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The customer is always right — even if he’s not

October 5th, 2018 by Bob Bly

Subscriber DC writes:

“After 23 years as a full-time freelance copywriter, I still
occasionally find myself in a difficult situation with a client.

“As you know, in their terms and conditions, most copywriters
stipulate that copy revisions are free of charge, but changes to
the assignment will incur an extra charge.

“I do this too, but sometimes there can be a slight grey area in
which a client can argue that a small change to the assignment is
actually just another revision. [This incremental additional work
is referred to as “scope creep.”]

“My client did this today, and I’ve ended up effectively working
3 extra hours for free. For goodwill I offered to ‘meet halfway’,
but the client — a very large company — now refuses to pay
anything above the quoted amount.

“More than ever, clients know how powerful they are and it looks
like I’ve got to grin and bear this loss. Perhaps there’s a
newsletter article here?”

Well, this covers two fundamental rules of the service business,
both of which are important.

The first rule: the time to discuss costs is before they are
incurred, not after the fact.

DC should have given his client a written estimate of the extra
hours the rework would take, and gotten them to agree before
proceeding.

Because he did not, I feel the client owes DC nothing for the
extra rework.

The second rule is: if it’s a choice between being too generous
to your clients vs. being a hard ass and looking out for yourself
first, you should err on the side of being too generous.

I’m not saying you should be a sucker and work for people for
free.

But it’s almost always better, in case of disagreement or
dispute, for the outcome to favor the client, and not you, even
if it costs you in time, money, or both.

Being a large corporation, the client company here could have
given DC a significant amount of new business — many tens of
thousands of dollars — if they continued to use his services.

Therefore, eating 3 hours of DC’s time is insignificant when
compared to the potential income from this account.

And when you treat people in business fairly and favorably, word
gets around, and you build a reputation for being honest and
honorable.

On the other hand, if DC fights the client on this, he will lose
favor with them, and they won’t continue to use him.

The great David Ogilvy likened the advertising business to a game
of chess and advised, “Guard your King and Queen; let the pawns
go.”

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Category: General, Success | 647 Comments » |

Dream big; start small

October 2nd, 2018 by Bob Bly

In the late 1970s, when I first became a professional writer, the
most sought-after assignment in freelancing was writing magazine
articles.

Today, among AWAI students and other copywriters, the most
sought-after assignment is a long-copy promotion such as a
magalog or video sales letter (VSL) selling a product via direct
response.

Anyway, back in the day, the writers’ magazines … and the
speakers at writing conferences … virtually all gave the same
advice to newbie freelance writers: start big.

They said to avoid the literary journals, the little magazines,
trade journals, and other no-pay/low-pay markets.

Instead, right off the bat, target the top-tier magazines; e.g.
Cosmopolitan, Harper’s, Atlantic Monthly, Omni, and so on.

In freelance copywriting, some — certainly not all copywriting
teachers — say to write for big-name companies paying top fees
and royalties right from the get-go.

This may be great advice, and I may be a chicken about it, but I
largely ignored it and did the opposite.

For articles, I went after smaller outlets, including smaller
papers in the cities where I lived — and magazines in
specialized niches with smaller circulations, such as Chemical
Engineering Magazine, Science Books & Films, Democrat &
Chronicle, Bergen Record, and Writer’s Digest.

When I started freelancing in my spare time right out of college,
my first freelance articles appeared in the Baltimore City Paper
— these were medium-length feature pieces for which I was paid on
average $50 each:

www.bly.com/newsite/Pages/PDFs/journalism-city-paper-stock-racing.pdf

And I had a ball writing them.

But why didn’t I set my aspirations somewhat higher? For several
reasons.

First, I was a beginner with no credentials, so I felt I had a
better shot at these mid-market periodicals.

Second, they were small enough that you could have a personal
relationship with the editor.

To get into City Paper, I went to their offices and pitched my
stories face to face with the editor — and it worked.

Third, I was getting paid, albeit small sums, for learning my
craft.

Fourth, I was getting clips, which helped me break into better
markets and assignments, and also looked good on my résumé.

Fifth, I have always preferred getting published to not, and
here, I could do it.

Similarly, in direct response copywriting, newbies today approach
big-name direct marketers in highly competitive markets —
financial and health — and ask to do a full promotion.

Even if you are hired, these marketers regularly engage the top
guns — and your chances of beating Clayton Makepeace, Richard
Armstrong, or David Deutsch as a beginner are slim to none.

Start with smaller financial publishers, supplement makers, and
other direct response offers such as books, coins, and
collectibles.

Get winners and keep working … and the bigger companies will
slowly take notice and approach you about writing for them.

In the interest of giving you more balanced reporting, sometimes
a newbie takes a shot going after a big client — and it pays off.

In the early 80s I was working for medium-sized industrial
manufacturers and getting decent but not spectacular fees, mainly
writing brochures and print ads.

