If you’ve been on my newsletter a little while or followed my work, you’ve probably seen sales pitches from me. The ones where I write about some frustrating problem, explain how awful it is, then offer you a shiny solution at the end—and surprise, you can get a discount on it if you buy right now!
I honestly feel like shit every time I write one of those.
So why do I do it? Because everyone says that’s how you sell products.
I sell products to make a living. I also freelance. And yeah, I wanna keep paying my mortgage and buying blueberries for my son to eat.
But one thing I’ve realized is that the more things I do because I feel like I have to, the more I hate my own business, the worse I feel, and the less motivated I am to keep doing all of this.
One of those things I hate is sending pitch emails. Not emails about sales, discounts, etc. As a reader I love getting emails from my favorite brands and writers about sales. Saving money on stuff I want anyway is awesome.
I’m talking about the manipulative pitches. The ones that try to pull an emotional lever to get you to buy. Wow, I really hate writing (and receiving) those. Not because I feel bad about selling things or asking you to spend money. I want you to buy my stuff because it’s good, useful, and worthwhile, not because I tricked you with a clever marketing pitch.
So fuck that kind of marketing, I’m not gonna do it anymore. It’s not me.
Oh, and I’m also designing a marketing app. (?!)
Part of what I’m doing right now, in this email, is exploring a new method of “marketing”.
Every company and solo product maker out there right now is doing content marketing. You probably get a lot of newsletters, see lots of articles, and get all kinds of free, valuable-sounding stuff regularly.
But I think people are catching on that it’s mostly noise. It’s just a game: here’s a free thing, give me your email, I’m gonna spam you for a bit, then you can buy something from me. Sound good?
I’m tired of adding to that noise, and instead I want to try just being real with you. There are 25,000 of you on this newsletter (damn, it’s almost 26k now, hi!), and I’d rather get to know you than send you articles anyone else could have written.
Maybe sending emails like this will backfire. I’m kind of breaking the fourth wall here. The first rule of marketing fight club is you never say you’re in marketing fight club. I basically just admitted I used to send you manipulative sales pitches sometimes. Yeah, sorry about that.
I don’t think I can send you another sales email saying how some product will change your life. And honestly I don’t wanna make products that change peoples’ lives. It’s too much pressure. Making useful products is more than enough. So let’s see what happens!
I already cut the manipulative pitches out of my sales pages a while back, and you know what? Clients still hired me. People still bought my courses. I think it’s gonna work just fine.
What will replace the marketing B.S.? That leads me back to the marketing app idea. I often joke that to make any change in my business I have to design a new thing for it. So of course, just to change my marketing strategy, I have to design an app for it. Haha.
I have this “crazy” idea that great marketing is just making great relationships. Really, the idea is that marketing is B.S. and business is just relationships.
In my client work, if we don’t trust one another, the client doesn’t appreciate the work and my income is at risk. And maybe the same is true of any kind of business.
So I’m designing a new minimalist marketing app around the idea of building relationships first, rather than just trying to vomit “VALUE!” at everyone with content marketing. Value is just another fake marketing word, but relationships are real. Value doesn’t build trust—knowing someone does.
To me, this is different from a personal brand. I have written about this before, but I don’t like how personal brands are often predicated on finding fans and building up your own little cult of personality. Trying to be internet friends with the whole world can come across pretty fakey. I’m thinking more along the lines of mutual trust and respect, just like a client relationship. So building a business on relationships is different from a personal brand. I think that makes sense. We’ll see.
This app is honestly a pretty dumb business idea, that if anyone explained to me I would tell them to quit, and I’m only designing it because I want to see if it works. I’m dogfooding it on my own newsletter first. I might never share the marketing app idea. We’ll see. But I’m gonna try this approach right here on my newsletter first and see what happens.
A bunch of people replied to my previous article saying they love the idea of informal articles. So, maybe this idea isn’t crazy after all. Stay tunes, even if it’s only to see whether it crashes and burns. 😉
Design's Iron Fist is a collection of essays with advice for both design learners and professional designers. It's been featured as one of the best free design books by the Creative Bloq and the AIGA.
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