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“Unbelievable truth” often fails in sales copy

August 21st, 2018 by Bob Bly

Recently I got an email about FN, a successful marketing
consultant.

In it, FN tells the reader: “I bill out at $2750 an hour. So in a
40-hour week, I gross $110,000 in fees.”

Although I know FN casually, and believe him to be ethical, his
claim of six-figure weekly earnings as a consultant caused me to
raise a skeptical eyebrow.

So I did the math.

If FN works 40 hours a week, well, I don’t know any consultant
who will every hour he is in the office.

For many consultants, billable hours comprise only 50% to 60% of
the time they put in.

The other hours are spent on what is known as “administrivia.”

It’s a catchall term for routine tasks such as reading emails,
handling paperwork, dealing with staff and vendors, paying taxes,
putting out fires — most of which they don’t get paid for.

Also, if FN works 50 weeks a year as a consultant, at $110,000 a
week, he makes $5.5 million a year — a claim that raised my
skeptical eyebrow higher while sending my B.S. alarm into red alert.

No doubt FN or his copywriter intend for these facts about his
achievements to build credibility.

But this type of outrageous marketing often repels prospects who
might otherwise buy — for two reasons.

First, the claims are so beyond what most readers have ever
achieved, they reject it as false.

Second, many prospects are turned off by brag-and-boast marketing
… when means you should think twice about doing it, even if all
you say is true.

One technique to soften the boast and make readers more accepting
of it is to use this phrase from Joe Karbo’s ad: “I tell you this
not to brag, but…”

Another is for the superstar to remind the readers that he too
came from a more humble start. Example: Joe Vitale writes about
once being homeless.

Bottom line: Even if your incredible claims of wealth and success
beyond compare are true, you should perhaps tone them down a tad
to avoid making the reader skeptical.

Of course, I may be wrong about this. I often am.

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Category: Direct Marketing | 8 Comments » |

The power of one good idea

August 17th, 2018 by Bob Bly

Here’s a recent incident that illustrates a valuable idea — “the
power of one good tip” — I want to share with you.

What happened was this: my subscriber KW ordered one of our
how-to business guides.

The next day, she sent the following email to me:

“Bob, I just ordered this and went through it quickly. This looks
like a great book for beginners. Unfortunately, it’s too remedial
for me, and it’s the first purchase from you that I am requesting
a refund on, please.”

We issued the refund immediately, without question or quibble, as
all marketers should.

Then KW, being a straight arrow, said to be fair to me, she had
deleted the PDF from her hard drive.

But … my guarantee says clearly: “You can keep the ebook even if
you ask for refund.”

I told KW this — and offered, at no charge, to resend the ebook
PDF.

KW replied:

“Seriously?! Wow! I would be happy to have it back. There were a
couple of items in Section IV that were quite helpful. Thanks
Bob! Much appreciated.”

Wait a second, KW, I thought. Hold the phone.

You mean you LIKED the ebook, got something out of it, and you
still told me to give you your money back?

I immediately replied:

“It’s my pleasure.

“But here’s something to remember before you ask for a refund on
anyone’s info product again:

“Namely, if there is even ONE item in a book that is helpful to
you, that one idea or tip alone could easily be worth 10X or more
what you paid for the product.

“My attitude as a consumer is that if I learn just one new thing
from an info product, I know my time and money have been well
spent.

“And in that case, since you have gotten your money’s worth —
hasn’t the producer earned his pay?

“Think about it.”

There are 2 valuable take-away points here, one for you as a
consumer of info products, and one for you as an info marketer.

First, as a consumer of info products, understand that you should
read for repetition as well as for new ideas.

Repetition has value, because we need to hear an idea or
instruction multiple times for it to sink in.

So if 95% of an info product tells you things you already know,
it is providing value by reinforcing your learning.

Then, if you also get one or two useful new ideas or strategies
in addition, consider it a bonus.

Second, as an info marketer, make the above points explicitly in
your sales copy.

This is typically done by writing on your landing page: “If you
get even just one new idea from my course, it can easily pay back
the cost 10X over or more.”

That way, you set a realistic expectation with buyers that
increases customer satisfaction and reduces refund requests.

Now, do I include that copy consistently on all my sales pages?

No.

Should I?

