A few days ago I published an article about selling. Some people thought it was about a con man. Perhaps they were right.
Either way, the article resulted in me losing quite a few of my much-loved subscribers – some of them sending me nasty messages about how unethical I was.
So, at the encouragement of my good friend over at Lion5 I decided to write a short follow up post about controversy, risk and lost subscribers. The last paragraph contains a statement I want you all to help me with.
Oh, and Scott, I’m waiting for you analysis of this photo.
So what happened exactly?
A few hours after I published the article above I got a flurry of notices of people unsubscribing from my email list. Well, not really a flurry. More of a slow drip. I think it was four people.
And that is pretty normal. Every article I publish I lose a few subscribers but gain a whole bunch more.
So why was this different? Well, normally the messages that people leave me under the box for “reason for unsubscribing” says something like, “I just get too many emails from people” or “I’m switching to RSS”. Not this time. This time I got messages like:
“How dare you glorify a con man and teach people how to behave so unethically. You have lost the plot mate. And a reader.”
I’ll be honest with you. They really upset me. I’m a pretty sensitive person anyway, but when you work so hard to try and help other people with their blogging careers it is a bit hard to take.
My intentions weren’t to teach people unethical behavior – the article mentioned a number of times how I wasn’t talking about the stealing, but the use of human emotions in ethical selling.
Not the first time
Its not the first time I’ve upset people either. A few months ago I published this article which really upset one of my favorite readers. When I found out how much I had upset them by using such a controversial title I was devastated. It was all I thought about for days.
The thing that really gets me is when you mean to help but actually end up doing harm. I think it is a symptom of a lack of wisdom, experience and better judgement. And like they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Please weigh in
The reason for writing this article is not to get all my friends out there to tell me how amazing I am and how wrong those people were. I actually believe both I and them are a little bit wrong and a little bit right. Rather, what I want to know is how you feel about this statement:
To succeed you must take risks
Please leave a comment and let me know what you think about this statement in the context of the rest of the article. Should you take risks? Were my risks too big? What happens if people get hurt?
95 CommentsJoin in. The comments are closed after 30 days.
Don’t worry about it man. There are people who think blog posts are compulsory for the blog owner to make, and thus there is no room for appreciation.
You don’t want to have those kind of readers anyway. I personally welcome the fact that they unsubscribe because they’ll likely just cause problems and never buy from you anyways.
And you said 4 people unsubscribed…? That’s so tiny and not worth getting even remotely worked up about.
Keep doing what you’re doing, you’re helping and inspiring hundreds of others.
How far do you go with risks on your site?
I read your article and understood exactly what you meant. I liked the message you were sending.
After spending many years writing promotional material for my businesses, the one thing I have learned is just how far from the intended message some readers seem to end up? Losing subscribers is painful, but we just can’t be all things to all people, so all we can do is suck it up, learn what we can and keeping skipping forward!
Love it Pam. How do you know when you’ve gone too far though?
“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert Kennedy
Hey Mr Tyrant, I’m a big fan.
I personally believe the whole point of aiming for success is taking risks and reaping the rewards.
Let’s face it – in any aspect of our lives the safest option is to stay home and shut the curtains. By going after what we want we must take a risk – that it won’t work, that we might challenge or irritate a few people, that we might shake the tree, rock the boat, rattle the cage, etc etc.
That’s what makes it so exciting and so damn scary to be in business for myself, but that’s what also makes the rewards so much greater than my previous career as an IT consultant. (I’m now a professional portrait & wedding photographer… go figure.)
“To succeed you must take risks” deserves to be printed & stuck above my computer – in fact, I’m going to do that RIGHT NOW.
My comment regarding the unsubscribes is this: people who are open to, and respectful of your opinion, will take the time to understand that what you are saying is to be taken in the way it was intended – a spirited inquiry into how stuff works. People who get emotional, rant, or generally make whingey unsubscribe comments a) don’t get it, and b) probably aren’t “ideal clients” anyway.
Your subscribers list is now made up of a higher percentage of people who really get what you are saying and care about your opinions.
Great comment Israel… I still feel bad though… ha ha
Yah, sensitive folks tend to. (I should know… I’m one.) But then, you can’t please everyone all the time. And the feeling bad bit will pass 🙂
The evidence is mounting below that you were onto something worthwhile…
Personally, I didn’t like the article about the man who sold the Brooklyn Bridge, but as a frequent reader I know you won’t suggest unethical behaviors to your readers.
