How to Dominate Your Niche
Without Apology

image of chess kings

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t recall Leonidas apologizing to the Persian army before battle.

I definitely don’t remember Russell Crowe’s vengeful Maximus sitting down to write a few notes of sincere and profuse regret before he suited up and took out a couple of gladiators.

Do you?

Then why do so many people ask forgiveness right before they actually do something worth doing?

You can see it in the way they write.

Of course, this is just one person’s opinion …

I could be totally wrong about this …

I’m not trying to pretend I’m some kind of expert but …

When I read things like that, it’s like watching Tyler Durden cry.

It’s just not right.

When I think about great, response-focused copywriting, I think about a writer reaching out, grabbing her audience by the collar, and snarling, “Buy my stuff or leave, but make a decision.”

The end.

What are you doing this for?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time for anything but decisions. I don’t post on my blog in order to kill time between flower-arranging and playing bridge. I post on my blog in order to create a response. To attract a certain type of person.

Granted, I definitely piss a lot of people off. There are many of you who probably cringe as you read this. Fair enough.

But if I lie to you to make you like me, what does that make me? A liar, no?

I’d much prefer to make you hate me. Not because I want street cred or because I actually enjoy annoying people, but because in making one person hate me, I make others love me.

Havi Brooks or Michael Port would say I’m rolling out my “red velvet rope.” I’m not just turning people away. I’m forming a bond with other people who are on my wavelength.

It’s this bond that builds tribes, and it’s this bond that builds businesses.

Instead of pandering and trying to sell a little bit of something to everyone, I’m selling a lot of something to a small bunch who believes in what I’m trying to do — my version of 1,000 true fans.

Don’t just sell … lead

To me, leading a tribe means you need to finally accept who you are, to write the truth as you see it, and never apologize for it.

Let’s face it, there are hundreds of thousands of blogs that look just like the next. It’s easy to think that you should do the same, but that’s a fast road to failure.

Readers are begging for someone to not only be different, but to own being different.

Want to lead your own tribe? Don’t show them how to fit in. Show them it’s OK not to.

When they see you’re willing to be first over the wall, they’ll be thrilled to follow you into battle.

In my journeys throughout the blogosphere, I see far too many people concerned about offending someone or possibly even making an enemy.

I’d argue that cowering in the corner just makes you look like everyone else. Which gets you nothing.

So get out there. Be real. Be yourself.

And don’t you dare apologize.

About the Author: Nathan Hangen writes about web entrepreneurship at NathanHangen.com, and about how to bootstrap your business without losing your savings or your sanity at The Bootstrap Sessions. Follow him on Twitter @nhangen.

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Comments

  1. Hey Nathan,

    It all falls down to being BOLD! Running any kind of business you have to be bold and confidence that what you are doing is what folks need. Speak Bold, Write Bold, and Create Bold Videos. I love this post!

    Chat with you later…
    Josh

  2. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t…”

    Irony

    :)

  3. I’ve definitely used some of those statements you’ve listed – It’s not that I’m trying apologize, but simply to let people know that I’m not claiming to know it all or that may way is the right way – I’m a bit quirky and I think people need to know that just because something worked for me doesn’t exactly translate to it working for them.

    I’m prepared to be different and to be bold, and this post will definitely make me think twice about adding those wimpy statements to my blog posts.

    Thanks!

  4. I can smell you style a mile away, Nathan.

    Everyone is playing the cuddle-game online, which results in washing down your core message. The real awesome can only be found on the edges, but 99% don’t even dare to go there.

    I’m glad you do.

  5. Okay. I knew I pretty much messed up by apologizing before. Will never happen again (unless justified).

    Thanks Nathan! Another great post ;)

  6. To hell with popular on with the profits.

    I also major in the “uncomfortable truth” as some fellow third tribers have witnessed.

  7. I LOVE this article!! It is very much on point! It’s also exactly what I needed to hear today. I’m definitely a Nathan Hangen fan now lol. I really appreciate such a great article. Keep ‘em comin’!

  8. Hey Nathan, I know exactly what you’re saying …I like to single out who my product isn’t for on my sales pages and focus on my ideal prospect – I even sometimes explain on the sales page who isn’t going to benefit from buying the product – Powerful when used correctly!

  9. Yea I like what you said there Josh…BOLD!!!

    I think if you’re not being yourself then eventually you’ll forget who you’re pretending to be and you’ll be caught in lies and your reputation will be hurt. And when that happens online I believe you are done.

  10. Nathan

    Awesome article. It was just what I needed to hear. I have actually caught myself taking an apologetic approach when I am trying to be opinionated about a topic. I also noticed in the moment, that I felt like it weakened me.

