The Sleazebag and the Magician: A Tale of Two Marketers

I’ve been thinking a lot about marketing lately. I know, I know. You hate advertising. Can’t stand self-promotion. I get it.

The Sleazebag and the Magician: A Tale of Two Marketers

But guess what? If you’ve got a message that deserves to be shared, you need to care about marketing. There are two ways to go about this, to spread an idea or promote a project.

One is the Way of the Sleazebag

You beg, plead, and generally cajole people into paying attention to you. You rant and annoy and put a lot of pressure on the people who love you.

The problem with this method, ironically, is it works. Which is what makes it so dangerous. Through bribery, shame, or some other questionable tactic, you got what you were looking for. And now you have to continue making compromises in order to keep the attention.

Talk about something that will drain you.

The other is the Way of the Magician

Some people just have a certain charisma about them. They’re cool. Everything they touch seems to turn to gold with little to no effort. But their secret sauce isn’t magic. Not really. No, it’s something even more mystical: patience.

They practice subtlety, wait for just the right moment, learning and listening the whole time, and finally speak up. And when they do, we listen.

Really, that’s the difference. Between jerks and geniuses. Between the brilliant communicator and the broke one. It’s all about patience, about taking your time and earning trust.

Trust and permission

When I look around at people succeeding, it’s usually those with a long-term approach who are doing the best.

These people don’t give in to the temptation to compromise their work to earn a buck — or a “like,” for that matter. Instead, they demonstrate integrity. They stick around and keep showing up, knowing that little by little is how influence is earned.

Millionaires will tell you the same thing: There’s no such thing as overnight success. The only way to “get rich quick” is to do it slowly. The same is true with all creative work.

If you have something you’re just dying to promote, take your time. Don’t neglect promotion, but be patient. The last thing you want to do is appear desperate.

How do you feel about marketing? Share in the comments.

64 thoughts on “The Sleazebag and the Magician: A Tale of Two Marketers

  1. Jeff this reminds me of some of my Twitter contacts who are also writers. A lot of them send out nagging requests to review their books, to buy their books when I really don’t know them. I get hundreds of these per day. However, when someone who has consistently written great books and has consistently given out quality content I actually do pay attention. Its a pretty simple equation: give, give, give, give, give, give, receive, repeat.

  2. Marketing to me is a necessary “evil” that is sometimes fun. “Evil” because it can become an unhealthy obsession, checking stats and sales, getting unduly anxious about it all. It’s a lot easier to engage conversation about your product rather than just push it on somebody which is why blogging is such a great tool for marketing. And pubic speaking.

    1. Marketing is not evil at all. There’s a big difference between sleaze and marketing. Marketing, done right, is information given about a product or service. Nothing more, nothing less. It helps you make better decisions. Without marketing, we’d have to do a lot of digging and waste a lot more time.

      I’m a marketer. My site is about about marketing. There’s a big difference between marketing and “evil”, just as there’s a big difference between marketing and sleaze.

      When you market, you stand by your work. When it’s sleaze you don’t really care about anything but money and showing off that money with little money counters on your website.

      1. All true. Just to clarify, when I used the word “evil” I meant how I am affected by doing the marketing, which I mentioned before – when I become obsessed with it in an unhealthy way, unduly anxious over it rather than just use marketing as a means to spread the message.

        1. I was a little reluctant to take on the battle of “good vs. evil” 🙂

          I see your point. Yes, marketing can be like cocaine (not that I’ve tried or will try cocaine). But yes, I can see the anxiety it brings.

  3. For some of us, it’s hard being a sleaze bag. It’s that simple. I can’t be one if I tried—and yes, I’ve tried. For those that are on this journey, let me assure you that “good guys do not finish last”. They don’t finish first, either.

    It takes time, and at we’ve done the journey. We’ve been online since 2000. I’ve been writing since about 1995. Does it pay off? You bet it does. It pays off magnificently. And the money does come from magic. You have to do fabulous work, because magic is where it’s at. We’ve done very, very well over the years and pardon the boast, but we take three months off every year (and have done so since 2004). And without dealing with sleaze bags or being one.

    In the end, magic endures. The great musicians, artists—and dare I say, magicians like Houdini and David Blaine. They exist, they thrive and they wake up to the aroma of magic, not money. However, if you’re in any doubt about money, let me assure you that it’s a faithful companion too. It just take a little more time to show up, but show up it does.


