TCC Podcast #385: Ethical Marketing with Maggie Patterson and Michelle Mazur - The Copywriter Club
TCC Podcast #385: Ethical Marketing with Maggie Patterson and Michelle Mazur

Is marketing unethical? What about tactics like scarcity or significance? Should copywriters be using these persuasive elements in their copy? If not, why not? And when is it acceptable? Our guests for the 385th episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast are Maggie Patterson and Michelle Mazur, hosts of their own podcast called Duped where they talk about the misuse of persuasion in marketing. Between the four of us, we figured out the answers to these questions and more (almost). Click the play button below, or scroll down for a full transcript.

Stuff to check out:

The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
The Copywriter Underground
Duped Podcast

Full Transcript:

Rob Marsh: At some point in your writing career, most copywriters bump up against a persuasion tactic that just feels off. Or worse, they’re asked to do something they don’t feel good about. Maybe it’s as simple as adding a deadline timer to an offer with no real deadline. Or it might be something worse… like selling programs to people who can’t afford them, or who will never get the promised results.

Hi, I’m Rob Marsh, one of the founders of The Copywriter Club. And on today’s episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast, Kira Hug and I had a chance to speak with the dynamic duo behind the Duped Podcast, Maggie Patterson and Michelle Mazur. We talked about those dubious marketing tactics, when it’s okay to use them, and when you need to be the adult in the room who says, this is going to far. If you’ve ever wondered where the line is when it comes to marketing ethics, this episode will give you something to think about.

But first, I want to tell you abou The Copywriter Underground. You’ve heard about the library of training that will help you build a profitable business. You’ve heard about the monthly coaching, and the almost weekly copy critiques and the helpful group of members ready with support and even the occasional lead. Last week we recorded an exclusive training for Underground members on the diagnostic scorecard that helps you close just about any prospect or project on a sales call. It’s the kind of business secret you don’t read about in free facebook groups or even on most email lists. But right now, you can watch that training and get the diagnostic scorecard to help you close more projects when you go to and join as a member.  But hurry, that training disappears in a few days.

Now, let’s hear what Michelle and Maggie had to say…

Kira Hug: All right, welcome, Michelle, Maggie. So good to have both of you here. Let’s kick off with the catalyst. What was the catalyst for Duped and that partnership between the two of you?

Michelle Mazur: Well, I believe it started with me. Maggie and I vox a lot about things we’re seeing and chatting about it. I sent her a Voxer message and said, hey, I think we should do a limited series podcast episode where we dive into some of these topics. And that was the catalyst. We were already creating the content in our Voxer conversations. And we’re like, well, what if we just open that up to a wider audience? And we intended just to do, I think, eight episodes and maybe a second season. And then we realized, oh, wow, we have a lot to talk about here.

Rob Marsh: So for anybody who’s not already heard duped or aware of duped or even met you, Maggie and Michelle, tell us a little bit about, let’s just lay that groundwork. What is Duped and why should people be listening to it?

Maggie Patterson: So Duped is a consumer advocacy podcast that is really designed to help consumers in the online business space make more critical, nuanced decisions. Because what we tend to see is a lot of stories of, I bought XYZ, or I signed up with this coach, and I had a really negative experience. And from my perspective as a business owner, there’s two ways we can approach this. We can try to get every business owner to reform their practices, which we’re never all going to agree. It’s just not going to happen. Or we can educate consumers so that they’re making purchasing decisions that are going to align with their values, their ethics, what they’re actually looking for, and really do the job of vetting the things. Because we’ve all had experiences of things not being quite what we expected, but because these people are really great marketers, a lot of times really are using really amazing copywriters, we’re easily persuaded. And persuasion is a double-edged sword.

Michelle Mazur: And I think Maggie and I bring a unique set of skills to this conversation because. It is easy for her and I to clock what is happening, like what persuasion strategy is being triggered and being like, oh, they’re using scarcity or they’re using a combination of these to ratchet up the buying tension and pressure and then putting their solution as the only way to buy. And so we’re skilled at seeing that. I really wanted to relay to people that, hey, if you fell for this stuff, it’s not your fault. These are very strategic and intentional decisions business owners are making to sell and to sell as much as possible, to have the mythical six-figure, seven-figure business that we all hear so much about. And so being able to deconstruct and show people like, what’s really happening here? And here’s why you made the decision you did. So don’t feel bad and don’t stop trusting yourself. Because that’s the other thing that really pains me is I see business owners who do get duped And then they blame themselves, like, I suck. I didn’t follow the proven formula for success closely enough. And really, it’s not their fault. And most of this one size fits all that is sold in the marketplace doesn’t work for a lot of different business owners for a variety of different reasons. So taking that pressure and blame and shame off of it and being able to have a conversation and name it for people, I feel is really important.

Kira Hug: Yeah, and I mean, copywriters consume a lot of online products and courses. So I think this is a great conversation for our audience. We’re also influential with our clients, which I know we can talk about as well. But I want to go back to your Voxer. I want to get into your Voxer conversation. So I need to know the details of when did that conversation start? I mean, I know you two have been friends for a while. When did that conversation ratchet up and turn more serious? Is this 2020? Is this before then? And were there certain events that took place where you two were like, this is bigger than us chatting on Boxer. We need to go larger.

Maggie Patterson: I think there’s some interesting things in that. Michelle and I have been friends for, what, 10 years, Michelle? We’ve been friends for a very long time. Michelle decided we need to be friends, so now here we are.

Michelle Mazur: Michelle did a little stalking of Maggie Patterson, too, because I was like, I’m gonna be friends with her.

Maggie Patterson: And we’ve both been talking about, I mean, Rob and Kira, we’ve known each other for a long time, like, it’s not a secret. I’ve always been, for lack of a better word, vocal about these things. And I’ve just been like, yeah, that doesn’t sit right with me. Here’s why. And so we’ve both been doing those things separately. And you know, we’d be having our conversations on Facebook Messenger, and that evolved into Voxer. And then I kind of went through the experience in early 2020, with the pandemic of I had too much time on my hands, didn’t we all? And that’s when a lot of things like some of the business practices that we had both clocked for a long time as being very, not productive or helpful for potential consumers, they really ratcheted up. And I just started getting more vocal in my own work. Michelle started getting vocal in her own work. Like I was just like, I’m going to pull the ripcord and put this out there. Michelle kind of had the same attitude. And then the two of us were like, Oh, yeah, we need to formalize this body of work more. Because we also knew that as people have been talking for so long, if we didn’t talk about it, someone else was going to fill that gap in the market. And we decided to go for it. And then it’s just kind of run away on its own three years later.

