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Archive for January, 2009

What’s Wrong with This Headline?

January 30th, 2009 by Bob Bly

There are several companies selling programs that teach you how to make a little extra money in your spare time by participating in market research surveys or focus groups. I sell such a product myself:

One of these companies sent me an e-mail promoting their program. The subject line read: “Get Paid to Evaluate Products.”

The “get paid” part sounds good. But “evaluate products”? Is that something you are dying to try? I thought not.

We get good results marketing our program online. The e-mail subject lines we use are “Get Paid to Give Your Opinion” and “Make $125 an Hour Giving Your Opinion.”

I think “give your opinion” is stronger than “evaluate products,” because most of us love to give our opinions — on just about anything. And in my subject line, you now get paid handsomely to do it.

My “Get Paid to Give Your Opinion” is an example of a swipe file in action: I borrowed it from an ad Richard Armstrong wrote to sell a book on how to get comped at casinos. His headline:

“Get Paid to Gamble”


Category: General | 50 Comments »

The Truth About Marketing in a Recession

January 26th, 2009 by Bob Bly

Whenever there is a recession, all the ad magazines run articles extolling to their readers the importance of continuing to advertise in a recession.

Since these articles are usually contributed by ad agency owners and marketing consultants, one could make an argument that they are self-serving.

After all, the marketing consultants and ad agencies make money only when companies buy their marketing and advertising services.

Do they REALLY believe that spending money on marketing in a recession is smart business?

Or are they pushing clients to keep spending so the consultancies and ad agencies won’t starve?

During a recession, when money is tight, should companies ramp up their marketing activities and spending … keep them steady … cut back … or stop altogether?

What say you?


Category: General | 69 Comments »

Oh, No — More Free Address Labels?

January 21st, 2009 by Bob Bly

Today I got a fundraising letter from Ocean Conservatory containing — you guessed it — free address labels.

The reason fundraisers enclose these free address labels, of course, is what Robert Cialidini in his book Influence identifies as the principle of reciprocity:

If I give you something (labels), you will feel obliged to give me something in return (a donation).

A free gift enclosed in a direct mail package is called a “freemium.”

It’s not that I object to free address labels as a freemium.

But I already have a whole drawer full of them.

What do you think fundraisers could use instead of address labels as a freemium that would be just as appreciated — and affordable?

I’ve seen a few other freemiums. Catholic charities have sent rosary beads and crosses. An Indian Mission sent a dream catcher and a sacred prayer.

Any other ideas out there that can get me free stuff in my mail other than all these address labels?


Category: General | 62 Comments »

The 25 Secrets of Meaningful Success

January 14th, 2009 by Bob Bly

The other day, Bill R., a subscriber, wrote me the following e-mail:

?What advice would you give somebody that is starting out that wants to be a success – as a copywriter or just in life in general? What advice would you give to a son or a nephew graduating high school or college as they go into the world?

?I guess I am looking for the one thing that you think is most important to being successful or most important in life in general…. or any words of wisdom that you have. What is the one thing about life that everybody should know to be happy??

It?s an intimidating request, because the older I get, the less I seem to know.

When Thomas Edison wrote that ?we don?t know one-millionth of one percent about anything,? you can certainly apply that to me and success.

My own accomplishments are fairly modest. I earn a nice living, but I am not in the Donald Trump or the Michael Masterson league ? or even close.

My family and I live a pretty ordinary life, in a pretty ordinary suburb.

I like to think I?m a good dad. But I am not sure my sons always agree. Other than that and work, I?m not much good at most things.

So I am not confident that Bill is asking the right person for advice on how to achieve success in business and in life.

And yet he is not the first to ask me. I get dozens of similar requests a year from my readers.

So to satisfy Bill ? and maybe you — here?s what little I know about prospering and enjoying life.

Please keep in mind that my advice may not be right for everybody. It is merely what has worked ? or not worked — for me:

1?Be yourself. Do not pretend to be someone or something you are not. Your uniqueness will appeal to a certain segment of the market — and may hold the greatest appeal to them.

2?Following your passion ? doing what you love ? does not guarantee financial success. But not doing what you love for a living guarantees a life of boredom and unhappiness at work.

3?The trick, then, is to find a niche where your passions and interests intersect with the needs of the market. As Aristotle said, ?Therein lies your vocation.?

4?Learn a financially valuable skill so you can command a high salary or (if you are self employed) a large fee.

5?Those workers and service providers who command top dollar either (a) perform a service that makes or saves their employer or client money or time, (b) have a skill where the demand for that skill exceeds the supply, or (c) specialize in a narrow niche with little competition.

6?If you can earn a salary or generate a net income as a self-employed service professional or independent contractor of $200,000 a year or more, you won?t get rich. But your life will be easier and you will be financially more secure than 95% of Americans.

7?Given the choice, have your children when you are young and possess the energy it takes to a family.

