Corbett Barr

Lifestyle Business Weekly

Why Beer is the Most Important Part of Business

Wait, did I say “beer?” I should probably explain.

So I was chatting yesterday with James Chartrand of the excellent Men with Pens about the upcoming relaunch of the Affiliate Marketing for Beginners course.

James mentioned that selling products about marketing doesn’t sit well with certain audiences. I agreed and made some comment about how “marketing” is such a dirty word to some people.

I asked in passing, can we rename marketing to something more appealing?

James (being the consummate wordsmith) came up with this excellent suggestion:

“Beer. Let’s rename it beer.”

Wouldn’t that be great? Everybody likes beer, right?

But most people don’t like marketing. Or, most people don’t like being marketed to. And small business people and freelancers don’t like the idea of having to market or sell something.

It’s completely understandable. Pushy sales tactics and being sold something you don’t really need or care about is a huge turn off. Those experiences we all have and hate end up coloring what we think about marketing in general.

But marketing beer is probably the most important part of building a business, so as a small business owner or freelancer, you can’t afford to ignore it.

Marketing is more than just tactics and promotion. It’s how you care about your customers. It’s the story you tell about your products and your reason for being. It’s the way you make your business stand out in the sea of boring companies and useless products. It’s everything you do to define your business and connect with your audience.

It’s too bad that marketing has such a bad reputation. It can be such a good thing.

So what’s the solution?

Well, we could rename marketing beer, but eventually people would just dislike beer. And that wouldn’t be good. I like beer too much to do that to it.

Instead, what if all of us who engage in marketing but actually care about our customers and the products we’re selling banded together? What if we rose up and stood for what we believe in and spread the word about how marketing can be done right?

And what if as consumers we only patronized the businesses who really care about us and the products they sell? What if those great little companies multiplied and took over the economy and squeezed the sleeze from existence?

That sounds like a world I’d like to live in.

So I’ll vote with my dollars and spread the word about the great little companies who care. When I create and market a product, I’ll try to always put my customer’s interests first.

Are you with me?

This whole thought process started because of the conversations I’ve had with other bloggers about my upcoming course. Because the course is about affiliate marketing, it has a stigma to overcome. Affiliate marketing, like marketing in general, makes people skeptical at first.

But the thing is, affiliate marketing is an important concept that deserves your consideration if you plan to do any business online.

Essentially, affiliate marketing is simply a referral model. When I refer a customer to a business I care about, that business rewards me with a commission.

It’s a way to pay your fans for supporting you. Or to get paid for supporting products you love.

What’s not to like about that? Well, too many “gurus” have pushed too many expensive products with questionable value too many times. And too many gurus have sold expensive courses on affiliate marketing that teach those pushy tactics that you probably hate.

I understand the stigma any course on marketing has to overcome, and that’s why I created an entirely different type of course. This one doesn’t tell you to promote products you haven’t used or don’t love. It doesn’t teach you to use promotional techniques you won’t be proud of just to make a sale.

There’s enough of that garbage in the world already, and I want to set an example for how marketing can be done right.

The Affiliate Marketing for Beginners course comes out next Tuesday, August 10th at 8am PST. I hope you’ll check it out to see if it’s right for you. And if not, that’s totally fine too.

What’s your solution to the disdain for marketing? Do you like beer? Let’s hear about it in the comments.

photo by defekto

Corbett Barr

A weekly curated email of useful links for people interested in lifestyle businesses and independent entrepreneurship.


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It’s Baaaack! The Return of Affiliate Marketing for Beginners


  1. LifeGlutton

    Gary Vaynerchuk has said that the best marketing – I mean beer – strategy is to care. I think he’s on to something, obvious though it seems.

    We all know that a lot of beer strategies are turn-offs. Personally, if you push me, I won’t buy from you. It’s probably better to care about our customers and communities, and only suggest – not push – products and services we use ourselves and can honestly recommend.

    The immediate flow of revenue might not be as strong, but it’ll build long-term. More importantly, it’ll strengthen the bond with our communities rather than compromising it.

    I’m not a fan of beer. Will you mind if I call marketing Caffeine Free Diet Pepsi instead?

    • Caffeine Free Diet Pepsi? Go crazy!

      I’m a big fan of Gary Vaynerchuk’s marketing strategy too. But you’re right, it’s a long-term play.

  2. Good post Corbett. I think that the disdain for marketing is probably fairly prevalent for all the reasons you outlined. That is why I enjoyed reading the book ‘Duct Tape Marketing’. In that book John takes the approach that marketing should be mainly about educating your clients and prospects about your business and products. I think if you focus on educating them, marketing becomes far less slimy to most people. If you educate them on what you do and how you do it, when the time comes that they need the widget you’re selling guess who they look to?

