Is Marketing the Scourge of the Internet?

  • December 5, 2011 by Corbett Barr
  • 64 Comments

Note: I would love to hear your opinion about the current state of online marketing in the comments below. This is an incredibly important topic. Please share your thoughts after reading my intro and explanation here.

I’ve long felt that marketing is a necessary part of succeeding in business. Most who follow the “if you build it they will come” philosophy languish in obscurity.

I learned this the hard way back in the early 2000s with my first attempt at building an online business. It failed miserably for a number of reasons, not least of which was my complete lack of understanding of how to get the word out about what I created.

In this case, I’m defining marketing as promoting your products, services, or your work or business in general. It’s the act of getting the word out and telling the world what you have to offer.

But the act of getting the word out can take many forms, especially online.

First, consider that marketing can happen either on-site or off-site. If I had a little advertisement for a product of mine in the sidebar over there, that would be marketing on-site. If I put an ad on Facebook for my website or a newsletter, that would be off-site marketing.

Next, consider the many different types of marketing that are used online. Some are innocuous, others obnoxious. How you react to certain marketing might be very different from how someone else reacts.

If I mention to you here that I have a book launching next week (I don’t, but just for argument sake), most readers probably wouldn’t be bothered by that. However, if I email you every day this week to convince you to buy my book even though you didn’t ask for more information about it, you might get annoyed. You might even unsubscribe or convince others to do the same.

How someone uses marketing depends on his goals, what he believes and how he sees his relationship with his readers and customers.

On one hand, some people see their customers merely as “lists” of email addresses to be “optimized” for “conversion rates.” These marketers place revenue maximization first, and helping people or changing the world falls much further down on the list of priorities (if at all).

These entrepreneurs use old-school internet marketing strategies. They use these strategies because they’ve been told they work, and maybe because they’ve seen better results from the techniques.

When a business or blogger falls into this first category, you can tell because their marketing is often more polished than their actual product.

On the other hand are entrepreneurs who see their readers and customers as people who have problems, needs or desires that can be helped or fulfilled. To them, spreading ideas, inspiring people and affecting positive change comes first.

These people haven’t studied marketing strategy much, and tend to just treat their customers as they would like to be treated. Some of these businesses and bloggers don’t do much marketing at all, and many struggle to make ends meet.

I started thinking about these issues last week when a heated discussion unexpectedly erupted between my dinner companions and I over beers. Leo, Scott and I had been debating the merits of attending college (a whole other tangent for another day), when the subject of marketing came up.

Leo is one of the bloggers I respect most, and he’s become a great friend over the past year. His very popular site Zen Habits contains very little marketing and almost no advertising.

Leo is a strong believer that most marketing is unnecessary because it damages the trust relationship with your customers and inhibits growth. Leo wrote a scathing piece on Google Plus called The Scourge of the Internet (along with this follow-up) last week following our conversation.

My personal relationship with marketing has gone from knowing nearly nothing, to becoming obsessed with the capabilities of marketing, to being somewhat more pragmatic about the role of marketing in my business (albeit occasionally susceptible to misuse of marketing from time-to-time as short-term greed or laziness overtakes long-term goals).

During our marketing debate, I found myself on the side of defending the need for marketing. As an entrepreneur who struggled for years to support myself from my work, I’ve learned to rely on marketing strategies to help boost my bottom line and spread the word about my business.

I love and respect my readers and spend 80% of my time producing free content and helping people for free, sometimes even one-on-one. But, sometimes I do things that I don’t feel completely comfortable with, like selling products much harder than I would like to, or pushing emotional hot buttons because I know it will increase sales.

I do these things out of necessity, or so I’ve always told myself.

In the days after our discussion, I started to wonder how much of my defensiveness was genuinely in support of marketing as a necessity, versus a protection mechanism for my own mistakes or greed.

I decided to create two lists. One list of things in favor of marketing, and another list in favor of not marketing.

Here’s the list in favor of doing marketing:

  1. To spread the word about my work and become more popular.
  2. To earn more money.

You can decide if those two things are positives or negatives. Personally, I don’t have a problem with earning money. I also think that popularity is good if the underlying cause is important. On the other hand, these two things could easily be driven by vanity or greed.

And here’s the list I came up with in favor of not doing marketing:

  • Marketing can create false demand where it shouldn’t exist (for example, the bottled water industry).
  • Marketing can insult people’s intelligence by preying on emotion.
  • Marketing can set expectations you can’t fulfill.
  • Some customers (often the smarter ones) will leave because they get tired of your marketing techniques.
  • Marketing can bring out the worst in people, causing things like this.
  • Without marketing, the relationships you form with readers and customers are more genuine.
  • Without marketing, you can focus on what really matters: the work and your contribution to the people who look to you for help.

Of course, as I mentioned above, there are many different ways to conduct marketing. Some of the points on this list could be moot if the marketing is understated, respectful and hype-free.

Looking objectively at the list, it seems like all else being equal, the world might be better off without marketing.

But there’s just one problem.

I’m still not convinced that most small businesses can survive, let alone thrive (especially in the early days), without employing a decent measure of marketing.

The biggest question for me is this: what minimum level of marketing and which marketing strategies and techniques are a) necessary to earn a living through your creativity online (in whatever industry you’re in) and b) morally congruent with putting your readers’ needs first, or at least on equal footing with your own needs to support yourself.

Here’s another way you can look at these questions.

When does marketing become counter-productive to the growth of your business? In other words, when does marketing trade future prosperity for immediate dollars?

Also, does competition force the need for marketing. Is it an arms race?

I don’t expect to sort this out overnight. I’m thinking some experiments might be in order. This discussion has made me wonder if my assumptions that typical online marketing is a necessary evil are unfounded.

Has anyone ever questioned the Internet Marketing strategies that so many businesses rely on today? Has anyone experimented to see whether a very small business can forgo those strategies and still flourish in the short-term?

Now I’d love to hear from you.

Is marketing the scourge of the Internet? Bill Hicks famously said marketers are the ruiners of all things good. Do you agree?

Specifically what marketing techniques do you appreciate, which do you tolerate, and which do you abhor? Please list your preferences: pop-ups, sales pitches in blog posts, banner ads, pitch emails, group “mega sales,” social media buttons… tell us what you like and what you hate.

Is there a better way for a small online business to use marketing than the typical strategies employed today?

Feel free to share examples of people you think are doing it right.

Written by . Corbett is cofounder of Fizzle, a place for creative entrepreneurs, writers, makers, coders and artists, all working to support themselves doing what they love independently on the Internet. Follow Corbett on on Twitter.


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Luke Wilson December 5, 2011 at 6:33 am

Please don’t confuse advertising and promotion with marketing. Advertising and promotion is only a component of marketing, the highly visible one. More important, quality marketing strategy involves deeply knowing your customer and their needs (target market) being true to yourself and message (branding) and developing work that meets the needs of your target (product). Once you do those things, you don’t always need advertising and promotion, but you absolutely executed on marketing strategy.

