The Lies We Tell Ourselves About Business, Part 2

Four More Bad Ideas that Will Keep You from Moving Forward

I built up such a head of steam last week that I needed to get a few more more rants off my chest.

Today I talk about some more of the wrongheaded notions we have about business and success, and my suggestions for new ways of thinking to replace them. Because stupid ideas can keep you out of the game, or keep you from playing at your best — and we can’t have that.

In this 20-minute episode, I talk about:

  • Why “marketing” isn’t (and shouldn’t be) synonymous with “lying”
  • A simplified marketing message that you can use anywhere, for any business
  • How I deal with abusive or creepy people in my own business life
  • Why introverts make great business people
  • Why it’s dumb to think that business is “about taking risks” (and how to reframe that to keep yourself sane)
  • How to cultivate the #1 predictor of success

The Show Notes

Share Your Questions!

If you’d like to ask Sonia a question about business, productivity, marketing, finding work/life balance, or some other topic, just send her a note on Twitter! She’ll be addressing them regularly in future dedicated Q&A episodes.

The Lies We Tell Ourselves About Business, Part 2

Sonia Simone: Greetings, superfriends! My name is Sonia Simone, and these are the Confessions of a Pink Haired Marketer.

For those who don’t know me yet, I’m a co-founder and Chief Content Officer for Copyblogger Media. I’m also a champion of running a business and your life according to your own rules. As long as you don’t lie and you don’t hurt people, this podcast is your official pink permission slip to run your business, or your career, exactly the way you think you should.

This podcast is brought to you today by Authority Rainmaker, a live educational experience that presents a complete and effective online marketing strategy to help you immediately accelerate your business. You can find out more about that at

I had such a good time last week ranting about the lies of business, that I am going to continue that today with some more things that drive me insane about how our culture views business and entrepreneurialism.

“Why “Marketing” Isn’t (and Shouldn’t Be) Synonymous with “Lying”

The first lie of business I want to talk about today, is that marketing equals lying. That marketing is another word for lying. And this keeps a lot of business people, or a lot of people who would like to be business people, from getting good at marketing, which means they get no customers, which means their business fails. This is not what we want.

Now I am not saying this is never true. Obviously we all know that some marketing is shady, some advertising is not truthful. But smart marketers don’t lie.

Because in the 21st century, with the widespread ability of folks to talk to each other, liars are going to get caught more often than not. So lying is not only unethical, and a thing that makes you a bad person, it’s also a stupid business strategy.

Marketing is not about lying about your business. Marketing is everything you communicate to your customers and to your prospects — the people who might become your customers.

And keep in mind, that just like in a one-on-one interaction, communication is not just what you say, it’s what you do. It’s everything you do and the way you do it.

So in business, this includes things like your web design. Whether or not your site is mobile responsive, so that somebody has a good experience with it when they come to your site from their phone.

A big one is how your staff treats people, and I’ll give you a tip on that: Your staff will treat your customers and your potential customers, about as well as you treat your staff.

Your tone. Your tone of voice in your podcasts. Your tone in your writing.

Even what kind of channels you appear on. So having content on HipChat says something really different than having content on LinkedIn.

Everything you’re doing in your business is communicating something that is either going to attract people to you, or push them away, and that’s marketing. Marketing is just what you are communicating to people who want to do business with you.

A Simplified Marketing Message That You Can Use Anywhere, for Any Business

Now I am going to give you the world’s simplest marketing message.

You need to communicate who you are, and that includes why you might be different from other choices they might make. Always keeping in mind that they have the option of doing nothing.

So what makes you different from the other vendors they might choose, the other services they might consider?

How and who you help. This is a big one.

And then what the potential customer or client should do next.

That’s your simple, bare bones marketing message:

  1. Who are you? Why you are different?
  2. How and who do you help?
  3. What should the prospect do next?

And if you keep your focus on these few things, you are going to be focused on helping and you are going to be focused on education. And that’s what tends to get the best results for the lowest cost today.

