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Archive for June, 2018

Why I’m content with the $29 sale

June 29th, 2018 by Bob Bly

Subscriber FB writes:

“Bob, just purchased an ebook from you with 199 pages of great
content.

“But why an ebook when you could have made this an ecourse and
sold it for far more?

“Did you sell far more copies at $29 than you would at a higher
price, resulting in greater gross revenues?

“I understand that creating an ebook is also faster and less work
than a course.

“I’m at the point of making this decision for myself. Thanks for
any feedback.”

My answer to FB is in 3 parts:

>>First, in info marketing or any other business, you should have
a line of products that are a mix of low, medium, and high in
price.

That way, you have something for every buyer — the frugal buyer
who thinks $29 is a lot to spend on information … as well as the
information junkie who buys $1,000 courses as fast as he can
click the Order Now button on his screen.

Also, many new customers prefer to “test the waters” of your
wares with an inexpensive first purchase. Then, if they like what
they get, they may go on to buy higher priced items.

>> Second is Fred Gleeck’s “Rule of 10,” which states that the
info products you sell should deliver value of at least 10 times
the purchase price.

It’s easier to adhere to this rule when selling an ebook for $29
vs. a video course for $2,000. Oh, you can do both. But the more
costly your product, the more difficult it is to deliver value
10X in excess of its price.

>> Third, FB is right: One reason I like ebooks is that they are
quick and easy to produce.

High-priced information products often have multiple elements —
including video, written guides, webinars, coaching, and other
components.

So they are more difficult and time-consuming to produce and
deliver. And for someone like me who runs a spare-time info
marketing business, and is not a full-time info publisher, that’s
a problem.

My solution: I do all my high-end info products with various
joint venture (JV) partners.

Splitting the work makes it possible for me. And it enables me to
offer my subscribers more in-depth training than I could do on my
own.

In joint ventures, I typically provide the content. My partner
handles everything else including production, order processing,
fulfillment, and administrative and technical duties.

Then we split the net revenues 50-50. Simple and it works for
both me and them.

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Category: General | 10 Comments »

8 ways to stand out in a crowded niche

June 26th, 2018 by Bob Bly

Subscriber HC writes:

“I am an aspiring entrepreneur and would appreciate information
on best practices when it comes to positioning correctly in a
niche market.”

A decade ago, being in a niche market WAS your positioning. But
today, many niches are becoming so crowded, HC is correct in that
it’s smart to position yourself within the niche.

And here are a few suggestions on how to do it:

1–Acquire specialized education or training.

There are more and more writers in the science and technology
niche.

My colleague AD has a huge advantage over them because of his PhD
in chemistry.

I have a smaller but still significant advantage because of my BS
in chemical engineering.

2–Gain specialized experience on the job.

My friend EG and I graduated from the University of Rochester
together in the late 70s.

A few years later he was involved in a major SAP implementation
for a large corporation.

Soon after that, he became an in-demand consultant in the SAP
niche who could write his own ticket.

3–Narrow your position in your niche.

For instance, there are a lot of health care ad agencies.

But KS specialized by focusing just on advertising for
audiologists.

Similarly, my old high school friend GG became a practice
management consultant for optometrists only after a career as a
successful eye doctor.

4–Position yourself as a top expert.

My friend, the late HGL, positioned himself as a top direct
response copywriter by being an amazingly prolific producer of
articles, books, and talks on his top (direct marketing).

5–Create a distinctive or outrageous brand for yourself.

Example: Publisher and entrepreneur ML made outrageous TV
commercials in which he wore a jacket covered with bright
questions marks, similar to the Riddler.

6–Invent your own niche.

Author MH created his own niche by writing a book on it:
reengineering.

SG did likewise with “permission marketing.”

7–Be humble, honest, and deliver top quality at fair prices.

In certain niches, there are so many hucksters, you can stand out
simply by not being one of them.

8–Go technical.

If there is an area in your niche that is technical and a bit
difficult to master, study and master it.

For instance, there are more online marketing gurus than you can
shake a stick at.

But my colleague PM differentiated himself by specializing in
Google AdWords and becoming a top expert in pay-per-click (PPC)
advertising.

He is an engineer and told me he picked PPC as his niche
precisely because most other people found it a little too
daunting and technical.

Are there other ways to position yourself for maximum visibility
and success in your niche you think I missed?

