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Fake It Til You Make It Marketing

A recent contretemps (I have been waiting AGES to use that word!) on a social media site revealed a marketing … well, quite honestly, it was a boner.  And a big one.  (Can’t wait to see the spam link comments on this posting.)

Would you buy a used car from this man?

A marketer, using a “stage name” was putting on a virtual seminar. To promote his seminar, he created fan pages for some of the bigger names in the industry and then used those fake social media profiles to comment favorably on the upcoming event as those people.

Any way you slice it kids, this is out and out fraud.  This is FTC territory and boneheaded to boot. He was quickly found out and called on the carpet for his actions. He was reported to the attorney general’s office and the FTC as well as the social media sites he used.  Several of the real speakers who were lined up to do the event pulled out.

There’s nothing wrong with using a stage name or a pen name – as long as you’re not trying to hide your identity in order to defraud anyone.

There’s nothing wrong with adding some sizzle to your marketing message. Just be sure that when you give people the steak, it isn’t made of pink slime.

But there IS something -- no, wait – EVERYTHING wrong with stealing people’s identities and creating false testimonials.  In short, it is wrong to present yourself as something (or someone) you’re not. But if you’re one of my regular readers, you know this already.

I think people mistake the advice "Be an Expert" to mean "Present yourself as an expert whether you are qualified or not.”  Frankly, many people can make someone LOOK like an expert online in under 30 days.  All it takes is a good marketing plan. But the charade falls apart pretty fast when that expert can't deliver on what's promised. I've seen a few people implode because they couldn't walk their talk.

With the all the information now at people’s fingertips, you can no longer fake it til you make it.  People check up on your claims, mostly because it is now fast and easy to do so.

The whole "Fake it til you make it" mentality that seems to have gripped the country these days is doing no one a service.   Yes, marketing is showing yourself in the best light possible.  As a friend says, you don’t really want to bring up your flaws on the first date.  Most probably, if you have been in an industry for a while, you have experience and a certain degree of expertise.  You probably also have something that differentiates you from your competition.  Capitalize on that.  The truth is there are very few people who are the only source of information in any field. Even if you are a bona fide expert, you are competing with other experts. You end up taking turns being the media’s darling.

What matters at the end of it all is that you provide what you said you would. And more.  When someone has paid you for services or product and you don’t deliver, they really don’t care that you rode in Tony Robbins’ private jet or had dinner with Donald Trump.  All they will care about is that they spent money with you and you didn’t take care of them.

Yeah, it sucks when someone with fewer credentials or experience than you flashes by as they’re rocketing to the top.  A fast trip up usually precedes a fast trip down.  Take your time. Build your business. Make it a solid foundation.  Take care of your clients. And heed the words of Mark Twain (aka Sam Clemens).

“Remember, if you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

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Your brand is not just a logo or the colors on your packaging. It's not your nickname, especially if it involves the words "diva", "goddess", "king" or "guy" (I really don't want to be defended in court by "The Litigation Guy").

Your brand is the entire experience people have when they deal with you and your company, from the advertisement they first see, your website, your product or service and most importantly, they way they are treated throughout the process.

I think one of the things that business people miss is they are so focused on trying to be clever or catchy or that all-elusive "viral" that they never put themselves in their customers' shoes. It's not about you. (Sorry.) It's about what you can do for your customer.

You have the opportunity to set yourself apart from every other business in your niche. Branding doesn't just happen. It is a conscious decision on your part to create a positive experience for your clients. So grab a pad of paper, a glass of wine or cup of tea and sit down someplace quiet to ask yourself these questions:

What problems do your clients bring you to resolve?
If you were that person, how would you like to be treated? What would the ideal process be?

How can you differentiate yourself from your competitors? Is it attitude? Is it amenities that you offer? Can you do something extra that shows an extra level of caring?

Here's an example. I took a pair of shoes to be re-soled. Most shoe repair shops look the same: a little dusty, pairs of shoes that have been repaired; some that have not been picked up. Shoes in various states of repair. The smell of glue and leather. This shop was no different.

The man took in my shoes, gave me a ticket and a time to come back. He had the personality of a small plastic soap dish. Not offensive, but nothing to make your head swing. His price was right in line with other shops. When I picked up the shoes, they had been re-soled and re-heeled. But they had not been polished.

Now I know that not every shoe repair place polishes the shoes as part of the service. But it takes about five minutes and makes the shoes look fantastic. It's a way of saying that they are proud of their work. It's an extra bit of service that could make them stand out from their competitors. This guy missed.

Yes, polishing the shoes is a small detail. But it is the type of thing you are looking for to start laying the foundation of your branding. What can you do to make the customers' experience with you different from their experience with anyone else? What can you do to make your customers' experience with you better? Think in these terms and your brand will emerge.

Remember: It doesn't have to be perfect. It just has to be done.

