The Godfather Approach to Internet Marketing

By Daniel Scocco

The Godfather is one of my favorite movies ever. I own the trilogy set in DVD, and I probably already watched it more than 10 times. The last time I tried, I could also recite the first 5 minutes of the movie by heart….

godfather-internet-marketing

Why do I like it so much? For one thing my father’s side of the family came from Italy. I don’t have citizenship yet, but we are working on it. I have also lived in Italy for over seven years, and I love their culture.

Apart from those personal reasons, however, I also like the overall attitude of Vito and Michael Corleone. Not that I agree with their criminal activities, obviously, but they knew how to deal with people and how to handle their business.

In fact, I think that we can learn many different things from that movie, even if what you do is Internet marketing or blogging. Here are four of those things.

1. Respect Other People

The very first scene of the movie shows Bonasera, an Italian who had his daughter attacked by some boys, asking Don Corleone for revenge. Bonasera explained that he didn’t seek for Don Corleone earlier because he didn’t want to get into trouble. Here is how Don Corleone replied:

I understand. You found paradise in America, had a good trade, made a good living. The police protected you; and there were courts of law. And you didn’t need a friend like me. But uh, now you come to me and you say — “Don Corleone give me justice.” — But you don’t ask with respect. You don’t offer friendship. You don’t even think to call me Godfather. Instead, you come into my house on the day my daughter is to be married, and you… ask me to do murder, for money.

Bonasera basically wanted to hire Don Corleone’s services in exchange for money. But that is not how things work inside the Mafia. You don’t hire the Godfather, you earn his protection by showing him respect and loyalty along many years.

Calling him Godfather and kissing his hand, in fact, is one of the most basic signs of that respect, and Bonasera didn’t even want to do that.

Want an example of how this relates to Internet marketing? I get dozens of emails every week asking me to check out a website or online service. Most of the times, however, the person won’t even include my name in the email salutation, revealing that he probably did not even take the time to read my site, or is mass emailing a lot of people hoping to get some free exposure for his stuff.

The people that start their emails with “Hi Daniel,” on the other hand, already earn some of my attention.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t see my self as a celebrity blogger or anything. But if this problem already happens with me, you can bet that it is much worse with the Seth Godins and Michael Arringtons out there.

If you want to have people’s attention, at the very minimum you need to be genuine and to treat them with respect.

2. Give Before You Ask

Upon Bonasera’s request, Don Corleone also said this:

We’ve known each other many years, but this is the first time you came to me for counsel, for help. I can’t remember the last time that you invited me to your house for a cup of coffee, even though my wife is godmother to your only child.

Bonasera had never helped Don Corleone in the past. For the matter of fact, he hadn’t even invited Don Corleone to his house in an act of friendship. Then, on the day of the wedding of Don Corleone’s daughter, he showed up out of the sky asking for help.

Before asking people’s favors, make sure you have helped them in the past.

How does this apply to Internet marketing? Simple, before going around asking for links and mentions of your blog posts and articles, make sure that you shared the link love in the past.

Secondly, give without expecting nothing in return. Most people will be glad to return your favors, but this is something that should happen naturally, and not in a forced way.

3. Get Suspicious of People’s Generosity

At one point in the movie a Sicilian named Virgil Sollozzo wants to meet with Don Corleone to make him a partnership offer in the drug business. During the meeting, Sollozzo explains that Don Corleone will only need to invest 1 million dollar and share his political influence, and that in return he should get back 3 to 4 million dollars in the first year alone.

Upon hearing this offer, Don Corleone says:

So why do you come to me? Why do I deserve this generosity?

Obviously there was something shady going on. The offer was too good to be true, and Don Corleone knew it better, so he just refused it.

Similar situations happen quite often on the Internet. You will get approached by people that wanted to exchange links with you despite their websites having a PageRank of 0; you will get approached by people that want to launch a joint venture with you but that have nothing to bring to the table and so on. Not to the mention all the emails and websites offering you big prizes in exchange for a click or some other action.

Whenever you find yourself with an offer that seems too good to be true, ask that person: “Why do I deserve this generosity?”

4. It Is Business, Not Personal

In Godfather Part II Michael Corleone starts inquiring with his partner Hyman Roth about the murder of Frank Pentangeli, a member of the Corleone family. Hyman Roth was the man behind it, but the murder was a business decision, not a personal one. Here is how he replied to Michael:

There was this kid I grew up with; he was younger than me. Sorta looked up to me, you know. We did our first work together, worked our way out of the street. Things were good, we made the most of it. During Prohibition, we ran molasses into Canada… made a fortune, your father, too. As much as anyone, I loved him and trusted him. Later on he had an idea to build a city out of a desert stop-over for GI’s on the way to the West Coast. That kid’s name was Moe Greene, and the city he invented was Las Vegas. This was a great man, a man of vision and guts. And there isn’t even a plaque, or a signpost or a statue of him in that town! Someone put a bullet through his eye. No one knows who gave the order. When I heard it, I wasn’t angry; I knew Moe, I knew he was head-strong, talking loud, saying stupid things. So when he turned up dead, I let it go. And I said to myself, this is the business we’ve chosen; I didn’t ask who gave the order, because it had nothing to do with business!

