How to Promote Without Being Salesy

May 8, 2012 , 33 Comments

If you’re subscribed to many online marketing related newsletters, you’ll notice that they tend to do an awful lot of promotions (a.k.a. product pushing). And if you’re subscribed to mine, you might notice that usually don’t do a lot of that kind of thing, at all.

Most people don’t like being “salesy” and pushing products on people. Ideally, we could run a business that makes us a lot of money, without having to promote stuff all the time. And that’s exactly what I’m doing with IM Impact.

How can you promote stuff and make money, without being salesy? Read on to find out!

IM Impact Business Model

Watch the video below to discover what you can take from the IM Impact business model and apply to you own business:

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Here’s the post you need to check out, if you aren’t yet familiar with the New Traffic Paradigm.

Direct Promotion vs. Service Based Promotion

As mentioned in the video, one of the keys to what I do is that I focus on providing the most useful possible service to my readers. One of the consequences of this is that I sometimes promote stuff and you might not even notice.

As an example, let’s use my recent post about the two most important factors that determine the success of a website. This post contains an affiliate link for Visual Website Optimizer, which is a split testing tool. However, I doubt anyone looks at that post and thinks “eugh, Shane is pushing products again…”

The crucial factor is that the post was written to be as useful as possible. The idea for this post came from a combination of some comments I read on this site and some books I recently wrote. I felt like the lesson, the message in this post was a crucial one and that many could benefit from it greatly.

That’s why I wrote the post. Now, in any discussion about optimizing websites and optimizing content, split testing has to be mentioned, because it’s so crucial to the whole process. As you’ll see in the post, I mention that Google Website Optimizer is free to use, but that I personally prefer and use a different solution. And that’s where Visual Website Optimizer comes in.

After I published the post, I sent out an update about it to my subscribers. You could say that I indirectly sent a promotional email, since the link in the email went to the blog post and the post contains an affiliate link.

Compare that to the way products are usually promoted in the IM space: you get an email with a subject line like

“MUST HAVE Marketing Tool Revealed! If You Don’t Get This, You’re Leaving MONEY ON THE TABLE!!”

The email is all about how you have to sign up for this service right now and the affiliate link is repeated a couple of times. The next day, you get another email, reminding you that the “Offer is About to Close! Get in NOW!!!” along with more hype and several further repetitions of the affiliate link.

What’s worse, the typical promotion wouldn’t be for a tool like VWO in the first place. It’s kind of an advanced tool and it’s extremely high quality and in continued development. This is reflected in the price, although you can’t call it expensive, by any means. Still, it’s a lot easier to talk people into buying some “magic button” that costs only $7-$37, than explaining the merits of a subscription based service like VWO.

The Inconvenient Truth

Okay, so the above is an outline of how IM Impact can be profitable even if I’m not directly promoting anything for months on end. If you look at my previous posts, you’ll see many examples of posts that are 100% focused on providing valuable information, but also contain the odd affiliate link, if it makes sense in the context.

But let me be very clear about something: direct promotions are far more effective.

We generally don’t like parting with our money. The most effective way to get someone to make the buying decision is often to add a sense of urgency and to prod them on, a little bit. A message in the vein of “hey, here’s a nice and useful thing” just doesn’t pack a lot of punch.

As I said in the video: I could easily make more money by doing more direct promotions. But what’s important to me is your actual benefit from what I do, as well as your involvement in and engagement with what I do.

If you look at your subscribers and fans as walking credit cards, you can get a lot of money out of them, right now. If you treat them like the human beings they are, you can get an immense amount of value out of them and you can earn. Possibly even in the long run.

And long term, sustainable, service-oriented business models are what I’m all about.

What are your thoughts on this matter? Do you know examples of businesses that sell extremely well, without being salesy? Let me know by leaving your comment below!

Shane's Signature

About ​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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  • Shane,

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. This is what a list should be, in my opinion, and thankfully in yours as well. You are building trust and friendship. Both are very important and will serve you much better in the long run.

  • Shane,

    The reason I stayed on your mailing list since the beginning in spite of your name (getrichquick!) is that I recognized the quality of your approach. You soon remarked that the name was not appropriate for your type of marketing, eventually changed it to ImImpact, providing great products and reliable recommendations.

    Off the top of my head I can mention two marketers of the same caliber I have subscribed to for a long time: Martin Avis and Dr.Andy Williams.

    While it might be helpful to point out that your way of marketing is more effective, I’m guessing that most of your subscribers don’t need too many reminders of your integrity.

    Thank you for all your help,


  • Great post as always Shane!

