The Crucial Secret to Great Marketing

Photo credit A v.d. Wolde

I like posts that discuss the psychology of business, the brain-stuff that we all need to pay attention to if we want to be more successful. So when my good friend Nathan Hangen whipped one of those my way, there was no hesitation – and here that post is for you to enjoy.

The Secret to Marketing Your Business

I have a secret to tell you, and I’m not talking the Robert Langdon type where I’m going to drag your ass to France and make you solve riddles until someone chases you with a knife.

No, I’m talking about the least-mentioned marketing secret on the planet, the elephant in the room, the missing link that keeps people second-guessing themselves.

They say that good marketing depends on catchy headlines, great copy, and solid branding, and it does.
They say that you need to find affiliates to promote your work so that you don’t have to work as hard, which is also true. They say a lot of things about what you should do to get the word out and get people buying what you’re selling.

What they don’t tell you is that in order to do any of these things you should do, you need to master something else first – something more intangible, something more than a skill.

What “They” Aren’t Saying

Write headlines and copy. Get branding. Find affiliates. Launch. All of that, yes.

But think about it for a minute – what’s missing here? What does it take, mentally, for you to write million-dollar headlines, bold copy, and recruit affiliates? What does it take for you to put yourself out there and tell people you have what they want?

For most of us, writing those headlines and marketing effortlessly just doesn’t come naturally. We try to sugarcoat it, half-ass it, or sometimes we even just turn into wimps and hope that it’ll all work out.

We’re not confident enough. We’re not confident in our writing, in our own products, and in our own value. So we do that half-punch thing…where it feels like it should be right but ends up pretty darn bad.

The Secret Marketing Skill that Packs a Punch

That’s the secret – confidence. It’s not something given, but something cultivated. You have to believe in your vision, in what you do, in yourself.

When I see good marketing, I see confidence. I see solid networks, bold-ass claims, and powerful mojo. You pull that off when you doubt your services or your product, so I see 2 options:

  1. Work your butt off to make sure that what you sell is both necessary and valuable. If you take care of this, then you’re set.
  2. Fake it ’til you make it. Sounds cliché, but it works. Don’t believe it sucks until you hear every single person who buys say it. If you don’t hear it that often, then it doesn’t suck.

And if it doesn’t suck, then you have absolutely zero reason to be wimpy with your marketing.

Yeah, it takes courage to stand up for yourself, but when you do so with conviction, as if you know no one will turn you down, then you’ll have a much greater chance of success than if you beg, plead, and whimper.

Take Care of Confidence First

People don’t like weakness as a general rule, so don’t show it in your marketing, or in anything you do. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling your brains, your skills, your services or your product – you need to walk the talk of your A-game, or they’ll smell your self-doubts and walk away.?

Do million-dollar headlines, bold copy and raving fans or affiliates matter? Absolutely. But unless you’re willing to back all that up with your own confidence, none of it matters as much as you think.

So how do you get the confidence to market well? Where do you learn to get comfortable with all this? It’s as easy as reading this blog, or Naomi’s, or Sonia’s, or Dave’s, or anyone out there showing the confidence you want and need.

Get to work on the personal side now. You can conquer the technicalities of those great headlines later. Quit asking for forgiveness about your confidence, and start showing people that entrepreneurial fire you have inside yourself.

They’ll love you for it.

Nathan Hangen teaches people how to build digital empires, helps them rock through their workday, and works with small businesses to implement digital marketing campaigns.

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  1. Hey! Great post, seriously. Confidence and the lack thereof play major rolls in business… one specific example is when determining a project bid or what to charge per hour. Confident people bid higher and stick to their guns because they’re confident that they can deliver a killer product. Those who aren’t confident keep lowering their prices because they’re not *sure* that they’re worth as much as they’re asking.

    Also, referring to your line about standing up with conviction, I wanted to add that I’ve seen time and time again people who will test your confidence level just to see if you really believe in your services and product. Drives me nuts, but it’s only natural. People want security in their purchases and nothing makes a buyer more nervous than a supplier who’s unsure of their own stuff.

    Thanks for the post, I enjoyed it.

  2. Hey Nathan, thanks for opening my eyes, that’s for sure secret ingredient in success. Do I have permission to translate this to Serbian (with leaving link to original) for my readers on my motivational blog about losing weight/building self confidence?
    .-= Ivan Cosic´s last blog ..Smokvica, masline, slavlje i još nešto… =-.