Marketing strategy must be executed together and in alignment. Attempting to promote a worthless product that meets no one’s needs is just a bad idea and worthless in the long run (and also gives marketing a bad name) but if you develop an amazing product that completely fills the need of a target group, it’s almost a crime not to tell people about it and promote it. The good news is, you have us to do it for you. The final result of great marketing, your customer does the advertising and promotion for you.

Corbett December 5, 2011 at 9:30 am

Great clarification Luke. I think this deeper understanding of marketing is missed by many. It’s easy to call out certain promotional tactics, but it would be a shame to ignore the introspective and product-shaping aspects of marketing strategy.

Graham Phoenix | Male eXperience December 5, 2011 at 6:35 am

I am happy to receive and read marketing, but what I would I like is honesty. Be open and straightforward about it.

I think Leo is guilty of hypocrisy, He espouses a severe approach yet makes money from partners who do not espouse the same approach. If he believes in what he preaches then he should stop hiding behind others.

Corbett, I find your approach honest and acceptable. The only thing I got upset about was the ubiquity of the 72 hour sale. I hated it and think it should never happen again.

Sarah Russell December 5, 2011 at 6:39 am

Graham – I’m curious, what didn’t you like about the Only 72 sale? The fact that it happened more than once?

Leo December 5, 2011 at 9:07 am

Hi Graham … I agree that I’m not as consistent with these ideas as I should be, but I’m learning. One of the realities of working with other people is that you make compromises, but I’m learning that there are certain things I don’t want to compromise anymore, and am moving away from some of the partners you’ve mentioned.

Sarah Russell December 5, 2011 at 6:37 am

Corbett – Like you, I’ve been around the online marketing community for years, but I feel like it’s actually gotten a lot better (and a lot less scammy in the past year or two), although that might just be the sites I hang out on.

My personal opinion is this – marketing, in and of itself, is a neutral thing. There will always be people who have needs (whether food, clothing, shelter, information, etc) and people who have goods to share. Marketing is simply the process of matching up these two elements, although there’s obvious potential for abuse in the system when people try to sell to the wrong people, misrepresent their products, overcharge, etc.

I’ve always been a huge proponent of ethical marketing – that is, matching people with good products that provide clear value and that are appropriate for their circumstances. Going along with this, I’ve always been a fan of full affiliate/income disclosure, over-delivering and “soft selling” through email messages or blog posts.

I hate pop-ups and long form sales letters (complete with red headlines and yellow highlighting), although I also have to acknowledge that they work and can be used smartly.

Kellie Brooks December 5, 2011 at 8:05 am

Sarah ~
Just as I was formulating my comment, I read through yours and realized you said it well.
It’s all about the intention inside the person, I believe. The neutrality of marketing is representative of a baseline I’d like to see more people realize and aspire to rise above.
I, too, want to earn income to support my life & lifestyle, and marketing is a component of that. We’re just so gun shy because we’ve been manipulated for so long. I think just having this discussion is healthy – turning a taboo into investigation and understanding.
With permission marketing, we can opt out at any time, and make more conscious decisions. Surely this is respectful action in progress.

Thom Chambers December 5, 2011 at 6:42 am

There are so many conversations to be had around the topic, but I just wanted to offer one thought: it’s often not the marketing that’s the problem, it’s the communication.

One doesn’t go into every shop on the high street, berating the owners for daring to sell things. There’s an expectation that, if you go in there, you’re going to be sold to. Similarly, if I sign up for a shop’s mailing list, I’ll expect to receive sales pitches.

Individuals selling online, though, are often unclear when it comes to communicating the fact that they want to be a business and sell things. Building a business around a blog, for example, can confuse readers who sign up to get the free information, only to be hit by a sales pitch.

Personally, I’ve tried to avoid this by calling Mountain & Pacific a micropublishing house – it’s the publications that come first, the blog second. I’m not saying it’s a perfect solution, but it’s an attempt to be clearer about things.

That’s my two cents. I’m not condoning the scammy, infomercial-style tactics so commonly accepted online – quite the opposite – but I do wonder if a lot of anger would be avoided if sellers communicated their intentions more clearly from the outset.

Maria December 5, 2011 at 10:05 am

Hi Thom!

That’s an interesting point. It’s good to notify people on what to expect when they sign up…and not surprise them with sales’ pitches all of a sudden.

Robert Wall December 5, 2011 at 9:32 pm

I like this idea too.

After all, if I walk into a restaurant for dinner, I expect the waitress will try to sell me food. That’s her job; that’s the whole reason I’m there.

But if I’m invited over to a friend’s house for dinner, I don’t expect them to hand me a bill at the end of the night.

It’s all about managing expectations.

Yamile Yemoonyah December 5, 2011 at 7:26 am

Hi Corbett,

I also read Leo’s post on G+ and I do agree with him in almost all points. Especially since we just had the entrepreneurial mega sale of the year during which I was bombarded by emails about the sale from at least ten blogs I was subscribed to. It was definitely too much!

I was going to send an email to my own subscribers about it but when I saw what was going on, I decided not to because I did not want to annoy my readers the way I was annoyed.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind being pitched a good product or service here and there ( in posts or sidebars) and the sale itself is an awesome deal but it did make me think about how to avoid the spammy side of online marketing.

In the end I think marketing is definitely necessary but we have to be very careful as to how we define and implement it. There is a fine line between ‘permission marketing’ and ‘interruption marketing’ and sometimes it’s hard to not cross it.
Especially if you’re still trying to get established and some bloggers who seem to have ‘made it’ keep saying that the only way to make money is to have a huge list (which is not true by the way) and the only way to build your list is to get scammy and spammy.

Eric | Eden Journal December 5, 2011 at 7:27 am

I was actually a bit put off by Leo’s rant on marketing. I thought it funny that he mentioned the 72 hour sale when he actually participated in one of the first ones.

I’ve never had a problem using or viewing banner ads. Even before I had a website of my own, they didn’t bother me, as they didn’t interrupt my viewing of content.

I actually like the 72 hour sales, especially when, as a consumer, I can pick up something for a good price that I may not have ordinarilly purchased at the higher prices. For the sales that don’t interest me, I simply ignore them. I was actually suprised during this latest sale, I only saw two of the blogs I follow promoting the sales, and I follow a lot of blogs, many of which participated in past sales. I considered participating in this last one, but wasn’t geared towards my target demographic, so I opted to not participate.

I’m more inline with Corbett’s views here. I think some amount of marketing is good and is necessary. After all, consider that any sharing of your blog or website content outside of that blog or website is marketing. Do you leave comments on other blogs and link back to your own site, do you write guest posts, do you tell your friends and family? These are all forms of marketing.

