Oh, God… not another “marketing manifesto!”
I know, right?
So cheesy, so overplayed.
But really, I don’t know what else to call it. It is a manifesto and it’s one whose time has come.
I’ve been involved with blogging since 1999 and since then I’ve helped many, many people create and improve their blogs. It made a lot of sense to focus on people who were using blogging as a way to educate and attract customers for their business. Because that group of people was way underserved at the time, and business owners understand the value of investing in themselves and their business. I was the one guy talking about “business blogging” long before “content marketing” became the buzzword it is today (and probably even before most anyone else was talking about business blogging at all, but I’m not sure I could prove that).
I’ve also had a long-standing love-hate relationship with marketing and advertising. On the one hand, I am hopelessly attracted to it: I love great marketing and I get excited when I see a great commercial or awesome packaging design. On the other hand, bad marketing makes me cringe. Marketing can just as easily make me sick to my stomach and make me feel ashamed to even be a part of it. Because so much of it is just blatantly manipulative and disingenuous. It’s bad in the sense of being evil, not bad in the sense of poorly done.
Technique is no respecter of intent
Technique is no respecter of intent. Some of the techniques can be used to present a clear case and educate a prospect in an empathic and ethical manner can also be used by cult leaders to manipulate and control their followers.
With every major social media service that’s been created and which has any real traction, I’ve noticed a “seek and devour” behavior pattern by marketers. You see the same events play out: service is created and everyone enjoys using it according to how its founders intended, and then… the marketers move in and start their incestuous circle-jerk echo chamber bullshit. The most recent big example of this is Pinterest. All the “how to market on Pinterest” stuff I see now is just sickening to me because everyone is repeating the same shallow, worthless bullshit “tips.”
And as if that weren’t enough…
If I were just starting out in the world of online business and wasn’t very technically savvy, I would be absolutely terrified. The choices and options available are dizzying and marketing predators are on the hunt for fresh meat.
And is it just me, or does it seem most people trying to sell you marketing advice can’t figure out whether they should be talking about marketing… or some woo-woo self-help bullshit steeped in the fetid sewage of The Secret and its ilk? It’s like all some people care about is being some kind of “guru” or something. Only instead of starting a cult they try to sell you their crappy ebook at the end of a “free” webinar that’s nothing more than a pitchfest for said crappy ebook.
Most of the articles I see online all may as well have the same headline:
“Top 10 Ways to Trick Yourself Into Thinking You Did Something Meaningful”
The content of these articles is so shallow you simply cannot take any real action based on it. It literally doesn’t tell you anything useful. These articles are the online equivalent of having a meeting at work: people think going to the meeting itself constitutes “work” and “doing something” when of course it doesn’t and nothing really gets done and everyone’s time was wasted.
But it felt good!
And that’s the thing: these shallow articles make you feel good. Clicking that Like or that retweet button makes you feel like you did something. If you click the Like button for a charity and share it with others but do not donate any money, did you really do anything meaningful? Oh, maybe someone else you shared it with will donate, but not you?
Good job. Sleep well tonight, hero.
But it seems these are the articles which get all the shares, all the likes, all the blog comments (most of which also amount to nothing real or meaningful because it’s just marketers marketing to marketers…).
So you can see why I get a little sick of marketing, sometimes, and yet there are principles and dynamics at work in it which absolutely fascinate me: why are people sharing an article? How do sell something without selling your soul or just leaving money on the table? How can you truly understand people so you can help them out?
I feel like I’m trying to find high ground in a flood of inanity and bullshit. I feel like there is pressure to follow suit because it’s “what works.” But there are a few of us on this high ground, a rag-tag band of rebels against the flood of bullshit. There is indeed such a thing as “the real thing.”