A newbie I was friendly with approached International Paper about
writing for them.

They took the bait and hired him. He did well and was earning in
his first month of freelancing pay scales it had taken me 3 years
to reach.

So really, what do I know?

However, as a rule, I think my advice here to start smaller and
work your way up is fundamentally sound.

That’s my philosophy. And I’m sticking to it.

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Category: Success, Writing | 220 Comments » |

My perfect day

September 28th, 2018 by Bob Bly

Surely there are some days you feel are just perfect days for
you.

I am no different. I have perfect days. And recently, subscriber
BG asked me, “Bob, what does a perfect day for you look like?”

That’s easy to answer, because I have the scenario of my perfect
day well-established in my mind. So here it is.

To begin with, I wake up very early — around 6:30am — feel full
of energy and enthusiasm, and can’t wait to rush downstairs to
my office and get started.

When I look out the office window onto my acre of woods in the
back yard, the usual deer show up and parade slowly by.
Sometimes a fox or coyote, too.

It’s raining. The weather is cool. The sky is gray. Cloudy. No sun.

I open the window a few inches so I can better hear the sound of
the rain as it strikes the leaves on the trees and also enjoy the
cool air.

I have no phone calls scheduled. I have no appointments, which
means I do not have to leave the house, and I can work on what I
want that day, when I want to.

I have plenty of deadlines, but nothing due that week, adding
another degree of freedom to my schedule for that day.

I fire up the CD player so there is music in the background as I
work. I have wide-ranging tastes, so it could be anything from
Brahms to Barry Manilow, to John Williams and Wazmo Nariz, to
Jimmy Smith and Ian Dury.

There is left-over coffee in the pot, which I microwave,
eliminating the need for me to brew a fresh pot; I actually
prefer the day-old reheated.

My work schedule is filled with a variety of interesting and fun
projects: copywriting for clients, writing my current book, and
working on my online info marketing business.

My wife, sons, daughter-in-law, and sister are having relatively
good days with no major problems, and seem happy and in a good
mood. No one has a cold, flu, or is otherwise sick.

There are no headaches that day, such as the internet not working
or a shingle blowing off the roof or a tree falling and crushing
our fence — which happened recently.

I have no social engagements, so I can just concentrate on work.
I almost never socialize during the work week.

I work about 11 to 12 hours and knock off at around 6pm EST.

Then, I read a book and, if someone picked it up from Walgreen’s,
the newspaper … and, if I have it, the latest issue of the New
York Review of Books.

My wife is either cooking or we have prepared food to heat up —
something I really like, such as eggplant casserole.

If there’s a TV show or two my wife enjoys, I sit in the living
room and we watch it together, though I read at the same time.
The Middle was a particular favorite, though it was just
cancelled.

I go to bed early, around 10pm, so I have good energy when I wake
up early the next day.

And that’s my perfect day. What about yours?

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Category: General | 117 Comments » |

What’s your addiction?

September 25th, 2018 by Bob Bly

Yes, it’s my belief that everyone is addicted to something.

Whether it’s surfing the net … gambling … watching sports on TV …
fishing (my dad was) … poker … golf … skiing … baseball … alcohol
… drugs … roller coasters … collecting luxury cars … travel … and
dozens more.

I define addiction as “you just have to do it” — and if you
cannot do it, you’re not happy.

Some addictions, like heroin, are bad for you.

Other addictions, like expensive antique collecting, are not as
bad, though they may cause you to spend money you don’t have.

Still others, like gardening, are healthy and affordable.

And some, like real estate, can actually make you money.

I am addicted to comic books and superhero movies, which costs
very little.

But I have also written half a dozen published books on these
topics, and so actually have made a little money from them.

I do like hobbies and interests that generate a financial return.

My dad, for instance, collected coins for decades, with his
collection appreciating in value substantially.

But he did it because it captured his interest, not to make
money. When I was young, I did it along with him, for the pure
enjoyment.

I am addicted to reading, which for a writer is not a bad thing,
because it is an important part of your professional training and
also your job.

Through reading, you become a better writer and gain a lot of
useful knowledge, which can increase your writing income.

I am addicted to writing books, which also helps make me a better
writer, and with royalties and advances, has earned me a handsome
second income over the decades.

Finally, I am addicted to certain foods, such as kosher hot dogs,
pastrami, and bagels with lox and cream cheese, which probably
doesn’t do my health any good.

My advice for my fellow addicts:

First, control your addiction. I like to collect toy robots, but
I don’t want to clutter the house. So I keep the collection
small, largely so as not to piss off my wife.

Second, break yourself of truly harmful addictions: drinking too
much, drugs, porn, tobacco.

Third, try to find an addiction that is fun, good exercise, and
contributes to your development as a person. And if you turn a
profit from it, consider that a bonus.