The marketing I dislike is when it gets in the way of reading or viewing the content I’m looking for. Pop-ups and pop-overs being the main examples.

Utlimately it’s the readers and customers that have the final say. As a consumer, if you don’t like the product, brand, method of deliver, or content, then stop visiting, paying, buying, or viewing.

Leo December 5, 2011 at 9:05 am

Thanks for the thoughts, Eric. I just wanted to point out that I did let them use one of my books in the first sale, because they’re friends of mine, but I didn’t make any money off it. After the sale, I reconsidered and decided I didn’t want to participate in any future sales.

Sharyn Dimmick December 5, 2011 at 7:40 am

Pop-ups. I hate pop-ups. If I never see another pop-up I’ll be a happier person. I don’t mind well-written, entertaining marketing pitches from people I have already engaged with — sometimes I want to know about their new workshop. I don’t like social media exchange marketing — “if you’ll promote me, I’ll promote you” because I don’t want to promote things I don’t like — that feels sleazy to me.

That said, I am trying to learn not to hate marketing. I like Leo’s creed of “Provide awesome content and they will come.” I do focus on that, but I need more people to find my stuff…I’m working on it.

Lach December 5, 2011 at 8:31 am

It’s great to see a discussion like this, Corbett.

I think marketing is good and necessary when it’s done in service of legitimate value-creation. I.e. connecting real value and solutions with the people who can best benefit from them. What could be wrong with that?

Where marketing becomes evil is when it is approached not as a means to genuine value; but as a kind of golden cow—and is elevated above the real purpose of the business.

Let’s face it: making it as an independent entrepreneur is tough. You gotta bring home the bacon; so it’s not all that surprising that such an emphasis is given to sales and marketing. You have to learn how to wear that sales hat. But it’s a shame when people give so much emphasis to the sales end of things that they let the other parts slide. Like the parts that are actually about creating value for the customer.

I can’t believe how many “$97 value” (c’mon) e-books are out there that aren’t even frickin typeset (many of them about marketing, by the way). It’s a joke. And it’s a complete violation of the customer’s trust. These guys who are all about the sale and have no conception of production value.

The one thing I’d love to see change is the long-form sales letter. I find them obnoxious and tiresome; and frankly I find it astonishing that they still work as well as they apparently do. It feels very against the grain of what the internet should be. Let me explore—let me find out for myself. Don’t talk down to me and try to sell me a bunch of hype.

The goal should be to wow people—not to railroad them.

Maria December 5, 2011 at 10:04 am

I agree. Why do sales letter need to be so long? Plus, I hate that they avoiding giving you the price.

I always scroll down fast to learn the price first, and then I go back up to read some parts of the letter.

Alanna St. Laurent December 5, 2011 at 8:40 am

I do believe there is a happy medium when it comes to getting your message out to readers. I have quit bloggers who spam my inbox (like 5 times a week!). I also appreciate transparency in a blogger’s message. I am not a fan of mile-long ads disguised as articles trying to convince me how great their product is. Pop ups are annoying too. I don’t mind ads on sites as long as they aren’t flashing :)

Thanks for the informative article, it seems I am getting the same message from several bloggers currently about being genuine, developing relationships with readers, etc. that seems to be the wave of the future.

Brian December 5, 2011 at 8:43 am

I find myself somewhere in the middle…I wouldn’t go as far as Leo, but I do think that a lot of online marketing is disrespectful.

There are a few things that find particularly annoying:
False scarcity.
Pretending that a product is only available for a limited time when there is no reason for it. (Often, I have seen internet marketers claim that ‘this will be the last time’ only to magically ‘reopen’ it at a later point.) The chances that I’ll buy from a person like this will be drastically lowered.

False prices.
The kind of this is worth xx$, but now I’m selling it for less. We all know this other amount was fabricated out of thin air. The ironic thing is that I’m aware it’s not without effect, even on someone who is aware of it. But it is disrespectful nonetheless and definitely lowers my respect.

But, yes, marketing is certainly necessary too. And drawing a line between what is marketing and what is not is impossible anyway. (Is guest posting marketing or not?) I think you’ve personally been pretty good about keeping the balance…

By the way, great post and I really respect you for looking at your own behavior and attitudes so critically!

Madeleine Kolb December 5, 2011 at 8:56 am

“And here’s the list I came up with in favor of not doing marketing:

•Marketing can create false demand where it shouldn’t exist (for example, the bottled water industry).
•Marketing can insult people’s intelligence by preying on emotion.
•Marketing can set expectations you can’t fulfill.”

Corbett, I think the issue is much bigger than marketing per se. Take your bottled water example. The problem isn’t just creating false demand. The problem is creating a product which often is less safe than water-from-the-tap because it’s not subject to regulations which apply to public water supplies. And, in fact, in some cases bottled water is water-from-the-tap, marketed as taken from pure mountain streams.

And don’t get me started on anti-aging products whose basic marketing message is that “You’re not good enough the way you are,” but if you buy Product X you’re be a little better for a little while. Think marketing for super-expensive lotions, creams, hair dye, and related items.

Sean Davis December 5, 2011 at 9:16 am

Great article, Corbett.

First, I have to say that the Black Friday video was placed at the perfect point to make anyone with a heart get a little glossy-eyed. It’s a shame what we have stooped to just to get things we don’t even need. Effective marketing just has a way of making us believe that we do.

As for my feeling on marketing, it’s hard to say at this point because I don’t have very much marketing experience. I’m used my fair share of social networks and bookmarking sites just to get my work in front of a few eyes, but I have never even sat down and created a full blown marketing strategy.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had the level of success online that I would like to have so I still have hope that marketing will serve me well in the future.

In terms of being on the receiving end of a marketing campaign, I am disgusted with it, for the most part. I find myself barking at the TV when I see a commercial preying on the emotions of people.

When there’s a circle of young black males rapping on the street to advertise chicken nuggets at McDonald’s, I get angry. When there’s a super skinny, sexy fitness model working out on a home gym machine, I get angry.

I look for two things with every marketing campaign that I come across:

1. Are they marketing something that helps people solve a problem?

2. Are they marketing something that is good for people?

I need the answer to both questions to be yes. Otherwise, I don’t want to see any marketing and I think it should be left up to people if they want to use that particular service or not.

Can a business like McDonald’s (in its early days) survive and grow without marketing? Maybe not. But is that so bad? Should we be eating that kind of food?

Answering those first two questions could be a great filter for any new business trying to find their way in the world. I think that if every business could answer both questions with a “yes,” the world would be a much better place and businesses would thrive AS MUCH AS THEY WERE INTENDED TO.

