Category Archives for "Blog"

December 10, 2018

Linux techy nerd fest chronicles

I’ve been thinking recently about buying a new ‘writing laptop’. Something light, cheap and low spec. Preferably something that contains nothing but a Word processor, and limited internet access. (If you want to do more writing, turn the internet off!)

I was thinking of getting a Chromebook, until I found an old Acer notebook machine stashed behind the TV. And had a brainwave.

Rather than buy a low spec laptop with Linux on… I could just install a lightweight distribution of Linux on the notebook.

I’m not a hardcore Linux user, but I know my way around. How hard could it be? Maybe 30 minutes work, I thought…

(Warning: everything from here turns into a Linux techy nerd fest…)

The lightest distribution of Linux I could find was something called TinyCore – an impressively small 15mb operating system. I downloaded the .iso file (disk image). Then remembered you need to ‘burn it’ to a USB drive, so spent 30 minutes finding software to do that. Then had to remember how to change the boot order on the notebook – which basically means switching it on and continuously pressing ‘F2’.

After booting up TinyCore from a USB stick, I ran the installation programme. Which in itself isn’t for the faint of heart. If you don’t like the sound of ‘disk partitioning’, this process isn’t for you.

At the end of the installation process I got a message: “sda appears to have a partition already mounted! Check if correct device. If so, unmount it and then run the installer again.”

(Sorry… I’m supposed to mount what? Nobody mentioned any mounting…)

My problem when I start these things is I can’t leave them alone. After ninety minutes of forum-browsing, I eventually gave up and downloaded another distribution. This time called antiX.

“You need to feed the baby!” Linzi yelled from downstairs.

“I’ll be down in a minute!” I yelled back, lying through my teeth.

An hour later I had finally installed antiX. Twice actually. First time round I selected the wrong keyboard mapping, and it was easier to just start again.

Eventually though, victory was mine:

antiX Linux

(Bonus points for spotting the copywriting book underneath. It’s the only one I keep on my desk…)

I know enough about Linux to lose an entire evening. I suspect many people are the same with marketing. You set out to create a Facebook ads campaign, and accidentally lose half a day in the process.

We’re all busy, and getting any marketing setup is like trying to fix your car while the engine is running.

There are two challenges we face. One is knowing what to work on (probably not installing Linux). The second is actually getting stuff done. Without forgetting to feed the baby, or being served divorce papers.

December 6, 2018

Things they don’t tell you about Facebook ads (#3)

The stone cold reality of social media is this:

Unless you run a business that serves people’s hobbies or interests, (I’m thinking music, sport, arts, food and drink…) Facebook ads can be brutally expensive.

That’s my experience.

As I outline in my Magnetic Expertise book, my Facebook strategy is to attract people in from the cold and nurture them over time. It’s a longer-term approach, with more giving involved.

Whenever I talk to business owners about Facebook ads, I find myself bumping into personal opinions.

“I don’t use Facebook…”

“Facebook is for B2C…”


All usually completely devoid of data. In my head, I’m like “well, unless you personally are going to buy all the products you sell for the next three months, your opinions don’t matter very much…

I think we need to reassess how we are using these social media platforms. Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter ALL have established ad platforms, ALL with remarketing options. Remarketing isn’t something to tag onto your ads strategy. It IS your main ads strategy!

Unless you cater to hobbies or interests, converting cold prospects into paying customers is a tough ask. I know I can’t do it. It’s stressful for me, it’s stressful for people seeing the ads, and the only entity that wins is Facebook.

But nurturing your warmer prospects on these platforms is definitely something you should consider. Possibly as your main digital strategy for 2019

We go to social media to hear from people we know and like. Are you building an audience of people who know and like you? Or are you throwing good money at people who would rather you went away?

I’ll be working through implementations of these tactics in my members group over the next few months. Which will be the cheapest way to work with me on this. You’re also welcome to discuss a more hands-on project if you want (email me).

Get prepared now – and hit the ground running in 2019.

December 5, 2018

Things they don’t tell you about Facebook ads (#2)

The frustrating thing about Facebook ads is nothing works indefinitely: you need to test a wide range of offers, ads, incentives and bonuses.

The result of which is your ads account can quickly look like a creative bomb site. It quickly becomes difficult to find campaigns you created more than a week ago, or determine what settings you used.

The answer is to use a consistent naming syntax, where information about the campaign, ad set or ad is contained within the name itself.

For example I might name a campaign using the following structure:

Thing I’m promoting | Campaign objective

E.g. ‘Magnetic Expertise book | Conversions’

Within that campaign I’ll have one or more ad sets, which is basically a group of people I’m targeting. I’ll store as much information about the targeting settings as possible in the name, so I know instantly what each is doing.

E.g. ‘Warm 7 Day Audience | US | Mobile | Newsfeed only | £25/day | End 31/12’

My ad might then be called:

‘Book cover image | Funnel rant text | Buy now button | Link to order form’

It takes about an extra ten seconds to name things in that way, but doing so means I can glance at any campaign, ad set or ad, and know exactly what it is supposed to do. As far as I know, there’s no character limit to these names. So give your future self a clue what you were thinking when you set the thing up.

