Article: Dale Armin Miller

The Small Business Library

February 11, 2000

Why The Internet Is Not Fulfilling Your Wildest Fantasies
... and How You Can Change That Right Now!

You can shout your message from the roof tops if you have to. Or write it on a picket sign. Or mumble it while nailed to a cross. And it will produce results *if* your message is compelling enough.
If not, it won't matter much that it occupies all the advertising spaces in all the newspapers, television stations, and websites in the world.

But don't worry: you -- yes, even you -- can deliver compelling messages. So read on.

Now don't confuse "message" with "product" or "service." If you want to get downright unethical about it, there are a lot of people with high incomes who offer no product or service at all. You don't have to look far for them on the Internet. But they do deliver compelling messages. We call these people con artists... or politicians.

Here's an example of why the distinction between message and product is important. I'll pick on myself for a moment.

Many people are paying money to gain access to The Success Arsenal![tm] Chances are they think they are paying for what is actually *in* Arsenal!. Yet I can easily disprove that: They pay *before* they ever see anything in Arsenal!
You may object that they *know* what is in Arsenal! before they join. But I ask you to consider that they only "know" what I wrote!
So I assert something rather different: that my message engendered in them a reasonable belief that their lives would be more-favorably enhanced if they gave me money than if they did not.

That's an important sentence. No -- more than that, it's crucial to marketing.

But it's a mouthful. So let me strip it down a bit.

Your Marketing pH Factor

Consider any successful message. A message is being persuasive if it's "engendering in you a reasonable belief that your life will be more-favorably enhanced if you _____________________ than if you do not."

It seems to me that what's between the quotation marks is the essence of persuasion -- it's heart.
(In the common picture of them, hypnotic and subliminal methods are not ways of persuading. Rather, those are ways of commanding.)

There's a blank in the persuasion's-heart quotation. (I'll just abbreviate it "pH.") When the blank pH is filled with "vote for me," it becomes this: "Engendering in you a reasonable belief that your life will be more-favorably enhanced if you vote for me than if you do not." We call this situation a successful political campaign.

If the pH blank is "go on a date with me," we call it a successful pick-up line. (If it worked, please contact me.) If the blank is "believe what I say," we call it a successful religion or philosophy. If the blank is "gimme candy," we often call it begging. If the blank is "give me money," we call it a successful marketing campaign or solicitation.

Of course, it's successful solicitation that interests you. So we'll consider the Marketing pH: "engendering in you a reasonable belief that your life will be more-favorably enhanced if you give me money than if you do not."

But I want you to see that it's only a subtle variation of a technique you already mastered before you could even talk. Sometimes your very life depended on your artful manipulation -- oops, I mean persuasion -- of your parents and other adults.
(I know you *feel* you rarely got your way. Consult with your parents about this; if you are now a parent yourself, the truth may begin to dawn on you.)

For example, you're two months old. It's 3 o'clock in the morning. You're making this gawd-awful noise at the top of your lungs. You engender in your parents a reasonable belief that their lives will be more-favorably enhanced if they feed you than if they do not. So you got milk. You brat.

I promise that you are a master at it. Or dead (in which case I will be very interested in learning where you are reading this).
If you're like most of us, you have two problems translating that mastery into "marketing" mastery.

One problem is in even recognizing that marketing is just like getting Mom to give you milk, getting to stay up past your bedtime, getting candy before supper, getting Dad to let you use the car, and so on.

Marketing is only a game we made up so we could get paid for the same stuff we used to get yelled at about. Just like movie stars, politicians, and comedians.

The second problem has to do with translating that mastery into words.

I mentioned "a technique you already mastered before you could even talk." Well, talking is a game parents made up because they don't want any more years with you like the first one. Teaching you to talk returned to your parents some measure of control in their lives. Being the persuasion genius that you are, you turned it against them. Still, you never quite recovered.

So the coaching I am about to offer is not so much telling you something you don't already know. Rather it is to get you to apply it to something that you -- if you're like most web marketers -- do not apply it to.

A message is probably any sensory impression you cause anyone to have. However, because you are interested in the Internet, because I am using words, and because my favorite TV show is about to start, we will only consider verbal messages. Words. As in classified ads, webpages, email, banners, and phrases in links.

Even if it's only a yawn, all messages engender some sort of reaction. So any attempt will automatically fulfill the first couple words of the Marketing pH, "engendering in you a reasonable belief that your life will be more-favorably enhanced if you give me money than if you do not."