Sharyn Dimmick December 5, 2011 at 9:36 am

The problem I have with this common marketing tenet, that things should help people solve problems, is that many fine things do not solve problems and this encourages us to think of all things in terms of problems. I am a painter, writer, singer and songwriter. Do my creations help you solve problems? Of course not. Do they add to your enjoyment of life, your pleasure? They do if you like them. Will they inspire you to make things of your own? They might, if you are inclined to make things yourself. Do you see what I’m getting at? And yet your formula eliminates my work and the work of many artists because we don’t see our work in the problem-solving paradigm.

Is art good for you? I think so. Art is good for me in the way that sunsets are, turning leaves, flowers: beauty makes life more bearable, makes us stop and take a breath.

Brian Kwong December 5, 2011 at 10:02 am

Man, Corbett, I was just contemplating about this today, especially after watching Trey Ratcliff’s Photographer talk on google.

He has empathy for other photographers and said, “The struggle and collision of making money and art, which doesn’t always flow nice together.”

This is the same collision that we are talking about here, for me is making money with marketing and making a difference.

My commitment is to build a business that provides value for people, do what I love and make a living, but how do I do that without using all these annoying marketing techniques that these “experts” and “gurus” say its “working”?

Pop-up doesnt’ work for me, I close them without even glancing at them. Like everyone else, I had been bombed with email pitches, I only open them to unsubscribed.

And can I just create great content on my blog and expect people to find me on the internet so I can provide value for them and make a difference? Thats crazy talk too.

So the question for me is, how can we let people know what we have to offer and at the same time, build an authentic relationship with them so we are both happy about the exchange of goods?

Something to sleep on =)

Mike Cook December 5, 2011 at 10:09 am

Corbett,

Whatever you decide, your heart is in the right place, as evidenced by this post. You’re reevaluating things, and that takes openness and courage.

My view boils down to this: I like knowing about things and being privy to information, but if someone were to ask me if I like “marketing,” I would say “no.” Words matter, and I think “marketing” (and “advertising,” for that matter) has a bad connotation with it.

Don’t be in-your-face with things (pop-ups, sales pages, sales funnels, etc.). Be transparent, honest, genuine, and unobtrusive, and you’ll you going in the right direction.

There’s a reason Leo’s post really rocked the internet last Friday, though, and I think he spoke for a lot of people. You’re right to further investigate things.

Cheers,

Mike

Maria December 5, 2011 at 10:19 am

Hi Corbett,

I found this conversation so interesting that I actually read all the comments! Here is my two cents…

I think bloggers overdo it with marketing. E.g., notifying me more than once about the 72 hour sale is just too much. By the second time I am already thinking “I saw that already – don’t spam me!”.

Another example is sign-up boxes…E.g., Derek Halpern talks about placing three sign up boxes on your about page. I think they are just too many,

Now let me talk about myself. I am not selling anything online, but I do have sign-up forms on my blog. There is a big feature box on top, which is something I did for testing reasons, but I don’t feel comfortable with. In 2012, I will once again changing my blog’s design to minimize sign-up forms.

Why? Because they are distracting. You are reading a post but you can hear them scream “Sign up”.

Another thing I don’t like is offering something to drive sign ups. E.g., sign up to get this free ebook, etc. I think the right way to talk about this is “sign up to get updates, and as bonus, you’ll get the free ebook”.

I recently came across a video by MJ DeMarco…He was distinguishing between pushing vs. pulling for success.

Pushing for success is e.g., pitching (or begging) investors to fund your company. Pulling for success is building the company or part of the company yourself (i.e., executing first) and then have investors being interested in you.

Denise December 5, 2011 at 11:28 am

I love Luke Wilson’s clarification. I would add that unless we are writing in a journal and hiding it under the mattress, we are marketing. When we post a link to our blog on fb, twitter, google+, etc., we are marketing. The question is whether we do it well or not.

I think good marketing comes from being really, really honest about our intentions. As I read through Leo’s posts, I started thinking about the people who I believe do this really well and Corbett Barr, James Clear, Joshua Becker, Joshua Millburn, Ryan Nicodemus, Joel Runyon, and Leo all came to mind. Each of these people has a different intention and I believe that each is generating income from their efforts but each is really clear up front (for the most part) as to what that intention is.

Yes, I HATE pop-ups and blinking banners and all that stuff, but what I hate even more is being lied to. When I blogger says one thing and then does another, that’s a problem for me. A couple things that I’ve seen lately that fall into this category are:

1. Bloggers covertly promoting products i.e. writing a glowing review of a product and conveniently providing a link without disclosing an affiliate relationship. (Just tell me you love the product and if I click on the link you’ll get money. If I like you, I will click.)

2. Teaser Blogs where they act as if they are going to share something with you and you realize at the end that you have to pay. (Just tell me that you have this great product that will help with X and let me decide to buy it.)

I’m very o.k. with people making money from their blogging efforts, and I hope to join their ranks some day. I’m carefully weighing my options as to how I will do this. In the end I hope that I will respect my readers, be clear in my message, and be kind in my dealings.

I really appreciate Corbett and Leo’s post and everyone who has shared comments both here and on google+. It’s a lot to ponder.

Heather Searl December 5, 2011 at 11:37 am

I love that you started this discussion, and I loved Leo’s posts last week.

I was beginning to think that I was living on my own on planet Out-of-Touch because I disagree with so much that I read about internet marketing.

As a reader and consumer, I don’t begrudge anyone the chance to make money, and I’ll happily pay for something I feel solves a problem (or that is just really cool).

BUT:

Let me read your blog and decide if I want to subscribe. Immediate subscription pop-ups tell me exactly what you think of me — I’m just one more email for your spam list.

When I do subscribe to your blog, I’m doing so to be notified of your new content, because I value what you have to say not because I want you to fill my in-box with “special” offers every day. However, I am open to hearing what you have to sell every now and then — I actually expect it.

Long-form sales letters full of poor font choices and 27 limited time extras make me question the value of what you are selling — if you don’t respect your product enough to think it can stand on its own, why should I? (OK you can offer me a couple freebies for signing up early. :-) )

I think you’re right though in suggesting a “build it and they will come” approach isn’t enough.

I may be naive, but I believe the key is integrity.

If everyone put away the get rich quick schemes and focused on creating and selling products they believe in — and then marketed those products with integrity to the people who are interested in them — the internet would be a better place.

Maybe a few more messages like this and Leo’s could push the pro-integrity agenda over the top . . .

Heather

Kris December 5, 2011 at 12:20 pm

No.

Over the top, unrelated to the topic, obtrusive, relentless, obnoxious (and there are plenty of each) ads are the scourge.

Dana Palumbo December 5, 2011 at 2:27 pm

[ Marketing is the process used to determine what products or services may be of interest to customers, and the strategy to use in sales, communications and business development. ] – wikipedia

I think if we attack marketing we attack the basic exchange of value for currency. If we attack marketing we attack business.

I think what we are all talking about really is the intent and style of each business person, which are things that can’t really be defined in absolute terms or agreed upon by all.

