What Reality TV Shows Teach About Marketing

It's that time where that much-anticipated event is taking over our screens, social media feeds, and pop culture news.

Yes, it's the new season of The Bachelorette.

Something you may not know about me is that my wife has a nephew who's part of the 2020 lineup. Blake Moynes is the son of Emily Moura-Moynes (my sister-in-law, who is also an author, coach, and client of mine).

He's the dapper gentleman in the green suit on the right.

While I'm not a personal fan of the show, I think it teaches a lot about marketing.

Last night, as the show's premiere graced our screens, my wife's family were all huddled in front of their TV sets, posting Instagram and Facebook snaps with #teamblake as their hashtag.

It almost felt like when Portugal won the Euro Cup in 2016. (Sidenote, my wife's family, including Blake's mom, are of Portuguese descent.)

With The Bachelor/Bachelorette, the show is into its 30th season (the two shows combined). With six spinoff shows since its debut in 2002, it's obvious that millions of people are enamored with watching the drama, including the flings, heartbreaks, catfights, and occasional train wrecks — which, apparently, this latest season seems to be one, or so I'm told.

Much has been written on the topic, but to reiterate what writer Haley McDevitt wrote in Marketing Insider Group, the key takeaways are applicable to any form of content marketing.

Hers included “first impressions matter,” “know your worth,” “build anticipation,” “nurture your brand (and your community),” and more.

I agree with all of them.

But the one that stands out for me the most is “be authentic.”

On this show (or any other reality show), the most common reason for the downfall of any of its contestants is shadiness, inauthenticity, and outright lying.

Studies have also shown that when reality TV shows are obviously scripted, rehearsed, or unrealistic (which makes “reality TV” feel a little paradoxical), they do get a lot of traction — because, as McDevitt pointed out, the show thrives on relatable human experiences.

That's the power of telling stories in your marketing.

Losing out. Taking risks. Being rejected. Feeling elated. Being embarrassed. All of the normal things everyone goes through at some point — even when they're in a scripted context, they don't feel contrived or unbelievable.

That's authenticity. It's not about being real versus being fake. It's being vulnerable. Being genuine. Being willing to take risks. Even welcoming criticism and having a good dose of humility can be vulnerable.

I once wrote about authenticity is more important than transparency. Reason is, some companies and professionals believe that “radical transparency” is a sound marketing tactic. I don't think so.

As McDevitt also wrote, creating anticipation and playing with cards close to your chest is important to “stay in the game.” After all, if you reveal your cards too much or too early, you are giving away your strategy, showing desperation, and providing others ammunition that can be used against you.

I believe you can be tastefully candid without giving away the store. It shows vulnerability in your marketing, and communicates authenticity.

So be yourself. Be open. Take risks. And as McDevitt said so well:

“Avoid fluff, false claims, and insincerity. Be authentic, because your audience will see right through you.”

Haley McDevitt

Don’t Be Transparent, Be Authentic Instead

Some people tend to tweet, blog, post, and status-update their little hearts out. Be it on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, their own blog, or whatever. They say it's all about being “transparent,” and transparency is good.

But I think we need to be careful.

Transparency may seem trendy. It may seem noble or humble. But it's not necessarily wise. While we may be opening ourselves up for the world to see, we may be opening ourselves up a world of trouble, too.

In the mid-2000s and with the rise of social media, everybody and their dog seemed to be blurting out everything about everything. They were trying to “be transparent” without care or thought about the consequences.

Transparency Can Be Dangerous

Some dangers are obvious, like being robbed after publicizing you were out. Others are not as obvious, like being reprimanded for saying something you shouldn't have said, or even being fired for insulting your customers.

My contention is, too much transparency can come back and hurt you.

I agree that social media is a great place for developing and nurturing relationships, both with friends and clients. That's what the word “social” in social media means. Or what it should mean, anyway.

But as with all relationships, even when continuous, open communication is an important component, there should be a little mystique to “keep the flame alive.” A little room to allow for exploration and discovery over a period of time instead of all at once. Even in business.

In today's open world, privacy is more crucial than ever before. Why? Because transparent or not, everything you say online is permanent. It can be found and can be easily misinterpreted. Especially when taken out of context.

For example, I love Twitter's character limitations. But when a tweet is published as part of a succession of related tweets, as a response to another tweet, or as part of an ongoing conversation, a general search will turn up an incomplete message that may be misleading and counterproductive.

Candor and Honesty

The key is to know what to keep private and what to reveal. And whatever you do reveal, to think strategically so that what you say is properly said.

In short, it's knowing what to say and how to say it. To reveal the right things, in the right way. (Sounds a lot like copywriting, doesn't it?)

Do you need to tweet or blog about your failures? Not all of them, and not all the time either. Same thing with your successes. You don't want to give away the store — much less give away any ammunition that can be used against you.

Why is that? It's because, saying more than what you need to say makes you vulnerable and open to criticism, which in itself is not bad. But it may also communicate the wrong message to your audience.

There's a difference between authenticity and transparency.

