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My "Good Friend" and other Marketing Myths

Good Friends & Marketing Myths - Firepole MarketingLast week, I received an email invite to attend a webinar with someone whose list I’ve been on for a few months.

They were going to be interviewing their “good friend”, the President of a major corporation/country/intergalactic empire (you fill in the gaps) on April 1st.

Of course webinar attendance was free but there would be the obligatory sales pitch at some stage, and undoubtedly the list holder would get a commission from his “good friend”.

Was this an April Fools setup or was it genuine?

It’s hard to tell if this person really is their “good friend,” or if this is yet another cynical sales gimmick that proliferate on the internet.  It seems that as the digital world gets smaller, everyone knows everyone, and the world spins on joint ventures supported by half truths and lies.

At this stage you probably think I am against joint ventures, commissions, webinars, free thinking, the tooth fairy and a lot more besides.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Some of my good friends make their living via joint ventures.  They take and give commissions and are honorable people.  So what is the difference?

What is a “Good Friend”?

You’ll note I mentioned my good friends above but left out the quotation marks.  That is because these are people I have known for a considerable time, have done business with and have had a few coffees or beers with.  These are people I know, like, trust and respect.

“Good friends” are different.  They are often people who contacted the list holder for the first time very recently; someone the list holder has never previously met or even spoken to even via phone or Skype, and will probably never do business with again.   The notion of friendship is a sham and belongs to All Fools Day.   It is a marketing myth and not to be trusted.

How to Detect “Good Friends”

Detecting “good friends” can be difficult, but you could use your own cynically attuned radar and a search engine.

Put both names together in a search engine and see if they come up in a search.  If they don’t appear on the same website or blog, there is a good chance they don’t know one another.

At this stage you might start asking how well I know Danny.  Well I have to confess Danny and I have never met. But, we are good friends.

If you search the web you’ll see some connections.  The beauty of the Internet is that, although our homes are separated by the Atlantic Ocean, we can do business together.  So Danny has retweeted several of my blog posts and I’ve retweeted several of his.

I’ve also mentioned Danny on my blog and I have even included a video of Danny and his team on my blog.  The video was made by someone who both Danny and I know quite well, Vernon Riley.  We’ve both employed Vernon and shared a beer with him.

Look further on Google, and Danny and I appear together in several other places.  It is clear we have common connections on LinkedIn.  So, even though we haven’t met, a Google search seems to indicate we share some acquaintances and have shared Twitter posts.  Does that prove we are good friends? No.  But the results of the search indicate we might be.

What does worry me is when I Google for allegedly “good friends” and find nothing at all.  It rings alarm bells.

Of course a Google search doesn’t indicate all the private links we have, such as telephone calls or membership of private groups.  For example, Danny and I are both in the same mastermind group, but Google doesn’t report this.

This group has a monthly phone-in and shares a Google group email where we share ideas, successes and failures.  Through it Danny and I have both physically met, and had coffee with, another member, Laura.  So it is a small world and not even Google shares all the connections that exist.

So Danny and I have some real connections.  We’ve worked together via the mastermind group and I feel he is someone I can turn to when I need help and advice.  He can also turn to me. He is a good friend.

Do “Good Friends” Matter?

I believe they do.  You see, “good friends” are a sham. It means we’ve been lied to.  It means the person telling us about their “good friend” has no respect for us, but is more concerned about their commission.  These people are not honest, they lie!

As Einstein said, “Anyone who doesn’t take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either”.

I don’t want to do business with people that lie to me, so I am cynical when I see the phrase “good friends” liberally thrown into an email or post without some evidence.

Another Myth is the “Expert”

Experts and expertise has become a commodity.  They are two a penny.  To become an expert all you need to do is to say you are an expert. No one has to agree and no one is likely to contest it.

Ian Brodie (who is one of my good friends) writes about this and the notion of authority.  Both Danny and I know Ian through our mastermind group and I’ve shared several beers with Ian, as well as podcasting with him, so he is a good friend rather than  a “good friend”.

According to Ian, Authority is where Expertise + Influence combine.

Experts certainly know a lot, but an authority is defined by who listens to them and acts on what they hear.

So where an expert spends time proving they are an expert, and tries to get in front of prospects where they can establish that expertise and build their brand, the authority does something different.

