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The Difference Between Magical Thinking And Actual Marketing

By September 30, 2014November 23rd, 2017Marketing Insights & Strategy, Podcast, Readings
The Difference Between Magical Thinking And Actual Marketing

Tell Me If You’ve Heard This One Before…

If you want to promote and grow your business, connect with influencers.

You can’t go a half-mouse-click without someone telling you how to connect with influencers and why you really, really, really need to do that.

I’ve discussed this in detail before but for now suffice it to say that trying to “connect with influencers” is the sort of magical thinking, right up there with “write epic content” and “just make it go viral”, that will hinder and even kill your true marketing success.

You’re A Grown Up Now. Keep Your Eyes On The Right Prize.

When I was a kid my grandparents would take me to Central Park in New York City to ride the Merry Go Round. In true grandparent fashion, they also told the same well-loved stories over and over. And what my grandfather would tell me was that whenever he rode the Merry Go Round he would always try to grab the brass ring.

In the heyday of his childhood, there was a single brass ring hung along the outside edge of the carousel and riders would try to grab it as they rode by because capturing it meant you would win a prize.

And you can bet those kids wanted that prize.

So they went around and around in circles with visions of glory in their heads, if only they could capture that single ring.

You can also bet that all but one of those kids went home disappointed.

It may have been a fun diversion for a child but unless you want to keep going around in circles, grasping sporadically at a shiny prize, then it’s time to focus on some grown-up prizes.

Know Where Real Influence Comes From

True story.

A business colleague once had “an influencer” on his podcast. By nature of this being a true story, we’ll protect the innocent by calling my friend George and the influencer Mary.

George was quite excited to have Mary on his show. After all, Mary was a Very Important Person and if only some of that magic-important-person fairy dust would rub off on George, everything would be super.

The show was great. They talked about super smart stuff and enjoyed it immensely… along with all 30 people who actually listened to the show.


Much like web pages, podcasts can continue to accrue statistics over time. Your blog post may get 10 visitors the day it’s published, and 10 more the next day and 10 more the next day…. for as long as it’s online. So you can continue to capitalize on that content long after you write “The End”.

Now imagine your blog post got 10 visitors the day you published it… then none, ever again.

That was sort of what happened to George.

But why? It was a super show. Mary had been on! A real influencer. The brass ring.

Because Marketing Isn’t Magic

Some time later, we were on George’s show. Who are we? In the grand scheme of things… nobody much. We’re a couple of folks running a business in New Jersey. We’re not famous. We’re not even Internet-Famous. Nobody would accidentally call us influencers.

And yet, when we were on George’s show, we managed to pull 145 listeners on the first day it was published.


The answer is so simple that you’ll probably roll your eyes because it’s not nearly as exciting as magic.

And the answer is: work.

More to the point, it was the fact that we promoted the ever-living daylights out of that show in a systematic and focused way.

And… get ready for the punch line… Mary didn’t.

Mary had no interest in promoting the show she was on with George. She was already doing just fine on her own and she didn’t need another show to prove it. She didn’t need another show to boost her business. She’d been on so many shows that this one wasn’t much more than a fly landing on her sandwich in the middle of lunch.

But us? We are interested in promoting our business. We do want to build our authority and credibility. Part of that is in building relationships and showing good faith to people who share their internet space with us by helping to promote them the same way they help to promote us. And part of it is simple marketing.

Most of us are not where Mary is. We don’t have multiple New York Times bestsellers. We aren’t commanding many thousands of dollars to appear and speak in front of an audience. Nobody hangs on our every word and sits starry-eyed just waiting to catch a glimpse of us.

Yet we, who might otherwise be called non-influential, are counter intuitively more influential when it comes to good old fashioned marketing power.

Figure Out Who And What Matters To Your Business

Our first Web.Search.Social podcast got over 100 downloads the day it was released. And I know people whose podcasts command a few dozen at best even as they enter their 50th, 60th, 70th episodes.

I’m not bragging. As amazing as I like to think we are, that didn’t happen by virtue of our amazingness. It happened because we marketed.

