In February I wrote a post about how for many people (who actually care about the quality of their work), low self esteem is one of the largest competitors to getting a fair market rate for the work they do. And low self-esteem can happen to anyone at any level of business:
What should have been asked, but wasn’t, is this: A-Rod, putting aside the Y&S line — since you weren’t that young, and you certainly aren’t that stupid — where does your low self-esteem fit into this equation?
Because that — low self-esteem — serves as the pure truth when explaining why a guy who already was by far the best shortstop in the game, if not the best overall player, would decide that steroids are the way to go. Low self-esteem is what makes a player of A-Rod’s abilities turn to Scott Boras, an agent who eliminates all other factors — comfort level, compatibility, organizational professionalism — and makes the number of zeroes at the end of your contract the only thing that matters when counseling his clients.
Self Doubt is a Strong Self Protective Strategy
The rub of it is that self-confidence is often counter-intuitive. Real experts are often self skeptical, challenging their own experiences & assumptions.
Approval is not the goal of investing. In fact, approval is often counter-productive because it sedates the brain and makes it less receptive to new facts or a re-examination of conclusions formed earlier. Beware the investment activity that produces applause; the great moves are usually greeted by yawns. - Warren Buffett [PDF]
Public Relations Hacks
Whereas the fake experts just sell junk:
Baker, author of the new book "Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy," comments: "If someone works for a trade association, they're there to push the industry line. Talk to someone with another perspective."
And they often do so EVEN WHEN they know they are wrong:
Q: Were you wrong to be so bullish?
A: I worked for an association promoting housing, and it was my job to represent their interests. If you look at my actual forecasts, the numbers were right inline with most forecasts. The difference was that I put a positive spin on it It was easy to do during boom times, harder when times weren’t good. I never thought the whole national real estate market would burst.
Do You Trust Sales Copy?
The lies baked into sales copy and public relations make sales harder than it needs to be because they teach consumers to be distrusting, and what marketers are selling is hope. Some people can sell get rich programs and pyramid schemes with a smile on their face, whereas others under-sell their own potential due to modesty and uncertainty.
The truth rarely ends up in marketing copy, so we discount much of what we read, assuming some of it to be false or over-stated. A person that is mostly driven by being an expert will likely have sales copy that sounds wishy-washy, especially when compared against a person who does nothing but write sales copy (or spin public relations) for a living.
Businesses have to hold contests to pry testimonials out of consumers, because without them all we have is sales copy, and people generally don't share specific numbers unless they are paid to (in one way or another).
Marketers Sell Hope
It is not that marketing is evil, but that consumers are gullible. The market for something to believe in is infinite, but we want to get behind a person with confidence so we are certain they are right. That is why there are so many hyped up launches with big guarantees and little substance behind the products...they work because we are suckers that want to pay for certainty, even if that certainty is nothing more than smoke and mirrors.
Excessive Self Confidence Crushes Longterm Returns
Ironically, the more confident a person is, the more likely they are to be ignorant:
“There are many incompetent people in the world. Dr. David A. Dunning is haunted by the fear he might be one of them. Dr. Dunning, a professor of psychology at Cornell, worries about this because, according to his research, most incompetent people do not know that they are incompetent.
“On the contrary. People who do things badly, Dr. Dunning has found in studies conducted with a graduate student, Justin Kruger, are usually supremely confident of their abilities — more confident, in fact, than people who do things well.”
As Jill Whalen recently wrote in this great article, the answer to many SEO questions is "it depends." Which is why it is important for SEOs to keep launching new websites and have multiple data points to compare their experiences against. It helps keep us honest and uncertain and learning.
But the less confident you sound, the more sales you lose if/when you sell how to information.
Brian Clark Rocks
I generally have been better at giving people other copy tips than I have been at writing our own copy. A sales letter is rarely a good spot to be self-depreciating or hold back, but for me it seems a self-aggrandizing feat unless it is broken down into chunks, patterned after another starting point, and/or done with the help of a master copywriter. This is proven by how Brian Clark killed it when he helped us out in the past, and proven once again with the great work of our current conversion boosting partners.
Interactive Sales Copy Writing
When you run a community website your sales copy selects who joins the community. Push conversion too hard and you get a community that looks nothing like the great community we have been lucky enough to build.
We have been working again on making our sales copy sharper and more confident with more concrete stuff in it...and the sales increased much more than I would have expected because I mistakenly assume people are far more rational than they are and know me way better than they do. That is not to say we try to state anything false to make a sale, but we have the input from people who are confident and sales/conversion oriented...they come up with ideas and we implement the best bits that really fit what we feel fits our brand.
Learning From My Mistakes
In years past I believed that you could do everything yourself, but this is probably one of my biggest flaws from a business perspective. One has to recognize their own limitations (or be held back by them for a lifetime). In some cases it is best if the person providing the service lets someone else help write the sales copy...works for me! :)
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