Yes.

When I returned the ebook to KW, she thanked me and offered
to pay for it again, which was highly ethical and admirable. And
to answer your question, I thanked her for that but did not take
the money, insisting she keep the product free “on the house.”

Why? Because it is always better to under-promise and
over-deliver than vice versa.

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Category: General | 10 Comments » |

The #1 mistake writers make when trying to get published

August 14th, 2018 by Bob Bly

In the pre-internet days, the most popular assignment for
freelance writers was doing magazine articles.

The way it works: You sent a “query letter” outlining the article
you propose to write.

Based on the strength of your query letter, the editor said yay
or nay.

Freelance writers typically got the name and address of the right
editor from a reference volume called Writer’s Market, which is
still published today.

And so many writers made a terrible mistake that got them
rejection after rejection on their queries.

Namely, they never actually looked at or read the magazine they
were pitching.

As a result:

>> They did not know whether the magazine was entirely staff
written or also used freelancers.

>> They did not know what stories the magazine had run recently
and so often pitched something the editor had just published —
which meant the magazine was unlikely to buy another article on the
same topic.

>> They did not understand the audience for the magazine — who
they were, what interested them, and what they wanted to know.

>> They did not know the departments and columns that were most
open to freelance contributions.

So most of their queries were off the mark and fell on deaf ears.

If you want to freelance for a magazine, get and read a number of
issues to get a feel for the points above.

Likewise, if you are a copywriter, and you get an inquiry, spend
a few minutes reviewing the company’s website before you call
them.

Today, the thing seems to be writers (and marketers) asking if
they can write a guest post for someone else’s blog. I get
several such requests a month.

And they are making the same stupid mistake magazine writers made
in the old day: not reading the blog they want to post to!

For instance, my blog is about writing, marketing, and business
success.

A few weeks ago, I got an email from HB who was looking to write
guest posts for me.

The guest posts he offered were all about cryptocurrencies; e.g.,
Bitcoin.

Anyone even glancing at my blog would instantly know this is not
a good fit for me, as I do not write about investing.

So HB’s post would be completely irrelevant to my readers. And I
politely turned down HB’s offer.

Frankly — not that he would care if he knew, which he doesn’t —
my opinion of him as a marketer is, based on this one contact
with him, pretty low.

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Category: Writing | 9 Comments » |

Boost your ranking with these SEO hacks

August 10th, 2018 by Bob Bly

Many SEO experts advising you on optimizing your website for
Google focus on just a few things, mainly use of keywords in web
pages.

But here are some website problems and errors that cause search
engines to have a poor opinion of your site — and by fixing these
harmful errors, you can boost your SEO significantly higher:

1–Broken internal links.

An internal link is a hyperlink on one of your site pages that
clicks to another page on the site.

Not only do broken internal links frustrate visitors, but they cause
search engines to rank your site lower.

2–Broken external links.

Links from your site that do not work to other sites or pages can
lower your search engine ranking.

3–Duplicate content.

Duplication of page titles or copy may ultimately cause the
search engine to ban both pages from search results. In
particular, duplicate title tags can also confuse the search
engines. H1 tags and the HTML title on pages should not be
redundant but should use different wording.

4–Site map errors.

An error in site map code may make it impossible for search
engine crawlers to find certain pages.

5–Missing alt tags.

Without an alt tag to define the purpose of an image, the search
algorithms may find the whole page less relevant.

6–Pages that take more than 7 seconds to load can hurt your
search engine ranking.

7–Missing meta description tags.

Both users and search engines use description tags to understand
the content and value of pages.

8–Low word count.

Text length on web pages should be 200 words or more. Fewer make
it difficult for search engines to assign the page a topic and
index it.

9–Keywords.

Judiciously use keywords on pages while maintaining a natural
conversational tone. Overuse of keywords that render the page
awkward to read can depress the page ranking.

10–Title too short.

Pages with titles of less than 10 characters may not show up in
search results for different keywords.

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Category: Online Marketing | 9 Comments » |

Increase your email open rates

August 7th, 2018 by Bob Bly

CMO Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media produced an excellent article
recently on how to boost your email open rates.

Most people on your list getting your emails just click away
without opening them. “Open rate” is the percentage of
subscribers who do open them, ostensibly to read even the lead if
nothing else.