The authority spends their time establishing their authority.  For example, they get invited to speak at major conferences, go to networking events as the speaker rather than one of the herd and write for leading blogs and magazines.

They are leaders in their field.  Not because they know all the answers, but because they are brave enough to ask the questions that others shy away from.  Their answers to the questions might only be partly formed, but they generate discussion and lead the way to answers.  These are the people that challenge others and are at the heart of finding the right answers rather than the easy solution that experts regurgitate from other people’s books.

These people stand out as authorities.  They are authorities because others respect their wisdom, listen to them and act upon it.  Sometimes they don’t even know they are authorities.

Of course it is better to be an expert than a nobody. To become an authority you will need to start by being an expert on something.  But when it comes to building your expertise, you need to listen to authorities and act upon what they say.  Not without thought of course; you need to think about how their thoughts apply to your situation and act accordingly.

I think experts are a marketing myth.  Anyone can start writing about spaghetti knitting today, blog about it, proclaim their expertise and add absolutely no value at all.  They may never have knitted spaghetti.  Their expertise is often like mist: hard to see and grasp, impossible to evaluate.

You need the expertise to become an authority, but thinking expertise will brings you riches is often a myth put about by experts and not authorities!

The “Me Too” Myth

One marketing myth perpetuated by a lot of experts is that of copying what has worked for others.   It goes like this.  We are told that Company X has been really successful and their website looks like this.  You have a similar business so the logic is that if you have a similar website your business will thrive.

The above might be perpetuated by a web designer but similar ideas get spread by all sorts of experts trying to sell their product or service.

The common feature of all these idea is that it has worked for someone else, so it will work for you.

It is a myth. 

It might be easy to convince blinkered business owners that their business is just like another business.  But it isn’t.

The successful business might sell the same product or service but they will have different levels of knowledge, expertise, funding and staffing. The differences might be subtle ,but they also have a head start on you.

In some cases Company X may only appear to be successful.  The world is full of businesses that were doing really well before they collapsed.  Some were huge international names.

So don’t follow the crowd by being a “me too” business.

To be successful you need to stand out as being different.  For example, let’s say you have SEO expertise.  Like everyone else that is a successful expert you can email people, write blog posts, comment on blogs, and do a million other things. But, sadly, you’ll be a “me too” clone.

To stand out you need to be different.  You need to be an authority.  That may seem difficult but it probably isn’t.

In the last few days I’ve had several emails offering me SEO support.  Some have failed to include a subject line in their email and I haven’t opened them.  Some have told me my website isn’t optimised for the right keywords, some have advised me I need to do things that would have worked in the past but are no longer valid.

The problem is no one but me knows which keywords I am targeting.  Sure, they can suggest the obvious ones. But if they are highly competitive, or don’t convert for me, I may well have chosen longer tail keywords and be getting good conversion.  I’m the only person that knows this for sure.

As for giving me advice, I don’t want or need it.  But if you were to email me with a compelling reason to open the email, some good advice and not try to give me a load of bull, you will stand out.  If you give me a link to your website (none of the others have in their emails), I will almost certainly see you as different from the “me too” purveyors of rubbish.

You could stand out even more. You could present your information in an unusual way.  I’m not an authority on SEO but, in all modesty, I know a bit more than some of the people that contact me. But if I want to stand out as different, I need to present my knowledge in a different way.

I don’t normally offer in-depth SEO advice to anyone but my paying clients and I’m not trying to sell anything here.  But I thought I might try to demonstrate how easy it is to be different.

So for April 1st I’ve written a SEO piece that is different.  It’s a parody of good website advice and I’ve called it Effective Websites are Life Threatening: How to Prevent Your Website Interfering with Your Fishing and Golf.

In it I give advice on how to stop your website being effective.  It is negative advice and it has been launched today.  Time will tell if it is successful.

I’ll leave you to decide if the advice is valid or if it is an April 1st joke.  I’ll leave the world to decide if it is a fun piece, a marketing myth or just plain crazy.

Whatever they decide, it’ll be interesting to see if it is regarded as different.  If it is, this could be the way you need to consider going.

You can read Effective Websites are Life Threatening: How to Prevent Your Website Interfering with Your Fishing and Golf here.

