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Archive for February, 2014

Do you mistreat your customers this way?

February 26th, 2014 by Bob Bly

I now can tell you what is wrong with America, because I saw it recently at Best Buy.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I went to Best Buy to buy a
microwave oven; we had moved to a new home several months ago, and
the new house didn’t have one.

Although the store was well staffed, we were ignored as we stood
in the microwave oven aisle. So I went to a young woman sitting
at a help desk and told her we wanted to buy a microwave. “No
problem” she said. “I will send someone right over.”

Ten minutes later – no one came. Irritated, I marched back to
the young woman sitting at the help desk and, to my amazement,
saw 3 blue-shirted Best Buy salesmen standing around, next to
her desk, shooting the breeze.

Americans have developed, in the words of writer Harlan Ellison,
a “slacker mentality.”

In my observation, not everyone, but certainly a significant
majority of workers, just don’t seem to give a crap about their
job, their business, or their customers.

The incident at Best Buy reminded me of a business rule of thumb
told to me years ago: When someone is trying to give you money,
don’t make it difficult for them to do so. We were ready to make
a $246 purchase (including a 4-year service plan), and no one
seemed particularly interested in taking our cash.

After Best Buy, we stopped at a Chinese buffet restaurant for
dinner – new to us because as I said we just moved here.

Here, we experienced the opposite of Best Buy: great customer
service. My son took a hard-shell crab from the buffet and then
couldn’t open it. (I once lived in Baltimore where, when you ate
hard-shell crabs, you did so with a wooden mallet in your hand.
I never liked it.)

Our nice waitress showed him how to open it with a fork and
spoon, patiently waiting until the task was done and then
showing him what parts were safe to eat and which were not.

Here’s another attitude adjustment you may need to make:
increasingly, small business owners who work at home answer
their phones in a tone that is wary (instead of open and
friendly) at best and downright hostile at worst.

JH, a graphic designer, did this when I called her the other day
to see if she could design a direct mail package for one of my
clients. She answers in a flat, cold “hello?” She did not even
give her name. When I asked her about doing the job, she
answered in clipped monosyllables, as if I were annoying her.

The next day, I received this e-mail from her: “Bob, I want to
apologize for my unwelcoming answer to your phone the other day.
I usually don’t answer a call when I don’t know who is calling,
but I recognized your name, so I did answer this time. The phone
rings a lot these days and most of the time it’s an 800 number
selling something.”

I thanked JH, but told her: too little, too late. She has lots
of competition, and I have more than enough graphic designers
who will happily take on my client’s projects with an attitude
of enthusiasm. Her disdain for telemarketers is simply not my
problem, nor should it be.

It’s ironic. Business is more competitive than ever. The
recession has made consumer and business customers alike tighter
with a dollar. Your customers have more choices for the services
and products they want to buy than at any time in recorded
history. Yet when customers walk in the door or pick up the
phone, so many entrepreneurs send them running, blowing the sale
on the spot.

I am reminded of something billionaire insurance entrepreneur
A.L. Williams once said: “You beat 90% of the competition just
by showing up. The other 10% you must defeat in a vicious

With their counter-productive, anti-customer attitude and
behavior, so many businesspeople I encounter today are losing
right out of the gate. I hope you are not one of them.


Category: General | 177 Comments »

7 steps for keeping copywriting clients satisfied

February 19th, 2014 by Bob Bly

The worst thing about freelance copywriting (or any other type
of writing) is this:

You write a brilliant piece that you are absolutely in love
with. You submit it to your client or editor. And the client
call or e-mails – and to your utter amazement says, “I hate
this. It stinks.”

How can you prevent this unpleasant event and ensure your
clients’ satisfaction? Here are a few ideas that work:

1—Listen and capture.

Often when you ask the client about his business or product, he
will articulate its benefits in a clear and powerful way. Write
down what he says, and incorporate the best of this verbiage in
your copy. Not only is it accurate, but when the client reads
it, he’ll be pleased with how you put things (because it
accurately reflects how he thinks of the product).

2—Create a pre-approved sentence library.

Especially when dealing with a complex or technical subject,
after reviewing the source material, write a bunch of sentences
that express your understanding of the technology, function, and
features as best you can.

Submit these sentences – no more than 6 to 7 or so – to the
client and ask him to review. Incorporate any changes. Now, you
have a library of pre-approved sentences you can use in your

Few things upset clients more than the unpleasant surprise of
reading a first-draft filled with errors, because it puts the
fear into them that you do not understand the product. Using a
library of pre-approved sentences eliminates surprises of this

3—Submit 3-5 headlines.

Come up with 3 to 5 headlines – the strongest you can. Instead
of picking one and submitting your first draft with it, show the
headlines to the client early … and let him pick. That way, when
he gets your first draft, he is already comfortable with the
headline, which is the first thing he sees.

4—Submit the lead early.

As with the headlines, write a 100 to 500-word lead or two,
submit them to the client for review and comment, and then make
any changes. Again, now when he gets the first draft, you are
ensured of no surprises, at least on page one.

5—Use the John Steinbeck writing method.

John Steinbeck said that when you are writing, you must treat it
as the most important thing in the world, even when you know it
is not. This helps you take the job seriously and do your best
on everything you write.

6—Use the Bill Bonner writing method.

Bill Bonner, founder of publishing giant Agora, told copywriter
JF that you must believe in what you are selling – at least
while you are writing the promotion. If you don’t believe and
think the product is hooey, turn down the project. This is why I
just turned down a potentially lucrative assignment to promote a
course on how to make good business decisions based on

7—Do not be a prima donna.