  3. Annie Stith says:

    Hey, Nathan!

    You hit right where I am with your post. I’ve already done a lot of reading and researching on setting up websites, blogging, networking, affiliate marketing, copywriting (you’re right-Sonia’s great), WordPress, ad infinitum. One of the exercises I recently read by Sid Savara really struck me, tho, right in my confidence.

    It was very simple, or so it seemed until I tried it. The first step is to write what’s basically a Mission Statement. The second step is to read it *out loud* 3 times a day, with confidence.

    Writing it was easy. Reading it out loud? HARD. And I added to it by reading it in front of a mirror, like an affirmation.

    Maybe other readers needing some confidence could use that exercise, too.


  4. Thanks for the great tip to have Confidence in oneself. I made a mistake recently by quoting some good amount and reducing it later 30% less later. It backfired. I now understand the importance of sticking to a price what we have quoted no matter what.
    thank you, and James!

  5. @Solomon – That’s actually a really common mistake that many people make. Have confidence in the price you quote and stick to it.

    @Annie – Ooooh, that’s a great idea, actually. I’d like to try that for myself!

    @Ivan – As long as you provide both author credit and a link back to the site to clearly show readers, I’d say that’s fine. Thanks very much for asking – so many people don’t bother and just rip off content. Grrrr…

    @Chris – I’d go one step further with this. People who lower their prices or squirm about marketing are worried that other people won’t like them, or that they’ll choose someone else, or that they’ll have no other client to replace the one lost, etc etc.

    Fear of X tends to make us doubt ourselves and knocks our confidence.

  6. Jack Busch says:

    Great point – after all, how is someone else going to be confident in your product (or you yourself) if you’re not? People can hear confidence over the phone, through the Internet and even by watching you sit on the bus with a newspaper. That’s why you’re supposed to wear a tie and stand up even when you’re doing a phone interview.

    But if you are going to fake it until you make it, you may want to invest in some theater skills. There’s nothing worse than marketing hubris and one curveball of a followup question can tear down your entire house of cards (I’m shooting for a mixed metaphor in every comment).
    .-= Jack Busch´s last blog ..Daunting! =-.

  7. Well done, Nathan. You’re right, confidence is the elephant in the room, especially when your starting out. It’s hard to have confidence when you’re still groping your way around like a blind man at a wet t-shirt contest.
    .-= Todd´s last blog ..Spinach =-.

  8. Confidence in your writing is key, as well as confdence in your product.

    If you are a little iffy about the thing that you are selling, then it will totally show through in your copywriing as well.

    Love what you sell and hold your head up high.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire
    .-= Joshua Black | The Underdog Millionaire´s last blog ..5 Tips for Becoming a Small Business “Blacksmith” =-.

  9. First of all, thanks James for the chance to crash the party!

    @Chris – yeah, it’s really tough early on not to cave in…sometimes silence is very awkward, and waiting for a reply is extremely difficult. Having success in your rates is definitely a tough one.

    @Annie – was just talking to Sid yesterday…love what he’s doing. I admit, I have a tough time with affirmations, but that’s just because my wife laughs at me 🙂 – so I do them all internally so the wife and kids aren’t giving me the crazy eyes.

    @Solomon – been there done that. Takes guts, but it feels so good when you don’t cave. Even if you don’t get the sale/client.

    @Jack – haha, I like what you said about theater skills…something I’m lacking. Learn how to spin right?

    @Todd – love the analogy!

    @Joshua – head up high…exactly. Damn the torpedoes and if you’re going to go out, go in a blaze of glory.
    .-= Nathan Hangen´s last blog ..How to JV Your Way to Success =-.

  10. Nathan,

    I would have to agree completely with this. Confidence in everything you do makes a huge difference. You’ve probably heard the phrase “do anything with enough authority” and you’ll get away with it. I think confidence in marketing yourself, your product or anything else comes across almost subconsciously. When you present yourself in a very confident manner about everything you people can almost feel it. Sometimes people forget that just because you are behind a computer screen, it doesn’t mean we can’t sense your energy. Good stuff.
    .-= Srinivas Rao´s last blog ..Joe Wilcox On The iPhone 4G Leak at Gizmodo – A Technology Journalist Reviews Both Sides of the Story =-.