    I love the mindset you are pushing here. It will help people develop self confidence and worry less about what people are thinking of them.

    Thanks for putting this together.

  11. Mars You make a killer point there too. Good stuff! Some smart people here I say…

  12. I’m sorry I wasn’t more assertive before.

    Seriously..great post, Nathan.

    And great name, Mars. Is that for real, or your version of “Johnny B. Truant”? Either way, it’s a terrific–and impossible-to-forget–brand!

  13. The timing of your post is uncanny. Yesterday someone came to my website and posted on FB, complaining that I’m a know-it-all and therefore evil. Uh, am I supposed to be stupid? The irony is I was also accused of being a liar. Eh?

    I’ve never apologized for who I am or anything I say, and neither should anyone else if they know what they’re doing, why and who they want to connect with. Sure, we’re human and make errors sometimes. But we should never stop being who we are and living our lives, online or otherwise.

  14. I like this. It’s confirmation for me for what I’m about to do with my own sites. Not everyone will be able to related but long gone are the days where I’m writing to just please everyone.

    Good stuff
    Michelle

  15. The purpose of marketing is to get people off the fence. Some get down on *this* side, and some get down on *that* side, but as long as they don’t just sit there like cows watching a train go by, you win.

  16. Love this, Nathan. It’s Marketing 101: choose a target market, and make everything you say or do speak to them. But choosing one group means not choosing another … and you have to be comfortable with that. It’s part of the process.

  17. Blogging means… never having to say sorry :)

    Apologising is even worse than the throat-clearing stuff we still see:

    “I’m writing to you to say…”
    “On this page you can do …”

  18. I totally agree with your position. The unfortunate situation is the mixed signals our society sends. On one hand it preaches being nice, humble, taken a beating for the greater good. It tells you to share all your possessions (financial and intellectual alike) and be obedient. Yet, it only rewards success. And success is not achieved by pleasing everybody or being nice all the time. Success is achieved by leading and pushing forward towards one’s plans without concern of stepping on some toes.

  19. I love the part about being decisive – which leads to standing out and achieving something worthwhile. Reminds me of what Napoleon Hill said in Think and Grow Rich: “Those who reach DECISIONS promptly and definitely know what they want and generally get it. The leaders in every walk of life DECIDE quickly and firmly.” And, “DEFINITENESS OF DECISION always requires courage, sometimes very great courage.”

  20. okay, i am ready for this. be real, lisa. be yourself.

    (but my real self apologizes all OVER the place!)

    aw geez. i’m sunk.

    (sorry.)

  21. @Nathan:

    Funny, I only remember (and like) my K-12 teachers that were hard-asses who forced me to step up my game with stern, no-nonsense words.

  22. This post points out something I’ve been wrangling with myself lately… censoring yourself in your writing (I actually have a post about this coming tomorrow on my blog). When you allow fear or the people around you or society or fill-in-the-blank to hold you back from writing the truth, being who you are and not feeling bad about it for one second, that’s when you run into problems. In your writing and in life.

    I recently realized that I was censoring myself in a big way (holding back on writing about certain things because I didn’t want to upset people, etc). But now I’m totally with you–I am who I am. I do things the way I do things. You either like me or not. Take me as I am or leave me the hell alone. :-)

  23. Never apologize for being who you are or for what you know. You can depart your wisdom and knowledge gracefully and BOLDLY.

  24. Nathan, well said! We have made promotion sound like a dirty word, and we fear the wrath of viral smear campaigns so we tone down our opinions and allow our voices to be diminished. I believe in respect but respecting others must begin with respecting yourself.

  25. Nathan’s flower arranging and bridge playing would both have that lead, follow, or get out of my way zietgist don’t you think? As would his restaurant, doggie day care or nanny training service business…clarity
    gotta love this about him.

  26. Nathan,

    Even though your advice applies to anyone who’s writing for the web, it’s especially true if you’re asking your audience to trust you and take some of what you have to say on faith.

    The second you introduce doubt in their minds as to whether you’re as much of an expert as you say you are, you’ve lost them. Like you said, people are looking to you to lead. So lead them!

  27. I actually think apologizing in some contexts is great — if you colossally screw up, then it’s great to say, “Well, that was a colossal screw-up, how interesting.”

    But apologizing before you’ve even done anything is just sad.

  28. I think it may have something to do with the culture most bloggers were raised into. Either they started out as employees of someone else, conditioned to always ask permission or they grew up seeking approval for everything they did. And sometimes both. And I don’t have anymore time to hang and comment. I have a walk to lead.

  29. I love this! It is so true. We don’t want to come off as arrogant or know-it-all and we don’t want someone to sue us… yet because of that it all gets watered down because we end up not saying anything at all, not committing to anything at all.

