Dan Kennedy Is Wrong OR Content Is Still King

Not all experts know everything.

Case in point: My good friend Greg Habstritt just spent some personal time with legendary expert direct-marketer Dan Kennedy.

Dan Kennedy is a brilliant no-BS entrepreneur for whom I have immense respect.


But: I have to say the advice he gave Greg is wrong.

Kennedy told Greg that online content is no longer king.

Hold on. What?

Are you kidding me?

How could any intelligent Internet marketer make such a bold, and patently wrong statement?

To be fair to Dan, he isn’t actually an Internet marketer. He has a website to which he provides input. He doesn’t have an email address let alone a blog, a Facebook account or a Twitter tag.

Nevertheless, despite his avoidance of today’s social-networking tools, Dan is a brilliant marketer and his observations on the Internet are worth discussing. So, let’s examine them here:

Dan supported his belief that content is no longer king by saying:

“It’s about the relationship that you build with your community and the people in it. When you have that relationship, it’s very difficult for anyone else to get their attention, or to attract them away from you.”

OK, I agree with this statement: It is about the relationship, but how do you build a relationship?

More on this later.

“The second key is developing a unique and compelling offering that generates significant ‘pain of disconnect.'”

Hold on: If you’re not “selling” something (which is how I interpret “develop a unique and compelling offering that generates significant “pain of disconnect”) you’re doing something wrong, and selling takes precedent over content?

Wow, so let me get this right:

  1. Develop a relationship
  2. With the intent on selling someone something.

I’m sorry, but that doesn’t hold water for me. Ask yourself something: If you knew that the only reason someone was developing a relationship with you was simply to sell you something, how would that make you feel?

Would you find it easy to develop a relationship with someone who just wants to sell you?

My answer is that I run as far away as possible from people like that. I don’t want to be sold, I want to be engaged.

Trust is established through the transference of confidence between one person and another. Trust is needed to develop a relationship. Can you really trust someone whose intention you know to be one that’s simply based on selling something to you? I can’t.

And let’s get over this idea that we are all trying to sell something to someone else in everything we do (i.e., taking a shower, putting makeup on in the morning etc…). There’s a distinct difference between subtly selling who you are, and overtly selling something under the guise of selling who you are.

Honestly, what Dan is suggesting is transactional marketing disguised as relationship marketing.

What Dan and Greg seem to miss is this: that content is an expression of  both soul purpose and voice, your own soul purpose and voice.

Without expressing your voice, you have no ability to initiate or create a relationship with your audience.

Let’s use Greg Habstritt as case in point.

Greg created his excellent Engage Today event because he wanted to share an expression of his voice, after he’d noticed the moving shifts in business, communication and personal development. He had many opportunities to share his voice, but he chose to exercise it by putting on a fantastic live event, Engage Today.

This event was a reflection of both Greg’s soul purpose and his sharing his voice.

He got many of the world’s top thought leaders to appear and speak, including:

His Holiness the Dali Lama

Sir Richard Branson

F.W. Declerk

Steven Covey

Tony Hsieh

Eben Pagen

and many, many others.

Each of these speakers, as well as the subsequent DVD box set of the recording, Engage Today 2010 and 2011, and Greg’s blog Simplewealth.com were all a reflection of Greg’s soul and his voice. All of this was content.

Greg’s a close friend, and I know that his intention for hosting the initial Engage Today was not to make money. In fact, when he asked me to speak at Engage Today it was only after he had seen me present the Pendulum presentation in which I discussed how society was moving away from a “me” (or individualistic) mentality into a “we”- (or community) based one. He told me that Pendulum helped him articulate why he was doing the Engage Today, because it wasn’t a profit center for Greg, rather a labor of love.

Greg’s intentions are pure: He wants to help radically transform the world. Selling a product or service came second to making a difference.

So, the advice taken from Dan that Greg has latched onto is counter to his own personality and, I take it, his intentions. Greg, I want my readers to learn from your heart, not your pocketbook.

Living into soul purpose and sharing your voice doesn’t require selling something. It requires a genuine desire to want to help someone. If selling a product or service will help people, then that’s great. But it isn’t a must that you sell something, anything, in order to make a difference.

What’s interesting is, at the end of his post Greg says:

The days of content ruling the world are over – so the secret is to focus on the relationship you build with your community so that they TRUST you (which is a key lacking element in the world today).”

Greg is both painfully wrong and painfully right.

