Marketing vs. Authenticity

In today’s post, I want to share a video with you and I hope that you’ll share your thoughts with me after you’ve seen it. You see, this is very much a work in progress. It’s probably one of the least planned and least professionally made videos I’ve ever published, but the subject is one that’s very important to me and about wich I just needed to share some thoughts.

What it really comes down to is that I’m working on finding a way to bring good, solid marketing skills and authenticity, honesty and integrity together in my marketing messages.  Watch the video below to see exactly what I’m on about:

So, what are your thoughts on this? Of all the marketers you know, how many of them are closer to the "marketing machine" end of the scale and how many are more authentic?

And from which of those have you bought more?

I'd love to hear what you have to say, so leave a comment!


About the Author Shane Melaugh

I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better entrepreneur and product creator. Read more about my story here.

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  • Becky says:

    I come from a long line of self-employed family members. My father, who is not authenticity is a GREAT salesperson and he has made a lot of money but he does one thing that a lot of salespeople do not — he listens to every word that the buyer is saying. The buyer thinks that he is totally hanging on to each word. In reality, my father is busy about thinking something else. This technique totally works for him. But, the reason that it works is because what he sales is not a repeating product. I have also seen this work for other very good salespeople.

    Internet marketing is different. Authenticity is what sells your product. In your case, your knowledge is your product. You may use different ways to deliver your product, i.e. software program, membership videos, etc. The more authentic you are, the longer you sales will be generated from the same customer. Personally, I think you are very authentic and it shows through in your videos. This is the reason that I kept watching your videos on YouTube.

    One of the things that I think helps you is that you are close to the camera. This is good. Ed Dale uses this same technique except his is a kind of goofy approach until you realize that he is knowledgeable. But I do not like his program. He is continuing to hype less than useful stuff. It is only good for newbies.

    You can fill a different niche. You can’t compete with the hyped up approach of other internet marketers who are looking for a quick and fast buck. You can fill the 2nd tier level. I see you as a teacher of medium businesses who need some direction and who will follow through.

    Don’t try to be what the other guys are and tell your audience that if that is what they are looking for then they need to go somewhere else. This will make you as much money in the long run and it keeps your integrity.

    Just my 2 cents.


    P.S. It is harder to market what you create than to market an existing product.

    • Shane says:

      Hello Becky,

      Thanks for your thoughts on this.

      It’s an interesting thought that I shouldn’t even try to compete with the “hype-masters” and target a different audience entirely. I guess I already do, with the way I approach the IM subject matter and the way I present my videos etc.

      Your comment has given me some things to think about and I’m very greatful for that.

      Best regards,

  • Richard says:

    Hi Shane,
    Yep, I watched the whole thing! You one of the few marketers that I trust. Why? Because of your genuineness.

    This past year I have become extremely jaded for allowing the ‘gurus’ to have access to my wallet. I am – was – a sucker for just about every newbie sales pitch. So most the the marketers in my past have been on the end of the scale as a “marketing machine”.

    Every message does not have to have as its desired end a money making proposition for you. Yes, IM is a business and you have to treat as such but you, Shane, always present your content in a way that leaves the viewer/reader with a sense that you want to truly share your knowledge and experience. To me that is refreshing…

    Hopefully the relationships you are building will be strong enough to survive your – our – learning experiences.

    • Shane says:

      Hi Richard,

      Thank you for your encouraging comments!

      You make an important point: Not every message needs to be a marketing message with “money” as the target outcome. The video above is an example of this. There’s just zero monetization involved. But the difficulty is “keeping it real” while still selling stuff. I’d like to hear you feedback on my “marketing” videos coming up next week. :)


  • Joshua says:

    Hi Shane,

    Are you a gambling person? Lol. I’m just wondering whether you did this video to see how many people watched till the end! Well, I did and I think you’re right, if I didn’t know you I probably would have stopped less than half way through. ;)

    Being authentic is great, and I think there are a group of people (myself included) who are learning how to sell without being salesy and losing our personality in the marketing message. It’s definitely a learning process for me and I think that it’ll only get better with time.