    I just read your article after writing a post last night about how bilingualism is NOT a cause of language delay (big topic in my niche) and have been waiting for the backlash. But dang, it felt so good to get my post out there, knowing that addressing this topic head-on can help many families who are silently worrying about it.

    Thank you for the reminder to stay true to our message!

  30. Refreshing blog and a nice timely reminder.
    Many thanks
    Jules

  31. Nathan.

    I love it. Leaders who do not compromise themselves are awesome, and a rare breed these days.

  32. So true, Nathan. Apologizing definitely dulls the edges of whatever you say. I think I’ve said something similar to what you describe once, not because I was apologizing, but because I don’t like people who pretend they know everything and I didn’t want to be one of them. Simple as that, really. But this reminds me to be bold and fearless when I blog. Too many of us are sheepish. Thanks for the wake up call. :)

  33. I personally feel you are writing in apologies in your sentence too such as… ” But if I lie to you to make you like me, what does that make me? A liar, no?” is also the same as… “I’m not trying to pretend I’m some kind of expert but … ”

    Look… I know you are telling us to concentrate in selling the foxes and ignore the dogs, and is good… but human nature when you know you are wrong… sometime an up front apology will solve many trouble as to not give apology.

    I personally think whether or not giving apology to audience is always up to personal-self to think about whether or not he or she should apologize.

    I had seen great marketer like Frank Kern, John Reese and many others… who do use “apologize tactics” in their email to bring in wads of cash.

  34. Lot’s of great replies here I want to get to, but first wanted to reply to Bad.

    @Bad (Can I call you Bad?), I see what you’re saying, and you’re right…partially. The thing is that when you use it as a tactic, you’re not really apologizing, you’re just being clever. The same thing I tried to do here.

    My point is more to do with the overall tone of the writing than line by line analysis. It’s easy tell the difference, but something tells me you knew that already :)

  35. The toughest part for me is really finding who I am and who I am going to be. I’m just starting in this ‘leading’ game. 10 years leading clients.

    Finding and STICKING to who I am is the hardest part.

  36. Nathan–

    As God is my witness, I was finishing up the final thoughts on most recent post, and thought, ‘Good God–here come the naysayers…’ (regarding a therapeutic technique I use). Then I thought ‘F-it. It’s a blog post for God’s sake, nobody’s life will be saved, a child’s belly will not be satiated as a result…’

    Thanks for the unapologetic truth.

  37. Leonidas might not have apologized but he and most of his army was anyway killed by the Persians in Thermopylae. What a role model…

  38. Makes me think of Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. “You won. All right? You came in and you killed them and you took their land. That’s what conquering nations do. That’s what Caesar did, and he’s not going around saying, “I came, I conquered, I felt really bad about it.” The history of the world is not people making friends. You had better weapons, and you massacred them. End of story.”

    As Seth Godin says in “The Dip”- there is a big difference between being number one and number two in any field. You may as well go for it. Be yourself and see what happens!

  39. Yes I have learned that If you don’t apologize, you can make more sales because you will connect to a certain group of people better.

  40. @Mikko, look on the bright side, he’d be dead by now anyway.

    @Laura, Spike is always a good role model, I feel! Well, always a role model worth studying, anyway. ;)

  41. Mikko, you win some, you lose some — people who take action are perfect role models. The only true losers never go into battle at all.

  42. Hey Nathan,

    No more messing about with pussy footing around people. Im here and here to stay.

    This is the best way to think as you cant please everyone there will always be people that will follow you no matter what you do

    Great post

    Glyn

  43. Hear hear !

  44. THANK YOU for saying this! I wholeheartedly agree.

  45. If you’re writing about a subject you feel comfortable with, go for it with no apologies. I occasionally use “in my opinion” to let my readers know that there may be differing views on a subject. ..and it’s okay to disagree with me. That doesn’t stop me from offering my best advice.

    Conversely, if you don’t know jack about your subject…either do your homework or pick a different subject. If you know you’re in over your head, don’t compound the problem by apologizing to your readers for your lack of knowledge.

  46. I’m such a contrarian, so Nathan, I apologize in advance…

    Love your post, just don’t totally agree.

    Big L leadership has it’s place. Great in a blog – people are drawn to someone on fire. Can be way overbearing if overdone in real life.

    I understand, this is about blogs…

    In my niche, a blog is a stepping stone to a real relationship. Alienating anyone off the bat would be counter-productive.

    A velvet rope society is about exclusion as much as inclusion. Easy for newbies to be intimidated by that. I like how accessible Brian, Simone and the rest make Copyblogger.

