But Then, What The Hell Do I Know?

Just got back from a very interesting meeting-of-minds down in Beverly Hills. I’m revealing the tastier parts of the story in the upcoming issue of the Rant… but for now, let’s just say I spent a couple of days in the company of some very savvy entrepreneurs and business owners.

In a 30,000 square foot Tuscan mansion. With Rod Stewart and Eddie Murphy as neighbors. Bodyguards, more servants than I could keep track of, private chef, private sushi bar, a DJ and bartender in the billiard room, for crying out loud.

It was a luxury gig all the way. And the quality of the other experts and honchos there was just staggering. Whispered deals were made in every room, handshakes worth a fortune exchanged on every break, earth-moving bonds established at lunch. This was the kind of event rookies have wet dreams about.

I flew home this afternoon all excited and stuffed with motivation and ideas… and tried to communicate my excitement, and some of the cool stuff that happened, to my Significant Other.

Who was notably UNimpressed. She didn’t recognize any of the names I dropped (these are industry insiders, and most are not well known outside the entrepreneurial niche). And she had only a vague notion of my rather famous host.

Nothing I said could crack her polite interest — we have to live together, after all — and generate the kind of awe I wanted to install in her mind. I wanted to share my good vibes.

Very frustrating.

Here’s the kicker, though: We bopped over to the local fish joint for dinner, and met some acquaintances, who joined us. At some point, one of them asked me where’d I just flown in from, and I mumbled something about Bill Phillips’s mansion down in Bever…

Instant excitement from the other side of the table. “You mean you were at Bill Phillips’s house? I am a total fan of the guy. His book helped me drop, like, 19 pounds fast, and I feel so much better! This is amazing…”

And she went on to talk for some length about Bill’s “Eat For Life” book, which was an instrument of wonderous change in her life.

And HER excitement sparked the interest of my no-longer-yawning mate. Suddenly, my little adventure had real potential in her eyes.

Nothing I had told her about it had gotten across.

But this near-stranger’s astonished rave spoke volumes.

There’s a lesson here, I thinks to myself.

It’s the raw power of unexpected third party testimonials. My story was suspect, because of course I would be expected to pump it up as much as possible. Everything I said was run through my Sig Other’s cruel “bullshit detector”, several times. And even though I was NOT embellishing, the details of this unique event seemed over-the-top, no matter how much I pulled back on the “wow” effects.

You married guys, I don’t need to explain this to.

But this is very much like trying to get your sales message across to a prospect. Even a prospect who knows you, and should be giving you the benefit of the doubt, will not lend huge weight to anything you say that might be construed as bragging.

You just lose them entirely no matter how hard you try. In fact, the harder you try, the worse it gets.

Bring in someone else, though… who obviously has no stake in the matter, but who also gets very excited about the subject… and you’ve awakened the interest and believability in your reader.

This is important. I see it violated all the time in the critiques that pass my desk.

You simply cannot expect your reader to believe anything you say at face value. You must proceed on the assumption that they actually YAWN at any excitement you try to generate.

It’s the nature of the beast. We all hate braggarts. Even braggarts hate other braggarts.

Touting your own wonderfulness goes over like a lead balloon.

But having someone ELSE do it carries massive credibility.

Simple, mega-powerful salesmanship tactic.

John Carlton

P.S.: If you’re gonna blow four hours watching the Academy Awards, at least try to spend a little of your viewing time being aware of the meta-story playing out in front of and behind the camera. Try to understand the appeal of celebrity… and try to predict who will be savaged by the critics on Monday for having muffed their speech, or dressed badly, or snubbed someone, or whatever.

The Cult of Personality is insanely strong in this country. But it’s also fickle. Stars attempt to brand themselves, fit into niches where they have little competition, weather damage control, and try to add value just like companies do in tough, passionate markets.

And, just like the business world, you can lose by winning. Your very success makes you a target. It’s a jungle. Getting into the head of the audience — not the stars, which are shallow vessels of inch-thick ego, but the audience — can give you some real insight to ALL human-based markets out there.

Consider what is rational, and what is irrational about the people who get passionate about this stuff.

Very important psychology there.

Have fun.

One Response to But Then, What The Hell Do I Know?

  1. John,

    Reading this about your significant other was hysterical! (and interesting and insightful, too).

    Why hysterical?

    Because I was just having the same experience of “okay, uh-huh, so?” from my wife when we were talking about Gary Bencivenga’s upcoming seminar.

    She doesn’t know the copywriting world, and, even though he’s extremely well respected in that world, outside of that world, people don’t know who he is.

    Including my wife.

    I just had to smile when I read that.


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