38 responses

  1. Laura Click
    January 14, 2013

    Marcus – You’re absolutely right on here. I think striking this balance is increasingly difficult – people either promote too much or don’t do it at all. I’ve written a lot about how to promote your business in a way that doesn’t make you sound like a used car salesman.

    I’ve worked with one client who is new to blogging and we published a “versus” post. We did much of what you talk about – some of it subtle, such as talking about the competing product first. And, so far, it’s their most popular post. It’s proof that companies that are willing to be bold and talking about competitors and the differences in an unbiased way will definitely be a trusted resource.

    The one thing I would be careful about is citing your own negatives. I don’t think what you’re talking about is actual negatives about your product or service, but instead caveats or fit. You’re really pointing out what might be a better fit or solution first. Not necessarily what’s BAD about your company or offerings. I just think that needs to be clear so people don’t run screaming from this approach!

    • Marcus Sheridan
      January 14, 2013

      Thrilled to hear you wrote a versus post Laura. You did your client a huge favor helping them have enough faith to do that and hopefully they’ll be listening to you a lot more :-)

      But yes, we needn’t over-do the negatives about ourselves. In fact, it’s more a sense of “this is who this service/product is NOT for….”

      Thanks again my friend,

      Marcus

  2. Rebecca Livermore
    January 14, 2013

    I have definitely found this to be true, Marcus. One thing I always keep in mind is that I’m not a great fit for everyone, and I don’t want to have clients that are not a good fit for me. This perspective makes it super easy for me to be up front about the pros and cons of working with me, and I think it puts people at ease when I share openly about those things, whether that be on my blog, in phone conversations, etc.

    • John Verba
      January 14, 2013

      Rebecca. You seem to be recognizing and adapting to the reality of niche marketing really well. Your comment made me think, simply, “Rebecca knows a Kia buyer is not a Mercedes buyer, and she knows where she fits (in terms of service/quality/price…style/personality, etc.), and what her best prospects are looking for, and why… which are such foundational concepts in successful entrepreneurship.”

      And then I realized that the people who DON’T get that, if they happen to be selling Kia’s and have a great Mercedes prospect walk in, will only think, “Oh… a person with a heartbeat; what a great prospect!” And they won’t listen and hear that the prospect’s in the wrong place, and help guide them off in the right direction. They’ll just show them their clever musical YouTube videos, “Ten Reasons Non-Kia Buyers are Laughably Stupid (and Deserving of Derision)” and “If You Don’t Know You Need a Kia, You’re a Moron.” ;)

      • Marcus Sheridan
        January 14, 2013

        Do you by chance own a Kia Mr. Verba?? ;-)

      • John Verba
        January 17, 2013

        No, Mr. Sheridan, I actually own a ’96 custom GMC van that my kids and I used to run all over VA/DC/MD in very weekend for chess tournaments. And then, later, for their occasional band gigs. :) It’s always nice to have a car you can walk around in.

        When I was thinking along the lines of, “If I’m selling Kias, then YOU need a Kia, and nothing but a Kia would be smart, and could possibly work for you,” I realized, “Oh…hah, I’m ‘Hubspottin’ it…'” … meaning tearing down every other option in a mocking, derisive way. Like in this video:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-lGe5MnBlY

        I have to admit that Hubspot has sounded more secure about its own niche and advantages as time has gone on, and that’s been kind of disarming. ;)

      • Marcus Sheridan
        January 18, 2013

        Yeah, good point John. HS has come a long way though. Speaking of which, I’ve got a series of post coming out on HS competitors and marketing automation, which should be fun. :)

        Thanks again,

        Marcus

  3. Tom Treanor
    January 14, 2013

    Marcus,

    I really like this idea of Law of Disarmament. I may have inadvertently used it before, but I’ve never thought about it this explicitly. I’m going to have to try using it soon! Thanks for finding new and interesting angles to explore – not just the same old, same old…

    • Marcus Sheridan
      January 14, 2013

      I’d be curious to hear how it goes for you Tom. I can tell you my friend, it works, and it works very, very well.

