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There are right and wrong ways to go about marketing, and the pitfalls are many. A lot can be learned by seeing how not to manage your marketing. This original blog series weaves together an entertaining story that will help you navigate 21st-Century marketing with a view from “the dark side,” as “Screwtape” teaches his apprentice “Wormwood” via email how to sabotage your marketing. Enjoy…

To: Wormwood
From: Screwtape
Subject: The “Know it All” Deception

My dear Wormwood,

I’m going to lie to you.

“The businessperson is the best person to sell their service or product…”

This falsehood is so burrowed into the minds of businesspeople that it’s often considered a point of common sense. The thinking is that it takes expert, intricate knowledge to effectively reach the consumer. Keep this delusion strong in the Patient and we can sabotage his sales.

The disgusting truth is that the opposite is often the case—the business owner or specialist not the best person to connect the product with the people. Why? Because the expert is almost always too close to his or her subject matter to effectively sell it. For one thing, they have an inherent bias toward their own business that can come across as less than sincere. Secondly, an owner or expert will almost always use jargon the average person doesn’t fully understand or—closely related—not understand which specific knowledge their audience lacks. Conventional wisdom is to write at the 6th-grade level to keep it simple and understandable. (You must convince the Patient the opposite: that people will be impressed by fancy words and displays of deep product knowledge.)

So, who is best to sell a product or service? In a word, an outsider. Specifically, someone with sales skills, but not an expert in the field.

When casting the lead antagonist for the 6th Rocky movie, Rocky Balboa, Sylvester Stallone chose a real boxer over an actor. He explained that he’d rather train a boxer to act than trying to teach an actor to box. In like fashion, it’s easier to inform a salesperson on the essentials of a business than trying to teach a businessperson to sell.

The main advantage to the outsider is that he or she will see the product or service from the point of view of the consumer, by default. The salesperson will have to “dumb it down” to learn it and in the process, will develop the perfect approach to sell it to consumers. (Of course, the salesperson will have to rely to at least some extent on the knowledge of the client to verify accuracy in the message.)

The upshot of all this, my dear Wormwood, is that you must at all costs lead the Patient into the “know it all deception”: to believe that he who knows the best sells the best. In this way, the marketing and sales professionals who actually have the training and experience to best connect the business with the consumer, will be disqualified.

Teach the actor to box, and neither the acting nor the boxing will be good—pretend boxing isn’t boxing. But teach a boxer to act, and they won’t really have to act at all, because they are doing what comes naturally.

Keep this analogy to yourself, for obvious reasons.

Your affectionate uncle,


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