Tag Archives for " rules "

June 7, 2018

The seventh rule of Story Selling

I have an email series which goes out when people opt-in, called the Six Rules of Storyselling.

For a while now I’ve been toying with adding a seventh rule, which is this:

Rule 7: People are both more like you, and less like you, than you can ever imagine

The stories people relate to the most are the ones you didn’t want to tell, because you worried nobody would care. Or you worried you might come across as ‘unprofessional’.

You know what? Being a ‘professional’: an expert at what you do, is one of my highest values. And yet I’ve spent two whole days now wearing pyjamas. Some of you will relate to that anecdote, at least on occasion.

People relate to more of your story than you think, even when it’s slightly weird.

Better still, people nearly always relate to the mistakes you’ve made. Boy do we love to hear about mistakes! There seems to be this idea that telling your story means showing up and saying “hi, I’m John Smith. I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was six, and started 27 million-dollar businesses…”

Yaaaaawwwn. Where’s the struggle? Where the hardship?

At the same time, people are less like you than you can possibly imagine.

All you really know about someone’s true motivation for buying is that they have hopes and fears, and they aren’t you. They don’t have your level of knowledge about what you do. They don’t understand the terminology. They make buying decisions on what for you, are wacky reasons.

This contradiction is something to lean into in your marketing. Take courage from the fact that the buyers on your list will relate with the stories you share, if they are told well. And accept that people are less like you than you think. Just because you would buy or click or respond to something, doesn’t mean anyone else would.

March 29, 2017

The Six Rules of Story Selling (6 of 6)

Rule 6: Trust is difficult to build, easy to lose, and evaporates all of its own accord.

Compared to most businesses, I send a lot of emails. As a minimum I send one email every weekday.

This hasn’t always been the case.

I started off writing emails whenever I had time, or whenever I had anything especially interesting to say. Eventually, I started publishing on a weekly basis. Then practically overnight, everything changed.

I remember explaining to someone at Infusionsoft’s ICON conference that I’m a writer.

“You’re a writer,” she replied, “and you don’t send a daily email?

The conversation made me question my assumptions. I realised I had set a publishing schedule based on my own email preferences, not anyone else’s.

So I emailed my list, and explained I was going to write a daily email on an opt-in basis. Of my 800 subscribers, 80 subscribed to the daily emails.

If you study Pareto’s 80/20 principle, those numbers make sense. 80 people on my list wanted to hear from me more regularly, and I simply wasn’t catering to them.


Now, let me share an interesting observation with you. In the time I’ve been writing daily emails, ALL of my serious project enquiries have come from the daily email group.


I let people switch between daily and weekly emails, but the weekly email folks basically aren’t on my radar. I don’t unsubscribe people as long as they open the occasional email from me, but they contribute little to my revenue.

In my business, sending high frequency emails makes sense. I work in a high trust industry where a lot of education is required. I only work with people who have read at least one of my books, so the time from opt-in to project is potentially long.

And you know what? I’m okay with that. The client engagements I work on are a lot nicer as a result. My message is different to the standard macho marketing advice that gets thrown about, and it takes a while to explain that to people.

The email frequency you set will depend on the uniqueness of your message, and the amount of trust you need to close a sale. The more valuable and unusual your message, the higher your email frequency should be.

Determining email frequency is really a question of figuring out:

  • How many people on your list want to hear from you more regularly?
  • Is it worth your time to write to them more regularly, or is it worth paying someone to write more regularly on your behalf?

Email list size is an irrelevant number. The number of highly engaged contacts is what matters, and engagement is constantly changing. Every day, the people on your list either become more engaged, or less engaged.

Every day I don’t email you, you forget about me a little more. You forget my message a little more. You get caught up in your own whirlwind of regular life.

Many marketers seem to think that building trust is simply a case of adding new contacts to an ‘indoctrination sequence’. ‘I’ll send six ‘nurture’ emails,’ people think, ‘and people will suddenly know, like and trust me…’

Yeah, right.

This isn’t how trust works. People have short memories, and trust is now the most scarce marketing asset. Unless you’ve shown up recently providing value, you’re out of mind.

Building trust is like holding precious water in cupped hands. Over time, the water will slip through your fingers. You have to constantly add new water to maintain the level.

In my book The Marketing Nurture System, I call this the ‘Reservoir of Goodwill’. Every subscriber on your list has an emotional connection with you and your brand, based on your track record of providing entertaining, helpful information.