So move past this idea that marketing is shady, marketing is lying, marketing is creepy. Think about just conveying who you are, how you serve people, and how they can keep moving on the process. If you think about that, you’ll be less nervous about marketing. You’ll be less uncomfortable with it and you will incidentally become a much, much more effective marketer.

Because people can sense when you are being shady. People can sense when you are not telling the truth, or when you are exaggerating your claims.

How I Deal With Abusive and Creepy People in My Own Business Life

Moving on to lie number two. You have to put up with the abusive jerks in our life, in our business. And a lot of us learned in school under a tyrant teacher. Under an unreasonable, mean teacher, who had arbitrary rules that didn’t make any sense and they just liked to be mean to people.

And a lot of us heard at home, “Look, you just have to learn to deal with these kind of people. It’s just part of life, dealing with this kind of person.” Unreasonable, has power over you and is abusive.

And one of the things I love about the millennial generation is that they aren’t having it. They think this is the dopiest thing they ever heard, and I am totally with them.

The great thing about “your business, your rules” is you can have a “no jerk rule,” which I highly encourage you to have.

No jerks in your customer base, no jerks, certainly in your employees, business partners, vendors. And remember what I said earlier, your employees are going to treat your prospects and your customers about as well as you treat them.

I have seen this really damage businesses, where you get a founder who has this sense that employees should be grateful that they have a job at all. And the problem with that mentality is, you end up with a team of people who are grateful that they have a job at all, because they are basically functionally unemployable. They are dead wood.

And all of the people who have initiative, who are on the ball, who go the extra mile, who actually care about doing a good job, just because that’s who they are as people, they are honorable and they want to do the right thing — those people leave as quickly as they came in.

So really think about that, as you are bringing on staff members and how you interact with them every day. You need to treat them like they have a brain, like they can make good decisions, like they are honorable people, who will do the right thing, because it’s the right thing.

If that’s what you expect and that’s what you communicate as the values of your company, most people will pretty much fall in line with that. And the ones who don’t, will self-identify and they can be dealt with.

You’ve got to remember that business is like Soylent Green. It’s made of people.

Relationships are really everything in every kind of business. So relationships with your prospects, relationships with the audience that might be consuming your content, relationships with your customers, with your employees, with your vendors, with other web publishers, on and on and on.

Now relationships are not always about sunshine and unicorns. Relationships are also about setting boundaries. Setting boundaries matters. Communicating the standards of your business matters a lot.

Communicating what you will and will not accept. What are the values that you find acceptable, what are the values you do not. What are the behaviors you will accept and the behaviors you will not accept. That setting boundaries is an important part of good relationships as well, but abuse has no part in this.

Shouting at people, being nasty, belittling people. That just has no place in business. And if you are a person who has tended to fall back on those bad habits, you need to move forward and you need to cultivate better habits.

The more work you do on being really awesome at relationships, the more successful you will be.

Why Introverts Make Great Business People

And that actually leads me to my third lie, which is that business is only for extroverts. That you have to be an extrovert to be good at business.

And extroversion is not at all the same as being good at relationships. It’s really about how much energy you give or get from being around people.

So introverts tend to have their energy level tapped, drained, by being around people, especially larger groups of people. And extroverts find that exhilarating. They get energy from larger groups of people.

It has been treated in the past as some kind of a moral question, a failing or a good quality. It has absolutely no dimension of good or bad. You are what you are. You have a certain wiring, a certain tendency to either be drained or exhilarated by spending time with larger groups of people. And for most of us, it is very much on the spectrum. Most of us have an introvert side and an extrovert side, and we balance those two.

So no, of course, you don’t have to be an extrovert to have a successful business. You don’t have to be an introvert to have a successful business either.

Because you are going to build your business around your strengths and you are going to compensate, limit, or make up for your weaknesses.

So if you are an introvert and being around large groups of people is exhausting, you are going to work with that intelligently and manage it.

My company, Copyblogger Media, are mostly a company of introverts. We have a few extroverts who are the first to jump onto the karaoke stage, but for the most part, we are a company of introverts.