Being transparent is fine. Being too transparent is not. Sure, go ahead and project trustworthiness, authority, and a willingness to share. Be candid and forthright. Be genuine and direct. Be humble and vulnerable.

But be strategic. Think twice about what you say. Because remember, scammers and competitors are watching you, too.

Perception of Transparency

Don't forget your clients, prospects, partners, and affiliates, too. If you're too open, you may be communicating you won't value their privacy, you can't keep secrets, and you're opening yourself up to abuse.

I call this an unconscious paralleled assumption. If you're too open with one thing, others might unconsciously assume you might be too open in other areas, too. You then seem like a greater risk to them.

Aaron Wall, author of The SEO Book, said it best: “Appearing transparent is profitable; being transparent is not.”

There's a difference between being open and being perceived as being open. Between being transparent and communicating a sense of transparency. Between being authoritative and being seen as defensive or self-absorbed.

Authenticity is saying things right. Authority is saying the right things. But transparency is saying everything. And saying nothing at the same time.

You don't need to say everything to be transparent, and you don't need to be transparent to be authentic and authoritative. Just say what you mean and mean what you say.

But don't say everything or else what you say will mean nothing.


Add Breadth And Depth To Your Marketing

Back from a short vacation. It was a beautiful week at a cottage by the lake. Most days were hovering around a warm 22° Celsius (72° Fahrenheit), but with a couple of frosty mornings that caused a dense fog to cover the entire lake.

It was absolutely gorgeous.

Before I left, I appeared as a guest on my client Ed Rush’s weekly video-based podcast. If you missed it, I’ve posted the recording and transcript.

Ed uses StreamYard, a service that allows him to livestream simultaneously on multiple platforms, and to pull in comments, questions, and guests in real-time. There’s also, which some of my other clients use.

Ed streams his podcast on YouTube, Facebook, and Periscope. But you can also restream on LinkedIn, Twitch, Twitter, Discord, Facebook Groups, and more.

Restreaming aside, there’s a reason why you might want to consider video as part of your inbound marketing and overall marketing strategy.

First, content marketing is one of the most effective marketing practices available. If you want to increase your visibility and grow your practice, you need to produce content. You don’t have to write it from scratch if you don’t have time. You can co-create, curate, or compile content.

Content marketing has many benefits.

Its value goes beyond simply communicating your expertise, which is the number one reason most professionals do it. It also improves your SEO, generates traffic, prequalifies your audience, promotes awareness, amplifies your brand, and much more.

There's written content, of course. But there are podcasts, too. If you're an entrepreneurial professional who wishes to grow her practice with the least amount of investment, you should consider doing one.

However, visual marketing is increasingly popular. In fact, statistics show that the highest performing types of content are those with visuals.

For example, accompany posts with featured images, as they create eye gravity and increase readership of the written content. You can also post photo-stories and social graphics with text art, where the image is the content.

Also, infographics, slides, and carousels help to convey longer forms of visual content if necessary — which increases both readership and engagement.

Above all, there’s video.

Short videos are easy to produce, and you can use them to showcase a product or service, a quote, an idea, a tip, a newsworthy item, a mini-tutorial, a demo, a tour, or a question.

You can (and should) dissect your longer videos, and pull out and edit them into bite-sized clips, which you can use to promote your website, your email list, your social platforms, or the rest of the longer video from which it came.

While it can be costly to have a video professionally produced, recording yourself while doing your podcasts can add an extra form of content you can use without much effort.

Some professionals I know simply read their written content on camera. Some will offer an accompanying slide presentation. Others will pause once in a while to add commentary, offer related resources, or answer questions about it.

Bottom line, visuals engage more senses.

By engaging more senses, you increase traction.

Studies show that visuals used in your marketing efforts increase:

  • Attention and engagement;
  • Retention and recall scores;
  • Reshares and comments;
  • Credibility and reliability;
  • Connection with audiences;
  • Comprehension levels;
  • Traffic quantity and quality;
  • Brand awareness and loyalty;
  • Response and purchases;
  • And so much more.

You don't have to create professionally produced videos. Simply record yourself reading a script. Or add an opinion or analysis about something you've read, or share a recent news item that's important to your audience.

You can stream it live and record the livestream for future publication.

You can also do the converse.

You can pre-record your video, edit it, and stream the recording at a later time. Some professionals I know restream a previously recorded video, and answer comments and chat questions live as the recording streams.

If you struggle doing live presentations, then follow a prompt, use slides, share your desktop, interview a guest, or have someone interview you.

Don't worry too much about the quality of your presentation. While you want to avoid making errors, with live events your audience will be more forgiving than some professionally produced video.

After all, it's live and no different than lecturing in front of a room of people.

It humanizes your content and shows authenticity, too.

Just offer valuable content your audience will love. The quality of the content is more important than the quality of the production.

Make sure every video you produce has a call to action, preferably your website address or email list, which should appear at the bottom of your video.

You should also include your brand, such as your logo or at least your name. If you prefer to be less overt, simply add a watermark tucked away in a corner, and you can include your website address in bumper cards (i.e., the before and after video thumbnails).