Rob Marsh: So as we talk about this stuff, I think there’s a tendency to start out and say, wait, hold on a second. marketing fills a purpose in business, right? And it’s really easy. In fact, I’ve seen people stand up at events or whatever and say, wow, all of this stuff is really bad. And you guys aren’t saying marketing is bad. At least my impression is that what you’re really trying to do is take us back to a place of integrity. and say, okay, hold on a second. Let’s start with helping people solve real problems in a way that doesn’t take advantage of them. Does it go beyond that?

Michelle Mazur: Yeah, I believe it does because I always say I’m marketing agnostic, but marketing is neither good nor bad, just like scarcity is neither good nor bad. It’s all about how you use it. in your business. And since we are a very unregulated industry, Maggie and I talk about this a lot, there are no ethical standards for like, hey, when is it appropriate to use scarcity and when is it not? So everybody is making these personal decisions. So yeah, it’s about bringing us back into integrity, helping people realize that, I mean, I feel like this is kind of the premise of both of our separate podcasts of like, there’s more than one way to market. There’s no one right way to market your business. You have options. And people for thousands of years have been marketing in ways that are in alignment, in integrity. And it seems like in this digital world, we got into … I almost look at it, I feel like it’s like a timeshare salesman. We were taught to market and sell like timeshares people, right? Put on the pressure, get the credit card, get them to sign the contract. Give them all the bonuses just for showing up. And that’s the way we were taught to market. But if you like Maggie and I both have backgrounds in corporate That’s not how corporations do it. Corporations market in a way that is going to align with their values. They’re not putting disappearing bonuses out there because they understand how they want to show up. They have experts in-house to help them create their marketing, whereas we rely on all of these people to tell us what is the right way to market. and that’s usually something that’s a little bit laden with some manipulation and NLP and other things.

Kira Hug: Yeah, we can talk about NLP and get into some of the topics that you discuss on the podcast and get a little more granular. Before that, are you able to share more of a historical context of this, what feels like a bubble that we’re in this online marketing world that we’re in? Just like even since 2020, just kind of talking through the highs and lows, because it has changed dramatically. And I think partly related to pandemic, economy, AI, more education provided by people like the two of you, where there’s just more awareness and sophistication. So maybe this is just more of a State of the Union with some historical context to just ground us in where we are today.

Maggie Patterson: Well, we just recorded an episode on a 2024 State of the Union yesterday. So this is perfect timing. Yes. To say that, to say all that. Yeah. So what we saw in 2020, right, is we saw a shift because everyone was home. Oddly, a lot of, I’m not going to say everybody, but a lot of people had excess financial resources because they weren’t going to dinner. So we kind of created this bubble that happened in the industry. And honestly, for anyone who’s been around for any length of time, this is not new. It was just an intensification of what was already happening. And since 2020, we’ve seen a lot of different things. We’ve definitely seen way more consumer awareness because the bigger the bubble got, the more people became impacted. The more people impacted, the more you have people who are willing to speak out. This is why there’s very lively threads on Reddit talking about these issues. And whether those are fair and objective or not is not my place to say. But I mean, those conversations are happening more and more. But then we also had AI that impacted things, so the pressure’s ratcheted up. People are significantly burnt out at an existential level, so they’re just looking for simplicity, they’re looking to leave corporate. There’s been an entire movement of people who are literally being forced back to the office, who are now looking to entrepreneurship to save them, to be like, I don’t want to go back there. I really like the life I’ve built. So we have more and more interest. We’ve seen a lot of bigger name, what we call celebrity entrepreneurs pivoting towards targeting people trying to leave corporate. So there’s a lot of different things. And then what’s happened is, as consumer awareness has really become, I’m not going to say it’s widespread, but there’s definitely a greater number of people who are like, hey, I don’t really like that. What we’re starting to see is people slowly tweaking the classic tactics to say, I’m all of a sudden, I’m ethical. And I’m like, I don’t trust you as far as I can throw you. And that’s not very far. So really having to be constantly staying on top of like, this is the new tactic. This is the new tactic. And let’s be real. People are running businesses. They don’t have time for that. So Michelle and I were like, Hey, I’m noticing this. Let’s have a conversation. Then I go talk to a couple other people. Then I come back, we do some research and then we bring it to the podcast to be like, Hey, have you seen these faceless Instagram accounts? Here’s what you need to know.

Rob Marsh: I feel like saying this is ethical or this is the ethical way to do something is the new marketing tactic that people have layered on as the pendulum swings back and forth.

Michelle Mazur: Yeah. And ethics, like my background, I have a PhD in communication. I taught persuasion and there was ethics baked into it. And the thing people don’t realize about ethics is that they are very personal to the business owner, especially in an unregulated industry. And like Maggie and I sometimes even disagree about different tactics. Like I’m like, I don’t think I would go as hard on that one. And she’s like, no, no, it’s just wrong. Cool, but that’s a reflection of our values and nuance, whereas these people are like, oh, yes, I’m going to teach you ethical marketing. Well, unless you’re actually teaching people how to establish their own values and their own ethics. It’s really hard to teach ethical marketing because some entrepreneurs might be really fine with agitating pain points and making people feel like crap because what their ethic is, is they value making money and getting the sale, right? Like, so it’s fine with them. And we don’t have that more nuanced conversation of like, What are ethics really? But it sounds really good. And I think that’s where we have to be skeptical. During the podcast yesterday, I was saying you have to watch what people are saying and then see how they’re showing up to market. Because what I see a lot is people saying, oh, I’m ethical. And then I see a lot of the old school bro marketing tactics. And I’m like, huh. Interesting, like making a note of that.