I am also addicted to writing these weekly essays, but it seems
to be a good thing for me. And I hope you like some of them!

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Category: General | 227 Comments » |

Packaging info profits for maximum profit

September 21st, 2018 by Bob Bly

The strangest thing, at least to me, about selling info products
is this:

You can take the same content, and sell it for different prices,
in a variety of formats, the price depending largely on how you
package it.

Which means if you are an info marketer, you should give some
serious thought to how you package your products.

A case in point: In the 20th century, an info marketer named DD
sold a course on how to make money in mail order, which he
marketed primarily through an infomercial.

The course had almost a dozen components — most of which he
called “manuals” — each selling for $19, $29, or $39 (one was
$12)

When you added them all up, they had a total list price of $250.

Then he offered them for only $39.95 — an 84% discount off the
combined retail value of the 11 components.

Each manual had a beautiful shiny color cover, making them look
valuable.

Curious, I ordered DD’s mail order course.

When I got the package, I discovered that the manuals were thin
saddle-stitched reports — only a few pages each.

When I stacked them up, in total they were much thinner and had
far fewer pages than the paperback books I was writing back then
on similar subjects … and my books sold for around $15 in
bookstores.

Because my books were sold in bookstores, I did not capture buyer
names and therefore could not market other offers to them.

But DD was marketing his course through direct response TV, and
so he rapidly built a list, which he upsold on other products and
expensive coaching services — making tons more money than I was.

The lesson: sell your info products via direct response — either
infomercials or online — and turn your content into a lucrative
info marketing empire like DD did.

And repackage the content so you can charge more than if it’s
just an ordinary book.

The more elements in your info product … especially one with
multimedia elements such as manuals, reports, resource
directories, video, audio, and live components such as webinars
or coaching — the higher the price you can command … and the
more money you will make.

If you sell only low-priced ebooks at say $19 each, you have to
make 26 sales to match the revenue of the marketer who sells one
high-priced course for $497.

Also, by selling his product at $497, he builds a list of people
who spend a lot of money for valuable information, while your
list prefers cheaper bargains.

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Category: Online Marketing | 115 Comments » |

The awful truth about single-page websites

September 18th, 2018 by Bob Bly

A big fad in website design today is “single-page” sites.

This is where, rather than create separate web pages for each
major topic (e.g., testimonials, client list, about the company,
products), where you reach each page by selecting the topic from
a menu …

…all the topics are on one long home page, and you reach them by
scrolling down that home page.

Usually there is also a menu.

But when you click the topic button on a one-page website menu,
instead of taking you to a separate page, it just takes you
immediately to where that information appears on the home page —
eliminating the need to scroll.

Single-page sites are popular today, even “all the rage.” But I
don’t like them, and I recommend most businesses do not use them,
for three reasons:

>> First, Link-Assistant.com and others note that one-page
websites are not good for search engine optimization.

With a one-pager, you usually can’t drive a lot of organic search
traffic via SEO.

The reason is because you won’t have enough content to target a
wide range of keywords and topics.

So if you hope Google organic search to be the key source of new
customers for your business, a one-page website could be your
biggest mistake.

And if you already have a one-pager, and you seek Google traffic,
consider changing your site from single to multi-page.

>> Second, a lot of people like single-page websites because they
find them to be aesthetically pleasing.

Turns out, that’s not a good reason to have one.

According to a study by NN Group, 76% of users surveyed said the
most important factor to them when on a website is that it’s easy to
find what they want.

Traditional multi-page sites make it easy for visitors to quickly
go to the content they seek.

A beautiful design came in a distant second, with only 10% of
users saying the design is first in importance to them when
visiting websites.

Single-page websites were innovated for their cool look, not
their SEO or usability.

>> Third, your prospects prefer to consume content in small
chunks rather than big, huge gulps.

That’s why books are divided into chapter …

Why white papers have multiple sections …

Why CDs have tracks …

Why the high-school day is divided into one-hour periods …

And why symphonies are broken into movements.

Traditional multi-page sites accommodate the visitor’s natural
preference for modular content.

Single-page sites violate it, presenting all the content in one
enormous page that is intimidating to search and to read.

The “4 S” formula says that to make writing easy to read, you
should use small words … short sentences … short paragraphs … and
short sections.

Single-page websites violate the “short sections” part of the 4 S
formula for clear, comprehensible writing.

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Category: Online Marketing | 468 Comments » |

Does it pay to go to marketing seminars?

September 14th, 2018 by Bob Bly

In a recent Facebook thread on the relative value and merits of
copywriting and marketing seminars, my FB friend BM wrote:

“I haven’t been to a live seminar in years. I’m too busy doing
work for clients. How do I sharpen the axe?

“I have every book, ebook, and CD set that Bob Bly has published,
plus I’m an AWAI Infinity member and I have lots of good stuff
from Steve Slaunwhite and Ed Gandia. I’ve cut the number of other
gurus I follow to three.

