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February 27, 2013
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March 6, 2013

You Don’t Need Bullcrap Marketing

I believe that what I call bullcrap marketing – e.g. cheesy sales pages, popup newsletter solicitations, “free” worthless ebooks in return for signing up, and so on – is not necessary.

A lot of people say that it really is necessary. Some people I really respect say that. But I just don’t believe it.


Note that I do not make a huge amount of money from my website yet. So in some ways I’m not the most qualified to express this idea.

But as with other ideas, I won’t let that stop me. Sometimes, a strong intuition is enough. Following my intuition is what has got me so far in a lot of pursuits, and I think it’s safe to say it will keep proving itself useful in the future.

I’m not even sure of what the alternative to bullcrap marketing will look like for me, at least not exactly, but I am certain an effective alternative exists.

The Bullcrap Proponents

There is a small subculture of the Personal Development world which makes bullcrap marketing out to be a positive thing.

See, most normal people naturally have a resistance to bullcrap marketing. We know, inside, that it is disingenuous and manipulative. It doesn’t sit right with us.

And the proponents of bullcrap marketing are right in saying that that inner resistance often holds us back from succeeding in business. Most of us don’t want to become businesspeople if that means becoming inauthentic.

But the bullcrap-proponents miss the point here, I think. They suggest we just push through the resistance, or even “work through our inner issues around money”, rather than work out a new approach while taking our resistance into account.

Working Through Inner Issues Around Money

Incidentally I do believe it’s important for us to work through our inner issues around money. I’ve done a lot of that, and I think it was essential.

But a lot of this talk becomes a spiritual-sounding cover-up for something decidedly unspiritual. They want to suggest that our resistance comes from fear, or negative conditioning, or a block, when it could in fact be coming from the most positive, truest part of ourselves. And I don’t think we want to invalidate or ignore that part of ourselves.

I believe the real issue here is one of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. People see negative, manipulative businesses, and decide they don’t want to do business in general.

I think that the best way forward is for us to discover a positive version of business, with proper perspectives and action arising from the truest, most connected parts of ourselves.

The way forward isn’t to ignore our desire to avoid negative businesses. I think we should definitely listen to that impulse. At the same time, we should learn that there is something else out there which we can choose.

Good Marketing Vs. Bullcrap Marketing

Now back to the proponents of bullcrap marketing.

Proponents of bullcrap marketing say something like, “Sure, we might not like marketing, but there’s no other way to sell our products.”

That’s a false choice. It’s not a choice between just marketing and no marketing. There is also a difference between good marketing and bullcrap marketing. I think marketing done in an authentic, positive way doesn’t need to feel bad. It can amount to just getting the word out about your product and making sure your audience is properly informed about what the product can do.

I don’t think you need much more than that to sell a product. Someone doesn’t need elaborate emotional button-pressing to buy a car, for instance. They need a car; they go to websites to read reviews for different cars; they learn which car is best for them, and they buy it.

Bullcrap marketing doesn’t make them need a car. They need a car because they want to get from point A to point B. Bullcrap marketing can, at most, only attempt to fool them into wanting something they don’t need.

Real marketing, however, can help inform people about what your car does and make sure the right people know that it exists. Then, IF your car is worthwhile, and IF you’ve communicated correctly, people will buy. They see a logical fulfillment of their needs – they buy. It’s pretty simple.

Conscientious Business

Let me emphasise. Despite what some say, most people DON’T need their emotional buttons pushed to buy something when it is in their best interest to buy. They only need their own logic to work that out. Emotional button-pushing can only hope to get them to buy more than they need, or otherwise distort their logical buying process.

And, I ask you this. Why would you want to do that?

Someone who is in tune with their conscience, doesn’t want to do that. Conscientious business means making something people need, and selling it to the people that need it. Bad business, however, means clogging up the economy with more useless trash that wastes everyone’s time, money, and energy.

It’s natural not to want to be part of that.

Use Bullcrap Marketing Or Be Pushed Out Of Business!

Well, perhaps you might need emotional button-pushing to keep up with competitors who are using those techniques. Perhaps if you don’t use bullcrap marketing, you’ll be pushed out of business.

But I ask you:

If you really need to manipulate people in order to stay in business, do you really want to work in that market? (There are plenty of markets where manipulative marketing is not necessary… that is, if it is necessary in any market, which I am not so sure about).

And what if, by not using bullcrap marketing, you’ll actually find a niche of people who enjoy being treated like human beings rather than robotic Pavlovian cash cows? Who are smart enough to identify and avoid manipulative marketing? And who are able and wanting to base their buying process off logic and perhaps intelligent intuition rather than fickle emotions?