  47. Mr Dentist,

    Wait…have you seen Brian on Twitter when he’s feeling rowdy? Like myself, he’s not afraid to say what he thinks, regardless of who agrees.

    In real life, it’s just about being real. Dentistry is different, sure, were I a dentist, I’d like to be known as the Dentist with attitude…not just another dude in button down and khaki’s.

    Catherine Caine wrote a great post about this on my blog recently.

    Your last point about exclusion is 100% correct. I’d rather fire an obnoxious customer than let them have access to my happy customers. I think exclusion is a good thing.

  48. George Kuchenmeister :

    That article made do some thinking. Great article!!! For those that don’t agree with me, tough crap!

  49. Don’t be afraid to polarize people not just for writing but for everything.

    Great post!

  50. This post reminds me of my favorite poem: Our Greatest Fear

  51. Very motivational. Crush the competition!!!

  52. Well people are always apologizing, although there’s no reason for it, that’s just kinda polite I suppose. Just be yourself, be brave and go your way with confidence. Good post, makes me to think over a few things.

  53. Nathan, great post!

    I agree with your post completely, and I find the comments you inspired fascinating.

    This all calls to mind one of my favorite quotes, “A confused mind always says no.” If we don’t put our stake in the ground, and if we’re trying to please everyone, we’ll create psychic confusion on the part of our audience. Our unwillingness to take a stand DOES help them make a decision: NO!

    Preemptive apologies – or disclaimers – are extremely disempowering. We’re giving ourselves an “out” by not taking responsibility for our statements. And I understand the desire to soft-shoe a little, to not come across as arrogant. If you want a lead-in, consider: “Here’s what I think,” “In my experience,” “Here’s what’s true for me.” And follow the statement with “What do you think?” which shows you’re open, curious and interested in dialogue.

    Thanks for the well-timed, thought-provoking post!

  54. I agree with your post – But I worry that people are getting the wrong message. This isn’t a blanket approval to be a pain in the neck – or to be a crusty troll just to be provocative.

    I think having a no-holds barred, unabashedly authentic voice works if it actually reflects you and your story. It can be edgy (Malcolm x) or Uplifting (Dr. King). It just needs to be unapologetic.

  55. @Stanford, I think that’s a great point.

    I do very little gladiator-smiting or anything like it in my work, but I have a red velvet rope as much as Nathan does. We all do. Your Malcolm/Dr. King example is right on the money.

  56. Nathan, I see so much yes-speak in blog responses where everyone is trying to be polite and likeable. It’s all “Yes..Wonderful..Yes” then on to the next post. Like Mars said, “everyone’s playing the cuddle game these days.”

    What’s the matter with being provocative? Where’s the passionate debate? Your post was both passionate and provocative, that’s what made it so good. But then all the responses are “Yes..Wonderful..Yes”

    I just had to throw some provocation in.

    P.S. As a dentist I tend to be very authentic but shhh – it’s my secret advantage.

  57. Great job Nathan, right on the money.

    We enjoyed reading this post and decided to include it in today’s DAILY TOP 10 ARTICLE BLOG at bizsuccessdigest.com

    Keep it up man.

  58. When you apologize before making a statement, you’re almost discrediting yourself as being an expert. When clarifying that a statement is one’s opinion and such a person can come off as being non-confident in what they’re saying. When we have a point to make, we should make it boldly.

    Great point, thanks for sharing!!

  59. Hey Nathan, this is why I love reading this blog in general. It really reminded me a lot about Johnny Truant and how we have to express who we are and let this voice come out. And that also means not apologizing or feeling soft for who we are.

    It’s the same old saying, I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to my death the right for you to say it. And that’s exactly what good niche writing should be about. Being able to say what you say because people want to read the voice that leads the tribe.

    And the only good way to get discussions going is to have a little controversy.

  60. Thanks Nathan, for confirming that I’ve been doing it right all along, provoking the displeasure of vested interests and making lots of valued friends.

  61. Couldn’t agree with you more, Nathan.

    I’m too busy to deal with “well this is just my idea” or “do what you want with my suggestion.”

    In both cases I *flush* that person’s comments and move on to someone with the confidence to own and defend their ideas.

  62. Something that’s resonated with me in my writing journey: dont’ hedge.

    In a copy blogger post it’s said, ““Hedging” is when you go out of your way to cover every contingency in an argument.”

    It really does hurt copy. So it should be done at an absolute minimum.

  63. Daaaamn Brother. I may be a woman but I’m feelin some cojones coming on.

    While diplomacy and avoidance of alienation are gamepoints that every Empire Builder wants to be sensitive to, this current world of ‘relationship building amongst the masses’ requires us to cut thru the BS.

    Effectively walking the communicative tightwire is a gift.