Then, distribute the video recoding through every channel, social media network, and video hosting site that your audience frequents. You don’t need to be everywhere, just be where your market happens to be.

Finally, the best forms of video content are webinars.

Webinars and online classes have grown considerably, particularly in light of the COVID lockdown. Use this to your advantage. Showcase your services by sharing your expertise. Host a class, live event, or how-to presentation.

Webinars help to promote your practice and attract potential clients. There are many web conferencing platforms, Zoom being the most popular one. You can also manage attendance using a variety of online tools — such as Facebook events and Eventbrite, among others.

Promote your webinar to increase attendance. Use your promotion as an opportunity to gather questions and content ideas. The incentive to join the class might be that you will answer a select number of attendee questions live.

After the presentation, upload the recording to your blog. Include a transcript too, since some prefer to read (or to read as they watch). In fact, you should include captions and subtitles, as statistics show that over 80% of people watch videos with the volume turned off.

Then promote and amplify it as you do any article.

Just remember, Google is the largest search engine in the world.

But the second largest is YouTube.

Back in 2004, I wrote a manifesto about the death of the long-scrolling, text-only web salesletters. I predicted they would become more dynamic, personalized, and visual — including the rise of videos in marketing.

And this was before YouTube came out in 2005.

Today, videos have become an integral part of any marketing program. So include video content somewhere in your marketing repertoire.

Video may add dimension to an otherwise static piece of content. But the best part is that it allows you to create derivative content, reach more people, and multiply your results, all with the same effort.


The 4 Pillars Of Power Positioning

Back in 2002, I wrote a book called Power Positioning. It was an expanded version based on my booklet, The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning, which I wrote back in 1992.

In it, I defined Power Positioning as a skillful blend of “the art of positioning” and “the science of direct response” because it has two goals:

  1. Attracting an abundant quantity of high-quality prospects, and
  2. Effectively converting those prospects into profitable relationships.

It stems from my artistic and analytical sides; those dueling parts of my brain that love the creative aspect of marketing as well as the logical one.

According to Trout and Ries who wrote the book on the subject, positioning (specifically, brand positioning) is to occupy a position in the market's mind above the competition.

But positioning is not a single marketing strategy.

It's doesn't stop at differentiating yourself or branding, either. It involves every aspect of your operations. Every process, every touchpoint, every message, and every person involved in your business are contributing to your positioning.

Once you have attained that position, however, you must keep it, amplify it, and exploit it, or better said, empower it (hence, the “power” qualifier).

To illustrate this point, I outlined four pillars.

1. Focus

First, the goal is to increase perceived value. The most common way is by narrowing your focus — whether it's focusing on who you serve (vertical specialization) or on what you do (horizontal specialization). Or both.

Another way is to define if not manufacture your most marketable, competitive edge, and then transform that edge into a compelling, memorable, and impactful message.

Then, you need to communicate that message, which can be done through branding, packaging (as in both the packaging people see, and the way services are packaged or productized), content marketing, copywriting, etc.

2. Target

Next, the goal is to find and target ideal clients that fit within your area of focus — people who are genuinely interested in and qualified for what you do or sell — takes more than just promotion.

You need to define a profile of your perfect client, i.e., a buyer persona, so you can precisely pinpoint where good, qualified prospects happen to be. Better to go after big fish in small ponds that chasing minnows in the ocean.

Targeting also includes crafting marketing messages, from your blog content to your ad copy, that directly speak to that perfect client.

3. Multiply

Then, the goal is to be prolific. Once you've defined your focus and your target, this step will become relatively easy. You will likely attract opportunities to spread your message. Almost effortlessly.

You want your message to spread by allowing others to market for you. To help them, you must create assets that others can use, such as publishing (writing a book, for example), public speaking, podcasting or guest-podcasting, etc.

To propagate your leverageable assets, you can also create tools and systems to fuel their propagation, such as creating strategic marketing alliances, doing cross-promotions, offering your own affiliate program, etc.

4. Direct

Finally, once you've positioned yourself well and attracted your ideal clients, you need to sell. But most professionals look at selling as transactional when it's neither a single event nor the result of one.

Every aspect of your operations is (or has the ability to become) a form of direct marketing. You're not asking for the sale at each step, but you're asking for something. Let's call them “micro-commitments.”

From building credibility to building relationships (and everything in between), selling takes place over time and through various steps that go beyond the transaction. Engaging your audience, asking for feedback, or simply asking for referrals. It's all selling.

A final point.

Many professionals have told me they've positioned themselves (either by specializing or highlighting something that distinguishes them), but they can't seem to get any traction.

A plane requires full throttle before it takes off. It needs full power, extra fuel, and ample acceleration to get enough lift for the initial climb. But once it reaches cruising altitude, the throttle can be eased off and the power cut back to half.

When positioning yourself, you will gain traction over time. But the initial momentum needs help. It needs leverage. It needs fuel. It needs power.

Narrow your focus to position yourself, be clear on who you want to target, multiply your marketing to expand your reach, and direct your audience along the way. And soon you'll be cruising.


