I've been noticing a trend lately that's starting to aggravate me a little. And I hope you can bear with me throughout this rant, as I do expose a few inside tips for you in the process.
This trend is one that speaks not only to the state of business (and online marketing), but also to the character of some of the people running them.
Warning! This article is not sugarcoated. It's a lament of sorts, and uses language that is a little stronger than the norm. The lesson might even disappoint a few people. So if you're looking for some kind of feelgood Pollyanna or rose-colored criticism, back away now. You've been warned.
So, what's this trend? It's…
… scarcity thinking.
Let me backup a little. You see, I'm in the service industry. Sylvie, my lovely fiancée, is in the service industry too. I do copy for clients while she provides marketing and customer support assistance. Often, for the same clients.
And as such, we provide services for a fee.
Services are rendered, clients are billed and we expect payment. That's our business. That's how we profit. And that's what we absolutely love to do, too.
Unlike most other copywriters or contractors out there, we have a track record of not only creating results for our clients but also working hard to serve other people and help make them a killing while we're at it, all the while earning a modest living doing so.
That's OK, since it's something we love to do, and what attracts us to this industry that has been so kind and generous to us. We are giving back to it, whether it's in the form of help, products or services. And that's the key lesson I want to convey here.
(But I'll get back to it shortly.)
It's kind of ironic though, in some poetic way, that we help transform some people into millionaires — or help existing ones make millions more — while we charge very little for it, which only amounts to a fraction of their winnings. That's fine too, since choosing us and our fees is part of what makes them profitable in the first place.
We want to see our clients succeed as much as we want to succeed. It's an exhilarating feeling, really, when our clients achieve success with our help — the kind of success so many aspire to.
And that's why we charge the fees we charge — and clients pay us handsomely, and willingly, for our help. Personally, I charge $10,000 for a salesletter rewrite, and $15,000 for a brand-new salesletter. And I no longer take on clients directly, although I do run an agency where I outsource, supervise and personally review copy work for clients.”
Recently, however, we are slightly changing course somewhat for a variety of reasons. Beyond being service providers, which we will continue to be, we are also marketers ourselves. We're all marketers. But we have become more so in recent times.
You see, lately Sylvie and I decided to focus more on selling our own products so we can start making some of the same kind of money, and reach the same levels of success, our clients are enjoying with the help of our skills, services, knowledge and assets.
These assets include experience, education and failures we have both paid dearly for, including many years of hard labor absorbing countless losses and making huge financial investments into our own education.
(I remember when I first started out, I wrote a lot of copy for free or for pittances, and did so for many years until I learned and earned the chops that allowed me to charge the outrageous fees I charge today. Sylvie is certainly no different.)
And now, as a result of all that hard work, Sylvie and I are cranking out products of our own and speaking all over the world. For example, our next gig is in Atlanta, then Los Angeles, Las Vegas, London (UK), Baltimore, the UK again, and so on.
She speaks on outsourcing, I do on copywriting. And together we speak on creating products and content sites using shortcuts we've learned and tested.
In fact, being service providers, we have a unique privilege and perspective not too many other marketers out there have. That is, working closely with these million-dollar clients, we have amassed a wealth of strategies and an intimate knowledge of what works… and what doesn't.
We see a lot of what goes on behind the scenes. We get to see what a lot of marketers don't. And we are also privy to their failures — as well as their successes. Hiring us (or buying our products) is like working alongside these top marketers and getting a chance to peek inside their minds.
However, this is where it gets sticky.
Here's the thing: what irks me and pisses me off to no end is that, while we're successful implementing some of the products, tools and strategies we've learned, and while we speak on how these strategies have helped us make a lot of money too, many people of late seem to have taken advantage of us because of it.
I'm talking about abusive clients.
Yes, it's abuse, pure and simple. Perhaps not consciously ill-intended, but nevertheless disrespectful, harmful and selfish.
You see, they think that, since we're “successful,” then we can accept and tolerate low fees, demanding clients, exacting work and belligerent people in our service businesses.
To them, we can “take it” on the chin. We should accept that they can negotiate with us to no end, ask us for unlimited free work, milk our generosity and willingness to serve them for everything they can, and… even decide NOT to pay their bills!