I guess I agree with Diggy somehow. The people who unsubscribed didn’t give you the benefit of the doubt.
To succeed you must take risks. But not all risks. The limit would be not to offend or hurt people. However, I don’t think you are offending anybody just because you wrote the article “Are you stupid?…” (I’m sorry you lost your favorite reader but I don’t think you insulted him/her at all)
We made up after that event so it was okay in the end.
What about the Brooklyn Bridge article did you not like?
For me the problem was the connection between the first part of the article and the second. I lost interest reading the first part so I gave up. Only a few days later I went back to the post and read the rest.
The tips and advice in the second part are brilliant (as usual).But it was very difficult to get to them.
BT, Coldplay is absolutely my favorite band ever but still I don’t like some of their songs. Or I like them less at least.
First, thank you for the above-the-fold “honorable mention!”
Phenomenal is the term I am choosing for your requested (and by now, expected) analysis of the photo usage. “What in the world does an image of Bob Dylan have to do with anything?” Answer: Judas. The classic, and Biblical, reference to betrayal.
Some of Dylan’s fans felt he sold out – betrayed them – when he refocused his music style, akin to how the apostle, Judas, betrayed Jesus by turning him over to the authorities for 30 pieces of silver. So, the 1966 story of a Dylan fan labeling him “Judas,” at a concert, stuck.
And one could argue that some of your fans, BT, feel a sense of betrayal even though your intentions are to educate, not to encourage unethical behavior.
Now, the above may be a little deep, and it certainly lacks the humor I normally strive to I.D. in your selection of photos for blog use, but there you go – a risk taken 😉
I also think it is a big risk for somebody like you to ask somebody like me to offer analysis on your choice of blog photos. Bravo!
Here are two of the risks I take on my website:
1) I include “HE>I” in the footer section.
2) I include a reference to Proverbs 10:9 “He who walks in integrity walks securely,” on my About page and in my meta description tag and in my on-site SEO.
These are things I believe in and are also principles easily applied to successful business. I want people to know this about me and, at the same time, I do know that I may lose some customers because of it.
I do not think the risks you take are too big; I think they are substantial. And that the wisdom you referred to will temper those risks in the long run. In the short run, you and those of your fans who have eyes to see and ears to hear, will recognize that trials always make us stronger, more appreciative and more humble. And living in humility helps us help others, without fail.
That is the Scott Kindred comment I was after!
Spot on the money. Perhaps the Dylan reference was too simple? Although, I think maybe you are the only one getting these.
To top matters off – I just started learning the electric guitar.
Plugged in indeed.
I enjoyed the article in question, but I did think, as I was reading it, how many people probably wouldn’t “get it”.
Blogs, especially blogs that have any “Make Money” component at all, seem heavily populated with people who are only looking for the easy, effortless “secret”, like taking over a bridge that you know isn’t yours and collecting tolls from people gullible enough to pay them.
I think what lost the subscribers you did lose was telling the truth … that he eventually died penniless and in prison … it should have been a movie-like ending where he escaped all punishment, married the beautiful girl and was able t blackmail the chief of police into shining his shoes for him.
Truth, in most forms, scares the dickens out of a lot of people … and work, rather than some “magic, effortless solution” scares off many more … but keep writing it, anyway.
“Almost everything you do will seem insignificant, but it is important that you do it” … Mahatma Gandhi
Good quote Dave. And thanks for that excellent comment.
I didn’t find anything offensive in your post, if the readers who unsubscribed left a comment here the problem would have been quickly resolved.
As for taking risks I haven’t taken any like this on my blog (maybe I should), I can understand how you don’t want to upset or hurt anyone, you are not responsible for the upset they are experiencing. Take a deep breath and don’t stop, you have loyal readers who value all you share here.
I have upset a number of people on an expat forum and just patiently kept explaining what I meant, and eventually we worked it all out.
ciao for now
I think that is a good point. Even great writers like Hemmingway couldn’t say what they meant all the time.
I can relate, since I want to be liked too and criticism can really sting.
You make it abundantly clear in your writing that you only teach ethical, white-hat methods. In your second podcast, you say that when you sell your sites you have your lawyer draw up a contract. In that contract, the buyer promises not to change your site to display porn, online gambling, etc. A lot of webmasters would just take the money and run. But you see your sites as an extension of your reputation, which is admirable.
One way you could have approached writing about con artists was to list their tactics, one by one, but immediately contrast them with a way to use that tactic ethically.
