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What the Soylent Green Secret Means for Your Business

“It’s the year 2022… People are still the same. They’ll do anything to get what they need. And they need SOYLENT GREEN.”

I was only small when I first saw the film Soylent Green. Perhaps that is why it had such an impact on me.

It’s an old film, it came out the year before I was born, and to be honest it’s not one of my favorites. The film itself is not important. There is a famous line from the film that has become more famous than the movie.

In the film Charlton Heston has to dash around the distopian New York of the future trying to discover what the secret is behind the mysterious soylent green. If you don’t want to watch the film then look away now because I am going to reveal the secret and what it means for your business. It’s a big spoiler for the film but hopefully you will forgive that lapse in geek protocol this one time.

What is the Soylent Green Secret?

The secret, worth killing to protect in the film but only slightly less significant in your business, is simple.

Soylent Green is people.

Yes, disgusting isn’t it? In the future, apparently, we will turn to eating each other in order to survive. Nasty.

What on earth can this have to do with your business?

People Are YOUR Secret Ingredient

If you want your business to be a success you need to prioritize the people in and outside your company. This goes for any company.

  1. Determine your ideal customer and tailor your service and products to the intersection of what you have to offer and what they really want.
  2. Continuously monitor, survey, communicate, and listen so that you are continuously in-tune with your market.
  3. Show who you are, allow people to connect with you, be human.

When People Are Your Point of Difference

For some businesses, like my own for example, the people ARE the product. When I first left my marketing agency job and set up my company, I used the company name. People would make a point to ask if they could be guaranteed to work with me. They thought because of the “we”, “our”, “team” language that they would lose contact with me once projects were intiated. At the time I would explain who the freelancer team members were and how I was central to everything we did because I was the only full-time employee, but it was clear this was a distraction. I quickly changed all my communications so rather than from “the company” it was from “Chris”. Not long after my company site was closed and this blog became the focus of my content marketing. Rather than losing work because I didn’t look like a “proper business”, I gained clients who wanted that personal touch with someone with whom they felt trust and a connection. Win!

Now, don’t get me wrong. While we are all unique and special snow flakes, your people are not necessarily going to be the whole difference that makes the difference. Not enough to bank your mortgage on at any rate. But it will in many circumstances be the difference between making a sale or not. Given the choice, and all things being equal, people will always prefer to work with people they know, like and trust.

Product Versus the People

I know you might be thinking that this is obvious or common sense, and that might be true. But look around.

  • Social media bots and sock puppets spewing messages into Twitter instead of building relationships.
  • Blogs full of scraped, copied, plagiarised and regurgitated content.
  • Products created and sold with no thought to if there is even a market.
  • Companies putting dollars and their own brand before customers or communities.

By being people centric we can actually stand out in the market, have a clear concience, AND be more successful towards our goals.

Next time you take an action in your business, consider the other person. The recipient of your message, the customer of your product, the reader of your content. What result do you want? How can you make things better for them? How is what you are doing going to help them?

What better way to build your business?

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  1. But the question becomes, how do you manage to rise above the noise and be heard if you don’t use the bots and other techniques?

    I try to do things the personal way and I get nowhere. It’s tempting to throw in with the bots and see if there is a way to make something there, but I don’t like it. It just doesn’t feel right.

    I just get spread so thin trying to network and be personable that I don’t have the time that I need to do the things that I want to get done on the sites I’m building. So the content doesn’t happen on one end of the spectrum, and the content doesn’t get seen on the other. I’m trying to find that middle ground that lets me create the content (i.e. product) and promote it effectively.

  2. Nice concept and metaphor Chris πŸ™‚ turns out the secret is different to what I thought it was – I thought Soylent Green was fertilizer made from humans! Also, thanks for the advice. Makes me realise that the personal connection is just that much more important than we often think.

  3. I have to see this movie, I guess… πŸ™‚

  4. Anonymous says:

    It’s an interesting love/hate relationship we have with one another. I think partly b/c there’s no way of existing without our secret ingredient and that can create hostility, vulnerablity, and dependency when people don’t act according to our wishes.

    I’m going to plod along, keep it real, and treat others as capable, good and kind (even when their behavior is hard to digest).

    Thanks Chris!

  5. I recently tweeted something similar to this concept. It went something along the lines of “find your market, research them, answer their questions, find out what it is that they want, find out how to deliver what they want, then purchase a domain.”

    In a nutshell Chris, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  6. Chris, I hope you can start a revolution here. As a fellow northerner, I’m right behind you.