No, not because they think we don't deserve it (not at first, anyway), but because they try to drop their own crises into our laps. Including crises that have nothing to do with the projects we were working on.
Case in point: one of Sylvie's clients has refused to pay his bill. Going back and forth with extremely long emails (sometimes 4-5 times longer than this very post!), they minutely dissect every little discrepancy, every little detail, every little gray area, every little mistake (and that's perceived mistake) — only to justify not paying their invoice in the end.
Granted, we're not perfect. We do screw up from time to time. But in this particular case (and in many others), we didn't. In other cases where we did, we promptly refunded, extended, resolved or overdelivered as much as we could.
But with this particular client, we've presented mounds of documentation to prove that everything was done exactly as requested. After spending hours reading their emails and trying to make sense of it all, something hit us.
After some investigation, we discovered that the client lost money in the stock market recently, and that's why they are fighting their bills with tooth and nail. But rather than courteously asking for an extension or some kind of consideration, they are wiggling themselves out of charges for services rendered.
Even worse, they are vilifying us in the process.
Sadly, it's not their unwillingness to pay. It's their inability to pay, and thus their excessively fussy attempts to avoid paying their bills, and even condemn us as final resort — even threatening us.
(After we confronted them about their recent losses, they have seemingly “disappeared” from the face of the earth. Ugh.)
The bottom line is that they're expecting us to pay for THEIR mistakes and losses and poor business decisions, including losses that have, indirectly, nothing to do with the projects we helped out with. They expect us to take a loss ourselves.
As service providers, we have contractual agreements and obligations. We have fulfilled ours with the expectation that they fulfill theirs. But we never agreed to share in their profitability. We're contractors, not investors or partners.
Do you ask for a refund from your lawyer, even if you lose your case? Do you expect to refuse to pay your doctor's bill, even if you're still sick? (Try telling that to a collection agent.)
Just as much as a lawyer is not responsible for winning your case or a doctor for your good health, we are not responsible for how our clients run their businesses — and how profitable they become. There are too many variables, and we are not intimately involved in how they run their businesses.
Sure, we have a stake in our clients' successes. If we didn't, we wouldn't last long in this business, believe me.
But why would we be motivated to accept the mere pittance we're paid for our time? Why would we be willing to serve others, incur huge expenses ourselves and even bend over backwards — often, unbeknownst to our clients?
Why would a master marketer like us bother helping others — not just with products but with our time and energy in providing services, when our time and energy could be better spent on creating products ourselves?
Because, quite simply, we remember how it was in the beginning for us. And that's why we're motivated to help people and train them on the shortcuts we've learned, because we were where they are. We know how it is to take risks, learn the ropes and lose a lot of money while waiting to become profitable ourselves.
Think about it.
Would you call up someone like Armand Morin and tell him:
“Armand, we want you to help us for the next two months, call us every day and spend hours on the phone going through minute details with us on everything you do, record and give us every step you take, and we won't pay you until we're profitable, OK? Heck, we reserve the right to come back to you a year down the road and ask you to fix things, and we ‘may' pay you then, if we have money.”
You wouldn't expect someone like Armand to wait to get paid, even if he offered such a service in the first place. So then, why us?
Look at this analogy: both Sylvie and I used to be in the food industry as a waiter and waitress. How logical would it be if, after a day's work cleaning off over 50 tables, we don't get paid, and get a call two or three weeks later from our bosses, saying, “Hey, you forgot a table, come back and clean it” (or “I'll dock your pay”).
Or worse still, “Some of your tables are dirty, so you need to come back in and do it again… and after that, I'll ‘think' about paying you, perhaps in a few months if and when I get enough business.”
First of all, that would be illegal. But legality aside, it's also downright abusive. In fact, if you think that analogy is a little far-fetched, let me make this more logical and believable for you.
What if, as part of our job, we had to deal with belligerent customers who denigrate you constantly, and even get our paychecks docked to pay for the freeloading thieves who leave the restaurant without paying? Heck, what about people who leave and fail to pay their bills because the food was bad or “didn't satisfy their hunger” as intended?