Maggie Patterson: And I think to that point in this conversation that Michelle and I keep having is if you’re going to claim that you’re ethical, I want to know what your values are. I want to know what your ethics are. I want to know who you learned from. that’s usually missing. So if you are like, is this person actually ethical? What has informed their work? And an example I give a lot is the terrorist test by Martinson and Davidson. I might be wrong on that, but the terrorist test, that is a very widespread marketing framework that is a framework for ethical persuasion. Is that informing your work? I never see that. Never, never see it. I look for it. So you’ve got to always kind of look at, hey, here’s the claim they’re making that I am ethical, or honestly, another one you see a lot of is trauma informed. What makes this ethical? What makes this trauma informed? Because some of the most egregious examples I have seen in the last few years, without naming names, because we don’t name them, but there’s a pattern there. are people claiming to be trauma-informed, people claiming to be ethical because they’re buzzwords and they’re just throwing them on there trying to monetize or capitalize on a trend. And it’s not a trend, it’s a way of doing business.

Kira Hug: Yeah, and this goes back to our role and responsibility if you take it on as copywriters who work closely with clients who have offers and may want to show up in a certain way or want to show up as ethical. Can you two speak to how you view the role of copywriters today and, you know, what role we can play with all of these different tactics?

Maggie Patterson: So I think the thing we have to remember, whether you’re a copywriter, you write content, whatever it is, if you’re a service provider and you’re being engaged by a client to provide a service. So with a copywriter, you have influence over the tactics they’re using, the strategies they’re going to use, how they’re using the pain points, what persuasion they’re using. So if a client comes to you and says, hey, I want to approach it this way. You have a lot of ability to maneuver and guide your clients and make strategic recommendations to say, you know what? Let’s discuss this. I want to understand why you want to do this. And let me suggest a different way to do it. And a great example is pain points. People are like, well, I have to use pain agitation solution. Well, do you? Can you approach this from an empathetic point of view? Can you create a different type of connection? Because I always say this to my clients. Do you want to get people who are all riled up buying from you? Or do you want to get people who are making a really calm, well-considered decision? I personally, in my business, want people who’ve made calmed, well-considered, well-informed decisions, not ones whose nervous systems are completely shot.

Michelle Mazur: It’s funny. Yesterday in my community, the Expert Up Club, we were talking about the problem agitation solution framework. And someone was like, I don’t want to agitate their pain. And I’m like, I understand that. Because to me, when we agitate someone’s pain, it’s like seeing someone with a broken leg and being like, oh, I see your leg is broken. Let me kick it repeatedly until you pay me to stop. And that’s what agitation does. So we were talking about other alternatives. Are there bigger forces at play, and how can you adapt copywriting frameworks to become, I don’t want to say become more ethical, but to become more conscious of like, how is this making the person receiving this message feel? Like having that self-awareness so that you’re not hijacking somebody’s nervous system and they feel all amped up and they’re buying because it feels like it’s the only solution. But how do we take what we know and break it apart and keep what works and adapt it so that we can approach talking about somebody’s problems in a more empathetic way that makes them feel seen and heard instead of triggered and harmed.

Rob Marsh: Yeah, you’re talking about something that Karen and I have talked about on our podcast a few times where I love the PAS framework, you know, problem, agitate, solve. However, you know, agitation should not be kicking the broken leg, right? You agitate or you mention how that pain shows up in somebody’s life. so that you can show you understand, right? So leaning into empathy. I even said a few episodes ago that instead of talking about PAS, we should be talking about PES. Problem, empathize, and then solve, or however you want to expand out that particular writing formula. So you’re speaking my language here, but I’m curious. So Maggie, you mentioned, as copywriters, we need to step up and influence our clients. But a lot of times, copywriters don’t feel like they have that power. They feel really constrained, like, oh, if I push back against this client, I’m going to be maybe a troublemaker. They may not hire me for another project. They may actually fire me on this project if I feel like I’m pushing too hard. So what would you say to that? copywriter or to me if I’m expressing that, how do we take control of that situation in a way where we’re not actually going to hurt our businesses or our relationships with our clients?

Maggie Patterson: This is a great question. It’s something I navigate with my clients all the time in a mentoring role. They’re like, oh, I really don’t like what this client is doing. What should I do? And the first thing I always say is, listen, I’m not going to dictate what’s right for you. You’ve got to decide for yourself where the line is. If it’s something you feel like is aligned with your values and you can work with it, great. I’m also not going to romanticize. We all need to make a living and get paid. So do I want you to not be able to pay your bills and have your house foreclosed on because you had to take an ethical stand because Maggie said so on the copywriter? No, I want you to think more strategically about how do I get the type of clients where I am being valued in my role as a copywriter for my strategic contributions? How do I start to screen up front for clients who are actually going to do this in a way that is going to work for me? And also, as a service provider, really stepping back before you even talk to that client. Go see what they’ve done in the past. Figure out if there’s things. Have those conversations up front to be like, OK, you know what? I notice in your last two launches, you’ve used scarcity. Can we talk about that? Being able to identify these things. Because I will say, a lot of the conversation and the pushback Michelle and I have got from this is a lot of businesses literally want to do things better. They just don’t know how. So if their copywriter is not bringing that solution to the table and no one else on their team is, how are they ever going to be able to evolve and change? And I think we don’t want to be nitpicking like every little tiny thing, but I think it’s like from the upfront first conversation with a client. How can you screen clients in? How can you get a client who’s going to respect your approach and your strategy and be really clear on where your deal breakers are? My deal breakers are going to be very different from everybody else’s here are deal breakers and that’s okay. But you’ve got to know too, sometimes it is okay if a client is seriously out of alignment to be like, yeah, I’m okay with getting fired. There’s been times I’ve had to part ways with clients because they have taken a turn and I’ve been like, and I’m out. And it’s just because they’ve gone too far down a path that I’m like, I, I’m like, I, I’m not going to be able to sleep at night over this. Like, and that to me is I like to be able to sleep. I like sleep a lot.

Kira Hug: The cool thing about what you’re sharing is it also allows copywriters to step into more of a consultant role, which so many of us want to do. We want to show up as a strategist and a partner and not just an order taker. And so this allows us to do that and to present solutions and ideas to say, there are other ways. Let me share some of these other ways we can go about this, which immediately changes the way your client may look at you when they’re working with you.

Maggie Patterson: I think the other thing to just add to that is just remember too, that just because you work, let’s say you work in the online space today, you’re not comfortable with the tactics. You can easily pivot to another thing. At one point, I was doing a lot of copywriting for, for lack of a better word, the seven figure coach set. And I was like, this is not for me. And I promptly pivoted back to working with tech clients because that was my history. And I’m not dealing with those things over there. So you’ve always got options. Sometimes you’re going to have to make a slow pivot out of there and be like, this is not for me. You don’t have to just accept that your clients today are, this is just the way it is.

