Halloween Humor and an Object Lesson on Trust and Marketing

I talk a LOT here about the importance trust plays in marketing your product or services.  Establishing trust with your marketing is especially essential if you’re selling “nothing but air” a.k.a. making an intangible major sale.

Trust is hard to win and easy to lose. In the world of Web 2.0, transparency is the key.  For example, In the “old days” (pre-web), if a business owner got a reputation for lying and ripping of his/her customer,  he or she could always pick up and start anew in a new location.  However, in the world of Web 2.0, your reputation can follow you ALL over the world!

Here’s a bit of Halloween Humor making the rounds these days which offers a thinly veiled object lesson on trust and marketing.

A cabbie picks up a  Nun.  She gets into the cab, and notices that the VERY handsome cab  driver won’t stop staring at her. She asks him why he is  staring.  He replies: ‘I have a question to ask, but I don’t want to  offend you.’

She answers, “My son, you  cannot offend me.  When you’ have been a nun as  long as I have, you get a chance to see and hear just about  everything.  I’m sure that there’s nothing you could say or ask that  I would find offensive.'”

“Well, I’ve always had a  fantasy to make out with a nun.”

The nun responds, “Well, I could probably oblige you under two conditions.  First, you have to be single and second, you must be Catholic.”

The cab driver blurts out, ‘HOT DOG!!!  Yes,  I’m single and Catholic!’

The nun says.   ‘Pull into the next alley.’

The make out scene that followed in that alley would make a hooker blush.

When they get back on  the road, the cab driver starts crying.

‘Why is wrong?” the nun asked.

‘Forgive me but I’ve  sinned.  I lied and I must confess; I’m married and I’m Baptist.’

The nun replies, ‘That’s  OK.  My name is Kevin and I’m going to a Halloween  party.”

It’s a beautiful thing when a liar gets taken by a con artist.

It’s not a beautiful thing when good people get taken by “gurus” and “experts” who don’t know enough to know they don’t know anything!

That’s why I’m a REAL fan of blogging.  See, there’s no better vehicle to build trust than with a blog.  It’s hard to fake expertise over the course of a couple hundred blog posts!

If you’re here and you’re offering “real deal” services, then get a blog.   There’s no better way to demonstrate the breadth and depth of your knowledge!

The “Real Deal” – The Value of Authenticity in Blogging

If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants.

David M Ogilvy

It’s no secret that I’ve been a HUGE fan of Cath Lawson for quite some time now.  While I don’t remember exactly which blog post it was that I first read, but I still remember the feeling that washed over me when I discovered her blog.   Was it recognition?  Was it relief?

It was probably a little of both.  After all, I’ve publicly declared that there are times when I feel like I’m the only ” honest politician in Washington” because sometimes, I sometimes get EXHAUSTED by the “self proclaimed gurus and experts” who talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk!  I was half way through reading my first Cath Lawson blog post when I recognized that I had found another “honest politician”, even though she lives “across the pond” from me.

See, Virtual Impax is NOT my first rodeo.  I’ve jumped in and out of self employment ever since the birth of my oldest child and I worked extensively with entrepreneurs and business owners during my time as an AE with an advertising agency.

So it’s only natural I guess that when I had trouble finding a reliable cleaning lady, I decided to start my own cleaning business on the side.  I don’t know WHY I thought that was a good idea at the time.  Looking back, that one was PURE FOLLY!  “Let’s see, I can’t find ONE person who will clean my house properly – I think I’ll start a business where I have to plant my foot in the buttocks of a CREW of people who don’t know how to clean a house properly OR show up for work!”

In the end, I learned A LOT about myself.  I discovered that  I SUCKED as a boss.   I ran my business like it was some kind of charity organization.    I hired women who needed flexible hours and extra money instead of hiring people for their work ethic.   I hired dwarves instead of giants!  I hired people who wanted easy money, not people who took pride in their work!

Of course, my employees used and abused me.  (As Liz Struass would say, “They were people being people.”)   I closed shop when I had a dream that I was working in food prep at McDonald’s.  In the dream, I was stinking of grease and exhausted, but I declared  within that dream that it was better than cleaning houses.

So that’s probably why, when Cathleen would write about the trials and tribulations of running her plumbing company, I could relate.  I recognized the voice of another battle scarred business veteran.

With that said, I don’t know why I was so FLOORED by reading Cath’s offer to run an ad for free on her blog.  I just sat back in shock and awe.


As a matter of fact, I’d say she’s a MARKETING GENIUS!  No wonder I’m such a fan!  Not only is she a giant, but her readers are as well.   As her readers have been finding this blog, I’m feeling quite privledged to be in the company of so MANY giants at one time.