My Name is Michael, I Got a Nickel…

OK, this post has been a long time coming.

For over a decade, people keep asking me, “So, what is it: Michel? Michael? Mike? Or what?” (I prefer “Master Overlord,” but I digress. Oh, and here's a little-known fact: a nickname high school kids gave me was “Spike.”)

My name is “Michel,” formally pronounced “Mee-shell.” Like Michelle Obama, for example. My late wife used to call me “Mish.” But when I introduce myself to English audiences or clients, particularly American ones, I don't pronounce it that way for several reasons.

My name is French-Canadian. I was born in Gatineau, Quebec. For those of you not familiar, Quebec is primarily a French-speaking Canadian province.

Anglophone Recognition of My Name

Canada is a bilingual country, so most anglophone Canadians will instantly know that “Michel” can be male or female. But after someone introduced me to my very first American client decades ago, he responded in a confused and disconcerting manner:

“What? But, you're not a girl!”

This confused me at first, since the female version of the name requires an “e” at the end. Similar to Italian, Spanish, or any other Latin-based language, words that end with “a” are female, and “o” (or the lack of an “e” in French) are male. Like “Gino” versus “Gina,” for example.

“Michelle” or “Michèle” is the female name, like Michelle Obama. But the “e” at the end is silent. In writing, if there's no “e” at the end, it's easy to recognize that it's a male's name. But when introducing myself in person with “Mee-shell,” it would confuse a lot of Americans.

This happened several times. More times than I cared to count. So at a certain point, I felt compelled to do something about it since I was tired of explaining myself. So today, I pronounce it “Michael,” which is my nickname, anyway.

“I Got a Nickel Shiny and New…”

As a child, my French-speaking parents nicknamed me “Michael.” I even remember when they bought me my first 45-speed vinyl record, which was “Playground In My Mind” by Clint Holmes. (The chorus goes, “My name is Michael, I got a nickel…”)

I also remember when I took English immersion in junior high school. (Boy, do I remember!) When the teacher asked us to introduce ourselves on the first day of school, I told my teacher, Sister Helen (yes, it was a catholic school and some of our teachers were nuns), that my name was “Michael.”

The principal was in class that day. (Coincidentally, his name was Michel, too.) And I remember Sister Helen looking at me, with a stern frown that Catholic nuns are notorious for, saying in her disapproving voice:

“Les noms propres ne sont pas traduisibles!” (“First names are not translatable!”)

Now, maybe she said that because the principal was around, and he was a proud francophone. Francophone Quebeckers are very protective of their language and culture. (They even instituted laws to do so.) Heck, if we spoke English in the hallways, we could get reprimanded. Even suspended.

(Long story made short, in the late 70s and 80s, there was a movement to secede from Canada, culminating in not one but two votes on Quebec independence. The government-funded school system definitely shared the anti-Canadian, anti-English sentiment.)

“Michael” is My Preferred Nickname

Nevertheless, I wasn't trying to translate my name or break any rules (it was an English immersion class after all). I was using the nickname my parents used so often — even when they didn't speak English.

I thought I was being smart by using it in class. (Luckily, Sister Helen was a lot gentler with me as time went on. I even became her teacher's pet.)

For a lot of French Canadians it seems, calling a Canadian francophone person by the English version of their name often ends up as a nickname. It's like a term of endearment, particularly when used by your closest friends and family.

For example, I had a friend named Jean and we called him “John”. Another, Caroline (pronounced “Caro-leen” in French), we called her “Caro-line” (the English way, which rhymes with “fine”). This was a very common practice.

(As a child, when my parents called me by my French name — that is, my proper name — it was an alarm bell because I knew I was in trouble for something! When I heard “Michel Guy Fortin!” I knew I was in trouble.)

So, I'm used to “Michael” and I prefer it. After all, it's my nickname. It's the name I use in business and I introduce myself with. Sure, it's spelled “Michel.” But I pronounce it, and prefer when people pronounce it, as “Michael.”

“Who is Like God” or Calling on God

So if you ever wondered, now you know. I hope this solves it once and for all.

By the way, Michael comes from Hebrew. “Mika-El” (where “Mika” is Hebrew/Aramaic for “Who is like” and “El” is God). It's a theophoric name, meaning that the bearer of the name is invoking the name's divine protection — like archangel Michael, who was the “protector and leader of the army of God.”

Nevertheless, here's a final thought. Most French Canadians are bilingual. In fact, many francophone Canadians incorporate English words in their day-to-day vocabulary. We call them “anglicisms.” (I know we did it alot as kids in both grade and high schools.)

Here's a perfect example. It's also one of my favorite vloggers (i.e., video bloggers) on the Internet. This guy is from Montreal and he produces videos with claymation and barbie-doll characters, with his own face superimposed. It's the funniest stuff I've ever seen!

If you're American or an anglophone Canadian, you'll hopefully grasp at least 50% of what this next video says. (Just the video itself is a riot!) And if you're Canadian or of French descent, let me warn you: you're going to roll on the floor laughing your posterior off. I know I did.

Here is an English version, however a lot of the jokes get lost in translation. But it's still quite funny.


