Recently, we told you about an article Adweek published on Bill Grizack, the man who convinced several different agencies that he was the best thing to happen in marketing since television commercials. We raised the question, “How could anyone actually fall for an act like that?” Well, the real truth is that we all probably fall for tricks like that much more than we realize.
Let me tell you a story about how I ran into a fellow kind of like this. I will never know to what extent the similarities extend, and that’s ok. I’m not out to destroy anybody. I just want to give you a glance at how this works.
Once upon a time…
This story begins when I was about two years into my little social media experiment. I had decided I had better join Twitter and the blogosphere so that when clients wanted to jump in, I would be able to help out. I was just going to dip my toes in. Ha ha ha. This was the golden age of social media, when people, even people with a lot of followers, actually talked to each other. Ah, those were magical times indeed.
One day, early, I got a phone call from one particular “guru.” They needed some marketing ideas even though they said they hate agency people (gee thanks) and would I be able to offer some ideas. Me? Ideas? Marketing?!? As you might imagine, I was extremely excited. Not only was it great that someone whom I respected would think of asking me for tips and tricks, but it also sounded like I would be able to pull in some work for the agency. A nod to our family’s company from someone of such a stature seemed like it would be a huge break. At the time, when this person shared a link, that website’s server would crash because it received such an influx of traffic.
I proceeded with the guru, despite my excitement, as I would with any new client or prospect. First, we had a call to see if I would really be able to help. Our agency has always believed it’s better to be honest about your capabilities from the start. After that meeting, where I trustingly offered a lot of ideas, I sent over our paperwork for new clients, which included things like a tax exemption form, a credit check, and a form for filling out contact information. Everything seemed like it was in line. Why would I question anything?
The Other Shoe Drops
Well, a few days passed and I still hadn’t gotten the paperwork back. I emailed a check-in. As an agency you have to protect yourself because you can get caught doing a lot of work for a company that actually can’t pay for it, so getting everything in order was a high priority. I checked in again a few days later. Finally I was told to just drop it. It wasn’t going to happen.
That was shocking enough, but imagine my surprise when a blog post showed up on the guru’s site shortly thereafter outlining one of my ideas…and crediting it to someone else! Now of course it’s possible that this other person had the same idea. It wasn’t the most revolutionary idea I’ve ever had. However, this other person was showered with praise. Over time, their presence online exploded as they became the sort of de-facto marketing consultant for the guru. Clearly this had been a potential scenario for me. What had gone wrong?
I found out later that despite all the power and success, the guru was close to bankrupt. Indeed, I found out over the years that a lot of people who present themselves as very successful online are living essentially book sale to book sale. Do these same people spread misinformation about the clients with whom they are working? It’s hard to tell, but the case of William Grizack clearly shows that these questions may be worth exploring.
Do As I Say, Not As I Do
During the time I have been online, I have encountered gurus who write books about marketing after saying they’re no marketing expert. I’ve seen gurus who could be classified as narcissistic sociopaths wax poetic on the importance of relationships. I’ve seen people emphasize the essentials of entrepreneurship, but they haven’t been able to hold down the same job for more than two years.
All of this to say it is easier than you might think to be fooled by someone who seems like an expert. If you are taking someone’s advice, do a little research first. Make sure they truly know what they are talking about. You may be surprised by what you find.
Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/chicagobart/8480489305/ via Creative Commons