5 Giant Myths About Marketing, Part 1: Marketing Is Sleazy

Marketing is one of those disciplines that everyone has strong opinions about. Myths abound about the best and worst ways to promote yourself and your work.

In this five-part series, I’ll share the biggest myths I’ve heard from freelancers and consultants about marketing and self-promotion. I hope it helps you feel less confused and more empowered to make the right marketing decisions for your business.

What do you think of when you think of marketing? Do you think of spammy emails and deceptive gimmicks? Of creepy retargeting ads and aggressive pitches that would make a used car salesman blush?

I admit, this myth contains a grain of truth. There’s no shortage of sleaze in the marketing world. The good news is, you don’t have to be sleazy to be successful at marketing.

There are many ways to approach marketing, but for our purposes, we’ll focus on two broad types: sleaze-driven marketing and trust-driven marketing.

Sleaze-Driven Marketing

Sleaze-driven marketing is ultimately rooted in manipulation. It doesn’t care about respecting your privacy, understanding your needs, or helping you make the best decision for your situation. It only cares about making the sale.

Examples of sleaze-driven marketing:

  • Someone joins your mailing list, and you immediately start trying to sell them stuff.
  • Someone buys one thing from you, so you retarget them with Facebook ads for the rest of eternity.
  • You follow a bunch of people on Twitter, then unfollow anyone who doesn’t follow you back, making it look like you’ve earned a huge audience.
  • You promote a free e-course on your website, and every email is basically just a sales pitch.
  • You buy a list of email addresses from a data vendor and spam the heck out of it.
  • You make big promises in your messaging that you know you can’t deliver on.
  • You use messaging that belittles, bullies, or pushes prospects into making a purchase.

Trust-Driven Marketing

Trust-driven marketing is rooted in, you guessed it, trust. It’s based on knowing your audience well, treating them respectfully, and putting their needs ahead of your own (even if it means passing up a potential sale). The goal is to build long-term, trusting relationships that benefit both you and your audience.

Examples of trust-driven marketing (feel free to steal these for your own business):

  • Someone joins your mailing list, and you send them a thank-you email with links to your most popular blog posts.
  • Someone buys one thing from you. A week later, you send a follow-up email asking them if they’re happy with their purchase.
  • You promote a free email course on your website, and every email contains useful information for your audience.
  • You grow your following by creating and sharing great content that keeps readers wanting to come back for more.
  • Your messaging is confident and sets realistic expectations of what buyers can expect when they make a purchase.
  • You use time-sensitive messaging when appropriate, such as for a flash-sale, but you never try to push a sale on someone who isn’t ready.
  • You’re willing to turn down a sale if it isn’t in the prospect’s best interests.

I bet you can already see how some of these examples might apply to your business.

So You Want to Be a Trust-Driven Marketer

There’s a reason companies spend hundreds of billions of dollars finding ever sleazier ways to violate your privacy and part you from your money: it works.

That’s right, being sleazy works. Not all the time, but enough of the time. It’s usually faster than the trust-driven approach, too. So why on earth would anyone choose the harder path?

It boils down to two reasons:

  1. The moral imperative: You want to be able to look in the mirror and feel good about what you’re doing.
  2. The business imperative: You want to build a group of passionate, devoted followers who trust you and will stick with you for the long term.

Sleazy tactics might work in the short term, but eventually your audience will figure out that you can’t be trusted and leave you. Then, you’ll have to start all over again with a fresh group of people. If you’re in this for the long haul, trust wins every time.

So, in a world of sleazeballs with bigger budgets than yours, how can you build trust and stand out to your audience?

It’s not as hard as it sounds. We’ll come back to this idea throughout this series, but for now, here’s a tiny amount of homework. It’ll only take you a few minutes, and you might come away with some new ideas for your business.

Teeny Tiny Marketing Homework

Think about a business problem you have that you could theoretically pay someone to help you solve, such as filing your taxes, redesigning your website, or managing social media. Got a problem in mind? Good. Take 5 minutes and reflect on the following questions:

  • What is this problem?
  • How would you find someone who could help you solve it?
  • What signs would tell you that this person is sleazy or trustworthy?
  • Which of these signs might apply to your own business, too?

In part two of this five-part series, we’ll cover the second myth I hear all the time: If you’re really good at what you do, your work should speak for itself, right? Wrong! In my next article I’ll talk about how to speak for your work in a way that actually builds more trust with your audience.

I write about radically ethical marketing, self-employment and non-sleazy self-promotion. Learn more at https://empoweredfreelancer.com/

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