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Category: Branding, Success | 7 Comments »

Is this the end of writing as a profession?

June 22nd, 2018 by Bob Bly

In a recent issue, I talked about whether freelance copywriting
is still a viable profession.

So subscriber TK then asked me, “Well, what about regular
freelance writing?”

By “regular” freelance writing, he was referring to a variety of
things writers commonly produce to make a living — and that are
not directly related to selling or marketing, but rather, are
written to inform or entertain.

These can include: magazine articles … newspaper articles …
nonfiction books … novels … short stories … plays … poetry …
essays … comic books … TV shows … movies.

TK wants to know: Is traditional freelance writing doomed?

My Facebook friend RK is of the opinion that yes, there’s no
future in freelancing.

RK writes:

“There is so much wonderful writing on the internet, which is
free. Eventually, writing will be like musical recordings.
Everyone will have access to everything.

“You can find the books of the greatest writers of all time for
free on the internet. The greater the writer, the more likely you
can find copies that can be read for free, because people upload
things in order to share these writings.

“The world is changing–has changed–considerably. Many excellent
writers give away 200-page books for free–really excellent.
Digitization is creating an entire new world.”

Some years ago, I interviewed writer Harlan Ellison for Writer’s
Digest magazine.

I asked him if the outlook for freelance writers looked gloomy.

He answered: “Bob, in terms of money, condition of work, and
approbation, things are worse today than they were when we first
met in 1979. Life is a lot harder for writers now.”

Then I asked Mr. Ellison, “Do you directly blame it on the
internet.”

He gave a strong affirmative reply, criticizing the “slovenliness
of thinking” on the web as well as the “slacker-gen philosophy
and belief today that everything should be free.”

“These mooks don’t think of writing as craft or even an
occupation,” he said. “They think it’s some kind of dilettante
behavior. Much like their own lives.”

With all the sites publishing articles and short stories for
which authors are not paid, and which readers don’t pay to read —
well, what would you expect?”

Ellison again: “The amateurs ruin it for the professionals,
because they write for free just to get published.”

Just as free article and short story sites and blogs are
destroying the time-honored profession of writing articles for
pay, Kindle is destroying the traditional book publishing
industry brick by brick.

Back in the day, writing a book and actually getting it published
by McGraw-Hill, John Wiley, or another mainstream publisher was
something of an accomplishment.

But now, thanks to Kindle and Createspace, every Tom, Dick, and
Harry can instantly become a “book author.”

And when everyone is an author, there’s nothing special about you
being an author, right?

There are very few safe havens for freelance writers who, like
me, want to continue to be freelance writers and earn a decent
living at it.

One of these safe havens is direct response copywriting. Why?

Because the old adage that “everybody writes” — and can write —
is beginning to rear its ugly head again.

But those of in direct response know that in fact very few people
can write DR copy that makes millions for their clients and
produces clicks and conversions through the roof.

So areas where a piece of writing’s ROI can be measured down to
the penny still have high demand for writers … and limited
supply, because frankly very few people are good at writing
direct response copy that works.

Another way to survive and thrive in the downward spiral of the
freelance writing profession is to build a “platform” — a
combination of expert credentials plus a built-in audience for
your writings.

Example: Rachel Ray sells truckloads of her cookbooks. Not
because she is the world’s best cook, but because she has a
popular TV show.

Maybe you can’t get a network TV show right away, so start
building your platform on a smaller, more modest scale — anything
from a weekly column in your town newspaper to a 15-minute show
on a local radio station.

It’s not like being Dr. Phil. But it’s a start. And you’ve got to
start somewhere.

Plus, the more you build up your platform, the more likely you
are to be in demand as a freelance writer, have a loyal
readership, and have editors and publishers buy your work.

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Category: Writing | 13 Comments »

A winning formula for freelance copywriting success

June 19th, 2018 by Bob Bly

In the last issue of this e-newsletter, I promised to give you
some advice on how to succeed as a freelance writer in today’s
highly competitive, over-crowded market.

So without further preamble, here are some suggestions for
surviving and thriving as a copywriter — and in particular, as a
newbie freelancer — in 2018 and beyond:

#1–Get good.

Your competitors are studying the books, taking the courses,
attending the conferences, watching the videos.

If you are not similarly a student of copywriting, you will soon
be left behind, unable to compete on their level.

#2–Next, get even better.