Scam tactic: Con artists elicit personal details from their victims, then mold their background to be similar and gain the victims’ trust. “Oh, you’re a teacher? My wife is a teacher too!” Whatever the victim says, the con artist finds a way to mesh his story in.
Ethical tactic: Reveal a little about your own real fears and problems, then talk about how you conquered them.
Scam tactic: Con artists pretend to be authoritative experts in their field and refuse questions.
Ethical tactic: Be honest about not knowing everything and welcoming feedback.
You get the idea. Expose all those tricks, and explain the honest ways of getting results.
On a related note, Wired magazine had a great article that explained how big online companies influence their users to buy, share, subscribe and more: http://bit.ly/jkxHb1.
As for controversy, Tim Ferriss of The Four Hour Workweek had a blog post titled, “How to Become a Model Photographer in Brazil”: http://bit.ly/gmnhvQ.
There are some people who would be offended by the idea of a guy who moved to Brazil specifically because he wanted to make a career out of taking pictures of beautiful women. To avoid confusion, the story wasn’t about Ferriss, but someone else.
At the end of it, Ferriss wrote a section titled “Please everyone to interest no one” to address the issue of reader discontent.
If you’re writing about a niche, by definition you’re writing for certain readers and excluding the rest. So in a way, if you’re getting no criticism, it’s a sign you might not be targeting your niche enough. That’s an intellectual argument though. Emotionally, it still hurts to get hate mail.
In the novel “The Other Side of Midnight” by Sidney Sheldon, there’s this wonderfully wicked character named Constantin Demiris. He’s a ruthless, powerful shipping tycoon. Demiris had this great line: “To be successful, you need friends. To be very successful, you need enemies.”
Keep up the great work, Blog Tyrant.
Terrific idea, Marcus, to do the Scam tactic/Ethical tactic side-by-side examples: contrasting examples are a great way to teach with clarity.
Glad you liked that idea, Jen!
I wonder if some of the critics just saw Blog Tyrant’s headline and skimmed the post? So many misunderstandings have arisen when readers latch onto a headline and neglect to actually read the full post.
Really great comment Marcus. Thank you. Lots to think about.
I left a comment on the said post, people who got offended are either Uber sensitive or they can’t digest information.
Keep doing what your doing, you can’t keep everyone happy and as long as you take most people with you then its fine.
I went back and read the original article. You were very clear that you were not suggestion people use knowledge of human behavior and emotions to do bad things.
I tried to be. Maybe sometimes that’s not enough?
Hey BT, don’t worry about it.
Here’s the thing – in my experience, the internet breeds a sense of anonymity, and let’s people get away with being snarky and judgmental when they’re in that mood – they don’t really mean it, and it shouldn’t be taken personally.
I’ll illustrate with an example; when people opt in to our free video course, after they watch the video they have the option of tweeting about the course (if they like it) to receive some bonus worksheet material (if they don’t like the videos, then why would they like the worksheets, right?)
So we recently had someone unsubscribe from the free course, with the explanation being that “I’m not willing to share my contacts. I consider this deceptive advertising since I can’t watch the videos, if I won’t share.”
(Remember, she could watch the videos!)
People like to feel that they own the whole internet, and they have a right to dictate how everyone should run their blogs; often an unsubscribe with a snarky comment like the one that I received, or that you received with your last post, is just their acting out a little fit – it’s childish petulance, and should be ignored, in my opinion.
You are so right about the anonymity. Youtube is the perfect example.
You will never be able to please everyone. It’s just a fact of life.
I know what you mean, though. I recently posted an article about how “sneaky” sales tactics create money but not wealth. I had one visitor tell me, “so you’re saying that it’s perfectly okay to be sneaky and con people as a way to make money?”
Of course that wasn’t what I was saying and sometimes you have to wonder why people would reply so boldly without first asking, well nicely.
My article was about how although it’s “legal” to do, it’s not always the best way to succeed as a long term sales tactic.
Anyway, I feel ya.
Taking risks is good. The bigger the risk, though, the better the reward better be.
There is a fine line between risks and stupid, though. So we need to always try to keep that notion in our heads. I think what you did was just fine.
I’ve found that when it comes to marketing, some people think it’s all evil LOL
Good point John. Marketing has a pretty bad rep.
The offended ones either did skimmed rather than read the article or did not understand your intent, which was stated.
One has to stay true to ones self and as long as you honestly believe what you write you are within “what is too far?”.
Here in the US I have some very cogent arguements against “no kill” in the animal world. You
can imagine how unpopular that makes me in some circles.
