How ‘Marketing Guilt’ Hurts Your Customers (And Your Sales)

Yesterday I showed how teaching flips an “analytical switch” in your would-be customer’s brain that more often than not will kill your sales.

When I first got into marketing, I really struggled with this.

Teaching is fun—it comes natural to me and I really enjoy it.

The idea of teaching *less* in my emails just to make more sales felt like holding out on my audience, like I was cheating them somehow.

Subscriber Jennifer is dealing with this too.

She says:

I struggle with putting too much in since my background is course writing/instructional design and my strong point is being able to break down complex topics into easy-to-apply lessons.

It’s just that before I was thinking constantly, “How can I get them to apply this?” And with email courses it’s “How can I get them to buy the real lesson?” Totally different, but I’m sure I’ll get there.

I might be off base on this, but I detect a note of “marketing guilt” here—like deep down Jennifer feels like she’s pulling a bait and switch on her unsuspecting prospect.

Here’s the way I’ve come to understand this.

When you’re in business, your main goal should be to put your customers first, and serve their needs above your own.

And if you’re selling a product that fills a legitimate need that your ideal customers have, your focus should be on, “How do I structure my marketing and my business to help the most people possible?”

On the surface, giving everything away for free seems like the best way to do that.

But is it really?

Try this exercise:

Think back over the last 3 days.

How much free information and advice have you received?

If you’re an info junkie like me, you’ve probably read a dozen or more tweets, Facebook posts, blog posts, etc.

Now… How much of an impact has that freely given information had on your life?

How much have you actually applied?

How much do you even *remember*?

In the past several weeks, I’ve had several people give me (for free) access to courses they’ve created that they charge hundreds or even thousands of dollars for.

And to be honest I haven’t even looked at them.

What I’ve realized is that sometimes the best way to actually help your customers is by “holding out” and requiring them to pony up their cold, hard cash before you share your valuable insights.

Your customers don’t benefit from *reading* your information—they benefit from *applying* it.

And in today’s “information wants to be free” world, 99.99% of people will never apply your free teaching.

By saving your best ideas for paying customers, you’re not “holding out” on your customers.

You’re ensuring that your customers value your hard-won experience.

And you’re giving them their best shot at benefitting from your wisdom.

Does that seem like something to feel guilty about?

Gonzalo Arzuaga - July 14, 2016


I think it’s an amazing point you’re raising with your post here. Thank you for that.
You hit the nail right in the head. We, first timers in Email Courses, believe that if we give them our best stuff they’ll love it and then buy. But I like the analogy with kids (I have a 2 kids at home, ages 3.5 and 6 months) when you say “Want people to eat all their food? Have them starving for 4 days!”

The analogy to the “free” email course (permission to spam 🙂 is amazing.
Right now I’m just learning how to shift the wrong mindset (feed them, teach them in the free course) to the “get them hungry” talking about the what, not the how.

Learning from you, who else 🙂

    Josh Earl - July 14, 2016

    Thanks, for the kind words, Gonzalo!

    The whole message of the “law of reciprocity” is very seductive for people who don’t like the idea of selling (which is most people).

    Giving away free samples isn’t a bad thing—just so the samples are bite-sized and not a 7-course meal! 🙂

      Gonzalo Arzuaga - July 14, 2016

      Haha! Dude, you da man!

      btw, when you check your analytics, and you see 1 freak that checked 200 pages of your blog in, like 2 days, and spent something like a gazillion hours on your site… well, you’re looking at him 🙂

      P.S. Maybe create an Email Course that goes for “How People That Hate Selling Can Sell Like Crazy…With Email Courses” My 2 cents, free to you, hey I ‘have’ to give back, right? Cialdini at play here haha.

        Josh Earl - July 14, 2016


        Cialdini is good stuff but people act like it’s mind control. Sometimes that stuff works, sometimes it doesn’t. Mostly it takes a back seat to basics like getting a good offer in front of the right people and building real relationships with your customers.

        I *am* working on a product about the email course stuff—stay tuned!

Gonzalo Arzuaga - July 15, 2016

Also Josh, it’d be very helpful to somehow see the posts by date. Because you mention a lot “tomorrow i’ll tell you”… and with only 4 related posts at the bottom of the page, is a hit or miss (most probably) thing. Just my 2 cents 🙂

    Josh Earl - July 16, 2016

    Mainly that’s a problem when you’re reading 135 posts per day. 🙂

    “Next” and “Previous” buttons would be good—I’ll keep that in mind when I do my redesign this fall.

    Josh Earl
    *Email Copywriter*

    How to Create Email Courses That Sell

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