Content for content’s sake, à la Emily Dickinson writing poetry and hiding it away, has never been king.

But Greg is right: The Internet is a relationship-building technology.

How, however, do you develop a relationship? How do you develop trust with people?

Through conversation. And what is a conversation made up of?


So, I guess Greg and I aren’t that far apart.

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44 Responses to “Dan Kennedy Is Wrong OR Content Is Still King”

  1. Andrea January 20, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

    Relationship is always primary. That being said, that’s going to require content to communicate with those that your resonate with. The idea of content being king is that real, raw & relevant content is your real voice! Thanks for sharing.

    • Michael Drew January 20, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

      Content is king when its Real, Raw and Relevant, love it!!!

  2. Aldous Irving Jimenez-Echegoye January 20, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

    Yup, Greg is right: 
    The Internet is a relationship-building technology.


    …how can you build relationship without great and relevant content?

    • Michael Drew January 20, 2012 at 4:47 pm #


      I have no idea how to build a relationship without relevant content.

      Lehi has proposed drugs or telepathy, which are possibilities, so is coercion.


  3. Lehi January 20, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

    You can develop relationships without content.  It simply requires either lots of drugs, or it requires telepathy.

    • Michael Drew January 20, 2012 at 4:46 pm #

      LOL, perhaps drugs or telepathy could replace communication, so could coercion. 

  4. Natasja January 20, 2012 at 3:43 pm #

    There have been very few cases or situations in which I disagree with Greg.
    However, as a service provider myself, I have to area with you Michael on this one 100%!

    It is absolutely imperative that my content is king!  
    This builds trust, which leads and or helps clients (or potential clients) in seeing me as the ‘Trusted Authority’ in my feilds.

    Once this has happened, they are far more likely to:
    1.  Inquire and Engage
    2.  Want to do business with me 
    3.  Refer business to me

    It has been said that it is much easier to sell or promote a product than a service.
    People are less hesitant in paying for a ‘thing’ than ‘time and expertise’.

    And I would agree with this comment.  And that is why I feel more than ever that my content must be real raw and relevant to start the process of a relationship on any level.

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY.  I hope you get lots of responses here!


    • Michael Drew January 20, 2012 at 4:46 pm #


      Thank you, I appreciate it.

      Content, in the context of engagement and development of trust is essential.

      Without it, what do we have left?

      Thanks again,

      Michael R. Drew

    • Greg Habstritt January 21, 2012 at 2:11 pm #

      The simple reality is that if you focus on your content as being the #1 thing, you will fail.  It seems a few people think that you have to choose between content OR building a relationship, and that’s not what my article said.

  5. Kadena Tate January 20, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

    The quote by John Maxwell “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care” proves that both of you have valid perspectives.

    As entrepreneurs we seek to help people solve their problems which requires both relationship building, marketing and sales. No one cares about the content (our marketing message, sales pitch, etc.) unless it provides relevance and transformation.

    Michael, this is a great post for inner inquiry as it relates to the power of intention. When our intention is to provide a valuable service that helps others to live a fuller, richer and more rewarding life, we discover that wealth in both tangible and intangible forms is our shadow.

    I agree with you wholeheartedly – No one likes to be sold – we all like to be engaged, which is why I have respect for you, Dan and Greg. Continued success and Happy Birthday 🙂

    • Michael Drew January 20, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

      I love your comment “ When our intention is to provide a valuable service that helps others to live a fuller, richer and more rewarding life, we discover that wealth in both tangible and intangible forms is our shadow. ”  

      • Steve Clark January 20, 2012 at 9:21 pm #

        Michael – Happy Birthday. Good discussion about a topic that creates a lot of emotion. This is a complex question, and like most complex questions, there are no simple answers. Thanks for stimulating our thought.

        • Michael Drew January 20, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

          Thanks Steve, I appreciate it. I don’t see how its a complex, it seems pretty clear. I think the confusion comes in the clarity of communication. No one disagrees we want to build relationship, the question is how is the relationship is built to begin with. The question I have if not through content, then how?