To boost your open rates:

1–In the from line, have the email come from both a person as
well as their company. Spell them out; do not use an email
address.

2–Use a short and punchy subject line; ideally 4 to 7 words.

3–Make sure the most important five words and phrases are in the
first sentence of the copy, as this may be all a mobile user
might see.

4–Use numbers and make them odd numbers; e.g. “7 steps” is better
than “6 words.”

5–Use words and phrases proven to increase open rates; some of
these include: special, now, get this now, get your, what,
latest, can, new, just, introduction, latest, available,
upgrade, go, offer expires Friday; and alert.

6–Use questions you are frequently asked as subject lines.

7–Use opt-in e-lists including your own. If recipients aren’t
expecting your email or did not ask for it, they are unlikely to open
and more likely to unsubscribe.

8–Make sure your email reaches the recipient; use an email
service provide that averages 99% deliverability.

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Category: Writing and the Internet | 16 Comments » |

More bad marketing advice to steer clear of

August 3rd, 2018 by Bob Bly

A marketing seminar company sent me an email invitation to a
workshop on “brand journalism.”

The headline read: “Your old strategies aren’t cutting it
anymore. It’s time to trade in boring copy for sharp storytelling
and amazing visuals.”

This message can be taken two ways.

The surface message makes sense: (a) copy should not be boring,
(b) storytelling is an effective marketing technique and (c) so
are great visuals.

I don’t think anyone would argue with that.

But the way I read it, I see a subtle dig at traditional
marketing and a plug for bright shiny objects.

Specifically the message to me reads: (a) copywriting is old hat,
ineffective, and rapidly becoming obsolete; (b) telling stories
works, and old-fashioned copy that sells doesn’t; and (c) people
look at pictures but don’t read copy any more.

And if that’s indeed what they meant, then you can do yourself no
greater disservice by listening to them.

Why not? Let’s examine each claim:

A–“Copywriting is old hat, ineffective, and obsolete.”

My clients and others who are making millions of dollars from
long-copy sales letter, video sales letter, and multi-page direct
mail laugh at this — all the way to the bank.

Content, social media, infographics, and blogging all have their
place. But at the end of the day, nothing happens until the sale
is made. And it’s copy that makes the sale.

B–“Storytelling trumps copy.”

Storytelling is a great copywriting technique. Some of the most
famous advertising sold a ton based on a good story.

But if you think storytelling is the only way to write copy, you
are sadly mistaken.

C–“People don’t read and graphics are king.”

The old saw supporting in this is “One picture is worth a
thousand words.”

But a promotion combining those 1,000 words with great pictures
will likely outsell pictures alone by a country mile.

You may argue, “Well, video is pictures, and that works.”

But before you shoot your video, you write a script — which is
words and copy.

So the idea that video makes words irrelevant is patently
ridiculous.

The bottom line?

Getting sucked in and overly smitten with bright shiny objects —
and abandoning the persuasion methods that have been proven for
decades — risks driving the sales curve way down.

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Category: Direct Marketing | 13 Comments » |

8 ways for writers to overcome loneliness and isolation

July 31st, 2018 by Bob Bly

What do writers and scientists have in common?

This: for many years, the stereotype of each was a dedicated
individual working alone.

The full cliché had the writer banging away on his typewriter
sitting alone in a room, possibly in a cold garret furnished in
early poverty.

Novelist Philip Roth, for instance, has said many times: “Writing
in a room by myself is practically my whole life.”

For science geeks, the stereotype was the “mad scientist”
working along in his lab, surrounded by flasks and beakers filled
with bubbling fluids.

Some people find these stereotypes a bit romantic and appealing;
others see them as depressing.

But the fact of the matter is .. they aren’t true — for either
scientists or writers.

Or at least they don’t have to be. And probably shouldn’t be.

As far as scientists toiling away in solitude, Yale Professor
Priyamrada Natarajan writes:

“Although advances in science and technology are often portrayed
as the work of solitary men … science has always been a
collective enterprise, dependent on many individuals who work
behind the scenes.”

For writers, though we are more likely to work alone than on a
team, many of us either want or would benefit from more “people
time” and less alone time.