Admittedly, to talk about “murder as a business decision” is a crazy thing, but we can extrapolate the concept to legitimate contexts, too.

Another day a friend of mine contacted me saying that an online entrepreneur was copying the articles on one of his websites word by word. He told me that he wanted to retaliate, that he was planning to create clones of the websites of that person as well, hoping to damage his search rankings.

The mistake is obvious: he was reasoning at personal rather than at business level.

I told him that if he tried to retaliate, the situation would only get worse, and both of them would end up with a lot of problems and losses.

Instead, I told him to contact the other person in a friendly way, asking him if he could fix the problem. He did that, and the other person said “No problems, and sorry about that.” In a matter of days the problem was solved and both of them kept a good relationship.

So remember: it is business, not personal!




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41 Responses to “The Godfather Approach to Internet Marketing”

  • Rarst

    Such a nice article (even thou I hadn’t seen the movies, need to do that some day). ๐Ÿ™‚

    Recently (as my blog grows… I hope) I started to getting occcasional emails with review requests and such. There are also people that contact me after I post about their software/service.

    I amazed that very few understand how little it takes to get my attention and feedback (being personal, attentive and nice). Bulk operates with non-relevant requests and making promises they have no intention to keep.

  • Rajeev Edmonds

    Great article Daniel.

    The generosity section addresses very important issue. As Rarst mentioned, sometimes we do get unexpected offers from people we don’t even know or never did any favor to them.

    A guy offered me free banner, logo and ad designing, only to get back links.

    Very comprehensive post.

  • Sharninder

    The Godfather is one of my fav movies also … and though I haven’t really thought about my blog this way … I can absolutely relate to the reference here.

    Great post as usual Daniel.

  • Clarky

    Good, I think that everything could be on the Internet and in the blog, I love blogging!

  • Glenn Nicholas

    Daniel,

    You are on the money with this one. Respecting who you do business with is vital. If you don’t respect them, why do business with them?

    Can’t wait for your post on the online marketing angles that spring from Once Upon A Time in America.

  • Rich

    It’s very seldom that I see you talk like this, Daniel. And this one I cannot help but comment.

    The number 2 should strike the minds of beginners who immediately want to make money online. They are very impatient to get $$ but their blog posts have not even reached twenty.

    Actually, I think Internet marketing is not about giving. It’s about giving more – it’s an investment, not a job.

    I wish you could talk more like a marketer rather than a blogger.

  • Jackie Jackson

    Man this was so much fun, you connected the entire Godfather thing with IM just so well. It was absolutely cool.

    I remember sometime back (almost a year) a guest post on DBT did the same thing with Harry Potter (connecting it with blogging), that was my favorite post ever on this blog, but this has even topped that. And it is not a small thing to say considering that I haven’t missed a single post of yours for more than 1.5 years.

    Please do this stuff more often, it is just so much fun and entertaining, and not to forget all the lessons that we learn in the process. Keep up the good work. take care.

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Glenn, that is another superb movie.

    @Rich, you mean you prefer this style of mine?

    @Jackie, I will try to do those posts more often ๐Ÿ™‚ .

  • SEO Tips

    Excellent way of writing an article, loved it and as for the Godfather an absolutely terrific film I also own the trilogy.

  • Shawn

    I am still really new to the business world. I really appreciate this post. Thanks!

  • Vernon Harleston

    From one Godfather fan to another, this post is on point! And you highlighted some fundamentals of Internet Marketing. Relationships & wisdom are key ingredients to success when handled properly.

  • kamal

    Best movie ever!Also best article ever.

  • ryan

    Great article Dan.

  • Craig

    Hi Daniel,
    Great article that I have taken on board.

    Regards ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Kevin

    Great post Daniel.

    I have been reading your website (after finding it in the Technorati top 100) and it has been full of great information. Thanks for the help and please keep up the good work!

    -Dr. Sports Fan

  • Brandon

    If only every blog post referred to my favorite movie!

  • Damilik

    The first approach is what people don’t get. If they need help, they should at least go to the about page and get the bloggers name. Then use the name to address the person, so that the person doesn’t think it is a spam.

  • Melvin

    I like it! I also like the GodFather but never really had a thought of relating it to online busness… heads up daniel.

  • Marketing Business Review

    Hi Daniel,

    I do love the movies, I dont have them but I have seen them all. I understand your point of view here. I know in Marketing I may say the first rule is Give before Take anything. Thats why I need to give away something valuable to any people that I am asking to subscribe to my list.

  • Bill Bolmeier

    That’s great Daniel. Nice way to weave the movie into your blog with real life examples.

    I was thinking of the same thing while watching The Bourne Supremacy series and how I could weave that in to my blog.

  • Rosario Toscano

    Hi Daniel, as italian and sicilian guy, I really got the point of your post!

    Onestly, when I’ve read the title of the post I said: “Come one Daniel, even you make fun of Godfather on such important blog!!!” ๐Ÿ™‚

    Than I started to read it and I was happy to read it.
    I think you really got the meaning of the movie!