Over to You

What experiences have you had with “good friends,” “experts,” and “me too” companies? I’d like to hear about it in the comments below.

About Stefan Drew

Stefan Drew aka The Marketing Magician is a man who appears in those little black books that the media keep where they store their best sources and find people to interview. At home in the UK, he can sometimes be heard on up to five BBC stations in a single evening, and the BBC always introduce him as The Marketing Magician. Stefan is also heard on radio stations throughout the world, and his ideas appear on the websites of international organisations everywhere. His ideas and advice are relevant to sole traders and corporates alike. That's why he's The Marketing Magician! You can find Stefan on Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter.

16 thoughts on “My "Good Friend" and other Marketing Myths

  1. Not really sure what the point of your post is. Yes, we all should stand out by being different. At the same time, there isn’t any “magic” to Internet Marketing. There are formulas to follow and you can ignore them at the expense of your time and money.

  2. Thanks for your comment Mike. It is appreciated.

    Yes, there are formulas we can follow, as you’ve clearly worked out. But from experience I know most people don’t understand that formulas exist or if they do they don’t understand how to make them work.

    The point I was trying to make is that most people get the basic rules wrong.

    It is why we see so many emails about JVs with “good friends” that are clearly false and why the internet is populated with “Experts” with little expertise and even less authority or credibility.

    Likewise the “Me To” marketing that many people carry out both online and offline. So many people just copy their competitors and think that if the competitors do it this way it’ll work for anyone. It doesn’t.

    These are the people that fail pretty quickly .. or just limp along without achieving much.


  3. Right. I get exactly what you are saying. There are some webinars I have been to whee they always introduce the ‘seller’ as their good friend. As if they have been doing business for years together or grew up together. I suspect you are right in that they just use that term to establish credability.
    If you know and like and trust me enough to come to my wibinar and I am good friends with this guy then you should trust him and buy his stuff…

    • That’s it exactly Troy. It is a form of transference that they are after by pretending to be good friends.

      If they trust me and I say you are my friend they will “transfer” the trust they have for me to you. Therefore if they would buy my product they assume it is OK to buy your product.

      Of course the fact we are good friends doesn’t necessarily mean you are trustworthy .. I may have bad judgement in choosing friends .. OR I might just say people are good friends simply because I am greedy and will get a commission from your sales because I introduced you.

      In some senses the idea of good friends could lower sales. As soon as I see the term used I become suspicious and may question the assertion and maybe even stop trusting the person I previously had respect for.

  4. I got some great insights from this post, and the one you mentioned. I just recently came from the scavenger hunt where we were able to make new connections for guests posts. I found that I could not just say my “friend,” but rather had to explain that I made a new friend recently during a marketing scavenger hunt that I was on. (of course I had to explain that too.) I explained that she was a new friend and I enjoyed reading her material so I wanted to share it with my followers and email subscribers. I think it is important to be honest and truthful.

    Thank you for sharing this post.

  5. Thanks for the feedback Jessica.

    Our integrity in these matters is vital. Without we are lost.

    By introducing someone as your new friend you probably gained a lot of kudos. As well as being seen to be honest you were sharing information from someone you had only just met .. that demonstrates several things.

    Firstly you really valued her material and that you were actually sharing something you valued.

    Secondly, it also demonstrated you are a nice person to do business with; you didn’t wrap it up as your own work but were open to the fact other people have valuable ideas to offer.

    You also shared something of yourself. E.g. the fact you go on scavenger hunts and are a real person…. rather than a mechanised person that churns out ideas/advice or whatever.

    People want us to have integrity and they mostly prefer to do business with those they “know” (maybe only via our blogs, webinars , books etc.), like and trust. Explaining as you did achieved all of these.

  6. Hello,

    Wonderful insights regarding “Good Friends” I guess we gonna need to detect good friends more eventually and you’ve got a clear comparison between good friends and marketing.


  7. Thanks Nithin.

    Sadly “Good Friends” area drain on our energy, trust and frequently pockets.

    Just surround your self with good friends instead. People you can trust.

    One observation though. We are the aggregate of our 5-6 closest friends. This means your aspirations and income will be the average of the 5-6 people you spend most time with. So aim to get some really inspirational high flyers as friends. That’s a tall order in day to day life but you can get close to it by following/mixing with an online community of friends.