    I’m sick to the back teeth of pointless IM products that focus little on building relationships, and lots on wringing as much money out of people as they can – for scant community gain.

    Observation: As professional internet workers, we live and operate in a microcosm. The mainstream knows very little of us – proof of this is the same names cropping up time and again across all the popular social media-focused and internet business sites.

    The only way to expand your business ops to where most people are, is to use the human touch. That’s why I’m staying close to you on this and wishing you every success with the advances you’re making.

    Fantastic stuff, Chris, as ever.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Well a lot of humans in social media create a ton of fertilizer so … πŸ˜‰

  8. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Dave. We need to get this right – I worry that the mainstream and audience are getting a bad impression of online business.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I like your tweet πŸ™‚ We need to be constantly and consistantly in tune with our market, and I think going into the future, there will be no other way.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Yeah some people can be hard to digest, but most people are brilliant and come in all kinds of flavors πŸ™‚

  11. Anonymous says:

    The movie itself is no matrix/star wars/inception but it does have its own special place in geek movie history πŸ™‚

  12. Anonymous says:

    Once you find what your target prospect really wants everything becomes so much easier, from the networking, through content creation and making money. Help people with their goals and your own goals almost get sorted as a result πŸ™‚

  13. Thanks for this Chris I thought it was a thoughtful, even tastefully (eew) written article linking with the film, Your further points are also true but I would love to know how you would respond to LoneWolf who posted earlier as the points regarding time and energy require to be heard are pertinent and from my experience true. Look forward to hearing from you. Take Care. Kay

  14. Anonymous says:

    In addition to what I said to LoneWolf, this article on cutting through the noise might help πŸ™‚

  15. This is great! I love that you are totally focused on the people and serving them.

    I just wrote a post recently lamenting other personal brands who have decided to stop engaging their customers, so a post like this truly makes me happy! I also like what you said in the comments about helping people with THEIR goals and THEN your goals will be sorted as a result. I think this is so true and have seen a significant difference in how well things have gone since I made that switch.

  16. Given the choice, and all things being equal, people will always prefer to work with people they know, like and trust.— It’s so funny you published this post today. Just yesterday my guy and I were talking, he’s in construction. He’s always on the job site managing things, while his boss rarely if ever appears except to land the initial job and pick up the check.

    As a result people are asking for contact info for my guy directly, rather than through his boss. Why? Because he’s there all the time, and they know, like, and trust him! Proof positive that people simply like working with people, not just a company name. πŸ™‚ Great post Chris!

  17. Timothy Morris says:

    I read Crandall’s post and can totally see how this connects. He connected me to you and I can see why. Your 2nd point under “people are your secret ingredient” was brilliant. “Continuously monitor, survey, communicate, and listen so that you are continuously in-tune with your market.” We were just talking about that and how you fee so connected when someone hits you back after an email, comment, or a follow. As I have entered this digital and virtual world in the last few months I have learned that the emancipated email is more like getting cut of on the highway then it is a courteous gesture as one moves over so I can get off the on ramp. There are those few however that love the traffic and want more and more people on this digital highway.

    Here is to you!!! It’s up annnnnnnnnd Its down and gone!

    Thanks for being real. So here is my question, how can I be real when I do not have many people interacting with me? I am new to this “highway”. Loving it, but new nonetheless.

  18. Since you hit reply to my comment, I’ll answer the question as if you asked me (not sure if you did or not).

    My biggest gain in building relationships was when I started REALLY investing time in where my people were at. A lot of my people (obviously not all) are on Twitter for large parts of the day. My strategy? I started treating Twitter like an ongoing chat room. Check out my Twitter page and you’ll see that the majority of what I tweet about is @ replies; I try and talk directly to people for the most of my communication. (There’s also a ton of DMs on the backside that no one ever sees too.) As I’ve talked to people more and more, my audience has really grown. I look at my daily traffic now and can’t believe how many people are willing to check in with what I have to say. AWESOME!!

    The other way that I try and meet people where they are at is to target THEIR blogs. This is harder for me since it requires way more time, but I do try and be consistent about it. Basically I just try and be one of the early commenters whenever a buddy posts something online. I also make it a point to regularly tweet their links to my audience if the article is something that I really enjoy. Honestly, I’m trying to work on doing this better, but I am working on it.

    Basically though, if you want a larger audience…it’s going to require a time investment online, IMHO. It’s not something that you can set and walk away (not saying that you are, just saying). Hanging out on Twitter is a strategy that absolutely works for me (though I realize it is not for everyone). It just really depends on your goals.

