Building trust is more important than making the sale.

The next time you hear someone tell you that a marketing or conversion tactic “works”… ask this question:

“OK, it might work to convert 10% of the audience… but does it build trust with the other 90%… or does it feel salesy to them?”

Years ago, I used to care only about the small percentage of my audience who converted — I was all about the sale, getting the transaction. The rest of the audience? I thought of them as “illusory clients” or “tire kickers”.

I used to prioritize my own profit timelines, rather than the organic, decision-making process of my audience. I wanted them to buy my program “by the end of this webinar!” or “within 48 hours!” and so I dangled ridiculous incentives, and used “powerful” scarcity tactics to convert the few… yet turned off much of the audience by these pressure tactics.

This is called “being salesy.”

Back then, I wasn’t wise about the long-term effects of word-of-mouth marketing and building a brand… and doing what my heart was asking me to do.

Why did I keep doing what felt “off” for years? Because it “worked”. I was making money.

This reminds me of this quote, featured in the movie An Inconvenient Truth:

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” — Upton Sinclair

A lot of marketers and “growth hackers” mistakenly believe this — Who cares about attention and vanity metrics such as social media views, comments and shares? We want sales, period! Do whatever is needed — hyped-up promises, false scarcity, pressure tactics. By any means necessary, “get” people to buy.

Just because something is legal and “works” to make lots of money, doesn’t make it the right thing to do.

With deep awareness and care for long-term well-being, one comes to realize that doing the right thing is always the right thing.

In other words:

The relationship is more important than the transaction.

Building trust is more important than making the sale.

What I used to do was focus on persuading the 10%, even if I turned off the 90%.

But then I found myself having to launch again, and again, and again… quarter after quarter, year after year, in order to make enough sales.

One day I woke up and realized that I hadn’t built anything long-term.

By using the typical internet marketing strategies — fake, uncaring “marketing funnels” and pressure-driven sales, I had not built the real asset in business — a long-term trusting relationship with my audience… true fans who open my emails and love spreading the word because they love my work, not just as affiliates who are getting paid to do so.

If you haven’t generated real loyalty and true word of mouth, you will have to exhaustingly launch again and again, forever, always using persuasion tactics that annoy your audience rather than build trust, always concerned about the sale now, rather than long-term reputation.

The Challenge of Doing What’s Right

Doing what feels right is at first challenging to the external metrics. Prioritizing relationship and reputation requires patience. It calls you to care more for your audience than your competitors are willing to.

If you are willing to step into that calling, everyone ultimately benefits:

Your audience is truly served.

You grow in ways that matter deeply.

Your industry gets a better reputation because of you.

Focusing on relationship, trust, and reputation takes more time than making short-term launches with pressure tactics. This is why most marketers and businesses don’t do this.

They complain that generosity and brand-building appear to have less predictable ROI.

But the reality is that short-term conversion tactics are often failures anyway. We are sold on marketing/sales strategies that claim: “If you do this, you can calculate 10% of conversions.” But it almost always fails anyway.

(Interestingly, being calculating is also the opposite of authentic connection in relationships.)

And yet, if we are willing to think more “macro”, more long-term, to zoom out on our timeline above the current campaign, or this quarter’s numbers… if we are willing to look at the horizon in years, the reality (that I’ve seen) is that generosity and reputation-building are actually a better bet for sales.

If you are willing to prioritize patience and love, it can be worthwhile even for business results.

Over time, with excellent reputation, you eliminate the need to sell. Ideal clients hear great things about you, and you only need to “whisper” your offerings (rather than resort to persuasion and tacky marketing) — and when they are ready, they buy from you, because they already trust you before you made your offer.

Focus on the sales, and you build a reputation for being salesy. Focus on trust, and you make sales easier over time.

The Golden Rule, translated for marketing:

Observe what marketing makes you feel good, makes you want to spread the word. In your own way, emulate the heart of that marketing.​

Originally published at



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George Kao

Authentic Business Coach & Author of 4 Books including "Authentic Content Marketing" and "Joyful Productivity"