Tag Archives for " fundamentals "

November 5, 2018

Ad writing for 2019 and on…

I’m back from two days in Chicago at Perry Marshall’s Paradigm Shift workshop. I’m going to write up my full notes from the workshop in this month’s Story Selling Insider newsletter. But today I’d like to give you a quick preview…

There are perhaps 50 places to advertise your business, and probably more. Social media – the way most people do it – is exhausting. The better approach is to pick four or five strategies that straddle audio, visual and written, and tie them together with remarketing.

The key is to test a huge range of different ads and offers using warm traffic, and quickly eliminate ads with poor click through rate. You might kill some ads before they even get any clicks.

Sure, so some ads you cull may turn out to have a low click through rate and high conversion rate. But that doesn’t matter – we’re trying to find the small number of ads that have high click through rates AND high conversion rates.

Using stories in your ads is a good idea, especially content that comes from real prospects and customers. The process we worked through with Perry is a way to produce thousands of ad ideas, harnessing the creative input of multiple people. Most advertisers test different variations of a control ad over and over. You can’t A/B split test your way to success.

This process HAS to be done with warm traffic. Cold traffic is brutally expensive to test with. Testing with remarketing is like placing your boat on a river, rather than the open ocean. This applies to your search ads too; not just display.

To limit your risk you want to prioritise the most recent traffic. Recent buyers, recent optins, recent site visitors, recent Facebook page engagement, recent video views. Uploading your best customers (not all customers) to Google and Facebook is a smart move. As is creating lookalike / similar audiences based on these lists.

YouTube is generally under-used or used badly; very few advertisers understand the remarketing applications.

A good question to ask with lead magnets is: can you invest more of the money you would have spent with Google or Facebook into the lead magnet itself? Perry had examples from Gary Bencivenga and Howard Gossage; somebody I’ve been talking about for a number of years now.

You won’t find an agency who will adopt this approach, unless perhaps you seek out someone who was in the room last week. (I can recommend a few serious agency people who were there).

That’s just a tiny snippet of my notes. I’ll publish the rest in Story Selling Insider later this month. If you’re not a subscriber, I’ll send you an invite later this week.

All modesty aside, if you follow along with my work this will be essential reading.

Rob

P.S. Some other ‘observations’…

1. I’m not even 5% happy enough to be a flight attendant. Those people are troopers.

2. I never realised quite how many billboards there are in America, displaying an endless stream of dross. To paraphrase Howard Gossage: if advertising were worth saving, billboards certainly wouldn’t be.

3. The highlight of the trip was probably going on a double decker train. Or maybe having deep dish pizza. Or sleeping for 11 hours when I arrived. I’m easily pleased…

4. The lowlight of the trip was paying $5.21 for a bottle of water in the airport. Thieving Bastards.

5. Nobody understands me in America. I ought to stick to writing, or come with subtitles.

October 24, 2018

Copywriters vs Systems People

I’ve been arguing for a few years that there needs to be a better division of labour between systems people and creative people.

This is true in email marketing. It’s true in Facebook, and in Google AdWords. (Sorry, now called ‘Google Ads’. What a pointless and stupid name change. Thanks Google.)

In all of these tools you’re best working with a ‘systems person’ who knows the tool inside out, and a separate ‘content person’ who can supply the systems person with a constant stream of creative. It’s also best if those two people work closely with each other, and understand at a high level what each other is doing.

Otherwise you end up in a situation where systems people are trying to write ads (always a terrible idea), and where copywriters are trying to build campaigns. Which is risky, because the cost of getting it wrong is tremendous.

I’m unusual because I have a foot in both the systems camp and the copywriting camp. But ultimately the best use of my time is writing. There are more people in the world who can implement the systems than there are that can create compelling ads or emails.

Having said that, it’s useful to know enough of the basics so you can test a concept yourself, and avoid being taken for an expensive joy ride by a marketing agency. I know enough about Facebook ads to test my own ideas. But if I wanted to really scale a campaign I’d be better off finding someone to do it for me.

