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Archive for October, 2017

The ideal length for online video

October 31st, 2017 by Bob Bly

Abraham Lincoln was, for his day, unusually tall and gangly.

Once a man asked him, “Hey, Abe Lincoln … how long should a
person’s legs be?”

Lincoln answered, “Long enough to reach the ground.”

It’s the same with copy in general and online video in

Both should be as long as they need to be to get the message
across and generate maximum ROI.

TwentyThree, the maker of a video marketing automation platform,
studied over 1.5 million videos to better inform marketing and
content creation teams about preconceived video myths.

Their “State of Online Video in 2017” report found that videos
can, and should, last longer than 90 seconds if publishers want
to see higher engagement rates.

While 80 percent of videos are under 5 minutes, the short ones
drive less than a third of overall video engagement.

Mid-form and long-form videos, which are at least 15 minutes
long, drive over half of all video engagement despite
encompassing just 8 percent of all video.

The subject matter has a lot to do with how long viewers will
stick with videos.

I wrote scripts for marketing videos in the late 1970s when I was
at Westinghouse Defense and Aerospace, and our average run time
was about 8 to 10 minutes.

Yes, you can argue it was a different time with longer attention

But the footage — F-16s soaring through the air and tanks
blasting apart concrete targets with rounds — was really cool to
watch. And so people did.

I recently read an article saying the human attention span is now
less than 8 seconds.

But if you’ve ever watched a half-hour sitcom or a movie in a
theater, you know that is pure baloney.

Four hundred hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.
Almost 5 billion videos are watched on YouTube every single day.
Average run time is about 3 minutes.

Stansberry Research had a home run with a video sales letter
awhile back called “The End of America.”

It was one of the most successful financial promotions of the
last few years, and its running time was an incredible 45

I’m sure the Stansberry team heard from a lot of friends and
family who said, “You’re crazy; nobody will watch a video that
long” or “Whenever I click on those things, I immediately click

But Stansberry wisely ignores subjective opinion, especially of
noncustomers. All they care about is ROI and gross revenues, and
“The End of America” made them a small fortune.

And that’s all any marketer, including you, should care about,
too. Right?


Category: Online Marketing | 201 Comments »

Is the writing profession doomed?

October 17th, 2017 by Bob Bly

We recently saw War of the Planet of the Apes, where intelligent
apes take over as the dominant species of our planet.

Well, it’s happening … only instead of apes taking over, it’s
smartphones and laptops!

According to an article in ClickZ, Gartner predicts that by 2018,
20% of all business content will be written by machine.

In July 2017, Google invested over $800,000 in the Press
Association’s initiative to generate news stories solely through
the use of AI.

The frightening future for writers is that AI machines may make
us totally obsolete by doing our jobs as well or better than we
can — and for a lot less money.

And it’s not just writers whose jobs are in danger of vanishing.
It’s a much bigger portion of the working world.

In his book The Rise of the Robots, Martin Ford reprints a
perfectly adequate sports article and reveals it was written
entirely by computer — without the touch of a human hand. It’s
not spectacular, but it’s certainly competent B-level sports

Swedish programmer Sverker Johansson built an AI writing
algorithm that has authored nearly 3 million articles now posted
on Wikipedia.

And it’s not just writers who are in danger of losing their jobs
to a computer.

In China, human customer service representatives who handle live
chatbot calls are now being replaced by algorithms.

[x]cube, a maker of automated chatbots, says that 34% of
businesses surveyed believe that half of all customer service
calls could be handled by robot chatbots without a human agent.

Elon Musk believes that by 2030 to 2040 computers will be able to
do anything a human can do.

It makes me wonder why Musk, Google, the Chinese AI chatbot
maker, and other clever tech entrepreneurs are so darn eager to
put billions of human beings permanently out of work.

Years ago, I had this debate with AN, an old college friend.

AN gave the party line about automation and robotics “freeing”
people from dull, repetitive jobs so they can do more rewarding
and creative work.

What AN and others miss is this: there are a number of people who
don’t have the skills or ability or drive to work at a higher
level than the “dull, repetitive” jobs they hold now.

So when you “free” them from their current boring jobs, you move
them into permanent and boring unemployment.