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Don’t Stand So Close to Me

When I worked on cruise ships, the bigger ones in particular, we were constantly having our photos taken – by the ship’s photographers, passengers and friends. Some of the people you had your arms around you barely knew – staged camaraderie for the folks at home. (Which is how so many politicians end up shaking terrorists' hands at fundraising dinners.)

I am reminded of this because I have been doing a lot of hard thinking (and chewing) on marketing these days: selling, being a platform speaker, writing marketing copy for myself and others. There are various components that I am gnawing on that I will address in future posts. One is whether or not you have to make hyperbolic claims to sell. Another is whether or not people really want truth in marketing or do they want to be sold a dream. And today I am thinking about cross-promoting, joint ventures and really, endorsing others.

More and more I am asked to do “send outs” to my list to promote people’s events. Some people I know personally; I know their work and I have no problem recommending that people go to their events. Others I may know peripherally or maybe they have attended one or two of my events. Still others I have not met at all – they are on the “circuit” and promoting someone will give you a chip to cash in when you need something promoted. And finally, probably what got me started on this rant today, are the people who I just think either bring nothing to the table or who are hucksters or both.

I can be endorsed by some of the biggest names in the book/speaking business if I write a big enough check. I can write a chapter in their next bestselling book. I have seen these people endorse just about anybody and anything, from truly poorly written work to just flat out stupid theories. I’ve also seen them endorse some good work, too. But at this point, any time I see certain names attached to a launch, my eyes roll back in my head and my B.S. detector goes into overdrive. They have no credibility with me. But (and here’s the rub and not a good massage-y kind of rub but a “don’t touch my second-degree sunburn” kind of rub) millions of people still believe in them, buy their books and the products they recommend.

So do you close your eyes and think of England and jump into bed with these people, rationalizing it by telling yourself that you are putting out quality work and this will help get the word out to the people who need it? Do you keep marketing slow and steadily, never getting into the inner, higher circles because you don’t want to play the game? Do you sit there in your humble home with your five year old car and pile of monthly bills saying, “Well, at least I can sleep at night.” The truth is that these people are extremely successful, they make a lot of money and even if their credibility is eventually shot (which is doubtful because it’s a great big world) they still are living an extraordinary lifestyle and yes, they are very happy. They have no problem sleeping at night.

I know this is marketing. I’m not stupid or naïve, but there has to be a certain level of truth in what you say to the general public, whether it is policed by the FTC or not. Where do you draw the line between creative marketing and outright lies? At what point does the fat of the steak become the sizzle? Who do you endorse and whose email do you pretend you never received? And am I the only one stupid enough to be worrying about this stuff?

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OK.  I'll admit it.  I'm jaded.  Cynical.  Bitchy.  All of the above. 

But I also call 'em like I see 'em.  And I have to tell you, I am really tired of the hype and B.S. coming from the speaker at the front of the room. 

It's called platform sales and it's a great way to market your product or service or yourself.  Don't get me wrong on that point.   Most of my clients come to me by seeing me speak at a live event (which is ever so much more fun than a dead event).  But I think it's time speakers stopped with the crap.  Crap like: 

Hand-Me-Down NLP:  "Perhaps many of you like me have tried many times to be successful."   Wow, I am so glad you scanned through NLP for Dummies while you were swilling your Starbucks Vente (which actually means "twenty") at Barnes and Noble.  "I was sitting in the audience, just like you are today, blah blah blah."   There is more to Neuro-Linguistic Programming than scattering a few trick phrases into your talk.  If you are going to use NLP, spend the time and money and learn what it is all about.  Clumsy NLP doesn't work.  Think nails on a chalkboard.

Tale of Woe:  Stories are powerful ways of relating a message, no doubt about it.  But it seems to me that every speaker who gets up to sell has to have been  1) raised by horrendous or neglectful parents; 2) raised by loving but dirt poor parents; 3) been down to his last eighty-seven cents when he sadly watched his car being repossessed in front of his wife, children and mother-in-law; and, of course, 4) lived in a van down by the river.   I actually watched one psychologist/personal coach do a 90 minute presentation where he laid out all his issues with his mother.  He left home when he was about 15 years old.  When I saw him, he was well over 60.  He had 45 years to resolve his issues and move on with his life.  Obviously, he hadn't.  I am thinking that this is not the guy I want as my mentor.  Get over it.  And stop sharing.  So you had a whacked out mother.   A lot of people did.  Suck it up and move on you baby.  He's wasted an entire lifetime and then he had the nerve to waste 90 minutes of my lifetime.  Just doesn't work for me.  Sorry. 