    We wrestle with a similar ‘dilemma’: whether to opt for the ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ sell.

    The mechanics & psychology of sales and marketing are one of the most studied and well-known areas of human interaction. If the objective is to maximize revenue & profits in the short- to medium-term, the ‘hard sell’ approach usually wins hands-down.

    Unfortunately it carries with it a lot of potential ‘baggage’, and works best when there is no consideration of moral or ethical ideals.

    Beyond the ‘cut & dried’ comparisons, there are ranges for each approach, and a raft of ‘mitigating factors’ – the makeup of the customer (or prospect) base, the initial proposition or tacit agreement (“you’ll get my honest appraisal, but with the understanding that to support my efforts, I’m going to push my recommendations hard”…), etc.

    I think most of us went into internet marketing at least in part because of the perception there would be relatively ‘easy money’ to be had. More and more however, many of those ‘easy’ avenues are drying up, or were found to be not so ‘easy’.

    Personally, we try to find our own ‘middle-of-the-road’ where we can maximize value & benefits, while optimizing the sales mechanics well enough to survive.

    Michael Ullman

  • You can do a blog post or video on lists and many other subjects. But, I am sure you realize that on par in value with your list, is your brand or reputation.

    I don’t know if you can teach this. It is something you have to observe and then the proverbial “light” must go on.

    You have come to a place where we expect that if you are offering it, there must be value. If you recommend something, it is probably good and vice versa. It is a tough medal to earn. They don’t hand it out for good conduct or showing up on time.

    What a powerful place to be. This is why your list is of such high value. This is why people hang on your webinars until the very end and wait for you to release products.

    Your business model is clearly for someone with a long-term outlook. There are faster ways to make money other than providing information, free webinars, downloadable material, reviews, etc for a long period of time just to build a list of followers who do not expect to be sold anything. But, your heart has to be in it. It must truly be a labor of love.

  • Hey Shane,

    you spoke my name correctly :) and thanks for the extremely quick response.

    Back to topic:
    Now some things is clearer to me. I’ve already implemented the “New Traffic Paradigm” technique on few of my blogs and could very quickly see that the “Average Time on Webseite” and some rankings could be increased about 20-30%.

    Now that you’ve explained, how’s your marketing strategy working, i think it will fit to some of my projects, which are not just profit oriented. Like i said in the email, it’s a very positive way to make business online and i like it very much.

    Thank you for the very valuable content



  • Shane

    I do not do hard sells. If the offer comes from someone I follow I expect there to be a comprehensive write up and at least one video with it.

    Trust comes into it. I do buy products that I think will help from those who seem to know were the market is heading. Keyword research is a prime example as almost all do it wrong.

    Unfortunately I am not in a position to own the best (yours) so have to make do with Google at present, even though I have around 4 other keyword tools all doing it wrong.

    My favourite business besides your good self is Jerry West. He sends out the odd email when it matters, like last week, and I have owned his SEO ebook for over 18 months, and it STILL gets free upgrades. Never pushy, but shows you a bargain when it is offered.

    A good business man is worth his weight in gold. Keep up the good work.


  • Scott Caldwell says:

    I don’t do Online Marketing, I am offline. And you know I can’t remember how long I have been following you (wayback). But the reason I am still here to this day is for your honesty and commitment in helping others.

    Not just selling like 98% of the people do on the warrior form. They act like they are helping, but you can tell $ is all you are to them.

  • Shane, thanks for sharing your reply to that email.

    I’ve been a full time affiliate marketer for many years but never sold “make money online” or SEO products because I always felt like I would have been taking advantage of most of the buyers. I don’t want to sell products that I wouldn’t be comfortable recommending to friends and family.

    Your emails, posts, etc. have confirmed to me that there is a way to sell to this market without feeling “scammy” and ruining my own reputation along the way. The insights you’ve shared about using honesty to help build a strong brand are resonating with me. Thanks for the guidance.

    Keep up the good work!


  • Sadie Williams says:

    It’s called Internet Marketing Incest (IMI). Everyone marketer knows it exists but everyone pretends as though it doesn’t. It’s accepted behavior. Books like the Go Giver and Go Givers Sell More seem to be a lost art.

    It’s setup in advance. You buy some marketer’s product and then you start to get their series of autoresponders recommending a ton of other affiliate products. You haven’t even got a chance to digest and implement their product fully and they immediately start to try and force feed you new products.

    It’s not difficult for a guy like Shane to stand out in market where his type of marketing is the exception rather than the norm. We all know what feels best at our core but so few of us do it because we’ve been taught otherwise.

