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Archive for June, 2009

Should Writers Lack Knowledge of Their Subject?

June 17th, 2009 by Bob Bly

In an article in The Weekly Standard (5/18/09, p. 39), John Podhoretz puts forth an odd thesis: namely, that the less a writer knows about his topic, the better.

His article focuses on one specific type of writer, professional film critics, whom he says are a dying breed, as more and more newspapers lay off their film critics, and movie goers turn to film blogs instead of the newspaper for movie reviews.

“This deprofessionalization is probably the best thing that could have happened to film criticism,” Podhoretz writes, noting that to write moview reviews “requires nothing but an interesting sensibility.”

He goes on to say that an education in film-making is not only unnecessary for writing movie reviews but may actually be detrimental:

“The more self-consciously educated one is in the field — by which I mean the more obscure the storehouse of cinematic knowledge a critic has — the less likely it is that one will have anything interesting to say to an ordinary person.”

Funny, but I thought a “storehouse of knowledge” was a PREREQUISITE for writing intelligently on any subject, whether it’s Internet marketing, copywriting, popular science, or film.

But Podhoretz seems to argue that the less you know about the subject you write about, the better.

His reasoning: your reader also knows little, so your ignorance will enable you to write at the reader’s level of knowledge and interest.

When you write, do you strive to continually gain more knowledge of the subjects you write about? (That’s my approach.)

Or does Podhoretz’s notion of keeping the writer ignorant so he is the reader’s peer make some sort of sense to you?

(And I can see where it might; e.g., most scientists are notoriously bad popular science writers because they write for other scientists, not the general public.)


Category: General | 24 Comments »

Stop Customers from Stealing Your E-Books

June 16th, 2009 by Bob Bly

ST, a newbie, asked me the other day: “How do I make sure my online customers don’t violate my copyright by making illegal copies of my e-book?”

Scroll to the bottom of this post to see the notice I post prominently on the copyright page of all my e-books. You have my permission to use it.

What else do you guys do to stop your PDF products from being copied and passed around without payment to you?

Or do you not even worry about it and let it happen freely?

This is NOT a free e-book!

Purchase of this e-book entitles the buyer to keep one copy on his or her computer AND to print out one copy only.

Printing out more than one copy or distributing it electronically is prohibited by international and U.S. copyright laws and treaties, and would subject the offending party to penalties of up to $100,000 per copy distributed.


Category: Online Marketing | 26 Comments »

Long Copy vs. Short Copy: Round 1,874

June 14th, 2009 by Bob Bly

The debate over long vs. short copy rages on, and a recent Copy Chasers column in BtoB magazine (6/8/09, p. 26) declares that — at least in B2B advertising — short copy is the winner.

“In an age when 140-character messages seem to push the limits of the human attention span, it’s best to keep things as short and sweet as Twitter,” the column advises.

“Brevity is always welcome in B2B advertising, as decision-makers need to think fast. Advertisers that can concisely convey a message have a distinct advantage over those that force readers to slog through text.”

On the surface, this seems sensible:

1–Businesspeople are busy, and don’t have a lot of time to read.

2–Therefore, they will respond better to short copy than to long copy.

And today, any product information they need is posted on the advertiser’s web site, the URL for which can be featured prominently in the ad.

Yet in consumer advertising, there are still some advertisers who hit home runs with long-copy space ads.

Two that come to mind are the Institute for Children’s Literature (“We’re looking for people to write children’s books”) and The Teaching Company (“The Great Courses”).

So … is BtoB right –and (at least for B2B) is long copy advertising dead at last?

Or can a long copy ad, in some cases, do a better selling job than Madison Avenue’s minimalist approach to body copy?

What say you?


Category: General | 17 Comments »

What Direct Mail Response Rate Do You Need for Your Campaign to Break Even?

June 12th, 2009 by Bob Bly

“Break-even” is the response rate a direct mail must generate to produce sales revenues equal to the cost of the mailing.

But what is that response rate for your mailing? It depends on 5 factors:

* Postage.
* Printing.
* Letter shop charges.
* List rental cost.
* Price of product being sold.
* Cost of goods for product.

You can input these factors here and have my free DM ROI software instantly calculate the response rate you need to achieve break-even:


Category: Direct Marketing | 22 Comments »

A Shocking Fact About Google

June 11th, 2009 by Bob Bly

Did you know that your web site can actually have different positions in Google — depending on who is searching for them!

?Several things can account for differences in search engine position results,? says my SEO guru Ed Taylor. ?One factor is the Google server (data center) that is accessed. Google has many data centers around the world and they often have slightly different rankings.?

Another factor affecting the results you see in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) is the location of your PC. According to Ed, the organic rankings can also be affected by the computer’s location. This is very evident on searches that Google deems of a local nature (i.e. a dentist). In the case of local searches, very often the Google Map setting will appear with a group of listings specific to the local area.

Ranking differences can also result from the searcher?s computer settings. Computers that are logged into a Google account often display different ranking results that than those that are not. These results are influenced by the web sites the searcher has visited in the past.

Action step: when checking your site ranking on Google, has several people in different locations search on your keyword and let you know where you appear.


Category: Online Marketing | 46 Comments »

Does It Pay to Nickel-and-Dime Your Vendors?

June 8th, 2009 by Bob Bly

Which makes more sense when dealing with vendors?

A–Pay them top dollar to get top work from them. Vendors will go the extra yard when they are well compensated.

B–Nickel and dime vendors to get them to lower their price. The less you pay your vendors, the better it is for you.

To watch a free video of how clients haggle with vendors, click here now:


Category: General | 765 Comments »

Does Humor Work in Selling?

June 6th, 2009 by Bob Bly

Should we use humor in selling?

The reason not to is fairly compelling:

Of all writing, humor is the most subjective.

Therefore, what you think is funny may leave your reader cold.

To prove that humor is subjective, I submit for your approval my 10 favorite comedy films of all time:

1?Dirty Work.
2?Rat Race.
3?Billy Madison.
4?Men in Black.
5?Scary Movie 3.
6?40 Year Old Virgin.
7?Wedding Crashers.
8?Austin Powers.
9?The Naked Gun.
10?Anchor Man.

Now I ask you: How many of these are also on your list? Not many, I bet.

Which of your favorite comedies did I leave off the list?

How many do you actually think are NOT funny? Probably one or two — proving my thesis that humor is indeed subjective.


Category: Direct Marketing | 91 Comments »

Can You Create a Better USP Than This One?

June 5th, 2009 by Bob Bly

A local furniture retailer here features his rather sleazy looking self and his cute little kid in a TV commercial where together they proclaim, smiling, “We have the BEST furniture!”

And that’s the whole of their sales pitch and unique selling proposition (USP) — that they have the best furniture.

Well, best may sound good — after all, everyone wants the best, right?

But as a USP or ad copy, it’s terribly weak and ineffective.


Two reasons.

First, EVERYBODY says they are the best — there’s no differentiation.

Second, the very fact that it’s the ADVERTISER saying he is the best creates immediate skepticism — the viewer does not believe it.

Can I give you an example of a stronger USP?


Wonder Bread.

They wanted to say their white bread was the best — and their USP was: “Wonder Bread helps build strong bodies 12 ways.”

Memorable, different, unique, and with a benefit (“builds strong bodies”).

If someone asks you why they should buy from YOU instead of your competitors, and your answer is “because we are better” — you’d better come up with a stronger USP.

Or — do you have a better idea for gaining customers and building market share without a good USP?


Category: Advertising | 95 Comments »