    P.S. Magic is as hard work as being a sleaze bag. May as well make magic.

    1. Great article! I hate marketting myself, BUT I’ve found I have no problem when it’s the charity of which I’m treasurer, or it’s raising money for our elementary school. Why? Well, those are really helping others in need and not me personally. I need to believe in myself and what I’m doing, apparently, to overcome that obstacle.

  4. I don’t have anything to market yet, but am reading a book on self-promotion by Lee Silber. He gives a lot of tips and ideas on how to market your product. I will use some of these ideas when I’m ready. I definitely don’t want to do it sleazy.

  5. Moreover, does my website/blog/tweet/post EQUIP people to share the message I want to market? There is a difference between “marketing” and “movement building.” One takes longer and is more emotional. Which one do you want for your business? At, I’m still learning how to do this well. Thank you, Jeff, for all your relevant and helpful advice. I always discover something new on your blog!

  6. The difference between jerks and geniuses — brilliant. I like that part of what we’re waiting for is the greenlight from our audience to speak. I’m noticing that building an audience takes time. Then it’s a whole new level waiting for the greenlight to go further. Sleazy marketing isn’t always about how we market, but WHEN we do it. Thanks for the reminder, Jeff!

  7. Love this, Jeff. Some great lines here, but, more importantly, some great advice. It’s easy to get caught up in all the hoopla. Thanks for reminding us to stay the course. Integrity is my focus, always. Sometimes I get criticized for not taking the other route, so I appreciate your encouragement. So happy for your success.

  8. Hey, Jeff… timely piece. I’m starting to feel like a sleazebag. I’m buying into so many marketing philosophies that I feel the urge to back off and develop my own now. This Internet reality is taking us all for a ride, sometimes good, sometimes into sleazebagsville. But, you’re right, if we’re not feeling deeply good about our strategy, it’s not a winning one. Cheers.

  9. I believe in this wholeheartedly. It took me years to learn that quality takes attention, thought, and care – none of which can be rushed. How do you recommend a person stay motivated when they see little action/response during all this time?

    1. I think if you’re waiting for praise to motivate you to work, you’ll be waiting a long time. Better find a different motivator. The praise will come… in time. 😉

  10. Marketing is something that applies to every trade. Yet it is hardly ever a topic in schools. This lack of knowledge about marketing hit me hard when I entered the professional world and it is something that schools need to teach to do their job well.

  11. Niece piece Jeff, ….. it’s taken me some time to find my own voice and be true to it — it has worked better than any other “strategy” 😉 — it’s so easy to try and sound like ‘the other successful’ guy or gal, but in the end, by continuing to offer consistent value, people will no much better who you are and connect with you for the right reasons…. my 2c 😉
    Thanks, Rob

      1. Oooh absolutely agree with that! Being able to be of service to someone, anyone or everyone is (to me) the highest reward in itself. My trust and experience is that by taking care of that, it will take care of the rest. Alignment and purpose. Nice topics here. 😉

  12. Yeah, I don’t care for marketing. I’ve been in three separate sales jobs and I just didn’t like it. I won’t do it. I don’t care how much money can be made, what bribes or goals are pushed my way, don’t stick me in the sales department, I won’t do it.

    But patience I can totally stand behind. I’m a listener (which is why I’m a barber stylist as my day job, ironically). I understand that no amount of pushing has gotten me to where I am now. It was the waiting, the watching, and the right friends at the right time.

    I’ve published one book already and I’m working on a second. I’m not worried about ‘hitting it big’. I enjoy the process of editing and publishing, so I’ll keep doing it because I like it. =] And I’ll keep reading Jeff’s book ‘The Art of Work’ and keep plugging along, learning as I go.

    1. Jessica, I’m a little lost. How are you tying sales, marketing and patient promotion together? I’m not seeing the parallel. Are you saying that you don’t think marketing works, or that it’s just not your cup of tea? Thanks Jessica!

      1. Haha, I’ve kind of bundled sales and marketing together, haven’t I? Well, with most sales jobs (and I’m talking door-to-door like Mary Kay), there is a level of marketing, wouldn’t you agree? You’re trying to sell something to someone. Promotion is a part of a marketing strategy and cannot exist without marketing, it is one element of the overall strategy, so that’s how it ties in.

        I should be saying there are certain elements of marketing I don’t like, so yes, I wasn’t being very clear. =] I just don’t like trying to sell something to someone unless they have previously expressed a need for said item. That’s what it boils down to.