      Thanks for all your support,

      Marcus

  4. John Verba
    January 14, 2013

    This seems like a good place to post my thoughts on your B2B Camp keynote from Saturday. It was great seeing you, and I’m offering them with an actionable item at the end that might be worth testing. So here goes…

    I just read this quote from a head of sales strategy at Google, in a promotion for the Integrated Marketing Communications master’s program at the Medill School at Northwestern…

    “With IMC, we always come back to the question of what customer need is being met, and often, what data we can use to measure our success in reaching that segment.”

    And I thought: When I saw Marcus speak Saturday, I saw someone who is a master of tracking and interpreting the needs of a market based on their online activities. He knows the online tools and how to use them. That’s an awesome capability that many companies could benefit greatly from mastering. I would have loved to have heard more details about all that.

    However, what I mostly heard was more like, “Based on what my data showed me that my audience wanted, I will now tell you what your audience wants.” And perhaps you say that because you’ve learned that most small business and beginning blogger folks want to be offered an easy, generic, one-size-fits all solution, and so you, sensibly, want to package your offerings to fit those expectations/hopes of theirs? (That’s my assumption; it might be off-base.)

    But what would happen if you really were suddenly put in charge of Burger King or Wendy’s or Ford’s or GM’s online marketing and tasked with increasing sales or profits? Wouldn’t you first want to dig deep into all the traffic data you could get, and see if you could also begin to have them utilize some analytics tools they didn’t have yet? And wouldn’t you expect to find out all sorts of crucial details about audience expectations and behavior that you previously had no way of knowing? Wouldn’t you expect, in fact, to be SURPRISED? Repeatedly? I mean, isn’t that the whole point… that testing and tracking can tell you what pool buyers respond to… and what burger buyers respond to… and what luxury, mid-market and economy car buyers respond to… so we don’t have to guess or assume what they’ll all respond to, all the time? Isn’t the Google exec saying that you’ll never again have to tell people what you THINK would work with these people here “because it worked with those other people over there”… because you can now test and track and analyze and KNOW… and learn and adapt and improve all the time?

    I mean, do you really mean to be telling people, “You need to hear what worked, for me, in selling pools to pool buyers, and you all need to do those things, too, so here they are and write them down”…

    … or do you really mean to be saying, “You need to be listening to YOUR OWN CUSTOMERS and learning what THEY respond to, what resonates, what compels action, and now you can learn that better than ever before, and I’m going to tell you the tools and tactics that will let you do that. But first… how many people here are solo practitioners, meaning: On your own? So you put in, what, 60 hour weeks? So you can spend, say, 20 on generating new business? No? Ten? OK… so… who has big companies, with marketing and sales staffs? OK…so how many hours a week have you guys allocated to online marketing, company-wide? 40? 80? OK…200? Great… so let’s start with how you solo guys can start learning about your very unique client base and what they want to hear from you if you only have 10 hours a week to work with, and show how that can lead to growth, and doing more, then, with more hours, until we’ve covered the right scale of possible solutions for everyone in the room. Ready?”

    The Actionable Item: I’d love, purely as a 27-year marketer/sales guy, to hear what happens if you develop the presentation above and try it out a few times. The targeted response would be that people would come up afterward to say, “Wow, you gave me five things I can do THIS WEEK that will help me to start hearing more direct feedback from my audience about what they want from me. I’m going to do them, AND download your book and see what else I should be doing, and then in 30 days, like you asked, I will email you to tell you what new things I’ve learned about MY AUDIENCE, and tell you what new things I’m doing to respond to the discovered need(s)… and I’ll keep in touch, beyond that, to let you know the results of the changes.

    “Truly Marcus, I once was lost, and now am found! Etc.” : )

    I mean, as with everything we ever do when its success rests on the responses of others, all we can ever do is: Test. Test. Test. ; )

    • Marcus Sheridan
      January 14, 2013

      Your comment made me smile John, and it was great finally meeting you at the B2B camp.

      Regarding my style, the principles that I used effectively at River are literally no different than what I’ve used with clients in diverse fields.

      When I said every industry has consumers that want to know about prices, problems, comparisons, best of, and reviews– I wasn’t kidding.