    Kudos to you for doing this video and perhaps, next time, even with informal videos or videos that is about giving value with no sales pitch, knowing the one thing you want to say would help. For a lot of people, I think you will lose them only if it seems like you don’t know where you’re headed. But I do understand this video was probably just an experiment. The rest of your videos I’ve watched are great!

    Thanks again for the post.

    • Shane says:

      Hi Joshua,

      Well, there was no plan for this video. It’s just me talking.

      That’s kind of the point. It’s basically a “100% me” video and as you can see, that’s not all that interesting.

      And now the goal is to be deliberate with the message, to have a good structure, to keep things interesting and to be attention-grabbing, but still be 100% me. As you say: It’s a challenge and a learning process.

      Thanks for your comments, by the way! :)

  • Mitro says:

    Yes, I’ve had very similar thoughts about this subject.

    A couple of days ago I was writing an autoresponder-sequence following the advice by Jason Fladlien (who has this 12-part autoresponder sequence report).

    I let that sequence “sit” over night, after which I took a look at it, and I felt exactly the same as you – it didn’t felt quite like me.

    I’ve been starting to notice that I can write the most authentic-feeling content, when I don’t follow those copywriting “formulas” and stuff like that, that have been thought to me, and when I only concentrate on the content itself and the way I want to present it to others.

    Maybe if I had written that AR sequence following a “formula” that I created myself (which I haven’t, at least yet), and if I just drew inspiration from Jason’s AR report, then I may have created a sequence that I could call my own.

    I appreciate that you brought this topic up. It’s something that every marketer should think about, in my opinion. So many people don’t seem to have any clue about being authentic – and those are the people I don’t usually buy anything from.

    Though, non-authentic marketing still seems to work on many (most?) people, but at least I wouldn’t feel good about myself doing marketing that way. It’s not necessarily unethical or anything like that, but I wouldn’t want to create content that doesn’t feel like my own.

    • Shane says:

      You make an interesting point, there. If you create a formula of your own, that might be a great way to bridge this gap…

      Non-authentic marketing definitely works. But I’m the same as you: I don’t want to put stuff out there that isn’t my own and I don’t want to just be a hyping-machine just to increase the $$$.

  • Shane.

    You didn’t lose ME. I stayed with you all the way through your video as I do with your emails.
    I stay with you and read/listen/watch your stuff BECAUSE of your genuineness and your authenticity. If I just want marketing messages there are thousands of marketers out there I could turn to.

    I fully relate to your dilemma(?) and your challenge. I am in the same(?) situation myself.
    All my life I have disliked selling.
    (I failed two compulsory university subjects [“Marketing Models and “Consumer Behaviour”] many years ago because I refused to sit the examinations.)

    I just wanted to give my stuff to people.
    But like everyone else in this unnatural society I must make money.
    And the sad fact is that many people do not value gifts.
    People are more likely to take action and improve their lives if they have had to buy help.
    Sad, but I have found this generally to be true.

    So I, like you, have to find that balance between giving and selling.
    I have been struggling with this for three years now.
    In fact, it is this dilemma that has been my biggest delay in starting my internet business.

    But one thing has become very clear to me.
    My honesty and integrity are far more important than marketing or making money.
    I will be myself. I will offer help. I will HONESTLY SELL when necessary.
    I reject all forms of manipulation and “persuasion” marketing.
    I am a Natural Health practitioner and a Natural Philosopher not a Marketer.
    I refuse to be a marketer.

    Shane, as a “marketer”, your authenticity is your greatest asset. Hang in there!

    (It was your authenticity and your genuineness and your striving to deliver value that was the greatest factor in my choosing to buy your “Backlink Battleplan”. Plus your product was clearly useful and valuable. You didn’t need “triggers” or other marketing tricks.).

    If you persist and persevere with your authenticity you will have a long-term sustainable business.

    Ganbatte kudasai!

    (Sorry, this is a Japanese expression that in my opinion does not have any exact equivalent in English. It means something like: Persist! Persevere! Welcome your responsibility! Fulfil your purpose! Good luck! [At least that is my interpretation of it. I know some Japanese people who interpret it more negatively as “do your duty, pay back your obligation.”]