We tend to be very creatively productive. We do lots of writing, lots of podcasts, lots of programming. But we also hold a live event every year — Authority Rainmaker. That’s the event you can find out more about at

And those really tax us as introverts. Now that’s okay. We love being taxed at that event. It’s our big group hug for the year. We absolutely love it … and it absolutely exhausts us. We all retreat to darkened rooms with towels on our foreheads for about a week after the event.

Introverts can be social, and extroverts can be reflective. So don’t let some dopey label limit what you can do. But you do want to respect your own energy needs and you want to manage them.

If you’re an introvert, you are going to need more down time after a social event like a conference. So know that. Know yourself and build that into your planning.

Why It’s Dumb to Think That Business is “About Taking Risks” (and How to Reframe That to Keep Yourself Sane)

And the final lie I am going to rant about today is that business is about taking risks.

This idea keeps a lot of people from getting in the game at all. And I can really relate to that.

My son was three years old when I started my business, and I am the primary breadwinner in my family. I was not interested in risk. I was interested in paying my mortgage.

I was interested in making sure we had groceries. I was interested in making sure we could pay our health insurance bill. I was not interested in taking a lot of crazy risks. And I don’t think you should be either.

There is an expression that some people use, “Leap and the net will appear.” And I have seen this frankly irresponsible attitude really wreck people and really wreck their businesses.

You are responsible for building your net. The net is not going to appear. You are not entitled to success because you have taken a bold risk.

This idea is part of the mythology of entrepreneurialism in our culture. It is dangerous and it is completely unnecessary.

In my last podcast, I talked about experiments, and this is how you intelligently manage risk. Risk in business is natural, because you don’t know how things are going to turn out until you do them. You don’t know if that product is going to be successful until some people buy it. But in managing to experiment, it gives you that room to find out the answers, without risking the farm.

So you do not mortgage your house to launch your product. You launch something small and controlled as an experiment, so that you can learn before you put more assets, more risk into the game.

So here are a couple of ways you can manage your risk as a business owner.

The first is to keep your expenses as low as you possibly can, until you have something that you know works. And online marketing, I have to say, is tremendous for this. Even if you have a brick and mortar business, online marketing is testable. You can do very small experiments and see what works. You can experiment with things like pay-per-click advertising. You can control things. Experiment with things. Do more of what works. Do less of what does not work.

Of course, it’s not the only form of marketing that works. I have advised countless people if they do have a brick and mortar business, to print up some simple flyers on plain paper at your local Kinko’s and flyer your neighborhood for your business. Very cheap, very testable. You have flyer A. You put out 300 of those. You have flyer B. You put out 300 of those. They have a little coupon that people bring back into your shop, and you see which one does better.

Do more of what works and do less of what doesn’t work. And one of our core principles at Copyblogger Media is to do tests, trials, Minimum Viable Products.

The way you do is you test the very smallest thing that will create a meaningful change for your audience, and this can literally be something as tiny as a 99 cent Amazon ebook. It might be a $7 PDF ebook. It might be a 15 minute introductory section with your service.

What’s the smallest thing you can launch, that would create some meaningful change, even if it’s a small change, for your audience? That’s where you start. You test it, you refine it and you build on that.

Another way you can manage risking your business, that’s really important, is to avoid the number One. It’s what I call “The negative rule of one.” You don’t want to have one market. You don’t want to have one type of prospect, unless that type of prospect is teenage boys, because there are lots of those.

You don’t want to have one vendor for critical roles. You don’t want to have one employee. You don’t have any one point of failure. You want to be always looking for redundancy and backups. So look for the Ones in your business and make a plan for having alternatives, backups.

If you work with a graphic designer, I would advise you to work with two graphic designers and split the business. And I realize that you will command a lot more loyalty by pouring lots of business on one person, but that also makes that person a single point of failure for your business.

So for me, the trade off is always worth it. You create loyalty in that designer or that vendor, or that employee, by treating them really well. Treating them with a lot of respect and being a good person to work with. Not by relying on them 100%, so that if they get sick, or they have a situation where their computer dies or something like that, that you end up in the lurch.