The problem is that if you go to a Facebook expert before you’ve validated your idea, the Facebook expert will always sell you a complete campaign. You’re in an exposed position because you have no data to work from.

If you’ve already run a few ads and proven you can generate some conversions, that gives you a strong basis to approach a Facebook expert and say “look, I’ve got this campaign working. Can you scale it within these parameters?”

You might even be able to pay them fully or partially on results, because you have a baseline to work from.

It’s more work on your part to do it that way, because you can’t just let go of the steering wheel and outsource everything. But do you really want to do that anyway?

October 18, 2018

How to keep attention once you have it

I’ve realised over a number of years that the people I follow for an extended period of time are ALL people who:

  1. Hang their personality off their business in some way. They might have a brand, but they don’t hide behind it. The brand is them.
  2. Present the unabashed fullest expression of their current self. How they present themselves in their marketing is 95% the same as what you would get if you met up for coffee.
  3. Are interested in fundamentals rather than fads. Fads pass, but fundamentals stick. Fundamentals actually become more important due to the range of fads you can be distracted by.
  4. Have something to say beyond their direct line of work. They have their topic of course, but they can approach it with insights from multiple disciplines.
  5. Are good collaborators, and regularly introduce you to fascinating and unexpected people and books.

It’s a high bar, but that is where you must aim to stay in front of your customers for a long period of time.

October 17, 2018

How big a list do you REALLY need?

So here’s a question to think about…

How many people do you need in your world to support your work? It might actually be smaller than you think.

My email list size is around 800. It grows at a slow net rate because I regularly delete contacts who never buy or open anything. Given that I send an email at least every working day, if you don’t open 80 emails in a row I’ll normally delete you. I review all of these manually mind to check I don’t delete anyone I know.

Based on my current numbers I’d conservatively say that an email list size of 4,000 contacts would comfortably support my business and everything I want to do. (Work from Italy, work from New Zealand, unlimited espresso, company motorbike etc etc.)

An email list of 10,000 would create real equity.

Every email list has a power curve effect going on. From a list of 1000 contacts, you may over time build a core customer base of 100 users, as long as you have things to offer them.

The alternative is to build or ‘acquire’ a list of 100,000 contacts, and nag them to death to create the same net result.

Personally I know which route I prefer. Building a smaller but engaged list isn’t as flashy and takes longer, but ultimately it’s more sustainable.

Every marketing problem can be looked at from the perspective of bottlenecks. The bottleneck in my world is audience size. I have an enticing set of nurture options: books, courses, membership options and so on. The bottleneck is audience size.

If you already have the engaged audience and you’re not hitting the numbers you want, the bottleneck is lack of nurture. You end up having to build a bigger than necessary list to support what you want to do.

It’s instructive to think in this way because it highlights the single most important step to take next.

October 9, 2018

Segment your list the smart way

We were talking yesterday about the most unsellable, unsexy marketing secret there is: listening. I suggested that you interview people at key points in your funnel, for example after they opt-in or buy.

Something else occurred to me talking about this afterwards on Facebook Live.

When you do these calls, it’s best to ask the same questions every time. It’s then helpful to collate the answers to individual questions.

As you look through the answers, the significant differences hint at ways you might segment contacts in your database.

The similarities across answers are usually things you should write about in your ads, emails and other marketing.

I think this is worth a watch if you missed it:

Rob Livestream

The questions I normally ask are:

  1. What were the circumstances that led you to opt-in / buy
  2. What one thing might have stopped you?
  3. Were you concerned about anything else?
  4. What has the experience been like since?
  5. What has the result been?

You might need to tweak those slightly for your own needs, but what you get is a detailed before and after account that is highly useful.

As a reminder, I’m doing a Facebook Live every week day in October to expand on each of these emails.

To get notifications make sure you’ve liked the True Story Selling Facebook page, and switch the notifications from ‘Default’ to ‘See First’ (under the ‘Following’ dropdown).

October 3, 2018

The showing up hangover

I spent some time in South America when I was younger. A feature of every South American town is a central square, usually with a church or cathedral along one side.

