“Brushing teeth is fun” vs. “Eat candy now.”

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A lot of my clients struggle when putting together offers for their market.

“What would really help them is if they would take the time to set up good accounting systems. But how sexy is that?”

“I want to tell my clients to grow and eat their own organic food, but I know they are pressed for time and fast food is so much more convenient.”

You may offer something in your business that is the right, healthy, prudent thing for your customers to invest in. But in a GET RESULTS FAST business environment, quick win solutions seem to get more sales.

What would you rather buy?

  1. “Take three months to dissolve painful thoughts about your body that have kept you trapped in self-loathing and yo-yo diets for the last twenty years”or
  1. “Spend the next 24 months trying a lot of things, failing, learning and growing while slowly building up strength, competence and credibility that will form the foundation of an enduring business.”OR
  1. “Invest in solid legal and financial advice when setting up your business to avoid costly future litigation or nasty audits by the IRS.”OR

When trying to explain this to my web consultant Tim Grahl, the difference hit me:

“Brushing teeth is fun” vs. “Eat candy now.”

A lot of what is promised on the web, and in advertising in general, is not true.

  • It isn’t easy to lose weight without some serious effort.
  • Building a business is not all unicorns and rainbows. It is a royal pain in the ass sometimes.
  • Changing your life  is really, really hard. One magic formula or system will not work for every person.

But speed sells.

It is a dilemma for the ethical salesperson.

And while I do believe in presenting information in the most attractive way possible, I think we end up reinforcing unhealthy patterns by constantly using “get rich quick” marketing techniques.

Does the end (knowing you will deliver really good information that will help people) justify the means (tapping into the untrue belief that things are much easier than they actually are?)

I don’t have a snappy  answer.

Do you?

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21 Responses to ““Brushing teeth is fun” vs. “Eat candy now.””

  1. Satya says:

    For me the way to approach this is to identify the ideal and why that’s important. Slimmer and stronger body, successful business for a sense of freedom and independence, perfect teeth for health and beauty. If these are what bring them joy, I help them see how what they do today – right now – in tiny increments leads to that, and find satisfaction in these small successes. A feedback loop can help too, to quantify and show them what they are capable of.

  2. Dear Pam,

    What a great topic!

    When I help people with their messaging, I’m always trying to strike that balance between using intangible, transformative language that touches people and the nitty gritty concrete language that makes it clear what they’ll get.

    I think when we have both it’s magical.

    And we can promise very cool things without lying about what is possible.

    Too much strategic, calculated, big, glossy, whiz-bang promise, it rings hollow (or sounds dull). And too much deep, serious, process-y language, it puts folks to sleep.

    And I think most people in our audience do have both parts, the part that wants the shiny ring and the part that knows that most good things take some work to get.

    So, ideally, we speak to both!

  3. Kevin Cullis says:


    I remember watching a show about getting kids to not only eat but LOVE eating vegetables. What did it take? “Peer” pressure from older kids and some psychology, i.e. “You CAN’T” each the veggies because…” and lo and behold, the kids LOVED eating veggies. So, let’s make sure that we pick the good things to do and then “package” them so others will like it. It takes work, but it’s the right things to do.


  4. Ellie Di says:

    “Eat candy now” may get you those quick sales, but those customers aren’t going to be happy in the end because they don’t get the results they wanted, either because it turns out you’re selling “brush your teeth” or because they eat candy and feel like crap after. If you sell “brush your teeth SO you can eat candy now”, there’s a cost-benefit they can understand and benefit from. If they put in the work to start their business, they’re going to have an easier time of it later and will have to work less.

  5. Pam, I love the subject — it is so worth talking about!

    I’ve been that person who has — despite my normally rational, thoughtful brain — jumped on the promise of being able to build my business in a weekend. Rationally, I know it isn’t true but there is a part of me that thinks that just maybe they really have figured out something I don’t know that really will make all the difference in the world.

    And, every time — really, every single time — I find out that what they claimed to be true was not at all and that, in fact, they haven’t figured out anything I didn’t know already — they just packaged it with different words.

    So, now I know that when I’m feeling pulled into one of those kinds of marketing pitches, it is really just a sign for me about myself that I’m feeling desperate and needy and am vulnerable to a quick fix. It’s a sign I need to slow down and take a look at what’s really going on before plunking down even more money. Now I tend to run quickly in the other direction whenever something even hints at being “too good to be true”.

    On the other hand, I love the messages where whatever someone is offering sounds realistic, doable and that they’re going to be there to help me along the way, too. That’s part of the reason the message for your class on teaching resonated so well this week!

  6. fas says:

    Building a business from scratch is more difficult then even loosing weight!

  7. I thought of 4 Hour Workweek and 4 Hour Body. I doubt either would be on a bestsellers list without the “get it now” titles.

    But the information inside is definitely worth it.

    So in my opinion, you have to play to what catches people’s attention.

    • Denise Green says:

      Well put, thank you! I bought both books after much hesitation and then found really good stuff in them. I’m working on a launch now and struggling with how to frame it. This helps. I think it’s OK to use a sassy title that sells as long as it’s possibly true and you deliver great content.