  64. Nathan, I love the way you wrote this post. Felt almost like you were shouting at all of us to be bold and non-apologetic.

    Yes, I do agree with you about being non-apologetic. If you believe in your own honest opinions, you should stand by it.

    The same goes for anything that you write on your blog. Nothing to be afraid of if you had not been doing anything wrong.

  65. So, this was funny. There I was reading this article going, HELL YEAH, wondering to myself, “Who is this fantastic gem of a writer?”

    Then I see the byline below.

    Of course it was you.

    In reference to your point, I support it all the way. This also reflects a possible truth about (successful) bloggers: There’s a certain personality necessary in this. Or, at the very least, a willingness to portray that personality, which tends to mean bold, unabashed, truthful, hard-hitting. If you’re a killer writer, then your personality might have less to do with it, but since most bloggers aren’t killer writers, then personality needs to take over where writing skills lack in order to grab the reader by the shirt and say, “Let’s go, baby. You’re mine.”

    Good read, Nathan. Good work.

  66. Ouch. I feel like you’re talking to me. I struggle daily with wanting to be liked and not wanting to hurt anyone’s opinions. I have strong opinions of my own, but find it difficult to always stand by them. Thank you for giving me a little nudge and reminder to be bolder.

  67. Didn’t you just fall into your own trap with your opening statement? (I.e. “correct me if I’m wrong”)Granted not exactly apologetic. Regardless, I wanted to ask you: what planet are you from? Because that was an insanely good piece of writing my friend.

    Clear, concise, to the point, and with a touch (actually several touches) of humor. Great analogies, etc. etc.

    Funny, yet with a sense of gravitas. And who doesn’t love Gravitas.

  68. @Alyson. Like you, I want to be liked, in fact, I often go out of my way to be liked.

    But only on my terms.

    So, although some people dislike, threaten or verbally abuse me for expressing my strongly held convictions, far from deterring me, they only strengthen me. And I’ve grown to enjoy the notoriety. :)

    Like Oscar Wilde once said: The only thing worse than being talked about, is not being talked about.

  69. I’m sorry Nathan but I DON’T AGREE with you.

    You say “Buy my stuff or leave” – well I don’t buy 90% of what you’re saying in this post so should I quietly leave (‘your tribe’) or do you want to benefit from knowing why I don’t agree with you…?

  70. Gary, if you don’t agree with me, then you probably wouldn’t be into much of what I’m offering.

    Of course, I’ll never turn down a chance to learn something, but that’s an interesting way to approach it.

  71. Gary, what makes you so sure that Nathan would benefit from hearing why you don’t agree with him?

    When we listen to everyone, when we take in feedback from people who aren’t right for us and never will be, we just turn our voice into watered-down mashed potatoes.

  72. Ha! Some great comments here…I AGREE with Nathan…although I’m empathic – so I can understand others views easily…I also have a clearly defined personality which appeals to some and not to others…

    too much of our lives has been wasted on worrying about what others think…we have opinions and individuality for a reason…we make good followers for some and good leaders for others…and its about time we owned up to that.

  73. Methinks the man – that’s you Gary – doth protest too much.

  74. First, Gordon & Sonia, what’s wrong with hearing another person’s point of view? I agree. “Feedback from people who aren’t right for us” can lead us from our true selves but how do you know if that person is right for us or not without hearing from them first?

    Nathan (and Brian), don’t get me wrong, this is just my pinion and I could be totally wrong because I’m no expert in knowing the best way to build tribes so I am more than happy to shown where I am wrong…

    I know where you are coming from, Nathan – see end of this comment – but I think that your (and others) ‘damn the lot of you’ attitude might work for you but doesn’t necessarily work for other bloggers.

    And I read this post as advice or rallying call for other bloggers to follow. Is that where I read differently to everyone else?

    Let me explain my thinking…

    1.
    What’s wrong with starting with “Of course, this is just one person’s opinion…”? It IS just one person’s opinion and there WILL be others with different opinions. Your readers aren’t stupid. They know it’s just YOUR opinion but what’s wrong with showing, to your readers, some humility, admitting you don’t have all the answers and that you aren’t a know-it-all, arrogant so-and-so?

    2.
    What’s wrong with starting with “I could be totally wrong about this…”? Guess what – you could be. You aren’t perfect. You aren’t ALWAYS right. Are you saying you start with something like “I am totally right about this. If you don’t agree with me then, sorry, you’re wrong and I don’t want to here your comments. You better leave my tribe immediately.”

    Talking about slamming the door! A blog like this will end up being be a bunch of “Yes, I agree totally with you” readers. BORING!

    What sort of discussion would you have in your comments? BORING!

    What chance have you got attracting new readers – and converting them? Not much – it’s BORING!