One night I arrived in the Bolivian town of Uyuni. It was dark, nobody was about, and dogs barked in the distance. I arrived at the deserted central square.

I was slightly… apprehensive…

Do you think I walked across the middle of the square… or around the outside?

We have an innate urge as humans to see, but not be seen. It’s an instinct that may have kept you alive once upon a time. And may still keep you alive, on rare occasions.

But it doesn’t help with your marketing.

Showing up regularly in your marketing – whether that’s by email, video, audio, or some combination, is like walking directly into the middle of the dark square. You feel exposed. You wonder who is watching you, and what they might be thinking. (Subconsciously you wonder how big their teeth might be…)

So you run back to the shadows, and get what you might call a ‘showing up hangover’. You disappear off the radar for a while. You bury yourself in projects. Until the projects end, and you’re forced to show up all over again.

It’s better to just show up consistently, all the time, and prioritise it as a modus operandi.

Decide on your audience. Decide what message you want to communicate. Store up a series of content and story ideas (I suggest Evernote). Set a schedule, and get to work.

When you don’t keep to the schedule, you haven’t fallen off the wagon. There is no wagon, and you don’t need to apologise. It’s more like wandering a few steps from the path.

You can also get help here :-).

August 31, 2018

The Three-Step Pyramid to Marketing Clarity

I’ve been fasting for the last few days. Since Wednesday I’ve consumed nothing but herbal tea.

I do this a few times a year, and it has some interesting side effects!

The first is that well-meaning but overly concerned people try to force-feed you bananas. So normally it’s best not to tell anyone.

The second is you go a bit… crazy. It’s easy to slip down a two-hour YouTube rabbit hole, or wander into rooms and forget what you came for. Or in my case, blast off a bunch of wacko emails to people. Mwhaha.

The third is that amidst the craziness, you also get a bizarre sense of alertness and clarity.

I thought you might find yesterday’s moment of clarity relevant, especially if you struggle to explain what you do to new prospects…

In my business I usually introduce myself as a ‘writer’, which actually isn’t the main thing I do. I actually do three things:

The first and main thing I do is help people determine their core selling message, and the stories that surround that. That process comes before anything else.

The second thing I do is production, which in my case means writing. You could also take your message and convert it into video, audio and live presentations; but that isn’t what I provide here in production terms. I produce written-based output, whether that’s emails, letters, Facebook ads, blog posts or whatever else.

If you don’t like to write, are too busy or feel it’s a distraction, this is as far as you need to go. Message and output is all you need. I provide both of those things in my kickstart production package.

The third thing I do in my business is mastery. If you want to master the mechanics of writing, that’s what my Nurture Email Mastery course and Writer’s Circle is about. But it’s only for people who like to write as a mode of production.

Notice that these things sit on top of each other. I’ll be making some changes next month where you can’t buy the mastery course without also working with me on your message. Essentially one underpins the other. Knowing the mechanics of a great email without knowing your message is completely pointless.

The final thing I provide is ongoing support, through my membership group Story Selling Insider.

As a Story Selling Insider member you can request feedback from me as and when you need it. Plus you get my print newsletter each month, and a member’s call-in webinar.

You can read more about that here.

The nice thing about this pyramid framework is that everything I do has to fit within it. It’s really a framework for saying ‘no’ to stuff I could do but probably shouldn’t.

Do you have a framework for saying ‘no’ to things? If not this is probably the work you need to do.

July 27, 2018

Do good customers really want magical solutions?

I’ve noticed recently that some of the core beliefs I hold about marketing are shared by my clients.

I’m interested to know which resonate most with you.

In no particular order:

1. Not everyone is after unrealistically fast results (thank God)

I’ve been told in the past that people don’t want to work, and are only interested in fast solutions that magically deposit money in the bank. This type of thinking has led to the oversimplification of everything into magical 5-step systems.

While there is some truth to this, it isn’t my experience on the whole.

An important subset of people are willing and ready to work IF they believe the long term payoff will be there.

Usually these are people who have been struggling for a while. They’ve tried and failed with different ‘5-step systems’. They can see other people getting good results, but can’t make anything work.