    It’s even a strange phenomenon that there even has to be an emails such as this crafted as if we all don’t know at our gut what feels best. How could anyone in their right mind feel comfortable recommending anything that they haven’t thoroughly tested themselves? If then, it’s no guarantee that it will work for the next individual.

    I certainly appreciate and look forward to Shane’s emails. It was quite easy to see he was a different type of marketer from day 1.

    • That’s a good way to put it.

      It does seem like a lot of the marketing advice is quite disconnected from what most of us intuitively know.
      But somehow, in this industry, many spammers and scammers are put on a pedestal.

      • Sadie Williams says:

        Agreed. Who puts them on a pedestal? Drug dealers are only in business because there are drug users. Now you can arrest the drug dealers and throw them in jail but have your really solved the problem? No way.

        You’ve got to solve the problem by going to the root of the problem and stop hacking at the branches.

        Most people that inner the internet marketing arena are desperate to make money. They are looking for quick fixes. The don’t have a long-term perspective. They are not really interested in helping people solve their problems online…only in making big bucks.

        So you’ve got to answer the question did the “spammers” and “scammers” create the opportunity or did they just take advantage of an opportunity that so many people were begging for?

        The book listed below is a great book on taking the long-term approach to success. Could you imagine what the IM world would look like if more people took the approach outlined in the book instead of getting online today hoping to change their financial tomorrow?

        Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment
        George Leonard

      • Absolutely true. The spammers and scammers are serving a demand. An extremely strong demand.

        And it only takes a few people willing to exploit that for all it’s worth, to create the kind of landscape like the one we have in IM.

  • Hi Shane,

    What can I say that already hasn’t been said above your honesty and integrity are impeccable. I have been considering this business model for a long time, like most people I came to Internet Marketing to make fast money online and indeed there are still ways to make quick money, but these methods were not congruent with my own personal ethics. It seems that most internet business models are based on the capitalistic model (make as much money as possible and screw the guy)

    It would be very easy for me to setup a squeeze page and then bombard my email list with promotion after promotion which is what most of the internet marketers do. For me this is unethical for 2 reasons:

    1. the focus is on the money and not helping the person

    2. No sooner have you had time to implement any of the tactics and techniques in the product that you purchased that you are promoted again by the same person on another must have product.

    As you mentioned before shane we become a demographic.

    This is one of the reasons why i haven;t made much money online because i refuse to compromise my ethics and integrity and these are the exact reasons why i follow you because you have these characteristics in abundance.

    After taking a step back and thinking how can i succeed in internet marketing without compromising my ethical stance it occured to me that on my internet journey i have learnt many skills from wordpress, keyword research to video marketing. I can teach people the skills I learnt from this journey, giving them real value. Following exactly the same business model that you have created here with IMimpact.

    I have setup a website called but have still yet to work on it, just the shell has been setup but i intend to put up internet marketing related tutorials ranging from wordpress to keyword reseach..all free information and amongst this i will be sprinkling related affiliates.

    So no salelsy pitch in sight.

    Thanks again shane for being one of the shining lights in the dark and murky world of internet marketing.

  • Hi Shane,

    Sorry just a few questions:

    1. Why don;t you have a youtube channel
    2. Why don;t you have a facebook fanpage
    3. What wordpress theme do you use.

    The first 2 are about exposure, more people need to know about you so that they don’t spend years in the internet marketing darkness.



    • 1. My YouTube Channel

      2. My facebook page

      3. The Striking Theme

      I used to have a YouTube channel that I put a lot of videos on and took good care of. Answered comments, did some promotion etc.
      But it got banned without warning, one day. I lost 115 original, TOS compliant videos for no discernible reason. So, ever since, I have not been putting any effort into YouTube anymore.

      • Shane

        Is that lost forever, no way of getting them back?

        Did not even know they closed You Tube accounts.


      • Yes, that’s lost forever. I still had most of the videos on my hard-disk. Uploading all of them and re-embedding them in my posts was not a pleasant task.

        As far as I know, YouTube ban hundreds or even thousands of accounts every day. There are a lot of YT spammers.

        There are two issues:
        1) Because so many accounts get banned all the time, it’s easy to get caught up in that, as a false positive, even if you did nothing wrong.

        2) Apparently, it’s rather easy to get an account flagged and taken down, using bots. I.e. your YT account can be sabotaged.

        Note that my account had 115 original videos, no copyright infringements or anything like that and hundreds of subscribers, many comments etc.
        So even with these signals that you’d assume make it pretty clear that it was a legit account, it got wiped out.