Every time you send an email to your list that is entertaining and on-topic, you increase the reserve of goodwill you hold with your readers. An increased reserve means a reader is more likely to open and read emails from you in the future.

Every time you send a message that is boring, self-centred, irrelevant or unhelpful you drain part of the reservoir away. Once the reservoir is empty a subscriber will either ignore you forever, unsubscribe or click the ‘this is spam’ button.

People wrongly assume that email is practically free. Email may not be expensive in terms of money flowing out of your bank account, but the opportunity cost of sending poor quality emails is tremendous.

Every time you alienate another person on your list you eliminate the chance of them ever spending money with you in the future. This cost is real and tangible. It could mean the difference between living the life you want or struggling to get by. It could mean the difference between a full order book and an empty order book.

Building up the reservoir of goodwill you hold with your readers is an asset that digs a moat around your business. Competitors never see the moat of course. They look in from the outside and think ‘hmm. That looks easy. We can do what they’re doing.’

Competitors can copy your ad text, your website layout, your pricing, maybe even your products. But they can never copy the goodwill you have built up with your subscribers.

Rule 6: Trust is difficult to build, easy to lose, and evaporates all of its own accord.

Read more about the Reservoir of Goodwill in The Marketing Nurture System.

March 28, 2017

The Six Rules of Story Selling (5 of 6)

Rule 5: Good story selling builds relationships, and treats prospective customers like people, not statistics.

Do you have Google Analytics installed on your website?

If so, do you know how to use it?

Everybody installs Google Analytics. Few people know what all the numbers mean. And even fewer people make positive changes to their website as a result of those numbers.

Are you guilty as charged? I know I am. I’ve done the Google Analytics exam on two separate occasions. I understand the difference between metrics and dimensions. I know how to create a custom Analytics report.

And yet… and yet… I log into Google Analytics once a month, mostly out of idle curiosity to see how many people have visited my website.


Well, possibly because Google Analytics is free. We take for granted the things we don’t pay for.

The second problem is that Google Analytics deals mostly in ‘clickstream’ data. It tells you what happened. How many people visited what pages.

What it doesn’t tell you is WHO.

WHO is visiting your website is a far more interesting question than HOW MANY. Google Analytics won’t tell you who has visited what pages, because it runs against Google’s terms of service.

There are ways around this. If you follow a link from any of my emails and browse to the ‘projects’ page on my website (www.magneticexpertise.com/consulting-and-projects), Infusionsoft sends me an email to let me know you’ve been there.

I don’t do as much with that information as I ought to, but I’ll usually check you out if you’re not on my radar. The people who receive the most expensive direct mail from me are the people who browse key pages on my website. It’s more profitable to know who is interested than it is to know how many people are interested.

Adding this level of insight means the people in your marketing funnel become people, rather than statistics. Remember, as you build your marketing system you’re not really building a funnel. You’re building relationships with real, breathing human beings. People with unique hopes, fears and dreams.

Yes, there are normally multiple steps in the relationship building process, but things are never as neat and linear as the funnel analogy makes out.

Marketers cling desperately to the funnel concept because it simplifies an otherwise messy situation. It assumes that all the ‘prospects’ in your funnel are homogeneous ‘consumers’, moving in the same direction down a neat and tidy progression path.

Instead, I think it’s more helpful to think of customers moving into and out of your world, to varying degrees. Customers move in when they buy higher value products, and out when they cease to be clients. The more time that passes since a customer last bought, the more they slip out of your world. This is true no matter how much they’ve spent with you in the past.

When you think of yourself as a relationship builder, not a builder of funnels, the entire way you view marketing changes.

Rule 5: Good story selling builds relationships, and treats prospective customers like people, not statistics.

Focus more on WHO, and less on HOW MANY. None of the ‘contacts’ in your database are truly alike.

March 27, 2017

The Six Rules of Story Selling (4 of 6)

This article is part of a series of posts I wrote about telling better stories about your work. Whether you're writing a book, an email series, or a Facebook ad, you'll find these six rules helpful...

Rule 4: Story selling is not a magic ‘silver bullet’ marketing tactic, but part of a bigger team game.

If you ask my clients what I’m good at, one of the top answers is always that I’m ‘logical’.

In many ways I guess I am. I can think through the structure of a Google AdWords campaign. I can create Infusionsoft decision diamonds that actually work. I can get to the root issue of a problem fast – a form of logical deduction. Punctuality and production are two of my highest values,

At the same time, I’m also deeply illogical.