For instance, in the early 1960s, as a kid my mom would take me
to visit my dad at work.

His building in downtown Paterson, NJ, the city where we lived,
had a manual elevator run by Joe, a friendly elevator operator
who was always nice to me, because he liked kids.

One day mom and I went to visit dad, and Joe was gone.

“Where’s Joe?” I asked.

She pointed to the self-service buttons labeled G and 1-5 on
the control panel of the new shiny automatic elevator that had
replaced the creaky old manual — and eliminated Joe’s job.

“What’s Joe going to do?” I asked.

She shrugged.

So I still think about what happened to Joe. He was older, and I
suspect he had trouble finding another job, if he was able to at

And I also think about what will happen to us in 2040 if Musk is

And he probably will be, even if his date comes a little sooner
or a little later.


Category: General, Writing | 819 Comments »

The 10 greatest marketing books ever written

October 13th, 2017 by Bob Bly

Subscriber RK writes:

“Bob, I am trying to read some of the classic marketing books you
recommend, such as those written by David Ogilvy, Claude Hopkins,
John Caples, Robert Collier, and Vic Schwab.

“But all the examples in them are print ads, and it’s hard for me
to see how these relate to app banners or email follow-up

I hear this a lot from millennial marketers: They believe that
the rapid pace of change has made the marketing of the 20th
century irrelevant to marketing in the 21st century.

Here’s why such thinking is fallacious:

Yes, the technology, media, and methods — newspapers and network
TV commercials vs. social media, programmatic advertising, and
hyperlocal marketing — are much different today than they were

But the core of marketing is not channels, technology, databases,
or media.

Rather, the most important element of marketing and selling is
human psychology — or more specifically, the psychology of

And as the great Claude Hopkins noted, human psychology has not
changed in ten centuries.

That means the core persuasion techniques of Ogilvy, Caples, and
the other master marketers whose books I recommend have not lost
one microdot of their power and effectiveness.

And here are the 10 books I fervently believe every marketer, and
that goes especially for you young folk, should devour:

1– “How to Write a Good Advertisement” by Vic Schwab, Wilshire
Book Company. A common-sense course in how to write advertising
copy that gets people to buy your product or service, written by
a plain-speaking veteran mail order copywriter in 1960.

2– “My First 50 Years in Advertising” by Max Sackheim,
Prentice-Hall. Another plain-speaking, common-sense guide that
stresses salesmanship over creativity, and results over awards.
The author was one of the originators of the Book of the Month

3– “The Robert Collier Letter Book” by Robert Collier, Important
Books. While Schwab and Sackheim concentrate on space ads,
Collier focuses on the art of writing sales letters. While some
of his letters may seem old-fashioned and dated, Collier’s
timeless principles still apply.

4– “Reality in Advertising” by Rosser Reeves, Alfred A. Knopf. The
book in which Reeves introduced the now-famous 3-part concept of
Unique Selling Proposition; not one marketer in a hundred today
knows the 3 essential parts of a winning USP.

5– “Breakthrough Advertising” by Eugene Schwartz, Boardroom. A
copywriting guide by one of the greatest direct-response
copywriters of the 20th century.

6– “Tested Advertising Methods” by John Caples, Prentice-Hall.
Presents the principles of persuasion as proven through A/B split

7– “Confessions of an Advertising Man” by David Ogilvy, Atheneum.
Charming autobiography of legendary ad man David Ogilvy, packed
with useful advice on how to create effective advertising.

8– “Scientific Advertising” by Claude Hopkins, Bell Publishing. A
book on the philosophy that advertising’s purpose is to sell, not
entertain or win creative awards — and that only testing, not
subjective opinion, can determine what actually works.

9– “Method Marketing” by Denny Hatch, Bonus Books. A book on how
to write successful direct response copy by putting yourself in
the customer’s shoes.

10– “Advertising Secrets of the Written Word” by Joseph Sugarman,
DelStar. How to write ad copy by a master of mail order

Have I left any out? Yes, many. But this list is a good start.

How many have you read? If not all, you ignore them at your own


Category: General | 137 Comments »

The 90/10 secret of writing and info marketing

October 10th, 2017 by Bob Bly

My Facebook friend CR writes:

“As a relative newcomer, I’d love to find my way into the passive
income world. I get stuck at the very beginning: topic.