Narrow Your Focus to Broaden Your Sales

In the competitive marketplace of the new millennium, the demand for specialized products or services will increase. If your site sells everything or to everyone, chances are that your audience will not perceive any greater value in shopping from you than anyone else.

The more generic you are, the greater your competition will be since you've placed your offering in the same ring as the Wal-Marts, Targets, and eBays of the world.

To borrow the fishing analogy, some people say that going after a larger market is casting a wider net. Not so. (The net is really your website.)

Rather, it's like fishing in a larger body of water where there are more fish, the fish are more spread out, and there are more competitors going after the same fish you are.

Unless you are trying to be another Wal-Mart, there's no point in competing with them. The sheer size of such big box Goliaths gives them a sizeable competitive advantage — particularly purchasing power, both in terms of products sold and advertising dollars.

In addition to being able to buy more ad space than small businesses can, they can buy their stock at considerable bulk discounts, ostensibly giving them the lower price-point advantage against which most small businesses cannot compete.

So how do you increase your sales in such a competitive, price-sensitive marketplace?

Before I give you some helpful ideas, let's talk about price for a moment.

Price is never an issue. What's important is the value behind the price. Price only becomes an issue when your value proposition is the same as those of your competitors.

When you're trying to compete with the big guns and there's nothing different about you, the lowest common denominator will be the price. And if there's nothing else to compete with or compare to, naturally the cheapest alternative wins.

Here's an example: you walk to your local home furnishings store. You ask the sales clerk, “How much for that washer?” to which he responds, “$600.” “Wow! That's a lot of money,” you exclaim. “The price is way too high for me. I just can't afford that.”

This is a typical knee-jerk response.

Moments later, you walk by a car dealership and notice that favorite new car you've been itching to buy for the last month and a half. You walk in. “It's $25,000,” says the salesperson. “Wow! That's great!” And you drive it off the lot that same day.

Now tell me, if you said you could not afford the $600 washer, then why could you afford the $25,000 car? Being able to afford something is not based on how much money you have but on how much money you're willing to spend. Big difference.

And how much money you're willing to spend is based on how much you want what is being sold, which in turn is based on how valuable the object of your desire is to you.

So, price is never an issue. Value always is.

Price is an arbitrary figure that merely represents the value of an offering. Affordability is often the result of both price and value matching up in the minds of the market.

In the case of the car, the perceived value matched or surpassed the price, which wasn't the case with the washer — i.e., the washer was too pricey based on its perceived value.

And perceived value is such a personal, subjective, and immeasurable thing.

Take the weather, for example. When you meet someone for the first time, the weather will likely be a topic of discussion. After all, the temperature is the same for everyone — 70 degrees is 70 degrees. But whether it's “hot” or “cold” is different for each person.

Similarly, price is a common currency to which most people can relate. That's why it's often the first thing people look for or want to talk about when considering a purchase.

The problem arises when price becomes the chief metric — and sometimes the only one — used because there's nothing to which one can compare your value. If there's nothing different about you, then price becomes a purchase criterion by default.

Of course, price is not the only metric, but it is the most common one. It's the lowest common denominator. Units of dollars make more sense than “units of value,” which is often more personal.

But I digress. Here's the point I wanted to make…

The more unique you are, the less competition you will have. The less competition you have, the less substitutable you are. And the less substitutable you are, the less important price becomes. (In business schools, they call this “price elasticity.”)

Being unique or different doesn't mean to be better than your competition. And claiming that you're better than your competition doesn't make you any different, either.

Why? Because, if you try to copy your competition, or trying to promote your offering as one that's better than your competition, like it or not you're only reminding people of that which you are better than… your competition!

It's better to be different than it is different to be better.

So don't compete on price — unless price is your competitive advantage. Compete on value. And one way you can do that is to narrow your focus (i.e., your message, website, copy, product, offer, or audience) on a smaller niche.

A lot of people tend to appeal to large markets with multiple or generic offerings in an attempt to secure more sales. Sure, doing so will likely help you to stumble onto a few who will visit your site and respond. That's the age-old law of averages.

For instance, sales managers motivate their staff using the law of averages. They say that the more “no's” you get, the closer to your “yes” you will be. So the trick to making more sales is to keep finding more people to sell to. Makes logical sense, right?

But the law of averages is wrong. (Not the law itself but its application.)

Sure, if you ask more people (other than improving your conversion rate), you increase the likelihood of making more sales. But if you qualify your audience more and target better prospects for your offering, chances are you will get more “yes'es” than “no's.”

It's the same as your website. If you increase your traffic, you will increase your sales. But that's not the problem. The problem with such an approach is the fact that you must generate a large number of visitors in order to produce a certain result.

It is absolutely true that, if you want a lot of sales, you want your site to be in front of as many eyeballs as possible. But what about quality? Would it matter if your site generates an incredible quantity of uninterested visitors that will simply never buy from you?

To find more effective and cost-efficient ways of selling online, then attracting a higher quality stream of website visitors — interested, pre-qualified, genuinely interested visitors who are ready to buy — is definitely a better alternative.