(And therefore hurting the profits of the restaurant owner, even though it was never the waiter's fault?)
Believe me, it did happen, and does happen in the food industry more often than you think.
By the way, how we are treated says a lot about people. There was an interesting article recently in USA Today about how CEOs assess their staff based on how they treat waiters and waitresses. It's a very interesting read. Click here to read it.
Anyway, speaking of “not being partners” with our clients' businesses, admittedly, in some cases, we are partners and do agree to a profit share, such as royalties or joint-venture deals. But “vampires” are not limited to clients, either.
In other words, it doesn't just include the many clients who try to wiggle their way out of paying fees and contractual obligations, as well as those who conspicuously try to usurp extra work from us (for free), sucking our time, energy, good faith and generosity.
Even joint-venture partners of late have failed to pay our agreed share, negotiate terms after the fact, attempt to pay us a smaller share for a plethora of reasons that have nothing to do with our own businesses, and hound us for an excessive amount of time, energy and use of our assets in the process.
If I told you how many clients and joint-venture partners out there owe us money, you'd fall flat on your face. The total is equal to or more than a year's salary of some well-paying waiter's job working in a five-star restaurant. Including tips.
Now, here's what's sad about this.
We also have our own losses, expenses and businesses to run. We also have employees and contractors to deal with and pay for.
We also have to pay our bills and run a business out of our own pockets, as well as take risks and absorb losses in the interim — with the full expectation that we're getting paid, particularly after services have been rendered and credit has been allotted to these clients in the beginning.
But unfortunately, some clients and joint-venture partners expect us to take an even greater loss on their behalf. So we become responsible for their businesses, too, in some disjointed way.
But hey, we're rich and successful, right? Sure, we can take it. We're big enough. We can lose a few thousand dollars here and there. No problem! Heck, we're so rich, we can even take care of the national debt and obliterate world hunger in the same fell swoop. I mean, why not? Our clients are trying to run their businesses and we're not. They have problems and bills and staff and expenses, and we do not.
We just do this for fun.
Not only that, just like in any business, some of our contractors, partners and staff are incompetent, too. While we may be privy to our clients' failures as well as their successes, we too have our own to deal with. With the little (but huge) successes we achieve, we also suffer as many failures. And lose as much money.
But that's not our clients' problems. They're ours.
And that's exactly the point.
Some of our employees and contractors have to be trained, paid for, and sometimes even let go, either due to incompetence and failure to efficiently complete tasks given (in addition to hiring other workers to get the job done for our clients, we still have to pay for their services rendered!)…
… or because of their incessant whining and complaining that “we're not paying them enough.”
Believe me, it has happened.
In fact, we have some people who used to work for us, and now work for our clients. They literally stole our clients. Granted, some have with our reluctant approval because we are understanding and generous folk, but others try to with malicious intent only to “get back” at us. Even when they were paid above industry averages and our contracts included non-compete clauses!
Worse still, some who now work for these clients have now barricaded us from them, vilified us using (and spinning) proprietary information against us, convinced our clients to switch us for competitors, or given us a bad name so that the client would no longer use our services let alone not pay their bills with us.
It gets even worse.
Some clients, such as my copywriting clients, have come back for revisions to their copy almost a year after the project was hired — and similar to the freeloaders above who dissect their bills to no end, these copywriting clients nitpick their projects, negotiate endlessly and meticulously tear apart promises made squarely and solely to take advantage of us.
Just so you understand, here's a little history: over a year ago, I fired all my vampire clients at the time. I refunded over $60,000 of projects I either had pending or already completed, only to stop the hemorrhage and their attempts to keep grinding away.
And now, even with that decision, they are strangely resurfacing and creeping back into my business.
What's worse is not that I've allowed them to “resurface” (I'm very selective with my clients and have been since that time), but that some good, regular clients who have acted in good faith, even for years and well before I fired my vampire clients, have now mutated into these resource-sucking beasts.
In addition to the fact that we're still owed a ton of money in unpaid bills and commissions from joint-venture partners, and refunded close to $100,000 in fees in the last year alone (either out of good faith or to get rid of vampires), some, to this day, still try to bilk us — and milk us — for everything they can.