I was irriatated that the free ebook pop up hit while I was trying to type this, but am not unsubscribing:)
Thanks Janet. I’m with you on the no-kill.
I subscribed to your blog because as a beginning blogger, I found your posts interesting, thoughtful, and useful, and in the case of the Brooklyn Bridge post – wildly entertaining.
You are not responsible for the feelings of your readers. As bloggers we must have thick skins. You have found your voice – use it. If, when you hit the Publish button, it is from a place of truth, then you can relax, regardless of who unsubscribes.
Blogging is a risk – we are putting our opinions and ourselves out there. Please don’t let disgruntled readers rattle you or worse, stifle your creativity.
Hey, at least you’re not boring, right?
Nicely said Shannon. Very true indeed.
I think the people who unsubscribed need to get a sense of irony. You were finding some great and useful points from some outlandish people – nothing wrong with that at all!
That was the idea – maybe I need to be more careful about who I pick.
Have to say I enjoyed the post for what it was … even if the ethics were not admirable – it got me listening. But then again I enjoy a bit of controversy and read varied newspaper ‘comment’ or ‘opinion’ which could often be considered even less ethical.
Sometimes, for whatever reason, I reckon people in this First World take life far too seriously on some counts and not seriously enough on the real issues. If your subscribers don’t like a post you write, they can enter dialogue with you and argue the point. No need for any nastiness. And let’s face it, in the end, you are not the Oracle (sorry BT!).
There are far too many other people who are either starving or living without hope of escape in countries of great political upheavel – who don’t have a voice at all. Perhaps we should be more worried about protecting their interests (and I’m certainly not a saint, martyr or great activist), rather than worrying about how a blog post affects our own sensibilities. The lost subscribers are a mere blip on the horizon, and you are moving onwards and upwards. Jo
Thanks Jo. Beautiful comment.
When I read the “con man” post, I did wonder what reactiono you’d get to it. Not because of the topic or the “risk” in using that particular example to make your point, but because I thought the point might not have been as clearly communicated as you’d usually do. Not a matter of taking risks in saying something, but more a matter of whether the message came through clearly. You know how it’s always risky to use humour and satire, on the internet, with such a broad range of experiential and cultural backgrounds in our readership? I suspect the same goes with a post on the form of “here’s what we can learn from a ‘bad guy’ to use his unethical methods for ethical purposes” – does that sound to you like “failure to communicate” might a factor here, BT?
Yeah I agree with you Jen. Someone else made that point as well so I think you are on the money.
I was a little shocked at your analogy, but I felt better when you keep saying that you don’t condone unethical behavior. I’ve also read many of your previous posts, so I leaned more to the side of “I’ll give him a pass THIS time” ;). We as people have to realize that we all have certain not-so-nice human traits that have to be checked by ourselves or maybe some great readers/mentors who have our backs. I take risks on my blog that aren’t really mainstream financial advice and kinda offends, but my faithful readers seem to give me motivation…just when I need it most. I say shake it off and keep it movin! 🙂
It seems like its a pretty tight balance though right?
You were in the right because you were being YOURSELF. The people who have unsubscribed are clearly not a good fit for you, but you know that the rest who remain subscribed are far more likely to “get it” – “it” being you, and what you are writing about.
That is a good thing, and should be celebrated, and should only encourage you to be true to yourself in future.
No one who reads this is entitled to anything – the people who get it are PRIVILEGED to be able to share your knowledge and wisdom, and the people who don’t get it are quite entitled to storm off – but I don’t think they are worthy of more attention!
Good point Andrew. Maybe the attrition is a good thing as it narrows down the loyal fans.
Greetings. It is almost always worth the risk. I thought the post was interesting and funny. What a great factoid that (as a born New Yorker) I wasn’t aware of. Classic story. It definitely highlighted the significance of human emotion in sales, subscriptions, etc. Sorry about the loss but in this case it’s not yours but the reader’s. I am guessing they will continue to skim over your posts from afar/anonymously. Don’t let it get ya down. Apparently fluctuation in readership is a sign of an active blog!
As a New Yorker could you imagine selling someone the Brooklyn Bridge?
Oh yeah, and I also find amusing that people think reading about unethical historical events will make them guilty by association. Perhaps this is why so many folks are unwilling to do the work around particular isms, (race, class, etc) (i.e., if you learn the history of slavery people might think..).
Naw dude. That London bridge thing was cool.
I’d way rather you offend some dudes than get stereotyped in the trudges of mediocre marketers.
