"If I don’t tell them how great it is, who will?"

So asked Karen on our call last week, frustrated because she couldn’t get people to buy her wonderful product. Many agreed. How indeed will they know if WE don’t tell them? So they keep telling, and people keep turning away.

Marketers around the country are (surprisingly) surprised by this everyday: Most consumers don’t believe marketers.

No matter how great they think their thing is. And the more the ones selling it scream, the more they get a deaf ear or eyes that have suddenly glazed over. Marketers’ words of praise for their products are now suspect just because they’re the ones singing the praises of their thing.

“No one wants to hear how wonderful we think we are,” says a restaurant owner. Sniff.

One way to overcome this is to have good word of mouth – by existing customers who love talking about it to their friends. Godin talks about the “flipping the funnel” where customers are talking about YOU. (Think Tivo or iPods).

However, for these words among friends to have the desired effect, the story tellers must have NO financial interest in the thing they’re talking about, i.e. are NOT selling it or getting any compensation other than the satisfaction of having passed in the info.

Otherwise, it’s back to the old “No one wants to hear how wonderful we think we are.”

So, what do you do to get new customers if you don’t have customers who would tell others about your great thing? Assuming that you have a remarkable product to start with, (of course you do, right?) here’s a way one man did it without blathering about how great his new product was.

Godin (All Marketers are Liars) tells the story of the natural toothpaste king, Tom’s of Maine. To get his customers, Tom put out a story about certain values, a certain world view.

“Tom told a story about health food and responsible manufacturing and authenticity and voting with your toothbrush. The story fit perfectly into the worldview of a tiny portion of the audience. By selling the toothpaste only through health-food stores, Tom was talking to a group of retailers (and ultimately consumers) that agreed with the way he framed his story and were happy to hear it.”

Notice he said “it fit perfectly into the worldview of a tiny portion of the audience.” It doesn’t take more than that to become successful if they start talking to others. Remember Jesus only had 12, and now look.

OK, so how can you do like Tom’s of Maine did, as an individual (network) marketer?

Start by knowing YOUR values. And HOW those values, preferences, or that worldview relates to your choosing the product line you are marketing. Once you see how the product line is an extension of your values, e.g. natural health alternatives, not drugs, earth-friendly products, etc., you can use new language to tell you story to others. Language that describes you and your values, not your product. The product is an extension, an amplification of those beliefs.

So if you’re just selling for the money, this will not work. Chances are your business will not work either. Since when do you want to buy anything from someone you know is just selling for the money they’ll earn. Isn’t that what we all hate about the sales types – the ones who’ll say anything to make a sale? Those with no principles?

So sit down with yourself and think about your values. How are your products an extension of those? Language that shows your values so that others of like mind can immediately say, “That sounds like me. Tell me more.”

So it’s not about the product after all. It’s about who you are and what you stand for. Your goal is to convey that story, and to connect with people like you – offering them a product that means that to you. Remember it will be a “tiny portion” of the audience, but one who will be happy to hear your story, if they’re like you.

And if they become customers who love it and are not also selling it, one could become the evangelist Godin talks about.

What if it works for you like it did for Tom’s of Maine?

About the author

Kim Klaver


  • >… happy to hear your story, if they’re like you.

    If we’re sufficiently bold to favor five ‘strongly in favor, I love this stuff’ users rather than five hundred ‘that’s interesting’ casual readers, rather than trying to appeal to all we shouldn’t be afraid to screen-out those who ‘won’t like us’.

    And, when telling our tale, let’s not be afraid to ‘go long’ with a conversational style rather than blurt out bullet points.

    Sure, we’re told to ‘keep it brief – people are too busy’. Absolutely true – and only too busy for stuff that doesn’t grab us. If something resonates, the ‘like yous; will stay there all day devouring more.

    ‘People don’t have real relationships with websites… they have real relationships with individual people’… there’s much to be said for presenting ourselves personally.

    This takes time. And pixels. So, if it’s ‘a little chatty’, that’s ok.

  • Kim, you wrote >> However, for these words among friends to have the desired effect, the story tellers must have NO financial interest in the thing they’re talking about, i.e. are NOT selling it or getting any compensation other than the satisfaction of having passed in the info.

    So you say, and there are some number of people in the world— in our Network Marketing world— who say this as well, but NOT everybody… nowhere near everybody.

