The next time you hear about a marketing conversion tactic that “works”… ask this question:
“It might work to convert 10% of the audience… but does it build trust with the other 90%… or does it feel salesy to them?”
Years ago, I used to care only about the small percentage of my audience who converted — I was all about the sale… getting the transaction. What about the remainder of the audience, the non-buyers? I thought of them as “illusory clients” or “tire kickers”. Quite a cynical view.
Truthfully, I was prioritizing my own profit timelines, not caring much about the organic decision-making process of my audience. I wanted them to buy my offer “by the end of this webinar!” or “within 48 hours!”… so I dangled ridiculous incentives, and used strong scarcity tactics to convert a few people… yet turned off many others in my audience.
Simply put, I was being salesy.
Back then, I wasn’t wise about the long-term effects of word-of-mouth marketing and building a brand. I wasn’t truly listening to what my heart was asking of me.
If it felt “off”, why did I keep doing it for years? Because it “worked”… I was making money. All the business teachings I pursued were focused on profit, so I thought I was doing the right thing.
This reminds me of the quote:
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” — Upton Sinclair
A lot of marketers and “growth hackers” think — “Who cares about attention and vanity metrics such as social media views, comments and shares? We want sales, period! Do whatever is needed — hyped-up promises, false scarcity, pressure tactics. By any means necessary, make people buy.”
Just because something is legal and “works” to make lots of money, doesn’t make it a good thing to do… often, short-term gains are bad for one’s long-term well-being.
With a deeper awareness and care for a sustainable future, one comes to realize that doing the right thing is always the right thing.
Applying this to marketing and sales:
The relationship is more important than the transaction.
Building trust is more important than making the sale.
I used to focus on persuading the 10%, even if I turned off the 90%.
But then, I found myself having to launch the same service again and again… quarter after quarter, year after year, in order to get enough clients.
One day, I woke up and realized that I hadn’t built anything long-term.
By using the conventional internet marketing strategies — fake, uncaring “marketing funnels” and pressure-driven sales, I had not built the real asset in business — a long-term trusting relationship with my audience… true fans who open my emails and love spreading the word because they love my work, not just because they are affiliates who are getting paid to do so. (There’s nothing wrong with affiliates, but don’t depend only on them to spread the word… aim to generate loyal word-of-mouth from your audience.)
Without real loyalty, and therefore without consistent word of mouth, you will have to continuously promote the same services again and again. By using persuasion tactics that annoy your audience, rather than build trust, being concerned about making a quick buck, you sacrifice your long-term reputation.
The Challenge of Doing What’s Right
Doing what feels right is challenging because at first, it seems to be bad for external metrics. Prioritizing relationship and reputation requires patience. It calls you to care more for your audience than your competitors are willing to.
If you are willing to step into that calling, then everyone will ultimately benefit:
We need to accept that focusing on relationship, trust, and reputation takes more time than making short-term launches using persuasion tactics.
This is why most marketers and businesses don’t do this. They complain that generosity and brand-building appear to have less predictable ROI.
But the reality is that short-term conversion tactics are frequently failures anyway. We are persuaded by experts that claim: “If you do this, you’ll get 10%+ conversions!” But those campaigns usually fail anyway... they just don’t tell you.
Being calculating is the opposite of authentic connection in relationships.
Yet, if we are willing to think “macro”, long-term, to zoom out on our timeline, beyond the current campaign or this quarter’s numbers… if we are willing to look at our business horizon in years, then the reality is that generosity and reputation-building are actually a much better return on investment.
In other words, if you are willing to prioritize patience and love — while being grounded in healthy boundaries — it benefits your business too.
Over time, with excellent reputation, you eliminate the need to sell. Ideal clients hear great things about you, and you only need to “whisper” your offerings (rather than resort to persuasion and tacky marketing) — and when they are ready, they buy from you, because they already trust you before you made your offer.
If you focus on the sales, you end up with a salesy reputation. Focus on trust, however, and you make sales easier over time.
The Golden Rule, translated for marketing:
Observe what marketing makes you feel good… makes you want to spread the word. Then emulate the heart and spirit of that kind of marketing.
George Kao is a Marketing Coach for small business owners, especially solopreneurs such as Coaches and Mentors. He focuses on ethical & effective ways to grow one's platform and build true livelihood.
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