Mar 08 2010

Stop Running If You’re Not Being Chased!

Magicians are guilty of constantly trying to prove that what they do is on the up and up.  A magic performance requires a certain amount of cleverly hidden deceit.  Unfortunately, many try too hard to hide the “dirty work” and end up over-proving the fact that anything tricky is going on.  Magician Al Baker, in the 1920s, called this “running when you’re not being chased”.

As a businessperson, how can you tell if you are doing the same thing with your customers?  Are you trying to over-sell your ideas to your prospects?  Let’s take a closer look at how a magician constructs a magic trick and examine the presentation.

Let’s say a playing card is selected by an audience member, shown to the audience, then replaced and shuffled back into the deck.  It vanishes and ends up in a sealed envelope in the performer’s wallet.  Amazing!  Yet many performers dilute the effect by creating suspicion.

Here’s a typical presentation:

While shuffling the cards, the performer says “Here I have an ordinary deck of cards…”  What?  Red flag!!  Ordinary? You mean there is such a thing as cards that are NOT ordinary?  A spectator is not going to consider a trick deck is being used unless you give him a reason to.

“…which I will shuffle to be sure they are all mixed.”  Hmmm, wonder why mister magic man just told the audience he is mixing the cards.  They’re not stupid.  They can see for themselves the cards are being mixed.  More suspicion. 🙂

Then later, when he is about to reveal that the card ends up in his wallet he says “…and please note the wallet that has been sitting on the table during the entire performance, which I have not touched”.  LIAR!  Everyone saw you pull it out of your pocket *after* manipulating the selected card (supposedly back into the deck).  Had he not said anything, the audience would likely forget the performer ever touched the wallet before revealing the card.

At this point, the audience forms a solution for how the trick was accomplished.  Even if it is not the correct solution, they think they have outwitted the magic dude and claim they know how it’s done.  The moment of astonishment never happens.

This exact scenario happens far too often in business.  Have you ever read a blog with an author that keeps reminding you over and over how much value they’re giving you?  They boast how much content they’re delivering.  Every few paragraphs they tell you how crazy they are for giving away so much good info.  Now I become suspicious.  The guy has been blogging for a year, and all of a sudden he’s going to give me some juicy info.  Does that mean all the other stuff was crap?  Sorry mister blogger dude, you don’t have to tell me what is valuable.  I get to decide that for myself!  Sure it *might* be good, but stop trying to state the obvious.

There has been some recent discussion about long sales letters.  Does it really require pages and pages of sales copy to sell your product or idea?  Could you be guilty of over-stating your case?  What happened to be pithy, and let me decide if there is value?  The moment of astonishment, or this case, the discovery of a useful new product or service is ruined because suspicion created too many questions.

Are you running, even though no one is chasing you?


  • By Glen, March 11, 2010 @ 8:21 am

    Personally I’m getting kind of sick of the sites that are doing what you just described. Oddly it seems to often be “A” listers who see the need to defend themselves..

    And I don’t get the long sales pages either. I doubt that anyone actually reads them. Most people just scroll to the bottom for the price..
    They actually detract from what the person is trying to sell.

  • By Tim, March 11, 2010 @ 8:55 am

    The older I get, the more I realize that SIMPLE works best for me.

    I have a feeling the sales letter debate will never end. Think PC vs Mac. 🙂 Seems both sides have their merit. I have struggled too long trying to decide where I stand. It just doesn’t matter to me these days. The best I can do is what works for *my* business and not worry about what others think.

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