  8. Steve says:

    My answer is – NO. Marketers who play that game lose all credibility with me. I’m glad you haven’t employed tactics like that. For me, that’s one of the reasons that your work stands out as superior.

  9. Alana says:

    I love the conversation. It brings to mind Bridget Pilloud’s (@intuitivebridge) discussion around selling to aspirational market vs. selling to transformational market. At this point in my life, I’m more interested in finding the “right” people rather than finding the largest number of people and am designing my business around that. I could fall flat on my arse with this one, I’ll let you know. While I still need to be aware of the #2 type marketing, and making what I offer sound appealing, if the hair on my arms stands up when I’m writing copy, I know it’s either brilliant (highly unlikely as it’s not my strength) or I need to hit delete and fast.
    And I love what Amy said about making a dollar with a clean conscience. It’s all about finding the joy in my world too.

  10. Tim Clark says:

    Thanks! So simple, so true. No shortcuts to repeatable excellence.

  11. Amy Clover says:

    You hit the nail on the head here, Pam! I’m a personal trainer/fitness blogger and I find that most of my clients expect Biggest Loser-type results in a short amount of time! It’s so frustrating to see someone working so hard only to be disappointed in their 1-2 pound/week weight loss. They should be so proud with those results! Slow and steady really does win the race- it will be more likely to stay off that way. As for the end justifying the means, I’ve found that the key to promoting what seems grueling and difficult without flat-out lying to people is to help them find joy in the experience. If you can find a way to make the horrible tasks fun, THEN you have something to sell AND be proud of at the same time. There’s nothing like making a dollar with a clean conscience. 🙂 Not sure if this applies to anyone else’s field of work, but hope it helps someone!

  12. Candice says:

    No snappy answers here. Occasional insomnia has shown me that the “instant results” message still works. All the late night infomercials take that tact. Thousands of dollars are being spent on those ads, because they work for masses of people.

    Still, there is a customer base (myself included) that prefers a more honest approach. Maybe it’s just because I like to feel less gullible than the average consumer. Still, I’m pretty sure my more moderate approach is costing me.

    The thing is I HAVE gotten rapid results for people–people who are willing to do the work. I fear promising those same rapid results, because it’s hard to find folks who will commit 100%, which is what it takes.

  13. Great article Pam. This is something everyone struggles with.

    As a rule, the ends never justify the means. The means have to be ethical and honest.

    However, when I read your “Brushing teeth is fun,” that seems to be the middle ground. The goal is to take something that is important and make it interesting. That’s why my son’s toothbrush is shaped like a race car.

  14. David Harper says:

    It’s a dilemma. But aren’t inundated, oversold, savvy customers more hip to the bullshit than ever before? I’d like to think, as a buyer, i’m not fooled by exaggerated claims. Lately, I’ve seen some effective anti-marketing. You can almost stick out with brutal truth
    (that said, if you can get me hot abs in 6 weeks, i would like to buy that!)

  15. Hannah Hollett says:

    What a great topic! And timely for me as I am in the process of launching a new business and pondering marketing. I wonder if the “ethical salesperson” could deliver the service that does require time to create lasting change and still tap into the desires of their customers who want it NOW. Is it possible to do both? Could a hook that promises some sort of immediate benefit do the trick? How about, “sign up now and receive a special discount,” – or are these apples and popcorn?

    • Hi Hannah, Maybe this would work for you. I’ve seen some people offer a “quick start” component to their product/program. This can satisfy the need to see a result right away, then builds on that success for the longer term that is actually necessary to accomplish the whole thing.

      • Hannah Hollett says:

        Love that! Thanks, Cheryl! Love the name too – since I am a quick start!

  16. I think there’s a middle ground. To my reading, the underlying problem with messages like, “Take three months to dissolve painful thoughts about your body that have kept you trapped in self-loathing and yo-yo diets for the last twenty years” is that it is really business owner centered rather than client centered. Out in front is the business owners opinion of “what it takes.” Following up is the business owner’s scold and judgement.

    What I’ve found works is something more like, “You’ve been trying really hard, but you’ve been trying things that evidently are failing you. The right things may not be different; they may, in fact, be eas-IER. Let’s see what we can do.” (Of course, I say that only when it is the truth! For example, in adding protein to the diet to regulate the appetite and adopting some resistance training or sprints IS far easier than trying to give up ice cream for the rest of your life!)

  17. Naomi Niles says:

    I don’t have an answer except to say that I’ve noted that one way works better for selling different stuff to a certain audience and the other works better for another.

    Personally, I prefer all the first options. But, then again, everyone isn’t me. 🙂

    • Pamela says:

      I knew I liked you for a reason Naomi!

      Good point on different types of buyers — some folks will be repelled by “get rich quick” messages because they don’t see the world that way.

      And that could be a really good way of looking at it.

      Market the way that feels good to you. The right people for you will come. You may or may not make more money that way, but it will feel right and maybe that is the most important thing.

      Did you know that flossing is good for you too?