    Well done, Daniel! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Rezbi

    You had me smiling with this post.

    I’ve always like the Godfather movies but never thought about it in this way.

    You gotta have a pretty sick mind to come extrapolate lessons from this type of movie.

    I do, of course, mean that in a nice way.

    Very good article.

    I’m going to book mark this on a few social sites.

    Rezbi
    http://billiondollarcopywriting.com/blog

  • steven

    Excellent post Daniel,

    Definitely worth sharing on Twitter and Friendfeed and have done so, great way to get points across.

    Got to be the best trilogy out there and mine gets watched every so often,

    Good job!

  • Jimmy

    Daniel

    This article is wonderful. Respect is something that is very important to me. I feel that building relationships with anybody I come into contact with is the cornerstone of success. Respect is everything.

  • Keith Ritter

    Fabulous post – bene, molto bene.

    Of course, I’d also point to “leave the gun, take the canoli” as a great lesson in taking what you need going forward and in not having sentimental attachments to the tools you used before.

  • Josh the Business Plan Guy

    Hi, Daniel,
    This is one my all time favorites too. There is something about The Godfather that speaks to the core of our belief system. Justice, yes. And honor. And family. These are good things. Thanks for the post!

  • Rayanne Langdon

    You’re totally a Michael Arrington in my mind, Daniel ; ) Now, I’m off to watch The Godfather 1 through 3. There better be no discrepancies in your post! Heh.

  • Fredo

    Wake up. Don’t glorify the mob. They kill and terrorize people for money. They are despicable.

  • gerds diet

    we can learn many lesson from other experience people…..that’s good for everyone who wants to success,thanks

  • Shirley Jarrett

    What a great article. Sure puts internet marketing in a whole new light…. demonstrating that you CAN draw on real life experiences to build a solid business on line.

  • Your Happiness Power

    Daniel,

    What a great article. Like you, the The Godfather trilogy is my absolute favorite. Can’t count the number of times I’ve watched these movies.

    Your use of the analogy between the movie and doing business in general is perfect.

    Everything I learned I learned from The Godfather! LOL

  • FreemonSandlewould

    Or the Mafia could be filled with a bunch of larcenous / murderous thugs. Duh!

    You are living in a fantasy land !

  • Rahul Bansal

    Amazing as usual Daniel ๐Ÿ™‚

    Even I am big fan of Godfather trilogy and highly influenced by that him (Godfather) personally!

  • Tyrone

    Great post Daniel.
    This is one of my favorite movieรขโ‚ฌยฆ.it has influenced me a lot.

  • Al

    You broke my heart!!

    I just love these movies…

  • Commonwealth Games

    Daniel,

    Amazing post..!!

    helps introspect on the methods we sometime use to promote the website..

    Thanks

  • Yvette

    Hi Daniel! Thanks for the great article that caught my attention immediately because I too absolutely loved the Godfather trilogy. Ironically, I found there to be many life lessons in the movie ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer’ for one. You have taken it one step further by showing us how we apply some of the same principles to become better internet marketers. For example, I hate it when someone asks to connect with me on a social network and the very next thing I hear from them is why I need to sign up for something or they put me in their autoresponder and I get mail addressed to {firstname} instead of my actual name. That kind of thing definitely gets my attention, at least once. Thanks again for sharing, Daniel!

  • Jeff Sabo

    Respecting others does go a long way and during my time in college, every person I interned for had at least two or three stories about someone who didn’t take time to be respectful in an e-mail or formal message to that person. I agree with Daniel that not properly addressing the person you are contacting does leave the impression that the other person never looked at the web-site or did any formal research ahead of time.

    Something I would suggest is to always be respectful and polite if an authority figure, hiring manager or someone who could benefit your career contacts you. I have seen instances in which someone who was going out of their way to help someone got blown off by the person he or she was contacting. There are times in which someone calls at a bad moment but being polite about it is always more respectful. Thanking them for contacting you and offering to call back is more respectful then just blowing them off.

  • Pankaj Kumar

    Hello Daniel,
    You simply struck the nail on its head by a perfect analogy. The comparison with “Godfather” (a personal favorite) is thought provoking & also turns out to be relevant as you show.

    As a student of Internet Marketing, i do understand that we marketers do go overboard in making simple assumptions about people in general, which not only violate the basic communication rules but also ruin the business aspect of the relationship.

    Usually in case of E-mail marketing, it like taking a chance on probability of one in a million as response rate, and marketers are happy with the low costs involved. What normally marketers overlook is the number of potential responses they tend to loose because of a simple “Hi/ Hello”.

    Online Marketing needs to evolve by retrospection of the “Age Old Communication Principles” and using such analogies would certainly help, i wonder how many one can figure out from the Movies alone “Pursuit of Happyness” being another such example.

    I think, IM is more about facilitating and giving, rather than extracting benefit from the customers.

    Looking forward for more such interesting posts from you.

    Pankaj Kumar
    Pondicherry University
    India

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