  19. Cori, that is such an awesome illustration at how people prefer to work with people they know! (And so good for your guy too!)

    Abby Kerr ( told me once that sometimes people prefer to work with you just because you ARE you. That has really stuck with me and brought about a change in how I do business. It’s part of the reason that I am pushing my personality to the center stage on my blog and making it the main character. Funny that my traffic has begun skyrocketing since I did that.

    Makes sense though since the people I *love* online are all personalities that blog about stuff…as opposed to people who run a blog.

  20. Anonymous says:

    The questions for me: how to properly engage with enough people to have a big enough audience to make money? Does this mean only offering premium services or only engaging with affiliates? How do I know my ideal customer – other than trying out stuff and seeing what happens? My guess is that the only way to know what they want is to make offers and see what sells. I am not disagreeing with anything you say – just wanting more on how to do it.

  21. Anonymous says:

    By engaging people, having conversations, you bring to light what their wants and challenges are. You work out who your ideal client is then determine where they hang out. If you are helpful and responsive then you don’t need to “scale” as much as you would think. 80-90% of people lurk but they see you interacting. For every question there is normally 10x the number of people who want to know the answer. Of course it is easier once you already have an audience of some sort, so to begin you have to put content out there and see what sticks.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Exactly, you become the go-to person – unfortunately in some organisations that can make you a target for tall-poppy syndrome too :/

  23. Anonymous says:

    Regardless of profit motive I think it is much easier to be authentically who you are. It’s easy to say “just be yourself” but some people do find it difficult “being me”. When you put the other person first though, when you focus on what is going on outside of your own skull, “you” naturally comes across.

    It’s the people who try to be something they are not, those fake put-on personas that have the hard job. You need to have a good memory of what you have said, and need to be a good actor when they meet you in person. Too much hard work IMO, much easier to be natural πŸ˜€

  24. Anonymous says:

    It’s a rule of life that people are primarily focused on their own concerns. We can flip that around and use it by showing we are focused on their concerns too πŸ™‚

  25. Anonymous says:

    It’s easier to be visibly real when you do not have many people demanding your attention, you can spend more time with each person πŸ™‚

  26. Anonymous says:

    Yup, my first job of the day is responding. Email, DM/@replies, FB, comments, forum … GTD folks say I shouldn’t but it works for me πŸ™‚

  27. Anonymous says:

    thanks for the reply, I appreciate it.

  28. If it’s not about the people, what’s the point?

    You don’t just write a blog and they will come. You don’t just produce a product or service and it will sell.

    You build a community around your blog, product, service and mostly yourself. The time you take to build online relationships will be the best thing you could ever do. People buy products, purchase services and can be a source of online partnerships that can take you places you hardly imagined.

  29. So true.. and slightly off topic, but my 11 year old is dealing w/ a version
    of tall poppy syndrome. Wants to be a safety patrol in 5th grade, but some
    of his friends don’t think it’s cool.. he asked me if he should, and I said
    he should do what feels right..his friends aren’t friends if they don’t
    support him or look down on him because he want’s to do something that
    appears “goody goody” to them. I said you always do what feels good for
    you, and you’ll find the right friends appear naturally. πŸ™‚

  30. Thank you for another great post. Why great? Well it got me to thinking about Soylent Green and Charleton Heston’s guest spot on Saturday Night Live – in other words , your post made me smile. I can use a smile every so often.

  31. I watched Soylent Green a few months ago for the first time. Chris, I LOVE this comparison! LOVE it!

    I will think of this analogy frequently. Yep, it’s all about people.

    There are lots of self-proclaimed “gurus” out there now, saying they know it all. But I’m glad I’ve been able to find some great people like you who REALLY get it. Thanks for trying to keep us all on track, Chris!

  32. Genial post and this post helped me alot in my college assignement. Thanks you for your information.

  33. Anonymous says:

    I backed down so many times because of friends, ended up regretting it every time. You are bang on correct. Daft thing is, people respect you more when you have your own mind and stick to your guns. Well, the right people do πŸ˜‰

  34. Anonymous says:

    Glad to make you smile πŸ™‚

  35. Anonymous says:

    So many biz owners/bloggers manage their work and life by spreadsheet, all about numbers. Even if that worked, its no way to live.

  36. Anonymous says:

    Happy you liked it πŸ™‚ I think there are gurus who put people first but unfortunately a good many are all about the $$$

  37. Thanks for posting your opinion. I hope all of us learn from it.