    Try this: At random speak with 10 people you know (at least on a first name basis). Ask them: ‘If I enthusiastically recommend a product/ service to you and you know* I receive money if you buy it, does that make you suspicious… or question me, my motives, the quality of the product, if the product has real value, if you’ll benefit… anything like that?”

    I went 10 for 10 who didn’t have a problem.

    Now, that * after the word ‘know’.

    In follow-up conversation I asked: “If I did all that recommending and you bought into it and found out after the fact that I made money off your purchase, would you feel bad, ripped-off, resentful… anything like that?”

    “Not really” was the most often response. And, yes, most told me, they’d feel better knowing that up-front, but it wasn’t a ‘deal-breaker’.

    I think (actually, I know) the problem is in people’s minds— literally. Many, MANY folks are uncomfortable about money. It’s one of the greatest domains of life where limiting and non-serving beliefs, attitudes and behavior rear their (ugly) heads. (and yes, I AM a voice of direct experience here.) Asking people for money… asking for what you’re worth… afraid of what others might think of you (looking good)… rejection, humiliation even… all those possibilities and more are invited when money is on the table (and, in theory at least, avoided when it is not).

    A great question to ask a prospective business partner would be: ‘Are you comfortable and confident asking people for money… (and/ or) making money when family, friends or associates buy something from you?’ If ‘no’, then: A. Network Marketing is not for you. B. There’s some mind stuff to work on if you want to be a successful Network Marketer.

    My belief is, it’s not that people must have no financial interest in the thing they’re talking about. They simply need have NO PROBLEM with having a financial interest.

  • A note for clarity: Shelagh Jones pointed out in the TransformingMLM weblog that I misrepresented your (Kim) point in my comment about when money is involved. Didn’t mean to— how could I, this IS Network Marketing 🙂 So, if I’ve confused, sorry….

  • Thanks, John.

    When I wrote:
    However, for these words among friends to have the desired effect, the story tellers must have NO financial interest in the thing they’re talking about, i.e. are NOT selling it or getting any compensation other than the satisfaction of having passed in the info.

    I was describing the buzz that word of mouth can create for products – Godin’s funnel effect that we see for those products and services that spread with active word of mouth from users turned evangelist – like has done, or Tivo back when.

    Godin’s funnelers are not being paid. That’s precisely why it’s effective and why people believe the experience and enthusiasm of talker, even if they don’t buy. Genuine with no hidden financial agendas.

    Many people don’t believe marketers today. Especially not network marketers. But they believe regular people talking about things they like.

    To benefit from this kind of consumer evangelism, I teach networkers to go after customers who are just that – customers who do NOT also sell the product.

    When those people talk, others are much more likely to listen. And to get those, I suggested they ALWAYS tell up front that they’re marketing or introducing a product…and tell their story…(story telling rules in the “If My Product’s So Great, How Come I Can’t Sell It?” book).

    That is not to say that people in sales and marketing don’t sell. They do. I have always loved doing sales. But it is not easy and it is not the consumer evangelism I was referring to above.

    Your ’10 for 10′ experiment will count when you actually have offered a product for sale, for real money, to these same people. Like networkers do.

    Hypothetical chatter where no one is required to make a commitment, that doesn’t get the same results as when it’s time to commit and fork over some money.

    Networkers discover this daily…people they know who SAY they want more money but won’t consider their business; people who SAY they want to lose weight but won’t try their great weight loss product…

    So to make that ’10 for 10′ experiment worthy of being called the John Fogg test, try to actually sell any product or service to them, where you’ll earn a commish, and then report the results. Twill mean much more. I see hundreds of networkers lining up to tell you why you should sell theirs. 🙂

    I agree with your last point. If someone has trouble with the fact that they are doing sales and marketing in “network marketing” they shouldn’t be doing it. If a person feels like they have to deny to themselves or others that they are selling, why are they doing it? There are lots of things one can do, that one can ENJOY, to make a living.

    However, just because a person doesn’t have a problem taking money from someone (like me, say) doesn’t mean that the audience has changed. As long as it’s known you are selling, there will be some skepticism about what you say, and that’s why it’s so important to find people who have a worldview, i.e. values, that are like yours to make it easier.

    If you love tennis (your value), and you’re looking for a game, you KNOW you are looking for that slice of people out there, who like to play. No one looking for a game at say a big church picnic expects even most people to play tennis.

    The skill in sales and marketing is to take on the approach you would as a tennis player looking for a game. You learn how to ask for the players. You don’t, like most marketers, insist that everyone should be a tennis player because “We know it’s just the best darned sport out there.”


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