“It’s all recorded or printed so I can go back to school on my
own time. After taking this inventory I realized that if I did
nothing else I would not live long enough to read/listen to all
of them again. And you want me to sign up for your seminar in Las
Vegas? Egh!”

There are many who, like BM, are highly skeptical that the value
of seminars outweighs the time it takes to attend, especially if
the event requires plane travel.

And many others for whom the tuition is too stiff. They search
for less expensive education and can almost always find it.

My take on expensive seminars and conferences– those with
tuitions in the multiple thousands of dollars — and how to get
essentially the same knowledge for less money and time — is as
follows:

1–I always prefer to sample an expert’s free information before I
pay.

Almost all gurus have websites with a ton of free content — yours
for the taking.

Study that first.

If you don’t like that content, then why would you pay for more
of the same?

(I just saved you a ton of money!)

If you do like the free content on the guru’s website, then one
of two things can happen.

Either it’s so useful that it answers what you needed to know,
you don’t need to buy anything else, and you’ve solved your
problem for free.

Or, it’s so good that you are now confident in getting more
training and advice from this expert, and thereby improve your
odds of successful learning while reducing risk.

2–After I study the free content (e.g., blog posts, articles,
e-newsletters, free reports) … but before I move to a big
purchase … I look on Amazon to see whether the guru has written a
traditionally published paperbound book on the topic.

A dirty little secret many info marketers don’t want you to know:
often their books contain more content, better organized, and
more clearly presented then their expensive courses and products.

Reason: mainstream publishers require a degree of editing,
rewriting, copyediting, fact-checking, and proofreading that 99%
of info marketers don’t come close to. Result: clearer, more
complete, and better organized information.

3–Now, if you have gotten all you can from the guru’s
low-cost/no-cost content … and you still want to study with them
… you can safely and confidently invest in their higher-cost paid
info products.

But … and this is a warning: do not overbuy.

Listen, I love it when I get an email showing a subscriber who
just spent a grand with me buying a dozen different products; I
like money same as anybody else.

But at the same time, I worry about that customer and information
overload.

It’s like going bonkers at Barnes & Noble, buying every book that
looks good to you, and then putting them on your shelf and never
getting around to read them.

At least traditional paperbound books are a nice decorative touch
in a room. You don’t get that with PDFs, mp3 files, and streaming
audio. So unless you actually consume and use the content, buying
info products is pointless.

I know this list isn’t conclusive. But these are the primary
factors that weigh into my decision whether to pull the trigger,
shell out the dough on an expensive seminar, and fly hours to
attend … or walk away.

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Category: General | 239 Comments » |

9 tips for webinar presenters

September 11th, 2018 by Bob Bly

There are a boatload of articles giving smart, savvy, strategic
advice on marketing with webinars.

This isn’t one of them.

Instead, here are 9 rather mundane — some might say trivial or
even silly — tips for webinar producers and presenters.

They won’t make you rich or famous.

But they’ll help your webinar go more smoothly while making it
easier for you to give:

#1–Go to the bathroom.

Ten minutes before you call into the webinar line, hit the head
and empty your bladder.

Trust me: There are few things worse than having to take a leak,
because when you are the webinar presenter, you can’t step away
from the phone or microphone to do it.

And the alternatives are all unpleasant.

#2–Have a box of tissues handy.

And, in case you have a cold or allergies, blow your nose —
thoroughly — before you start.

If the listener hears you sniffle or snort during your talk, it’s
awfully distracting.

#3–“Do not disturb.”

Whenever I am giving a webinar, I close my office door and tape a
sign to it that reads:

“Webinar in progress from [hours] — do not disturb UNLESS you are
mortally wounded or the house is on fire.”

#4–The dog trick.

If you work at home and have a dog, have someone take the dog for
a walk or car ride. Or put the dog outside, far away enough from
your office that if he barks, your listeners won’t hear it.

#5–Liquids.

Have a big glass of water — and I mean large enough to last you
through the entire duration of the talk.

#6–Eat.

Eat a light snack before your webinar so you can focus on your
presentation and not be distracted by hunger.

#7–Hard copy.

Print hard copies of your slides and have them on the desk next
to your phone.

That way, if you somehow get disconnected or lose the video
portion of the webinar, you can work from the print copy.

Also, it ensures that you can read the slides clearly in case the
screen shot is low resolution or too small.

#8–Have a back-up plan.

You and the webinar company should have a way to contact one
another in case of a technical glitch.

I have my smartphone and the webinar producer’s phone number at
the ready just in case.

#9–Always record your webinar.

Even if you don’t plan to sell or offer access to the recorded
webinar, record it.

That way a participant who doesn’t get in or is somehow
disconnected can view and hear it later.

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Category: General | 235 Comments » |