    P.S. By the way, as I mentioned before, please be careful with that word “try”.
    “Try” is a SABOTAGE word.
    If I/you/we/they say I “try”, I will try, I am trying it means I WILL NOT SUCCEED – I am INTENDING TO FAIL.
    (If you are not sure what I am talking [writing] about please go back and listen to your own video and catch the “tries” in there.)

    On the other hand “authenticity, honesty and integrity ” (second paragraph of the written part of your post) are some of my favourite POWERFUL words.

    • Shane says:

      Hi Wayne,
      Thanks for your awesome comment!

      It’s very encouraging to get feedback like this and it let’s me know that I’m on the right track. That is hugely valuable.

      Ever since you mentioned it, I’ve been careful about using the word “try”. But as you can see, if I don’t pay deliberate attention to it, there’s lot’s of “try”ing going on. I think it’s true that this word shows there’s uncertainty and maybe even an expectation of failure involved. I’ll “try” to avoid it in the future. :P


      • Yes try is a tricky one Shane.

        I am frequently horrified how often I come across marketers telling their leads/subscribers/prospects/customers to “try” to take action or “try” to focus or “try” to be successful etc.

        But I am also horrified when I hear “try” come out of my mouth :-)

        But I also learn from this.

        The use of “try” tells me that I am subconsciously resisting and that my unconscious and conscious are not integrated in this particular respect. So then I can work to discover why I am resisting and resolve the conflict and act rather than try.


      • Shane says:

        Yeah, that was my thought as well: “Where’s the inconsistency in my mindset that makes me say ‘try’ instead of ‘do’?”

      • Hey Shane,

        I just now came across this classic on a webpage from an SEO guru:

        “DO IT NOW! Try to get hosting that is reliable and fast.”

        So what is his REAL message?


      • Shane says:

        Maybe it’s hosting that tries to be reliable and fast…?

  • Dan says:

    Hi Shane,

    All of the large corporations be it Apple / McDonald’s / Mercedes are trying to deliver a brand – and one of the most important parts of a brand are consistency.

    Now – having watched this(all through!) and most of your other videos – you confirm to me that you have this consistency.

    And this consistency is – I believe – down to you talking from the ‘real honest to goodness’ Shane, not the fake / hyped up /polished IM gurus talk. It has captivated me to want to return & sometimes watch again your videos.

    Whatever your up and coming product is(any chance of a review copy…..he says chancing his arm!) please please please make sure that you brand it in a way which clarifies your frank / open / un hyped persona – Im not saying it has to be dull & colourless – keep it clean(like your doing) – but give it a shine. My advice ? – if I’m qualified to give it ;

    1.Get a top rate graphic designer & from the colours of your logo / pages to the fonts & graphics it should scream ‘the real McCoy’. Yes people want honesty, integrity – they don’t want blandness. Dont short change yourself here – dig deep in your pockets, it’ll be worth it.

    2. Have the full confidence from the replies to your work that you can provide a top notch product which can equal or better the current raft of ‘guru’ launches.

    Sincerely all the best with it Shane!


    • Shane says:

      Hi Dan,

      Thanks for your comment!

      That’s a really good point about consistency – one that I’ll keep in mind.

      The graphics and all that are all done already (I do all of the graphical stuff myself, so yeah, I’m a total cheapskate in that regard :P). I don’t think that the authenticity thing comes across in the graphical representation. That hadn’t even occured to me, to be honest. But the content I’ll be delivering will hopefully do all that.

      Concerning your second point: That’s my greatest asset. I’ve seen a LOT of the products out there so I know that what I deliver is simply far better than at least 90% of what’s available out there. I know that once I get someone’s attention well enough for them to take a closer look, that’s all it takes. After that point, the quality of the products speak for themselves.

      Thanks again for this awesome comment!