“I have the same problem trying to create articles to build
reputation in my new copywriting niche.

“What do I know that anyone else would want to know? I ponder and
ponder, but so far, nothing.”

Here is the answer….

The mistake people make — whether creating info products, or
writing articles or books — is to say, “What can I write about? I
don’t know anything special” … just as CR says above.

But she — and they — and you, if you believe her — are wrong.

My good friend Dr. Gary North says:

“The great mistake most small-business people make is to imagine
that their detailed knowledge of their niche market is widely

“On the contrary, hardly anyone knows it. They are owners of a
capital asset that others do not possess and have no easy way of

Dan Kennedy notes, “You know something that someone will pay to
learn. There are plenty of opportunities to help people get the
most out of their business and life.

“You just need to grasp a few key strategies for presenting
yourself as an expert advisor and people will gladly pay to get
that guidance from you.”

Ray Bradbury said every writer was capable of producing unique
writing, because each person’s experience is different.

Now, when I repeat Dr. North’s statement, the next objection I
hear is:

“Well, I know something about a few things … but I am not a top
expert in these subjects. So I have no authority to pontificate
about them.”

My friend, top info marketer Fred Gleeck, overcomes this argument
with his 90/10 principle of content.

Fred says yes, maybe there are a few people … say as many as 10%
of the world’s population … that know as much or more about your
topic than you do.

But, you are not writing for them. They are not your audience.

You are writing for the 90% or more of readers who know less
about your topic than you do — for they are your audience.

Gary North says you already know more than 90% of people about
your topic because of your extensive experience.

Or what Dan Kennedy calls “expensive experience,” because (a) it
cost you a lot in time, study, and effort to acquire and (b) you
can sell it for a profit to others.

One famous speaker I know said he became an expert in his topic
by reading a couple of books every week on the subject for an
entire year — 100 books in all.

Mark Ford says you become knowledgeable in a skill or field once
you have spent 1,000 hours practicing the discipline … and if you
work at it 20 hours a week, you’ll have logged those thousand
hours in about a year.

As for becoming a master, Mark says that takes around 10,000
hours of practice.

One other point: People read as much for repetition as for new

So if your book, article, or info products mostly tells them what
they already know, they’ll enjoy and learn from it — think you,
the author, really know your stuff, because it jibes with their
own understanding — and feel they have gotten their money’s

And if in that book, article, or info product you also give them
a couple of new ideas, they’ll be even happier.

So I say to you and to CR: Ponder my advice above, if you wish.

But really, the best way to overcome CR’s objection and worry is:
just start writing.

What you produce will be much better than you expect — most
likely surprisingly so.

And with some rewrites and polishing, you’ll in short order have
a publishable and valuable work.

As Dr. Benjamin Spock wrote in his best-selling book Baby and
Child Care:

“Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.”


Category: General, Online Marketing, Writing | 3,432 Comments »

Should you always charge the highest price?

October 6th, 2017 by Bob Bly

I recently told BL, a colleague, that I was pretty busy with
copywriting assignments (I usually am).

Like so many people, he immediately said, “You should raise your

“Thanks, but no thanks,” I replied.

Like BL, many people say you should raise your prices when you
are so busy with orders at your current prices that you can’t
take on any more business.

The logic is that being so busy gives you leverage to make prices
higher, because if some customers balk at the new higher price
tags, you can afford to let them walk, being as busy and
successful as you are.

However, I don’t see being busy as an opportunity to charge more
… for 2 reasons.

First, it’s a form of price gouging.

Some of those who tell me to raise my prices, in particular BL
and other top people in my fields of copywriting and info
marketing, prefer to always extract as much money from every
client as they can.

They firmly believe you should always charge every customer as
much as you can — as much as they possibly can afford to pay.

I do not agree.

I prefer to charge a fair and reasonable price for the products
and services I provide.

But not more than that.

I know I don’t like it when a vendor — even one in high demand
and therefore arguably in a positon of power — squeezes me for
every last dime they can get.

If you don’t like when sellers charge you outrageously high fees,
rest assured your customers don’t like it either.

And I won’t do unto my clients what I don’t want others to do
unto me.

