Years ago I learned a simple yet powerful marketing secret: You must become so convinced of the benefits of your product or service that you feel you’d be unjustly depriving people by not doing everything in your power to get the word out.
I was infected by this attitude from Jay Abraham. Jay has an absolutely brilliant way of thinking about marketing. For example, if you’re an accountant, and you’re skilled at saving people money on their taxes, Jay might ask how much you save your average client. Say it’s $500 per year. And then Jay would ask how much you charge. Say it’s $200. Then Jay might take you through a conversation like this:
Jay: So it’s costing people a net $300 per year not to do business with you.
You: Yes, that’s fair to say.
Jay: How long does your typical client stay with you?
You: About three years.
Jay: So that’s a total of $900 then. People are effectively being charged $900 not to work with you, $900 they would have otherwise been able to keep.
Jay: So if you meet someone and don’t tell them about your service, you’ve just cost them $900.
Jay: You have a duty then to share this knowledge; to do otherwise would be irresponsible.
You: That’s a strange way to think about it.
Jay: What’s strange about it? If you have the ability to save people $900, then you’re costing everyone $900 they could have saved whenever you don’t tell someone about your service. Don’t you have a moral obligation to save people this $900 if you can do it? Wouldn’t it be unethical not to do it?
You: How is it unethical?
Jay: You’re cheating people out of $900 you could have saved them. All you had to do was speak up – or at least try. What might that $900 mean to certain people? You’d be costing people a great deal of additional enjoyment, education, retirement income, vacations, etc. I consider that kind of negligent behavior unethical. Don’t you?
You: I just never thought about it that way before.
Jay: Start thinking about it that way then.
In other words, if the product or service you provide is truly of benefit to others, then marketing becomes a duty. Not spreading the word is irresponsible and unethical.
Of course, the opposite is also true. If you have a product or service with no real benefit, then to actively market it would be irresponsible as well. If deep down you have doubts as to whether what you’re providing is of real value, you’ll probably sabotage yourself in your marketing efforts. I see this all the time among small business owners — they often don’t believe enough in their products to aggressively market them. So they hold back and fill their days with non-marketing activities instead. Doing too much marketing makes them feel uncomfortable.
I’m not advocating trying to fool yourself into believing in your product/service when you don’t. I’m suggesting you consult your conscience to see what you already believe. If you run your own business and don’t market it very well (a common situation), is it possible you don’t really believe in the benefits you provide? Or if you feel you’re ready for a better job but don’t go out and apply for one, could it be that you secretly feel the potential employer would be better off hiring someone else?
How well do you market yourself in other areas? Do you hold back from pursuing new friendships or relationships because you don’t believe enough in the benefits that others would experience from your companionship? What would happen if you truly believed in the benefits you can provide?
When you find your conscience is holding you back from effective marketing, don’t try to squash that inner voice. Listen to it. Hear what it has to say. Are your products just wasting people’s time? Are your services pointless? Would an employer be better off hiring someone other than you? Would a friend be better off without you in their life?
Your conscience can point you in the direction of greater internal congruence, allowing you to market yourself very naturally and eagerly. Sometimes this involves recognizing the genuine benefit that’s already there, such as with the accountant example at the beginning of this article. But other times it requires changing the offering to create a new benefit that really matters to you.
When I started StevePavlina.com, I had to remember this powerful lesson: marketing must align with conscience. I can tell I’m congruent in this area when I’m eager to do marketing work instead of wanting to put it off. If I feel a desire to procrastinate on marketing, I know something is wrong. So I run through one of those imaginary Jay Abraham conversations in my mind to see where I stand. What is the real benefit I’m providing? How can I quantify it? What will I be costing people if I don’t market to them? Why do I have an ethical duty to market this information?
Be careful not to confuse this with vanity, which is self-directed. This type of motivation is directed outward. It’s not about telling yourself how great you are. It’s recognizing what you can do for others that really, truly benefits them. If I think about myself being a great writer or speaker, that isn’t going to help my marketing. In fact, it will likely hurt me by injecting too much ego into the message. But if I think about what real benefit I can offer someone, that is very motivating. My understanding of this benefit must be rooted in the facts, not on a fictionalized exaggeration. Recognize and acknowledge the real, down-to-earth benefits and what they can actually do for people. And if the benefits are too weak to give you the feeling that marketing is an ethical duty, then stop your practice of junk marketing, and listen to what your conscience has been trying to tell you all along.
What kind of product or service do you feel you really should be marketing and selling? What skills do you need to develop that would make you an intelligent choice for your preferred employer to hire? What do you need to change in yourself to make it genuinely beneficial for others to befriend you?
By creating and acknowledging the real benefit that you actually believe in, you accomplish two things. First, your feeling of certainty will move you to action. You’ll become driven to market yourself, your product, or your service because that’s the right thing to do. Secondly, you’ll actually be providing something of value that genuinely helps others. And together these two results will create a positive feedback loop where the more aggressively you market and sell, the more people you help, and the more certain you become that you’re doing the right thing.
Acknowledge the real benefit you provide. Don’t fall into the ego trap by exaggerating your impact, but don’t minimize or deny the positive benefits either. Find the truth of the situation. Is your conscience congruently committed to the belief that you’re marketing something of real value, or have you been lying to yourself? And if it’s the latter, how can you correct it?
When your marketing message is congruent with your conscience, your motivation for promotion won’t be restrained by hesitation. When you believe that marketing is simply the right thing to do, you’ll do it eagerly, not for your own gratification but because you know you’re genuinely helping people.