If you think you’re already a decent writer, don’t stand still.
Move forward.

Keep learning. Improve always. Continue reading the books, taking
the workshops, and studying.

Remember this famous saying: “School is never out for the pro.”

#3–Read.

There are only 3 ways to get better as a writer: study (see #1
above) … write (see #4 below) … and read.

Read a lot. Read books about business, marketing, and writing …
and about all sorts of other topics.

The books about business, marketing, and writing improve your
ability to write kick-butt copy.

The books on all other topics give you a storehouse of knowledge
on all sorts of subjects you can draw on to add interest and
verisimilitude to your copy.

They will also teach you how to write better through example.

#4–Write.

Isaac Asimov wrote for 10 hours or so a day, 7 days a week.

Stephen King has said he writes every day of the year except
Christmas and his birthday.

Write every day. If you want Sundays off, that’s fine.

#5–Avoid generic assignments.

The worst projects are writing articles and blog posts on general
subjects that anyone can look up on Google.

That’s because writers of these articles and posts essentially
just search Google for other articles on the same topic, pull
something from 4 or 5 of them, and cobble together a new piece.

Since any idiot can do this, it doesn’t — and never will — pay
particularly well. It’s a commodity service. And boring. So why
bother?

#6–Choose a niche.

All else being equal, in whatever field you look, specialists get
paid more and have a much easier time getting work than
non-specialists.

For instance, neurosurgeons make more money than family doctors —
and patent attorneys out-earn local attorneys with general
practices.

As a writer, you can specialize either in a medium (e.g., white
papers, case studies), a product or industry (e.g., chemicals,
investment newsletters), or both (e.g., SEO for chemical companies).

#7–Acquire specialized knowledge.

Once you’re in a niche, become an obsessive student of the topic,
and if you can, acquire some credentials to make it evident to
others that you are a subject matter expert.

For instance, in the 1980s, when I was inundated with assignments
from computer and software firms, I trained to become a certified
IT professional. And as an engineering graduate, I already knew
some programming.

#8–Compete.

Any writing field where the success of your copy can be measured
and proven — and that is most notably in direct response
marketing — will pay you more than writing disciplines where ROI
cannot be measured.

By “compete,” I mean specialize in areas where results can be
measured.

You don’t have to win every time, and you won’t.

But if you get known as a top gun in a writing area with
measurable ROI, you can get paid top dollar.

#9–Know what pays.

Some specialties and writing tasks pay better than others.
Gravitate toward one or more of those areas, and you’ll make more
money.

For instance, writing white papers pays well; writing blog posts
does not.

#10–Persist.

You will have frequent setbacks, failures, and disappointments
that will knock you to your knees repeatedly.

But as long as you get right back up, you will come out a winner.
As my Facebook friend Mike says, persistence breaks resistance.

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Category: Writing | 10 Comments »

Is this the end of freelance copywriting?

June 15th, 2018 by Bob Bly

Subscriber BD, who happens to be both a songwriter and a
copywriter, writes:

“I fear something similar will happen to copywriting as what
has happened to independent musicians and songwriters over
the years.

“So many out there doing it. Just for exposure. For experience.
For samples. For confidence boost. For networking.

“So many people with solopreneur dreams.

“There’s a lot of similarities between freelance writing and
independent performing songwriters.

“Glamorous, romantic lifestyle compared to the factory and
cubical worker. Free spirit. Independent. Live life on one’s own
terms. The list goes on.”

Is BD right?

Are freelance copywriters becoming as obsolete as, say, this
librarian from the Twilight Zone?:

Today copywriters certainly face new challenges.

But we are far from down and out.

Newbie copywriters often ask me whether it is more difficult to
become a freelance copywriter now than when I started full-time
freelancing in the early 80s.

The answer: some aspects of freelance copywriting in the 21st
century are more difficult, while in other ways it’s easier
today.

Overall, it’s a wash.

For instance, the competition is much fiercer, with so many more
people entering the profession.

The internet in particular contributes to this, as we copywriters
now have to compete not just with local copywriters — but with
freelancers across the country and even around the world.

Many of these freelancers live in regions and nations where the
cost of living is so low, they can afford to charge much less
than you do.

But the internet is also a boon to copywriters. Reason: digital
marketers need more copy than ever — everything from blog posts,
e-newsletters, and auto-responder campaigns, to websites,
long-copy online sales letters, and VSLs.

