277: Toxic Marketing

17 Minutes Read


Have you ever received a marketing message that made you feel worse about yourself AND the sender? That's toxic marketing. It leaves everyone poorer, including the industries themselves that become known for using it.

Now as a business owner, you're looking for growth opportunities. And especially in challenging times you may find yourself considering marketing tactics that aren't exactly aligned with your brand values and voice. You know the ones: where someone makes big promises of guaranteed sales qualified leads and consultation calls.

Don't let fear and desperation get the better of you. Before you embark on a marketing campaign that makes your spidey senses tingle, listen to this week's podcast. You will discover:

  • How to market in a way that creates safety for your audience, rather than turning them off
  • How to create stronger relationships through your marketing so people will want to hear from you
  • A simple test to determine if your marketing is toxic or helpful

For full show notes and transcript click here.


Grow Smooth - where you learn how to grow your business from a place of Vision and Values, instead of marketing from a place of scarcity and desperation.

Values-Aligned Marketing - podcast episode about the opposite of toxic marketing.

If you want 1:1 coaching support for your business, Erin and Steve currently have openings for new clients. Click here to line up a free, no-pressure consultation while they're still available.

Listen to it on Spotify here



Episode Transcript

Steve Haase  0:00  
Welcome to the Superabound podcast with master coaches Erin Aquin and Steve Haase where business owners like you learn tools that help you clarify vision, clear up static, and overcome challenges. You are listening to episode number 277 Toxic Marketing. Hello, everybody. Thank you for joining us. Now, I'm sure no one who's listening right now is practicing toxic marketing or certainly don't think that you are but maybe you have received some or have even been tempted to dabble in what could seem so attractive with the results that people promise with with this sort of marketing. But we're here to help you steer towards the bright side of the street. Stay away from the temptation of instant riches, promised by people who peddle what ends up actually being toxic marketing, because what might be a short term win perhaps for your business, will end up poisoning the well, long term for you and your customers. And that's what we're going to talk about today because it is not fun to receive, as tempting as it might be to play around with. And we're going to help you practice a marketing that's actually beneficial for your business for your customers. While talking about some of the some of our least favorite tactics that are out there today, and how you can steer clear from them. Welcome Erin Aquin, my co host and co founder