    Ok, I went a bit far with the BORING but there would be a fine line between having a blog with true believers and a
    blog where everyone agrees, acts and looks like each other with no stimulating discussion to learn and grow from.

    And yes, I agree that if you’re the ‘supreme leader’ of your tribe then your followers won’t be inspired by you saying “I could be wrong guys but I think we should try storming the castle. Who wants to try first?”.

    Now I’ve forgotten my point…oh yes…if you aren’t sure about what you are writing in your post, and want to encourage readers to offer their opnion then there is NOTHING wrong with admitting you may not be right.

    3.
    What’s wrong with starting with “I’m not trying to pretend I’m some kind of expert but…”? If you aren’t an expert on the subject of your post then you shouldn’t be conning your readers by making them think you are.

    Better to make it know up front so they don’t go thinking you are. See previous point.

    How am I going so far? This is getting a bit long. I’ll press on…

    4.
    Instead of posts that grab you yelling “Buy my stuff or leave, but make a decision” I’d prefer it to say “If you aren’t ready to buy please stay, it’s still cool to hang around ’cause I’ve got some really interesting stuff coming up that I think you might like” (and hopefully make some conversion$ then)? Is that third tribe stuff?

    Also depends on what sort and size of tribe you want to be bothered with I guess. For us beginners, we don’t want to slam the door on any new member – am I right guys?

    Which leads me on to…

    5.
    “Instead of pandering and trying to sell a little bit of something to everyone, I’m selling a lot of something to a small bunch who believes in what I’m trying to do.” Will this business strategy scale? What happens when that handful of true believers leave or have bought enough? Where is your new audience to convert? What big uccessful company just sells one product to a niche market?

    6.
    “I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time for anything but decisions.” I’m slipping this one in just because it sounds like a “I could be wrong but…” thingy.

    7.
    “..to write the truth as you see it, and never apologize for it”. I agree!! Why should you apologize for what YOU think?

    But NEVER apologize?

    If ‘the truth as you saw it’ is shown to be wrong by your readers’ comments and you have lead them up the wrong path then you should apologize. Wouldn’t you get more respect if you admit you’re wrong?

    OK, that’s enough for me.

    Nathen, I KNOW that I am absolutely 100% CORRECT in saying that 90% of your post made me think you’re an arrogant so-and-so peddling a ‘link-bait’ extremism post to get a reaction. Well, you got mine but at the expense of your credibility in my eyes and I cringed when I read your post.

    I think your blog posts
    * http://nathanhangen.com/blog/soul-selling/ and
    *http://nathanhangen.com/blog/write-your-own-story/
    communicated your branding philosophy WAY better and I suggest everyone read those too.

    But, hey, that’s just my opinion. Sorry. If you don’t agree please ignore.

  75. Great post and definitely a subject that needs to be discussed. Apologizing in writing is an excuse to not commit to a position. As Seth Godin writes in Linchpin, criticism is what we fear most (more so than failure). By putting little disclaimers in our writing like “this is just my opinion” we give ourselves license to not stand behind our opinion.

    At the same time, I raise Jennifer Blanchard’s point that sometimes you need to censor if you are writing about a sensitive subject, especially if you are a corporate blogger (one of my roles). There is a post I’ve been dying to write on my business blog (not my corporate client) about PR and corporate bull**** but have held off for now b/c of things happening with one of my clients. So, sometimes we censor.

    As for Sonia’s point, a sincere apology with a purpose can be very powerful. But this is different than disclaimer apologizing. Sincere apologies take ownership of the mistake – the later avoids it.

  76. Talk about timing.

    I clicked on Copyblogger just now after finishing my latest post on something related to the big bang theory (yes the show, not the scientific theory) getting my goat.I might get some grief from readers who are also but I believe in what I have just posted.

    Boldness sells.

  77. Sorry schmorry…..I agree it is better to be loved for the real you than be liked just because you are PC.

  78. Nathan,

    I was just reading this while arranging the last flower in the basket I made during my underwater basket weaving classs… and I thought “wow, this guy’s on to something!”

    It’s so true that if you begin your comments with an apology you are just blowing all of the wind out the sail/sale.

    It’s just like applying for a job and saying “I’m probably no what you are looking for, but…”

    You have to just spit it out in your copy. Your customer gets to vote with their wallet. Yes or no. There is always a sale made. Either you sell them, or they sell you that they don’t want what you’re offering.

    It’s the copywriter’s job to get that decision made as quickly as possible, so that you can move on the person that will make a purchase. If you just worry about pissig people off all the time, you will end up with no customers at all.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  79. Great article; tough on those where such an approach goes against their core values but nevertheless a good lesson in steeling yourself to do what is best not what feels comfortable.