Keep rocking. Ignore the hate. We’re still in this journey together.
You, Martyn, are a very cool guy.
Dear Blog Tyrant,
Got here from a recommendation from Scott K. Have to say I love the tone and stance you have taken on this matter. Risk analysis is something I consider in every blog post, webpage and marketing tool I create. Sometimes I will will even post an article specifically to “provoke” a reaction…again, a calculated risk. Blog readers and Twitter followers come and go brother. You can’t worry about every unfollow or unsubscribe. Just keep being your awesome self and keep posting AWESOME content and you will recoup the loss’s ten fold.
This post and blog have been bookmarked on Delicious, Digg and Google+. The post has also been re-tweeted and this is officially a new Favorite Blog of mine 🙂
Thanks Mike. Glad to have any friend of Scott around here.
This place is getting better and better all the time.
Migosh, people can think so concretely, don’t ya know?
Bob Dylan sang his tunes terribly (thank goodness Joan Biaz made them sound wonderful), he irked many people over the age of 18 with his far out lyrics. But those lyrics weren’t so far out, not to me or a lot of other people. I truly believe that one day his poetry will be in school texts and he will be studied as a leading 20th century poet.
The Brooklyn Bridge story was new to me. I loved it. A good example of how gullible people can be when they get greedy. I got caught by an big online marketer, so I know it can happen to otherwise sensible people.
Your blog pointed that out. All you did was suggest to your readers that they be aware of this fact. Has no one researched sales techniques for insurance salesmen? They ought to if they aim to sell to the public.
There’s nothing scammy about what you said, even though the nature of that particular blog was more business like than hand holding. Hang in there with your valuable, intelligent advice. We have minds. We can sift your words. Can’t we?
Here’s a cyber hug just because.
Ugh. Don’t make me think about insurance sales. I still feel a little dirty after all my years in financial services. (I was insurance and securities licensed at the end.) If people want to see the hardest core, sleaziest sales tactics just this side of legal…walk into your bank and don’t cut them off with a “no” in the middle of their pitch. Used car salesmen have nothing on bankers. 🙁
Ha ha. Dorothy and Jen I love you guys.
Dorothy, was that Shoemoney that you felt ripped you off?
I agree with much that has been said well here already. I particularly agree with those saying that if you aren’t turning someone off at least occasionally, you’re likely being bland, average, run of the mill and that helps no one usually.
As far as risk, it comes down to knowing yourself and your readers customers as best you can and then working within those limits. Sometimes, you’re still going to be tough on them, other times you’ll tell them something they may not want to hear. If this is done with consideration, not just for blatant shock/offense, there’s nothing wrong. I personally did not see anything wrong with your example as you repeatedly said, I’m not condoning doing business this way. That’s showing consideration and tact.
Those who were offended have the right to be, as you have the right to choose to use that example and run your business as you see fit. Your true tribe will continue to show up and appreciate it when you do.
Cheryl you have a very logical way of looking at Free Speech. I quite like it.
Ugh. Wall of text coming…
I’m the sort who loves reading about examples of abnormal psychology – con men falling into that category – so I totally got where you were going with the last post. That said, I distinctly remember wondering how many others would look at it as the Tyrant’s tips for screwing people. Since people skim and only half pay attention to Internet articles, you probably got off easy if you just lost a handful of people.
I would amend your statement though: To succeed you must take CALCULATED risks.
Here’s the thing…You chose to be the Blog Tyrant, not the Blog Nice Guy, not the Blog Joker, not the Blog BFF. Tyrant. Now, if I’m reading Blog BFF, I expect a bunch of happy touchy-feely articles about how life is all kittens and roses. Reading a tyrant, I expect real world; I expect an edge. By nature, when you tell people how the world (or industry) really is, they won’t always like it. I regularly tell people their lives suck because they choose to let them suck and I don’t lose any sleep over it because I chose a writing persona in that case who tells the truth without nicing it up.
I get being a sensitive person – probably more than anyone online will *ever* fully know – but this is precisely what you signed up for when you chose to be a tyrant as opposed to the million other blog-guy variants you could have selected. That is the calculated risk you decided to take. But if you didn’t calculate out the full potential risk first, just went with a name you thought was cool, well…sorry, but it’s on you. Your persona doesn’t lend itself well to non-controversial vanilla topics.