          • Anonymous January 23, 2012 at 4:55 pm #


            I got here from your Facebook post so let me start off by wishing you a Happy BIrthday. Now, let me maybe address what might constitute “complexities” when it comes to the issue of content:

            First, always, always, always define your terms. I don’t think Dan Kennedy has the same definition of content that you do. And if you took your definition to Dan, wherein you express that the content you have in mind is a clear expression of a unique voice, perspective, personality, and insight, meant to help attract your tribe and to position yourself as a thought leader for that tribe (or “herd” in Kennedy-speak), he’d probably agree with you that content is indeed very valuable. How do I know this? Because Dan is a prodigiously prolific author of Content, authoring blog posts, articles, books, courses, faxes, and multiple newsletters.  Although I’d expect that Dan might quibble over the newsletters as “letters to his people” rather than content, that still counts as content as you defined it.  The complexities enter into equation in figuring out how to plan your content strategies to ensure maximum support and profitability for your business.

            Second, always look at communication in terms of Purpose and Intent. Who is saying it and what are they trying to accomplish with that message?  Would it surprise you to lean that Dan sells a very pricey course on Influential Communication & Writing (around $3K) in which he promises to teach you the methods for creating newsletters (and other such “content”) designed to establish the kind of relationship that Dan espouses?  Or that he pretty much practices what he teaches by establishing his “herd” of Kennedy supporters, many of whom stick around long after they’ve mastered his marketing lessons because Kennedy-land is their tribe or place?  So I can’t help but see the position that “Content is No Longer King” as a subtle positioning for his style of marketing/Influential Writing Course?  

            So, is content still king?  Depends on the content doesn’t it?  But I’d ultimately have to agree with your rather inarguable point that having a herd or tribe is crucial, and it’s next to impossible to develop a relationship with such a tribe or herd without having some kind of platform to reach and communicate with “your people.” And trying to imagine a content-free platform is pretty much impossible, really. 

  6. Jenn January 20, 2012 at 4:19 pm #

    Content – I believe depends on the intention. Successful content to me is content that provides an experience. I’ve learned that people engage differently and that content means something different to everyone. That words on a page are wonderful for someone who likes to read. However the words have to be in the fashion that each individual likes to receive information. Still learning how to put it all together and who my audience is. Personas – Love that! Keep up the Great Work! Jenn

    • Michael Drew January 20, 2012 at 4:49 pm #

      Yes Jenn, Persona’s are useful in enhancing communication. I like what Andrea said about,Content is king when its Real, Raw and Relevant, love it!!!

  7. JUNNYVILLARIN January 20, 2012 at 4:22 pm #

    Greg is correct. No matter what kind of business you’re doing always build trust first to people in order to MAKE A DIFFERENCE

    • Michael Drew January 20, 2012 at 4:44 pm #


      I agree, you build trust, thats not the point.

      The question is how do you build trust without content.

      The problem with Greg’s post, and your response is it doesn’t answer how you build trust without Content.

      Please let us know how you build trust without content.



      • Greg Habstritt January 21, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

        I never proposed the idea of building trust without content Michael.  You just misread my article and jumped to an incorrect conclusion.

  8. Robert J. Hughes January 20, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

    How we say what we say is important, but the message matters more than the way it’s delivered. And it’s not a matter of sales, but of transparency. 

    • Michael Drew January 20, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

      Yup, and it takes some presentation of “content” to deliver the message 🙂

  9. Kytka Hilmar-Jezek January 20, 2012 at 4:51 pm #

    Absolutely right on and I couldn’t agree more! Happy Birthday Michael and thank you for sharing!

    • Michael Drew January 20, 2012 at 5:25 pm #


      Glad you liked the article.


  10. Karen January 20, 2012 at 4:52 pm #

    As a science fiction author, I’d ilke to believe that content is king, because in fact that is what I do…provide words on a page.  But it’s the characters and what lurks between the lines that pull the reader in: the unspoken word and the mood. But wait! Content is what sets that context.  So I would agree that “Content is King” but “Context is Queen”. They both rule! 😉

    • Michael Drew January 20, 2012 at 5:26 pm #


      Yes, in your case content is king and context is queen. In other cases content is king and distribution is queen 🙂

      Thanks for sharing 🙂


  11. Anonymous January 20, 2012 at 4:52 pm #

    I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with Greg as well. People don’t want to be sold. How can you develop a meaningful relationship with someone if you don’t give them valuable content before tossing a sales letter at them? 

    If you want someone to know, like and trust you in today’s market, you’ve got to show them that you have high quality answers to their solutions. 

    • Greg Habstritt January 21, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

      Kristen, when did I say that content didn’t matter?

      You’ve missed the entire point.

      The actual point I was making is that if you rely on content as the #1 focus in your business, you’ll fail.