I use a similar naming convention to this in Google AdWords and Infusionsoft. It saves hours of time later on, and is essential if you have multiple people working on these things.

If you wanted to you could shorten your names down to an abbreviated code, but unless you’re operating at scale I’d just use full words separated by pipe signs.

This is a very simple organisational step that very few people do… often because ads are created in a hurry. Taking a few extra seconds to name things correctly is always worth the effort, in any platform.

December 4, 2018

Things they don’t tell you about Facebook ads (#1)

It’s often possible to take a great email and repurpose it into a Facebook ad. Especially if you plan to run the ad to a warm audience. In other words, people who already know you in some way.

The risk is we easily get too attached to the ad’s performance. Which sounds silly, but happens ALL the time.

Unlike Google, a Facebook ad provides unlimited space to work with. You pour your heart into an ad. Then you run it, and everybody yawns in your face.

After that you get the showing up hangover, and disappear for a while. Maybe a long while. Or even permanently. “Facebook doesn’t work,” you tell yourself.

If there was a marketing rule you should take to heart for 2019, it could be this:

It can help to judge your success by the number of experiments you carry out, not by whether they work or not.

Of course, you have to organise and document your experiments. Which we’ll talk about tomorrow.

December 3, 2018

What I’ll be doing in 2019

First, some historical context…

You wouldn’t be able to read this email if it weren’t for the invention of the semiconductor. Most electronic devices rely on them both existing, and being microscopically small.

When I was at university I studied the events surrounding the innovation of the semiconductor. Like most innovations, the semiconductor didn’t emerge out of a sterile R&D department. It emerged because just like today, engineers insist on breaking things… and subsequently talk to each other about the things they’ve broken.

(If you’re in any way an engineer, you’ll be nodding along at that…)

The story of innovation in marketing is a little different… at least on the face of things.

The ‘official’ version is that some high profile guru will uncover some marketing secret, funnel hack, or ninja copywriting trick. Generously, they’ll condescend to share crumbs of their unbounded wisdom with you, for a tremendous amount of money.

The ‘reality’ is that marketing innovation is more like the semiconductor story. Innovation comes from the people who actually DO the work. Especially when these people then get together, share a coffee (or something stronger), and discuss their findings.

I think it would be fair to say we desperately need less of the former version, and more of the latter.

A few years ago I published a number of my AdWords management processes in the public domain, under a Creative Commons open source licence. I put that work on the back burner for a while, but it’s now back on the agenda for 2019.

Contrary to what you might think, giving away your processes doesn’t blow up your business. I track how many people access the process documents, and it’s fewer than you might think.

Business owners generally just want to know there is a process, and have no intention of doing the work themselves.

Marketers who attempt to follow the processes end up being more likely to attend training courses, not less. The value isn’t really in the process, but rather the training, education, and other hand-holding measures that surrounds it.

Many ‘open’ platforms have worked in this way for a long time. Take Linux for example. The value in Linux isn’t in the Linux operating system. Have you ever tried to use a Linux machine?? But Chrome OS (found on the Chromebook) is built on Linux.

The value in WordPress isn’t in the source code, which anyone can access. The value is in themes, plug-ins, support, hand-holding, and other services.

Open platforms are well established in the software world. But as soon as you switch attention to marketing, we prefer to believe that innovation happens because one evening some genius dreams up a new type of funnel.

Honestly, it drives me nuts.

So anyway, I’m doing things slightly differently. (You wouldn’t expect anything less, right?)

I’ll be publishing more of my systems at You’re welcome to browse these, make copies and use for your own purposes, as long as you leave the attribution box in place at the top. You can also sign-up to email updates on that page.

Throughout 2019 I’ll be breaking, improving and expanding this body of documentation with my All Access Members. If you’re in the marketing trenches, I want to find a way to work with you on this.

I’m taking a leap of faith with this, but it fits my mental model of how innovation works in the real world, not in marketing guru land.

You have to ask: where is the value in your business? And could you increase the transparency of what you are doing?

And what would be the business impact of greater transparency?

November 30, 2018

How I use journaling

I recommend in my nurture email course that you keep a journal. Mine consists of date-ordered notes in Evernote (a web app), sometimes with pictures from that day.

Hand on heart, I don’t journal as often as I ought to. It’s one of the first things that gets pushed out when things get busy. Recently I’ve started to journal in the evening, instead of the morning. On my phone I just make a quick note of:

  • What I did that day
  • What’s on my mind
  • What’s coming up tomorrow

I’ll then add any photos to the note if I’ve taken any. The whole process takes under five minutes.

A lot of people recommend journaling by hand as soon as you wake up in the morning. Which to me sounds like a nice idea… if Hugo wasn’t chatting to himself at 6AM. If I didn’t need to change his nappy. If I didn’t need to then play with him for a while, and organise breakfast. Life has a habit of commandeering your day.

