“There’s a sucker born every minute.” – David Hannum (not P.T. Barnum)
In case you were worried, don’t be: hucksterism is alive and well. Instead of tickets to view the Cardiff Giant, though, the new breed of hucksters have joined the so-called “expert industry” and just want you to buy their “expertise”…which would make a whole lot more sense if they had any to sell.
Let me be clear right up front so that I don’t hurt anyone’s feelings: I have no issue with real experts selling their knowledge, wisdom, and experience. I have many friends who are true masters of their particular fields, and they deserve to be paid handsomely for the time, effort, and energy that went in to acquiring that mastery. My beef is with the latest crop of self-proclaimed “gurus” and “leaders” in every industry from social media and search engine optimization to self-help and spirituality.
Let’s cut to the chase: these are folks who wouldn’t know their ass from a hole in the ground if you drew them a map and provided a guide, but they have a nifty “sure-fire” package for you to buy with a price that ends in 7 (e.g. $47, $97, or my personal favorite, $177). And that 7…oh, how I hate that 7. It used to be a 9 (as in $99.99), then some douchey marketing “expert” said 7 was better than 9, and a new crop of lock-step suckers bought the hype. Now you can’t go anywhere on the internet without running into that god-damned 7. The tragedy is, the wanna-be “experts” have put more thought and research into choosing that 7 than they ever have into their areas of alleged “expertise”, and far more than they’ve put into thinking about you, their client.
In fact, that 7 is a perfect example of what’s wrong with this pseudo-industry; if they would spend half as much time honing their craft as they do “split-testing” the efficacy of price points and button colors and font-sizes, they wouldn’t need all the bullshit manipulation tactics to get people to buy their products; the products would sell themselves, and happy clients would send them an endless stream of referrals to buy even more. The manipulation tactics are necessary to cover up the sad fact that there isn’t any substance to what they’re selling; that when you lift the veil, there’s no “there” there.
Again, this isn’t to say that split-testing is inherently wrong. What I’m saying is that it should be the icing on the cake, not the main course. Once you’ve developed a killer product or service, split-test all you want to help make it easier for prospects to make a buying decision. Without the great product or service, though, you’re just another bullshit peddler.
And here’s the harsh truth about being a bullshit peddler: it doesn’t last. Even if you have some success initially, eventually the bullshit gets too deep and you have to change your stripes in order to find a new set of suckers to fleece. Don’t believe me? Just ask any one of the hundreds of thousands of mortgage-professionals-turned-network-marketing-gurus-turned-social-media-experts-turned-SEO-demi-gods. It’s a long, winding road to nowhere, and along the way you’re bound to make a few life-long enemies.
So here’s what to do instead: become an actual, real, bona fide expert. Spend the 10,000 hours that Malcolm Gladwell says you need to in order to become truly great at something. Put in the work. Become a master. You’ll be glad you did and, more importantly, so will your clients.
Here’s a little haiku to help you along the path:
Gurus? Or wolves in sheeps’ clothes?