Stop Gambling With Your Customers

“If you like to gamble, I tell you I’m your man. You win some, you lose some, it’s all the same to me.”Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades”

I’m getting fed up.

It seems to me that product launches of late have less to do with substance and strategy, and more to do with tricks and tactics. Blame it on the economy. But I think we need to blame it on something else. Something more sinister.

In fact, have you not noticed that a growing number of marketers are urging you to join their “club,” as if it’s some secret, back-of-the-room, clandestine poker game?

Speaking of poker, business is somewhat of a gamble. And admittedly, gambling can be profitable. Very profitable. After all, the more you gamble, the greater you win, right?

But do we really need to gamble with our customers?

What about the long-term? What about building businesses rather than just making money? What about investing instead? What about investing in your customers that can pay sometimes 10 to 100 times more over the long run?

For example, someone mentioned a new pay-per-follower program on Twitter. (Ugh. How is that any different than from spammers buying bulk email lists?) I responded, and this pretty much sums up my philosophy — it should be yours, too — with:

“I’d hate to treat my customers like prisoners or prostitutes.”

Worse yet, I’d hate to see them lose. Because when you gamble, there’s always a winner and a loser. And if you’re the one who wins, then… Well, do the math.

But what irks me even more — and I started a firestorm of debate on Twitter because of my rant — is that everyone is promoting the same product launch, often using the same gawdawful email copy, and often trying to outcompete each other with myriad bonuses.

With these “mega-launches,” my contention is so many people are promoting the same thing, it’s sickening. Plus, this only dilutes their value. Less signal, more noise. Whatever happened to being unique, serving your customers, and offering quality information?

Why am I saying all this?

This week my inbox got flooded with the same product launch emails. Bleeech! I’ve said this before, but my good friend Paul Myers said it best when he said: “Internet marketers are a bunch of incestuous cannibals.” How true that has become.

Some marketers have even slipped in the “club” word in their promotional messages of late, as if it’s some inside joke that only its members and a few insiders would get.

Really? Wow. Are we that naive?

Don’t join the club. Don’t drink the kool-aid. Don’t be sheeple. If you don’t know what “sheeple” means, here’s the The passage I like and want to note is this one:

“Sheeple: persons who voluntarily acquiesce to a perceived authority, or suggestion without sufficient research to fully understand the scope of the ramifications involved in that decision, and thus undermine their own human individuality.”

If you want another example, read the chapter, titled “Cult Leaders,” in my wife Sylvie Fortin’s “Internet Marketing Sins” free downloadable ebook.

Instead, be a contrarian. Be unique. Be above it. Simply, as Earl Nightingale once said, “Don’t copy. Create!” Or as I often say, “Don’t duplicate. Differentiate.”

Instead of promoting the same product mega-launch everyone and their pet rock is promoting, or worse yet piling on bonuses — bonuses you used to sell and that people have paid full price for, no doubt — trying to outdo competing affiliates, why don’t you offer something new? Something different? Something better?

(And believe me, after seeing the quality of some of the information out there these days, there’s definitely plenty of opportunities for something better.)

Seth Godin taught us about the power of the “Purple Cow.” That is, the idea that you need to be creative enough to come up with a unique product, service, or offering to set yourself apart from the crowd… one that can sell itself based on its own merits.

But some people on Twitter have remarked that it’s hard work. I agree it’s work. But you don’t have to have a “purple cow.” Maybe just paint your barn doors purple.

It’s a great start. 😉

And by gosh, why don’t you at least zoom in on your core competency, focus on your niche, and cultivate or communicate what makes you unique? I mean, there’s always something unique about you. For starters, there’s only one “you!”

Or, what twist can you give yourself, your product, or your offer to make you appear unique? Even better, how can you serve your market in a unique way?

Be bold. Be different. Bedazzle.

There are many examples. For one, take a look at copywriter Randy Gage’s article or visit dentist Paddi Lund’s website. They dared to be different!

Stop doing what everyone else is doing. And please, stop trying to be all things to all people. I know it’s not easy, and it doesn’t have to be some ultra-targeted micro-niche, either. You can go after a mass market, as long as you do, or offer, something different.

Unfortunately, I know people are hurting right now, and some marketers know this all too well — never mind the FUD (i.e., “fear, uncertainty, and doubt”) they create in order to exploit it. People are scared of “different,” but many gurus instill this mindset, too.

They compound it by saying the usual buzzwords or phrases people want to hear, like, “Do what is proven,” “you don’t need to reinvent the wheel,” “I made it easy for you,” “it’s a turnkey business,” “just duplicate my successful model,” etc.

However, you only have to be a little different.

Brian Tracy once said many have made millions by just being 10% different. Yes, just a tiny bit different. A great example? Wendy’s® makes burgers, just like every other fast-food burger joint. But their patties have corners. They are square, not round.

I understand being different is a risk. Promoting the same things as everyone else has little risk, especially if it’s proven to sell. But gains are commensurate with risks. The bigger the risk, the larger the profit windfall. Sounds a lot like gambling, huh?