Michelle Mazur: And I just wanted to say, I love the idea of the copywriter’s role being elevated to consultant, because I think copywriters have a key role to play in changing the industry for the better. So most of us got into business, not because we had an MBA from Harvard. But instead, we got in here because we really love writing. I love communication. I love marketing. Maggie loves service-based businesses. And we got in for that reason. And so we do not have the education on how to persuade or how to do marketing differently. Sometimes we don’t even know what all of our options are for these things. And copywriters can go in and play this unique role and say like, hey, I saw you’re using a lot of scarcity. Have you thought about this, this, and this? And really start that conversation. And they’re in there and they can help change the online industry for the better, like one client at a time by using their influence. And I think that’s a really cool opportunity.

Rob Marsh: Yeah. So I, up until now, we’ve kind of been talking about this sort of at a very high level, you know, 40,000 foot level. I would love to hear some examples of some of the awful stuff, maybe not so awful stuff. Maybe it’s just questionable that you guys have seen. You’ve been like, okay, I need to call that out. I know we’re not naming names, although I’m happy to name them. Happy to name names if you want to, but let’s talk about some of the things that we’ve seen that we’re just like, okay, that’s over the line and it really should be over the line for everybody.

Michelle Mazur: So I’ll go first because one of the things that really bugs me and it is very copywriting related is the program promises I see on websites where it’s like the program name and then add six figures of revenue to your business this year. And I know there is no way that program provider can offer that. There is no way they can promise that to everyone. But that is the promise. And that is a very sexy promise to the recipient. And we’ve gotten to a point where we have been over-promising and under-delivering for far too long. And anytime I see a promise like that, I’m like, oh! People so desperately want to believe that it can be quick, easy, fun, and lucrative. And they see something like that, and they’re like, yeah, this is going to help me get well above six figures. And it’s only $20,000. Like, wow, what a great ROI. And then they go in there, and they realize that the program’s not aligned with them, or it isn’t right for their business model. But it’s the sexy promise that you can’t actually promise, because it’s not in your control. bothers me to no end, because we have seen it. I mean, it’s getting slightly better, but still, it’s like, yeah, Maggie’s like, not really, Michelle. But it’s just, it’s a prime way that people get duped.

Rob Marsh: So if you want six, add six figures to your business, you got to join Michelle’s program.

Maggie Patterson: Michelle’s program is for a billion dollar people.

Rob Marsh: Maggie, what about you?

Maggie Patterson: There’s two that kind of dovetail really nicely with that, and they’re all interrelated, is the income claim marketing. That to me, I am sick to death of it. Whether that be your Instagram bio, your program promise, your how much money, honestly I don’t care how much money you make in your business. I’m lacking so much context for that and it doesn’t tell me anything about what you’re going to do for me as a consumer. So the whole income claim marketing thing, like I will die on that hill Absolutely. Unless someone can literally show me that that is the actual result audited by a third party. And guess what? I’ve yet to see that. Because I go and look.

Kira Hug: Even if they can, it’s like, well, what does that mean to me though, right? It’s like, great, you did that yourself, but how is that relevant to me?

Maggie Patterson: Exactly. So you’re now like, okay, I’ll use you care as an example, Kira saying I made a gazillion dollars, and I help all of my clients make a bajillion dollars, like, it is so empty, and consumers are sick of it. Because I will tell you this, as much as someone is like, this is the way we have to do it. There’s 10 consumers you don’t know about who you just repulsed. that went, I’m out. And closely related with that is testimonials. These completely over the top testimonials that are truly like the top 1% of results that reflect survivorship bias. This is not reality. You need to be using testimonials that reflect the average client result. If you are only ever picking your star clients, you are misleading people. And you have to be really careful with this stuff Because, especially in the U.S. I’m not in the U.S., so I can do whatever I want, I guess. But, you know, the FTC is starting to pay more and more attention to this. Things like income claims without substantiation and proof, like, guaranteed, there are going to be more public proceedings against this. We’re starting to see it, and we will see more and more of it. There needs to be truth and integrity in what you are saying you will do for your clients and what you are able to provide.

Michelle Mazur: Ooh, I have another one I want.

Rob Marsh: Let’s keep going.

Michelle Mazur: I know. I’m all like, oh, I’m fired up now. I can do it so you can do it to type messaging, where people are basing their expertise solely on what worked for them to build their business. So they say they have the proven process to get to six figures because This is what I did to get to six figures and now I’m going to sell it to everyone because it will work for everyone. And then the problem becomes when you don’t have real expertise and your proven process doesn’t work, real experts can adapt, right? We can pivot, we can think, we can be like, let me find out information and adapt this and tailor it to you. But if you’re selling your proven process and you’ve only done it for yourself, That’s all you got. It’s so shallow and there’s so much marketing and I think income claims, luxury lifestyle fit into this where it’s marketing based on envy, which my friend Jay Klaus was talking about. I was like, yes, we see this. They’re like, oh, they can do it. They have this great life. They have these cars. Purses from Chanel and whatever else, oh, and I can do it too if I just follow what they’re saying.” And that is not true and they might not even be able to help you, your type of business, or they might not even be experts in what they say they are, right? So it drives me nuts.

Maggie Patterson: And you know what goes hand in hand with that is this whole invest at all costs message. It’s like the final part of that sale, it’s like I’m going to turn. the screws to you a little, where it’s basically like, if you want this bad enough, you are going to invest. And this is where we see people doing kind of the classic objection handling that just goes too far. Like questions, answer the questions. But when we get into I’m going to handle objections, you’re now infantilizing your client, potential customers and clients. And what we’ve seen a lot of is this is how you can come up with the money. This is if you believe you will get x, y, and z. It’s just so sketchy and scammy and manipulative. And this I think we can all safely say that there is no surefire invest X, get Y at this point. I think we’ve been trying this as an industry for so long. So for me, it is the biggest red flag. If you see someone encouraging you to override your better instincts to shut down your critical thinking and get out your credit card. And this is why I will say to every single person on the planet, if you are ever on a call and someone wants to commit right there with your credit card, please close the Zoom and leave because nothing good is going to happen.

