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Contrarian: 40 Business-Related Things I Do
My Own Way - Part Two

by Marcia Yudkin

For my 25th-year business anniversary in 2006, I published "Insights From 25 Years in Business." For my 30-year anniversary, I posted "My 30 Favorite Business Books." Now that Iím reaching 40 years in business, Iíve compiled a list of 40 ways in which I part company with received wisdom or common beliefs.

Catch up on Part One of this essay, which discussed Mindset, Productivity, Knowledge and Client Relations, here.

Part Two


21. "Follow what works." Many marketers feel the fact that something tested better than another option ends any argument about which tactic is better. I disagree. Warren Buffett expressed one issue with this perspective very well: "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it."

An option can at the same time bring in more money and damage the publicís respect for the company. In my book, that would be ample reason to choose the less profitable path.

22. "Use social proof." Psychologists have established that being told a restaurant, publication, service or anything else is popular does indeed pique interest from others. Marketers therefore make heavy use of numbers ("300,000 subscribers canít be wrong!"), testimonials, endorsements and so on.

However, smart people realize that popularity doesnít guarantee quality or relevance, so if you market to smart people or wish to be viewed as smart, you might want to hold back on using social proof. My survey of introverts revealed that some appeals to popularity even backfire with that group.

Marketing for Introverts ebook

23. "Share your struggles." Supposedly, blogging or tweeting about your doubts, fears and mistakes endears your followers to you. Sure, they may like you more for that, and feel youíre on their level. But it can have the opposite effect on how they view your competence. And this advice would not preserve the zone of privacy thatís important to me. So Iím not a fan of vulnerability follies.

24. "Marketing is a numbers game." One of my surveys of introverts sensitized me to this issue. Quite a number of survey participants volunteered the idea that they cared more about quality connections with clients and others over quantity of responses.

Looking only at numbers means you run the risk of overlooking problems that affect rapport with ideal customers and their loyalty or satisfaction. It also ignores your own contentedness with how your business runs.

25. "You must target prospectsí pain points." Some marketing gurus drum this in obsessively: Only if your product alleviates a pain people feel can you succeed in the marketplace. But thatís patently false. Most of my products donít solve a problem. Rather, they help people achieve a goal, hope or dream, such as obtaining more traffic, mastering the art of copywriting or enjoying passive income.

(If you reply by redefining, say, someone wanting to look beautiful as addressing a pain point, then the original principle about pain points becomes meaningless.)

26. "Without social media, forget success." I have a website, a Twitter account and a few videos on YouTube. No Facebook, no LinkedIn, no Instagram, no blog. The urge to follow the minutiae of other peopleís lives or keep friends and strangers informed of my latest experiences is foreign to me.

If social media floats your sailboat, fine. But donít pontificate that people are doomed to poverty if they donít invest energy in social media, because this hasnít ruined me.

No-harm Marketing Ethics ebook

27. "You should manufacture scarcity." We know that more people respond when a deadline or numerical cut-off point comes near. I have clients who swear by the tactic of keeping a waiting list for a program that opens only twice a year, though thereís no real reason not to keep the door open all the time. The Disney-esque tactic of keeping products in the vault except for limited times likewise motivates people to buy right now.

These moves bother me, so Iíve never gone there. As for flat-out falsely telling people time or items are running out when theyíre not, thatís unquestionably wrong. More on that in my ebook No-harm Marketing Ethics.

28. "Guarantee their success." After learning about the power of guarantees, I tried one out in a coaching program - guaranteeing that I would keep working with the client until they earned back the cost of the program. What I discovered, though, is that the guarantee attracted people who were more fearful and less apt to take personal responsibility than the mentorees whom I usually worked with. Consequently I later ditched the guarantee and relied on pre-program screening to select mentorees with attitudes that made them likely to succeed.

29. "Follow the leader." According to this orientation, if big names in marketing do something, thatís necessarily a model worth emulating. I once complained to a website that posted names and home towns of people who had just bought something there that this violated customer privacy. They responded with a list of prominent companies that used the same software enabling them to do this.

"Please, you are not listening," I wrote back. "I donít care how many companies do it - hereís why itís wrong." I did get a more thoughtful reply then, which was my goal in writing to them in the first place.

30. "Do it my way." Countless marketers teach only one route to success: what worked for them. I feel this is lazy and short-sighted. Accordingly, I normally describe multiple options for achieving a goal.

For instance, when youíre launching a service business, you may not mind doing targeted cold calls. But if youíd rather not approach strangers, you can contact local media for publicity, start a content-rich blog, participate actively in LinkedIn or Facebook groups, teach a class or send direct mail.