And I want to talk a little bit about the fact that includes you too, as the founder or the owner. Think about, “Are you that point of one in your business? Are there things you do in your business that you are the only person who can do them?” If you are a founder of a business, that is very normal.

By the way, I am not talking about this concept from Michael Gerber’s E-Myth, that you don’t want to work in your business, you only want to work on your business.

His example was the lady that made pies. Basically, she was supposed to work on creating a pie franchise; not on actually baking pies.

I don’t really buy that, because it violates my principle of “your business, your rules.” If you want to work in your business, work in your business. If you like baking pies, and that turns you on, I think you should be baking pies. At least some of the time.

But you look for a way to expand on that, especially when it gets less fun and you also look to expand on that so that you are not breaking the negative rule of one. So you’re not the only person who knows how to bake an amazing pie. Knows how to write an amazing sales letter. Who knows how to convert prospects into clients. Whatever it might be that you are really awesome at.

Look around and start cultivating the resources that will mean there are two, and then maybe three, and then maybe four of the people who do what you are amazing at. You still get to do it, if that’s what you like to do, but it makes your business much less vulnerable.

And you know, it means you could actually take a vacation every once in a while. It happens.

How to Cultivate the #1 Predictor of Success

The old copywriting guru Gary Halbert said, “The best predictor of success for, let’s say, a restaurant, is having a starving crowd.”

The best predictor of success for any business is having a bunch of folks close by, who really want what you have to offer.

And at Copyblogger we talk about building an audience. And particularly we talk about building an audience, online, with web based content. Because when you build an audience that trusts you, you can keep going back to that audience and learn more about what they need, and that’s where your products come from, your services come from.

As opposed to that brilliant invention you have been tinkering with for the last 20 years, that you have almost had success with 16 or 17 times. It’s because you are focusing on the invention. You are not focusing on the audience and what they need.

The audience is your stability. They are not even prospects yet. They are a crowd of people and they have needs and concerns and desires, and you are there to serve. And that’s why I’m so big on content marketing, because you can build the audience and then everything good in your business flows from that.

Your reputation with an audience is the most important business asset you will ever build, and it’s actually the most resilient if you act honorably.

People do forgive honest mistakes that get made every day, especially on social media, where we have these wonderful platforms that we can do foolish things on. They won’t forgive deception. They won’t forgive real ethical lapses and they won’t forgive true indifference, but they will forgive honest mistakes.

So those are my four final lies of entrepreneurship. Next time around I think I am going to be switching it up. I’m going to bring somebody in for an interview. So check back next week to see what we come up with.

We also have a Q&A session coming up. We’ll be doing regular question and answer sessions with me, where I answer your business questions. These could be about marketing, business, motivation, balancing business and family, whatever you want to talk about. I’m glad to answer your questions.

So if you have a question for the episode, if you could leave it in the comments today [correction, please tweet them to me on Twitter! My id there is @soniasimone.].

I will round up the ones I think are the greatest general benefit and answer them in an upcoming episode. So really looking forward to seeing that.

These have been the Confessions of a Pink Haired Marketer and they have been brought to you today by Authority Rainmaker. Authority Rainmaker is a live, educational experience and it presents a complete effective online marketing strategy, to help you immediately accelerate your business.

The kinds of things I talk about in this podcast, the building blocks of a business that works, we are going to be teaching you how to do those, particularly with a focus on online marketing at the Authority Rainmaker conference. You will also get an opportunity to network with lots of cool, interesting people and I would love to see you there.

Don’t miss the opportunity to see Dan Pink, Sally Hogshead, punk legend Henry Rollins, and a lot of other super, smart speakers live … not to mention the secret sauce of it all: building real world relationships with other attendees. I would personally love to connect with you there.

You can go and grab all the details at And we can’t wait to meet you in Denver, Colorado this May. That’s

Really looking forward to seeing you there! Thanks everybody, and take care.