And if you do start writing nicey-nice vanilla blog posts, I’ll go ahead and tell you what I’m putting as my unsubscribe comment: Vanilla? Pass. (sorry)
So, this is the question I think you really have to ask yourself about this last post, or any post someone has later made you feel bad about: Did you have that queasy, unsettled feeling when you hit Publish? Did you deep down know it was a post you thought was underhanded, seedy or not quite worth the bandwidth? IMHO, as long as the content you’re putting out is consistent with your blog’s image/message and doesn’t keep you up sweating bullets at night, you haven’t gone too far.
As far as people getting hurt…there’s not a damn thing you can do about that. It’s statistically impossible to write anything that each and every Internet user in the world will look at and go, “Yeah, I’m totally on board with that.” Your responsibility in the equation is to not put out copy with malicious intent. It’s the reader’s choice whether they choose to take offense to the copy. You only get to control your side of it, not the end user’s.
So…toughen up, Tyrant. 🙂
Jen. Sweet wall of text. And …
“You chose to be the Blog Tyrant, not the Blog Nice Guy, not the Blog Joker, not the Blog BFF. Tyrant.”
Like Garry said, you made a good point about the choice of name. For someone called Blog Tyrant, we expect him to speak with authority.
What you said about honesty reminded me of a lesson I learned in my creative writing workshops in university: if you don’t feel even a little bit embarrassed about sharing your stories with your classmates, then you haven’t revealed enough of yourself in your writing. Consequently, your writing won’t move people.
I wasn’t talking about that butterfly feeling you get when you might be oversharing; more about that “I’m crossing my ethical line with this post” kind of writing.
Again. I love you.
I am a little offended that you wouldn’t stick around for vanilla posts though… 😉
So, the last line, “you only get to control your side of it…” is an interesting ethical debate. How far does it go? Does that apply to sexualization of young people in jeans ads? Or demoralizing women in PETA ads?
I was specifically talking about your blogging situation (and that of ethical bloggers). I’m not going to touch either of those two subjects in question in a public forum. Sorry.
Seemed pretty clear you weren’t condoning scams, only looking at what drives behavior. 4 people doesn’t seem like much. How many new subscribers did you pick up?
It’s challenging to direct a reader’s focus. And using examples that can be viewed in different ways is a given. It’s unfortunate when some can’t see the forest for the trees. They get hung up on one aspect and lose the meaning.
Taking risks is the game. And I appreciate your doing so. You make me think. Consider. Use a different perspective.
I just started blogging. I was afraid to put myself out there, to take that risk. I’m now considering taking on some more controversial subjects. I’m currently developing a long post about … divorce. I don’t know. I still recoil when I consider hitting the publish button.
It’s a soul search that some are gonna get and others just won’t.
Via this post you help me to see that it’s part of the deal. Keep stretching. Keep being yourself. And keep taking risks. Thanks BT.
I used to think that if you had the intention to help people with your writing, and some knowledge about ethics you would be able to actually help. Now, I’m not so sure.
The Dalai Lama says that if you can’t help at least don’t do any harm. Maybe that should be the fall back?
Sure. If the premise for writing is based on as you say, “…the intention to help people….” That’s noble, and I tend to think that’s my main underlying motivation too. But, writing is collecting and disseminating thoughts, the action of learning for both the writer and the reader. And can be very cathartic too. For that to happen, the risk has to include a degree of transparency, and regardless of the effort to reduce being misunderstood or others being offended, it happens.
Oi. You simply have to take risks or you’re writing will be merely simple. I write online serial fiction and it has taken me over a year of writing this story–to get over my fear of upsetting someone. This fear has held me back from writing what is it I truly want to say. (‘If You Want to Write, by Brenda Ueland is a wonderful book for writers and it focuses on this very theme).
By the way, I once was upset by one of your titles and I wrote in to tell you so, because, though I believe writers have the right to express their message, readers also have a right to express how the message was received. You responded right away. Also, from your response I felt you were sincere, and I better understood what you were trying to do with the ‘offensive’ post. This to me, is impressive. For, if you can always be honest, then you will never be wrong.
Thanks Theresa. Glad my response wasn’t angry and jerky that day! Ha ha.
The first article is the one that got me to start reading your blog … I thought both were funny and useful.
One thing someone said is that your audience isn’t the whole world, it’s the people who want what you have to offer. So by unsubscribing, they are self-selecting (just like the people who subscribe do), which is okay.
Yeah, great point Pat. I’m starting to see that it is true.
Oh boy!! This article was written for me. Honestly, it was so nice to read your follow up post, even though your original post didn’t offend me at all. I liked that you were talking about the human emotional side to purchasing – and your angle was appropriate.