Sure, where you advertise is part of it. But I'm also talking about targeting your market with your message — and how congruent your message is with them in the first place.

The more focused you are on your market, the more congruent you will be. And the more congruent you are with your market, the greater the value you will communicate.

Conversely, the more general or broad you are, the more you will need to paint your website with broad brushstrokes in order to appeal to everyone. In the end, the traffic you do generate will be just as general or broad.

Even if your product is a perfect fit for most visitors, if you attempt to target everyone only a small percentage of your market will see that fit and take action.

Additionally, even if your product has mass-market appeal, the broad nature of your offer and the generic image you project will likely convey your value is equal to that of others, and there's no added value in buying from you than in buying from others.

Out of the small handful of qualified prospects that hopefully hit your site, a large number of them — if not all of them — will likely leave due to your apparent lack of empathy and understanding of their specific needs, goals, and concerns.

In short, dilute your value and you will dilute your sales.

As a sidenote, let me clear up another big misconception.

Some marketers tout that niche marketing is all about targeting smaller, denser markets. Not necessarily. Sure, it is the most common form — it's the easiest and most effective one, too, for beginning marketers. But niche marketing is not limited to niche markets.

The word “niche marketing” means a hole in the marketplace that needs to be filled. That hole still can be filled by a product with mass-market appeal, but one offered, sold, and delivered in a unique way or with a unique twist.

In other words, you don't have to just go after narrow markets to be a niche marketer. You can narrow your message, your theme, your product's features, your offerings, the results you promise, or a combination of any of these.

By narrowing your focus considerably lessens the need to produce a sufficient quantity of visitors to produce similar results.

Let me explain.

If you're an offline retailer, for example, being everything to everyone is understandable to a certain degree since, geographically, you invariably reduce foot traffic to your store.

Online, however, marketing to smaller niches can work well since a market will expand and is easier to reach.

But it's a double-edged sword. The web may increase your target market, but it also increases the competition as a byproduct. Again, cast your net in a larger body of water, and the likelihood you won't be the only one fishing in it will be higher.

Offline, location is important. And a competitor next door can be your biggest headache. But online, thousands of competitors have instantly become your neighbors.

Thus, niche marketing is even more important online since, by narrowing your focus, you both increase your target market and decrease your competition!

Let's say that your best client is the corporate executive earning $50,000 annually or more, and your site receives approximately 10,000 unique visitors per month.

If your site's message aims for the public at large, there will be only a small percentage of that ideal market that will hit your site. And an even smaller percentage will genuinely be qualified for, and interested in, your offering, too.

Let's say this percentage is 1%. That means that, out of 10,000 monthly visitors, only 100 will fit your perfect customer profile — and that's a very optimistic figure.

Since your site is too general or too vague, an even smaller percentage of those ideal prospects — say another 1% — will be truly interested in your offer and eventually buy. In this case, 1% of 100 qualified visitors would equal to one sale for an entire month.

Still following me so far?

Looking at it in reverse, it means that, if you want to achieve just one sale a month from this ideal market, your site will thus require at least 10,000 visitors monthly.

So based on the law of averages, to produce two sales you will need to double your traffic, and therefore double your advertising and marketing, to generate twice as many visitors — i.e., you need 20,000 visitors to make two sales, 30,000 for three, and so on.

In other words, you will need to multiply your marketing efforts exponentially in order to create a high enough quantity of traffic to yield acceptable results.

Now, take the example of another website dedicated exclusively to corporate executives earning over $50,000. However, this site receives a meager 1,000 visitors per month.

Admittedly, it's not a lot, especially when compared to the other. But in this case, the percentage of those 1,000 that fall into that site's target market will be 100% — that's around a hundred times better than the other.

Furthermore, the percentage of interested leads in a much better position to buy will be far higher by virtue of the fact that the site centers on their specific needs, goals, and concerns. The perceived value will be greater in the mind of those specific prospects.

To be conservative, let's say that this percentage is only 5%. It means that out of 1,000 visitors per month, one can achieve 50 sales — that's almost 50 times more sales!

But let's be a little more conservative for a moment. Let's say only 1% buys. It's still a remarkable improvement over the other, as 1% of 1,000 visitors equals to 10 sales per month — that’s almost 10 times more sales than the other with only a 10th of the traffic.

Of course, the above example is simplified and with all things considered are equal. I agree that there are many variables, here. And my math may be skewed a bit.

But the spirit of this illustration is clear.

By narrowing one's focus, it took an equal if not lesser investment of time, effort, and money to achieve as many as 10 times more sales than it did to achieve a single one.

Incidentally, when I first wrote this article a reader shared this interesting story with me that paralleled this example. It was from Jim Banks, who started selling carpets online in 1998. He admitted that, at the time, he knew nothing about it…

“I thought that it would be a non-competitive market (‘who would want to sell carpet online?' I asked myself) and it would allow me to learn about this whole new Internet thing.”

At first, Jim floundered…

“I showed carpet on the website, sent out samples, and used a wholesaler in Georgia to deliver the goods. I made some money, but it was a lot of hard work. In fact, a lot of hand-holding of customers was required, and my time was a limiting factor in how much money I could make.”