I also think that many of the markets where bullcrap marketing seems to work, and seems to be important, are markets for products which people just don’t need. For instance, the Seduction Community sells extremely overpriced seduction guides using bullcrap marketing. I think if we took away the bullcrap, the market would mostly implode, and we’d realise that we were selling people on a dream without substance.

Perhaps, then, the best test for a real product with real value would be to see if it sells on its own with no need for manipulation. If you just tell people what it is you’re selling, and make sure that the right people know you exist in the first place, will you stay in business?

I think if you don’t, 99% of the time it will be because you shouldn’t stay in business. That is, because you are not making the world a better place with your work.

Authentic Connection

So what is the alternative?

I think the alternative is to present your business with the same sort of communication as you would use when talking with a friend.

Of course, most of the time you wouldn’t charge a friend, at least not for a relatively cheap service. But just think of the price as a formality.

How would you tell a friend about your service? I’m thinking you wouldn’t lie to them or embellish the truth. At least not if you were a halfway decent person.

Just maintain the connection with your customer as you would with a friend.

That connection where there is nothing hidden, nothing held back. Just openness.

Steve Pavlina

I’ve seen this a little in Steve Pavlina’s work. When marketing his workshops, he basically just explained the workshop in an informative way. He didn’t try to convince, just to inform. But because his readers knew him, and expected him to give something of value, they believed him. Those who felt they would get value out of the workshops, signed up.

It’s all so simple. Steve didn’t have to treat his readers like mindless cash cows. He treated them like people. 

Steve even tested out a bullcrap marketing approach by having a trained copywriter make a bullcrap sales letter for him. He said that he didn’t notice any real difference in sales, and went back to his previous approach. (I felt a bit betrayed, but I can understand the desire to test).

I think people really appreciate Steve’s usual authentic, informative marketing approach. I certainly do.

Steve Gets Millions Of Visitors Each Month

When I told someone about this, once, they replied with, “But Steve gets millions of visitors each month.”

So? Can’t I aspire to be like him?

For sure, there might be some rewards for using bullcrap marketing. But I think the world is big enough, and prosperous enough, to accomodate someone who works with values. Just because you CAN get a lot of money by selling overpriced information products via button-pushing sales pages, doesn’t mean you should.

In the case of web business, if you can’t meet your money goals with your traffic without using bullcrap marketing, then you can just work to increase your traffic. Sure it might be a bit harder, but I think if you are able to get to X traffic, you can get to 2X traffic. The hardest part is finding your voice, creating a website worth visiting, and getting any traffic at all. Once you’ve done that, getting more traffic is a matter of keeping it up.

And investing a bit more time in your website so that it can have real value and not just fake, inauthentic value isn’t the end of the world. I still think the ratio of investments to returns on websites nowadays is a bargain. Some people work years and years to get even a few hundred dollars of passive income per month through dividend stocks. With hard and smart work, you can do that online in just one or two years.

Marketing Is Flashy

In the end, I think bullcrap marketing got so common because people are scared of not selling enough, or not being enough. They worried that without something special to boost sales, they wouldn’t have enough value to sell on their own merits.

Bullcrap marketing is flashy. It’s complicated. You study it. People say you can’t get anywhere without it. It draws the attention and makes you think you need it.

But I think it’s enough just having a good product and using good communication skills to make sure potential buyers know about it.

Sure, this isn’t so flashy. Sure, this doesn’t sound so powerful. But there’s the thing. It doesn’t need to be. If you have a good product, people want to buy it. The real marketing is done by a product’s value. I think marketers take way too much credit for that.



Responsible Capitalism


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1 Comment

  1. Agota says:

    I think that people who engage in the BS marketing are missing the big picture. I mean, it’s true that giving an opt-in freebie (e.g. e-book) increases your conversion rates. However, the problem is that giving away a shit e-book might get you more subscribers, but it will damage your business in the long run, since your free content is a representation of your premium material, and no one wants to pay for trash. Why not make an actually valuable free e-book that would help your business in the long run instead of giving away a worthless pdf?Most people just aren’t willing to put in an effort required to build a sustainable online business I guess.

    That being said, it’s important to understand that marketing is a tool, and like any other tool, can be used in an ethical and in an unethical way. It’s not very wise to dismiss legitimate marketing strategies simply because some people are using them for their BS marketing campaigns. You need to learn business skills (marketing, copywriting, etc.) if you want to build an online business. There’s no way around that.

    P.S. I like Ramit Sethi’s approach to marketing, he’s a good example of an ethical marketing that works very well.

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