Every once in a while I take proactive steps to better plan my days. At 4PM I’ll carefully script what activities I’ll do the following day, at what times. Then I’ll wake up the following morning with a whole NEW set of ideas! I’ll walk round the house with 12 things in my head, none of which exist on the schedule. I’ll stare out of the window for a while. I’ll watch some trams go past.

In the broad scheme of things I’ll still be on time, and I’ll still get stuff done. But the poor old schedule goes out of the window.

You see, there’s a battle raging in my head between logic and imagination. I bet the battle rages in your head too, at least some of the time. Your imagination can only run wild when you dial down your logic. This is why ideas come when you’re waiting for the kettle to boil, or waiting for the shower to warm up.

Story selling is an imaginative exercise, rooted in logical structure. You can’t have one without the other.

With imagination and no structure, you get fantastical meandering stories that never sell anything. With structure and no imagination, you get well-planned but emotionally dry marketing.

Logic and imagination are different skills, best done by different people.

In my book The Marketing Nurture System, I describe four roles that have to be filled in the creation of an effective marketing system. The roles are product expert, systems expert, copywriter and implementer. Occupying more than one role at a time dramatically reduces your impact.

The work I do is most valuable when I only occupy the copywriter role. The trouble is, I’m not an ‘out and out’ copywriter. I can also act as the systems expert. I understand systems like Infusionsoft, Ontraport, Drip and so on. But over time I’ve realised I’m not a true systems person.

A true systems person hates the thought of writing, but wakes up in the night dreaming of flowcharts. The ideal meeting room for a systems person would have four whiteboards, side by side.

(Imagine the possibilities! Imagine the space!)

I can also work as the implementer. I can get things setup in whatever email system you’re using, but it isn’t the best use of my time and energy. Everybody thinks that time is the constraining factor, when the real constraint is energy.

Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. One of the big challenges in story selling (and in marketing generally) is the volume of work, and the trouble of getting the right people in the right roles.

You need both imagination and structure. You need left brain thinking, and right brain thinking. Normally they’re best done by different people.

Rule 4: Story selling is not a magic ‘silver bullet’ marketing tactic, but part of a bigger team game.

Doing everything yourself is not a viable long term option. You need the right people in the right roles.

To read more about the four roles, make sure you pick up a copy of the Magnetic Expertise. It’s in print and on Kindle.

March 23, 2017

The Six Rules of Story Selling (3 of 6)

This article is part of a series of posts I wrote about telling better stories about your work. Whether you're writing a book, an email series, or a Facebook ad, you'll find these six rules helpful...

Rule 3: Fear of judgement is the biggest barrier to effective story selling.

When I was eight I lived over the road from a friend called Gaz. Gaz had go carts, and other fun contraptions. But, there was a problem.

Gaz wasn’t allowed to cross any roads.

Which meant he wasn’t allowed out of sight of the house.

So, I went off cycling with another friend, Michael. We cycled all the way through a nearby village called Port Sunlight, to a big A-road. We’d gone about 2 miles. Two miles now doesn’t feel that far, but compared to the end of the road we may as well have gone to Mars.

Michael lived with his Grandparents. On the way back I asked him what his Grandad would do if he caught him out this far.

“He’d kill me,” he admitted. “How about your Mum?”

“I don’t know,” I replied. “I think she’d kill me too…”

We didn’t tell anyone where we’d gone. Nobody saw us. And nothing bad happened. It was like a secret adventure.

I remember the story now because it pushed back the boundaries of my world. It was also an early prototype of the way I still live today. I’m writing these words from Florence, Italy. This time my Mum does know where I am, but the point of the trip is still the same. It’s an exercise in pushing back boundaries.

Telling your story is really a boundary-pushing exercise too. When you start to tell your story, it’s like travelling beyond the end of your road for the first time when you’re not supposed to. It feels exhilarating at first, and then terrifying. You worry that everyone is judging you. You worry your story isn’t “enough”. You worry you haven’t done many interesting things.

To tell your story is to invite judgement. People WILL judge you when you tell your story, and that’s the biggest thing to overcome. The only way to get round this is to continue showing up. To show up on a regular basis, telling your story.

Judgement has a polarising effect. When you put out your true story – your true version of what you stand for and what you believe in, some people will be drawn to you. And some people will be pushed away. Both of those outcomes are okay; what you don’t want is people in the middle. Having people love or hate you is infinitely better than having people not care.