But the difference is, you’re gambling with yourself, not with your customers. You can win big. And sure, you can lose big, too. But you can also take calculated risks and reduce your potential downside. Such as by taking…

… Baby steps.

In fact, right now is a perfect opportunity to be different and go against the grain. Think about it. If everyone does the same thing, how much more eye-gravity, curiosity, and interest can you almost instantly create by being different?

Needless to say, some will rebut with, “But promoting something my audience needs and will love, isn’t that a service and not a disservice?” What you should ask is, are you really serving your customers by forcing them to do what everyone else is doing?

If everyone implements the newfangled cookie-cutter strategy being taught in mega-launches, it will result in its dilution, more footprints, greater penalization risk (remember the infamous “Google Slap”?), less interest, more competition, etc.

Some have said, “But Michel, most people who buy this stuff will never take action, which makes the strategies potentially beneficial for those who implement them.”

True. But are we talking strategies, here? Or tactics? Are we talking principles? Or drive-by marketing ploys that exploit weaknesses rather than serve customers?

Plus, don’t be so naive to think that marketers expect everyone to implement what they teach. In fact, they not only expect that only a few will, they also rely on it.

They also rely on the fact that many will implement what they teach, and implement it badly. So badly, in fact, that these marketers are killing their own competition.

Of course, they’re not being blatantly overt about it. That would be counterproductive. No, they’re doing it indirectly… subtly… inconspicuously… unsuspectingly.

So that, when everyone is doing what, er, everyone is doing, it often results in costly, longlasting, even devastating ramifications. Ramifications to others, not themselves. After all, they’ve made their money teaching you their techniques. They’re happy.

And when their customers eventually get “slapped” (and they all do), just look at how easy it is for them to blame others. They blame the slapper, other customers abusing the system, or the customers themselves for “failing to do it right.”

So, if you’re at all tempted to join the club, copy everyone else, game a system, or gamble with your customers, remember that famous adage, “The house always wins.”

Here’s one final issue.

Many people don’t dare to be different, not because it’s risky or scary, but because it takes work. Or they’re expecting those they emulate or promote for will reciprocate.

Just like the whole autofollow fiasco on Twitter, where people follow others with the sole expectation of a follow-back (and this is just as disingenuous as autofollow), people promote for others expecting others to promote for them in return.

In most cases, that won’t ever happen. Why? Because most marketers, who are only doing it only for themselves, justify it with, “Isn’t that why I pay affiliate commissions for?”

But in other cases, it will happen, thus perpetuating the whole cyclical, incestuous, let’s-all-promote-each-other, mega-launch madness that needlessly clogs our inboxes.

(A term of a sexual nature comes to mind that would befit as an analogy, but I’ll refrain. I’d like to keep my blog somewhat PG-rated. Let’s just say, it’s made up of two words that sound like a geometric shape and a Steve Martin movie.) 😉

In short, don’t sell products, serve people.

Don’t follow everyone else, start your own following.

If you want some ideas on how you can be different, read one of my earlier blog posts on how to be the first, not the best. Being different nowadays can be as simple as not doing what everyone else is doing. You don’t need a complete overhaul, either.

You just need to, at the very least…

Think differently.

OK, my rant’s over. So let me close by asking you, what makes you different or unique? Or what can you make unique? And how do you communicate it? I’m listening…

UPDATE #1: Some people have commented that I’m against product launches. Not at all. Product launches are incredibly profitable, for good reason. Problem is, when everyone is in on a product launch, the signal-to-noise ratio diminishes. All I’m saying is that I’m miffed that there’s not enough uniqueness or alternatives to compensate.

Also, some people (many, actually) have wondered why I don’t name names. Some have said they want me to, to confirm, for them, who I’m speaking out against. Well, I don’t want to name names for three reasons…

  1. I want to refrain from fingerpointing anyone. I want to focus on bad behaviors and practices, not people. Besides, my rants won’t change these folks. They’re meant to make readers who are contemplating these tactics to think before they jump off the proverbial cliff.
  2. When naming names, it reduces my rant to a petulant whine or complaint, with no basis or merit. I’d rather rant about what irks me, and by the same token offer an alternate solution to counter it — just like my wife did in her Internet Marketing Sins report.
  3. Finally, and probably more importantly, by naming names I’m pigeonholing specific marketers (when many of them are not alone). It could be misleading. The problem with this is, readers will think, “He talked about guru [X], but my guru is [Y], so I guess what guru [Y] says or does is acceptable,” when it’s not.

Makes sense?

UPDATE #2: Just got this interesting video by Bryan Bliss. He makes some excellent points, especially comparing product launches to politics. Makes perfect sense. Take a look…

By the way, Bryan, you did pronounce my name right. 😉

About The Author

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Michel Fortin is a certified SEO consultant, content strategist, and marketing advisor helping plastic surgeons, cosmetic surgeons, and medical aesthetic clinics attract more patients. Since 1991, he helps cosmetic and aesthetic professionals increase their visibility and grow their practices. He is the author of the More Traffic Memo™ SEO email newsletter.

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