      P.S.: It’s a bit late for review copies, as I’ve already done a “pre-launch” release of the product to my subscribers, so there’s already quite a lot of people on board and I’m already getting testimonials etc.
      Make sure to subscribe to my newsletter (just grab one of the free products) and check the mails you get from me. There’s usually going to be some early opportunity for my loyal subscribers. :)

  • matina says:

    Hi Shane,
    I watched it and found it a bit painful… it would have been ok round the corner or in a kebab – just kidding – but my point is that marketing has nothing to do with authenticity. As you put it yourself, IT IS A SKILL, and a skill requires a talent + a learning curve.
    I think you have both ingredients and that your already are making it as a marketer.
    Am I being misled there ?
    Well for me marketing will always be delivering, packaging and over-delivering +++ as well as knowing how to tell a good story, not lies, but a story.
    Have a great day,

    • Shane says:

      Hi Matina,

      Yes, marketing is definitely a skill that needs to be learned and honed. That’s something that took me much too long to realize.
      Good point concerning the story-telling, by the way. I believe that’s a very important element in marketing and one I’ve never made use of…
      Got to put that on my to-do list as well. :)

  • Gregg Forsthoefel says:


    A few thoughts, some of which have been touched on by others:

    I think it starts with who’s your market and what are you selling? Then once you’ve defined that, you develop a voice that speaks to that market. As John Carleton would say: Speak in a voice that appeals to your buyer.

    I think there are ways and means to offer a product without coming off as salesy, but maintaining your authenticity.

    Another thing to realize is that the whole world is not your market. The voice that appeals to your target market will not appeal to everybody.

    Regarding your product (I think a few responses talked about this): are you just offering once in a while products, or do you want to develop a relationship with them? Do you want to be there to provide answers between your product launches? Or not? I think that in either case, you would speak and market differently.

    I hope that these thoughts are somewhat useful.

    Gregg F.

    • Shane says:

      Hi Gregg,

      Thanks for leaving a comment!

      Good point about not trying to speak to everyone, or perhaps not trying to please everyone. It’s basic niche marketing, really: Narrow your focus and make the perfect offer for a specific market segment rather than trying to get everyone’s attention.

      I’ll be launching a variety of products in two different niches in the coming months and while most of the products themselves are one-off types of things (i.e. not memberships or services), I personally want to be in touch with all my customers. Not necessarily for economical reasons, but simply because that’s what I want. I want to be involved and not just be throwing products out there and then turning my back on them.

  • matina says:

    Hi Shane,

    Don’t tell me about those to-do lists, they are killing me at the moment. You should see my room : looks more than a minister’s office than a room, really.
    But, to-dos are part of the process, are they not ?

    Marketing is definitey applying a lot of processes in order to make the “machine” take over.
    Can it be related to cooking, engineering, fishing or even gardening ? I would rather say yes, apart that these exemples do not burn one out so much…

    However, the novelty about IM is that it combines several skills which are seldom in demand, at the same time.
    This precisely makes IM so interesting and so demanding.
    Let me develop a bit. In order to make a good product or offer, one has to understand – at least in their basic forms – 4 factors :

    1) Human sciences : psychology: i.e. Knowing your prospects.
    2) Sciences : the use of metrics, data, evaluation, etc.
    3) Art : creativity in general : designing, writing, selling (yep, is an Art in my opinion)
    4) Technology : or the ability to bring the 3 above mentioned skills together in a visible form.

    This demonstration serves just the purpose of ruling unnecessary “feelings” out, at least in my opinion.
    If done correctly, the above process will bring your personality naturally up front, no matter what.
    (Huge theoritical demonstration skipped on purpose here, abandoned on purpose…)

    My guess is also that the process has to be amended, refined, and the more the better, so as to rightly put your personality up front and where it rightly belongs.

    As for myself, I do not so much mind “hypey” marketers.
    Most of the good ones actually come from the gutter or its vicinity, so they have every reason on earth to claim their well deserved successes. It gives hope to their pupils as well as deliver the message that the Internet has put a before and after picture in our every day lives.

    Guys who have succeeded online are the evidence that the Internet offers an opportunity to each and everyone, as never seen or heard of before.

    Would a Joe Vitale be a superstar or still be hanging down and out if it were not for the Internet ? Maybe, he would have written a book or given lectures… Maybe he would have remained a nobody, maybe…
    There are several exemples available all around here. You know.
    Some may be marketing myths, some are real.