8?Spend as much time as you can with your children when they are young and still want you, even if you must make sacrifices in your professional achievements to do so. The time passes quickly and once it?s gone, it?s gone for good.

9?Strive to achieve a liquid net worth of at least $2 million by age 50. You won?t be rich, but again, you?ll have more financial security than about 95% of Americans.

10?The best piece of financial advice I ever got was from Florida freelance writer David Kohn, who told me: ?Live below your means.? Doing so further enhances your financial security.

11?With your wealth, avoid buying material possessions that are unnecessary ? especially luxuries that depreciate in value over time. Use your money to buy income-producing assets, assets that appreciate in value, or services that free up your time for other activities.

12?Avoid debt of any kind to the extent you are able. I have zero consumer debt except the mortgages on investment properties. Cars I buy for cash. If you have to get a loan or lease to drive a particular model car, you can?t afford it.

12?If you lend money to friends or family, do it with the expectation that the money is really a gift rather than a loan, and do not expect to ever get the money back. If you are repaid, even in part, consider it found money.

13?Every day you wake up and everyone in your family is in good health, and you have food to eat and a decent place to live, you are ahead of the game.

14?When writers, Internet marketers, and entrepreneurs brag to you about how much money they make, divide the figure they give by three. As my colleague Fred Gleeck is fond of pointing out, the only numbers you can trust are your own.

15?Always in your business, under-promise and over-deliver. Give your customers not their money?s worth, but more than they have a right to expect. Err on the side of being too generous rather than being too rigid or strict.

16?Before criticizing the work of a supplier or vendor, say something positive ? what you like about the work — first. The more insulted a vendor feels, the less motivated they become to do good work for you.

17–Do not allow yourself to be belittled, insulted, or demeaned verbally or in writing by others. When someone makes a snide or degrading comment, your reply should be: ?What was your purpose in making that comment to me?? It will stop them in their tracks, and embarrass them so they never do it again to you.

18?Don’t give unsolicited advice.

19?To paraphrase Dan Kennedy, guard your time like the gold in Fort Knox. You can always make more money, but time lost or wasted is gone forever.

20?As long as a business or life decision does not involve risking the mortgage money, make it quickly. Successful people are able to make swift decisions and carry them out with speed.

21?The #1difference between successful people and those less successful is that successful people act on their ideas. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Without action, ideas are worthless.

22?Do not think you must reinvent the wheel on every new product or business project. Most things have already been done before. All you need to do is add a twist or put your own spin on a product or service to create demand and make it profitable.

23?If you are successful, you can be arrogant and boastful. But why do it? Your bragging makes others who are less successful feel badly about themselves. What?s the point of doing that? Be modest and humble. Don’t push your achievements in other people’s faces.

24?Don?t refer to yourself as a genius or superstar in your marketing copy. If you were a genius, you wouldn?t have to say it ? instead others would be saying it and you could quote them.

25?Focus on your work ? on creating valuable products, giving great service, going the extra mile for your customers ? rather than how much money you want to make.

Can you think of any other items to add to the list?


Category: General | 152 Comments »

Do You Make This Mistake in Copy Catting?

January 14th, 2009 by Bob Bly

“Copy catting” is a perfectly legal, time-honored, and very effective technique in copywriting.

It means you find an existing ad that is making money, and “borrow” the main money-making idea for your own ad.

Unfortunately, unskilled marketers usually bungle this: they rip off the words or style of the ad they are copy catting, while totally missing the key selling idea.

For instance, one of my favorite ads is a tiny display ad selling a course on making money with mail order ads.

The classic headline: “Do You Read Small Ads Like This One?”

A local media company that sells space on park benches, bus stops, and other public areas where signage can be placed tried to copy cat this approach.

Their headline: “You’ve Just Proven That Signs Work!”

Do you see why “Do You Read Small Ads Like This One?” works but “You’ve Just Proven That Signs Work!” is a poor imitation that doesn’t work at all?

First correct answer gets a free copy of my e-book Scientific Advertising Illustrated and Annotated.


Category: General | 52 Comments »

27 Secrets of Internet Marketing Success

January 7th, 2009 by Bob Bly

If you are an Internet information marketer or aspire to be one, here are some rules that can help you maximize your online revenues this year:

1?Do not produce information products on widely diverse topics. Instead, pick a narrow niche. Then make sure every information product you produce is related to this niche.

2?Build a large opt-in e-list. Market your information products by sending e-mail promotions to this ?house? list.

3?When selling e-books and other downloadable info products, tell customers they can keep the product even if they request a refund. Saying that can boost your orders up to 21%.

4?Choose domain names that are easy for you and others to remember. Example: for an e-book on writing, producing, and marketing your first e-book, I chose

5?To get more people to join your e-list, offer prospects a subscription to a free online newsletter on your central topic (e.g., gardening, relationships, or whatever your info niche is).

6?You can also build a list with a one-shot free offer, such as a special report or e-book. But a free online newsletter is better, because it creates an expectation on the part of the subscriber that they will get e-mails from you on a regular basis.