Kira Hug: Yeah, I’ve been on those calls.

Rob Marsh: But I mean, what’s crazy is sometimes like I’ve seen those calls, or have heard people talk, you know, like, you got to get them to have the commitment before they talk to their partner or whatever. But in my experience, if you trust them with the information to talk to their partner, oftentimes the partner becomes your best ally in, if your program works and actually solves the problem that they have, the partner is oftentimes the one that says, you should totally get that if it’s going to do this thing that you want it to do or you need it to do. So I think sometimes that stuff doesn’t just, it’s not just scammy, it backfires.

Maggie Patterson: A hundred percent. When I’m enrolling people into my masterminds, I have people who are like, I want to sign up right now where we’re having the conversation. They’ve been listening to podcasts. interacting on social media, whatever. And they’re like, I want to sign up right now. And I’m like, no, absolutely not. Go away and think about it. I’m going to send you the link and please sign up in 48 hours. If you are still ready, go sleep on it. We should all want this. We should not want people who are showing up who are like, it’s one thing to be keen, but it scares me when someone is that eager because that to me, I’m like, Ooh, is there a little desperation there? I don’t like it.

Michelle Mazur: And for me, I think this goes back to how can you give people agency? How can you give them the information that they need to make a decision? And maybe that is going to have a conversation with their partner or it’s taking a beat. Like I never make a sales decision on a call ever. It is my policy in my business. And so, and I’ve been on those calls where they’re like, well, if you commit right now, I’m like, no, I’m not committing now. I won’t. It’s not how I work and if they can’t like it’s like. Because I want to make sure that the numbers work. I want to make sure that this is the best decision, that I am making it from a place of being solid, that this is a direction I want to go in versus that rush just to get the credit card. So yeah, I’m always like, how can we prioritize people’s agency and give them what they need to make the best decision for their business?

Kira Hug: I think now might be a good time to say people listening might feel called out by these tactics like maybe they’ve done any of them. I know I’ve done many of them. But that’s what I love about your show is that you two are not afraid to say, we’ve done this or I’ve done this previously, like we’re all we’ve all made these mistakes as we’re learning and thinking differently about how to give agency to prospects and market differently. And so I would love to hear from each of you as far as a recent shift you’ve made and how you market or write or operate your business as of maybe the last year because you’re evolving and how you’re thinking about your business.

Maggie Patterson: Hmm, in the last year.

Kira Hug: Maggie, maybe you made all your shifts a couple years ago. I think so. We can go back in time. We can go back in time.

Maggie Patterson: Oh, I mean, I’m very vocal about the fact I 100% have used income claims in the past. And I will say this, when I use them, I had been encouraged to do so by a number of people I was working with at the time, and I was exceptionally uncomfortable. I was just like, this to me is like, as someone with a long marketing career felt, and I thought, oh, this is what I have to do in this industry. And you know what, I decided that was not going to work for me, ultimately, at the end of the day, because I felt so misaligned. I didn’t even want to promote those offers because I felt gross about it. And like, I don’t believe in any way, shape or form that has hurt me to not use income claims. So I stand by that. Does it mean maybe I’m growing a little slower? Sure. I want to grow in a way that I’m here for the long haul. So I will totally admit I have used income claims and don’t feel good about it.

Michelle Mazur: I think for me, one of the shifts that I have made in the past year is like, so I have a community and that community launches. It’s now evergreen, but I’m still doing semi-regular campaigns. And everybody says, oh, you need to do something like a launch event or you’re teaching them something. And then you switch into the pitch, right? And that has always felt terrible to me. You are here to learn something from me, and then I’m going to pitch you. There’s a huge shift in energy from like, ooh, I’m teaching, I’m teaching, I’m teaching, and now I’m selling, selling, selling. It’s a different vibe. And I was like, okay, so how can I not do that? How can I be 100% transparent that what I’m going to be talking about is this offer? So for the Expert Up Club, I offer an open house, which is actually a really good thing because selling a community is very different. It’s a little bit more abstract. So saying like, hey, you can come in. I’m going to show you around, show you the resources. You’ll get to meet some of the people who are part of the community. And then it’s clear from the get-go that this is your opportunity to book a call with me to explore or to join the community. So you get less people to sign up for your open house. But the people who show up actually know you’re selling them something from the get-go. And they tell me, they’re like, oh, yeah, I got a lot out of this. And I’m like, great. I’m glad you learned something. But I’m also glad that I was just very transparent, like, hey, I’m showing you around. Because I feel like that level of transparency and also telling them, like, yeah, I’m showing you around, but then you can apply and then have a call with me to make sure this is the absolute right decision for you. Because I just want to get like, here is your information. If you’re unsure, apply, book a call, we’ll talk about it. Like there’s no pressure here. And I feel like that has been a very successful way to promote it. And it has just felt in alignment, in integrity, instead of that kind of bait and switch feel of like a webinar or a challenge or other events that we can put on.

Rob Marsh: Yeah, I’ve seen that happening almost across the marketing industry over the last few years. I think our friend Brittany McBean pointed it out in 2020. She’s like, look, people are signing up for your webinar. They know you’re going to pitch it at the end. So why hide that? Why not just say it right up front? I’m going to be sharing the program with you. And she talked about how that actually helped, right? Because people there’s there’s no drop off when you make that turn and start to pitch or whatever, because people are expecting it. And it’s just a much more more, uh, it just feels better, I guess, uh, is what I, what I’d say. And, and we’ve seen that I’ve seen that switch almost across the board now where people, uh, tend to begin a webinar, not always, but probably 70% of them that I, that I’ve seen, they start with that kind of a, I’m going to share something with you. One thing I have seen twice though, in the last month with webinars that I just like logged onto to, Oh, I want to see what this is about or whatever people promised state to the end bonuses and did not deliver. Like, like, like, I will be giving away a $200, you know, Amazon card. And like, I didn’t, I wasn’t there. Maybe you just weren’t chosen, Rob. No, no, no. I wasn’t, I wasn’t, I wasn’t, I wasn’t there for the card. Like, that’s not what I was there. But I just, like, I got to the end, and I was like, wait a second, they didn’t give the thing away. And then literally, a different, totally different person, totally different webinar, totally different offer, free offer, whatever. Same thing. They didn’t give the state to the end bonus. And I was like, That’s got to be a mistake, right? That’s not a new thing, but maybe, I don’t know.