    • That’s a great way to look at it, Jeremy. “Education” is a lot easier than selling. Although you should also make sure your marketing is a conversation (“education” could imply a one-way flow of info).

  3. I like Beer Corbett, but not so much the big names that get advertised on TV, it’s more those fine ales from little breweries that are made with real dedication and purity of purpose – those ales don’t need big advertising budgets because people want to recommend them to their friends and associates – the Internet is no different, good brews get in the news.

  4. Hi Corbett.
    I read that conversation on Twitter between you and James. It made me smile. The resulting blog post is even more smile inducing. Funnily enough, I spent most of my birthday money on ebooks and every single one came recommended (or written!) by someone I’ve already got to know and respect. So am I with you? You bet!

    • Hey El, glad to make you smile. James is awesome. Thanks for your example of how good marketing works. Glad to have you on board.

  5. Well said. Affiliate marketing does have an awful stigma about it, and so does the term internet marketing. To people in the “real world” I refer to it as online business. Its just semantics but for whatever reason different people respond negatively to marketing in general. I find the same was always true about being in sales. I worked in sales for 5 years and when I told people that was my line of work they would be repulsed. If I tell them I’m a creative consultant or an account executive they respond differently but in reality its all the same job.

    • “Creative consultant” is a pretty creative way to say “salesperson.” I can’t imagine you make a lot of friends right off the bat by telling people you’re in sales though.

  6. Have you seen or heard of Mast Brothers chocolate? Those guys are doing it right. They tell a story through their branding. The way they dress. The way they take. The story behind their chocolate (it’s only bean to bar brand in NYC, and they make, process, and package it all by hand). I did a case study on my monday blog post. The video included (done by Scout mag: no affiliation) is amazing.

    I think those guys are really onto something. Telling a story, living the story, and educating through the story is a great three-punch strategy to getting the knockout. And it’s easy. Just be yourself, and produce results. That sells. Always.

    *notice i didn’t even use the word marketing, though I did use brand.

    • Awesome case study, Gianpaolo. Traveling around the world in a wooden sailboat to select cacao beans? It sounds a little extreme, but definitely makes for an interesting brand story. Here’s the post from Gianpaolo for people to check out:

  7. Thanks Corbett! Much appreciated. Yeah. those guys are hard core. I agree that it might be a bit off the deep end, but makes for a great adventure.

  8. Excellent views on marketing. What people are tired of is the constant barrage of interruption marketing. The idea that “Oh let’s just hit them with this product promo so many times that they finally give in and buy.”

    I’m much more likely to support ethical companies and businesses. If we all could unite and do that great things would happen!

    Very cool idea. And yeah, definitely don’t make the beer for marketing switch official. I like beer too much to see if hated on.

  9. Marketing is totally a dirty word. People think it means lies and manipulation. In fact, I think there is a whole post in manipulation and persuasion (sorry, channeling Dale Carnegie for a second there).

    But I totally agree with you and @LifeGlutton – GaryVee is right. If you give a shit about your customers – they’ll know it, so no matter if they buy from you now or later – its still fostering that long term relationship.

    Us Gen-X and Gen-Y people are freaking weird – we can’t really be “pitched at” the same way as the consumers of old. Just talk to us and let us talk back – if your shit is good, we’re totally in – if not, well, you ain’t going to be able to mask it for long…

    Speaking of beer… its always happy hour somewhere (try to say THAT about marketing)… :)

  10. “And small business people and freelancers don’t like the idea of having to market or sell something.”

    This point continues to frustrate me.

    If you’ve got the ‘goods’, shame on you for not trying to sell it and trying to get it into the hands of as many people as possible.

    Everyone tries to do ‘soft-sells’ now-a-days and not-so-coincidently, I never buy. If you feel slimy about selling your product hard then it tells me your product sucks and you’re worried what people think.

    The simple fact is, if you’re selling something through direct sales (information products), you’ve got to ‘booze’ hard. Otherwise people go elsewhere and buy the crap products…then everyone thinks all info-products are sh*t.

    No one will get mad at you for selling them hard if you’ve got a great product.

    (As a slight aside: if you don’t want to be a marketer (beer spokesman), you don’t have to. Find someone to handle that aspect of your business (systematic distribution) and keep creating killer content).

    My peace.

    • Great points, Derek. We can’t all complain about how the crappy products make so many sales if we’re afraid to sell our own stuff.

      • Okay, I gotta get in on this conversation about marketing and hating marketing and selling.