  80. @Mike, great distinction between an actual apology and a disclaimer.

  81. Wow! This just hit a freakin nerve! I’m so glad I got to read that, it’s exactly what I needed to hear right now.

    Thank you!

  82. This is a GREAT post – thank you. When I started my blog I decided just to write in my style, about things I loved, and if people responded, great. The people who liked me would like me. Sometimes it is easy to get swept up in a growing readership and you have to remind yourself to slow down and remember why you started, what makes you unique.

    Thanks for a great read today.

  83. Loving this post. You’re can’t go for the middle of the market anymore. You will be more successful when you clearly define who fits and who doesn’t in your tribe.

  84. Bob Jenkins :

    As a forrmer Marine (is there such a thing as a “former” Marine), the line that jumped out at me was “when they see you’re willing to be first over the wall.” Leading by example. Is there any other truly effective way?

  85. Hi guys,

    I agree with you Nathan, because you should never have to apologies for expressing your views or telling the TRUTH!!!

    Kind regards,
    Sam
    X

  86. okay, really interesting: this post and all the comments made me reflect pretty deeply over the past day or so.

    surprisingly, what suits me is the apology-as-preface, but there is a method to my madness.

    my previous flippant comment aside, i am actually anything BUT humble in real life, and yet the online persona is.

    apropos an earlier post by Johnny, i find that as i build this person, the one I’ve called CheapBohemian, she DOES need to wring her apron, all by way of communicating to her audience without threatening them by her awesome brain power and barrier-breaking Culture Vision™.

    that’s my story, and i am sticking to it.

    again, nathan, great post and a terrific thread.

  87. No whining! Just get out there, be yourself, compete.

  88. Fantastic, fantastic, fantastic post, and even better discussion between Nathan + Gary (+ Sonia + Gordon.)

    If you skip all the comments but somehow see this — I highly recommend reading what Nathan and Gary are saying, it’s awesome.

  89. Thanks Nathan, Gary, Sonia, Jason. You’ve given me plenty to think about. :) (As if I don’t have enough to think about anyway.)

  90. I am going to put some of this into action. There are things that I shouldn’t pussyfoot around. I will make an effort to be more of me in my writing. Thanks!

  91. Great Post Nathan. Keep’em coming…

  92. So true – so true. I like Seth Godin’s take on this as well. If you worry about stuff like this then you end up changing how you write to try to get the few vocal trolls off your back. I say let em go – sometimes goodbye really is a second chance. I am blunt, opinionated, direct and own my opinions. I think it’s the reason I have a large audience. I also think it’s the reason that folks with low self-esteem hate on me so much :)

  93. Actually pissing people off gets them out of your way.

  94. Nathan – thanks for an awesome post!

  95. Bravo!

    …and never let them see you sweat!

  96. Nathan,
    I agree with Stanford Smith. We need to be careful not to encourage pointless provocation and bluntness. Some people are just waiting for that. I wrote a whole post on this using yours as a starting point.

    I think that when writing, people should remember not to mix self-confidence with arrogance. Arrogance creates enemies. Self-confidence shouldn’t.

  97. Gimme a break… Nathan, there’s a big big difference between being a wimp and having humility. Writing what you believe confidently and clearly is one thing, but using caveats isn’t weakness–it’s honoring the reader enough to let them have their own opinions, and being mature enough to recognize that others might disagree with what your stance is. It’s actually encouraging debate and commentary. It’s empowering, not dismissive.

    Writing a blog that is assured and assertive by not demonstrating intelligently placed deference can result in blogging that is presumptuous and domineering. Not acknowledging a reader can disagree results in writing that is dangerously close to “propoganda”–completely one-sided and stilted.

    The heart of what you’ve written is golden, wonderful advice. But it sounds like, in the end, you’re suggesting that a good blog ends up being followed only by the folks that haven’t been alienated already. Is that really a strength? Being a confident writer is one thing, but being bluntly opinionated is potentially offensive.

    Deference isn’t bad–used well it can be encouraging and draw in readers, establishing a sense of community as much as making solid statements and stating personal truths can.

    There’s a difference between saying, “Here’s what I have to offer,” and “Take it or leave it.” One’s pushier than the other. And, honestly, is that the way to write a blog? Let’s push around our readers–yeah, that’s the way to endear them into validating our products or our thoughts or whatever else it is we’re trying to get them to agree with or purchase or do…

  98. If you need a break, take one. You don’t need my permission.

    Michael, I don’t think it’s pointless. It works very well for me, and many others. I’m arrogant, and not afraid to admit it. You have to be to survive in this world.