    What were you before ? What are you now that millions have access to your offers, not to mention that these people can actually see and hear you ? Do you think your personality will not evolve with time in order to reveal itself, exactly ?

    When one succeeds in real life or else, one can only be genuine and authentic about success, as this is only fair reward$$$.

    I Wish you plenty of success and a pleasant evening,


    • Shane says:

      Thanks again!

      This gives me a lot to think about.

      You’re definitely right that IM requires a whole set of different skills that you either need to master yourself, or get someone else to take care of, for you.

      I know that’s it’s been a huge learning experience for myself, going from having no clue about the internet and not being able to even create a simple web page (about 1 year ago) to where I am now.

  • matina says:

    Hi Shane,

    I totally agree there. Internet and IM are the Great Adventures of the Modern Times. Any motivated person can fit in, with a bit of effort…

    I am still on the process of learning how to make that simple web page myself at the moment, always avoided that difficult techie part. For me, it is like diving into cold water, but I have to know how most things work before I consider outsourcing some of the stuff. I do not want to get screwed every time you know ? lol

    Here is a little entertainment. Big Wigs, but definitely worth watching. You will see immediatly how the personnalité of these guys is just transparent.

    I hope it brings the momentum to you also :-)


    • Shane says:

      Hi Matina,

      Thanks! I’d seen that interview before. Quite an interesting trio!

      By the way: Don’t worry about lack of techie knowledge. Just keep doing.
      I’m not a techie person myself, but I’ve been able to figure everything out (slowly) by just doing. Good old trial and error.

  • Grateful Al says:

    I fail to see the supposed “moral dilemma” with marketing and sales. Simply put, it has been said, (I believe by Zig Ziglar), “Nothing moves in the world until someone sells something.”

    Yeah, there are those that learn techniques and develop their skills. Add to that a dynamic, charming personality.

    They can easily become unscrupulous. Thus, we think of the typical “used car salesman” mentality. If you go out and choose products to market because some guru tells you ‘it takes just as much effort to sell something where you make a $100 as it does $10, then do no due diligence and sell/market something that is pure crap, shame on you! You are looking at greed driving your empty life.

    Do you own the products/services you offer? If it is crap, can you cut yourself loose and say so out-loud (in print)?

    Sales, knowledge, techniques and skills are not inherently evil.

    Selling is simply helping someone come to a decision that YOU firmly believe will BENEFIT them.

    If you are morally-challenged because of being involved in such dastardly deeds as “selling something”, then give your stuff away and set up a “If you like me, buy me a beer” logo on your site!

    The guru’s offer something – more knowledge and information – than the buyer possesses at the time. Many times their ‘systems’ don’t work for a well-established reason. They don’t apply the tools and information that is given to them. Period.

    Few actual ‘scams’ will last long today because of the speed of the Internet. You can find out about most any program offered with a few minutes on forums or a basic search. Remember, “Buyer Beware!” Always in all things.

    Be real. Be willing to sacrifice the big bucks, or sell your soul; your choice. There are more than one that has re-invented themselves online, after serving prison terms. People instinctively know authenticity and genuineness when they see, a lot like the standards for porn.

    • Shane says:

      Thanks, Al! What an aweosme comment.

      You’re absolutely right: There’s nothing inherently wrong with marketing and selling. In fact, I really like much of Seth Godin’s material, which makes it very clear that A) marketing is something that is going on all the time, everywhere and everyone is doing it and B) without good marketing, nothing would ever happen. No good idea and no good cause would ever get noticed or gain momentum, etc.

      The dilemma, to me, isn’t really a moral one. It’s just about the delivery of the marketing message. I know that my products and the products I recommend are awesome, but I also know that that alone won’t help in getting them into the hands of many people. So, I want my marketing message to be effective. When I learn about effective marketing, how to structure a sales-message, what kind of things to address and how to do so etc., I find myself slipping into the “used-car salesman” area, in terms of the delivery of my message. And that’s where the issue lies.

      Thanks again for your truly insightful and inspiring comment!