        1. Hi Jessica,

          Thank you for clarifying for me. I agree with you. Sales is a part of marketing like spaghetti is a kind of pasta. I’m personally of the opinion that you are always selling yourself in some form or fashion, but it doesn’t have to be done by trying to get someone to “buy”. You being a humble teacher to someone who is searching for answers is also a kind of sales, one that is much more natural and much less “sleazy” as Jeff has described here.

          Door-to-door sales, no wonder you don’t like the industry! Sales is really an individual, word-of-mouth style of promotion that engages an agent of the idea and someone who is currently not a part of that idea, but could be. It’s the agenda of the salesperson, in my opinion, that has the force to really sour that relationship and make someone sales-y.

  13. Jeff, this is one of my favorite pieces of yours. I’m currently on my 4th venture and certainly see the allure of the “Sleazebag” approach. “Hey, I have a huge network, I’ll tap them (guilt them) into supporting my project!” **fail** However, it’s when I take my time and set my crosshairs on the horizon, have I actually seen true success. Again, thank you so much for writing this. It’s very helpful.

  14. Hi Jeff, thanks for the thought-provoking article. I think the difference between the sleaze and the magician goes beyond just trust and permission, although it certainly starts there. Personally, I loooooooove marketing. I eat, sleep, breathe, drink marketing. I can’t help but see the world through a marketing lens. It’s second nature to me. I love how we respond to certain queues and triggers, many times without even realizing it. Using marketing that aligns your message to human psychology isn’t wrong. It’s a tool, the same way you can use a knife to mug someone, defend yourself, or cut up the carrots that are going into the tonight’s soup.

    I think the missing piece in the difference between the sleaze and the magician is that the sleaze wants to take something from you. It’s a win-lose relationship, and he doesn’t really care much about you and what you get out of the interaction. On the other hand, a magician, who also takes your money, gives you an experience to enjoy. He wow’s you and helps you suspend your disbelief. It’s an interaction that leaves both parties that much richer. The money I gave him is a bargain for the value I gain, and his fee helps him continue wowing others and getting better.

    As marketers, and really as human beings, if our goal is to earn a living while we serve others, great! But shame on those who only seek one-sided relationships without any consideration for the other party.

    And the blade on that knife (pun intended) is double-sided. Sometimes people want to take advantage of the magician and wring him dry for all he’s got. So the question isn’t “am I trustworthy”. Con artists and sociopaths know how to be trustworthy. Really, the question that comes to mind is “Did I leave this person better off than when I met them.

  15. Amen, Jeff! My in-box gets deluged with self promotional drivel all the time. But those quiet artists who hone their craft and share their work honestly…those are the folks I’ll give my attention to.

  16. Hi Jeff, I’ve been on Twitter since the end of last year…bombarded with every article of advice and offers under the sun, all at once!

    I then knew that I had to wait and sift through all the offers, persuasions, selling of followers (!?), Gobsmacking PornoSites amongst my Notifications (Twitter seems officially in denial of knowledge) etc etc…

    It’s basically impossible to do your thing immediately, once you’ve posted your profile.
    As I have always been in Marketing, I understood (at least that) what was so professionally proposed …

    My point: I went with the flow, but slow .. enticed some excellent and professional followers. I am thankful for them..I have learned so much about the ‘online’ strategies.
    I did nothing else but read, read, read…listened and lessons learned.

    I am now ready to do ‘my thing’, Part II.. (Google+, FB and LinkedIn had been already Part I long before.)

    So Yes, Jeff…you are so right – patience !
    And, I thank you for passing on your own wisdom – I now know that my seemingly guilty feeling of ‘procrastination’ ..was not!
    It was, quite rightfully, patience ;-))
    Thank You..and I wish you well…see you around 🙂

    Marion Mertins

  17. Great article Jeff. The sleazebag marketer always gets outed because they have nothing of value to share. I was in Hong Kong last year and was annoyed at the desperate tactics of hawkers selling cheap knock-off watches. They just wouldn’t take no for an answer. You may give in and buy the watch, but you’re never going to go back and buy another. That’s exactly how I feel about sleazy marketing. It’s someone in the shadows shouting out –  ‘pssst! Want to buy a Rolex??’.

    The Magician slowly builds respect and a sense of community by sharing great content. They know how to craft offers that are actually useful. I love marketing and it’s essential for independent writers to embrace marketing and take control BUT be a magician! Grow your platform respectfully. Don’t stand in the shadows selling cheap knock off Rolexes. 