  • Hi Shane,

    Well said! Especially about the Guru’s who promote, promote, promote etc… On a weekly basis! I remember about 2 years ago I used to be on Latif Mohammed’s mailing list, the guy behind the googlesnatch series. Great content, but he never provided evidence or was truthful about what he was really doing! I remember developing my own product and telling him about it. He phoned me (I gave him my phone number) but I only told him the basics and he wouldn’t give me his phone number. Absolute cheek!
    I also used to ask him, did he use the products he promoted? Either he ignored me or gave a lame response.
    Shane, thank you so much that you do all this testing, how the heck you have the time to do all that you do is beyond me? I think you maybe employing Romanians to do some of it :) Is that why you have moved there! Only joking :)
    It’s great that your finally releasing a range of products etc… Can’t wait! Thanks for not going for the money and for scraping half developed products. Your long term profit approach will be worth it in the end. Your the only IM blog I can be bothered to comment on.
    Just one more person for most people to avoid, unless you have lots of money, and that is Lee Mcintyre. He was the last waste of my time type of Guru, he gets you on his list by giving lots of value, but his main aim is to get his consultants to call you, to part with £1000’s for a 12 month course etc… Once your in and have more money to spend with him, if your creative enough to come up with a good product, he has a massive network with lists in most niche’s. I know someone that entered into this inner circle as it were, but it wasn’t for them, so they wasted about £3,500 in the end. Lee always states GIVE FIRST, SELL SECOND! Thing is with Lee, you could go broke and get disillusioned, BUT Shane is a master at GIVING FIRST and SELLING SECOND, basically you never feel like you get sold to. I owe it to Shane for not totally giving up IM, I was so close and then I found him on Youtube, he was giving and still does, products away for nothing + No BS reviews.

    Thank GOD for Shane! Oh and Paul :)

  • Shane,

    Premier Cru | Absolutely Excellent!

    Your sales approach dovetails so nicely with your “develop an online skill” mantra.

    What I do feel is that you have a rare “self awareness/internal management system” that enables you to stay within your self imposed online marketing model’s lines of discipline.

    What I mean is: you seem to me to approach online marketing in a similar fashion to a highly successful foreign exchange or trend following commodities trader. (David Harding, Winton Capital or John W. Henry/Seykota).

    But, you don’t actually come out and say that.

    On the other hand….I believe I’m right in saying that most of us don’t have your stubborn confidence and/or boundary awareness to: a) develop a real sustainable model that simultaneously generates cash while building a marketable online skill and/or b) the gumption to stay with our plan when it does not produce results within a couple of months.

    Anyway, by following you for some time now I’ve come to appreciate how important it is to construct a gold plated internal gyroscope to achieve success.



    I believe what I’m talking about is actually something different from “focus” although focus is certainly part of the equation.

    • I’m surprised that you think most people don’t have what it takes to follow a similar model to the one I use.

      Well, it’s probably true that most people in general don’t. But how many online marketers are there, who have been trying to make this work for years? How many are there, who’ve sunk huge amounts of money and time into this, without seeing results? And they’re still at it.

      The typical thing that happens is that we keep chasing after shortcuts and never get results.

      But is it really more difficult to buckle down, focus on developing a real skill and slowly get results after a while, than it is to try and fail at some “quick fix” for years on end?

      That’s the beauty of developing skills: it’s only difficult when you begin. From there on, it keeps getting easier, as you get better.

  • Hey Shane,

    Just a quickie to lend my voice to all who are cheering you on.

    Your strategy is one that perfectly fits the post-Panda world, offering quality information, a genuine service, and thus building long-term relationships and trust that will bring you income for years to come.

    I continue to be inspired to read your posts and watch your videos long after I’ve tired of other gurus treating me like a walking credit card. They may get more money in the short-term but they soon lose my trust, my confidence, and thus eventually lose my money…

    way to go Shane!


  • Sadie Williams says:

    Here are the 5 laws from the Go-Giver. It’s almost seems that Shane has channeled the laws of this powerful book.

    No.1 is The Law of Value: Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment. The key is realizing that price and value are two different things. Price is a dollar amount; value is desirability to the end user. Always strive to provide more in “use value” to your customer than what you charge them—while still making a healthy profit.

    No.2 is The Law of Compensation: Your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them. While No.1 discusses the value you provide, No.2 shows you how to get well compensated for the value you provide. You do so by touching the lives of a lot of people.