    • Grateful Al says:

      I really was not directing my comments at you Shane.
      I believe the biggest problem we have online is not being able to read body signals, make eye contact, and redirect objections. I would suggest looking at some of the late, great Gary Halbert sales letters. He made his fortune in Direct Mail Marketing. That is the real ‘art’ that has been transferred to IM in my opinion.
      I read them often for his powerful use of words, and for a good belly laugh. God knows that guy was hilarious!

  • Shane, You are one of the few marketers around who has absolutely nothing to worry about. Your authenticity comes through loud and clear in everything you say and do. You have been blowing us all out of the water with your videos and free advice. I, for one, am grateful for all the slime bag fraudsters masquerading as gurus out there because their inauthenticity makes you, Shane, stick out like a sore thumb. I have never given those people the time of day nor one dollar of my hard-earned money. With you, it is so clear you are coming from such a good place that I am no longer even astounded that this is the fifth night in a row I have been up past 3AM reading your blogs, watching your videos, and wishing I’d crossed paths with you sometime in the couple of decades I used to live overseas. Just continue to be your authenticate true self and don’t forget about the people who supported you and believed in your talent when you’re rich and famous! :-D ~Jolenta

    • Shane says:

      Thanks, Jolenta! That’s very nice to hear.

      I like the subtle nudge you give in that last sentence, too. ;)

  • Hi Shane!

    That I am here writing this to you is because you inspired Martin Avis to write so authentically about Backlink Battleplan – which was EXACTLY what I was looking for this week for my own business.

    I trust Martin’s recommendations because what I’ve bought has been what and how he said it would be.

    So you “get a chance” with me because of the way Martin markets, and the relationship he has built up with me.

    Authenticity (or, in my language, the way you do business reflecting who you are inside) is a core value for me.

    I want to do business with others who share that as a value; I search them out, I respond to their marketing message and my business relationships tend to be very long-lasting.

    And all of this has lead to my creating a business directory which connects businesses with customers through shared values -which is, I believe and you are saying the same thing, the basis for a solid, continuing, and satisfying business “partnership”.

    Continue to have the courage to reflect your inner values in your marketing message and you will attract like-minded customers who want what you are selling.

    • Shane says:

      Thanks for your comment! Yes, Martin Avis has a very unique style and authenticity shines through in his messages.
      Thanks for the encouragement!

  • Brian says:

    I watched the video all the way through. Just to let you know, today, 8/13/10 is the first time I saw this video. the reason I told you that is because it was your honesty that led me to purchase Backlink Battleplan.
    I have been unemployed for a year now and buying anything extra for me is a real stretch as it is taking pretty much everything I make just to pay monthly bills. I only recently discovered you from a video you posted on Youtube and it was your apparent knowledge and honesty that led me to start paying attention to you.
    I have had so many false starts since I decided to try to make a living online because of all the hyped up crap people have tried to sell me. I have had info overload times 10 for the last year, and only now am I beginning to see how people actually make money online. I have had to learn what I know now from free information that I have found in bits and pieces here and there among the piles of junk that have been pushed, or should I say “marketed” down my throat.
    I was really on the verge of giving up. I still haven’t made any money online yet and still feel that I’m at the foot of the internet marketing knowledge mountain trying to piece things together and have it all make sense. Not to mention the kids that have been out of school for the summer and it’s been like trying to learn brain surgery from a ripped up text book in the middle of a hyper active daycare.
    Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that the knowledge you obviously have is apparent in all of your videos and writings and your honesty and integrity along with your genuine willingness to help people like me IS your marketing style. Please don’t change that. Your sincereness is refreshing and much needed. It’s what has given me the motivation to not quit trying. And as I said, it’s what also what led me to purchase Backlink Battleplan. I only wish I could have taken advantage of the upsell when I ordered it, but unfortunatley I put the purchase on what was left on the balance of my credit card, so now I’m maxed out.
    I know you say you’re not a “guru” but as far as I’m concerned you get my vote for guru of the year. I’ll be sending this message to your email as well, just in case you have stopped reading the reviews on this video.
    Thanks for everything and keep up the GREAT work!!

    • Shane says:

      Thank you very much for your reply. I’m certain you’ll see your way through to success if you stick with one thing for long enough.

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