  18. Great article! I hate marketting myself, BUT I’ve found I have no problem when it’s the charity of which I’m treasurer, or it’s raising money for our elementary school. Why? Well, those are really helping others in need and not me personally. I need to believe in myself and what I’m doing, apparently, to overcome that obstacle. Thanks!

  19. Great reminders Jeff! I think we’ve all experienced the sleazebag approach which has left us with a bad taste of marketing. But marketing is about relationships and being intentional about building bridges to the hearts and minds of those we want to reach. That earns us the trust you’re talking about. Thank you for modeling superb bridge building.

  20. I think Geoff Hughes put it well when he mentioned community. When you build relationships with people and actively support their success, those people are going to eventually want to support your success as well. So when you write and publish a book, what will they be likely to do? The best kind of salesmanship there is, is just to be a good, transparent, supportive individual with integrity and who doesn’t believe if I win, you lose. Building up that credibility takes a lot of time because we’ve all been burned by people too many times and the process of coming to trust someone else takes time. But when it happens, it’s amazing what great results emerge in terms of relationships and the support you receive from others who appreciate the honorable person you’ve shown yourself to be. Thanks, Jeff. Joe

  21. Patience really is more mystical than magic, isn’t it? I’m thinking from a parenting standpoint but it definitely applies to marketing, as well.

    I don’t know how anyone can doubt the approach that says to give them value over time, though. Think of the waiter you want to tip big. I’m thinking of the cafe where they know my name. You remember and reward them because they connected to you and provided value.

    Thanks for the great post, Jeff.

  22. Great thoughts Jeff. I’ve definitely come to a similar conclusion through my own recent efforts to publish a book. I’ve decided I need to focus on making the things I want to make. Every time I get pulled away from that I realize I’m getting distracted. At the end of the day, I realized over the last several months that I’d rather die having made dozens of projects (books, records, etc) that I’m proud of and be relatively unknown than have millions of followers and crap to show for it. Yeah, I’ll do some promotion, but at the end of the day, I only have so much energy to expend. I’ll let God figure out the impact of my efforts.

    I write a blog about Tolkien, since he has become a huge inspiration for me. This article got me thinking about his life…The Hobbit wasn’t published until he was 45 and The Lord of the Rings until he was 61. Heck, The Silmarillion, his true life’s work, wasn’t even published until after his death. And now he’s the bestselling novelist ever and beloved by tens of millions of people. I always try and keep that in perspective when I’m trying to MAKE.

    So yes – slow and steady and stick to it!

  23. Great post Jeff. I’ve been in situations where I always wanted to earn a quick buck rather than doing the “hard” work. It’s important to focus on the long-term gains rather than the short term results. As you rightly said,” Be Patient, the last thing you want to do is appear desperate.”

    Keep writing 🙂

  24. Rule 1: You might have the best product in the world, but if no one knows about it, then it will only ever be bought by one person – you. So shout and scream about it … a lot.

    Rule 2: People are more likely to buy your product if a) they like the product and b) they like you (in that order). However, if in doubt, just stick to Rule 1. There are plenty of people who fly by Ryan Air or bought jewelry from Gerald Ratner

    Personally, I would love it if being loved were the most important aspect of marketing, but it isn’t. Shouting and screaming is.

    1. Shout and scream at me in an email and I unsub. In fact, I’ve been busy cleaning out my Promotions tab this week, weeding out the people who yell and chastise me for not buying from them.

      The cool thing about the world today is that we can get to know the people and companies from which we buy. As a small example – when I need more reusable canning lids, I shoot an email to my man Mike at Ready Shop. Before ordering a new pressure canner, I spend half an hour chatting with Chaya on Facebook, since she’s on my friends list, and then order from her shop Pantry Paratus. They don’t get my sales because they shout and scream, but because they are willing to form a relationship with me.

  25. I hate marketing. Or, rather, I hate self-promotion. But I just started an online writing course and unless I noise it around no one will know about it.
    Trying to be as non-sleazy as possible, while sighing over a fact Jeff noted: the way of the sleazebag actually works.

  26. I’m a magician. Literally. It’s good to finally see someone
    portraying a magician as a NON sleaze. We’re often viewed as hucksters
    and con artists.

    But my best tribe members were accrued slowly, ethically, through serving and not pitching.

    Then I sold “Magic Words” to Penguin! Woohoo!

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