A “New” Small Business Marketing Rules

By: Dan Kennedy on: October 16th, 2009 10 Comments

In the 1950’s, “credibility” was THE critical factor in advertising, and integrally, inextricably linked to being believed. In the 1990’s, they became distinctly separate component parts of an advertising or sales story, and it became possible to function with zero credibility if you had sufficient believability. In the new millennium, believability takes precedence (except for customers over age 55 or 60.)

I’ve been talking about this quite a bit for the last 10 years or more. To quickly review, “credibility” is typically illustrated with years in business; years in the community; the firm having been founded by grand-dad, a direct descendant from the Pilgrims; a photograph of the big building housing the firm; that sort of thing.

“Believability” used to require “credibility” as its foundation. But that rule is broken. Anyway, “believability” is presented with social proof or peer proof, such as testimonials; dramatic, easy to grasp physical demonstrations (even if rigged), being seen on TV, being used or patronized or endorsed by celebrities (even if they have no credibility), as well as via the convincing style of the presenter/presentation.

But having said all that, the best approach is still to integrate the two. Which brings me to a Jerry Buchanan writing from 1995:

If I had to give a two word instruction of how to deliver an excellent sales story – the words would be:
“be believable.”

In today’s marketplace, the buyer has become a natural doubter of almost any appeal to his pocket-book. While you may say the right things in the opening headline or first sentences to gain his attention, or you may present an offer perfectly in tune with his greatest fears and desires, if you slip and say just one little exaggeration, advance one half-truth, take just one too aggressive a liberty, you shoot yourself in the foot.

Any one thing said tha cannot be believed undermines everything else said.”

In short, if there’s a weak link anywhere in your sales story, it’ll break. This is why, when I construct a sales story for a client, I’m constantly looking for the weak link, and I painstakingly strive to prove each individual link in the entire chain of ideas, information and assertions.

And it is NOT enough just NOT to fib; you must try to prove the legitimacy of your assertions. The most certain approach to this is to isolate each separate claim, ‘fact’, promise, benefit and assertion on its own piece of paper or 3×5″ card, then match it with some item of proof you will use to establish or reinforce its believability.

The most dangerous approach is to peruse you will be believed because of your credibility or because of the obviousness of the truth or for any other reason.


Dan Kennedy is internationally recognized as the 'Millionaire Maker,' helping people in just about every category of business turn their ideas into fortunes. Dan's "No B.S." approach is refreshing amidst a world of small business marketing hype and enriches those who act on his advice. For more money-making marketing tips, tactics and strategies, go to www.GKIC.com

10 Responses

  1. Sean Durrant says:

    This reminds me of a quote by Edward R. Murrow that goes something like – “To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we must be truthful.”

  2. Rob Anspach says:

    great article…

    I cant tell you how many times people call me and say, I saw your ad and I believe you are exactly what I’m looking for you… you seem very sincere and trustworthy and I know you will get the job done right.

    Testimonials in you ads increase the believability factor and make the sale a heck of lot easier.

    Although, I have started a headline with a total admission of quilt and by the end of the article have clients calling me because I was honest and believable.

  3. Rave Reviews is the name of the game. Good Job, Rob. May I add–get them on video with the phone in your pocket.

  4. Rob Anspach says:


    just broke down and ordered the iphone… you wore me down – you make micro movie making look so easy and you should be the unofficial spokesman for the iphone


  5. Hey Dan,

    You are right about the weakest link.

    The one thing that gives your prospect cold feet is what you need to weed out, fix, remove, delete.

    My website, happycustomers.com.au was an “attempt” to solve the problem of credibility by fostering customer referrals and new prospect rewards at the same time.

    Unfortunately most people didn’t understand what I was offering them and passed on the opportunity.

    And Simone, I just love my iPhone 3GS, Apple you are rockin’ my world.

    So there I have said it. Been thinking it every day as I walk past the Apple store carrying my MacBook Pro and iPhone that allows me to work on the 2 hours commute a day that most other people are wasting by sleeping, playing games or sitting there looking miserable.


  6. Rob Anspach says:

    … somedays I dont want happy clients
    … somedays I want clients that are nasty, irritable, confused, tempermental, sick, curious, confused, dumbfounded, irrational and down right pissed off… why?

    simple really, it gives me a reason to solve their problems and become a hero …
    and when you become a hero you are more likely to get referrals, make a higher sale and keep the client hanging around longer.

  7. Great point, Rob — I ALWAYS want those kind of clients.

    That’s why “rainy days and Mondays” were always my favorites during my 9-year door-to-door sales career: Much easier to bring people up out of their misery to make a sale than on “typical” days when my unbeatable positive attitude wasn’t so glaringly obvious.

    Kind of like in this smart marketer’s gold rush some call “The Recession”…

    Oh, and no one ever asked me “How long have you been in business?” — they just got the sense that I was a “No B.S.” kind of guy, i.e. “credible” and “believable”. So they bought my stuff. A lot of it.

  8. And I haven’t yet broken down and gotten an iPhone — but I do LOVE my FlipCam and always have it in my pocket, ready to go at a moment’s notice.

  9. So gents maybe I should have called it angerycustomers?

  10. Intetresting Dan.
    This is why I read you.
    As always this makes me realize how much I must continue to learn which is why I finally connected to you .
    I uesed to be intimidated by your knowledge.I know strange but now I’m here learning weekly.

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