X-Ray vision: Seeing through online marketing, making peace with it, and doing better

(groovy image by Golan Levin)

I’ve taken a few days off writing this month, and instead have been reading. A few years ago, writer/speaker/creative Charlie Gilkey wrote a blog post called “Create, Connect, and Consume: Balance Them To Get Your Best Work Done.” Well, I’ve been living in the “connect” and “consume” phases of that cycle for a few days, and I’m both a) glad I did, and b) glad to be back. Hi.

My more typical pattern is to spend a few minutes each day trying to ingest other peoples’ wisdom, usually right between checking in with my business circles, and feeding the dog his breakfast. It’s a hurry-up kind of thing, and in those eleven-and-a-half minutes I try to take notes, Boomerang some things back to myself later, and/or convince myself I’m for SURE going to remember what I read this time.

Spending more time reading has a strange effect on me, though, and it’s not always pleasant. In that strange method in which my memories have filed themselves, I keep thinking of a sci-fi film from the 60s called “The Man with the X-Ray Eyes.” In it, Ray Milland plays a scientist who develops a technology that allows him to see through things. At first, it’s fascinating to him, then disturbing, then it drives him insane. Although I don’t plan on going crazy, I have started seeing through things to their core, and it’s a weird feeling.

I’ll explain: I was invited to a ‘free’ online summit this week, in which many luminaries in coaching and creativity would be giving webinars over the course of several months. There was a time when I would have seriously geeked out about this. But rather than just enjoying the thrill of finding it, I saw it for what it was: A learning experience, yes, but mostly it’s a structured opportunity for each of these speakers to build their subscriber lists, by offering their material in exchange for your email address.

Sifting through Facebook, I see why some very good-hearted people and pages ask, “What’s your favorite poet?” or even more directly, “In the comments, post a moving GIF to show me how you’re feeling this morning.” It isn’t that they really care that I love Rumi and I feel overcaffeinated. They know that engagement on Facebook—likes, comments, and shares, especially with pictures and video—gains them brownie points with the FB gods so their deliverability increases.

Even when people send me a contact request on LinkedIn, I find myself wondering whether it’s happened because they’re about to announce a new product or service, and want to widen their audience as much as possible first.

Before you think I’ve become a new age negative nancy, hold the bus. I do see through these things, but they don’t depress me. They just…are. This is how these particular people are choosing to build their businesses and make a living. It is their choice to market this way, and it doesn’t make them bad people. In fact, in many cases it means they are hoping/able to do more good things in the world. It’s okay. It’s a personal choice I have no right or desire to criticize. But there’s a “lost innocence” quality in it for me, now that I see motives rather than just enjoying it all.

On the upside, it makes me super-sensitive to the opposite of these tactics, which is authenticity.

Here’s an example of THAT: I subscribed to Louis Grenier’s mailing list the other day because I wanted the promised free download called “How to stand out: 9 bullshit-free lessons from world-class tech marketers.” The download was fine, but the emails I received made me smile. The first email was just a basic thank-you and download link. Great. But the second one said, “I’ve set this email up to be sent to you 2 days after the last one.” Sounds simple, right? But think about it: How many carefully-crafted automated emails have you received that tried so hard to masquerade as “It’s really me, writing just to you Mrs. Firstname! Please keep opening my emails…” I was surprised and happy with the transparency of “Hey, it’s not really me – but I thought this tool was the best way to get useful stuff to you, and so I’m showing you the innards of it.” The emails continued in that honest, open vibe.

And another: Writer/coach/creator Tad Hargrave has something called an “Are You Sure?” page that he sets up so it pops up AFTER someone clicks a Buy Now button, but BEFORE they pay for the item. It slows them down, explains the program they’re buying, distilling it down to a very clear, crisp description so they can be certain it’s going to be of value. Does that mean that some people might change their minds and not buy? Of course. But if you’re really interested in making sure that people who aren’t a fit for your programs never sign up for your programs—avoiding possible bad feelings for you and for them—it’s the ultimate in openness, bravery, and genius.

On the same day I re-noticed “Are You Sure?,” I saw that Mark Silver of Heart of Business was offering a free (with no signup!)  PDF book about ethical pricing in coaching, “Don’t Buy Now” that I found bracing and cool.  Judith Morgan, one of my favey-fave coaches for small businesses like ours, offers a PWYW (pay what you want) model. Authentic business coach George Kao offers a megaton of gorgeous free content on his website – it would take days to enjoy it all (ask me how I know…)

I mean, this kind of stuff is all around us. All over. Every day, people are coming over from business-as-usual to a place that is more ethical, more transparent, and more authentic. I’m overwhelmed sometimes with the sheer number of people crossing my path who are choosing to ditch the industry-standard sales pitch and come back to something real and human.

So I owe a debt of thanks to more mainstream marketers. Thanks for bringing honest marketing back into focus for me.

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2 replies
  1. George Kao
    George Kao says:

    Honored by the mention! Thank you Margaret.

    And I appreciate the suggestion about being neutral as we see the inauthenticity out there, knowing they are doing the best they know how.

    We can demonstrate a different way. So very glad to have you as a colleague!

    Reply

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