How NOT to Be a Marketing Douchebag (Without Becoming a Broke Fool)

Somebody needs to say this, so I’m just going to jump in.

There are two schools of thought online who will try to suck you in. I’m going to tell you why you shouldn’t listen to either of them.

First, there are the marketing douchebags.

You know who I’m talking about. They’re the people who have “lists” and send you 3 different emails a week pitching some product they’ve never actually used. They’re the people with the yellow highlighter sales pages and the crossed out prices and everything else that sets off your B.S. meter.

These people study all the hard core pushy sales techniques to the max and some of them make a TON of money. Like millions a year money.

That’s the thing about marketing, it can be almost magically effective. Marketing can sell the most wretched crap sometimes while hardworking people with worthwhile contributions to society barely scrape by.

Unfortunately, marketing can prey on misguided human desires, like the undying desire to get rich quickly.

Marketing disciples with dreams of money-growing websites study these techniques but use them unsuccessfully. The disciples sadly pollute the Web with a bunch of half-assed attempts to make easy money online.

The problem with the marketing douchebags is that they sell us stuff we probably don’t need, and they do it in a way that makes our skin crawl. You wonder how they sleep at night (probably on pillows stuffed with $100 bills). They’ve made a decision (whether consciously or not) to trade some amount of humanity for money.

That’s a trade most of us don’t want to make. If you like to feel good about yourself, becoming a hard core marketer won’t be on your top list of accomplishments.

If you care about your customers and your contribution to the world, you might wish marketing wasn’t really necessary at all. Which brings us to…

Then there are the idealists.

These people turn their noses in disgust at anything that seems “scammy” or “shady” (code words for any kind of overt marketing).

Idealists believe you should produce from the heart and that everything else will take care of itself.

No “selling” required. An enviable scenario.

Idealists choose to live in an altered state of reality, which may be admirable in itself. The problem is most idealists end up broke because building a business without any kind of marketing usually doesn’t work.

Being an idealist with a viable strategy is understandable.

Being an idealist for it’s own sake will lead your business to failure.

So what’s a level-headed pragmatist with a business to grow supposed to do?

How NOT to Be a Marketing Douchebag (Without Becoming a Broke Fool)

I’m not an idealist, but (probably like you) I’d also rather avoid becoming a marketing douchebag. I understand that in a world of increasing noise, we have to produce epic content and rely on at least a little marketing to compete.

I’m pragmatic about the situation because let’s face it, we’re in business to make money. We also want to have a great time and contribute something to the world through our work, but we still need to put food on the table.

In most situations, marketing is what sells products. The definition of marketing is simply the act of promoting and selling products.

Building great content and products is goal #1.

Promoting our content and products in a way we can feel good about but still reach our customers is goal #2.

We want to produce from the heart, but we also want to be heard, not to languish in obscurity.

To me, it’s always a work in progress. We test the limits of douchebaggery and then head back towards idealism, exploring boundaries in both directions.

To make sure we don’t swing too far in either direction, it’s important to have an anchor. This is something that keeps you in check, a compass you can refer to when you find yourself wandering.

My anchors are:

a) Focusing on being as helpful as I can possibly be to everyone I interact with

b) Being open to criticism and suggestion from both customers and peers

c) Asking myself, would I respect someone else for producing what I’ve produced? Would I respect someone else for marketing something as I’ve marketed it? Would I be a customer of my own product or a reader of my work?

What are your anchors? How do you “keep it between the ditches,” as a friend’s grandpa used to say (about driving)?

What’s your happy medium?

Let’s hear it in the comments!

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Hi, I’m Corbett Barr. I’ve been writing here since 2009. Join my email list for new articles about supporting yourself doing something you love: