In Your Marketing, To Thine Own Self Be True

Posted on 05 January 2012

A subscriber to my enewsletter, Mirek Plowiek from Katowice in Poland, had this burning question about marketing: “Which is more important when communicating with your audience: say things you really want to say, or say things that people want to hear?”


With thanks to Mr Shakespeare, my reply to Mirek is: “In your marketing, to thine own self be true.”

I believe you need to say the things you really want to say and that you believe people need to hear (with the genuine intention of helping them to be more successful). That might mean some people choose not to do business with you, and that’s OK. After all, would you really want to do business with them?!

Robert Kiyosaki, author of the “Rich Dad Poor Dad” series of books, says: “Be true to yourself. Make no apologies for who you are and what you stand for.”

Someone else I admire, Isabel Parlett, “The Soundbite Shaman”, advises: “Write for yourself first… before we can respond eloquently to someone else’s wants and needs, we first have to own what we have to offer, without apology, whitewashing, or sugar-coating.”

And check out this article: “Great Marketing is Not About You … Hogwash!” by Mark Aaron Murnahan. He writes: “…talk about yourself enough so we can know who you are and what you stand for. If you don’t, all that your would-be customers have to base their buying decisions on is facts and figures.”

Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying you should ignore your audience and talk all about you you you. You absolutely must understand and consider their wants, needs, interests, pain points and psychological triggers; you need to communicate in ways that work for them, and you need to show them how your product or service will give them what they want. But the content and personality of your message must be an authentic expression of you and your values.

Why? Because people prefer to do business with people they like, trust and respect, and they want to connect with the youness of you.

I believe it is possible to find the middle ground between what you want to say and what your prospective clients want to hear. Instead of either/or, look for both/and: find the overlap between what you want to talk about (your expertise) and what your prospective clients want to hear about (the solutions to their problems). Then, challenge them gently to discover what they didn’t even know they wanted, and inspire them about the possible results that they don’t yet even believe are possible for them.

So are you courageous enough to be YOU, even if some people don’t like that?

The Lesson: The people who like your message will be magnetically drawn to you (and then of course you have to have a system for turning their interest into sales).

Action Steps: Get clear about the essence of your message, then be fearless in expressing it.

What do YOU think?

Which is more important when communicating with your audience: say things you really want to say, or say things that people want to hear? Please leave a comment below.


If you’d like to subscribe to my enewsletter about marketing (no cost), please go to the Home page of my website and fill in the opt-in box near the top right-hand corner.

Mirek’s company is Outsmarter (an Internet start-up). He explained: “Outsmarter is a computer app that helps you limit the amount of time you waste online. If you feel you’re spending too much of your life on Facebook, Gmail, Twitter etc., you can use Outsmarter to set time limits for chosen websites or completely block them.”


12 responses to In Your Marketing, To Thine Own Self Be True

  • […] wrote about the faces we put forward in a marketing message. Kay’s article is titled “In Your Marketing, To Thine Own Self Be True“, and it reminded me of many observations I have made about the overall feel of companies […]

  • […] wrote about the faces we put forward in a marketing message. Kay’s article is titled “In Your Marketing, To Thine Own Self Be True“, and it reminded me of many observations I have made about the overall feel of companies […]

  • […] wrote about the faces we put forward in a marketing message. Kay’s article is titled “In Your Marketing, To Thine Own Self Be True“, and it reminded me of many observations I have made about the overall feel of companies […]

  • Ashwin says:

    Hi Kay,

    Be nice. Give all you can. Engage well with your readers, potential customers, and your community in general.

    Yet, be yourself. Say what you want to say. Learn from others ( because everyone has something to offer), but “say” what you want to.

    Assuming you say the wrong, you can say sorry. Change routes, and stick to the new one.

    Trying to be someone else never works, does it? Look at the Virgin Group. Sir Richard Branson is quirky, brash, and goes to great lengths to protect his brand. Yet, he does what he wants.

    Steve jobs never minced words whether in the boardrooms, product meetings, or with the press. Who can deny how Apple products are perceived today?

    When a company says what it wants, it does risk flak. But it’s this risk that pays off. Don’t you think?