31. "Exaggeration is necessary." We talk about this a lot in a language learning forum I belong to, where we discuss the many programs falsely (yet appealingly) claiming theyíll make you "Fluent in three months!" Given the unrealistic expectations of people whoíve never learned a second language, could you sell anything in that industry with a realistic timeline?

One forum member said, "All modern media/sales/content/politics relies on exaggeration." Yet time after time Iíve seen unflashy, honest marketing achieve solid success even though it may not end up creating a market leader.

32. "Metaphors are harmless." At a writerís workshop, I once held up Jay Conrad Levinsonís book Guerilla Marketing to make a point. A woman in the audience put up her hand, then offered, "I would never buy that. Itís militaristic." What? I thought, looking at the camouflage-design cover in a new light.

That incident forever sensitized me to the pervasiveness of violent metaphors in marketing, from "killer this" and "killer that" to Perry Marshallís guide to "Assassin-Grade Google Ads." Desensitization to the brutality of such language is not good for any of us, and I call this out whenever I can.

Copywriting book by Marcia Yudkin

33. "Brag, brag, brag." Iím not shy about celebrating my achievements, such as getting my company featured on page 1 of the Wall Street Journal. (I tell that story in my book 6 Steps to Free Publicity.) But as I discuss in No-Harm Marketing Ethics, I believe itís wrong to stretch the truth and claim accolades that you didnít fairly earn.

I will not allow anyone to describe me as a "bestselling author," because I never landed on a major Best Sellers list. Many ebook authors claim "bestselling author" distinction because they engineered sales of a few dozen copies in one day on Amazon while being well aware that that label makes them sound more accomplished than they are.

34. "Everyone knows that!" We all get tripped up by whatís called "the curse of knowledge": forgetting that others arenít familiar with whatís obvious to us. Iíll never forget my primary care doctor asking me, during our get-to-know-you consultation, "What is marketing?"

Again and again I have argued with clients that they are wrong to assume all their prospects understand a certain concept. I always try my best not to leave novices out in my marketing writing, through unexplained jargon or cultural allusions. A snobby attitude toward those not in the know simply hurts you yourself.


35. "Money is the measure of success." Someone who makes more money than I do or who has a bigger house or boat isnít therefore more successful in my eyes. Do they genuinely serve their customers and clients and help make the world a better place in some way? Are they happy and feel fulfilled by what theyíre doing? If they encountered setbacks, could they quickly regain their equilibrium? Do they have admirable values besides earning big bucks?

Pricing for Entrepreneurs ebook

36. "Letís bargain." When someoneís first contact with me includes a suggestion that I lower my posted rates, this sends up a red flag for me. Theyíre signaling a lack of respect for my expertise and a set of priorities in which quality isnít that important.

Clients who ask for lower fees often turn out to be complainers - more fussy and critical than those who agree to pay what was asked. Saying "I canít afford it" reveals their priorities, not how much funds they have at their disposal, something I talk about at length in Pricing for Entrepreneurs.

37. "It takes money to make money." When I recently heard someone say she spent $20,000 to create her first online course, I gasped out loud. I accomplished that goal spending $5. I have always chosen to invest time and creative energy rather than money in my projects, and thatís worked extremely well for me.

38. "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." Iíve seen numerous service providers caught in a trap where they understand that having products would provide a line of revenue for future slow times yet they canít let go of "money now" clients to make time to develop the products.

In contrast, the book royalty checks I received year after year early in my career persuaded me to always make time to put things in place that would bring in money years later. Iím still doing this even though financially I probably donít need to. After all, the year 2020 proved that a healthy world economy can go haywire at any moment.

39. "Get paid what you deserve!" This popular exhortation contains a thinking trap: No one "deserves" a particular level of payment - or any at all. After all, in the right circumstances, weíll clean up, fix things, provide feedback or share what we own with others without payment.

Fees are mutually decided upon between practitioner and client. If you want to be paid more and need to plump up your self-confidence to do so, fine. But toss myths about deservingness into the trash bin where they belong. More on this in Pricing for Entrepreneurs.

40. "You canít make money doing that!" It rankles me when experts with a substantial following make blanket pronouncements about the unprofitability of certain niches or topics. Almost always, such generalizations just show ignorance and prejudice.

For instance, many say you canít make a living as a marketing advisor for small businesses. Wrong! My best clients have been high-earning one-person or two-person businesses that want to extend their success.

If you enjoyed reading this two-part piece, would you do me the favor of sending a like-minded friend or two a link to this page, or posting about it on social media? Thank you!


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