So Your Mom Has Cancer. Who Cares?

Now, when I first started really working to build my mailing list, getting added to those Skype rooms was really a mindblowing experience. It was an IN, because I’d spent all that time thinking that frickin’ WarriorForum was the center of the internet universe…


warrior forum

 “Which, for better or for worse, a huge portion of the WF is no-hopers whining about their problem of the day. Who needs it?”

Instead I was getting something different – people who actually had a real business were talking, giving useful services that would give me more leads, more sales, et cetera. Instead I got a lot… and I mean a whole lot of this:

>* 100 – A ZILLION CLICKS AVAILABLE NOW!* <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
<(dancing stick figure here) 35 cents a click (dancing stick figure here)
Amazing reviews, immediate delivery IMMEDIATE delivery!
Overdelivery + Special Discount Available!
PM me for details.

I’m not *knocking* it, if you’re looking to build your list through paid ads you NEED a resource like this.

But there isn’t much content in this room, so over the weeks, you realize that you’re looking at a long long stream of advertisements and eventually stick the room on mute until you’re ready to buy.

But a semi-rare content post last week (and the posts that resulted) got under my skin.

Now, I’m not going to be specific about who this guy was, because even though he posted it in a semi-public venue there’s no saying whether he wants his life blasted like that.

But a member of the room says that his mother has got cancer. She’s got a few hours to live, and they’re making funeral arrangements and spending every last moment they can with her.

Now obviously, on the internet, everything explodes if you’re away from the PC for a couple of days – especially in the email marketing world, where you need to deliver clicks by such and such a day.

So the tone of the message was, hey if anybody asks, this is where I’m at.

But the room mostly rolled on past – a couple people threw out some sympathies because this guy had been a long time member and one of the few people who posted valuable content, but for the most part, everybody rolled on, posting their SWEET SOLO DEALS in the middle of all this dialogue.

Really jarring, really tacky. Much outrage was had by the veteran members, of course.

So Who Cares, Really?

who cares

“Nope. Not me.”

Here’s my bad guy moment, and feel free to yell at me in the comments: there’s nothing inherently wrong with ignoring someone in that situation. Obviously, stopping for twenty seconds to think about somebody in that situation, to put yourself in his place, and to try and say something that will give some small amount of comfort makes you a mensch, a class act.

But there’s a legit school of thought that if you don’t know the guy, you should keep it moving and focus on yourself.

That’s because if you swivel your neck in the IM world, you WILL see into a sad story of desperation, and the average person’s got their own problems to deal with. People are not as empathic as you want them to be, they don’t care about the beautiful butterfly you are on the inside unless it’s manifested as something that can help them (seriously, read the hell out of Cracked’s “Six Harsh Truths That Will Make You A Better Person” if you haven’t)…

Making it as an entrepreneur requires extreme focus. You don’t have the time or energy to act for everyone who needs help, or to even convey your sympathies to every stranger that needs it.

Anyone who has had any significant success realizes at some point that you will HAVE to say no, ignore some people, and put your blinders on…

But still, it feels icky, doesn’t it? A guy has a problem and we don’t spend twenty seconds to express some sympathy?

Empathy And Communities

So, fair enough: it’s impractical for us to feel empathy for everyone in the world, but we know that giving a damn about what we do and giving value to others doesn’t just feel good – it’s good business.

So who do we feel empathy for?

Well, ourselves. The people we’re in relationships with. Relatives, close friends. And, hopefully, people in our communities.

Communities online or offline are an amazing way to work together, to give to others, and to hopefully get a helping hand when you need it. The value in working with a group isn’t just material, it’s emotional.

Nobody is motivated all the time. Have you ever been in a relationship where nobody is sad or depressed at the same time? If so, you know how another person’s needs can impact your emotional state.

In some cases you can join one that already exists and start contributing, and in other cases you have to make your own community.

But when you join or develop a community, it’s your responsibility that it STAYS a community and isn’t transformed into a resource or a billboard.

If your community becomes a place where everybody comes to *take* – by posting an ad for their services 3 times a day, for example…

Then you might get more popular, because everybody loves to post an ad for their service… or ask for help… or suck up goodies… but you’ll lose the community spirit.

Do You Treat Your Business A Resource Or A Community?

I think that’s why the veterans of this room were so outraged when their fellow member got trampled by a horde of aggressive self-promoters in his hour of need.

There was a disconnect between the way THEY thought of the room (as a community) and the way the public thought of it (as a resource). This disconnect was so jarring that the room owner stopped allowing these advertisements altogether.

But what does any of that mean for you?

Whether you know it or not, you are in the same situation. You ARE forming a community when you start a business, a mailing lit, a Skype room – a community of your customers and your partners. And you have a huge role in how the people involved TREAT that community.

If you treat it like a RESOURCE – filling people’s inboxes with crap, sending out crappy email after crappy email, with those awful subject lines about YOUR PAYPAL MONEYS ARE READY or whatever, making promises that you can’t keep…

You drain your credit, you kill your community spirit, and you make it much less likely that you’ll get support when you really need it.

But what do you care about? Who do you care about? Everybody, nobody or something in between? Tell me what you think about the balance between being practical and being caring (and your personal standards for empathy in marketing) in the comments.


  1. Hey- I confess that I am sometimes insensitive to pleas like what you described above because I am skeptical. If I were to read the comment you did in the skype room I would tend to think that the guy might be making up the story to get something. NOW isn’t that awful? What kind of a person does that? But- when I think about all the too-long drawn out rags to riches stories I have listened to when someone is trying to get me to buy their stuff- I know why I am jaded. The IM community is not known for honesty- many times I feel like it is “anything is fair to make a buck”. I am not proud to be associated with a group of that reputation. I can either whine about it, or do it different to make a difference. I choose to do it different. Thanks for the read- great to think through!

    1. Author

      Hadn’t even thought about that, Gina. I’ve seen some shady “ploy for sympathy” stuff in the IM world, and as depressing as it sounds, it would not be the first time somebody tried (and succeeded) pulling something like that. 🙁

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