I write a very personal “tell-all” blog that sometimes gets a little too personal with those around me. Recently, I wrote a blog about how my latest vacation with my boyfriend was very similar to one with my ex, with the end result being more positive. Obviously, the details created some drama and friends of my ex (I have to assume since the bastards insist on listing themselves as “Anonymous”) tore me up in my comments. I couldn’t believe the kind of hate mail I was receiving over a stupid blog entry.
A friend told me to let it go and reminded me that I put my innermost thoughts out into the world using a forum that invites public humiliation at times. I tried… but I had to write a follow up post as well – just to clarify that I wasn’t planning an attack, just sharing my experiences, like I’ve always done.
Anyhow, things have since mellowed but every time I see that I received a new comment on a blog I’ve posted, my heart beats a little faster and I get nervous with that mouse-click.
But… I guess this is what we asked for, right? I’m sure you embrace your positive comments as much as I do.
For the record, I really enjoy your blog. Keep up the productive and great work.
I know that feeling Tina. Still get it after 10 years of blogging.
I had a brief look at your site and you are a very good writer. I hope you keep it up.
I, for one, enjoyed the article. Of course the man selling the bridge was unethical, but then again, to some extent, so were the people that bought it.
I took from the article the same thing that I take from the snake oil traveling salesmen: there will always be people willing to buy anything.
Someone once said, “there’s a sucker born every minute, the quickest way to get rich is to separate the sucker from his/her money.” I add, “make sure the sucker needs what you’re selling and that you have a right to sell it.”
Everyone is selling something. Whether it is a car, a house, perfume, makeup, their time, their expertise, their wit, themselves. It is our job to make sure that what we are selling is not misrepresented and that it solves a problem for the person buying.
Sorry if it sounds like a ramble. That’s how my thoughts came out.
Its true – people really hate the word selling and anything to do with it. But its what we are all doing.
I read the original article and a couple of things come to mind.
I suspect that some people read the title and the first few sentences and then called shenanigans and wrote you a shitty email. If you read the whole article it’s pretty clear you aren’t condoning con-man tactics in marketing.
I think most of us have a fear about ‘selling’ and being sleazy. Even talking about it can make some people very uncomfortable. Everyone is reading your blog looking through their own filter. If that filter included fear about selling or if they had a bad experience being sold or maybe they have been accused of being sleazy, they will interpret what they read in a way that matches their experiences.
In general,I try to make bold statements or write about something a bit controversial in order to weed out the people who don’t really read and consider the material. I’m not really interested in working with people who get their panties in a bunch over a blog.
You do good work and part of that is making us open our eyes in surprise once in a while. Keep it up!
Nothing useful to say, but…I like you.
Good points Vicki. And spot on about selling being a dirty word.
Every single human is on a spectrum of skills, I come here to learn.
You don’t learn anything about selling from the average person but you can learn about it by studying the extremely gifted. If someone can sell the Brooklyn bridge to multiple persons over a period of years, surely I with my below average marketing skills can take some important information away from the example.
The fact that said person may simultaneously be completely devoid of ethics does not mean that there is nothing to learn from what they are expert at.
I can learn from anyone, in fact at times I can even get a little jealous of those who are not hampered by such civilized trappings as ethics. Quite frankly selling people what they already believe or want to believe seems easier than selling people what they need to know, that has value and substance.
Recently a friend of mine who reads my blog told me that I was negative and really hurt my little feelings. The fact is that I’m working 7 days a week and there are times when my phone is like a hand grenade. I’m constantly deluged with problems, in the last few months, multiple evictions, and attempted murder from one tenant to the other, filling up a 25% vacancy rate, a site manager that had a nervous breakdown, firing two staff members and so on. (When the site manager went mad I had to cover for her, the site is two hours away from the office and I’ve had to attend several times a week) None of this stuff ends up on the blog.
So you know what, if they don’t like my negativity they can just go read a happy happy joy joy blog about landlords & tenants. It’s my blog, I have more work than I can shake a stick at, there are times when the proper response is just to tell people to go pound salt. I’m not forcing anyone to read my crap.
Oh and controversy gets more traffic than anything on the internet. My top all time post was a slam of the Real Estate Investment Network. People just love to look at car crashes.
“The fact that said person may simultaneously be completely devoid of ethics does not mean that there is nothing to learn from what they are expert at.”
