wrong with marketing, if you know you are not selling a product. You are selling a solution, and if you can’t do that …get outta the game. You are selling how your product will make them feel. There is no huckster involved, as long as the product really delivers the answer to their problems, the fulfillment of that mental picture you build in their minds of them being happy, healthy or whatever. No shame should ever be involved in selling. It is the oldest profession in history. Zig Ziglar, one of the greats, told a story of a salesman buying a can of beans. Storeowner orders more beans, distributor calls farmer, orders more beans. Farmer buys new tractor. Tractor supplier orders more tractors. And so on. We are all in a circle like this, so selling should make us proud. Humble yet proud. Just my 2 cents.

  25. Ron Curtis says:

    One of the biggest issues is Affiliate Marketing. Not the entire industry, just those marketers who promote anything.

    I strongly believe in sharing/promoting/marketing only products that I have used and can confirm the accuracy of the promoted results.

    Character & Integrity will go a long way in long term branding of your name and business.

    God bless,
    Ron

  26. Ann says:

    Yes you need to over deliver or you get found out real quick

  27. Hello!
    Great post! I definitely don’t want to be known as one of those “internet marketers”! I am working to build my blog and my readership. But I would like to think I am doing so with integrity.
    I currently only have a couple of affiliate products that I believe in and fit my audience. I eventually hope to write my own products to sell, but in the meantime, I am engaging my readers and building a relationship with them. When the time comes, hopefully they will buy because they are buying from a friend.
    I’d like to make a few bucks from my affiliate products, but that is not my major focus. I don’t ever want my readers to feel like I am shoving something down their throats.
    Bernice
    http://livingthebalancedlife.com/2010/think-of-someone-other-than-yourself/

  28. Great post. I’m proud to have been in marketing for over 20 years. Marketing is all about magnetism – you attract people to your product or service by understanding your customers’ needs and offering something that addresses those needs.

    The people who are constantly making sales pitches without regard to the feelings of people on the receiving end of those pitches aren’t marketing at all.

    They’ll be happy to tell you what great marketers they are, but in my book, they’re really clueless and give marketing a bad name.

  29. Kevin says:

    I do like the idea of making friends over making customers. I think what happens is that people become impatient because they have bills to pay and money isn’t coming in that they go straight to “are you going to buy something or not”. I had an old sales manager that used to say that sales is about farming and hunting. Sometimes you need to get the quick kill so that you can eat for the day, but ultimately its the seeds you sow and nurture that help you eat for the year.

  30. Marketing can be learn basically online nowadays and proper use of free tools can boost you more traffic and might be able to drive money to your site. It’s just a matter of trial and error policy.