We didn’t reach out to influencers and hope to capitalize on their magical properties.

Nor did we sit back and wait for our awesomeness to “go viral”.

I suppose, as amazing as I like to think our first episode was, it wasn’t really epic, either.

But our efforts to market it were, if not epic, then at least darn determined.

We reached out instead to friends, colleagues and all those “non-influential” people we had been getting to know.

We sent emails to people letting them know they could listen. We called people and told them about it. We ran social campaigns with everything from Facebook updates to Pinterest pins.

People listened. People shared. And on day two and three, more people listened and shared.

George even decided it was time to do some determined marketing of his own.

So How Do You Do It?

If you want to grow your business, generate leads and earn customers then you can go around in circles hoping to grab the brass ring, leaving the fate of your success in the hands of the already-successful and wait for the day you “wake up famous”, or you can come up with a plan to market and grow your own business.

Sure, you might catch the ring. One kid always does. Just like someone always eventually wins the lottery. But that’s about luck and you can’t control it, not even if you recite positive affirmations all day and insist that the universe is on your side and that delightful things will happen if only you think about them hard enough.

Me, I’m hanging my hat on the “work” part.

The part where you come up with a plan.

There are so many marketing opportunities available to us, from social media and our blogs to crazy things like “real life networking”. There’s email, there’s regular mail – yes, I said regular mail. Just because we live in an internet world doesn’t mean that a good old-fashioned sales letter or postcard can’t work sometimes, too.

So figure out which of those can work for you and plan how you’ll attack them.

When we promote our podcast or even our blogs via social media, we don’t haphazardly throw out posts and wait for traction. We plan the content, the visuals and even the days and times and methods that we’ll use to post them.

It’s actually a whole lot easier that way because once you create a plan you can simply follow it, instead of wondering, “Now what?” every time you see an empty status update box.

Once you have a plan and you’ve put in the effort to execute it, you’ll need to measure results. A plan is only as good as the results you get. So if you’re consistently not getting the results you want – or worse, you don’t know what the results are – then it’s not really a plan. It’s just a couple of steps that you’re following blindly.

See what happens when you send out an email. When you post an update on a Sunday. Try a different subject line. Try a new day of the week. Try a new social network.

If something works, stick with it. If it doesn’t, either tweak and make it better or ditch it for something else.

That’s how you do it. With thought, with effort, with trial, error, testing, measuring and starting all over again.

Are you still convinced that you’re going to capture the ring? That your next video is sure to go viral or that the celebrity who “friended” you is going to carry you to stardom?

Are you still looking for ten easy steps or six ways to win or the true “blueprint” to success?

What’s keeping you from doing your own, REAL marketing?

Leave me a comment, find me online on Facebook, Google Plus or Twitter, send me an email and let’s talk. I’d love to hear your story and help you get off the marketing Merry Go Round.

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Hi Carolyn,

    Bravo! I love the analogy of the brass ring. There is no brass ring when it comes to marketing. It is work, more work, tweaking, etc. We need a clear realistic goal. Figure out how much time we realistically have to attain that goal, then take those good old baby steps to get there.

    It doesn’t happen overnight EVER! There is no brass ring, but it is up to us to keep on marketing. Yes, it is hard work and it is a never ending process. But as long as we have the passion for it, things somehow work out.

    Maybe we will wake up one morning and see a brass ring, but we need to leave that up to fate lol.

    In the meanwhile, it is work as usual.

    Fantastic Article!!!


    • Thank you Donna, I’m glad you liked it! Yes, there is always work involved in success, isn’t there? I don’t know anyone that just sort of got lucky and won the powerball of business. But that’s a good thing because at least we know we can control our own fate – not rely on someone else’s power!

  • Todd Smith says:

    Hi Carol,

    Fantastic article, with the real “truth” about how to really grow your business. I too was born and raised in New York City and can personally identify with the the merry go round analogy (I never got the brass ring either).

    Work huh! So thats the secret juice. Building and cultivating relationships, has always been the “original” social media platform.
    Thanks so much for putting it in easy to understand terms.