      I use River Pools because it allows me to paint a picture and tell a story, but my hope is always that the principle of truly listening to the questions consumers ask and then being paranoid about answering them is the key to content marketing success.

      Thanks again,

      Marcus

      • John Verba
        January 17, 2013

        I’m sure that in the last sentence, you meant “NOT being paranoid.” And yes, I agree wholeheartedly; transparency is key.

        What’s really interesting is that, right now, I’m building a firm that specializes in servicing the more common types of small businesses. The system I’ve developed will walk them through a systematized process of getting to know themselves through their prospects’ eyes, and so it will employ an approach that’s a bit template driven, as yours does.

        In the past, though, my forte has been walking into and quickly getting to know the needs of, for instance, a top tennis racquet manufacturer, top national investment houses, Kiplinger’s, a large regional home builder, a publisher of OSHA compliance info; a Fortune 500 feed and veterinary supply manufacturer, the Consumer Electronics Show, a quarterhorse breeding farm, the largest publisher of peer-reviewed chemical research, Discovery, the country’s largest bank card manufacturer; Black & Decker; the largest publisher to the Deaf community; a $50MM government contractor specializing in securities and investigations, Terps basketball and football, the Bullets (now Wizards), a NASCAR team, Christendom College, The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Times, Williams Mobile Offices, etc., etc.

        Since I’ve ended up soliciting research submissions from PhDs in Bioconjugate Chemistry, sponsorships from manufacturers for CES, and office space leases in midtown DC, I’ve learned to walk into meetings thinking that I know nothing about what the client needs, to help me stay out of my own way. ; )

        So that would be why I think your template approach to understanding what a business can achieve through online (and offline) communications is great for a narrow range of businesses and a narrow (but crucial) selection of their needs… which is still a very large market greatly in need of communications (content) that achieves real traction with their audiences.

        But you wouldn’t want to tell a market leader that it and its customers are pretty typical, because they’d look at you and wonder why you’re not seeing that they are not a commodity provider and already have a lot more going for them than what a comprehensive website will add. It’s kind of like… would Ford want to compare a Mustang with a Camaro on it website if a whole lot of its buyers would adamantly insist there’s no comparison? Or would they be better off doing something differently because they are a different company with a different story and different customers?

        Well, anyway, my clients list and types of jobs I’ve gotten have always been about nuance and leadership and establishing or maintaining a dominant competitive advantage. So we often may be talking apples and oranges when it comes to our appreciation (or lack of appreciation) of generic, one-size-fits-all solutions. But we’re very different service providers serving very different markets, too.

  5. Ruth Zive
    January 14, 2013

    Haven’t done this yet on our blog. Obviously, we undertake this strategy as part of our face-to-face sales pitch, but you’ve given me some great ideas for blog posts! Thanks Marcus.

    • Marcus Sheridan
      January 14, 2013

      Well I know if I’m inspiring Ruth Zive with content ideas then I’m doing some things right!! :-)

      Appreciate ya lady!

      Marcus

  6. Tony Lam
    January 14, 2013

    Hi Marcus,
    This is a good article. I used Law of Disarmament to answer questions before without knowing it. How about handling customer complaints ? Does the Law of Disarmament apply ?

    • Marcus Sheridan
      January 14, 2013

      Absolutely it does Tony. First step is empathy. Second step is explaining or repeating their problem so they know you understand. And the 3rd might be presenting the other side of things.

      When all is said and done, marketing is simply a study on great teaching and communication anyway ;-)

      Thanks,

      Marcus

  7. Darnell Jackson
    January 14, 2013

    Good point Marcus,

    People want to see that you are willing to discuss the pros and cons equally without coming off like you’re pushing them in one direction or another.

    This is why I have found the best businesses specialize in selling the materials and information. Then let the customers choose what they want and then make a referral from a service affiliate.

    Isn’t this Home Depot’s model? Thanks for sharing dude.