That is the perfect point and sums up what I was wondering when writing this post. Bravo Rachelle you
I read that post and it reminded me why I subscribe to your blog, (amongst a sea of bloggers). You have something to say and you encourage the reader to think. That’s a good thing. The Dylan graphic was not lost on me either.
You don’t really expect me to give my two cents on risk taking, do you? I’m pretty sure that was a rhetorical statement anyway. I also subscribe to Seth Godin – And I know you know what he thinks about risk…
Does Seth do anything that isn’t a risk?
I loved your bridge post and it looks like most everyone else commenting here did too. Telling an interesting story like this is both entertaining and educational for your readers – it brings the point home better than some dry facts and figures about the psychology of selling.
I personally would not have considered that post to be “risky” to publish because you made it clear you did not approve of or endorse what that guy did. I think the real risk here is that because of this negative experience, you will be hesitant to publish future posts that may include controversial topics or stories.
There are plenty of people who enjoy what you write. There are many people who learn a lot from what you write. But you certainly can’t please all the people all the time so don’t feel bad!
You are more than generous to share your knowledge with us. Please don’t censor your own voice because what you wrote made a few people unhappy.
Thanks Pat. Very nice of you.
Hey BT, you can’t please all the people…
I deal in a sad area: Grief, people misconstrue intent continuously because of the stress and strong emotional state they are in. I believe some of your readers, for whatever reason, failed to understand your article because they jumped to conclusions and allowed preconceptions and opinions to cloud their ability to see the “big picture,” theme you wrote about.
I personally benefited from that article because it made me think “am I using these techniques in an ethical or negatively manipulative way?” I decided I was ethical 😉
thank you for writing it
Your area must be hard.
Off topic – Have you found any particular strategy really helpful for getting people through a really difficult situation?
Actually, the question is not off topic, the pain of setbacks, failures, rejections etc., only vary by degree and also vary widely between individuals.
What sets one person way back is only a blip on another person’s disappointment screen.
As to how to get through tough times:
1)Try to get some immediate relief from the situation by removing yourself from it or getting professional help if it is severe enough, or talk it out with a trusted friend and practice some stress management techniques that you’ve found helpful
2) Try to release the situation in a way that the sting, pain, etc., weakens over time. This is usually a longer period of time and uses many of the “relief” techniques but you get into them deeper and work through parts that hold you back.
3)Finally,come up with a way to adjust to your new way of living, a new normal, after your setback.
It takes time, it is easier to write about, but this is a pretty stable 3 step approach.
I’ve always wondered where those jokes about “I’ve got a bridge to sell you” came from, so I read your post with interest.
Of course we can learn sales techniques from con men–anybody who can sell something that doesn’t exist is very, very good at selling.
People who take everything literally, cannot understand metaphor or irony, and abide by a rigid set of rules (and are easily offended)are often people on the autism spectrum. I was stalked online for a while by somebody who said I was evil because I told fiction writers to get in touch with their inner sadists and make bad things happen to their characters. When I went to the stalker’s personal website, it was obvious he had undiagnosed Asperger’s syndrome. His world is very limited and very, very scary. I feel sad for him. I also don’t need him reading my blog. I use irony a lot, so I will only hurt his feelings again. Ditto your unsubscribers, I’m sure.
How did you deal with the online stalker Anne?
Well you can’t get it right for all the people all the time. I agree it’s horrible when you miss the mark with people you have built a relationship with. That said, we all like people who are human and maybe you’ve made some bigger fans of the rest of us by sharing your pain and vulnerability.
Yes, I cannot see any significant success happening without us taking risks. Learn and move on.
well, one thing for certain, is that emotions and business don’t mix very well. and if a person decided to opt out of a valuable resource such as this site, then they’ve proven by their choice their inability to asses things. especially since that response is emotionally driven. as we all know, that car can go anywhere, quickly. not really the choice for those trying to get somewhere specifically.
one day i was reading Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf. my friend was surprised at my choice. “why are you reading THAT book!?!” she said. “how could you possibly read the words of a monster?” and i told her, “i wanted to understand hate. i went to one of the best sources i could find”. and with that, she understood.
there is always a way to see the positive in negative. if a policeman should happen to have to kill someone in order to save more people, even tho he commits murder, it’s still regarded as a positive result. we all feel relieved, even joyful, when at the end of the movie, the villain gets killed. or Osama Bin Laden. it’s easy to find positive in that negative, huh?
so come on, Blog TYRANT, banish them to the hinterlands, and let’s have no more of this rabble… lest they be met with swift retribution! or at the very least, let’s just siphon the gas out of their search engine…