This is true in copywriting. It’s true in diet programmes. It’s true in a wide range of personal development topics. I’d like to know if it’s true in your world too.

2. Words matter more than media

I remember Dan Kennedy once saying that branding yourself as an ‘online marketer’ is as fundamentally dumb as calling yourself a ‘signs marketer’, because you hang a sign on the front of your business.

You believe in getting the message right rather than focusing on the intricacies of a particular media.

3. You prefer proven principles to temporary hacks

I teach storytelling as a technique because stories are as old as human existence, and will be around for the rest of human existence. They’re also a quick win, because most companies tell shoddy stories if they tell them at all.

I don’t teach people how to put emojis in subject lines, despite the fact that all of Facebook seems to want to know how. 🙁 🙁

4. You believe in sensible marketing automation

Permission marketing and data quality is important to you. Tagging and list segmentation is well on your radar. You see the value of sending different messages to different people. You’d rather have a smaller database of engaged customers than a huge list of unengaged people.

5. You’re playing a long-term game

Your goal when you sell to a customer is to take them off the market, so in the context of what you do they only ever go to you when they need help.

6. You’re ready to work

You’re looking for fast wins and positive ROI. But you’re also ready to invest time to develop your skills. You’re tired of being held to random by marketing specialists. You know that developing true competence takes time and work.

Do you agree / have any others to add?

July 24, 2018

Why “true” story selling?

I brand my stuff as ‘True Story Selling’ these days. There are some headline reasons for that.

A lot of the time in marketing, narrative and story has to precede reason and logic. And fundamentally the narrative you tell needs to be true.

But there’s also something deeper running under the surface…

There’s a great tendency in the marketing world to offer certainty that isn’t really there. To simplify or dumb down the reality of the situation.

The pervasiveness of the marketing funnel analogy is a prime example.

You can create as many funnels as you like, only to discover that reality is somewhat different. Customers do what they want, buy when they want, in ways and for reasons you completely did not expect. How do you model a buying decision that involved 74 touchpoints across 8 different media… and those being only the ones you can measure?

And yet if you listen to most high profile marketing ‘gurus’, marketing is simple. Funnel creation is simple. Especially with their simple five step programme, or whatever.

When you tell more of your story in a vulnerable way, you remove some of the certainty that shrouds your topic. You expose the real nature of the situation.

Doing this might harm your sales in the short term, because you stop appealing to all the people who believe in magic five step solutions. But ultimately the customers who matter most trust you more for it.

July 18, 2018

Where the best ideas come from

The most important things to write about show up across multiple disciplines. Usually in a quiet and understated way, which makes them hard to spot.

I like to go on reasonably long walks and listen to podcasts. It’s quite rare I’ll listen to a marketing podcast. My go-to ones are:

– On Being (Krista Tippett). Loosely about spirituality, but very eclectic.

– Yoga Body (Lucas Rockwell). Which really is about a wide range of topics and rarely about yoga. Perry Marshall has even been on.

– Cracked. Interesting commentary on current events. Although I wish they’d cut back on random film references.

– The Minimalists. I’ve tried and failed to incorporate the principles of minimalism into my life. But I live in hope.

Every now and again an idea will jump out at me in a place where I’m not expecting to see it (like Perry showing up on a Yoga podcast to talk about his evolution book). When that happens, it’s usually a sign the idea matters.

One of the books I’ve kept hold of since my student days is a book called Information for Innovation, by a guy called Stuart Macdonald. Stuart was my most interesting lecturer at university. He had a multi-disciplinary background and a clear disdain for current fads. In lectures he would talk despairingly about the folly of hiring management consultants.

Despite the uninspiring title of his book, Information for Innovation helps to explain why collaboration is more effective than competition in an information world. It explains why freely giving your information leads to real innovation, rather than guarding it with patents. It explains that real innovation comes from informal networks and bar conversations, not formal corporate takeovers.

When you read between the lines, it explains why real innovation comes from small companies rather than big ones.

Keep your eyes and ears open. The ideas that matter the most usually show up quietly in multiple places.

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