Reader FL recently tried to get in touch with his favorite
Internet marketing teacher … let’s call this guru Mr. X … with
“I thought: why not reach out and connect with him?” says FL.
“Good luck with that idea – the guy lives behind an electronic
fortress … which is odd given the story he tells about
accessibility in his book.”
The guru in question, Mr. X – a guy I respect professionally and
like personally – is not alone in using the Internet to put
space between him and his readers. A lot of the Internet
marketing gurus, maybe even most of the gurus, do it.
I can’t blame them, and I understand their reasons: these are
busy guys, they make a lot of money, and their time is limited.
But I take the opposite approach: I make myself directly
available to my readers as much as is humanly possible.
My old friend, marketing guru Jeffrey Lant, referred to this as
being the “accessible expert.”
If you’ve ever tried to contact me, you know I promptly answer
all e-mails I receive … and if you call me, it rings the phone
on my desk which I pick up and personally answer.
If you e-mailed me and got no response, it’s almost certainly
because I didn’t see or didn’t get it. I do not ignore my
Being so available to my readers is a deliberate choice on my
part. I am not saying I am right to be so reachable, or that X
and his ilk are wrong to put so much distance between themselves
and their customers.
All I can tell you is that being an “accessible expert” works
better for me for several reasons.
>> First, although I’m pretty busy, perhaps I am not as busy and
in demand as Mr. X. So while keeping the lines of communication
open with my subscribers can sometimes be challenging, it is
certainly manageable. So I do it.
>> Second, my readers like being able to communicate with me
directly and easily. I know, because they tell me so. And my
philosophy is to do, within reason, what my customers want.
>> Third, it’s the way I want to be treated by the marketers I
buy from. I am frustrated by customer-unfriendly voice mail
systems that make it a trial to reach the person I want. And it
irritates me when a marketer shields himself from e-mail
So how accessible do you have to be to please your customers
while still having a private life? Here’s what I recommend:
1-Publish your phone number prominently on your web site and in
your e-mail signature file. Make it easy for people to call you.
2-When your phone rings, answer it, and give the time of day to
people who call.
Full disclosure: I do have caller ID. So when I am on a
copywriting deadline for a client, I may not pick up – and
instead will let your call go to voice mail. But once I’m free
again, I return the call – on my dime.
3-If an e-mail from a customer asks a question which I can
reasonably answer in a minute or two, I answer it – for free. No
4-If an e-email from a customer asks a question that is answered
in one of my publications, I send my correspondent a link to it.
If it’s free, I invite him to download it at no cost. If it
costs money, I suggest he buy it.
5-If a customer asks a question that is complex or requires a
customized answer tailored to his specific situation, I tell him
that to solve the problem for him falls under consulting and
explain the cost.
Regarding point #4, a few of my customers have complained that I
am a money-grubber for telling them to buy an information
product when they ask me a question.
I do not agree with their criticism. If the answer to your
question is clearly articulated and well thought out on page 187
of my book, I assert that it is reasonable and sensible for me
to suggest you buy the book, turn to page 187, and read the
Why should I have to spend my time writing a long e-mail to you
without compensation, when I have already taken time to prepare
the answer for you in advance – and when my book buyers have had
to pay for the same content?
Regarding point #5, one thing that really irks me is that
subscribers who ask me questions clearly requiring customized
analysis by me virtually never offer to pay me for my time and
knowledge. They never bring up money, because they hope and pray
I will be a dupe and just answer without charge.
Unfortunately for me, I have to pay my son’s tuition at
Carnegie-Mellon, and I have only 24 hours in a day, both of
which make me disinclined to work for free. When the guy who
comes to my house to fix my busted washing machine does it for
free, then I will reconsider my position.