It's infuriating to say the least.
But, there is a positive lesson in all this.
In the final analysis, being service providers gives us a lot of advantages over the average marketer, but it also puts us at a disadvantage. We're prime targets, now. And sad to say, it speaks volumes about the character of some of the people out there.
Granted, people who understand the underlying principle I wanted to teach you today — yes, there is a lesson in here — give us no problems at all. But it's not because they're easy to work with. It's because they know the power of this important lesson.
They may expect top quality, and get top quality as much as we possibly can, but they do so with, and because of, the clear understanding of this powerful yet simple principle.
So, what is it? What is this marketing principle that can help you in your business? What positive can you pull from this lamenting (albeit therapeutic) diatribe you were so gracious to read up to this point? Simply, it's this…
The law of karma.
Quite simply, “what goes around comes around.”
Call it “karmic marketing” or “marketing karma.” The concept is, what you give out will come back to you. And often, it multiplies along the way. So if you're generous with your time, energy and of course money, it will be paid back to you. Often, in spades.
(It has for us. We've seen this happen in our businesses, and it shadows the little handful of negative situations expressed in this article. And we thank the Universe for the many blessings we received as a result.)
However, if you give out negativity, it will come back and bite you, too. And sometimes, it can bite really hard. But whatever you do put out, realize that it can either bite you or bless you.
The choice is yours.
Whether you have a scarcity mentality or an abundance mentality, it pervades in everything you do. It shows in your articles, in your teachings, in your relationships, in your friendships and in your businesses. And of course, in how you hire, treat and pay other people, too.
To me, I believe all the seemingly negative things that are happening lately are lessons. Things that tell us a lot and teach us a lot. Blessings in disguise, if you will. And it is my sincere hope that you see those, too. (Including the crises and problems and losses in your own business.)
Everything, including the good stuff, teaches you somehow — and will come back to you when you grasp this amazing concept. From giving great service, teaching and helping others, and bending over backwards, to processing refunds when asked, paying bills quickly, and above all, accepting that good work is worth every penny. (And in the end, you really do get what you pay for, including what you fail to pay.)
Sure, we're all human. We screw up as much as the best ones out there. (Perhaps that's our karma.) But we do recognize it and realize it, and we don't mind doing what we can, in our power and within reason, to resolve it.
But there's a difference between trying to fix an error, correct a mistake or resolve a dispute, versus trying to dig for errors, exaggerate mistakes and create disputes out of thin air only to justify one's scarcity mentality.
What you give out comes back to you.
Sometimes, many, many times over.
So, what can you do?
Admittedly, business is business is business. But have, or strive at getting, an abundance mentality. Do as much a you can to overdeliver. Try to understand people's situations before you jump to conclusions. Treat everyone with respect and dignity. Never take advantage of others. Always strive for win-win.
And above all, be generous with your time, your energy and your money, as it will all come back to you — sometimes in surprising and unexpected ways.
Here's a quote from Jim Rohn I've had hanging on my wall for years. It's a great quote because it also applies to abundance thinking. The gist of it goes something like this: “While some are studying the roots, others are picking the fruits. Success depends on which end of this you get in on.”
As a final note, if you want to know how to be a “sweetie” and apply the laws of karmic marketing to your business, a great resource is my friend Alice Seba's product on how to become an Internet marketing sweetie and, if you're an affiliate or JV partner, affiliate marketing sweetie.
Get these products. There are some great lessons in there and remarkable insights into the world of abundance thinking. Your newfound abundance mentality will pay incredible dividends for you and your business.
And that's a promise you can “take to the bank.”
Michel Fortin is a senior marketing specialist, renowned copywriter, and digital marketing expert. For the better part of 30 years, he's produced countless successful marketing communications and profitable campaigns that generated in excess of $300 million in sales. He's broken many industry sales records, including being instrumental behind the first ever “million-dollar day” online marketing campaign in 2004. He's worked with thousands of businesses and entrepreneurs around the world in a wide variety of industries on building their businesses, improving their marketing, and increasing their profits. He's a published author and often speaks at industry events. To connect with him, visit his LinkedIn profile where he is most active.