If only this guy had been an ethical marketer…

I don’t usually turn to psychopathic killers for marketing inspiration.

But sometimes inspiration comes from where you least expect it.

So let’s get right to some lessons from…


…Charles Manson.

This month marks the 50th anniversary of grisly murders committed by members of Manson’s “family.”

Over the last few weeks, television networks flooded the airwaves with news stories and documentaries about Manson.

I watched some. This is what I learned…

Manson recruited family members by targeting lonely, vulnerable young people.

He wooed them by saying, “I know you. I get you. I feel what you feel.”

One of the women who participated in the murders was interviewed later in prison. She said she fell for Manson after he told her, “We’re ugly.”

If you’re taking notes, the lesson here is not, “Attract prospects by criticizing their appearance.”

The lesson here is about empathy.

Manson said to her, “You’re ugly…just like I am. I know what you’re going through. I share your emotions. I feel your pain. I share your desires.”

As she tells it, she melted into his arms.

Manson demonstrated and then positioned himself as a trusted guide. He said, in effect, I can lead you to fulfill your desires and protect you from pain.

So far, that’s a pretty good template for marketers:

Understand your prospects.
Demonstrate empathy.
Promise to be a guide to fulfill and protect…

…And then deliver a plan that keeps that promise.

For Manson, the plan was to commit grisly murders that would exact revenge on “pigs” and spark a bloody race war.

Bad plan!!! Evil!

Turns out that stabbing and shooting innocents was not the ticket for those lonely, vulnerable young people.

Manson got the “prospect attraction” part right.

But he got the promise fulfillment part wrong. Way wrong!

Thankfully, we’re not psychopaths! We’re ethical marketers.

Like Manson, we should try to understand our prospects. We should demonstrate empathy.

Unlike Manson, we should present a plan that serves the customer, that truly fulfills and protects. This means delivering products and services that improve a customer’s lot.

That’s the way to build a business…

…and to stay out of prison. 

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Tom Ruwitch

Tom Ruwitch is the founder and CEO of Story Power Marketing. For more than 30 years, he has helped businesses grow by delivering powerful stories using a variety of different media.