Maggie Patterson: Oh, it probably is a new thing. We’ll talk about it on Duped soon.

Michelle Mazur: Yeah. It wouldn’t surprise me if somebody is teaching that and hoping that people forget that you offer the stay to the end bonus. I love the fact that people are being more open about like, yeah, I’m going to be sharing my offer with you because I think the industry needs that because I feel like webinars have a very bad reputation and they aren’t as successful anymore because of the years of be like, I’m going to give you like 10 minutes and then a 50 minute sales pitch. And I think now webinars kind of have this bad rap and people are very skeptical of going and signing up. And I think we’ve seen that people don’t show up, like the show up rate is getting lower and lower.

Maggie Patterson: But it also speaks to the entire thing of like, we need to give our potential customers and clients the benefit of being not just transparent, but knowing they’re smart enough to know that if we’re not transparent, they’re going to go, nope, I’m out. And I think often we forget about that. Like I’ve seen a lot of people talk about marketing like a human. And I’m like, well, are you marketing like a robot instead? Like, This is Michelle’s pet peeve. She doesn’t like it. But I mean, ultimately, like, please be respectful of your audience. And like, give them the benefit of the doubt that they are gonna know what you’re doing. And a common conversation I have—this one cracks me up—this is one of my pet peeves is When people don’t have the price on a program and then you have to apply to find out this, like, don’t waste my time. I am a full adult. I know my budget. Tell me what it is. I don’t want to be persuaded. Like, I’m just like, to me, I’m like, nope. And do you know how many things I would have signed up for if I’d known the price? I assume I just go, no, it’s a scam. And every time I talk about this, people push back and be like, people need to be coached, people do this. And I’m like, no, they don’t. Because what they see is they know how many people applied and then signed up. They don’t see the number of people that aren’t even going to touch it. Because they’re not tracking their metrics that well, I can guarantee it. They don’t know how many people were on that page. So please don’t argue with me about that one, because please just be respectful of your audience. And don’t waste their time. Nobody has time to waste. Make it easy for people, and just be straight up about it.

Michelle Mazur: Especially if it goes back to that transparency and agency and giving people everything they need to know, because if my budget is $2,500 and then I show up on a call and it’s $10K, I’ve wasted my time and I’ve also wasted yours because there is no coaching you can do to get me to cough up $7,500 that I wasn’t planning on spending.

Maggie Patterson: Michelle, that’s a limiting belief. You would be able to come up with that money. I think you should open three more credit cards. Yes, I think you don’t want it bad enough and you need to work on your manifestation skills. Clearly, clearly.

Kira Hug: I want to pivot to NLP because I don’t want to run out of time without talking about a couple hot topics. I mean, you cover so many great topics on your podcast. One is NLP. I’m just interested in your perspectives on it, because I think there is some confusion in the marketplace about it, especially for writers, especially for writers, as far as what’s useful, what’s not useful. So feel free to rant or share your thoughts.

Michelle Mazur: So Dr. Stephen Hassan, he created the BITE model for cult indoctrination. And he talks about the fact that neuro linguistic programming is completely amoral, right? Like it really depends on the practitioner and how they’re using it. You can’t really have informed consent with it. because it’s like embedded in so many things and it’s in so many like copywriting techniques and marketing techniques that people don’t know that you’re messing with their mind and haven’t opted in to that. They can’t consent. So it’s completely amoral and you just have to hope that the person you’re dealing with who is messing with your brain has your best intentions at heart.

Maggie Patterson: And I think what’s interesting is where it shows up in online marketing is everywhere. Some of the most pervasive, most common copywriting techniques that we’ve all been taught are laden with NLP because what’s happened is since the 70s when this was created, which if anyone wants the deep dive, go listen to this episode on duped because we go in the whole history. This has come out of different psychological practices, then moves into being a communications thing. I literally had an NLP practitioner who was a master NLP practitioner on my podcast. She couldn’t explain truly what it was. But it does show up in these things like mirroring, repetitive language, how you’re breaking down objections. So you have to, I think, check in with yourself to be like, Where does this, and I think a really good question for a copywriter is, where does this come from? Let me go Google this. What is the origin of this technique? Because so many of the things are, some are pseudoscience, some are very effective. NLP is very kind of in the middle. We don’t really know what works and what doesn’t because it hasn’t been studied because people who are going to study things don’t really have time for NLP. And that, for me, tells me what I need to know. They’re just NLP. This is for pickup artists and scam artists.

Michelle Mazur: Yeah, the industry like psychology, communication, they don’t really see it as a valid form of inquiry. And they don’t think that NLP has validity. So they don’t want to study it. Because it’s not something you want to stake your career on if you’re an academic.

Rob Marsh: I don’t blame them. I mean, I hear, I see people talking about NLP all the time. And I’m like, that doesn’t feel real. It doesn’t feel like that would work. It feels obvious or over the top oftentimes. So yeah, I don’t blame anybody for looking at it and saying, I’m not interested in looking into that any deeper.

Maggie Patterson: Here’s the funniest part, and this is the two creators of NLP that created it back in the 70s. Eventually, as it became, and it’s baked into so much self-help, eventually they started having a battle. And they had pictured this, the world’s greatest communication system. Guess what? They stopped talking to each other. So if their communication system worked, shouldn’t they have been able to work out their differences?

Kira Hug: They weren’t mirroring each other enough.

Maggie Patterson: Clearly. They messed it up. And I’m sure there’s somebody who’s listening who’s like, NLP, I love it. Great. It’s not for me, and I personally have a lot of issues. But if it’s working for you, bless.

Kira Hug: Maybe the awareness, maybe for writers listening who are not familiar, maybe it’s worth just, like you said, looking into the history, understanding the history, and then understanding some of the principles and tactics just so you’re aware of it, and you can spot it as a consumer, and you can also just be aware of it as a practitioner, whether or not you choose to use it. Okay, let’s talk about parasocial relationships and marketing because that sounds interesting. So I’d love to hear what that is and how that shows up. How can we be aware of it as consumers? And maybe if our role as copywriters play into that, we should also be aware of that side too.