We don’t get mad that they pitch us. We get mad if they pitch us crap with no value in an irritating style.

I think the if the intent of the business person is to first add value then, thats cool. But if you are asking for currency without providing what you honestly believe to be value then, not cool, especially if the way you ask for it is annoying.

Side note: I just wanted to throw a little support out there for Leo, I think anyone who’s followed him for any amount of time knows that his intentions are clearly about adding value.

Exhibit A. his uncopyright policy
Exhibit B. pay what you can policy

So I guess what I’m saying is that Corbett, Leo, and any of us honestly trying to make a contribution and provide value to others should not be afraid to use our own ‘marketing’ style to make sure we can support ourselves and continue to contribute. We’ll never be able to make everyone happy but the good thing about the internet is that the irksome marketing emails can just be deleted :)

Olivia December 5, 2011 at 5:23 pm

Hey Corbett,
I’m amazed at the ballsy-ness of some marketers who just keep blasting my inbox. It certainly draws attention to their name but as a yoga teacher and conscious business person, I find this hard to get my head around. It’s not my style…but maybe to my detriment. Also I find the emotional button pusher hard to resolve ethically. It’s manipulation to the hilt and I don’t think we really need anything. However on the other hand, these are legitimate problems and frustrations. The customers are looking for a solution so why not address them directly. I try to reframe it in my mind so that my focus is on helping them find me (and what they’re looking for) by talking about their concerns. If they can’t find me, I can’t serve them. If I can’t serve them, then I’m not fulfilling my heart-felt purpose. hmmmm
Great topic!

Corbett December 5, 2011 at 6:17 pm

Thanks for the comments Olivia. I don’t consider the pushy marketing to be ballsy, per se. It’s more about seeing the value of relationships with your customers as one-way. Either a reader is going to buy something (they have value), or not (they’re worthless). These marketers have ridiculously high churn rates and product return rates, but they don’t care as long as they can find more potential customers to pressure.

Baker December 5, 2011 at 7:23 pm

Hey gang!

As always, Corbett has great thoughts on an important issue. I had fun reading the comments and learning everyone’s perspective.

A note on our particular “Only72″ sale. The goal of our sale is to have a rare, fun, and valuable community event. We still currently believe that there is VALUE in bringing online product creators together to offer access to multiple products at an affordable price. Neither Karol or I do these sales out of necessity, we do them because they are fun and we believe them to be of value.

I consider Leo a friend – and he’s been a fantastic mentor to me for years. In fact, I agree with 95% of what he outlined in his G+ posts (even the challenges of “mega sales” as he wrote them).

Karol and I are very aware of these issues – and have been since our very first sale. We aren’t perfect – and continually try to make sure the event are both rare, short-lived, and valuable to readers.

We can’t control have everyone chooses to share our event – although we can do a better job of providing our suggestions. Both Karol and I mentioned it lightly to our own audiences, but I do realize what it’s like if someone is subscribed to a dozen blogs in the community. Our goal is that the value we provide twice a year outweighs having to read a couple posts on it. We’re always adapting our strategy to ensure this is true.

Also, I don’t believe that participating in a sale once a year as a vendor means you’re product or course doesn’t have any value all the sudden. If we ran the sale for a month – or ran it for a few days every couple of weeks – I believe this may be a different story. As someone who creates premium products for a living – I don’t have a problem sharing them at a discount a couple times a year. Within reason, I don’t believe deep discounts to be a bad thing.

One way we can improve is to be more exclusive of who we include – and to be more aware of how others may share the event/sale TOO much.

We really believe these sales are beneficial to most readers – or we wouldn’t do them. This may not be true of everyone, but it really is true for us. :)

Thanks Corbett (and Leo) for the great discussion!

-Baker

David Damron December 5, 2011 at 7:26 pm

Hey Corbett –

First, thanks for starting this convo. I was hoping someone would.

Now on to the good stuff…

Leo is a brilliant man who I love to follow and learn from as well as had the opportunity to directly interact on a much smaller level than you. That’s why, every 6 months or so, I have these heated debates within my own developing ideas when Leo takes such a hard stance on a topic…and I disagree. I am learning to accept the few differences that comes with the endless wisdom.

Leo seemed to depict marketing itself as bad. I know I am reading too much into his words in both articles, but they came across as a V for Vendetta appeal to take down marketing in its entirety on the next 5th of November.

What it comes down to is accepting that EVERYONE has their own way to be approached/marketed. Some love in your face gimmicks and others like one line at the end of a 2,000 word blog post. I used to take a stance and “hate” the other side. It originated from the differing ideal views of my father and I, but that’s a whole ‘nother discussion. Today, through a lot of teaching by Leo, I let it go. The more wood i throw into the fire, the stronger the fire burns. I try to accept that what works for others on both sides of marketing may not be for me and I move along. I pursue what I believe to be proper marketing and if i am not having success with such and such is going against my principles, I adjust. Hopefully, others will adjust as well.

I believe a lot of marketing comes down to what people are jealous of. Celebrities market shit well because people are jealous of their celebrity status. The Wall Street Journal markets shit well because people are jealous that they aren’t as wealthy as the people/businesses discussed within the Journal. Bloggers market shit well because people are jealous of the bloggers living kick ass lives on their own terms. Leo markets shit well because people are jealous of the control he has over his life, choices, and decisions. The style of marketing and the effectiveness are all dependent on how jealous people are of the person who has what they want. This includes wanting to be an effective marketer and not an annoying one.

If any of us want others to market as we want (whatever that may be), all we can do is set examples that other people are jealous of. For example, when I launched Destination X, I sent about 30 PERSONALIZED videos to people that I thought could market my product in a respectable and successful way. Half of these people I sent the videos to were highly impressed with my marketing skills and (PAY ATTENTION TO THIS NEXT PART) said they would apply my marketing approach to their own products in the future. Sean Ogle, Joel Runyon and Niall Doherty personally told me at WDS that they didn’t really read my product (no hard feelings), but (ANOTHER KEY POINT HERE) they shared my marketing approach to others without me asking them to do so at all. In other words, I set an example marketing wise, they liked, they applied to their own approach, they shared that approach and, hopefully, more people will follow such marketing approach (or at least I hope so).

Those are just a few of my thoughts…

Thanks again for opening up this conversation Corbett! Thanks Leo for bringing to light a topic that isn’t widely discussed and often just gossiped about between a few people. The more people that discuss this, the better idea we will all have as to how to approach marketing going forward.

David Damron
PauseandPonder.com

Raam Dev December 5, 2011 at 9:37 pm

I’d say it’s the difference between yelling and having a conversation with your customers. Lots of us get permission to have a conversation with our customers (by getting their email address), but how often do we use that permission to have a conversation with them?