Erin Aquin  1:28  
and the person who rants to you a lot, because I am often the recipient of some pretty toxic marketing for our business. And you know, we've talked about this before, we had a podcast called aligned marketing, which we will point to in the show notes, where we give some really good ideas for how to love marketing, how to create marketing that is in no way spammy or scammy. So definitely check out that episode, if you have not already. But last week, in the span of just a few hours, we had two things come at us or at me, I should say that I consider pretty toxic marketing. And I want to share these examples. You know, it's really important, we're not here to like vent or shame or scold the people that do this kind of thing, because I think we actually know that it comes from, as you said, Steve, like people promise the marketers that are peddling this kind of thing, promise instant riches and promise that it's like a growth opportunity for your business. And I think what often happens is people who are newer to entrepreneurship, or even business owners who've been in the business world for a long time, get into a place where they look at their the health of their business and think, fuck, I'm not making enough money. I can't pay the bills next month. I think actually, a lot of these techniques come from a place of scarcity, desperation, urgency. And if your business is the way that you pay the bills, I understand that I understand that feeling of thinking I need to make money now. And it doesn't matter how I do it. I just need some clients or else or some customers or else you know, I'm going under and I'm taking my household with me. It is very, very scary. So I just want to say first off that people that are engaging in these forms of marketing. I do get annoyed. I was very annoyed when when I received this last week. But I often think like they're missing the point because they're feeling scared. Most often. There are there is the odd person that I think is just so out of touch and out and not aware that they think like this is the way to do it. Like it's the people who put fliers on windshields. It's a thing people did in the 80s when we didn't have the internet and spamming DMS or DMing people really inappropriate offers. friending somebody on Facebook only to like ask them a very personal business question. That's really just a tactic to draw them into your scheme. It's very annoying. But we're not here to shame those people necessarily. We're here to actually help you as a business owner. Avoid those things and think about how to do this differently because if it's happening in your industry, the way it happens in hours as coaches. It's bad for the whole industry. It's actually a really, really detrimental thing that discredits not just the person doing it, but anyone associated with that industry. So what happened last week was we got something in the mail that was positioned as, hey, I want to send you guys this gift, I think you're really cool, I want to send you this gift. And the quote unquote gift arrived with a cod, if you don't know what that is, it basically means we were charged $40 of taxes and duties on this gift, which turned out to be basically this person's business card. They were basically just a bunch of business cards, personal branded things that the person sent to us and then said, Hey, share these out with people that you know, like, again, I don't think this is probably not a bad person. But basically saying, here's some free promotional material, that's all about me, please hand these out to people, you know, and we paid for it. I found it very insulting. I don't know how you felt about Steve. But I don't know this person. So. But then, in the same couple of hours, someone else who I've engaged with before, I don't know them very well, basically offered me a chance to come to their free workshop on weight loss, which is not something I am remotely interested in for myself. And I've actually heard from this person in the past and told them, I don't need any weight loss product of any kind, I'm not really interested in anything that's about like, body image, I have friends in this space, who do a beautiful job about like food coaching. And they do it very tactfully, they would never DM someone like, hey, come to my workshop on weight loss, because that is just so problematic for so many reasons. We don't have time to get into today. But it was basically like, wow, that is such toxic marketing, to like, not even take the time to find out if that's something the person that you're talking to is interested in. But then to go into their DMS after they've already told you, this is not of interest to me, but then to go back in two months later and say, Hey, I'm doing this workshop on eating, eating foods that you said you would eat. It was mind blowing ly offense. That to me is toxic marketing. And again, I don't think that this is a bad person. But I have to wonder, like what would possess someone who's in that space, working with people who have probably a lot of body image issues, why they would think it would be okay to go and give a personal recommendation to someone. Now,

Steve Haase  7:49  
if you're listening, and you think to yourself, oh, I'm doing those things, not to worry. You're reaching out in order to grow your business, you believe in what you offer, you're trying to spread the word, but it is problematic. Now, the way forward is not to stop. You do not want to, you know clam up and not tell the world about what you do, you do still need to market, no one will find out about you, no one will care about you. If you don't give them a reason to give them an opportunity to find out about you give them a reason to care about you. What we're talking about is do not do it in a way that turns them off, that is more about you than about them. I think that's the key here with toxic marketing is it's more about the business than it is about the recipient of the message. And so if you find yourself asking, Well, what do I do if I'm not supposed to hand out 10 business cards and ask everybody to pass them around? Or how am I supposed to grow if I don't slide into DMS and offer my next workshop, the solution is to make it more about the person that you reaching out to than about yourself. Now that takes effort that takes care. It takes actually thinking about that person. But the result is that you can actually make a real connection versus hoping that something happens when you throw this in marketing, in email marketing. They call it spraying and praying. Let me just spray it out there and pray that it connects with somebody. You take that into your own hands and you say I'm going to create something that I believe will connect with this person. In our business, we always ask ourselves, does this feel like a gift? are we sending this message? Are we creating this post? are we sending this email in a way that is helpful to that person? It can have an offer in there it can be about a program that we're doing. But if we think to ourselves, no, this is actually more about us. We go back to the drawing board. And we think, who is this person? What do they care about? What's bothering them? And how can we help them? Once we have an answer, then we have clearance for our marketing, not saying we're always perfect, but our intention is not to grow our business. Our intention is to help the recipient of our marketing,