But then, Jim had an idea…

“I had read one or two of your articles at the time where you stressed the importance of niche marketing. And after thinking about that, and applying it to my industry, I came up with the idea of selling carpets and area rugs with children's designs (e.g., animals, letters, game boards, etc). Today, things are going very well!”

(That site, by the way, is I'm not sure if Jim Banks still owns it, but the site still exists. And, since it does, I imagine is still doing relatively well, too.)

Obviously, you should first find a niche and fill it. If not, then narrow your focus to a specific outcome, audience, theme, offer, or product. Or to continue the earlier fishing analogy, if you want to fish in a bigger lake, bring a sonar with you.

By zooming in on your market, you will proportionately magnify your sales.


The 10-Point Ethics Checklist

Today, Sylvie and I stumbled onto another bad “Internet marketing sin” perpetrated by an online marketer. This person is not as well-known, but judging from their style they're definitely a student of some of the top “gurus.”

When we shared this with our platinum coaching group, a member sent this amazing “10-point ethics checklist,” which he and his employees use in his company as guidelines in defining if a marketing or business strategy is worth doing.

That list is nothing short of brilliant.

With his gracious permission, Darrin Clement allowed me to reprint it here for you. I urge you to read it. Go through it when you're thinking about implementing a new marketing or sales tactic, or when you're about to buy into one. It's that powerful. Here's the list…

  1. The Golden Rule: Would I want people to do this to me?
  2. The Fairness Test: Who might be affected and how? Is this fair to everyone?
  3. The ‘What if everybody did this?' Test: Would I want everyone to do this? Would I want to live in that kind of world?
  4. The Truth Test: Does this action represent the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
  5. The Parents Test: How would my parents feel if they found out about this? What advice would they give me?
  6. The Children Test: Would I be willing to explain everything about this to my kids and expect them to act in the same way?
  7. The Religion Test: Does this go against my religion?
  8. The Conscience Test: Does this go against my conscience? Will I feel guilty?
  9. The Consequences Test: Are there possible consequences of this action that would be bad? Would I regret doing this?
  10. The Front Page Test: How would I feel if my action were reported on the front page of my hometown paper?

Are All Business People Dishonest?

Seems I'm ranting a lot these days, and a little more opinionated than the norm. Perhaps it's my back problem, which is killing me, that's making me more sensitive or irritable. I don't know.

But something someone recently said in my copywriters forum irritated me. And it's not what this person said specifically, but the mindset behind it that's bothering me.

In a thread about an Internet marketer who was recently arrested (yes, it had something to do with forced continuity, but it had more to do with refusing refunds and avoiding customers than it had to do with forced continuity itself), one member said:

“There is NO such thing as an honest business man. (…) Ask any accountant.”

Now, I have no clue as to why this person said this. And my opinion here is not about this person specifically. Again, it's about the thinking process that some people have when they make such assertions.

Personally, I believe this view of business people is skewed, off, and wrong. It's destructive, too.

In fact, copywriter Marcia Yudkin said it best. In her reply, she said this gem: “I feel sorry for you. That is a terrible philosophy to hold, hurtful to you and hurtful to the honest people who deal with you.”

Well said.

I know what the original commentator was trying to say, but I wouldn't have said “dishonest.” I believe the word choice is wrong because of the implication. Are all business people really dishonest?

Saying it that way can be easily misconstrued. And it can also be easily misinterpreted, too.

That's the power of words. That's what makes us copywriters, too.

We choose our words carefully. The words we use can be incredibly powerful — both good and bad.

If “dishonest” is referring to communications, I'll be the first to admit that we do exaggerate from time to time. We try to put our product in its best possible light. We focus more on the benefits than we do on the downfalls.

But you know, that's not reserved to business people only.

We do it when we try to explain a movie we love to our friends. Or when we bolster our ego talking about a great deal we got at the local store. Or when we court a potential life partner.

It's human nature.

Words have emotional impact. Even with the most logical, analytical people out there. Our choice of words can make or break the sale, whether the product is good or not. Just as words can make or break relationships, court cases, even wars.

For example, real estate agents will say they sell “homes,” not houses. Dentists will say they create beautiful “smiles,” not “teeth.” We tell stories to communicate a product's purpose or brand. We use words that paint vivid mental pictures.

(I recommend Seth Godin's book, “All Marketers Are Liars.” By the way, Seth is referring to the power of telling stories in marketing.)

But to say all business people are dishonest, and even implying that one should ask any accountant, is a terribly skewed vision of the world. And I'm speaking generally, not just about business itself.

Business people do try to make maximum profit with every transaction, and they will try to do it at the least amount of expense.

That's business.

The difference is, the honest ones will do so at the service of others, while the dishonest ones will do so at the expense of others.

Making a profit can be seen by a lot of people as “dishonest.” I'm a capitalist through and through, and I believe in win-win. I don't see anything wrong with mutually beneficial transactions, which is what business is and should be, in my opinion.