  99. You are so wrong!
    The customer is always right, period.
    Maybe you think you can offend thousands of potential customers because there is an “endless supply” of them online, but from my 17 years of selling to folks face to face, the world is a small place and customers buy more from people who are nice, polite and know how not to offend.
    They tell their friends what a nice young man I am and that is worth it’s weight in gold.

    Nathan, I am only 35, but you must be younger and have a lot more to learn.

  100. David, what’s your market? Does being vanilla work for you? I spent 3-4 years selling face to face, but that was for a company with it’s own brand and presentation.

    Marketing online is similar, but I represent myself, and I have to create my own positioning. By being me, I get to do that pretty easily. It’s working for me, and it makes marketing more efficient.

    If being known as the “nice young man” works for you, then keep doing it. Sounds like you are dealing with elderly folks. Eventually, you’ll need younger customers…just sayin.

  101. Excellent post–instantly shared with my buddies on both Facebook and Twitter. Practicing apologetics doesn’t work well in any area of life–including business. Well said, thanks!

  102. Great post Nathan, and fantastic discussion everyone, I feel really, really good about it.

    I’ll address the last bits by Michael, Corey, Nathan, etc.

    Highlights from Corey’s post for me:

    “Gimme a break… Nathan, there’s a big big difference between being a wimp and having humility.”

    Awesome Corey, I love this. That is exactly the thing I feel that really sums up all the contradicting opinions here. Though I see it more as a fine, movable line than a “big” difference. Same principle, regardless.

    “The heart of what you’ve written is golden, wonderful advice.”

    This also needed saying, and props to you for saying it.

    Nathan rocks, I know he provides value, whether I agree completely with what he says or not. In fact, often by not-agreeing have I found people evolve, come to consensus, and reach new heights together.

  103. Thank you for this!! =) I really need this and I really need to stop cowering in the corner…

  104. Laura - ShadowCutter :

    I totally agree with this blog post Nathan!

    responses to comments:
    there’s an obvious difference between apologizing when you know you’re wrong, and pre-apologizing/disclaiming when you’re giving a personal opinion or believe you are right.
    there’s also a big difference between arrogance and confidence, and between humility and wimpyness.

    if we’re talking about our individual blogs, then even if it’s our business blog it should go without saying that anything we write (unless we’re sharing someone else’s writing) is our own opinions. That’s what blogs are for. If we begin what everyone already knows is our own, with a silly statement like “this is just my own blog thought”, at least as far as my reactions go it will lead to things like “well duh, you think I’m stupid and didn’t know that?” or just annoyance at meaningless filler and impatience to “get to the point already!” I hate PC-ness and I hate the paralyzing fear of every little possible conflict. If I’m afraid of what people will think then maybe I should stay out of their blogs and forums, but if I’m on MY blog I will write MY thoughts, and if they have different opinions they’re welcome to comment, and if they just don’t like my blog at all they don’t have to read it. It’s absolutely impossible to please everyone and if you keep trying to then no one will be happy with your efforts, especially you. And if you don’t believe in yourself and your work then no one else will.

    I do keep a seperation between my business blog and my personal blog, and don’t just talk about anything and everything in the business one- in case anyone wanted to know. But hey, fashion blogs, and really everything related to fashion, are nothing but people’s opinions anyway, no matter what they’re saying. And I don’t remember ever hearing or reading an apology in a fashion piece, even with “major fashion fails”.

    besides, if I wanted to be just like everyone else then I wouldn’t be making what I’m making, and whatever I did do would be pointless since it would be “just another of those”. I want to be myself, because no one else can be me, and I want you to be yourself and buy my jewelry only if it fits your style. No lies, no pretending, and no apologies just for being who we are. That’s what I’m all about. If you just want “do what everyone else is doing”, go to junior high school.

  105. This is great & straight to the point! Being clear and concise with confidence is so important… Love it or leave it.

  106. Thanks for this post. As Darren Scott Monroe said above, we have to give the “uncomfortable truth.” You have to be confident about your opinion and stance. It’s a hard habit to break but necessary to stop apologizing and start believing in what you write.

  107. Nathan, Thank you for this post. I went on a rant on my blog’s twitter page about having 426 followers but I have almost 2,000 followers. I should have more and no one responds to my tweets. I am working to hard on my blog to have people ignore it. This blog is my last chance as a small business owner. The blog features reviews of anime products, reports current anime news, and hosts Sayuri: The Crescent Wings Saga by Adelai Silver. The story is the heart of my blog. I will write it chapter by chapter and visitors can download it $2.00. I will post the prologue tomorrow, which is free. It will be used to get people to subscribe to the blog. Again, thank you Nathan and all of you making comments to give me the strength to complete the prologue. I need to find the audience that will read my story.