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The Dilly Dilly Manifesto: the secret to marketing, sales, and life

Are you like me? When you get an email from someone with a misspelled word, do you look at the keyboard to see if the wrong letter is adjacent to the correct one?

Or what about this: whenever you have to write “Wednesday” do you say “wed-nez-day” in your head?

I do that, too.

And yet I have never once said “kuh-nee” while writing knee.

Isn’t that odd?

Well, if we share these two quirks, then there’s a good chance we share something else: the secret to marketing success. (And sales success for that matter).

But let me back up for a moment and share the secret of life. Because if you know the secret of life, then you can discover the secret to marketing, the secret to weight loss, the secret to global-warming, the secret to darn near anything.

I learned it in 1991 from Curly, the leathery cowboy in the movie City Slickers. (Yes, City Slickers. I also like Tommy Boy. Don’t judge me.)

As I was saying, Curly is the leathery cowboy played by the late, great Jack Palance. Truth be told, leathery doesn’t do him justice. As Billy Crystal’s character, Mitch, describes him, he’s like a saddlebag with eyes.

Here’s the exchange in which Curly tells Mitch the secret of life:

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?

Curly: This. [holds up one finger]

Mitch: Your finger?

Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that, and the rest don’t mean shit.

Mitch: But what is the “one thing?”

Curly: [smiles] That’s what you have to find out.

So there you go. The secret of life is simple: do one thing. However, don’t mistake simple for easy: finding that one thing is far from it. But, what I’ve come to realize is that Curly’s Law is not only the secret to life; it’s the secret to everything. If you can find that one thing, in whatever it is you’re trying to do, then the rest won’t mean shit.

Why am I telling you this? Because in the winter of 2018, I discovered the secret to marketing and sales. That’s right; I found Curly’s one thing. And I found it while watching a Bud Light commercial.


The advert in question was one of the ubiquitous commercials that featured a court of medieval people cheers-ing “dilly dilly.”

If you don’t know what dilly dilly means, that’s okay. It didn’t mean anything until the ad agency made it up. In fact, according to the art director, the phrase was originally just a placeholder. But it certainly means something now.

In the ads, the phrase is used the same way you might shout “hear, hear,” or “that’s right.”

It’s an emphatic agreement with the speaker.

And that is the one thing you need to do to succeed in marketing and sales. You must get your prospective client to think “dilly dilly!”

She should be nodding her head in agreement with everything she is hearing or reading. She needs to think, “That’s absolutely right. I couldn’t agree more. You know me so well. Dilly Dilly!”

So how do you do that? Well, first off you need to stop talking about your product, your company, and yourself. Focus all your attention on the one person you’re trying to sell. Speak to them about their wants, needs, and desires.

Here’s the rule; you should say you, your, or you’re 2X to 3X more often than you say I, me, we, us, our, or ours. That tweak alone will get you moving in the right direction.

But it’s not enough.

You can’t just aim for yeses. You can’t say something like, “do you own a car?” and think, “she’s nodding her head! I got her!”

Your goal is not to merely get agreement. It’s to get a glass-raising dilly dilly.

And to get a dilly dilly out of your target customer, you need to connect with them. They need to feel it. You must get them to draw on their own experiences as you tell your story.

Consider this: when I asked you if you say “wed-nez-day” in your head, did you think, “Ha! Yes, I do!”?

What about the keyboard check for misspellings? Do you do that? Did you possibly even crack a smile to find someone else shares the same quirk? If so then you have a small taste of what I’m talking about.

Now magnify that feeling by ten and you’ll get to dilly dilly.

And what if you didn’t share in my quirks? That’s okay. In fact, it’s to be expected. You need to accept that it’s not possible to connect with everyone. (I hate to break it to you, but everyone is not your target client.) So don’t stress it. Just focus on your target customer.

Dilly dilly.

It’s amazing how hard it is to not talk about yourself in marketing copy and sales pitches. I say that because it’s everywhere I look. The practice runs rampant across all industries. And yet it’s very preventable. A remodeling contractor’s website I recently reviewed illustrates my point.

The homepage hero shot featured a headline that read:

We Believe Everyone Deserves to Live in Style.

That’s nice. I’m glad you believe that. But why should I care what you think?

I don’t know you. And your declaration doesn’t speak to me. I’m certainly not raising a glass to it.

First of all, I don’t agree. I don’t think everyone deserves to live in style. Do you? I’m sure you can think of at least one person that doesn’t.

(I can think of seven, and I’m not even trying.)

But what’s worse is you’re telling me I’m not special or unique. According to you, the only reason I deserve to live in style is because everyone deserves it. I’m just like everyone else.

So how do we fix that headline? Remember the two rules: stop talking about yourself and focus your attention on the person (not a group of people) you’re trying to sell.

So dump that “we” stuff (because it’s not about you) and switch “everyone” to “you,” and you’ll get something like this:

You Deserve to Live in Style.


Do you know why? For one thing, it’s about me — not everyone. But more importantly, because whoever reads it will think about the reason she deserves it.

Perhaps she worked two horrible jobs while putting herself through night school and she just landed her dream job. Or maybe she let her father-in-law live with them for the past eight years, and now the house is finally hers again. (No he didn’t die — he went to live with the other son. I can’t believe you thought that).

Whatever the reason, she is now thinking, “Yes Mr. Remodeler, I do deserve to live in style. Dilly dilly!”

See what I mean? It’s got to be about me, the prospect. It must always be about me. Say something that I connect with — emotionally — and I will raise my glass to you.

Dilly dilly!

What’s next? It’s simple. Get yourself a beer stein and put it on your desk.

I’m deadly serious.

Head over to Amazon or Etsy right now and get one.

Then put it front-and-center on your desk or by your phone.

If you’re a marketer, I want it to be the first thing you see before you start writing and the last thing you see before you hit submit.

If you’re a salesperson, it should be the first and last thing you see on your sales calls.

And every time you look at it ask yourself with unrelenting determination, “does she want to raise a glass and proclaim dilly dilly?”

Don’t strive for anything less.

It’s dilly dilly or the pit of misery.

There is no middle ground.

Thanks for reading. You are a true friend of the crown.

Dilly dilly.

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