      I never said content didn’t matter, though Michael has mistakenly paraphrased that I somehow said that.

      I absolutely agree – and practice – that content is important.

      BUT .. I know that I cannot rely on my content, because it’s not what truly keeps clients and builds a business.

      • Anonymous January 21, 2012 at 4:39 pm #

        Fair enough, Greg. It is a bit of a catch 22, chicken or the egg situation. It seems that content and relationships are inextricable from one another. Both are vital to success.

  12. Maria January 20, 2012 at 5:28 pm #

    I agree with you.

    is the date.  It’s the place you
    start when you meet people and educate them.  It’s the “Hello, here’s who I am and what I stand for. By
    the way, you can get great insight into me (my expertise) that can radically
    improve your life/business without having to commit to marrying me (swiping a
    credit card) on the first, second or even our third date. I won’t be pushy but
    I like to share.”


    relationship portion is indeed what is sorely missed in many transactions and
    business.  It’s the point of desire
    to be an influential leader that I work with people on ALL the time.  I want to believe that the intention of
    both gentlemen was to share the importance of building relationships with
    people to succeed.  It’s the
    extension of the “like, know, trust” factor and an extension of the Cycle of
    Reciprocity. Where it goes wrong is exactly what you stated. The motive to
    start a friendship in order to sell something is really…well…just bad manners.
    It’s the “date” who buys you dinner and expects something in return. It’s no
    different in business. 


    I hate
    to say it but I can see someone who wants to be my friend just to get me to pay
    buy something a mile away. I run. I shut down. I don’t want to share anything
    with them. Not my time. My energy. My resources nor my money.


    build strong relationships and it has a magical effect.  Someone you are authentic with will
    turn into your biggest advocate, strongest referral partner, they will have
    your back when you need help and most of all they will be invested in helping
    you achieve your dreams. Which means, they’re going to share your content
    (there it is again) and educate others on what you do. Bottom line is, the
    bottom line.


    will say this is a chicken or the egg question.

    content along with authentic relationships creates success.

  13. Home School coach January 20, 2012 at 10:09 pm #

    As a service provider I also have to agree with you Michael. What good is a relationship if you can’t trust that it is built on a desire for mutual well being. I have some great products but they came a long time after I had created relationships with a community of people that come to my site and my presentations because I have something solid to offer in content that makes a difference. It is also why they stay.

  14. Cinde Johnson January 20, 2012 at 11:24 pm #

    Real, raw, and relevant….if your content is just that, then it will develop relationships, and will be king. But marketing, websites, blogs without content are just…..well, blank. Zero.  And will do just that—nothing!  Excellent points, Michael!

  15. Rargen January 20, 2012 at 11:40 pm #


    Happy birthday, I too love a great discussion.

    As a dualistic extremes, is a relationship without content fraud, and content without a relationship prostitution?


  16. Terry Kruse January 20, 2012 at 11:51 pm #

    Authenticity is more than a buzzword. Your readers expect a certain voice from you. 
    Content is really really king. 

    I am at a bloggers conference right now and the message is be yourself and provide YOUR content. This will bring the trust. 

    As you mentioned in Pendulum, community is the new reality and you must be true to your community (or tribe) be yourself and the readership will come.

  17. Jerry Hayward January 21, 2012 at 1:50 am #

    Michael, Happy Birthday!  IMHO, Content is indeed king, Context is queen, distribution throughout the kingdom is the princess everyone comes to the dance for… 

    But almost as important anyone who has a one size fits all answer for marketing is the court jester.  

    In my experience, it takes solutions customized for each individual, content that is personal, distribution that is appropriate, consistent and wide spread to make a movement, but once that ball is rolling, it’s pretty darn hard to stop or even argue with.

    Just my $.02


  18. Michi Lantz January 21, 2012 at 6:30 am #

    Very interesting and well written post! You sum it up in the line “I don’t want to be sold, I want to be engaged”.

    Maya Angelou says it brilliantly too: “People will forget what you said, forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. We are emotional beings, even the ones seemingly without any. We may not understand or acknowledge them, but we function through and with them regardless. That is why it’s sometimes so hard to let go and move on.

    I often disconnect or disengage from an “online relationship”, if I perceive it to be a one way communication in the sense that it’s hard core selling in disguise following a manual or a 1+1=2 formula. I can’t stand it and I never will. If you’re talking to people 1+1 might as well = 3. But hey, that’s just my point of view. 

