Become a Guru with this "trick": Make a "what" into a "who".

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I used to watch that TV show Lost. The ending was terrible. But before they aired it, I watched an interview with the creators, and one of them said that one of the successful traits of the show, one of the ways they kept flipping mysteries and keeping them interesting was this:

Turn a "what" into a "who". If you watched the show, you'll know my examples. "What is in the hatch?" turned into "Who is in the hatch?" "What is the island?" turned into "Who is the island?" "What is the smoke monster?" turned into "Who is the smoke monster?"

And when you're talking about information marketing online, often this is the leap a lot of beginning marketers miss out on. But it's not really their fault - they get led into this niche by the nose on promises of effortless and anonymous riches.

Here's the truth - there are 2 ways to profit as an affiliate. First, you can have NO personality involved and just invisibly drive traffic directly. PPC, ad buys, spamming - those are numbers games.

But there's also personality marketing. Blogging, forum marketing, webinars, social media... if you're not willing to present a PERSON there for people to attach to, those methods won't work.

People often have a lot of confusion because they mash up the methods. Some stuff only WORKS if you're willing to get involved in the niche.

Affiliate marketing began as a way for product vendors to diversify their line without having to make more products. It STARTED out as the only people INTERESTED in affiliate marketing was what we would today call JVs.

They were established in their niche, they just wanted some extra sales by endorsing a product they got a cut of.

It's only relatively recently the "affiliate" model could be completely divorced from personality building to the point where the NUMBERS made it possible. Before PPC for example, short of spamming, you couldn't COLLECT enough traffic to make affiliate marketing profitable without being an influential figure.

Now, I'm not saying one is better than the other, but examine your strategy. If you don't intend to turn a "what" in your niche into a "who" then evaluate the strategies that come your way. Do they fit what you want?

You don't HAVE to become a "who" to succeed - you can be a non-person and sell things all day long. But then there are certain things that you shouldn't get into if that's your route.

Don't comment on blogs if there's no "WHO" on the other end. Don't post on forums if there's no "WHO" on the other end. Don't tweet or facebook or bookmark if you're not being a "WHO".

It just won't well enough to be worthwhile, and you'll pretty much be polluting the web.

But if you're willing to take a "what" and make yourself into the "who" that goes with it, you can become so powerful an influence that you won't believe how easily you can guide the opinions and actions of your audience.

"Influence" is essentially when we decide to take all of the details of a "What" in our heads and replace it with a "who" - I don't need to learn XYZ myself because Colin is my XYZ guy! People are only TOO HAPPY to do this because it saves them the trouble of EVER facing the possibility that they are not cut out to learn XYZ in the first place.

They can "chunk" everything pertaining to your area of expertise and instead of digging, they'll just come to you. They'll want your opinion. You're essentially the viceroy in charge of that remote area of their royal lands.

This is essentially the first step of manufacturing your own guru-hood no matter what the niche is. Take a "what" that people want to know and become the "who" that doesn't just answer the question, but actually IS the answer to the question.

Final note: even if you don't want to become a guru in a niche, you can use this "what" into "who" trick in a day job environment too - and in the process make yourself invaluable to the operation. If your boss can't even think of the WHAT it is you do without thinking of YOU as the WHO, your job is yours for as long as you want it.

And it's not a matter of personally specializing in it - you just have to be the end-all, be-all resource. Online, it's easy. Just start a blog, connect with others and forums and social sites. Collect the "what" content and put it on the "who" pages you control.

The "what" becomes the "who" and YOU become the obvious, visible, and AVAILABLE expert.

Anyways, hope that helps, inspires, irritates, and annoys. Enjoy!
#guru #make #trick
  • Profile picture of the author Louise Green
    You know Colin, it's inspiring to see that I'm not the only one who spent 6 years watching Lost, taking elements of what they were doing and applying it to my own marketing. That's caused me to doubt my own sanity at times.. thank God I'm not the only one.

    Great post btw.
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    • Profile picture of the author Colin Theriot
      Originally Posted by Louise Evans View Post

      You know Colin, it's inspiring to see that I'm not the only one who spent 6 years watching Lost, taking elements of what they were doing and applying it to my own marketing.