Even if it’s perfectly legal to do so, it is at best unkindly and
at worst morally reprehensible to take buyers for every last
nickel they have.

Like the pharmaceutical executive who overnight raised the price
of the life-saving drug, which only his firm could supply,
tenfold … so that many chronically ill people who needed it to
live could no longer afford to buy it.

In the lending industry, you can’t just charge any interest rates
you want. The rate is limited by law.

To make loans above the legal rate limit is called “usury” or
charging “usurious” rates.

And usury is actually a crime.

Second, charging prices that are affordable to your customers is
not only appreciated by them — it’s also good for your customer
retention rate, repeat business, referrals, reputation, and

DM, another colleague, once said to me that if a freelance direct
response copywriter (which DM was) charged an outrageously high
fee … and the promotion she wrote was anything other than a
grand-slam home run …

… the client would resent the gouging, and never hire that
freelance writer again … which had in fact happened in the case
of the other writer we were discussing, who had just done this
with one of DM’s clients.

Years ago, GD, a pricing consultant, told me that in a service
business, you should charge a price in the middle of the top
third of providers.

His logic was as follows:

If your fee is in the bottom third, prospects assume you aren’t
any good.

After all, if you were any good, you would be charging more,

GD also said that if you charged in the middle third, again you
would be viewed as midlevel in talent and skills — and prospects
want the best service provider, not a mediocre one.

So your price should be in the upper third of the cost spectrum.

But, if it’s at the extreme top of the upper third, your price is
then so high that you make difficult for clients to give you
repeat business.

Because your prices are so high, clients cringe whenever you
quote a fee … and begin looking for another good professional who
charges perhaps a bit less.

However, if your clients like you and your work, and you charge
in the middle of the top third, they will pay what you ask — and
not run every time you send an estimate to get other quotes.

And if you can get top dollar without losing clients by pricing
in the middle of the top third, there is no reason to lower your
fees to the bottom of the top third, right?


Category: General | 405 Comments »

Kindness does not always pay

October 3rd, 2017 by Bob Bly

I used to think, until recently, it always paid off to be nice to
everyone, or at least was the right thing to do.

But something happened recently that made me think that maybe
this should not apply to everyone in your life.

Here’s the story … and the one category of people I might no
longer apply my “always be nice” rule to:

When our new and expensive central air conditioner seemed to be
underperforming, I called CC, the HVAC company that installed it.

I had bought a premium AC unit, deluxe model, new custom duct
work, full warranty, and covered by 24/7 service.

And I paid a premium price for it.

So when the AC wasn’t working on a hot summer night, I called

Mike, their on-call emergency tech responded, said he was at
another job, and as soon as he was done with that customer, he
would call me, which he did.

At that point, it was night, the house was more comfortable, and
so I figured I could give Mike a break.

I told Mike to knock off early and go home — provided he or
another CC tech could come first thing in the morning, before the
house heated up again.

He said OK. But when I called CC the next morning, I was told,
“The day service shift is on a big commercial job now, so they
cannot come until late in the afternoon.”

Not a big deal, I know. So I did not make a fuss.

But look: If I had been a bad guy, and insisted Mike come and
work late, my AC would have been fixed on the spot. I would have
gotten what I wanted.

Now, with another hot day, I was going to pay for my courtesy and
kindness by being made to swelter and wait.

Hardly seems fair to me, right?

As a rule, it does us, as businesspeople as well as consumers and
human beings, to be nice rather than nasty or even difficult.

That includes being nice to everyone you deal with professionally
— clients, employees, and vendors like CC.

Well, I feel I have to be nice to clients, and I usually am. Not
difficult, since I like them anyway.

But the day after the CC incident, I was considering that maybe
with vendors and others who sell services to me, being nice all
the time is a little less critical.

I was ultra-nice to Mike at CC. And in return, I was penalized
for it.

So what’s a nice guy to do?

I think I’ll keep being nice, because life is too short to be an
a-hole … although I sometimes am, despite my best efforts to the

One more point….

If you are a service provider like CC, and a customer is nice to
you, and cuts you some slack, if anything you should show
appreciation — a short email, a note, or maybe a certificate for
$20 off the next service or product you buy from them, or a
Starbucks gift card.



Category: General | 247 Comments »