I had only recently caught an episode of Discovery’s series “Pitchmen“. The series followed the late legendary pitchman Billy Mays and his British counterpart Anthony Sullivan, giving viewers a “behind the scenes” look at all that is involved in creating a successful marketing campaign.
One of the business building “secrets” to success practiced by Billy and Anthony was that they would only “pitch” great products. In the episode I saw, Billy believed a product had potential – but the inventor had to first work out every possible ‘kink’.
In the case of this episode’s product, the spray on fertilizer which painted brown spots in your lawn green had to be environmentally friendly before Billy would agree to pitch the product. An early version of the product could make pets and/or children ill if they came in contact with the treated lawn. May was unwilling to pitch a product that could be harmful to pets or small children – so the product was sent “back to the drawing board.”
Billy Mays knew that his reputation as a “pitchman” was only as good as the products he promoted. He knew that his reputation was on the line, so he fully vetted each and every product he pitched. If Billy was pitching it – you could rest assured it worked as promised. From Oxyclean to Kaboom, I have yet to try a product Billy pitched that didn’t work exactly as promised.
Billy Mays knew his ability to sell product lay in his ability to communicate with a vast audience – and repeat sales to that audience meant he had to continually to earn that audience’s trust. His distinctive delivery style – combined with his dedication to only pitching products he knew were worthy – made him one of the greatest pitchmen of our time.
If Billy Mays didn’t believe people were smart – he would have pitched any product – as long as the sponsor was willing to pay his fees.
Contrast that with the “people are idiots” business style of a self proclaimed “internet marketing guru.” I subscribed to this lesser known “pitchman’s” newsletter a few years ago. The reason I subscribed (using my “real” email no less) is that I had purchased a book he had written. His book was wealth of information and I was anxious to discover any other nuggets of wisdom this marketing expert had to offer.
I began to start doubting his great marketing wisdom when he shared some “complaints” that he had been receiving from newsletter subscribers in one of the early issues.
In essence, the letters he shared were from people who expressed disappointment at the content of his newsletters. Instead of sharing ‘behind the scenes stories,” each newsletter was simply a long copy sales letter – with a “buy now to learn more” call to action at the end. His readers were obviously asking for more…. more reasons to “trust” him before they bought from him.
His published response to the complaints was simple and along the lines of “I’m here to make money – not share free information.”
I continued to subscribe because – quite honestly – his newsletters were truly brilliant examples of effective sales copy.
It’s not surprising that one day, I fell victim to the master’s skillfully written marketing copy. I purchased one of the reports he was selling. I paid $39.90 for the report. Because I had been so happy with the content in his published books, I was fairly certain I would be equally happy with the report.
Because his books had been previously published with a national publisher, he had to include a “disclaimer” at the beginning of the report. In essence, the disclaimer shared that the information contained in the report was originally published as part of one of the author’s previously published books.
OUCH!!!! Fool me once – shame on you. Fool me twice – shame on me.
I have never unsubscribed from this newsletter because I will continue to keep his brilliant sales letters in my “swap” file. However, I will NEVER make the mistake of paying $39.90 for one of his “reports” again when I can just as easily pick up one of his books (new) on Amazon containing five times the material at half the price.
He made a one time to sale to me – but I will NEVER be his customer.
There’s an old customer service axiom which says, “the customer is always right.” Maybe the marketing mantra should read:
“The customer is always smart.”
Ditech aired an ad a few years ago championing the concept that people are smart…
The commercial is more than a bit ironic given the state of the current mortgage markets. However, I have to disagree with the vast wisdom contained in the YouTube comments and side with the commercial’s message – that people really ARE smart. They will frequently make the absolute BEST choice – as they see it.
It’s your marketing materials job to show them that your product or service is the “smart” choice.
In my book Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results I suggest that you create your marketing copy with your ideal customer in mind… and to think of such “conversations” in the same way you would think of a conventional conversation at a dinner party or networking function.
You wouldn’t approach someone at a dinner party and strike up a conversation using a tone that implies that they’re an idiot – so why in the world would you adopt such a tone in your marketing copy?
Of course, in the end, it doesn’t matter how brilliant your marketing copy – if you truly believe that your customers are idiots – then that thinking is going to show up throughout your business.
If you think your customers are idiots, don’t expect to find long term success online – especially in the world where social media rules.
In an age of Facebook Fan Pages which can easily be created by your customers and which can operate beyond your control, you had better hope and pray the supposed “idiots” you call customers aren’t smart enough to figure out how to create a Facebook account – let alone a Facebook Fan Page.
See, there’s a difference between “idiots” and the “uniformed.” The former are unable and unwilling to learn. The latter are willing and able to be informed – and are open to enlightenment. Check out Blogs and the Art of Deception for an example of the kind of “enlightenment” that happens online and you’ll see why it’s best to assume that people are smart – and ready to be enlightened.
After all – your audience won’t remain “uniformed” forever. At some point in time, some blogger somewhere will eventually shed light on the subject during a Social Media Marketing Reality Check
“The Internet is VERY PUBLIC and it never forgets.”