      Great post btw.
      If there was any doubt BEFORE the finale, there is none after. The entire run of the show was fueled by alternating use of the Von Restorff Effect, and the Ziegarnick Effect. I've studied it HEAVILY. It's pure marketing. Keep watching... or ELSE!
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  • Profile picture of the author Louise Green
    You know.. on the show when they said "there's a magic box", I started to suspect they were being influenced directly by cognitive marketing.

    One of my sales video will literally feature a closed box, and I'll tell the viewers they have to watch the entire video before they find out what's inside. Could be interesting.
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  • Profile picture of the author Michael Oksa
    WHAT can I do to make money?

    vs.

    WHO can I do to make money?

    Am I getting this right?

    ~M~
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    • Profile picture of the author David Jackson
      Originally Posted by Michael Oksa View Post

      WHAT can I do to make money?

      vs.

      WHO can I do to make money?

      Am I getting this right?
      Nope. Colin's saying, Become a "Who," as opposed to a "What." Become a "real" person. Become a personality...not merely an avatar or a name.

      David Jackson
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    • Profile picture of the author Colin Theriot
      Originally Posted by Michael Oksa View Post

      WHAT can I do to make money?

      vs.

      WHO can I do to make money?

      Am I getting this right?

      ~M~
      You're getting telling jokes right.
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    • Profile picture of the author CDarklock
      Originally Posted by Michael Oksa View Post

      WHAT can I do to make money?

      vs.

      WHO can I do to make money?

      Am I getting this right?
      Many would say so.
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      "The Golden Town is the Golden Town no longer. They have sold their pillars for brass and their temples for money, they have made coins out of their golden doors. It is become a dark town full of trouble, there is no ease in its streets, beauty has left it and the old songs are gone." - Lord Dunsany, The Messengers
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  • Profile picture of the author David Jackson
    Originally Posted by Colin Theriot View Post

    The "what" becomes the "who" and YOU become the obvious, visible, and AVAILABLE expert.
    Exactly. Put yourself out there, and give potential clients a reason to choose "YOU" over your "WHAT" competitors.

    David Jackson
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  • Profile picture of the author MichaelHiles
    Who can I get to do what for money?

    I think the vice squad is recording.




    Great read Colin.
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    • Profile picture of the author Dan C. Rinnert
      What can I sell to make money?

      If I turn that into "Who can I sell to make money?", I fear that might lead to another Civil War.
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      • Profile picture of the author Colin Theriot
        Originally Posted by Dan C. Rinnert View Post

        What can I sell to make money?

        If I turn that into "Who can I sell to make money?", I fear that might lead to another Civil War.
        You and Oksa both made the same joke. I get it. It's funny.
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    • Profile picture of the author Colin Theriot
      Originally Posted by MichaelHiles View Post

      Great read Colin.
      Thanks!

      Another thing I thought of to add. When you only focus on providing the "what" in your market, you compete with EVERY OTHER source. "What" can be easily copied. That's the very fact that MAKES anonymous affiliate marketing possible.

      But when you become a "WHO" it doesn't matter where else they can get the "what" because knowing you has saved them the trouble of even having to bother. Given the choice between two choices of info, one associated with a persona and one not, people will ALWAYS choose the persona.

      For an example of this, you folks might remember "The Rich Jerk" ebook. Basic stuff - minimal detail, just a basic "mmo" primer. But they took that "what" information and transformed it into the "who". It's not just cornflakes - there's a TIGER on the box, baby!

      And lots of people tried to copy that Rich Jerk model, but there's the one and only, and that's it. You can't copy the "who" - one of them is always going to be the fake or the copycat. You won't even have to police it. The market will call them out FOR you.
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      • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
        Originally Posted by Colin Theriot View Post

        When you only focus on providing the "what" in your market, you compete with EVERY OTHER source.
        That one line is a great marketing lesson in and of itself.
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      • Profile picture of the author JordanFrancis
        Originally Posted by Colin Theriot View Post

        Another thing I thought of to add. When you only focus on providing the "what" in your market, you compete with EVERY OTHER source. "What" can be easily copied. That's the very fact that MAKES anonymous affiliate marketing possible.