So only two considerations remain. 1) Life enhancement and 2) reasonable belief. It's not too much of an exaggeration of my web experience to claim that 1 is widely misunderstood and 2 is totally ignored altogether.

1)  Life Enhancement

It's easier to start with what life enhancement is not. It's probably not whatever you're selling. I'll get back to that in a moment. First, this may bother you even more: It's not money, either. People are not really after money. Not even you!

"What? Are you nuts?!"
Yes *and* I can even prove you don't really want money: Somewhere near you there's a store or a bank or some place where there's a pile of it. Maybe where you work. Go get it. (You watch TV, so you know how.) I'll wait.

"Well, I don't want it *that* way. I don't want to go to jail. I don't want to go into hiding.
I don't want _______ ."  That's the end of my proof.
But I also want to ask if it is safe to say that you would like money in a way that is ... more life enhancing?

It's life enhancement you're after, and either you do or do not see money as a means to life enhancement. They are not the same thing.
I am not, of course, saying that money doesn't have an appeal. I am saying that if you're relying on that appeal you are missing the boat ... and attracting sharks.
Maybe you're not relying on the appeal of money. Your product has its own appeal. Like hamburgers do.

We Americans (sorry, Canada) love our burgers. And that's why the McDonald's song goes -- come on, sing along -- "You deserve a burger today." Of course, that's not how it goes, which is why they're still in business. You can buy a hamburger at McDonald's, but they don't *sell* them (except during price wars). They sell life enhancement: "You deserve a break today."

And that's exactly what the 8-year-old marketing genius inside you said to your mother. Or something just like it. (I know because the kids who never got beyond "I wanna hamburger" died off.)

How would you get your parents to buy whatever you are now selling? *That's* what your message should be. And don't forget the enthusiasm --the excitement!-- you put into whatever the answer is. That's what will bring you results.

By the way, if you are not sincerely excited about your product or service, you'll probably never get good results trying to sell it. Besides, if you're not excited by your product or service -- not the message, but the actual product or service -- why are you trying to sell it in the first place? No matter how much money you're making, you'll never feel like your dreams are coming true if you're not excited by what you're doing. Find something that excites you. Life is too short.

2)  Reasonable Belief

I imagine people scratching their heads wondering why customers aren't jumping through the computer monitor to take advantage of "Make $12,000,000 in 10 minutes." Chances are *your* claim is less outrageous. Maybe it's, "Get your life enhanced now!" Maybe it's only, "The best cricket uniforms in Nottinghamshire."

Whatever your claim is, that's all it is to us readers and viewers: A claim. And we readers usually realize that you can claim anything you can think up.
This is more important than words about life enhancement. It doesn't matter what you say or show if your audience doesn't believe it.

You won't get far wondering, "Well, why shouldn't they believe it?" I suggest you will be much better off wondering, "Why *should* they believe it?" Wonder about that before you write a single word, before you dream about page layout. Everything else is secondary. In fact, if they don't believe you, everything else is irrelevant.

After you learned that "I'll hold my breath until I turn blue" does not work, what did you do to get your parents to believe you? And, later on, friends, schoolmates, dates, etc. Use *that* in your message.

The first million webpages projected so much of their authors' personalities and interests that it was hard to figure out why you would be interested in looking at them. In fact, usually there *was* no reason to look. But those sites exuded personality. And we never questioned an author's claim about having three cats and a Volvo.

Now the pendulum has swung so far in the opposite direction that websites -- and ads and the rest -- are often cold, lifeless, unbelievable.
Put *you* into your message. You are, after all, the one constructing it. Tell the truth. Try "I'm sitting here at my computer in my boxer shorts."

A few paragraphs ago, I wrote, "If the pH blank is 'go on a date with me,' we call it a successful pick-up line. (If it worked, please contact me.)" Why did I write the comment between the parentheses?

I hoped you might smile. And deep down I really do hope some woman in my vicinity contacts me. But mostly I want to make sure you don't think this is computer generated. So you know I'm a person. So you can relate to me better. So maybe you will believe me.

"Of course it's not computer generated," you may exclaim.
But move your head back an inch or two; re-focus your eyes. What (unless you have WebTV) are you actually looking at?

This is from the Power Messages section of The SUCCESS Arsenal![tm]
The author is busy there stockpiling Internet-marketing resources, tactics, and tools for small and home businesses. You don't need a security clearance just to visit -- but no smoking within 500 ft.