    Good luck


  8. Hi Stefan, LOVE this reality check 🙂 we need more of this in the on- line world to help cut through the BS.
    I have attended so many webinars where exactly the above is the introduction – my “best friend” – and I am thinking – oh yeah really ??? – you don’t really know the truth and I am a total skeptic at heart – which actually has held me in good stead while learning about the IM world . However much of the IM world profits from the exact opposite – hoping people will believe false promises.
    So I am all for any discussion to bring forward reality, honesty and truth ( rather lofty ideals aren’t they !).

  9. Thanks Alison

    Sadly it isn’t just in the Internet world. I’ve just received a 10 page letter from a well known marketing”guru” that actually promises lot but at the end of reading it most of the promises can’t be summed up except to say it is smoke and mirrors.

    He promises three days in a small group with him .. but the reality is that no numbers are given for the small group .. is that 2-3 people ot 80-90 people?

    It seemed to me a coverall in case only a handful took him up but he could take 8o-90, and claim it was a small group for him, if it went well.

    As for three days, is that three full days or evening on day one to breakfast on day three? It seemed to me he was talking BS but my guess is many people will fall for it.

  10. Hello Stefan,

    I’m trying to comprehend the fine prints of what you’re advocating, but its not sinking in.

    The problem here is this: How long does it take to make a good friend? Are there any standard rules?

    As for getting the basic rules wrong, my thinking was that rules were meant for guidance and not for limitation. With my little knowledge of internet marketing, i don’t think you have to know someone from Adam before you introduce your audience to him. A lot has been said and written about joint ventures/strategic alliances. The basic requirement is if the alliance will enable the audience get access to a solution they have been seeking. I’m proud to be on Danny’s list, and Danny has introduced me to some good friends of his, which also helped to bring me closer to my goals.

    Like every other thing, JV is a marketing strategy. And as you, “what’s in it for me” is the predominant question on the customer’s mind.

    As for me, i’m mainly interested in the problem i want to solve, and not whether the second party in the JV has been a childhood friend of Danny. For crying out loud, if i trust Danny enough to be on his list, why do i have to go searching on Google if he has had dinner with Danny before? Isn’t that a betrayal on Danny’s sense of judgement?

  11. Hi Godwin

    Thanks for your comment.

    You are absolutely right in saying there is no rule on how long you need to know someone for them to become a good friend.

    But I think in business we need to be careful to make claims that are not true as it harms our reputation.

    You say you are proud to be on Danny’s list and that is good. Danny is someone I trust and respect. You must feel the same to be proud to be on his list. In a sense that is my point. When he introduces someone as his good friend you know it to be true. If it were someone that he’d just met but who had great information for you Danny is the sort of person that would say that and not make “Good friend” claims.

    Of course it is the value of the information provided in their JV that matters. But people we can trust don’t claim friendship when they mean acquaintance or we have just met. It is why we trust people like Danny.

    I’m not suggesting you need to check out every JV on Google. That is just a method to use if you suspect you are being lied to.

    The point is that if you can’t trust people on the small things that they don’t need to lie about you will never be able to trust them about anything else .. like their offers, guarantees etc.

    Essentially my post wasn’t about Danny per se. It was about everyone on the Internet that makes false claims. You don’t need to question Danny’s sense of judgement on this one. He is honest (or I’d never say he was one of my friends and someone I trust) and I’ve worked with him for sometime now.

    I hope that clarifies my point.

  12. This is a great post and I think it would heighten the sensitivity of everyone’s BS detector if they took it to heart. This integrity thing is important. My take on it for myself is about what I thought it would be. If I ever do a JV marketing approach,(really any marketing, to think of it) the marketing of it would be the simplest solution and what I think you’re saying is the best. That is, the oldest rule in copywriting which is: Tell The Story. If there isn’t a headline grabbing, heart rending story to tell, just tell the one you have. It’s enough. And it’ll ring true. Thanks for the thoughtful post. One of the gentlest rants I’ve read in a long while. Instructive too.

  13. Chris

    I’m glad you found my rant gentle.

    Correct, it ought to heighten everyone’s BS detector but sadly a few people still don’t get it. So spread the word whenever you can


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