        But when you become a "WHO" it doesn't matter where else they can get the "what" because knowing you has saved them the trouble of even having to bother. Given the choice between two choices of info, one associated with a persona and one not, people will ALWAYS choose the persona.
        Nice post, Colin. Good stuff.

        That clarifies some of the noise in my head, too. Which is always good =)

        Becoming a "who" is a great way to answer the question "why you?"

        It's one way to create our unique selling proposition.
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  • Profile picture of the author Michael Oksa
    Hi Colin,

    Reading your post made me think of one of the basics of copywriting, and how it relates to the concept of what and who.

    The features are the what. They explain what a product is, or the parts of the product. Anybody, or anything, can understand them.

    The benefits are the who, but not directly. They require a personality to understand them, to internalize them.

    I know this isn't exactly what you're getting at, but the similarity makes sense. The main difference is that in your post the who is the seller. In my example, the who is the buyer. However, for the benefits to connect with the buyer, it is vital that we understand what they consider beneficial, and why.

    Sometimes I have a hard time being a who, because I'm not a big fan of fluff and like to stick to the facts. That's not necessarily bad thing, but it does make it harder to stand out in the marketplace. And it's not because I don't care, it's just a side effect of my more introverted, task-oriented style.

    However, the product I am currently working on should be much more of a who, at least that's my intent.

    Also, a lot of people can list more historical whos than whats. Who was James Buchanan? What did he do?

    Again, I know it isn't quite what you're saying in the OP, but it certainly has my synapses firing away.

    All the best,
    Michael
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  • Profile picture of the author ryanbiddulph
    An excellent post Colin.

    The "Who" is like your brand. People may want a particular product but any other guy can offer them the same product, or "What".

    Becoming a compelling "Who" and even if your what is relatively weak, people are going to buy it. We see this all the time when it comes to celebrity endorsements or gurus endorsing a product, for that matter.

    Ryan
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  • Profile picture of the author Amanda Craven
    Great post Colin and I entirely agree - the proof is out there in the popularity of social media which, weirdly, has engendered a need in people to connect on an even more personal level.

    Why? Because they want to go beyond the stuff that's there for the masses and feel like they have privileged access to you. It's what drives that VIP sections in on and offline clubs/membership sites and helps fuel the cult of the guru.

    Just one thing...please don't let slip the Lost finale. I had to skim past several entries here that looked dangerous. I missed it here as it was on Sky and I'm still working my way through the boxed sets of the later series. Tragic, I know!
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  • Profile picture of the author Andyhenry
    Interesting perspective - thanks for sharing it.

    I got bored with Lost quickly when I realised there was never going to be any closure at the end of an episode.
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  • Profile picture of the author IM Listing
    You have good info in this post. I'd like to see it in a Video format someday
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  • Profile picture of the author Jude.A
    Thanks for sharing this good info.
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    • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
      Another excellent post, Colin. You're becoming one of my favorites...

      I think the same idea can be applied to article marketing. Not the drivel often called articles, which is really just lame link fodder, but actual substantive articles.

      I would much rather read an article with a definite voice, even if I don't agree with the points made in the article. I think that's part of why writing in active voice is so important.
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  • Profile picture of the author Thiago Santos
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    • Profile picture of the author Colin Theriot
      Originally Posted by Michael Oksa View Post

      The features are the what. They explain what a product is, or the parts of the product. Anybody, or anything, can understand them.

      The benefits are the who, but not directly. They require a personality to understand them, to internalize them.
      That's an interesting thought. I'm a big believer in building up the marketing persona to serve as a conceptual proxy for the prospect. In other words, the persona is "who" the prospect would be if they could solve the problem at hand.

      Originally Posted by Michael Oksa View Post

      Sometimes I have a hard time being a who, because I'm not a big fan of fluff and like to stick to the facts. That's not necessarily bad thing, but it does make it harder to stand out in the marketplace. And it's not because I don't care, it's just a side effect of my more introverted, task-oriented style.
      I might be able to help you with that. I have a "system" you could say.

