All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin

You want to sell a product. You want to sell it fast, massively, and with little friction.

You want people to notice your product and say, “Wow! Why didn’t I think of that?”

What you don’t want people to say is, “Hmm… I don’t get it,” or “Wait. What’s the point?”

The bane of every entrepreneurs existence is the person who doesn’t buy your product — not because they don’t like it — but because they don’t get it.

And this happens in all sorts of industries. It happens to people who run blogs or Youtube channels. It happens to people who sell a tangible product or a digital product.

If you think — no, you know — that your product is amazing, you put your heart and soul into it, but still, it underperforms, chances are, you’re telling a shitty story.

What do I mean? Let’s start at the beginning.

1. Stories sell your product.

Since all of us are just glorified cave people, we love stories. We love sitting around the fire and sharing the most recent gossip. We love telling and listening to remarkable narratives.

And if a story is compelling enough — if it’s consistent, believable, and provocative — it will inspire change in those who listen.

If I tell you, for example, that I went to a local restaurant and the waiter never filled my water glass in the hour and a half that I was there, the food was mediocre, and the experience was overpriced, I’ll bet that you’d never try the restaurant.

Similarly, if I told you that they offered me a free glass of wine with my meal, the food was phenomenal, and they gave me a coupon for my next visit, you’d visit the restaurant.

Why?

Because we’re friends and you trust the stories I tell.

It’s the same with your company. Compelling and coherent stories build trust and sell products.

Think about why you buy the shoes that you do, or wear the same hat everyday, or purchase the same make up every time. It’s because the company told you a compelling story about how the product will make you feel and you believed it.

And because you believed it, you actually do feel differently. Not because of the product, but because of the story you’ve chosen to believe.

In other words, people don’t buy your product because it’s a good price or a quality product, but because they believe it’s a good price or a quality product. But more so, because they believe it will make them feel the way they want to feel.

“If consumers have everything they need, there’s nothing left to buy except stuff that they want. And the reason they buy stuff they want is because of the way it makes them feel.”

2. Stories don’t need to be true. They just need to be convincing.

Having said that, the stories you tell your prospects don’t need to be true. But they do need to be consistent and believable.

Since all people love stories, we are good at deciphering if a story is true or not. If you tell me that a pair of shoes is going to make me look cool to my friends, chances are that I won’t believe you.

But if you show me a picture of someone who looks cool in your shoes, I might believe you. Better yet if the picture portrays impressed friends.

To make a story believable, you must ensure that your story is consistent.

You can’t say that your shoes are cool one day, and then the next day say that they’re professional.

Those are two different messages. And when you try to say two different things with the same story, people are less likely to believe you.

The point is to craft a story around your product that is convincing, compelling, and consistent.

It’s a whole lot better to say the same thing over and over again than to say the wrong thing.

You might feel like a broken record, but your consistency will win you sales.

“A great story is true. Not true because it’s factual, but true because it’s consistent and authentic. Consumers are too good at sniffing out inconsistencies for a marketer to get away with a story that’s just slapped on.”

3. Good stories make an extravagant promise.

Every great story has a message. And every great story for the sake of marketing makes a promise.

If I told you that the shoes I’m selling are nice, that means absolutely nothing. But if I tell you that the shoes I’m selling will make you look sexy or professional or cool, or you’ll appear generous because my company donates to charity, those are stories I’m interested in listening to.

Why?

Because they make a promise.

Which is what your product should do.

  • Buy these clothes and your friends will give you the respect you deserve.
  • Listen to this podcast and you’ll make more money.
  • Drive this car and people will know you’re an adventurer.

These are all stories that companies tell their customers.

If you’re not sure what promise your product offers, then do some thinking, discover that promise, and relay that to your audience.

“Great stories make a promise. They promise fun or money, safety or shortcut. The promise is bold and audacious and not just very good — it’s exceptional or it’s not worth listening to.”

4. Great stories suggest certain truths. They don’t say them outright.

Great stories send a subtle message.

Great stories don’t outright say that wearing certain clothes will make you sexy. They say, “For when you need to let loose…” and then show you a picture of a woman dancing at the club in their clothes.

They don’t outright say that their marketing service will get you more leads. They say, “Losing leads? We have the solution…” and then describe the service that will solve your problem.

If you try to tell people that your product will make them feel a certain way, they won’t believe you. But if you tell them a story about why that claim is true, they will.

Stories have a way of hiding deeper messages — which is why you can use stories in your marketing to convince people that the promises you’re making are true.

“Stories let us lie to ourselves. And those lies satisfy our desires.”

5. You can fib, but don’t be a fraud.

Every story I’ve ever told was embellished. A 20% off deal becomes 50% off. Seeing one bear in the woods becomes a cub and its mom. And one hour waiting at a restaurant becomes three hours.

But the thing about embellished stories is that they are still believable.

We only exaggerate stories to the point where they’re compelling, but still convincing.

And doing so is critical for your story-telling marketing campaigns.

Embellish a little.

But, having said that, don’t be a fraud. Like I mentioned earlier, everyone can tell when you’re pulling their leg. And they’ll hate you for it.

If your product isn’t actually able to help people, if it harms people, or if your story is a complete and outright lie, do the world and favor and get a real job.

Otherwise, just tell a fib.

“All marketers are storytellers. Only the losers are liars.”

6. Tell a lie that you believe.

This is at the heart of telling great stories.

While we all lie to some degree about the stories that we tell, the best liars — and thus, storytellers — are the people who believe the lie themselves.

If you want to be an amazing marketer, an amazing business person, and sell your product like crazy, you need to first believe in the lie that you’re telling your customers.

Whether it’s that your product will make them sexy or successful, if you don’t believe it, then they won’t believe it.

The most compelling story is one told by a person who has absolute conviction that it’s true. They believe it so adamantly and passionately that you can’t help but trust them.

That person will win.

Be that person.

“When you find a story that works, live that story, make it true, authentic, and subject to scrutiny.”

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