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“Pushy” Is A Marketing Excuse. Stop Using It.

"Pushy" Is A Marketing Excuse. Stop Using It.

Scene opens:  You’re at a beachfront lounge, waiting for a friend to arrive.

(Play along with me for this one.  Your task:  To point your finger at the screen the moment you read something that would irritate you.  Simple.)

You’re sitting at a table, enjoying the music.  Enter waiter.

Waiter:  Would you care for a drink?

You:  Oh, no thank you.

Waiter:  We have a new peach beverage – have you tried it yet?

You:  Oh, I haven’t, but I wouldn’t care for one, I’m just waiting for a friend.

Waiter:  But you’ve probably had a long day – you deserve something!

You:  Really, I’m fine.

Waiter:  Would you like to see our drink menu?

You:  No thanks, I’d just like to enjoy the music right now.

Waiter:  How about I bring it just in case you change your mind.

You:  Really, I just want to sit here for now.

Waiter:  Okay, you’re missing out though!  I’ll be back in a few minutes to see if you changed your mind.

Did you put your finger on the screen, and if so – where?

Most of you probably got sick of things by the waiter’s third line (But you’ve had a long day!) or so.  A few of you may have pointed to the second (Have you tried the new peach?), and a few of you may have waited until his fourth or fifth line.

But I’m guessing none of you pointed to the waiter’s first line – “would you care for a drink?” – as irritating.  Am I right?

Why is that?

Because we all know it’s the waiter’s job to ask people if they want something drink.  It’s also their job to spot when someone might be nearing a need for something, and to provide it.

And yes, it’s also their job to make money for the restaurant, and to earn tips.  It’s no secret.  But still, offering the beverage in and of itself is not annoying.  You expect it.

While reading through the comments from De-Lurk Day, something struck me.

Several people said they wanted to market without being ‘pushy.’

Pushy.  An eerily common refrain.

“Where does that word even come from?”  I thought.

We throw it around like we all know what it means.  But do we?

Many small business owners hate marketing because they’re afraid they will turn into that waiter – bugging people endlessly about stuff they don’t want.  And they don’t want to seem desparate, either: please please buy this from meeeeee…..

But really, where did the waiter become pushy?  Probably not asking if the person wanted a drink.  Maybe not even after suggesting a novel alternative that may be more appealing.

No, the waiter didn’t become “pushy” until they continued to occupy that person’s time without permission.

Here’s a quick test to determine whether or not you’re being pushy:


 1) Are you concerned about being pushy?

Pushy people don’t walk around agonizing over whether they’re being pushy or not.  They just push.

Either they do it because that’s their personality and it doesn’t occur to them to do it any other way, or –

It’s completely deliberate.  Because they’re okay with irritating the crap out of 100 people if they discover it makes them 30 sales.  They’ve determined it’s better than timidly reaching 40 people to make 5 sales.  They’re totally fine with that tradeoff.

They don’t get personal and anguished about it.  It’s a business decision – boom, done, moving on.

If you’re concerned about pushing others, you probably aren’t going to employ actual pushy strategies.  The mere fact that you’re worrying about it  takes you far outside the category of truly pushy people.

2) Are you trying to help people solve a problem they have?

Chances are, you do what you do because you believe people need it. 

Now and again, someone truly needs legal services, dog grooming, LASIK vision correction, photography, and lots of other things provided by the good folks who read this blog.

You can solve a problem for that someone.

You probably also do what you do because it touches you in some way, and you want others to have the same feeling.  Even if it’s not a “need” in the way food or water or air are, it’s something that you believe others would be better off having than not.

You’re not pushing junk onto the unsuspecting masses.  You’re there to help.

And if all you do is stand in the corner, scuffing your toes into the carpet pile, whispering about what you do – they’re not going to get that help.

Stop thinking of marketing as marketing.  Start thinking of it as showing someone how you’re going to make their life better.

Because if you do business ‘right’ – that’s exactly what it is.

3) Are you engaging in totally normal activities that let people know you exist?


News flash:  People do not have time to go into the world and evaluate every possible solution to fit their needs.  People take shortcuts.  People need relevant information and reminders.

People EXPECT and NEED you to show up and do the heavy lifting.  They can’t always just come find you.  There’s too much to see.  It’s sure nice when they do come on their own, and some will.  But most people need a reason to come.  Give it to them.

Let’s get concrete for a minute.

Here is an example list of non-pushy activities that people expect you to do:

– Sending an email to them when they opted to be on a list to hear from you.

– At the bottom of every blog post, writing something like “Would you like some _____ for yourself?  Click here and we’ll get started!”  (Because if they reached the end of your post, they obviously thought that it was worth reading, and why not invite them to get a piece of what they clearly enjoyed?)

– Making yourself relevant and visible on Google, Pinterest, etc – wherever they tend to look for what you offer.