Erin Aquin  10:25  
I'm with you. But I think that there's a difference even between like, spraying and praying. And like, you know, maybe like marketing that's like meth, not that great. And toxic marketing. Because the difference for me with these, these two particular instances was, I didn't opt in. And I love that what you just said was like, the response shouldn't be like, don't mark it. And I actually think one of the things we talk so much with our our clients and our students about is, because of this toxic marketing, it actually has made so many people afraid to market, like afraid to email the list of people who've signed up for their email list, afraid to put any offer on social media, because they don't want to seem like these toxic marketers. So I think maybe just to get even more specific, what makes marketing toxic. I know, it's a pop culture word. And I know that like it sounds very dramatic. But I actually do think in this case, this is toxic, is when you are telling someone who didn't ask for it. What is wrong with them, their life, their business, their eating habits, apparently, apparently, this person was so psychic, they know what my eating habits are. Which my eating habits are actually great. They're fine, thank you. But going in and and assuming that they have this problem. And telling them, uh, you know, so what basically what happened I after receiving this, I went on Facebook, as one does, and just, you know, sort of shared that we were going to record a podcast about toxic marketing. And I am not kidding you. When I say I got 50 different stories of things that have happened to people that are considered toxic. One of my friends said, she got a personalized, quote unquote, personalized 10 minute video from a ad sales person telling her all the things that were wrong with her ads. So toxic because a she did not often she did not ask for this, and be the marketing was crafted to make her feel like shit to make her feel like she was failing. And then to sell her this one specific solution that would save her and her poor dying business, which her business is great, by the way. And so I think that that, to me is like toxic is when people prey on real humans who are trying to create something beautiful in their life, make them feel bad, and then sell them the one and only solution that this marketer happens to have. And

Steve Haase  13:32  
I think a key component of this is the unasked for part. It's one thing to go to a doctor and say, How can I improve my health and for the doctor to say here are 10 things that are a little under where they should be and how we can grow them. Right? We're using the doctor example. But replace it with a business example. Right? How can I improve my marketing? How can I improve my customer growth? When you're seeking out help, and somebody points out the pain that you're in? That's effective sales, you earn somebody's trust you piqued somebody's curiosity. And in that process, you took a look at their business, and you offered some ways that they are in pain. No one's going to take a Tylenol if they don't have a headache. And sometimes we don't even know that we have a headache, so to speak. business wise, right? We don't know that we have a lead problem. We don't know that we have a ad problem. But it's up to you to earn that authority and respect. To just come in and tell someone all the ways that they stink is not going to create a great relationship. Wouldn't that be something if you sat down on a date with someone and they're like, you know, your teeth are a little funny. You got some hair sticking out of your ear there and you know I could really help you with that and then you'd be great. definitely willing to have a second date after you take care of that. You would not go for that second date. So yes, an important part of selling is pointing out the pain someone is in. But that needs to take place in a container of trust. When we talk about relationship based selling, which is the best kind of selling there is, it happens, the very first point that we have is safety. Right? The acronym we use is sale. So it's safety, aligned, lucrative and effective. If someone sees all of those things in your offering, then they will be willing to buy from you. If there is no safety there, aka you just swooped in and told them all the ways that they think you will never make that sale. So as appealing as it might be to stand out as the authority, it has to happen from a perspective of you are there for them, you care about them, you are creating a space where they can be vulnerable. That's not gonna happen. If you lead with all the ways they're screwing it up.