Blog marketing and dishonesty just don’t mix
One of the reasons why I believe you can market yourself and still make money without selling your soul is that the most successful blog marketing is just too honest and personal. Successful blog marketing is educational rather than manipulative. One of the oldest sayings around is: “an educated customer is the best kind of customer.” Research into how people buy online shows that if you can become the source of that educational information, chances are very good you’ll also get the sale. When people are first striving to educate themselves about an impending purchase is the best time for you to help them.
It takes effort and soul to reach deep inside for this kind of work, which may be why you don’t see it too much.
Blogging is not a tool
Blogging is not some tool in a toolbox you pull out and use. Blogging is a way of life. Blogging will change you (almost always for the better). This is a huge part of why blogging became the cornerstone of what we now call content marketing. I guarantee that if you blog for any length of time, it will change you. Don’t start if you don’t want to change.
You have to remember that we’re dealing with people, not tools, not channels, not targets. Real blogging has a way of drawing people closer together, of making us better human beings. I think that’s amazing, and it’s one of the reasons I’m still involved in blogging after all this time.
Selling vs. buying
People hate to be sold, but they love to buy.
We’ve all heard that expression so many times it may have lost its impact. But it exactly pertains to the issues I’m talking about here, so let’s break it down and maybe look at it with renewed understanding.
People hate to be sold.
Nobody loves pushy salespeople. Nobody enjoys realizing they are the target of manipulation. When you “try” to sell you encounter resistance, which, in sales training, you are taught to think of as objections which you must then overcome. But by that time it’s probably too late. When people really want to buy something, they don’t have any objections. They can’t throw their money at you fast enough, in fact. Bad marketing makes people feel as though they are being sold to.
Selling is what happens when you feel pressured to buy something, and you are aware of this pressure separately from your level of interest in the purchase. Like watching a play and something happens where suddenly the audience and the actors are aware of each other. The illusion is broken that you were immersed in another reality with real people: you are keenly aware that looking at actors on a stage, instead of the characters they were playing.
That’s what being sold to feels like.
But they love to buy.
Oh, God, do they love to buy. But how does this situation happen, as opposed to being in a situation where a person feels pressured to buy something? When you encounter something you love to buy, you don’t feel manipulated. You don’t feel you are being targeted. You don’t feel you’re being “marketed to.” It is simply the most natural and obvious thing in the world that you should buy whatever it is RIGHT NOW and you cannot wait to have it. Good marketing means people love to buy what you’re selling without hesitation. It means you’re wrapped up in the lives of the characters in the play and you’ve completely forgotten that they’re actors on a stage.
At its best, buying happens when you have an inexplicable feeling of “rightness” and you absolutely must have something. Think about all those people waiting in line to buy the newest iPhone or iPad from Apple when it comes out. They don’t feel marketed to or manipulated by Apple: they can’t wait to throw their money at Apple and have their magical talking picture box of wonder.
When you see copywriting or marketing advice teaching you various “techniques” or “tricks” do you get the feeling that the subtext here is “we know people don’t really want what you’re selling so here’s how you can trick them into it?” That’s what being sold feels like.
If you feel like you couldn’t possibly explain your purchase to someone else (especially someone whose disapproval you fear) without sounding like a chump, you’ve been sold.
Helping & educating is not selling
Or at least, it’s not selling in the way people normally think about selling. People will buy from those who help and educate them over those who pressure them into a purchase. Selling is not the same as having something for sale. Educating and helping people is a far better sales tool than selling is. Especially in today’s search- and social media-driven online world. Why? Because customers are in control. They are in the driver’s seat. When they have an inkling that they might want or need something, they look it up and begin to educate themselves so they make a sound purchase. Or they may inquire of their friends and family for a recommendation. Or they may do both.
I’m not the only one
I’m not the only one who’s sick of the shallow “content marketing” ploys, the scammy snake-oil marketing techniques ported over to the online world, and the guru lifestyle bullshit. I’ve studied them and I know what they are. Hell, I’ve even studied the mind control techniques that cult leaders and dictators use. Why? Because knowing how you can be manipulated helps you defend against it. It also helps you understand if what you’re doing is the right thing or not.