– Partnering with a local business with similar clientele and allowing that biz owner to share news of a cool new service their people may be interested in

– Ending a pitch email with “I’ll check in with you at the end of the week to see if you have any questions” – and following up with them.  Because life is busy.  And people need occasional, timely reminders.  How often have you forgotten to do something you meant to do?  Yeah.  Them too.

– Posting a before-and-after (photos of an undecorated/decorated room, a story about someone before/after they hired you, etc.) and asking if people are interested in having _____ transformed in ____ days, with a link to your booking page.

– Asking someone to pass on your info to any friends of theirs who may also benefit from your _____.

All of these things do not qualify as “continuing to occupy someone’s time after they’ve asked you to stop.”  Really, they don’t.  They’re just the waiter offering someone a drink.

“But but but”I can hear some of you racing to say – “I’ve TRIED _____, and no one responded, so isn’t it annoying if I keep marketing when no one replies?”

Nope.  It isn’t.

Maybe the right person isn’t tuned into the channel you used.  Maybe your message didn’t adequately show them how you can solve their problem.  Maybe they logged out at 7pm and you posted at 8pm.  Maybe your email got filtered into their junk mail.  Maybe they were tired when they read it.  Maybe your writing didn’t get them to keep reading.

More to the point – you’re not being annoying because they don’t have to listen if they don’t want to. 

You’re not actually holding them hostage at a restaurant table.  They can unsubscribe from your email list, unfollow you on Facebook or Pinterest, ignore the business owner’s mention of you, etc.  Unless you repeatedly jam the same channel in a short period of time, you’re fine.

It’s okay to keep trying.  That’s not inherently pushy.

Just for comparison, here’s a list of actual pushy things:

– Sending someone 10 emails in a period of 3 days asking if they want X, then snippily texting them “are you not checking your email or what?” when they don’t reply.

– Continuing to contact someone after they’ve asked you to stop (think: our persistent waiter by the time he gets to “Would you like to see our drink menu?” above).

– Talking over people when they’re trying to politely decline.

– Morphing into a corporate salesperson (the kind with overwhitened teeth and false enthusiasm) instead of just talking like a normal human being.

– Guilting someone into hiring you (“but I hired you to do my windows!!” kind of thing).

– Anything that involves a complete bait-and-switch (“I know I said I’d have you all over for a movie night, but here’s a thirty minute pitch for my new ______” instead.)  Note:  This differs from providing people with actual cool free things, then soft pitching at the end.

– Pretty much being a repetitive, conversation-hijacking, annoying jerk.  Which I think we’ve established you aren’t.

So – are your planned marketing activities more like the first list, or the second list?

If the first – congratulations!  You aren’t pushy!  Get back to it.

If the second – congratulations!  You’d fit in well at Comcast!  But should probably re-examine your strategies if you’re a small business.


One last piece of cold, hard, but loving truth for you:

If you find yourself avoiding marketing because it’s “pushy,” it’s probably emotional self-defense rather than actual fact.

We tend to hate unfamiliar things, particularly stepping into new roles where we are unsure whether we will succeed.  We would rather sit around and not pursue success if the risk of failure seems too awful and embarrassing.

We also self-handicap.  It’s safer to call marketing “pushy,” because if we fail we can just say “well I’m not cut out for it because I’m just not a pushy person.”

It’s emotionally more comfortable to dismiss marketing as a negative thing you’re not meant to do than to admit that you just need to practice, tweak this, learn that, try again.

It’s easier to say “marketing is pushy and I hate it” than to live with the cognitive dissonance that it’s actually a good thing that helps people solve their problems…and you’re just not doing it.

The best way to stop falling for this self-handicap?

Create something so exciting and problem-solving and client-serving that you really can’t help but talk about it.

You may still not enjoy marketing, but it will feel 98% less pushy when you’re so excited that people *not* finding out about it seems like a tragedy.

Then grab that first list of activities and be off with you.



Keep reading:


  1. Monisha on August 7, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    Thank you for this eye-opening post! While I don’t do the things you have mentioned in the list of “actual pushy things”. I have sometimes said “I am marketing and pushing, but no one responds”. thanks for listing out potential reasons as to why there were no responses.
    I’m definitely going to go back to the marketing I did where no one responded and re-assess. Could be timing, my message was not clear, etc.


  2. Julie on August 13, 2014 at 4:23 am

    This is–you are–brilliant! I haven’t had the obvious thought about being pushy, but I definitely recognize that it’s in the back of my mind with my hesitations about marketing. Thank you so much for this much-needed realistic perspective!