  11. I still feel like an awkward, shy girl who trips over her words. But the biggest compliments I get are that I carry myself with an inspired confidence and write from the core. It’s always a balance, figuring how to be confident and brave without compromising the delicacy of choosing the right words, tone, and weight. It’s really a part of your lifestyle and who you are.
    .-= susan´s last blog ..Would You Sign an Emotional Prenup? =-.

  12. Great confidence surely results from taking the next step, over and over again.

    Navarro, Dunford et al. have a peculiar sort of genius where they have broken these steps down “by the numbers.” I think it would be hard to fail doing it straight by the numbers… yet how many people are willing to do just that? Follow the steps exactly.
    .-= Dave Doolin´s last blog ..hRecipe – Semantic Recipes for WordPress (Google loves these) =-.

  13. I think the surprise in life is that confidence precede competence (it’s your staying power and your gusto … it’s how you get competent 😉
    .-= J.D. Meier´s last blog ..Faith vs. Belief =-.

  14. Wrote this comment originally for a different blog – which I can’t post to because their captcha image is broken. But it seems it would work well as a response here.

    Warning, it’s harsh and negative. Nothing personal toward you guys. This is just the first “market-yourself” post I’ve come across since I write my rant – so you get the rant. Here goes:

    I’ve finally been exposed to the “marketing imperative” for the umpteenth time and I’m going to be silent no longer. I’ve officially boiled over and I’m going to state the obvious – which is distressing enough that most will want to simply avoid it.

    Creative output in literature, music, and other arts is usually involved with a distinctive personal vision – one which often, though not always, includes marked personality elements of introversion and solitude.

    Marketing, on the other hand, is a distinctive skill set associated with distinctive personality features. Marketing is a “people” skill – best suited to extroverts. It involves making contacts and knowing how to “push their buttons” relating to whatever you’re trying to market. And, to be good at it, you have to actually enjoy that kind of interaction – which many creative people emphatically do not and furthermore never will.

    So, there are basically two choices I see in the “market yourself as a brand” future. Find a system where marketing is done by people who are actually good at it, or lose the exposure of massive amounts of good creative work that can not and will not be marketed by its creators.

    Sorry if this sounds harsh. I’m reacting to a really massive accumulation of nonsense on this subject which has been motivated by the difficulty of gaining attention in the online world. (And guess what, if 2 billion internet users suddenly all became proficient marketers, the same problem would still exist. Marketing skills may be a “magic bullet” for the few. They cannot possibly scale adequately if used by the masses. If everybody was a marketer – who would be left as audience?).

    A person, not a brand,

  15. What’s interesting is that you equate quiet, introverted personalities with an inability to tell someone – with confidence and self-belief… “What I do is good.”

    Marketing doesn’t have to be loud, screamed out, blared all over. And it also doesn’t have to be done by the solo individual creating the product. Plenty of artists hire agents and sales reps and all sorts of stuff so they can go away and do their work without having to go out and sell themselves.

    But these people do have to have confidence in what they do. And they have to convey that – even in silence – to those who will tell the world about them. And those people who are going to tell the world need to have confidence too.

    You can’t sell without it.

    You also can’t sell if you want solitude. Solitude means solitary means alone. Does anyone truly expect to be able to sell on the merits of their work alone without saying a word or seeing any other soul? I find that a highly arrogant mindset (and actually one I often notice in the creative fields). No one can simply walk out to the middle of the street, put what they do on a table and walk away expecting crowds to come up and be in awe of it.

    I think what it comes down to is that I highly believe that no one – ESPECIALLY CREATIVES – should use an introverted personality and a preference to solitude as an excuse not to overcome their arrogance, lack of self-confidence or fears.

    Also, overcoming those doesn’t mean the person becomes extroverted and likes parties. It means that person becomes able to say, quietly, with confidence, “What I do is good.”

  16. You raise some good points, but I can’t agree for two reasons:

    1) I’m an introvert. Always was a loner and never really felt comfortable with marketing until I learned to be comfortable. It’s not something that comes natural for everyone, but you can get to a point where it feels that way.

    2) The starving artist mentality doesn’t pay the bills. I’ve met a few that thought talent alone would pay the bills, and it just doesn’t. The option there is to find someone that can market you can either partner with them or hire them to market for you.

    I’m not asking every internet user to learn marketing, just those of us that have the gumption to be entrepreneurs, which is a very small percentage of the internet population.
    .-= Nathan Hangen´s last blog ..How to JV Your Way to Success =-.