Erin Aquin  15:57  
100% Yeah, like marketing is the way you create safety and show alignment. It's how you educate people, to get to a space where they are open to working with you are there like, you know, there's a difference between someone criticizing you who doesn't know you. And getting feedback from a trusted coach or mentor or person in your life, who cares very deeply for you. One feels usually feels pretty bad, the other feels supportive and incredible, like someone is there walking alongside and has taken the time to get to know you and actually wants to see you thrive. The other is a stranger who's just looking for your money, and doesn't really care about you. So that is what these experiences felt like to me and and hearing story after story about all of the people in my industry, a lot of coaches, who felt like, people were just preying on them, saying You clearly have no idea what you're doing, or you're a brand new business owner, you don't know anything. And unfortunately, I guess some people do kind of fall for it. Because if no one fell for it, we wouldn't be getting any of these DMS or any of these spammy emails. I mean, it's no surprise that businesses I really respect have never once sent me a DM trying to sell me something that I didn't ask for. They haven't tried to guarantee that I'll make X number of dollars a month. It's it's just really unfortunate that this is kind of the the tactics that people resort to, out of fear out of scarcity out of feeling like, gosh, I know what it's like to be a new business owner, where when someone says they have the solution to your biggest business problem, it's so tempting to just say, Who cares what my my values are, all I have to do is just get people in the door, and then I can show them how amazing and aligned it really is. Unfortunately, that's not how it works. If you can't show who you are in your sales process. You're not gonna have clients, you're not gonna have customers. And, you know, one thing we've been talking about a lot right now, Steve is the idea of Lean businesses, businesses that tend to have smaller teams that tend to be really thoughtful about their resources of time, money and energy. And I think unfortunately, this is what's this, this kind of outsourcing your authority, and your of this is for your marketing for your sales, outsourcing that to whether it's an AI chatbot or some spammy company that's going to send DMS on your behalf so that you don't even have to feel the sting of all the people who say How dare you send this to me, I didn't ask for it. This is a scam or this is spam. If you note, this is actually a really good sign if you notice that you want to or you are currently outsourcing those things because you know, it's shady, you're probably doing some toxic marketing, if you're paying someone else to receive those responses on your behalf, because you know, you really shouldn't be doing it. Because you know, it's not the way you want to be sold to, then I think that that inner voice is one we should listen to.

Steve Haase  19:46  
I think another good rule of thumb here for Am I slipping into this? Am I practicing toxic marketing is are you leading with relationships or are you leading with dollars and cents? There's always a way to care. For the person on the other side, if you are just doing what it takes to get their business, chances are you're dehumanizing not just your potential client, but also yourself. And when you do that, you slip farther away from having a vision and values aligned business. Even when you know in the sale acronym that L is for lucrative, you have to show your potential client and potential customer how it's lucrative for them. Even in a situation where it's just straight up in their best interest to do it, when you turn something into a pure transaction, you lose the opportunity to create that relationship. And that relationship is not just about the warm fuzzies, it's about having another person who was on board with your vision, they are they, you have the chance to sign them up for something special, something remarkable. It's the reason your company exists. And so if you're just there to cause them as much pain as possible, so that they give you their money, you're missing the point, if you're there, so that you can get as much money as you can so that you don't go out of business, you were missing the point. There's always an opportunity to create relationships, which means creating meaning and value between parties. When you search for that, you do that extra bit of work, it doesn't even have to be a lot of work. But there is an extra layer where you say, what relationship Am I creating here? By doing my marketing in this way, by sending my message in this way. You steer away from that attractor basin of toxicity because, right? You may think, Oh, I would never do that. But it's it's always there beckoning. says you'll make more money when you do it this way. So taking a pause, asking what relationship Am I creating gives you that much more strength and momentum towards vision aligned marketing towards relationship based marketing. And here's