      Originally Posted by Michael Oksa View Post

      Also, a lot of people can list more historical whos than whats. Who was James Buchanan? What did he do?
      Yeah, I can dig it. I think what it is is that information needs a personality as a vehicle in order for it to become expression. Expression is what connects with people.

      That's partially why news personalities have become more and more opinionated over time. At first, people wanted the ideal, but when presented with a choice between personality, or just the facts, guess which way the ratings lean?

      Originally Posted by Michael Oksa View Post

      Again, I know it isn't quite what you're saying in the OP, but it certainly has my synapses firing away.
      That's okay, I sort of sidetracked in my response too.

      Originally Posted by ryanbiddulph View Post

      Becoming a compelling "Who" and even if your what is relatively weak, people are going to buy it. We see this all the time when it comes to celebrity endorsements or gurus endorsing a product, for that matter.
      You know what's interesting is how people automatically think of celebrity endorsements, but how many times have you ended up owning something you didn't like, just because a friend of yours wanted it?

      An influential "who" CAN be a guru figure, but it doesn't have to be. It can be equally (or even more) effective for it to be a more casual, personal connection. The internet allows us to simulate that pretty closely.

      Originally Posted by Amanda Craven View Post

      Because they want to go beyond the stuff that's there for the masses and feel like they have privileged access to you. It's what drives that VIP sections in on and offline clubs/membership sites and helps fuel the cult of the guru.
      I coach people that they need to develop what I call a "secret identity". Think of how you have Spider-man and Peter Parker, right? Well in the story itself, Spider-man has people who know him, Peter Parker has people who know him, but very few people know that he is both, right?

      Well, the READER knows that he is both. I feel like if you want to create a real deep connection with an online audience, you want to have that relationship. You want your communications with them to be like you've got the day off from fighting crime, the costume is off, and you're just hanging out person to person.

      It's got to have a little bit of that "breaking the 4th wall" element where you are a distant authoritative figure on the outside, but via the email list or blog or whatever, that dissolves and it's the "backstage" stuff.

      I hope I explained that okay.

      Originally Posted by Amanda Craven View Post

      Just one thing...please don't let slip the Lost finale. I had to skim past several entries here that looked dangerous. I missed it here as it was on Sky and I'm still working my way through the boxed sets of the later series. Tragic, I know!
      Enjoy the journey, don't allow yourself to get invested in outcomes. I loved the ride, didn't like the finish, but that didn't make the ride any less fun.

      Originally Posted by Dennis Gaskill View Post

      That one line is a great marketing lesson in and of itself.
      Thanks Dennis. I'm always pleased when I manage to fit a good idea in just one sentence. In case you hadn't noticed, I can be wordy.

      Originally Posted by Andyhenry View Post

      I got bored with Lost quickly when I realised there was never going to be any closure at the end of an episode.
      The whole "play" of the show was because of how it continuously kept questions unanswered by interrupting with a louder question.

      Even if you don't like the show, it's worth studying if you like to think of ways to keep people consuming your content over and over and over and not only NOT get bored, but be largely INCAPABLE of forgetting it.

      Originally Posted by JordanFrancis View Post

      Becoming a "who" is a great way to answer the question "why you?"

      It's one way to create our unique selling proposition.
      Yeah, if you have a good "who" no one even thinks to ASK "why you" because it's part of the identity. Not that he needs my plug, but look at Frank Kern as an example. "Why him?" is immediately answered for everyone who envies the laid back surfer lifestyle he puts on display.

      It's funny you point out USP because I have a friend who is in sales who says his USP for any product is "Who knows where those other ones come from - THIS one comes from ME."

      I dig that.

      Originally Posted by JohnMcCabe View Post

      Another excellent post, Colin. You're becoming one of my favorites...
      Aw shucks.

      Originally Posted by JohnMcCabe View Post

      I think the same idea can be applied to article marketing. Not the drivel often called articles, which is really just lame link fodder, but actual substantive articles.

      I would much rather read an article with a definite voice, even if I don't agree with the points made in the article. I think that's part of why writing in active voice is so important.
      Yep. To have a "voice", it needs to be attached to a person, right? Otherwise it's going to be a robotic, detached voice.
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