  17. Great article. I love this website, one of my Favs. I like your concept of Confidence in marketing. Thanks for sharing


    .-= Jonathan |´s last blog ..GOD heals almost everything debate – True or False =-.

  18. I’m not criticizing marketing efforts for those who are good at relationships and enjoy interacting with other people – although I’ll point out that even then it takes some of one’s personal resources away from creativity – but that can be managed.

    But people who prefer soluitude – even NEED solitude, abound. And if that mindset forms a pervasive part of the “creative stereotype” – perhaps there’s a reason. Myself, I’ve lived for 50 some years with Asperger’s Syndrome, which for me has been associated with acute shyness, social anxiety, inappropriate communication styles, etc. I do not expect to ever have a “normal” level of comfort in relationships, nor to be skilled at the various customary techniques of marketing. But I feel that at some point I might have something to contribute to society creatively.

    Again, what I’m reacting to is not the idea that there is value in marketing oneself. It’s rather that increasingly we see it presented as a universal imperative. And even aside from variations in how marketing-oriented one is, I don’t think a universal “market yourself” paradigm can work in principle. If everyone is a brand, who are the consumers?

    You said:

    “You also can’t sell if you want solitude. Solitude means solitary means alone. Does anyone truly expect to be able to sell on the merits of their work alone without saying a word or seeing any other soul? I find that a highly arrogant mindset (and actually one I often notice in the creative fields). No one can simply walk out to the middle of the street, put what they do on a table and walk away expecting crowds to come up and be in awe of it.”

    The quick, appropriate and notorious counterexample, who passed away just recently, is J.D. Salinger. I’m not sure exactly how Catcher in the Rye achieved its enduring status, but I doubt it was through book signings.

    Best wishes,

  19. I have a positive need for solitude. Without it, I get mean and short-tempered and generally nuts. Any creative person needs solitude. How much of it you need may vary.

    There are a bunch of common assumptions that can screw you up pretty thoroughly. It’s important to draw some clear distinctions.

    Introversion is not the same as lack of self confidence. Introversion is not neurotic and it is not a lack of anything.

    Introversion by no means you can’t handle marketing, you just need to choose the right tools and techniques.

    Marketing doesn’t have to mean being a great big social sharer and telling the world about every emotion that flitters across your mind. Brian Clark is a great example of a tremendous marketer who shares almost nothing of his personal or emotional life with customers.

    Marketing yourself is not marketing your work.

    And “if everyone did this, where would we be” arguments are purely mental exercises, since everyone is never going to do this.

    Everyone has to figure out what works for them — for their product, for their personality, for their situation, for their constraints, for their strengths, for how they want to live their life, for the resources they can put out, etc.
    .-= Sonia Simone´s last blog ..The Spooky Secret to Designing Your Perfect Business =-.

  20. Some great points here. Tabloid newspapers in the UK always have great headlines (and very clever ones too). The blogs you mention are great because they talk with personality. If you manage to be confident enough to be yourself, then it’s much easier to develop from there.
    .-= Matthew Needham´s last blog ..Wednesday Wisdom =-.

  21. How late to the party am I?

    I’ve had the same thought in my head for the last few months. Everyone’s talking about how to market your business (the Dave’s, Jonny’s, Naomi’s, Jonathan’s, Brian’s of the world), but NOBODY is talking about the chasm many people have to cross before they are ready to do this stuff effectively.


    Nobody except you and I, of course. I was raving down the phone at Charlie Gilkey just yesterday that my approach fixes this problem, and I’ll be looking to spread the word about this more and more and more.

    The distinction I always make is this – confidence is quiet, arrogance and ego are noisy. That means that you can be a quiet, introverted person and still market yourself confidently. I’m not a big shouty kinda guy, but I have enough confidence in my “stuff” to put it out there and talk about it with conviction.

    Confidence is being able to choose your behaviour with implicit trust in that behaviour. Whether that behaviour is introverted or extroverted, the point is to use your own strengths and talents and have confidence in them.

    Okay, stopping now before I write a couple of thousand words…
    .-= Steve Errey – The Confidence Guy´s last blog ..Going Dutch =-.

  22. @Steve – If you ever did want to write those thousand words, you know where to send them 🙂

  23. Terry Palmer says:

    Thanks for the posts about confidence. But what about confidence in a great marketing plan? All the way from plan your work and work your plan to a complicated multi faceted approach. Taking a marketing stand can’t help but build platform for ideas and copy. Good for you guys. Terry


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