Erin Aquin  22:24  
the thing is like, even if that worked for you, even if you said, You know what, I'm just going to just go in for the money, I'm going to totally do these predatory things, what a good idea I should absolutely be more toxic in my marketing. Even if you make money upfront from that, I guarantee you will not be happy with your clients and customers. If you promise people the Moon said this before, if you promise people the moon, and you can't deliver it. And that was the thing, you, you pressured them and you told them, You were the one and only solution for them. You can't deliver that this is what the effective part the E in the sale acronym. You are going to have very unhappy customers and a terrible business. There's a difference between people who are desperate. And people who are motivated. You want clients who are motivated 100%, you want people who actually want to change, they want to, you know, depending on what product or service you sell, you want people who are going to use it and love it and get huge returns from it. That is gonna feel amazing. But if you tell people that you're gonna get them 100 new customers a month. And you can't do that. And they are looking to you to do that, because that's what you promised. You're gonna have a very big problem, and you probably won't have a business for very long. It's like some kind of like a savior complex, I think that a lot of businesses get into, because it sounds good on paper. And yes, there will always be people who just want the quick fix. They just want the the easy way out. They just want to be told what to do. If someone had walked in and day one of my business and said I can just set you up with everything. And it will be successful in the next two months. Yeah, as a brand new business owner, I might have said yes to that. I think I probably took programs where they promised that. And then when I found out that those people were just really good at selling and didn't actually have a system that would work for me and my business or my industry. I was a mad customer. And I told everyone I knew about how that did not work and how that was terrible. As a general rule for our business, we never promised people that we are going to do make them more money or deliver them customers are like we don't, we don't do that. We are here to help them like lanters. But they have to be at a level of readiness, and a level of willingness to be coached. I do not pressure people into working with me I put out offers. And I mean, this is the other thing is it's not your customers or your clients job to help your business. I see this a lot, where people will say, Well, this business is my calling. So all they have to do is show up and tell people how this is my dream come true to have this business. And then my customers should just flock to me know, your customers and your clients do not live to support your business, or business should exist to support them. And yes, I want us all to be very successful. I want to make all the money. Like we're not saying don't make money and don't sell things. That is not at all the point is is not like an altruistic, we're not running, we don't run a charity, we run a business. Of course, part of the point is to make money and have a lifestyle that we love and to be able to put things out into the world because we're supported enough to do so. But it's our job as business owners to create those channels of support, that are attractive to people who are ready for them and willing to take us up on them. And if we find that we're not creating those things, that is not our customers fault. That's on us. Business owners, it's on you to create things that are beautiful and supportive to your customers, not to just create whatever you think they should want, or whatever you think they need. And then tell them why their life is so tragic, because they don't have your thing. It's it's actually so egotistical.

Steve Haase  26:58  
So if you find yourself cringing at any of the marketing activities we've been talking about, you can actually just stop feeling guilty about it and stop the DMS, stop asking people to hand out your business cards for you. Stop sending personalized videos to people that did not request them, telling them all the ways that they're doing things wrong. The place to begin is with your vision and values. And then to grow your marketing and sales efforts. From there, it's going to be unique to you. And it's going to feel great and it's going to connect with the right people to build a business that you love. We've done podcast episodes about this. But the best place to go for a deep dive for us to be right there with you as you do this work is with our program called gross move. It is at besuperabound.com/grow

Erin Aquin  27:55  
Yeah, and you know whether whether gross move is the space for you are not I mean, I think I do think it's a kind of an essential program for any business owner, but especially one who doesn't have a team of like 500 people. It is more for Lean businesses who want to really maximize the way they use their, their time and their money and their resources. But like just like this podcast that you've chosen to listen to, we have developed this program as a safe space for you to explore these things and actually give them their due time. So many people skip vision and values, they go right to sales and marketing and growing the bottom line, which I know especially if you are feeling scarce enough and fearful enough that you are you've adopted some of these toxic marketing tactics. I know sometimes it can be really tempting to skip over that. But knowing your vision and your values, knowing what actually feels aligned for you will make the marketing and the sales so much easier, more fun, more relational. And that is just an important resource that we have created for you. And we hope you'll enjoy it. You can find it over at besuperabound.com/grow Thank you so much, Steve. Thank you everybody, for listening to toxic marketing. And we hope that you know, if you we all we ought we will also say if you have anybody in your life that's doing this, send them this episode. It can be a really just a loving nudge not to scold or shame, but to say, Hey, I know what you're doing is really important to you and your business. Let's give it more respect than scammy emails and spammy DMS I could change it everybody can change this, we turned it around. Marketing doesn't have to be a bad word. And we hope you'll join us in Grow smooth where we can really help you dial in your most authentic marketing. Have a great week. We'll talk to you again soon.