Small Business Marketing Tip: Capitalize on the Tumbsuckers

By: Dan Kennedy on: October 15th, 2009 10 Comments

The Today Show featured a story on “mother-daughter bonding boot camp”, a group therapy business, where mother-daughter pairs pay to go and share stories, light candles, play games and work out their angst with 100 or so other mother-daughter pairs.


The last night they roast marshmallows; the final morning they light candles and say one meaningful word to each other.
The same day CNN carried a story about the newest, most pathetic trend: parents, predominately mothers, going with their college age and college grad children to their job interviews, waiting in the waiting rooms or, when possible even going into the interview with them and answering questions on their behalf.

I have previously written elsewhere about the popularity in particularly affluent communities of “baby sleep coaches” who camp out in the home to “coach” mommies on getting their babies to sleep.

“Thumb-sucking dependency” (the polar opposite of the virtue I celebrate: self-reliance) isn’t new in America. It’s just increasingly dominant.

It started its rise in the 60’s and hasn’t slowed. In the 70’s, when I asked Werner Erhard to sum up his personal growth thing, EST, he said “We preach independence but breed dependence.”

In the 80’s, we chose a President for his ability to “feel our pain” rather than his competence, courage or integrity…and recently chose one for lofty promises of a Utopian society rather than his experience or grasp of fundamental economics.

Years back I wrote about Hollywood’s “Food Cop”, paid big fees by famous dependent dysfunctionals to make surprise raids on their homes and remove all the junk food.

So it’s not new. But it is on a meteoric rise, expanding from top to bottom in business and personal life….peoples’ desperate desire to be parented, taken care of, told what to do but mostly have everything done for them; peoples’ eagerness to anoint others as experts in every imaginable category of need, including new categories of expertise dreamt up daily.

And the experts need not be very expert: the immensely popular TV star, best selling author, Martha-on-the-make cooking expert Rachel Ray admits she has no culinary training, can’t bake, uses pre-prepared foods, her mother’s recipes. (She’s a very powerful example of niche-to-broad and self-appointment, but those are topics for another time.) For thoseof us in information marketing businesses; how-to publishing, seminars,coaching, consulting; gurus, seers, surrogate parents…this is all very good news.

Most of us understand it, although still under estimate its breadth and depth. But EVERY SMALL BUSINESS MARKETER needs to pay closer attention and strive to capitalize on this. Financial advisors, doctors,the application is obvious – yet most are still thinking in tired,traditional terms of selling products and services rather than selling themselves as the guru and surrogate parent who will take over that part of the client’s/patient’s life completely, relieve them of responsibility, give them a blankie.

For others, the application is not so obvious and must be thunk, thunk, thunk and thunk about until it can be found or manufactured. Consider the enormous success of authority, its expertise and the validity of its “compatibility test” is accepted thanks only to well-financed, persistent advertising and the public’s desperate desire to abdicate responsibility for finding and choosing mates.

The national impulse now – from slothful youth to aging boomers- to any need is NOT to go out and hunt and assemble information, marshall resources, investigate, become knowledgeable and empowered to make good decisions and manage one’s own affairs.The national impulse in response to each and every need is to find someone to step in and relieve responsibility, make initiative unnecessary.

From a societal stand point, it will be the eventual collapse of the American empire,rotting away from within, finally dying with merely a whimper. As an American eager to be proud of my country, I find it embarrassing.

From a personal standpoint, it is temptation more deadly than alcohol, drugs,etc. that you should refuse to embrace on any level – if you aspire to success and prosperity. It is, above all else, what separates those of us making up the teeny percentage of the population who possess financial independence from the vast majority who do not; a truthful explanation for the separation you will never hear a single politician ever utter, even those who know it, because they are where EST was;it is in their self-interest to breed dependence; individual’s independence is threat to their interests.

It is not a coincidence,incidentally, that the term is “financial independence.”It’s not the Da Vinci code. The two words tell you how to get it.

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    Dan Kennedy is internationally recognized as the 'Millionaire Maker,' helping people in just about every category of business turn their ideas into fortunes. Dan's "No B.S." approach is refreshing amidst a world of small business marketing hype and enriches those who act on his advice. For more money-making marketing tips, tactics and strategies, go to

    10 Responses

    1. that’s it.I just need to give my golfers blankees. thanks Dan :)

    2. Rob Anspach says:

      I will personally hold your hand and gently walk you through the process…if thats what you want…because I am there for you all the way. I dont want you to fall or fail or not be able to take care of yourself – so I will go out of my way and protect you from all the bad things.

      In your dreams!!!

      I charge 10x extra for ninnies who must have to be hand held and cuddled…

    3. wife is watching a TLC special where 15 mall cops get called to help a parent with their 6 year olds boo-boo. The scratch barely visible. this child is preparing for Socialism already.

    4. Brian Horn says:

      My wife was watching also…and I thought the same thing exactly. And the lady who thought she was owed a wristband to see that singer…just because they got there early.

      Man it’s frustrating to see people being so weak, when its so much more rewarding to just take control.

    5. I just spent the last couple days with Gary Ryan Blair. He’s the Goals Guy ™His new EverythingCounts book– he talks about getting from Mediocrity to Excellence in the shortest time. Excellence is the best choice. You throw money at your broken tooth. Throw money and effort into your mediocre life. People, wake up. It’s YOUR life! Quit calling the waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaambulance!

      Ps you can find pictures of me and gary on my facebook page.

    6. Rob Anspach says:

      I will make it my goal this week to find and buy Gary’s book – thanks for sharing.

      Keep up the micro-movies… I’m working on some movie making myself…

    7. Even worse is the trend towards more and more people wanting everything Done For Them, yet being unwilling to learn anything about what it is they’re paying for.

      I find nothing wrong with paying an expert to do something — but when it comes to copywriting every business owner MUST be involved, and should be actively learning how to tell the difference between quality and ineffective copy.

      Talk about LAZINESS! Learning how to communicate effectively is not exactly what I would call “hard labor”. SHEESH!

    8. Rob Anspach says:

      every biz owner needs to understand every element of marketing his/her own biz –

      I just cant believe how many biz owners allow ad agencies to tell them an ad has to run lots of times before people will become familiar with the ad – if it doesnt pull the first time it aint gonna pull 27 times later.

    9. Simon says:

      Here’s a cancellation email I got this morning from one of my members. It kinda sums up the issue Dan is talking about (and it’s why I’m doing more done-for-you services now.)

      “Sorry to say that at this time I have decided to cancel my subscription due to my lack of utilizing the actual printing and mailing for as long as I have had this membership.

      “Thank you again. Maybe in the future I will actually do what I should be doing.”

      I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

    10. Small business owners aren’t the only ones hooked on ad agency crack. Most of the Fortune 500 companies I’ve worked with do the same thing. No one wants to take responsibility for a campaign not working. They want a scapegoat, an agency they can fire when there are no results. Somebody usually needs to be fired, not just the agency.

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