    No.3. is The Law of Influence is Your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other peoples’ interests first. This might sound a little Pollyanna, but it’s actually extremely practical. The golden rule of business is that all things being equal,people will do business with and refer business to those people they know, like, and trust. There’s no quicker, more powerful,or more effective method of eliciting those feelings in others than by focusing on putting their interests first.

    No.4 is The Law of Authenticity: The greatest gift you have to offer is yourself. The most significant way you have of adding value to others’ lives is by honoring your own nature—by being genuine and not trying to be someone you’re not. Consciously or not, people can tell when you’re not being authentic, and it interferes with your interaction just as surely as if you broke off an electrical current. You cannot truly give to another person unless you’re being authentic.

    No.5 is The Law of Receptivity: The key to effective giving is to stay open to receiving. This is what really brings it home. It says that receiving is good—it’s great—because it is a natural result of giving.

    Shane practices each of these laws extremely well in my humble opinion.

  • Sadie Williams says:

    Here’s a problem that I only heard one marketer address in the 10 years that I’ve been online. It’s a problem that’s subtle and I use the word problem when I probably should say challenge. No marketer truly knows what leads to their online success.

    Yeah they can tell us what they do, give us all the strategies and we could each follow those things to a tee and still not see the same type of success. They can also tell how they think (which is far more important than what they do) but even that is information twice removed.

    Typically, what you see (and what marketers use to a great advantage) is 5 out of 100 people or 50 out of 1,000 that have really enjoy a full-time income. Those paltry few who do succeed are the ones that marketers use to promote their products or services while the other people fall by the wayside and continue to look for the next shiny object.

    So few people look at finding out who they truly are and being themselves online. What I’ve noticed is a bunch of wannabees or clones. I think the main reason for this is that don’t trust the process. They don’t know that the integrity of the process determines the outcome. They also don’t enter with a long-term perspective. If it doesn’t happen overnight they get frustrated and dismayed. Few people understand “The Grind” that Shane mentioned. One of the big things with “The Grind” is that you have to know (not believe) that their will be light at the end of the tunnel because you probably won’t see it for awhile.

  • Hello Shane,

    A great video from someone we all trust to give us the real deal. I wont say your a mentor but you are indeed someone that I rely on to dispense useful information that is not dripping with slimey sales pitches.

    I still have alot of respect for you even though I think I was like the third person to comment regarding your reviews of my website for the webinar of last week. I forgive you.

    All the best and thanks for your honesty


  • You’re right Shane,
    if all marketers were promoting stuff like you do, the online marketing world would be a better place. Unfortunately online and especially affiliate marketing has an image of being full of spammers and scammers. Maybe mostly due to a ”salesy tactic” used and taught by all marketing gurus ??

  • A friend of mine told me that to increase your sales, I should be in the middle. It means that you shoudn’t say too much about the product, but focus on talking what it does and doesn’t.

  • Shane if I may ask, how do you make that appealing text on the video thumbnails (e.g. Click To Play) ? What is the font and which soft do you use ?

    Thank you for answer.

  • As marketers we should appear to be authentic and not too desperate to make a sale and we should actually *be* authentic and not too desperate to make a sale :) Great article Shane.

  • Mr. Ullman comment wraps up very well your post Shane. “Personally, we try to find our own ‘middle-of-the-road’ where we can maximize value & benefits, while optimizing the sales mechanics well enough to survive.”

    Optimizing our site strategy is nothing but trial & error.
    So Shane if it is not confidential, On your experience how much more have you sold to this blog members in comparison to your hard sell sites members, in percentage of course?

  • Shane, I did go to the Visual Optimizer demo, looks like a wonderful tool.
    My doubt is, how big or how much traffic should my site be to justify the time to do iterations on site design? Because even as this tool makes it easy, the changes are fully on my design criteria whether it is good or bad.
    So it can be very time consuming for each A/B iteration, and there is never an optimal solution, maybe just a better one than the previous one.
    Is there a minimum income o traffic figure you could draw out of your hat so we can consider investing time using this tool. (my concern is with the time not the tool price)

    • Well, a minimum income I would set at the price of the service. Your site should be making $30-$50/month, to pay for the tool.

      Minimum traffic, maybe 50 visitors a day? The thing about split testing is that it’s practically always worth doing, even with very low traffic numbers. The lower your traffic volume, the longer it will take to find winning variations, but that doesn’t really matter. After all, you simply set up a test and then leave it running. With VWO, you can even set it to automatically eliminate losing combinations, so that it will increase the effectiveness of your site automatically. You won’t even have to go back and check which version won.

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