I’m not into self-help stuff. Seems like the older I get, the more I get told by complete strangers that I need to follow their advice in my daily life to achieve “happiness.” Apparently I can’t possibly be happy, they say, with all the pressures of being a business owner, ongoing client demands, family responsibilities, etc. They want me to believe that I just can’t manage it without their “guiding principles.” Of course, these “guiding principles” come in every form you can imagine: books/DVDs, networking groups that run $1200/month, online life coaching videos and courses, or even some jerk sitting at a bar that wants to save me from “Me.”
Two words to those folks: “Put an egg in your shoe and beat it.”
That said, I am not against self improvement. In fact, I live by the saying “I don’t know,” which makes me always thirst for knowledge and understanding, especially of myself. I just don’t believe a life coach or self help “expert” has anything to teach me. At least not until I get to understand them, know them, agree with them and watch in real time that they stay true to their principles while being assaulted by the same things I face daily. I like to term this, “earned trust.” You know, the same feeling you get from sitting with someone in a foxhole.
Not many life coaches are willing to put in the time or effort to get to that “earned trust“ part. They just want you to buy their books, booklets, DVDs, join their network and hear other sob stories by logging in to their website. What really cracks me up is that so many give away the punch line before the joke even starts.
I remember one guy trying to get me to read this book called, “Hope Is Not A Strategy.” I totally agreed with that title. Makes so much sense, it’s obvious. So why would I buy that book? The title said it all. I don’t need to read anecdotes to prove an already Captain Obvious-level point. This recent article on LinkedIn is a prime example. Under the guise of self improvement, this guy is marketing a book to help me be “very successful,” not just “successful?” Reminds me of some story about an emperor and a couple of failed Project Runway contestants.
(Are you getting a good insight in to the depth of my anti-false prophet mindset?)
So, how does this tie into advertising? You haven’t made the correlation yet? . . . Ah, there you go. Now you get it. Just had to hit you in the head a couple of times.
If you still don’t get it, you might need a “coach” of some kind. The simple fact is, so many agencies read from a book they wrote years before and want you to buy. Even if you have already read it! The truth is, in many cases, it’s the same “book” with a new, snappier title. Buyer beware if your advertising or marketing agency already has the answers before they understand your problem, much less have earned your trust through real-life engagement.
In growing this agency, we built it by establishing trust. Even today, 17 years on, when the opportunity arrives to first prove ourselves worthy, we welcome that approach. It builds a great bond for long-term trust on both sides. It usually sounds like this: “Why don’t we just do a small project first, like redesigning an email template, and see how we work together? If we still like each other after the project is complete, we can take on bigger challenges together.”
That is a near literal repeat of a past conversation to win a major client that is still with us 8+ years later. Proof that earning trust works.
In fact, this philosophy has worked so well, I recommend it to friends or peers seeking to open a business. (Not that I’m life coaching or anything! No. Never!) No matter what your business provides, a product or a service, this approach can really build earned trust. To use a baseball analogy, it’s not about hitting home runs, it’s about turning singles into runs to win the game. (Casey Stengel?)
For you life coaches I have lambasted metaphorically, many of you are probably pretty good at what you do. What you offer may be valuable to the right person in need. But, when you see me walking down the street, do us both a favor and ignore me. We will both experience even greater success and find happiness by choosing that path.
Eric J. Hirschhorn is a principal at bloomfield knoble. For 17 years he has helped lead the Dallas-based advertising agency from start up to becoming a premier, full-service agency whose clients include some of the most influential companies in America. Eric lives to spend time with his family, to work and to travel the world in search of unique fishing adventures.