We sell products and services that benefit our customers. But just as much as we are responsible not to mislead, lie, or deceive, customers are just as responsible for their own lives, their own decisions, and their own actions.

What I have a problem with is, some people do see any kind of marketing, or any kind of selling, as dishonest.

And for some reason, that bothers me.

For example, in the same vein as “all business people are dishonest,” some have said, in the recent forced continuity debate, that all marketing is unethical.

They say that a product should sell by itself based on its own merit. And that marketing and selling (and to that I would add copywriting) exist because it's the only way to sell a poor product that can't sell itself.

Oh, really?

If so, then we must be all psychics, because we should know about all the good products in the world. We should rely only on word-of-mouth — we all have friends who will tell us what we need to know, right?

And we should all buy everything that “is good” (even though “good” is subjective and personal) solely because they alone merit our attention, our patronage, and our money.

Forget about life getting in the way.

Forget about competition.

Forget about our innate fear of loss.

Forget about the state of the economy.

Forget about the need for marketing to help better decide how we spend our money.

And forget our natural proclivities to want to be secure, to procrastinate, to avoid making bad decisions, and to save our money to buy only what we need — not what we want. (Goodness forbid we buy what we want, not what we need!)

Obviously, that's wrong. At least to me, it is.

My opinion?

(Here comes the rant.)

In my experience, people who think all marketing is unethical or that all business people are dishonest are usually people who feel everything should be free.

Now, I'm not trying to start a political debate regarding capitalism versus socialism. I'm talking about people who have a sense of entitlement, especially those who whine and complain all the time.

People who bitch about businesses exploiting them are just as much trying to exploit businesses themselves by always trying to find, or haggling for, a good deal.

This is called “projection.” (I'll come back to this in a moment.)

People who feel that they deserve great products and great customer service (which is a given and expected) but for the least amount of money possible.

People who feel they should get the most by working (or paying) the least.

These people who have a sense of entitlement blame others all the time, never take responsibility for their own circumstances, victimize themselves constantly, and whine all the time about how unfair the world is.

To them, not only are all business people dishonest and all marketing unethical, but also everything costs too much. They automatically assume that all marketing is a scam, and that they, in turn, will do their darnedest best to scam businesses, too.

They will suck them for freebies. They will never buy anything. They let coupons and deals dictate their lives. And they will be the first ones to pounce on any mistake a marketer makes — such as a grocery store accidentally pricing an item too low.

They're the ones who think, “if it's that good, then it should be cheap… Or free.”

They try to get the most by paying the least (now tell me, how different is that from the business owner who tries to make the most profit with the least expense?).

People who make such assertions should look in the mirror first.

In a recent blog post, one of my favorite authors and speakers, Larry Winget, talked about banning one of his blog commentators who was toxic, always negative, and went out of his way to badmouth Larry.

This person was so incensed, even to the point of going on Amazon and giving every book Larry wrote a bad review.

In that blog post, I commented that, if only the bad commentators would put as much work into, well, working on their own success, I betcha they wouldn't find the time to bitch.

They would be too busy being successful.

Larry once noted that the hardest thing one can and will ever do in their lives is to look at themselves in the mirror and say, “It's all my fault.”

These “bad commentators” aren't looking in the mirror as they should be. And I would venture to say that people who don't look in the mirror expect everything else to be one. (That's what I mean by “projection.”)

Remember the old Einstein saying that, when your only tool is hammer you see every problem as a nail? It's the same idea, here.

That is, when these faultfinders blame others, they are projecting their own self-loathing onto others.

Similarly, what I found is that those who whine and complain are usually the ones who aren't happy with themselves, and feel the need to blame others.

And they put a lot of work, effort, and even money into dragging other people down, or into whining about how bad things are (e.g., how broke and tired they are, or how scammed they've been).

Why don't they spend all that energy and money on getting ahead instead? Or dare I say it, into starting a business, and — here's a novel concept — marketing and selling themselves?

Go figure.

In Larry's program, “Success is Your Own (Damn) Fault,” he quotes the Sanborn Maxim, which goes: “The customers who are willing to pay you the least will always demand the most.”

While that might be true in terms of money, I think it's the same with everything else.

For example, “The people who are willing to pay you the least respect will always demand the most.” (And I believe they're the ones who deserve it the least, too.)

I agree that there are some business people out there who are dishonest. Thinking that all of them are honest is just as skewed as the converse.

But that kind of thinking can be a lot more hurtful and damaging than the simple comment “there is no such thing as an honest business person.” Damaging to oneself as it is to others.

In conclusion, let me quote something Michelle MacPherson said, a marketer I admire a lot, which sums it all up beautifully:

“If you don't take responsibility for your own actions in life and instead hand that responsibility (in the form of blame) to someone else, you have no power (you've effectively given that power to someone else, since it's ‘not your fault'). If you have no power, you'll never have success — you'll just spend your days blaming others for your lack thereof.”

Thanks for listening.

P.S.: What do you think of the new blog design? Just a larger font, more whitespace, and less “busyness.” It's based on your feedback, which I appreciate immensely.