Why shortcuts don’t work

Why wouldn’t you take a shortcut? It’s an offer to get you where you want to go, but quicker, better, cheaper, and so on. Tempting, right?

And there’s no shortage of shortcuts available on the market – get rich quick, achieve enlightenment fast, earn a $million by next Wednesday…

For anyone contemplating something new or outside of their comfort zone, a shortcut looks even more attractive. Less time feeling uncomfortable. Less time ‘at risk’. Easier to roll it back if it doesn’t work out.

So, why am I telling you that shortcuts don’t work?

Is it speed and ease people want? Or certainty?

Most people with a clear goal in mind don’t want a shortcut. What they really want is to achieve their goal, get to their destination. If the longer route offers certainty, most people would prefer to take it because they can be more certain of getting to where they want to be.

But if they’re ‘looking at the map’ on their own, that shortcut is going to look very attractive. Especially if they don’t have anyone to point out the safer route.

What most people really need is a guide. They’re looking for someone they can trust to go on the journey with them, to get them where they want to go.

Selling snake oil is easy

If all you want is sales, it’s easy to sell shortcuts. You can take advantage of people all day long, selling them what they think they want: a quicker fix.

All you have to do is forgo your integrity and you can make a lot of money in this way. But like the snake oil sellers of the past, you’ll need to pack up and move on before people realise what they bought wasn’t what they wanted (or really needed).

It’s also easy to sell the longer journey. People are usually ready to buy certainty. By building trust and showing people the path to their destination, most people who really want to get there will sign up.

This is where effective and ethical marketing comes in.

Don’t sell snake oil, sell the journey

The key is to establish yourself as the guide.

There are two ways in which marketing can help you do this.

  1. You can show people looking for shortcuts that there is another path. That path goes where they want to go, and you have travelled it before and can show them the way.
  2. You can show people haven’t even started looking for shortcuts what destinations they might like to consider.

Marketing to those in group #1 is a lot easier because they’re already looking for a solution. After 20 years of marketing, it still baffles me that people don’t focus on this group first.

Speaking to people in group #1, you simply need to answer the three questions they have.

  • Who does this person work with?
  • What do they work with them on?


  • Why can I trust them to guide me?

A lot of marketing advice is focused on how to sell destinations, not journeys. And if you’re not selling the value of the journey, you’re encouraging people to think of shortcuts.

With coaching and consulting, you know that there is no shortcut. So we need to focus on marketing the journey.

Happily, this also appeals to people in group #2. By talking about the journey and some of the things they’ll work on (with you) along the way, you will grab the attention of people who are not yet looking, as well as those who are.

They hear you talking about the start, middle and end of the journey and think, “That sounds like what I’m looking for!” (Or, at least, the people you want to work with will think that.)

To establish yourself as a guide, you can create a 3-step marketing plan using the free template and guidance on my website.

But… Everyone else is offering a shortcut!

Shortcuts are tempting, remember? You need to know how to compete.

If you are only selling a destination and not a journey then the shortcut will always be the more attractive offer.

If, however, the destination means little without the journey, without the time and thought it takes to get there, then you can show those who are ready to do the work that this is a better path to follow (and possibly, the only path).

There will always be people who’ll take the longer path to somewhere over the shorter path to nowhere

Some people need to try the shortcut and find it doesn’t lead anywhere before they are ready to take the longer route. And sometimes you need to accept that.

My book and this blog is me doing just that. I’m offering a different perspective on marketing with no shortcuts. So I don’t have thousands of clients. I don’t sell millions of copies of my book.

But I do connect with people who are looking to do things differently. Often people find me because what they’ve tried hasn’t worked. Now they’re looking for the longer path that leads them to where they feel the need to be.

Be a guide to somewhere

If you want to establish yourself as the guide and market what you do in a way that connects you with people who feel ready to work with you, check out my book Reframing Marketing – it’s all in there, step by step. I also send out a weekly email with some Monday Marketing Motivation; sign up below if that’s how you’d like to start your week.