I’ve done a few stints of travelling in my time; the longest a six month trip to South America. My biggest regret from that trip is not keeping a regular journal as I went. I have some great stories from that time, but a lot of names and details have faded. Which is why you must journal.

A good story requires specific detail. You can only add specific details if they are on hand, which is why you must store them as you go. Journaling for me is a functional exercise, not a spiritual one.

It’s a matter of process really. But the more you journal, the better your input will be. The better your input, the better your writing will become. Even if you yourself don’t do the writing.

November 29, 2018

The secret of repurposing

We all know that to build trust with an audience, we need to show up regularly. This is true in email, on Facebook, in LinkedIn groups, or wherever. You can’t just show up twice a year and expect good results.

The question then, is how. How should you produce all this content, without losing hours out of your day?

The answer comes down to repurposing and leverage.

These emails really are a prospecting exercise. I’ll often develop an email into a print newsletter or book section. Which makes newsletter and book writing a whole lot easier.

I also do 3-5 Facebook Live videos a week, talking about today’s email. There isn’t any additional content being created, I simply push ‘go live’ on Facebook, and talk about that day’s email for 5-10 minutes. I’ve already done the hard work by writing the email, so talking about it for five minutes isn’t much additional work. Really I’m leveraging the work I’ve already done in a different format.

A lot of the themes I write about cycle around over and over. There isn’t a new topic every day. I only really write about email marketing, Google Ads and storytelling. Although sometimes I go off-piste and write about something else.

(My list, my rules. Mwhaha.)

You already have all the content you need for a great email series, often stored away or in different formats. What usually is missing is a narrative to tie it together.

Just recently a client asked me about creating a series of blog posts from a few old reports they had. “Don’t just create a blog series,” was my advice, “convert it into a book, and pull blog posts out of the book content.”

If you’re going to do the work, leverage it into as many formats as possible. Then tie them all together with remarketing.

If you’d like to chat about leveraging your content, fill out the form here.

November 27, 2018

Two ingredients for PPC success in 2019

The most successful pay per click projects I’ve ever worked on have all involved two things: micro-targeting and diversity.

Micro-targeting means writing ads to specific groups of people, rather than broad audiences. Eventually, micro-targeting may go away as a thing. Google has more data points than you do. They know an eerie amount about your online history, location and browsing habits. Based on all this, Google should be able to show exactly the right ad to someone, based on more data points than you’ll ever have access to.

To do that though, they need diversity.

Diverse systems are always more robust than non-diverse ones. Diversity can mean diversity of ads. It could mean diversity of offers. Diversity of domain names (you can now test different domains in AdWords by using the ‘drafts and experiments’ feature). Diversity of ‘hooks’ or appeals. Diversity of images. Higher diversity gives you more robustness.

There’s a reason why Google’s new responsive ad format invites you to enter up to five ad headlines and descriptions. They need a diversity of copy resources to match the right ad to the right person. At the moment they also need a lot of data – more data than you can afford to give them – which which is why you’re best not letting them too far off the leash. They’ll spend your money like there’s no tomorrow given half a chance.

This is one of my Google Ads predictions for 2019. I’ve written up my other 6 into a guide, which will be available only until the end of the year. You can grab a copy here.

My role here is to help you increase the diversity of your marketing.

If you’re making plans for 2019 and would like a chat, you can book a 30 minute call using the link at the end of the report.

November 26, 2018

Last day to grab Magnetic Expertise for nothing

I play many roles at my own company. Copywriter. Consultant. Coffee maestro. Events manager. Head of Fun (haha). Chief strategist. And something that came to the fore last week: Head of I.T…

It would be fair to say I’m more competent at some roles more than others…

I switched to my new domain ( last Wednesday. The Infusionsoft domain stuff all worked fine, but my regular Gmail emails broke. Couldn’t figure out why for two days. Plus, it’s not like I had anything else to be doing. Like a book launch, website redesign, rebranding, client work, and everything else ongoing…

What happened? It turns out that if you redirect your domain to your web host using a CNAME record, it invalidates the MX records that Gmail needs to receive emails on your behalf.

(See? I do at least learn things in my role as Head of I.T.)

All of this caused a big headache, being in the middle of a book launch and all. In fact, today is the last day you can grab Magnetic Expertise for free on Kindle, or at a discounted rate for print copies.

One of the key ideas in the book is about roles. Marketing today is overwhelming when you attack it by yourself. Especially when you’re also making the coffee, contending with domain name screw-ups, fielding enquiries, planning projects, and whatever else. We need greater co-operation and collaboration between systems people, and creative people.

I talk about all this in chapter three of the book. If you own a Kindle, you could be reading in approximately one minute from now.

Grab the book now on

Please do share this, if you find the book helpful (a number of you have already, and I’m grateful).

And please do leave an Amazon review once you’ve read it.

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