  3. Matthew Donovan on August 19, 2014 at 9:13 pm

    First off, I’m signing up. You’ve hooked me in the first post I bothered to read. I seriously have never looked at it this way, so careful to consider what other people might think, or that they might be so offended instantly, or felt as though I was being pushy, yeah that word… I hear it all the time, people use it constantly. I never gave that much thought til I read this, and now I’m not so concerned, you’re RIGHT. People can close what they don’t want to see. Nobody has tied them to a chair and made them read, or listen. (Or maybe they have, but that’s neither here nor there) 🙂
    Point is, there’s so much more to be looked at, like the wording used, the tone, the ability to help someone find something they are already looking for. I can’t thank you enough for opening my eyes.

  4. Elisa on October 21, 2014 at 11:55 pm

    Thank you for a fascinating and informative post. Just shared it with my professional forum of over 600 people. Serendipitously, we were also talking about marketing.

  5. Alena Belleque (The Homemade Creative) on November 18, 2014 at 12:40 am

    Darn, I missed the sign up! #sadpanda

    This post is GREAT – thank you, thank you, thank you. ? I’ve lived in this new little town on the other side of the country from where I grew up for almost four years now, and for the last six months I’ve tried to attract my first local photography clients, to no avail. I’ve watched friends go to other photographers, and bit back irritation (because they can go to whomever the heck they want, dang it), and just kept trying. I finally got my first family session in September, only to have her not like half the photos because of issues I told her would be a problem in the location she insisted on; I finally saw the last of her (I hope) last week, and it’s totally burned me out on this “job” for the moment. And being “pushy” is a thing for me, because I’m really good at selling people on things, but when it comes to my art I struggle with second guessing my worth as a commodity because I’m having such a hard time getting anyone to pay me to do it, and of course that’s then a vicious cycle, with no one wanting my flavor of photography making me feel anxious about my worth all over again. I think I’ve decided to just take a step back for a bit, work on perfecting some things, and then come back at it in the spring.

  6. Doug on April 13, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    Hi, I didn’t point to any of the waiters remarks but I am pretty relaxed and I usually just let people talk. I let them talk just like the folks that stop by and give me religious pamphlets. Besides it gives them the practice of communicating their message to others and not shutting them down can help boost their confidence to keep trying.

  7. Hark on April 22, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    Hi Jenika great post. I’ve been a lurker for quite a while and finally coming out 🙂 You have a great blog with very helpful content. Thank you for being a valuable resource for new and veteran photographers.

  8. Andrew on July 28, 2016 at 1:18 am

    Great article. Try as I might, I can’t be “pushy” – which is why I suck at sales!
    However, I CAN be friendly, polite and courteous. If I pitch and they so no straight away, I try to make sure they have the full information. THEN if they say no, I let them go. I do that in market research and I do really well.

    There’s a difference between helping someone make an informed decisions and pushing something down their throat when they’ve already said no.

  9. Linda on October 11, 2017 at 1:47 pm

    Thanks so much for the tips. I’m an introvert and I have never wanted to come across as pushy. But after reading this, I see somethings that I need to start doing, like setting up a newsletter signup on my website.

    • Jenika on October 11, 2017 at 2:54 pm

      Yay! Truly, there are people out there who would love to hear from you. I’d go set it up! 😀

  10. Justina on October 11, 2017 at 4:41 pm

    Thanks for this post! I’ve never considered my marketing pushy, however, I have friends who follow my social media feeds who comment that they think my feed has too frequent posts or is “too markety”. I used to care a lot about this but have learned that they are only following me because they are personal friends, and not because they are my target market/niche. I’ve let them know that it’s okay to not follow me, as I have never heard the same types of comments from clients or potential clients.

  11. Vickie on October 16, 2017 at 4:09 am

    Howdy Jenika, THANK YOU so much for this post! I hate sales. I have never been good at it. I am just recently (this year) digging more into the business aspect of my Photography – going from Hobby to Pro! This subject is one of my fears! I don’t ever want to be “pushy” and push clients away – after all, getting them in the first place is hard enough; let alone pushing them into something they don’t want. Right now, I am in the “portfolio” stage, doing sessions for free. I just did my first People and Pets Session today! It was an hour – 16 photos later, client was very happy. He was nervous to begin with and I told him to let me and the camera do all the work for him to just relax and be normal with his dog. It went great! He offered to do things I wouldn’t even know he did with his dog. It went very very well. Now, to get that in a “paying customer.” Lol. Would I be so relaxed? I didn’t try to “sell” him anything because that’s the reason he volunteered to be my model was for my portfolio. This blog helped me to understand more clearly – NOT to think of marketing AS marketing, but as showing someone how you’re going to make their life better. I think I did that with telling him to let my camera and myself do all the hard work for him to just be himself with his dog. I relieved some nervousness. I could have went in to sell my packages, but that’s not why I was there. So, I shook his hand, said “Thank You” and told him what to expect in the next few weeks, and left. I talked to him afterwards and thanked him again.

    I have to learn more about “showing them how I am going to make their life easier.” Thank you!!!

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