        I’m the author of a book on Marketing for women business owners. It’s all about why women seem to have such a challenge when it comes to marketing and how to have more fun, feel more confident and make more money.

        Women have a whole different set of challenges because growing up we’re given all these messages that to be too “out there” is to be a b*tch and basically be ostracized and judged negatively. And depending on how strong that message was – it seriously impacts women’s ability to pull off a successful sale online or offline.

        On my Facebook page this week I wrote: “Don’t be a hater of marketing and selling. It’s how our economy runs. It’s how your business will succeed. If you hate others who market – you’ll hate yourself when you’re marketing. Be gracious. Even if others aren’t good at it – give ’em credit for trying.”

        I’ve never gotten so many thumbs up from a single comment in the two years since I’ve been on FB.

        Then yesterday I wrote: “Fear of a negative response is the main reason women dislike marketing and selling and hence don’t make as much money. When someone approaches you – how ’bout instead saying, “I’m not really an ideal customer – but I applaud your efforts. Maybe I can figure out a way to refer people to you. Tell me who would be an ideal customer for you.”

        Marketing and selling aren’t rocket science. It’s a fascinating blend of the psychology of buying behavior one customer at a time. The psychology of the seller (who will hold him/herself back rather than risk offending someone they’ll never meet) and the psychology of the buyer. Core values are so much more compelling a reason to buy compared to needs.

        Anyway, I don’t want to get too rambly here – but suffice it to say, you’re ability to market and sell yourself effectively impacts your ability to live your dream and your own excellent adventure.

        • Well said, and I agree completely. When I started “selling” things through this blog, I lost some readers. I had heard it might happen, so I wasn’t too surprised. But still, it takes courage to know that you have to turn some people off to find your right people and customers.

          I think that fear is partly what has led our economy to become so specialized. The people with thick skin do all the selling for everyone else in the company who mostly hide behind a desk all day. Interacting with people and telling them about what you offer can be painful, but it’s also rewarding. If you’re going to be in business for yourself, you have to get comfortable with marketing in some way. You don’t have to be like the “Sham Wow” guy, but you definitely have to offer to help your customers in a meaningful way and communicate it clearly.

          Thanks for the thoughts, Denise.

  11. Clay

    I’m always amused when people claim they never buy when it’s a “hard sell.” Yes, you do.

    I can guarantee everyone reading these comments has bought something when it was “pushed” on them, and a “hard sell”. They just NEEDED that product at the time, so instead of coming off sleazy, it came off as helpful.

    No one claims to like a hard sell, but everyone buys from hard sells… whether they realize it or not.

    I’ve learned to stop trusting what people say… and rely more on their actions.

    • That’s what makes conducting surveys so tricky. You can’t really know until someone takes an action. And then you only know for sure if you have access to the action data or if you witnessed the action yourself. Think about voting polls. They’re often wrong just because people don’t tell the survey taker the truth about who they voted for.

    • Clay, you are so right. On all counts.

      I am not a “hard seller” but I am compelling. I use what I consider an easy series of five questions to sell – I have a 75% closing ratio. I’m consistent and close every time – unless I think a person wouldn’t be an ideal client.

      It always makes me smile when people get up on their high horse about not buying when it’s a strong sell. I’ve seen ’em say that and five minutes later buy when they’re being closed in a strong way.

      You’re right Clay – rely on actions.

  12. Excellent point of view and great, supporting comments.
    I *hate* being hard-sold (or slick-sold). This happened to me yesterday by a gal on the phone. What was supposed to be a 15 second call, leaving my email address to receive some info for my perusal, turned into a live call (first alarm!) with a script-reading, brain-washed robot who asked me over & over again the same questions in different guises. Can’t tell you how many times I tried to break thru the hype and relate that I do, yes, want to see if the product is right for me, but I do not have 15 minutes (and in the end it went on for another 7) of time to answer her inane questions about whether or not I choose to be a loser or a winner.

    Some would say I should have hung up. But I had a morbid curiousity as to how and why this works on some and does not work on others. @RyanRobataille had it directly punctuated:
    “Just talk to us and let us talk back – if your shit is good, we’re totally in – if not, well, you ain’t going to be able to mask it for long…”

    I pride myself on speaking real-world, really useful language to my customers. It often results in additional sales, which is fantastic, but the point is I see them as ‘same as me’…. people who are busy, busy, busy… who really just need some clear-cut answers or problem-solving product, etc. They don’t want me “marketing” to them – they will not drink the koolaid, no matter how its flavored.

    • Jill, I totally understand feeling turned off by the femmebot who plagued you with questions on the phone.