Perhaps you, too, have looked into learning how to market your business only to realize that most of it encourages you to act in ways that go against your own principles.
You still need business! You still need to sell whatever it is you’re selling. You still have to pay your bills and put your kids through school and all that other stuff. Can you do it without selling your soul? Can you do it without getting wrapped up in some kind of embarrassing pseudo-mystical bullshit you don’t believe in just because you want to be ethical? Can you say “abundance consciousness,” anyone? Don’t make me gag.
I think you can sell your stuff without selling your soul. I sure hope so, because that’s exactly what I’m going to try like hell to show you how to do, here on Remarkablogger. And blogging (which, remember, changes you for the better) is the cornerstone of it all.
It’s time to go deeper
When I bring up these issues in conversation with people around the web, I feel the raw hunger people have for something real and something deeper than what they’re getting is primal. They want it and they’re not getting it. They are promised it but everywhere they turn, the promise is a bait-and-switch for yet another (more expensive) option (this time we have the real secrets!).
It’s like we’re drowning in the shallow end of the pool.
I say it’s time to go deeper. To educate, not manipulate. That’s my main goal on Remarkablogger.
I hope you’ll join me.
The best way to stay updated on the content I’m producing is to get on my email list. If you feel you haven’t yet seen enough of my content to make that decision, take your time. The form for the list will be on every page of the site.
I use my email list to notify you when I publish a new post. But more than that, I also use it to—gasp!—email you. As in: I may want to see what you think about something. I may have an offer you’ll like, such as an ebook or really useful software that makes your life as a blogger easier. Most of these things will be free, but not all of them. These are in the minority and as helpful to you as possible because my primary goal is education, not money… it’s just that not everything can be free. I’m very up-front about this.
Email is a very personal thing, which is why we guard access to our inboxes so carefully. If you’re willing to risk allowing me in your inbox, I will do everything I can to gain and keep your trust and respect. You’re always welcome to reply to any email I send. I absolutely love having these conversations. Your questions, suggestions, and even complaints are all very welcome. You are my “people” (sorry, but I just hate the word tribe anymore) and I can’t get enough of you!
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About Michael Martine
I’ve always been a forward-looking person. In the 90s when the internet became a thing anyone could use, I was all over it. I learned HTML and how to make websites. A funny thing happened: in learning about website design I couldn’t help but learn about marketing, since that’s the purpose of most websites. I’ve always had a tremendous fascination with advertising and marketing, so this was a natural fit.
In the late 90s blogging burst upon the scene and I jumped right in, because it looked like so much fun: a personal publishing platform you managed completely over the web? Hell and yes, sign me up. I joined Blogger back before it was owned by Google (trivia point: the guy who founded Blogger also founded Twitter).
I created a blog called Google Video of the Day which was exactly what it sounded like, but get this: there was no YouTube then. There were no easy embedding codes to copy and paste. It was all a very hands-on labor of love. I had to download screenshots of the videos and then upload them as images in the posts, which linked back to the video page. The idea was to find the absolute weirdest, mind-blowing or funny stuff I could and post that, and write snarky comments about it. After a while, I had over 6,000 subscribers and was making anywhere from $200 – $400/mo. in AdSense.
Then I started a new career path as a computer software trainer (actually, it was people I trained… ha ha). I did that for over ten years and it taught me a hell of a lot about how to explain technology to people in plain English (ever try to teach an old lady how to use Windows? or the internet?).
During this time I began to hunger for something better. Something more free and independent. So I started Remarkablogger (the name was inspired by this Seth Godin speech on being remarkable) and began building up a blog consulting business on the side. Well, soon, the “side” became the “main.” Between Remarkablogger and my job, I was working 60 – 80 hours a week. The income from blog consulting was set to eclipse my regular job so I knew the time had come to say goodbye to the 9 -5.
It’s been a hell of a ride since! And I’m still having fun and I wouldn’t trade it back for a regular job again, ever.