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« Copy Always Matters | Main | What Changed David Ogilvy's Life »

September 10, 2007



What a timely message, Ryan!

I just approached someone whom I want to do work with using that kind of humility. And I was doubting myself for admitting my weaknesses along with my strengths.

I decided to be honest because a) she would find out soon enough anyway if we work together; and b)while I might bring value to her business, I also want to learn from her.


John Holzmann

You asked, "How much humility do you include in your marketing mix?"

Check out 27 Good Reasons NOT to Purchase Sonlight. We've featured that article (in various forms) for 12 years or more.

On the other hand, as we have attempted to improve our direct marketing oriented copy, we haven't always gotten the mix right.

Last week one of our key writers, with a huge direct marketing background, sent the following letter; and we received almost 700 furious emails demanding to have the senders' names removed from our email list.

Not quite enough humility for our particular audience. . . .

Subject: Get your hands on a Sonlight program now, without paying a DIME...

Sonlight Curriculum

This invitation is a follow-up to one you received recently. If you've already responded (or plan not to), why not pass it along to a friend? All I ask is this: Please do it today—before this first-ever offer from Sonlight expires on Sunday, 9/09/07? Thanks! How you can get your hands on the complete Sonlight homeschool program of your choice, without paying a dime for it: Choose any Sonlight Core program today.

  • Don't pay a DIME for it. Seriously.
  • Order today (reservations are very limited).
  • Keep two inspiring gifts—$98.99 value—with our thanks.
  • Step 1: Choose the Sonlight program you'd like to try.

    There's already a complete, ready-to-use Sonlight homeschool year so perfect for your child… it's like it was tailor-made.

    You can find it easily at: . . .

    The letter continues with all kinds of semi-hype-y details about the offer.


    Ryan Healy

    @ Suzanne - I'm glad the message was so relevant to you right now.

    @ John - Wow. Thanks for sharing that real-life example. Hitting the right tone is sometimes so difficult. I know I've made my fair share of mistakes in that department...

    Ali Manson

    Hey Ryan,

    Sorry I've been so quiet lately, I've been trying to re-assess how I use my time online.

    Good post once again. A lot of people seem to have messed up perceptions on what sales and marketing truly is.

    Good sales and marketing is all about the relationship between you and the prospect.

    If someone thinks you are just trying to sell them something, your relationship with them will be shallow and fleeting.

    BUT, if you take the time to be honest AND humble, people will be more open to you and future propositions you may make to them.

    Granted, there are always exceptions to the rule, but generally, you will receive FAR more long-term business from people you are honest and straightforward with.

    For example, my clients don't work with me because I write the best copy ever: I don't profess to offer the best copy in the world. It's an impossibility to do so (in fact, I'd say it was an out and out lie to make such a claim).

    My clients work with me (I like to think) for my ability to say "I don't know", and "explain that to me again, please".

    Nothing will p*ss a client off more than simply nodding when they ask if you know what they want, and then you pester them incessantly with questions they could have answered in the brief three weeks ago.

    Realising and accepting that the client knows more about their industry than you do is the first step to humility. Taking what you learn from them and delivering a marketing piece that resonates with both you AND your client (and their prospects, of course) is the thing that will give you the biggest buzz. (well, it does for me, anyways...)

    Hope this helps.


    Brian Ochsner


    Great topic! I think it's really important (especially in today's marketplace) where you have VERY skeptical buyers looking at almost every ad with a jaundiced eye.

    I believe that if you come out and tell people in a geniune and authentic way who you are... what your product is... and what it can (and can't) do, that'll come through on a conscious or subconscious level to the reader. Haven't really had a problem being too egotistical, so I haven't been too concerned about my level of humility.

    'Know-it-alls' are poison in marketing and business in general. They usually don't keep up with current trends, and rely on their reputation, sales ability (or B.S.) to succeed. You have others who aren't know-it-alls, but try to 'gloss over' certain things and/or don't have that genuineness in their approach.

    By being 'real,' you'll set yourself apart from most businesspeople in general, and that's attractive in a business sense.

    Ryan Healy

    @ Ali - Great to hear from you. I agree... it's important to continually examine Internet usage. Otherwise, it just eats up too much time.

    Thanks for such a great comment. Very insightful.

    @ Brian - Thank you for your comment as well. Excellent insights.

    Joseph Ratliff |


    Dead on man.

    Clients can "feel" when you need to prove yourself to them...

    Humility is a way to combat that feeling.

    Joseph Ratliff

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