    • kay says:

      Thanks for your comments, Ashwin. Yes, we do risk flak when we express our opinions and values boldly – that risk doesn’t always pay off, but still I think it’s worth it. Boring, bland, blah marketing messages don’t work. (And besides, even if we do say what we think people want to hear, there’s always a risk of flak.)

  • Hmmmm….this is a controversial topic Kay. I would certainly never suggest that a marketing professional should twist themselves into a pretzel and compromise their own values and opinions to satisfy a client.

    However, I don’t think (as bloggers in particular) that we solicit enough feedback and insight from our stakeholders to get it right. I might be selling a widget that I think is fabulous and wonderful and effective. But if I don’t put my prospective clients’ needs ahead of my own opinions about the widget, I might be selling something that nobody wants!

    Content is king, right? WRONG! Conversation is king. These days, it needs to be a RECIPROCAL discussion that melds the interests and needs of the stakeholder with the expertise of the service provider. Engagement should be the starting point, in my opinion.

    • kay says:

      Thanks Ruth. Yes, it’s a controversial topic, and you’re quite right: we do need to solicit feedback and engage in conversation. Otherwise, there’s a risk that we’ll launch a product that nobody buys. But by the same token, sometimes we have to risk launching a product that people didn’t even know they wanted until we offered it. People aren’t always very good at articulating what they want/need – it’s our job as marketers to delve deep to uncover the true wants/needs of our customers.

  • Mirek says:

    Hello Kay!

    Thank you very much for an insightful essay on my question 🙂

    It is best if your business and your message is congruent with your beliefs. But sometimes beliefs change, your consciousness shifts – and you’re not convenient with your old business anymore.

    But you realize, that no-one knows except you 🙂 Your blog posts still get visitors and your polished sales pitch on your website turns them into customers lured by your once-true-beliefs.

    And what then? 🙂

    • kay says:

      You’re welcome, Mirek! Yes, your business and your message need to be consistent with your beliefs/values. If those change, say so clearly in your blog and on your website. I also think it’s helpful to put a date on every blog post (or at least in the URL), so that people know if a post is rather old.

  • Thank you kindly for the mention, Kay.

    I believe that the personality of a company shows through very clearly, and in many ways. If you try to cover it with a veil, it only serves a wasteful agenda, and I’ll get to that, but I’ll give an example first.

    I very recently reached out to the senior vice president and CMO of a large and extremely visible corporation. When I called for a follow-up and reached his assistant, I was met with a very friendly and helpful demeanor.

    In decades of dealing with everything from large corporations to small “mom and pop” companies, I have always found a strong correlation between the friendliness company-wide. People adapt to their companies, and you can tell a lot about the company by how those people treat you. In fact, as a consultant, I have often used a sneaky approach to find how unsuspecting people within client organizations treated me (or people working for me) when approaching them with various agendas. The findings have often led to major company realizations … sometimes firings, and sometimes promotions and bonuses.

    Sure, it’s easy to discount the fact that the first impression sets an expected tone, which it does, but I find it to be true that the culture of a company spreads to all edges of the organization, and can seldom be faked very well.

    Since I’m not citing broad statistics (although I could), you may imagine that I’m just imagining this, but consider your own experiences.

    When you look at it in this way, doesn’t it make good sense to show off the culture of the company? Although it can often influence products or services, that culture does not exist within the products or the services themselves. It exists in the people.

    When I say that trying to cover it up only serves a wasteful agenda, I look at it like this: If your company is not likable, and people don’t feel good about it, the company will probably never be able to buy enough faceless and nameless advertisements to make up for the cost of lost opportunities.

    Without the people, a company is just a hollow shell. That goes for all shapes and sizes of companies. They may last a long time, but they seldom realize extraordinary growth and the full potential of their market.

    There’s a nutshell rant for you. I hope by looking at companies around you that you will consider how this applies to your company.

    • kay says:

      Thanks Mark for your thoughtful and helpful reply! You’re absolutely right: the way the staff treat you is a good indicator of a company’s values, and a huge determinant of whether or not you want to do business with them.

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