Most of the marketing I see online involves yelling, not listening. If give someone permission to talk and they turn around and talk my ear off, I’m not going to stay interested for very long.

If more marketing involved listening, we wouldn’t be noticing as much of it online (and that’s the way it should be: we shouldn’t be marketing unless we’re engaging in conversations).

Yelling involves bombarding potential customers with an endless number of reasons they need a product (think billboards, tv commercials, street-hawkers, popups, sales pitches, etc.), without any consideration put into whether or not they’re interested in having a conversation about their needs, their feelings on quality, price, etc.

A conversation requires *listening*, getting permission to speak and then *using* that permission to have a *conversation*. Most of the permission marketing that’s done is missing the actual usage of the “permission” to have a “conversation” with those we received permission from.

Yelling involves telling people what a product will cost and then expecting them to pay for it or go away.

Listening involves asking what they think something is worth and then setting the price accordingly (I recently did this with my first paid-offering; I surveyed my readers and used the average of their responses to set the price; I wrote about this in a piece called Permission Pricing for Digital Work).

Internet marketing is currently a byproduct of industrial-age mass-marketing: Get an advertisement out to enough eyeballs and let statistics determine how many sales we make.

This needs to change.

Internet marketing needs to recognize the ability to communicate with people, not just push something out to them like television, radio, or magazines.

We can communicate directly with people to better understand what they need and how much they think something should cost.

If we have more conversations — if we develop more authentic relationships and hold ourselves and those we do business with to high moral standards — then our customers will want to buy from us and they’ll want to refer us to their friends. They will want to talk about our work and market out work for us.

The future of marketing isn’t in popups or squeeze pages. The future of marketing is in human connections and conversations.

Holly Richardson December 6, 2011 at 6:13 am

Very interesting debate!

I agree with Luke, Gregory, Sarah and Lach regarding the matching of evolving needs, having something of value in the first place, and the existence of blackhat techniques that give marketing a bad name.

I think Seth Godin’s recent post is fitting for this conversation: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2011/12/getting-serious-about-the-attention-economy.html).

Despite the “bad marketers” giving the practice a bad name, marketing is still of great value to both clients and businesses.

The internet and social media has put power in the hands of customers. It is now very much a two-way conversation. Marketing now has the ability to gather sentiment about products on an infinite scale at minimal cost compared to traditional media, which is becoming much less effective because of its one-directional nature.

Ideas for product improvements can be more easily harvested, as well as monitoring of changes in needs, which also aids in the development of new products that match these evolving needs.

The internet and social media is a relatively new medium and companies/bloggers are still trying to experiment their way around, and thus learning that they need to change their digital tactics entirely.

Marketing in the digital world is more about accountability than ever before. If you lie about your product, then you will get found out quickly. People will talk about it on the web, and this negative word of mouth can be devastating to your business or blog.

Trust is also ever valuable, so striking a balance is critical.

To answer some of your questions:

The marketing techniques that I appreciate are social media buttons (as long as they don’t clutter the site). Sharing is increasingly crucial to digital marketing success. To Leo Babauta‘s point, people can share on their own. However, there is also something to be said in numbers. People trust word-of-mouth and popularity much more than advertisements or sponsoring. Therefore, the more people that share your content, the more credibility you will have (plus, this will also increase your rankings on search and social media sites, which means you will be more visible). It would also be useful from an analytics viewpoint so you can adjust your digital marketing strategy accordingly. This should help streamline the process and give measurability to your online marketing efforts.

Another good marketing technique that is content marketing – creating content of value, therefore harvesting more trust and visibility. The downside to this is that it means you will be doing a lot more work for less, but this is the reality of marketing in the digital age.

I think gentle sales pitches in blog posts are okay, as long as it is relevant and only occurs a small percentage of the time. I think the bulk of the work in blogs should be creating valuable content that fills a need. Coppyblogger does a good job with this (http://www.copyblogger.com/). I’ve been reading their free tutorial and have found it useful.

I hate pop-ups.

(I am in no way affiliated with the links I have referenced above).

Jen December 6, 2011 at 9:15 am

I love this discussion, Corbett! I’m currently rethinking what marketing means to me and I love that you put this out there for us to engage with as a community. Merci for that!!

I resonated with this piece from Raam Dev above:

“Internet marketing is currently a byproduct of industrial-age mass-marketing: Get an advertisement out to enough eyeballs and let statistics determine how many sales we make.”

My perspective on marketing has a few parts. I currently work full time and part of my work is managing the marketing for a an office that provides Career info to college students. One might ask, do we really need to market such a service? The answer is a resounding, yes! You’d think careers to college students would be a no-brainer, but even in such a seemingly 1:1 relationship, marketing is necessary. It was built, but they weren’t coming.

We have had to work hard to help students understand that if they have a question, we really do have the answer or resources they need. This experience helped me understand and fall in love with marketing partially because I don’t make more or less money based on it so I get to experience it “purely” — if you will.

In the process we’ve had to change how we do things to meet students where they are and there’s something spritual about that to me — when you’re marketing with sincere intent. It’s been a process of listening, admitting what I don’t know, finding out who does know, and trying things that make me uncomfortable, but when they work — it’s a thrill! The marketing I’ve been involved in has increased our #s and made me a better person. That’s good marketing.

I am transitioning into my own work, full time, and have sold my creative work for about 7 years, so I also get marketing yourself & your stuff too.

One of the fundemental issues, and one that relates to Raam Devs statement (in my mind) is that people trust (some consciously, others not) companies more than individuals now. I think we have been so programmed to ingest mass marketing that the individual marketer’s first challenge is to prove that he or she has a right to establish his/her own thing and expect to make money from it. I think it’s important to explore this because it’s such an important piece in the frame for this discussion of of loving/hating marketing and how we experience/choose marketing strategies or tactics.

One of the reasons I’ve decided to move into pursuing my own work full time is that, for me, I am called/born/compelled to be an entrepreneur. A part of entrepreneurship is marketing…a part of any profession is marketing. Whether it’s the person writing a resume, giving a stellar interview, or selling their stuff…marketing isn’t isolated to any one field so, as others have stated, I don’t think the question is to or not to market — we will market; rather it’s how to do it.

Urgency, “gifts” to me, or “pay what you can, but this is worth $2zillion so I’ll take no less than $1.75zillion” [Yes, that last one was an actual part of an email that really made my flesh crawl] …that stuff grosses me out. Each of those things have come from people who are successful in that they live off their work, other people I respect promote them, or I at one time respected them. It screams desparation or entitlement (or both to me). I’ve decided to disconnect from those type of marketers because they’re toxic as fas as I’m concerned.

Raam Dev December 6, 2011 at 10:06 am

Jen, thanks for sharing what part of my comment meant to you. I love that you feel an almost spiritual tie to marketing! That says a lot about how far from the center most marketing is these days (and how little we’ve explored better, more ethical ways of marketing).