So yes, there are more copywriters. But there is also a lot more
work — enough to keep you, as David Ogilvy put it, in beer and
skittles.

Will that continue in the future? I don’t know. I’m not enough of
a futurist to say. But I suspect it will.

Another mixed blessing is computers and software.

On the downside, there is software that can write articles and
other content, and at least one software package that can write
subject lines and other short copy.

On the upside, when personal computers came along, my writing
productivity easily doubled — and the ability to produce twice
the amount of work gave me a big jump in income, as it did many
other writers.

Also, millennials who were raised with computers have never
experienced the dubious pleasure of having to retype entire pages
just to make even relatively small rewrites and edits; I shudder
at the memory.

In my next essay, I’ll share specific tips and strategies for
surviving and thriving as a freelance copywriter in today’s
over-crowded, hyper-competitive market.

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Category: Writing | 12 Comments »

This kind of blogging is for dummies

June 12th, 2018 by Bob Bly

An article in a PR e-newsletter suggested that the way to write
great blog posts is to research online what topics you should
write about.

For instance: write on blog topics suggested by Google … get post
ideas from the Google Keyword Planner … jump on a topic that’s
trending or being shared a lot … write on the same topics the big
blogs are writing about or your competitors are ranking for … get
topic ideas from FAQs on other sites.

To me, this is a terrible idea, because it’s a major source of
“content pollution.”

Specifically, it’s a surefire way to create almost nothing but
link bait.

“Link bait” refers to content written for the primary or even
sole purpose of getting high search engine rankings.

Link bait posts and articles … which is what the PR newsletter’s
suggestions will produce … are usually generic, boring, useless,
and devoid of wisdom, new information, or actionable ideas.

Often, link-bait marketers hire dirt-cheap writers on Upwork,
fiverr, or freelancer.com to write these thin posts for a few
bucks a pop.

These hack writers go on Google, find a few articles on the
topic, and cobble them together into a new post or article that
contributes absolutely nothing original to the subject.

I call these articles “Google goulash.”

If you are a good writer and care about what you do, stay away
from link bait, Google goulash, and content pollution.

But how do you avoid this kind of bottom-of-the-barrel
scribbling? Here are 3 suggestions:

>> First, don’t write for peanuts for cheap, second-rate clients.

Write for marketers and publishers who care about the quality of
the copy and content they hire you to produce.

In my opinion, firms that use direct marketing are the best
clients, because they measure everything and live and die by
results.

So are big corporations and also those producing blog posts on
technical topics.

>> Second, write what you know and care about.

When you don’t know a subject and write a Google goulash piece,
all you are giving the reader is recycled information he can
easily get elsewhere.

When you care about your subject and have deep knowledge of and
experience with it, you can deliver much more — insight,
analysis, wisdom, empathy, strategies, experience-based
expertise, and new ideas and case studies that can make a
difference in the reader’s life.

Email marketing whiz Ben Settle advises, “Open your computer and
start writing. Soon a story or theme will emerge. Send it to your
list.

“Do that day after day and you will be successful — even if
you’re not the most talented copywriter or salesman in the room.”

>> Third, especially with blog posts and articles, let your
personality shine through in the writing.

Link bait articles read like they were written by automatons,
which in fact is increasingly the case as software can now
generate this kind of mindless, simple article.

But when you have a personality that comes across in your posts
and articles, you engage readers and keep them reading.

Also, if you do #2 and #3 above — write what you know and care
about, and have a distinctive voice — you gain a loyal following
that comes to view you as a trusted source advisor on your topic.

Your readers see you as an expert, and those readers who are in a
positon to retain your services are more likely to do so, because
they see you as a recognized authority in your field.

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Category: Writing and the Internet | 22 Comments »

How to cope with the ups and downs of business

June 8th, 2018 by Bob Bly

Subscriber MF writes:

“Right now I am having a very slow month — slowest in the history of
my firm.

“Bob, how do you or others manage the psychology of ups and downs
in business?”

This answer to this question has two parts.

First, instead of “managing” your worry and concern, why not just
get rid of those anxiety-causing slow times altogether?

And yes, there is in fact something you can do to either totally
avoid slow times … or failing that, certainly minimize their
frequency and duration, so it becomes a non-issue.

It’s my “double pipeline” lead generation strategy.