    That type of online marketers come across as sophisticated beggars online to me. If you need my help, ask for it. If you have something you want to share, share it. If you are passionate of being at service, serve and I will dance with you and hold you high. Because I will not forget how you made me feel. It’s the mystical law of “first you give and then you get”, in that order.

    But I’m not a service provider, I am a storyteller, writing on my first book, and that is a very different thing of course. But share the same challenge to engage the person on the other side of the screen or the book.

    So speak from the heart and I will listen. It’s that simple and that hard. Soul driven intentions and heartfelt engagement. In that context it’s exhilarating to come from different point of views. Mind and Soul expanding, right? 

    Thank you, Michael, for a sharing, in the spirit of heartfelt engagement. And Happy Birthday!

  19. Greg Habstritt January 21, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    Michael, I appreciate you posting an article based on mine – unfortunately, you seem to have missed the entire point of it, and mischaracterized my point.

    (for anyone who didn’t read that original post, you can read it here:

    I never said content doesn’t matter.  What I said is that it’s no longer king.  In today’s world, you cannot build a sustainable business exclusively on your content.

    The bigger point was that as an entrepreneur, you must build relationships with your clients, and create services and solutions that are compelling and difficult or painful to terminate.

    That was the premise of the article.

    I never said content is irrelevant, and you already know that I build my business using content as one of the elements.

    The distinction you missed is that my success is not based on my content alone, but rather the relationships I build and the trust I develop with my community.

    You’ve told me before that a lot of the #1 books on the lists are complete garbage, and have no content.  So for you to use your books as examples of content is ignoring reality.

    Your contention is that the books going to #1 are evidence of great content being recognized and valued.

    What you fail to acknowledge is that a book going to #1 has virtually nothing to do with what’s inside that book, and everything to do with the marketing machine and platform that’s behind the book.

    We could put ANY book into the #1 position even if it was complete garbage with the right marketing and platform, and someone willing to write a check.  And of course, people have done that (I don’t mean you – but we know it happens).

    So I’m glad to contribute to a highly commented article here, but it’s unfortunately based on a premise that I never suggested.

  20. Cathy Lynn January 23, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

    “Living into soul purpose and sharing your voice doesn’t require selling something.” I LOVE THAT AND AGREE COMPLETELY!!! Thank you Michael…

  21. Anonymous March 1, 2012 at 2:28 pm #

    The point is connection is first step of relationship. Many of my students market with heavy content upfront in say a value vortex delivery system. This content prevents connection in two ways. 1) Sender does not get personal, present and vulnerable so consumer cannot enter relationship and 2)Consumer focuses on content and is learning which can also be a connection avoidance mechanism. This keeps info on content level and pain of current situation is avoided and connection and implementation are lost. Cool trick is few marketers leading with generosity AND vulnerability and creating a simple system where connection must be reached before content are killing it because it is rare and valued. 

  22. Waldo April 5, 2012 at 8:26 am #

    Well said Michael. I have too many opinions to post so I will leave it at -I agree with you big time. Happy birthday! Waldo

  23. lefty June 21, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

    You’re obviously not a marketer of any merit. Your interpretion of a few lines from an interview you didn’t attend is pathetic. And, you obviosly don’t understand the “relationship” or the transaction or how to build quality in either. Stop posing as someone who pretends to know anything about direct marketing – an area that you’ve obviously never worked in.

    • Michael Drew June 21, 2012 at 1:55 pm #


      First off, you use a name that doesn’t identify who you are.

      Its easy to take pot shots from the bleachers.

      And respectfully, I very successfully work in direct marketing.

      We welcome all kinds of comments here, but comments like yours are the worst kind, as they criticize with out substance and offer not alternative or useful feedback.

      When you have something substantive to address about what I said, feel free, I’ll happily respond.

      Until then your simply a weak sissy unwilling to approach me man to man.

      Michael R. Drew

  24. David McInnis January 22, 2013 at 8:06 am #

    Content is essential to developing and deepening relationships. The two biggest problems most marketers have are adapting to new content formats and content marketing. We consume content differently today than we did five years ago. The preferred formats are constantly changing. We also do a piss poor job marketing our own content, thinking that social channels are enough.


  1. “Content Will Always Be King” | Beneath the Cover - January 31, 2012

    […] Although I agree with those two points are important—they are ancillary. The relationship and the presentation play a big role, but I completely disagree about the status of content. Content will always be king! […]

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