What I got from your comment was that people want to feel respected. If we’re shouting at people instead of engaging in a conversation, how can the recipient feel respected?

When I’m reading a blog and a popup fills my screen, I don’t feel respected; I feel rudely interrupted.

When a commercial comes on in between the music on the radio and starts blabbering on and on about things of absolutely no significance to me, I don’t feel respected, I feel annoyed that my attention to the music is being abused.

When I subscribe to an email list to receive “free” content and start receiving emails dedicated to a sales pitch, I don’t feel respected. (In this regard, why not ask our email subscribers if they want to receive offers and point them to another email list dedicated to occasional offers?)

When I read a blog post and begin to feel moved by the content, only to discover that the entire thing was leading up to a sales pitch, I don’t feel respected; I feel saddened that my trust and attention was worth nothing more than an attempt at making money.

I’m beginning to feel that genuine marketing isn’t about making money at all; it’s really about generating awareness around the fact that we are able and willing to help solve a problem.

Satya December 6, 2011 at 1:43 pm

I’m a big fan of the ‘pay what you can’ model — noticed Leo also used this for his last ebook release.

I know it works if you have a big enough group of people who want the work — or for a limited period on a special occasion, like Birthday — but I’d be interested to hear some more first-hand experience with that for people who actually live off their online work..

Christina December 6, 2011 at 6:01 pm

Great reference to Seth, Holly.
I’ve been following along for a couple of days, but have been down with the flu.
I think this is a great post, needed and really open from you, Corbett – thank you for going here. Being sick made me realize a few things. Seth Godin says, “People want to missed.” Coke, Pepsi, REM – Steve Jobs. . .I’d miss Corbett’s blog if it ever became as spammy as some sites with massive sidebar selling squares.
We all want to earn money online – we bust our butts to create products, content and connections. Maybe there is a hard balancing act between our loyal fans, and a growing “visitor-ship.” The loyal folks, even the late comers, will stay, buy from us and spread the word. I think we cater to them first, welcome our newcomers like the newfound friends they are and engage with them. They can always leave, and we have to be okay with that.
Creating epic shit is work – getting paid for it rocks, but whether we are having epic engagement over a coffee, beer or the internet it’s worth doing.
My kids don’t pay me to be awesome, it’s a choice. No one paid me to get on here, even though the thread is a few days old, and you wouldn’t miss me if I didn’t. So why bother? This is the planet earth, and as a human being one of the highest highs we can get is interacting with each other, sharing ideas and enjoying the rush we get from making life better. With millions of sites to go to on the internet, we came here. You don’t have to “72 sell” in a way that puts me back on the street, like a stranger-but I see why some webbies try it. Maybe a way to go is, “Guys, I’m participating in the 72 hour this year. If you’re new, and don’t know what that means and want to learn more, go HERE>” and get on with the show.
I’ll be honest, when Seth posts a pitch in my inbox, I delete without reading it. Why? My work has gotten zero attention beyond a thank you for sending it. I love what he writes, does and creates. It would cost a fortune to work with him, and I’ve happily paid for most of his books. BUT it’s awkward to realize I’m just a mailing list name. . .and wouldn’t be missed if I unsubscribed.
Corbett – I don’t think some of the “big timers” would give a shit what their readers think on this note – my hat is off to you for opening the floor. Many people on the web cash the check, and sign off. “Be human” is another Seth quote. . .

Christina December 6, 2011 at 6:04 pm

“People want to BE missed. . .” sorry, folks.

Sharyn Dimmick December 6, 2011 at 6:49 pm

“We all want to earn money online.” Thank you for saying this, Christina. We do want to earn money because we need money (We live in a money economy). So we do our best to create good things and hope people will value them and marketing is how we draw attention to our things. And we certainly have choices about how we do it.

Maja (sounds like "hiya") December 9, 2011 at 10:46 am

WOW! What a great discussion! Thank you Corbett and the Gang! :)

It is just wonderful to know that so much thought and consideration goes into the experience of the person(s) on the receiving end of your talents, passions, time, services and products.

I hope what follows gives something back to this great community.

My feeling about internet marketing – and it’s just that, a hunch not a well researched opinion – is that the more inflated the price (i.e. the product’s value is nowhere near it) the more ridiculous (bad, unethical) its marketing is. Someone here mentioned an example of what I am referring to – those calls for action in red capitals highlighted in that garish yellow. Yikes!

Just last week I saw a very-thought provoking TV documentary here in the UK called “Money” about money-and-wealth gurus (Robert Kiyosaki was featured amongst others) which left me feeling quite angry. Maybe it’s the never ending recession doom and my current personal financial struggle but seeing so many poor people – and by poor I mean materially poor – spend £1000s on one day with the guru and his 100s of followers in the hope they’ll create the same wealth (only to end up with a £1000 hole in their bank accounts) left me with my blood boiling (while the gurus keep getting richer). I can’t help but wonder: how do they justify their fees? What do they give their audiences – on the day – that is worth £1000s or even £100s? And, I don’t know about you, but to me the answer “if they are willing to pay, why not?” just isn’t good enough.

On a more cheerful marketing note :) I think (like many of you here I believe) that we respond to marketing strategies in the same way we respond to potential mating partners :) e.g. potential lovers, future life partners etc.

Which I think is fabulous because it means we can create a pool of customers that fit us perfectly, will stay with us for life – will grow old with us! – and what’s most amazing we get to be ourselves (include market ourselves the way it sits right with our moral compass) Now, that to me is bliss.

And you guys are a walking proof it can be done!

Having written all this I am now going to go away and think about this question: what would a business need to do and be like to woo me in the first place and then to keep me with them for life? The answer will shape my marketing strategy.

Have a brilliant weekend and see you around! :)

Juliet December 13, 2011 at 6:51 am

Getting back to your original post, you wrote:

“Here’s the list in favor of doing marketing:

To spread the word about my work and become more popular.
To earn more money.”

I feel like, if those are the only 2 goals of your marketing strategy, then either a) you’re marketing the wrong products or services
or b) You’re short-changing the value of marketing, and consequently, might be using strategies that annoy or interrupt customers rather than benefit them.

I would add these to your list in favor of doing marketing:

- To spread the word about how new customers can benefit from my work
- To reinforce customers getting more involved with my brand and taking advantage of more of what I offer
- To give them reasons, both practical and emotional, to be brand loyal

Let me know what you think!

Graham Phoenix | Male eXperience December 5, 2011 at 8:57 am

I dislike the intense pressure from too many people at once. I would rather have better deals on individual products. It feels like a market stall with everything being given and the only reason is money. It’s difficult to put my finger on it, it just feels desparate.

Graham Phoenix | Male eXperience December 5, 2011 at 9:52 am

Hi Leo

I appreciate your openness and honesty and I understand what you are saying. I withdraw my accusation, it was not fairly made. I see a great advantage in your approach. Would you see that someone could take different approaches on different sites that are targetted to very different audiences?