In a nutshell, you figure out how much lead-generating
self-promotion you need to generate enough inquiries to keep you
busy.

And then you do twice that amount of marketing!

By doing so, you will have two times as many potential new
clients and projects as you need.

So if Prospect W doesn’t come through, you don’t agonize over it
— because Prospects X, Y, and Z are waiting in the wings, ready
to pull the trigger on your services.

Second, have multiple streams of income.

That way, if your primary business gets soft for a time, then
instead of worrying about it … or sitting around with nothing to
do …

…you focus one of your other profit centers until the lull in
your main business is over.

That way, you are still productive — and you still have money
coming in.

Now, admittedly, these two strategies don’t actually address the
“psychology” MF asked me about.

But consider: You can use the first tactic to prevent or reduce
to near-zero slow times.

And with the second, you don’t really care if your main profit
center is in a slump, because you can stay active and profitable
with your other money makers.

In other words — problem solved.

Alfred E. Neuman famously asked: “What — me worry?”

And now, you don’t have to.

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Category: General | 16 Comments »

Is paying rock-bottom prices an awful mistake?

June 5th, 2018 by Bob Bly

A few weeks ago, while in a doctor’s waiting room, an interesting
and nice gent named BC sat next to me, and we struck up a
conversation.

BC is from Scotland and is 92 years old. He revealed to me that
he came to the U.S. in his youth and started a furniture business
in Manhattan, which became very successful and grew to 5 stores.

He asked me if I wanted to know his #1 success secret, and when I
said yes, told me it was simply that he paid wages 20% higher
than any of his competitors.

The reason, he explained, was to keep good employees happy so
that they stayed with him and did not look around for a better
opportunity or jump ship when given jobs offers by other
businesses.

I think this is actually a very big point. Let me explain….

Many of us are essentially price buyers, meaning we get three
quotes, and invariably pick the service provider with the lowest
price.

In essence, we are saying that low price is the most important
factor in our purchase decision, ranking ahead of customer
service, quality of work, reliability, promptness, and contractor
expertise and know-how.

Isn’t that kind of stupid?

Smarter buyers of business, trade, professional, technical, and
health care services look for the best value — not the best
price.

I mean, say you had a tumor in your cranium, needed brain
surgery, and went to three neurosurgeons for opinions.

The first says the operation is $30,000. The second charges
$32,000. And the third, whose neurosurgery practice is called
Brains ‘R Us, quotes a fee of $300.

It’s certainly the low price. But would you go with it? I think
not.

Price buying leads to crappy work from inferior vendors often
found on Upwork and Fiverr, among other online service sites.

People who patronize such sites often look for the low-priced
vendor, usually to their regret.

So why do so many people always look for the low price in so much
else they buy?

I love this quote from John Ruskin: “There is hardly anything in
the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a
little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this
man’s lawful prey.”

There was a cartoon in a magazine showing two barbershops. The
sign in the window of the first said, “$5 haircuts.”

The sign in the window of the second barbershop said, “We fix $5
haircuts.”

I have certainly spent a significant portion of my time over the
years fixing $100 copy.

Back to BC….

He also told me the internet killed his furniture business, in
which his specialty was providing high-end furniture for wealthy
Manhattan businesspeople looking to furnish their entire large
apartment.

In his heyday, said BC, these customers trusted his judgment. And
so they loved the furniture he sold them and kept it forever.

But when the web came along, these customers saw that e-commerce
furniture dealers allowed returns, refunds, and exchanges if the
customer didn’t love the furniture when it was delivered.

Because of that, all of a sudden BC was inundated with calls from
customers who wanted to send back the furniture and try out
something else.

It was so expensive and so labor-intensive, and he hated it so
much, he soon closed the store chain and retired.

It seems that the internet is a mixed blessing for business.

For some industries it’s great. For others it is terrible. For still others,
it is somewhere in the middle, with both many pros and many cons.

JM, who blames the web in part for the closure of his New Mexico
bookstore, says, “People were happy when they came in, but wanted
us to have the resources and pricing of online or they would not
buy.”

For those who embrace the internet, and don’t love bookstores or
brick and mortar, BC’s and JM’s woes mean little.

But writer LD echoes the sentiments of many when she writes, “A
town without a bookstore is a town without a soul.”

And I like a local furniture store, too.

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Category: General | 13 Comments »