Michelle Mazur: I love this topic because it really goes back to the heart of my communication studies. Parasocial relationships were identified in the 50s by two mass communication researchers. What they were seeing was these one-sided relationships that people were developing with TV characters. It actually got its start in like looking at soap operas and the relationship people had with the characters on soap operas, but have expanded to like journalists and celebrities. And it’s really this feeling like, oh, I really know this person. I like them. I trust them. I’m following them everywhere. And it used to just be this bastion for celebrities, right? Like Taylor Swift. Taylor Swift is a master at developing parasocial relationships. She lets her people in. She publishes parts of her journal. Her song lyrics are really personal. So people feel like, oh my gosh, I really know Taylor. Taylor knows nothing about you, though. And now that we’re in the social media atmosphere where we can follow people or listen to their podcast and we’re in somebody’s ear, people can feel like they know us and they can trust us, which is something we have to be really aware of because they’re going to develop these. There’s nothing you can do to stop a parasocial relationship from developing. It’s just going to happen if you’re doing any kind of marketing. But realizing that when you recommend something, like, oh, the other person on the end who has this relationship with you is going to take that seriously. They have developed that whole no like and trust factor. If you go back to Robert Cialdini’s work, there is familiarity and liking happening, which makes you a very influential and persuasive source of information for them. So there’s nothing ethically wrong with having parasocial relationships. Most of them are kind of fun for a lot of us. Like I have a parasocial relationship with Simon Le Bon that I’ve had since like I was eight. So they’re fine to have, but as consumers, we always have to realize that just because we know, like, and trust someone doesn’t mean that they have our best intentions at heart when they’re selling to us because they don’t know us at all. So how is it possible to have those best intentions for you?

Rob Marsh: And this is why this is why celebrity endorsements work, right? Yes. Yeah.

Maggie Patterson: So if you look at it from the copywriting point of view, I really look at it as you have a responsibility as a copywriter to not lean so hard on the parasocial relationship that’s been developed through content and other means, and using it in a way that you are not creating a situation where there’s an expectation. And here’s a great example, we see this a ton. A lot of the big names, air quotes, in this industry, have very strong personal brands. Then they sell these mastermind programs and people get inside and go, but I don’t get person Y. And what happens is there’s a complete breakdown between they have fostered a parasocial relationship and then in the sales copy, in the sales process, people think they’re going to get that person. They bought it for that person. So how do you ensure that if you’re not If you’re using your personal brand or you’re writing for someone with a personal brand and you’re not going to be the person, how do you create transparency about how the program is structured? Are there additional coaches? What does this actually look like? How much of that person do you get, if anything? If there’s a group call, do you have to apply to have your question answered or do you answer all the questions? Are you actually going to get any attention? Because here’s the thing, people get so frustrated by this because it’s a bait and switch for them because they signed up expecting that person and they walk away deeply disappointed because they aren’t getting anything from the person they thought they had the relationship with. And I think that’s where I see the frustration from people. They’re like, this is not what I signed up for. And it’s because the copy is designed to use that parasocial relationship to get people to buy when it’s not actually flowing into things. Whereas I know in your groups, they get Rob and Kira. In my groups, they get me. In Michelle’s, they get Michelle. So we can, with integrity, have those things. But if you’re not doing those things, you need to be very thoughtful about that. I think as a copywriter, you can influence ensuring that the experience on the sales page matches the experience on the inside.

Michelle Mazur: Yeah, and I think the other interesting thing like thinking about it from a marketing perspective is if you are not going to be a part of the relationship that happens within the program. How do you lift up the other voices that people will be interacting with? So when you get there, you know, these people already exist. You have some type of maybe like a, like a beginning parasocial relationship with them. So it doesn’t feel like a bait and switch, but I do think that is the huge danger of personal brands. It’s like, oh, I feel like I know you and now I get to actually talk to you. Oops, just kidding, you don’t. That is going to cause the parasocial relationship to go south and reputational damage, I would imagine.

Kira Hug: That’s great advice. I think as copywriters, it’s also easy, you know, especially if you’re a newer copywriter, you want to write the sales page or the email copy and you want to sell that offer for your client because you need that testimonial and that win. So I think it’s easy to overlook OK, are we being really transparent here? Are we just trying to sell this expert? Or are we talking about their coaches? So that’s a great reminder for me. As we start to wrap this up, I’m curious if you two, as you’ve spoken up, I know you’ve been speaking up for years. But as you’ve leaned into this topic and going really deep here, what has the feedback been like for the two of you? I don’t want to be I don’t want to be negative and say like there must be a backlash but like how what has been your experience because you’re talking about topics that are triggering for people who because they’ve done it or they’ve made those mistakes or they’ve consumed and bought in this way and they feel shame and so how has that what has that been like?

Michelle Mazur: So I will start because since I am not active on social media, Maggie gets the majority of the negative backlash, whereas I do not because I am not. that I’m not publicly available on social media anymore by choice. And I think for me, the way that I see, and I know Maggie has this experience too, is when I get emails from someone who is like, oh my gosh, I almost bought this program. And then I listened to this episode of Duped and you saved me from making this investment. You saved me this much money. We get multiples of those emails and that feels good because it’s like, Oh, we’re actually making a dent. And I think we’ve And I think the other piece of feedback that I have gotten is that we normalize making these mistakes. And there’s no shame in it. It’s happened to every one of us. Maggie and I included have been duped. So for me, I get to see a lot of the good stuff because I’m not on social media. And I do get to see some of the bad stuff because Maggie shares with me on Voxer things people are saying to her. So I’ll let her cover that.

Maggie Patterson: But I, you know, Michelle, I think there’s one kind of interesting point in between the good and the bad. And it’s not been as much lately, but in the, I would, we’re three years in the first year and a half, we got a lot of feedback that was along the lines of demand. Why aren’t you, why aren’t you naming names? You’re being cowardly. You’re like, there were a lot of people that were really trying to, um, enforce what they wanted. They wanted us to create a podcast that was like a burn book that we were just going to take it all down. And I was like, you’ve got it all wrong. If you think I have the emotional capacity to do that, I do not.

Michelle Mazur: Yeah. Oh, I remember that. That was just like, yeah, they’re like, you have to name names. Otherwise, we don’t know who’s bad. And I’m all like, these people are like whack-a-mole. It’s better for you to be able to spot the patterns than Maggie and I creating a good bad list. Plus there’s no room for redemption and change. Like I do not ever want to label someone publicly because that takes away their opportunity for redemption and change and we also worry about being sued.