Touching the Audience:  I'd love to name a particular name here, but then I couldn't tell you all I want to.  Let's just say there is a male speaker who has an old school carny barker style and he likes to rest his hands on audience members' shoulders as he speaks.  He thinks he is demonstrating a "connection" to the audience.  I have actually seen him kiss audience members (male and female) to demonstrate that he loves them all.  One word:  Ewwwwwww.  First, the guy is creepy.  Second, he doesn't even like himself, so how could he possibly love others.  Third, some people don't like to be touched by strangers, even non-creepy ones.  Fourth, he's an asshole.  No.  Really.  Fifth, did I mention Ewwwwwww?  He may sell like a little banshee (and I have heard his trainings are actually great, full of content and he really likes to help people) but he would be so much better off leaving the Grecian formula pompadour and attitude behind.  That "Rich Jerk" style doesn't do it for me.  Which leads us to…

Look how rich I am!:  "I'm rich.  You're not.  You suck.  I'm great.  If you want to be rich like I am (and you are some sort of pinko commie loser if you don't want to), buy my course."  I have to rank this right up there with loudly berating a waiter because the food wasn't EXACTLY the way the high-maintenance jerk special ordered it.  If I have to put people down to elevate myself, I'm in deep kim-chee.  On another note, most of the guys putting up those pictures of themselves and their toys (and, insulting all the women in the room by including their trophy wife/girlfriend in those pictures) don't really have them.  How many times have you seen some guy or gal standing next to that rented Bentley in front of the rented mansion?  Puh-leeeeeze.   We know the house.  We know the car.  We know it's rented.  

Can I get an A-men?:  No, you can't.  I don't want to spend time shouting your fruity, stale catch-phrase back at you just so you can think the audience is "with" you.  And that includes all of you guys still using the Austin Powers "Yeah, baby."  It's obnoxious.   If you want to know if the audience is with you, see if they start filling in the words on their own.  Regurgitating is not learning. 

Shoulder Massage Train: "Everybody turn to the left and rub the shoulders of the person in front of you."  OK.  See touching the audience above.  Ewwwwww.  I don't want strangers giving me backrubs.  Take me to dinner first.  Hello!

Bottom Line:  All of these are effective means of connecting with an audience when used correctly.  My complaint is with the clumsy and stale ways that these sales techniques are applied.  Marketing is constantly shifting.  Our economy has taken a wild swing from a few years ago.  People are smarter and more sophisticated about marketing.  They can fact check and product check in seconds by going online.  Old school marketing is just that.  Old school.  And it isn't working in today's market atmosphere.  And here's a clue:  If this stuff isn't working for platform speakers anymore, then these same techniques that you are adapting to one-on-one sales situations won't work anymore either.  That's your heads up.  Take a look at the way you are presenting yourself and your product.  And start really relating to what your target market wants and needs.  Cuz tricks are for kids.

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VistaPrint. Really? Really?

Are you committed to your business? If your card is from VistaPrint, you're not.

I was in a Borders book store looking through the business section.  In one of the more popular business books, I found a business card.  This is one of those "clever" marketing tactics that people pick up - God knows where.  Let's address this first.

If your marketing model depends upon leaving your business card in books, bathrooms or on gas pumps, STOPNOW.  It's stupid and unprofessional.

Now, onto the really fun part.  The card was for a Multi-Level Marketing company, but of course the name of the actual company wasn't on the card.  (There's another business red flag.  If you are told to withhold the name of your company when inviting people to meetings or making appointments, you need to change companies.)  It said, "Would $10,000 a month change your life? It changed mine" with a number for a recorded call.  Well, that's an enticing hook.  Money is always a great motivator.  And a recorded call is a low-barrier (non-threatening) way for people to learn more about something.  But here's where it gets good.

I flipped the card over and on the back was that lovely little line that you find on the back of way too many cards:  "Get Your Free Business Cards From VistaPrint."
Now, if someone is using free cards from VistaPrint, I suspect that they are not really making $10,000 a month.  In fact, I am going to suspect that they are too broke to buy cards. 

Business cards cost, on average, $25 - $50.  If you won't spend thirty bucks on business cards, what does that tell people about your commitment to your business?  The same goes for those cards you print up on your computer at home. 

What does your business card say about you and your commitment to your business?

Invest in quality business cards, printed on heavy stock and at the very least, spring for something a little extra on it - a color graphic, gold or silver detailing, embossing.  A little money goes a long way with business cards.  Don't be penny-wise and pound foolish on this one.

And that's the marketing word.

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Stand Out Marketing


Women use different language, have different expectations and are attracted by different color schemes than men.


Your brand is the experience your clients and prospects have every time they deal with your company.


You need to stand out from your competition and stand above all the marketing messages that people are assaulted by every day. 


Americans have been hit hard with job losses, housing losses and retirement losses. There is a shift occurring in the way your customers, male and female, buy. 

  • Have you anticipated the new needs of your clients?
  • Can you differentiate yourself to stand above your competition?
  • Are your marketing efforts doomed to fail?


 I'll be bringing you low-cost to no-cost marketing strategies, copywriting tips and techniques and innovative methods to get your message through the clutter, online and offline.

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February 2018
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