By the way, I can DEFINITELY tell a difference between Cath’s readers and mine.  Cath’s readers leave comments.  Mine email me or use the contact form.  Either way is good for me!

Social Media Warning: I am Rubber – You are Glue …

Remember that chant – back when you were a child. Someone would say something mean or hateful, and your response would be the sing-song, “I am rubber – you are glue! Whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to YOU!”

Web 2.0 gives us a real opportunity to share our thoughts spontaneously. Whether it’s posting to your own blog, making comments on other blogs or sending bulletins via MySpace – sometimes we might share things we wish we hadn’t. If we’re lucky, the rest of the world will be so self absorbed that most people won’t notice when we expose more than we planned.

I recently got a notification about an article which is getting a lot of attention on one of the various social networking sites to which I belong.  The article was written by a member who is telling business owners to get control over their personal spending lest it ruin their business. I think I’ve gotten more insight to her spending habits than she may have been planning on providing.  I thought it was just common sense, but if you want to promote your services as a financial manager, don’t tell me how many checks you’ve bounced in the past few weeks!

Meanwhile, the article makes me laugh because I am currently working with a client who has EXACTLY the opposite problem. This client is processing her own credit card orders manually because she doesn’t want to PAY an assistant to do this menial task for her. As a result, it’s taking WEEKS for some orders to get processed – money that could be safely in her bank account – less a small fee for hiring an assistant to handle the order processing.

We’re in the process of automating this process for her, by the way so she doesn’t have to hire the assistant – however, she’s reluctant to make the investment needed to make this happen.  Her business is relatively new and she’s having trouble making the transition from “requisition forms” to “you’ve got to spend money to make money.”

I can TOTALLY relate to my client because I too have battled trying to achieve balance between the art of bootstrapping and being silly.

For example, I remember that I worried for MONTHS over the prospect of spending $35 per year to register my domain name (way back in 1998) and the subsequent hosting fee!  It took me a long time to get used to the idea that I had to SPEND money to MAKE money. I’ve learned that it’s just a part of the transition from “employee” to “business owner” and for some of us, it’s a tough hurdle to overcome.

Meanwhile, the world is full of therapists involved in horrible relationships who spend their days “fixing” other people’s relationships – doctors who smoke, drink and abuse drugs but reach out selflessly to heal their patients – accountants who can’t keep their own finances in order. The list goes on and on but a key player in this kind of behavior are the MMO bloggers who aren’t making any money.

While it’s true that “The cobblers’ own children rarely wear shoes,” if you want to convince others that you know your stuff – you’d better have some impressive samples.

As always, this is going to come BACK to blogging.  One of the reasons I ADORE blogs is that it’s hard to “fake” expertise over the course of 100 or more posts.  When these MMO pretenders post their monthly earnings and think $89 a month is a sign of their success – well, it’s yet another reasons I ADORE blogs!

If you’re not authentic – or if your SOLE purpose is trying to fleece the masses – then don’t launch a blog and DO NOT participate in social media marketing.    If you’re a pretender, your blog will expose you as one!

If on the other hand, your business is in the business of helping people solve their problems, achieve their goals or placate their desires – the step right up to blogging and Web 2.0.  While you won’t find OVERNIGHT success, you’ll find it’s a fun and fulfilling path to travel.

Your blog won’t be a 30 minute solution to your marketing dilemmas – it may not even earn $89 per month in direct income for you, but it will be great way to begin spreading the word about the solutions you offer!

Web Marketing 101: School of Hard Knocks

Yet another school year has begun and my children (ages 14-21) are back to hitting the books. The oldest is in college, so she has the option of choosing her courses and even choosing which professor presents the information.

WHO presents the information is a biggie when you’re in college as well as in the real world.

In college, some professors are a true resource while others seem to be devoted to collecting a paycheck with as little effort as possible. That’s why there are multiple sites where students can go and “rate” their professors online. Even though the curriculum may be the same, the person who is teaching the class makes all the difference.

Ah, those were the days- when a professor would present the information and then, a few days or weeks later, you’d be “tested” on that information. If you performed well on the test, you’d get an “A” – if you didn’t, you might get a “C” or lower.  I wish I’d known how little those A’s would mean two decades later.

Fortunately (or unfortunately – depending how you look at it), my college days are but a memory.  Even the loans I took out to pay for that 4 year party -ehm, educational experience- are paid in full.   Now I’m living in the “real” world where the only school I attend is the school of hard knocks!!! There is no grading on a “curve” or cramming for finals. Instead, the only “test” is the balance of my business checking account.

WHO presents the information you need for real life success is a biggie in “the real world” as well.