Rob Marsh: Well not only that, not everybody is bad in every situation, right? You know, so, so Maggie may make a promise that does not work for me and my business, but that does not mean that it’s not going to work for Kira. And so, you know, or a tactic used in one situation is not necessarily negative in every situation. So let me, I mean, let me give you an example. And this, I, I sort of have some weird feelings about this, but my mom had Alzheimer’s and she passed away a few years ago. When she was first diagnosed, she spent some money buying books about brain training and some nutritional supplements that have no way to help her. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s. She knew that, and yet in purchasing those supplements and those books, it gave her a modicum of hope that lasted for a while so that she could deal with her disease when it first started out. My mom was not poor. She was not in some situation where she was spending money that she needed for medication or something else. I don’t know all of the promises that were made and the things that she said, but she bought something that was probably not going to work for her, but it gave her hope. That to me is okay because that hope has value. Now, in another situation, I think it’s completely wrong. If somebody didn’t have money to afford it or was in a different kind of a situation, then that’s a negative. So I don’t think you can have a good and a bad list. I think it’s very situational. And I think as marketers, we need to approach this from a place where I am only going to sell things that work to the people who it works for. And if we do that, we’re probably going to be okay, even if you are, you know, using scarcity or urgency, you know, in your marketing, because the people that you’re talking to are the people that you can actually help and deliver results for. If you can’t do that, you shouldn’t be in marketing in the first place.

Maggie Patterson: Rob, I totally agree. And I think going back to the whole, like, what is the feedback been is Michelle and I, I like to think we’re doing a pretty good job of straddling the in between of like, we’re not snarkers, we’re not starting snark channels on YouTube or Reddit, like that’s not, I personally bless, I do not want to do that with my time. I know. But also to like, we’re not going to spend our time pretending that things are okay. So there’s got to be a middle ground. And I think for me, the most interesting part of this has always been when I personally got my character called into question, because I’m not calling anyone else’s character into question. But people think the right way to characterize this is people really, even though I continuously say like, I’m talking about patterns here, they become triggered, they react, and they come at me. And I’m very grateful to find a place in my life where I can approach them with a lot of patience and kindness. And I have really good boundaries, and I’m able to shut it down. But for example, every time I talk about upcharges on payment plans, people come at me and I’m like, No, go read the other five hundred thousand zillion comments here about like it’s not just me there’s all these people and you’re the outlier here so please be willing to change and I think for anybody if you’re listening to duped or consuming any type of content where you’re like Oh, I feel attacked. That’s information. And it’s there for you to reflect to say, OK, you know what? Super interesting. Why do I feel that way? And maybe that’s some data that I need to go and prove that versus lashing out. And I think the last part of this is, The most conversation I have seen about this has been on threads in the last little bit. And there is a real pushback against them calling it mean girl marketing. I guess I’m a mean girl suddenly at this point in my life, which is hilarious because I would imply I’m cool. you know, really looking at, like, if there’s all these people trying to negate this experience, maybe there’s something to it.

Kira Hug: Yeah, there’s definitely something to it. And I know that I learned from the episodes I listened to, I always like, I mean, sometimes I can feel attacked. And it’s not you two who are attacking me. It’s just like, Oh, yeah, I didn’t. I did that. I didn’t think about it this way. And I always learn something that I can implement, even if I can’t implement it all right away. It’s just like, you can take one idea and put it into practice. And so I appreciate what you two are doing and the impact that you’re going to make. I know it’s really hard to get that blowback. Thank you for doing it. For our listeners who want to learn more about duped or learn more about what the two of you are doing in your businesses, where should they go?

Michelle Mazur: Well, you can go to for all things Duped. We’re in every podcast player everywhere, so subscribe. if you are interested in hearing these conversations. Maggie and I both have podcasts that support the other side, because this is consumer advocacy, so we’re not going to be talking about business models or how to market. If you want to learn more about how to market in a way that is aligned with your values, you can listen to my podcast, which is Make Marketing Suck Less. It is particularly for solo business owners who are juggling all the demands of client delivery and sales and marketing, and they’re really struggling to get the word out about what they do. Maggie, tell us about your podcast.

Maggie Patterson: It’s the BS Free Service Business Show. It’s for freelancers, consultants, creatives, and agency owners. Yeah, that’s a mouthful. And really talking about that journey of staying as a service business, because so much of the conversation is always like, you should stop doing services. You need a program. And I’m like, no, you don’t. You could just do more consulting, sell strategy. Oh, guess what? You don’t have to have an agency. Kind of challenging a lot of the conventional teachings of don’t trade time for dollars culture. And that’s everywhere the podcasts are on the internet.

Rob Marsh: Awesome. Thanks guys for joining us. We appreciate it.

Maggie Patterson: Thank you. Thanks for having us. Yeah. Thank you.Rob Marsh: Okay, that’s the end of our interview.

Rob Marsh: I usually end the podcast with a few observations related to what we talked about on the episode. Today I want to be clear. All four of us on this podcast love marketing. It’s become common for some in our industry to criticize the use of things like a deadline timer or social proof or tactics like open loops to keep readers engaged. They often call it bro marketing or something similar.

Let’s be clear. Tactics are not good or evil. There is a place for all of them. It all comes down to how you use them. If you are decieving readers, that’s not good even if your product can help them. Manipulation doesn’t belong in a copywriter’s tool box, even if the product or service you offer delivers a result. We need to respect our customers. Trust them to know what’s best for them. Help give them the information they need to make wise decisions. And be okay with it when they don’t.

It’s funny, I’ve even seen a few people who claim to be ethical or some other watchword to communicate they are above using these tactics, turn around and use the same ideas they criticize when others use them. 

I love marketing. I’m here to defend it. It is an effective tool set that helps people with problems find the solutions that change their lives. That’s something we can all be proud of. So keep your customer’s best interests at heart. Don’t take advantage. Don’t do things that benefit you but not them. 

This thing we do is a superpower. But the thing about super powers is they can be used for good or evil. Use yours for good.

Thanks again to maggie and Michelle for joining us to chat about ethics in marketing. If you want to go even deeper, we recommend you check out their podcast, Duped wherever you listen to podcasts.

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