When the client makes changes, don’t pout or grumble, even if
you disagree with them. For instance, in a copy review last
week, the client removed a phrase I thought was really strong –
a reference to the Dire Straits song “Money for nothing.” I
loved it. But I did not argue.

Copywriter Cam Foote always said he considered his first draft a
recommendation – and after that, he would acquiesce pleasantly.
David Ogilvy said, “Fight over your queen; let the pawns go.”


Category: General | 108 Comments »

The awful truth about cold calling

February 12th, 2014 by Bob Bly

Is cold calling to get new copywriting clients a good, bad, or
terrible idea?

EF writes:

“I did have a question that I thought you might be able to
answer. I’ve been receiving a lot of mail attempting to sell me
credit cards from big names like Discover, Capital One, and

“But I’ve noticed the writing is rather poor–it’s a statement
of features, sometimes of benefits, but with no real attempt at
persuasion. I’ve done some brainstorming and believe I could
rewrite these in such a way as to increase sales for these

“My thought was to try cold-calling/emailing these companies and
attempting to sell them on my idea of rewriting for greater
persuasion. So I was wondering if you had any advice, ideas, or
tips on the best way to go about this–or even if it’s a
worthwhile idea!”

My bad news for EF is: cold calling to get copywriting clients
is a terrible idea – probably the worst way to go about looking
for copywriting clients ever devised.

There are 5 reasons why I urge freelance copywriters to avoid
cold calling at all costs.

1-Clients want to work with vendors whom they perceive as busy
and successful. By logical extension, if you have nothing better
to do than sit at your desk dialing the phone and asking
strangers to hire you, clients conclude you are not busy,
successful, or in demand. So right away you cause the prospect
to be repulsed by your seeming desperation rather than to be
attracted to you and your services.

2-When you quote your fee, the client whom you find through
cold calling will almost always try to beat you down. Why?
Because they know you need the work. Otherwise, why would you
have called them? Cold calling destroys your leverage.

3-If you tell them you are calling because you have received
their marketing campaigns and believe them to be ineffective,
you risk making a fool of yourself, because the marketing you
say stinks may in fact be working like gangbusters. You don’t

4-Another problem with telling potential clients their copy
stinks is that the person you are speaking with may be
responsible for it and not agree with you. So you start off the
relationship by arguing with and insulting her. Is that smart?

5-Cold calling is a form of telemarketing, a marketing
technique that has slowly fallen out of favor over the years
because it is overly intrusive and interruptive. Lots of people
hate telemarketers, so for you to become one does not position
you favorably with your potential clients.

The bottom line: cold calling is a bad idea because it violates
the Silver Rule of Marketing, formulated by my colleague Pete
Silver, who says: “It is always better to get them to come to
you than for you go to them.”


Category: General | 64 Comments »

The myth of outdated information

February 5th, 2014 by Bob Bly

You know a pet peeve of mine is the ignorance of folks who
believe that any information product older than 3 years is
antiquated, obsolete, and irrelevant.

Along those lines, subscriber JK writes:

“I have been following you for a number of years and have
purchased some of your products. Most are excellent and I have
been happy with them.

“You mentioned returns of materials more than three years old.
In most cases if the product is over three years old, I will be
disappointed with the vendor and may not purchase from them

“Some products are evergreen such as your copywriting products
and self improvement products from Brian Tracy and many others.

“Some products are not evergreen. Most any product on web
development (creating web sites) is obsolete in a year because
of how fast the information changes.”

Here’s my reply to JK:

“I beg to differ. Yes, any product on social media that is over
3 years old is outdated. But my products on Internet marketing
are NOT outdated … because the methodology I use is proven and
has been consistent for many years.

“That methodology does not incorporate SEO or social media, so I
dispute your contention that those products are obsolete.”

See, here’s what all these “this product is too old” whiners do
not understand about Internet marketing:

There are literally dozens of different techniques used in
driving and converting traffic in Internet marketing.

Yet, you can build and run a wildly profitable Internet
marketing business – mine gives me a 6-figure annual income with
me putting in literally just 2-3 hours a week on it – using only
a handful of them.

That’s what the Internet marketing methodology my products teach
does: It produces traffic and converts clicks to sales using
only a few proven techniques which do not change much over the

It deliberately ignores dozens of other techniques including
blogging, SEO, and social media. Why? Because you can’t do and
know everything. And the simpler an online business is, the
easier and less time it takes to run.

I am not saying you should avoid those methods. I use
them for some of my other businesses, and in fact I publish
information products (written by experts, not me) on all three –
blogging, SEO, and social media.

But the Internet marketing “system” I use doesn’t rely on them.
So changes in SEO or social media do not render it obsolete in
any way. They are just not relevant.

Here’s another irritant with regard to outdated information: if
a web site URL in one of my info products no longer works, my
buyers roar about it.

Well, we had the same thing in the pre-Internet days with my
books: the longer the book was in print, the more likely it was
that the addresses and phone numbers in them would be outdated,
because the resources moved or went out of business. Yet no one
complained or asked for a refund.

I fear I will go to my grave fighting this losing battle. So I
have resigned myself to spending the rest of my life (sigh)
continually updating my information products (e-books, audio
albums, DVDs) as well as my traditionally published books. These
days I am always writing a new edition of one of my nonfiction

It never ends, but the shame of it is: it’s unnecessary, for the
reasons I have stated.

So if you see me in the street, shuffling slowly … a gray, worn
out, sad, tired little man, barely able to stand … well – it’s
your fault!

But I won’t hold it against you.

Oh, well – back to the keyboard.


Category: General | 88 Comments »