      Marketing and selling traditionally was associated with being interruptive and helping people “uncover” problems they didn’t even realize they have. As Seth Godin wrote about in “Permission Marketing” a few years ago the Internet has shifted the control from the sellers to the customers. Interruptive marketing is more annoying then ever.

      Think about it. We’re interrupted now with cell phones, emails, TweetDeck, Facebook chat and all these other portals vying for our attention. Internet marketing is about choosing what you’ll reply to – rather than the other way around. It makes the ol’ pushy ways of marketing and selling you experienced like a dinosaur from the past.

      (I have no morbid curiousity and ask them to, “Please remove me from your list.” If they don’t there’s an $11,000 fine from the FTC.)

  13. Corbett – I sooooooo appreciate your message about how most people don’t like the idea of learning about marketing or selling, but perhaps for different reasons than you may think.

    I’m the author of a book on marketing for women business owners. It’s all about how women business owners tend to hold back from success when it comes to marketing and selling – and how they can have more fun, feel more confident and make a lot more money. Talk about trying to bring a message to people who need it but don’t want to hear it.

    Women have all this “conditioning” about “getting out there” that’s all wrapped around being “a nice girl” and waiting for others to reach out for us – rather than the other way around. It worked in the past in our personal lives but generally spells disaster for a business owner. It’s like they have one foot in their grandma’s generation and the other foot in 2010 where they must take care of the bills, mortgage, etc.

    Despite the resistance I encountered I successfully sold my book in 15 countries and made it a business bestseller. I also leveraged the book getting a lot of speaking engagements, consulting clients, etc., etc. Even with the resistance it’s been good, albeit, a challenging ride.

    Onward and upward. I’m now phasing into a lifestyle re-design ala sort of a combination of “The 4-hour Work Week” and “Crush It.” My blog, “Your Excellent Adventure” is gradually getting noticed. My aim is to do a lot more writing (my first love) and a lot more travel.

    Pushing a message people NEED to hear but they don’t WANT to hear it – I’m moving away from that. Awfully frustrating. Though I still don’t get how there can be sooooooo much mis-information about marketing and selling as such an awful thing. It’s what keeps our economy going, folks. It’s what keeps a roof over your head and food in your tummy if you own your own business. Nothing else.

    My book still sells online and offline – but I’m getting more closely aligned with my passion since I was a girl of eight. More writing and more travel. I don’t mind selling – I’m actually very good at it. I’m getting close to saying “enough” of selling other people on the notion that they need to learn how to sell. Hope that makes sense. *smile*

    All the best,

    Denise Michaels

  14. Hey, Corbett

    The concept of changing the meaning of marketing into (beer) will be an awesome thing to do, because it can become the new language of the net.

    Twisting words to make them more unique. Wow..wish I would have thought of this first.

    So let me get back to my marketing..Sorry – I mean Beer

    “TrafficColeman “Signing Off”

  15. I’m reading this while staying in a village in the Czech countryside where the only thing available is beer. I kid you not – there is one pub in town and that’s all they serve. So, the title of this really make me laugh – the Czechs would agree with you at face value.

    I have to admit that it’s taken me a while to get over the stigma of marketing and especially affiliate marketing. But, if something works well for us, why not refer other people to it and benefit in the process? That’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.

    • How’s the Czech countryside in general? I’ve never been, but I have some ancestry from there. Sounds nice anyway. Cheers ;)

      • It’s super peaceful in the Czech countryside – time seems to have stopped for a bit. The villages here are farming oriented and people are friendly. We are staying in a converted schoolhouse from 1900 – it’s really an ideal place to write and relax.

  16. I never thought that beer could be a better way to put it, but I guess it sounds better to most people who had traumatic experience with marketers. Hmm, this picture is very familiar, and I guess it has become a pandemic scene. How many businesses can be trusted these days? With all the emerging companies, we, consumers, are laid with so many choices to pick from. There’s no other way of telling which one of them really cares but to try them all out. Since resources are very limited, we tend to go for the biggest and brightest stars in the market – the bigger companies. But bigger doesn’t always mean better. It just doesn’t follow. Or does it in the marketing world?

    With the idea of affiliate marketing, the smaller markets are given more avenues to reach their loved consumers. But why do they exist despite the giants in the industry? I am thinking that there are still a lot of us out there who are wise buyers. Many of these small businesses are thriving in the big wide ocean because they care. How else can they survive if they won’t? Nobody would bother to patronize small-time businesses if they don’t have the component that consumers are looking for – genuine concern. I hope that more consumers discover more about these tiny stars. Knowing that marketing can have a heart is a great relief.

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