Why? Spending time with others helps overcome isolation and
loneliness, enables productive collaboration, and provides an
opportunity for support and feedback.

If you are a writer alone most of the time but want to increase
your “people time,” here are 8 ways to achieve that goal:

1–Join a writer’s group.

Many towns have writers’ groups, usually mostly amateurs, which
meet to read and critique each other’s work.

2–Attend writing conferences.

There are a ton of them all over the country, and they are
advertised in writer magazines such as Poets & Writers, The
Writer, and Writer’s Digest.

The advantage over #1 is that, unlike local groups consisting
almost solely of amateurs, at writing conferences the attendees
range the spectrum from rank amateur to working journeymen to
superstars — and often editors and literary agents as well.

Two I have attended and can recommend personally: ASJA for book
and article writers, and AWAI for copywriters.

3–Find a writing buddy.

Reach out to a writer you meet at #1 or #2, and pair up as
buddies, much like kids have a swim buddy at summer camp. You
can read each other’s work and give feedback, plus you can have
writerly chats and moral support.

4–Hire a coach.

We live in a coach-crazy world today. If you hire a coach, make
sure the coach is an active and successful writer in the niche
you are pursuing.

5–Join a Mastermind group.

According to an article in Forbes, Mastermind groups are
relatively new to most people, even though Napoleon Hill created
the concept around 75 years ago.

A mastermind group is designed to help you navigate through
challenges using the collective intelligence of others — some who
are your peers, others who may be ahead of you — and there is
often a large fee to belong.

6–Professional association memberships.

I am a chemical engineer and as such am also a member of the
American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

Medical writers join the American Medical Writers Association.
You get the idea.

Benefits to association membership are many and varied — from
networking and self-promotional opportunities, to conferences and
education, to affordable health insurance and discounts on
products and services.

7–Build a team.

Hire a virtual assistant, proofreader, copy editor, website
designer, bookkeeper, CPA, and others to build a team that
supports you.

The obvious benefit: outsourcing everything but the writing makes
you more productive and increases your writing revenues.

Also, as you gradually build relationships with team members, you
are almost part of a virtual organization.

8–Take a class.

Many adult education programs at high schools and colleges offer
a variety of writing classes including creative writing,
copywriting, and journalism.

Bottom line: If you are a writer … and you feel too alone and cut
off from others, especially those in your line of work … these 8
ideas can fix that.

As Jor-El told Kal-El in the original “Superman” movie — you will
never be alone.

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Category: General, Writing | 10 Comments » |

The absolute best thing about mainstream book publishing

July 20th, 2018 by Bob Bly

MM recently wrote on my Facebook wall:

“Bob, for the life of me I can’t understand why you knock indie
publishing, since you’ve published a ton of work independently.

“Last I heard you make several hundred thousand a year by selling
ebooks and courses through your own websites. Seems like you’re
being a hypocrite to me, by knocking indie publishing.”

I told MM that my preference for traditional publishing over
self-publishing can be summed up in two words:

“Quality control.”

The way I see it, traditional publishing is a quality control
system for producing books — one that self-publishers lack.

For instance, all of my publishers and editors, bless them,
absolutely put me through the wringer on every book I write.

The result: the final book is much better than it was when my
manuscript first crossed their desk.

And for that, my publishers and editors have my undying
gratitude.

By comparison, 97% of self-publishers don’t come close to this
level of quality control for their product.

In fact, many do not even have their books copy edited,
fact-checked, or proofread by anyone other than the author.

Result: a huge quality differential between mainstream and
self-publishing.

My FB friend KS agreed with me, saying, “Quality is one reason
why traditional publishing will keep a foothold in the book
world, no matter what happens.”

RH commented: “I expect there to be a rebound toward physical
books and quality books that have been vetted by a publisher.
Maybe consumers will realize the value of publishers….”

BTW, I corrected MM in that I am not critical of indie
publishers; several of my own publishers are small independent
presses.

What I think often produces inferior books is self-publishing —
that is, an author publishing his own books without an outside
publishing firm.

The reason in a nutshell?

When it comes to editing, reviewing, and rewriting their own
work, most self-publishers take it too easy on themselves.

Editors with mainstream publishers, on the other hand, are tough
as nails on me. As they should be.

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Category: Writing | 11 Comments » |