7?Offer multiple payment options for your customers: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa, PayPal, and for electronic products, ClickBank.

8?Charge a shipping and handling fee equal to the actual cost of shipping and handling. Do not add a mark-up or try to make money on the shipping and handling fee.

9?Even if you sell a physical information product, have a downloadable component the buyer can get immediately. Today?s online buyers crave instant gratification.

10?Have a separate micro-site or landing page for each information product you sell. This is essentially a long-copy sales letter posted at its own URL.

11?Adding short online video clips to your product landing pages can increase orders 10% to 20% or more. (For instructions on how to create and post short videos online, visit

12?Write books for traditional NYC publishers ( to build your reputation as an expert in your subject matter. Online information buyers prefer to buy info products from those they consider gurus in their fields, and they put book authors in this category.

13?The easiest and most profitable info product to create and sell online is an e-book. Start with a 50-page e-book (about 15,000 words) on your core topic. Sell it as a downloadable PDF for $19 to $29 or so.

14?The quickest info product to create and sell online is a one-hour audio CD. You simple interview an expert in your subject over a conference line for 60 minutes, then duplicate it on CD and sell it for $29 to $39.

15?Write articles to promote yourself as an expert in your field. Get them published in the appropriate trade journals, consumer magazines, newspapers, and e-newsletters read by your target market. Retain all rights to your articles by typing ?first rights only? in the upper left corner of page one of your manuscript.

16?Compile collections of your published articles (6 to 10 articles per collection) in PDF documents. Offer these ?special reports? as free bonus gifts when selling your paid information products. Online buyers love to get free bonuses.

17?Develop a line of related information products in your niche topic in three price ranges: low ($50 and below), medium ($50 to $300), and high (above $300).

18?Make sure the information products in your product line appeal to all 4 modes of learning: reading (e-books, reports), listening (audio), watching (video), and experiential learning (live workshops and seminars).

19?When a customer asks for a refund, give it immediately and without argument even if you disagree with their criticism of your product. If you spot an individual who continually orders and then requests refunds on every item, block their IP address from your shopping cart and remove them from your e-list.

20?Run your Internet marketing business with a software product that gives you all the functions you need (e.g., shopping cart, auto-responder, reporting) in one integrated system rather than require you to buy and integrate separate software packages for each function (see

21?Know how much money the average name on your e-list spends with you per year; e.g., if you gross $500,000 a year and have 50,000 total online subscribers, your average revenue is $10 per name per year.

22?When you advertise to add new names to your list, do not pay more to acquire a new name than that new subscriber is likely to spend with you during the next 4 months. Therefore, if each subscriber is worth on average $10 in sales per year, you want to pay no more than $3 or $4 to add a new name to your e-list.

23?Find successful Internet marketers who sell to the same niche market you do. Reach out to them and cultivate a relationship. The goal is to build a small list of top affiliates with the potential to sell respectable amounts of your products to their lists.

24?Offer a standard commission of 50% of gross revenues to all your affiliates. The smaller the commission, the less interested other marketers will be in promoting your products to their lists.

25?To determine whether there is sufficient interest on the Internet for you to publish an information product on a topic, use to see how many times per month key words related to that topic are searched on Yahoo/Overture. If there are fewer than 10,000 searches per month on Yahoo/Overture for your topic?s key words, the market may not be large enough to justify producing the product.

26?When you are in a used bookstore, look for old books on your niche topic published in 1923 or earlier. The copyright on these books has almost certainly expired, which means you can repackage and republish the content as an information product, without payment to the author or even his permission.

27?Become a lifelong student of your information niche and acquire as many credentials in the topic as you can; e.g., if you sell information products on real estate investing, take the test for and acquire a real estate license in your state.

Do you agree with the items in this list? Are there any you can add?


Category: General | 78 Comments »

The Department of Redundancy Department

January 6th, 2009 by Bob Bly

A radio news program interviewed an SEC investigator who promised the American public a “swift and prompt” investigation of the Bernard Madoff case.

Aren’t journalists supposed to be the guardians of proper English? What does “prompt” add to the meaning of the sentence that “swift” did not convey?

The report also mentioned Madoff’s attorney defending his client’s sending of a million dollars worth of jewelry to relatives.

Madoff’s parole prohibits disposing of assets while Madoff is under house arrest in his plush Park Avenue apartment.

The attorney noted the jewelry, which has an estimated value of a million dollars, consisted of family heirlooms and was not a “significant asset.”

Significant compared to what?

I guess for a guy that lost $50 billion, a million dollars means nothing.

But I would think in this case “significant” applies to Madoff’s ability to pay back his bilked investors, and I doubt many of them would consider a pay-back of one million dollars insignificant, yes?

Yes, Madoff owes some of his investors $10 million or more. But even at that level, getting paid back a million dollars is better than nothing.


Category: General | 64 Comments »