Leo December 5, 2011 at 9:54 am

Absolutely. There isn’t one approach that works, but I would strongly recommend that bloggers/sites put readers first — respect the reader, put the reader’s needs first. I think bloggers forget that (popups, too many product pitches, etc), and I simply wanted to remind people of this important principle.

Yamile Yemoonyah December 5, 2011 at 10:00 am

Sharyn,
I get your point, but actually art, music and other creative products do solve problems. They help beautify a home, remember a certain place, person or event, feel more sophisticated, happy, relaxed etc. People usually buy art and music because of the way it makes them feel.

Sean Davis December 5, 2011 at 11:24 am

Yamile Yemoonyah took the words right out of my fingertips.

I do, Sharyn, feel that your art, as well as the other things you mentioned solve problems for people. Beautiful art, great music, etc… all of that stuff is therapeutic to the person choosing to treat it as such. Even if they aren’t into your art for those reasons, like Yamile said, to beautify a home is to solve a problem… in my opinion.

I guess it should be stated that not every problem is a bad problem. You may have preconceived notions about what a problem is to everyone else but I don’t necessarily see every problem as being bad.

To me, a problem is simply a situation that needs ironing out in some way, shape or form. A simple example would be a math problem. Of course it’s not a bad thing. It just needs to be solved… you know?

Your art definitely deserves to be marketed because people enjoy art.

What I am specifically talking about is creating a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. Black Friday is perfect at doing this. It makes people think that they can’t pass up the 60% big screen TV. Because it is so cheap (which is a form of marketing, really), it makes the consumer believe that not making the unbelievable purchase is a problem.

No… it’s not a problem.

It reminds me of the days when my mom would come home with crap from the store and say that she bought it because it was on sale. Really, mom? That’s the only reason why?

The solution shouldn’t come before the “problem.”

Bad marketing, the kind I was speaking of, does it every time, though.

Sharyn Dimmick December 5, 2011 at 10:11 am

Thanks for commenting, Yamile. When I buy art, I buy it for aesthetic reasons: I want to look at the colors again or listen to the music again because I like those colors and sounds. In music, I might want to learn the song or I might just want to listen to it (like the Brandenburg Concertos).

Sean Davis December 5, 2011 at 11:26 am

To me, fulfilling your desires is problem solving (read my other reply first).

If you didn’t have those desires (and no one else did either), though, and I marketed in a manner than made you think that you did, that would be the kind of marketing I was talking about.

Think about fear-mongering. That’s a perfect example of creating a “problem” for someone by making them think you’ve solved one.

Sharyn Dimmick December 5, 2011 at 11:44 am

Thanks, Sean. I think we can agree about bad marketing being about marketing of useless things and about the hijacking of cultural images to sell things. And then there are bad (annoying) marketing methods. Let me add to the list any site that blasts you with music when you visit — even if I like the music, I do not choose to be assaulted with it when I am trying to look for contact information or when I visit the site on some other errand.

You will not find me out shopping on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day or any other commercial event or “holiday.”

Sean Davis December 5, 2011 at 11:47 am

I agree! I always stay home and refuse to leave the house on those days. Really, it’s a shame that business stoop so low and prey on the weak minds of the majority.

We accept it in politics, though, so I’m not surprised. :(

Gregory Ciotti December 5, 2011 at 6:44 pm

While I agree with you to a point Leo, I think that the idea that you are describing isn’t so much “no marketing” as it is “good marketing.”

People will have different opinions, but I’m in agreement with the pop-ups & myriad of products pitches… but that to me isn’t good marketing, so I don’t see how grouping the term “marketing” as being the scourge of the internet can be fair.

Is BAD marketing APART OF the scourge of the internet? Most definitely, from spammy blackhat sites that rank well with no real content to every blogger under the sun thinking they can write about “making money online”, bad marketing is a pretty shitty part of the web.

I guess in a nutshell, I think your analysis of marketing being a scourge is too sweeping in what it includes.

Although I would agree with writers getting back to the content, most of my favorite sites fall in line with the ideal that you describe: it’s plain to me that I do not subscribe to sites with the annoying aspects mentioned in your post.

Robert Wall December 5, 2011 at 9:25 pm

Full disclosure before I start: I promoted an Only72 sale once, because if you want the courses/products it *is* a good deal as a customer.

The biggest criticism you can level against Only72 is the same one that you can level against late-night infomercials. All of the scarcity is completely artificial. “Call in the next 30 minutes” has just been replaced with “buy in the next 72 hours”.

There’s no realistic reason an Only72 sale couldn’t go on all day, every day. The products have no incremental cost, as they’re all digital.

The reason it *doesn’t* go on every day is that the content producers wouldn’t put up with it.

Think about it. If thirty or forty ebooks are being sold for $100 (as in the sale I promoted), that means (at best) that those authors are making $3 to $4 each per ebook. When you figure in a standard online affiliate commission payout (50%), now there’s only $50 to split between 30+ ebooks – which is $1.60 or so per ebook.

Now factor in that Baker and Karol are in this to make money (nothing wrong with making money, by the way), and that $1.60 has to drop even more.

Ever notice how the people whose books are *in* the Only72 sale are also the ones heavily promoting the Only72 sale? You couldn’t prove it by me, but my suspicion is that there *isn’t* a revenue split on the back end, other than the affiliate commission.

The reason it feels desparate is because it *is* desparate. Artificial scarcity is one of the oldest techniques in the book for forcing people to make quick decisions.

The whole game here is for the content creators to have access to a massive ebook package with a massive discount, and use the deal to pitch the hell out of their lists.

Sarah Russell December 6, 2011 at 7:09 am

Interesting, and thanks for sharing your opinion. I get what you mean – it can be frustrating when all your favorite blogs have promos for the same product instead of the good content you normally expect. At the same time, I get why it makes sense to participate in a deal like this as a merchant in terms of increased exposure, potential for upsells, etc.

I guess sometimes there’s no way to win with everybody :)

Christina December 6, 2011 at 5:39 pm

Totally agree with this, Maria. Those letters are worse than going to class.

Christina December 6, 2011 at 5:41 pm

I love your last point, Raam. When the comments are closed on a big pitch, I’m bummed. I feel like I came to the party, but I’m not allowed to speak. “beginning to feel that genuine marketing isn’t about making money at all” is a perfect point.

Jin August 4, 2013 at 2:27 pm

What is the focus of this discussion?

Is it Unethical marketing v. Ethical marketing?

Or is it Marketing v. Not marketing?

If you never ask people to buy what you sell, you go broke. End of business.

The subtle sanctimoniousness about marketing from bloggers making six figures a year is especially entertaining.

Can we get over the sales-puritanism?

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