As for me, personally, I’m a graduate of SHIT FLINGER U! No, not SHIT as in the South Harmon Institute of Technology, but shit as Cath Lawson defines it in her post Shit: The Best Tool For Success. Cath writes:

The more shit you have thrown at you, the more you learn. And although being in business is stressful, the more shit that hits you at once, the easier it will become later on.

Cath is the one who introduced me to the term “knowledge gatherers”. I squealed with delight when I read that descriptive term.  See,  I’ve run into this type before and have gone as far as to hire a few of these.

A knowledge gatherer is someone who reads every blog, buys every eBook and joins every membership site on a certain subject. Then, the knowledge gatherer presents himself/herself as an “expert” because he/she has accumulated all this knowledge.  Oh, he or she hasn’t applied any of this knowledge, but he or she is more than willing to tell YOU how to implement it.

Unfortunately, it takes about 3 weeks of working with just such a person (sometimes less) before you discover that you’re dealing with this type of individual.  One thing I’ve noticed is that this type usually has a lot of trouble with the whole “blogging” thing.  They blog for a bit and then “run out” of inspiration.

See, it’s one thing to know something so you can repeat it: it’s quite another thing to learn to apply it.  That is what happens at the school of Hard Knocks a.k.a. SHIT FLINGER U.

They say that wisdom is learning from someone ELSE’S mistakes.

Oh how I wish I were wise.

I wish I had learned my lessons from others who have been battered and bruised.   That’s why, when I find a blog like Cath Lawson’s, I subscribe to the RSS feed IMMEDIATELY!

Unfortunately, I’ve learned most of my “lessons” by jumping off the ledge and discovering AFTER I landed that the pile of straw which was supposed to cushion my fall was not only “used” instead of “fresh” but also filled with hypodermic needles and sometime machetes!

As I look back over my experience as a small business owner, I recognize that the struggles are indeed what have made me a valuable resource for my clients. There’s no lesson more valuable than the one you can learn from the man or woman who stands before you, covered in bruises and smelling of feces.

The problem is, when presented with the choice between the perfectly manicured, well dressed guide who is driving a Porsche and the Sherpa who’s dirty and smells funny – most of us will choose Ken and his sweet ride.  That’s fine if you’re touring Miami – it’s not the best choice if you’re scaling Mt. Everest.

I guess that is yet another reason you need to know where you’re going before you pick your guide!

What Can You Do “Out of the Box”?

I’ve recently been reminded that sometimes, selling a service isn’t all that different from selling a physical product. When buying toys for Christmas morning, the three little words that strike terror into a parent’s heart are SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED.

When it comes to hiring help, the similar phrase SOME TRAINING REQUIRED causes equal dread.


Since I’m not looking for more involvement with the IRS, the last thing I want to do is to hire any “real” employees. I prefer to work with fellow freelancers. I’ll 1099 you… you can 1099 me. When I hire you, I won’t tell you when, where and how to complete the project and you do the same for me. That way, we can avoid W-4, W-2’s and any other W forms that might indicate a more significant relationship than we really have. That more “significant” relationship would mean that I have to pay federal withholding, FICA, Medicare, workman’s comp and the other delights associated with a formal “employer/employee” relationship.

I recently got an email from someone who used to work for a client of mine. She had heard I was busy and wondered if I needed help. After all, she’s eager to learn and I could easily TRAIN her to do what I needed done.

Let me get this straight… I’m busy doing work for people who are paying me money to perform certain services. You want me to teach you how to provide those services. I’m to invest my uncompensated time (which is currently filled performing services for people who PAY ME) into training you so I can then PAY you to do those services for me?

Not that I haven’t tripped lightly down that path a time or two or ten over the past 12 years. At one point, I was burning through sub contractors at an alarming rate. I am surprised how many self proclaimed freelancers I’ve hired who then expected to be trained to do the job they told me they could perform. Something I found even MORE alarming was the number of people who expected me to pay them on an hourly basis as they learned a new skill.

Asking an employer for training is something you can expect as an employee. As a freelancer, you had better come to me ready to work right out of the box with minimal supervision… just as the IRS requires.

As a business owner, you expect to train your employees to do a specific task which they will perform for you on a regular basis. When you hire someone to run the cash register, you don’t hire those people on an “as needed” basis.

“Jan! Hey, it’s me. I’ve got a customer here getting ready to check out. Can you run into the store and ring up this sale for me?”

That’s not how business supposed to work. (Although I have shopped at a couple of stores where that appeared to be the business model.)

I don’t need someone to run the register. I do sometimes need the services of other freelancers to help carry the load. That’s when I recognize the value of trustworthy contractors.