    • Marcus Sheridan
      January 14, 2013

      Honestly, I’m not familiar with the Home Depot model Darnell, but if it comes down to presenting all sides, then what they’re doing is good stuff :-)

      Appreciate you stopping by man,

      Marcus

  8. Bella
    January 15, 2013

    “Not a good fit for everyone” has just been added to my permanent vocabulary. Also, just emailed you the brainstorm I just had at 4am. THANK YOU! :)

    Side note, I spoke at Arizona State University yesterday and I mentioned you during my talk and told the class they had to check you out. Turns out the professor was already a FAN and FOLLOWER of yours! :)

    Be blessed!

    • Marcus Sheridan
      January 17, 2013

      Awesome Bella. Do me a favor and let me know how it works for you in sales situations.

      And that’s awesome about the professor! :-)

      Marcus

  9. Adam
    January 15, 2013

    Marcus, I really enjoyed this post.

    What you mentioned earlier on in this post about disarmament and the mentioning of your own products/services and competitors is really powerful.

    I noticed this work on me a few times, the problem for consumers is that most market places are filled with too many products so making a decision is quite difficult.

    There are a few services that I’ve bought because they made it really easy and showed a comparison of their product a long side their competitors.

    I’ve noticed the effect these sorts of sales pages have on me and I actually felt disarmed, and it really does build trust because .. well if they’d compare their product to their competitors then it really must be good!

    Cheers.

    • Marcus Sheridan
      January 17, 2013

      Good points Adam. It’s actually pretty shocking how so many companies stay away from side by side comparisons, despite the fact that they’re so important to consumers like you and me…

      thanks so much for stopping by,

      Marcus

  10. Kathleen Booth
    January 15, 2013

    Very helpful. We done a ton of blogs on our site, but the one thing we haven’t addressed is the competition. We’re in a small market and I’ve been holding off on doing it out of a fear that I might offend them. I like your approach and I’m also thinking that I can – and should – address this without naming names. Stay tuned for a post on this on our site (http://info.quintainmarketing.com.blog) very soon!

    • Marcus Sheridan
      January 17, 2013

      Awesome Kathleen, glad it helped in some way. If you wouldn’t mind, please let me know how it went and what the results were.

      Continued success :-)

      Marcus

  11. adrian clegg
    January 16, 2013

    At this stage of my life I’m just reading and learning, and reading and learning, and then, when that’s done, reading and learning some more.
    Thanks.

    • Marcus Sheridan
      January 17, 2013

      Happy to help Adrian :)

  12. Sarah Kohl
    February 15, 2013

    Marcus
    Excellent post, it seems that using disarmament is a great way to build trust. I am always seeking ways to stand out by being the trusted authority.

    I am a bit confused, however, by the recommended order of comments: positive then negative when talking about others but negative then positive when talking about ourselves. In Daniel Pink’s new book, To Sell is Human, he recommends the opposite (in his section on Clarity-the blemished frame) He recommends positive then negative when talking about ourselves/products.

    Help me understand the discrepancy in recommendations.

  13. Andrew
    May 4, 2013

    Marcus,

    I’ve been using this tactic successfully for years, but I’ve never heard it stated so profoundly. In fact, I’ve found this type of minutia often gets completely ignored or is not understood by a large amount of sales professionals. Thanks for adding a new “law” to my vocabulary.

    If I had anything else to offer on the subject, it’s that these same principles can be used very effectively at the negotiation phase of the sale. In other words, if you can lead the negotiation early on by finding a way to ELIMINATE a service or feature the prospect doesn’t need (effectively saving them money), you can disarm them in the same manner you spoke of. Thus, they are less likely to question or overly haggle on any additional pricing you lay out. Note, I’m not suggesting an immediate discount (as this would accomplish the exact opposite). Sometimes going for smaller amounts (even ever so slightly), can result in more closed deals and much larger revenue in the long run.

    Great post.

    • Marcus Sheridan
      May 6, 2013

      Andrew, really excellent addition in how this principle can be used. Love it man.

      Continued success and thanks so much for stopping by,

      Marcus

  14. Jeanette
    January 18, 2014

    Your posts are always very helpful, thank you!
    Here is my effort at disarmament:
    http://brewsterscreenprinting.com/blog/

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