Rule 3: Fear of judgement is the biggest barrier to effective story selling.

The only way round this is to keep telling your story.

People WILL judge you, whether you like it or not. Even if you don’t tell your story, people will still judge you. They’ll come up with their own labels for what they think you are, and what value you provide.

Wouldn’t it be better if you were in control of that?

March 22, 2017

The Six Rules of Story Selling (2 of 6)

This article is part of a series of posts I wrote about telling better stories about your work. Whether you're writing a book, an email series, or a Facebook ad, you'll find these six rules helpful...

Rule 2: Audience selection is more important than stories.

My first real success in business came as a Google AdWords consultant. AdWords help was something I could talk to people about. A hot topic. A bleeding neck.

At the time, I was very clear on what my ideal client looked like. My ideal client had:

  • A pulse
  • Some money
  • At least one AdWords disaster under their belt

A few years ago I received a new AdWords lead. George* had been reading my emails for a few months, and decided one day to get in touch.

George’s company was using AdWords to generate leads for an offline sales process. The company was spending £25,000 a month on AdWords (about $35,000). Which for me was a large account.

George mentioned on the phone they had ‘been through’ quite a few AdWords agencies. But he’d like to ‘see what I could do’.

On the eve of the project George sent me an email in badly-formatted English. ‘I’d like a daily report please Rob’, the email said. ‘The report should show yesterday’s spend by campaign, click through rate, conversions and cost per conversion.’

I had never sent daily reports to clients because daily fluctuations could be misleading. Weekly numbers were more meaningful. And monthly numbers never lied. Still, I ignored the screaming messages from my gut, and agreed.

I would always know if conversions were down for the day, because at 3PM George would email me. ‘URGENT Leads down Rob. Please action ASAP.’

Things like this made me rage. Please action what? I’m not a magician. Most of the time I would ignore it and rely on a natural upturn in leads the following day.

I’ve also since learnt that clients who routinely send emails with URGENT in the subject line, signed off with ‘ASAP’ are not great clients to work with. It’s a small clue that they see you as a vendor to be used, not an expert to be consulted.

Not long after the project had started I made a bunch of changes to the website, and George blew his lid. “We make changes on a month by month basis,” he informed me. “That way we compare apples to apples.”

Apples to apples – yeah right. You can’t have it all ways up. You can’t scream and shout about your AdWords results, but also refuse to make any changes to the website.

The project fizzled out after a few months. I was glad, too. The hassle wasn’t worth the management fee they paid me. Or so I thought.

One year later George got back in touch. His last business had tanked, and now he had a new business in another highly competitive market.

George asked if I would consider managing the account again, since I had ‘done such a good job last time’. I wavered for a moment. The warning signs were all there. I knew George was a well-meaning but troublesome client. But I also needed the revenue.

So we went again. This time George wasn’t my main point of contact; he had a marketing manager, Jane*. Jane was nice enough, but clearly under huge pressure to perform. Once again I failed to set the boundaries on when I could and could not be contacted.

At 9.50 every morning my phone would go (Jane started work at 10). Despite my repeated warnings about daily statistics she would want to discuss yesterday’s numbers, and know ‘what I was doing for them today’.

“Nothing,” was the response I should have given. “You’re paying me for results, not graft, sweat and labour.”

I didn’t have the gall to say that at the time.

A few weeks later we went to Italy for a week. I tried to reassure Jane that her AdWords results were unlikely to tank for a few days without my daily hand-holding. I had no phone signal in Italy, and no computer.

Two days in to our holiday I logged on to Wi-Fi in my hotel, and my phone buzzed to life. WhatsApp. It was Jane. “URGENT: NO conversions yesterday. George won’t stand for it. Please look at this ASAP.”

Really Jane? You’re going to harass me on holiday… by WhatsApp?

After three months of conflict our second project came to an end. George finally discovered that I had been ruining his monthly ‘apples to apples’ comparison by sending traffic to pages other than the homepage.

The big problem however wasn’t with George. The big problem was with me, because I hadn’t been clear enough about exactly who I was trying to work with.

Rule 2 of True Story Selling is this:

Audience selection is more important than stories.

Audience selection is the most important marketing ingredient. A concise, emotionally powerful message comes second. Media and creative comes third. Story selling belongs in the media and creative category.

George had approached me about his Google ads – about media and creative. This wasn’t his fault, the marketing industry trains buyers to think in this way. In reality, George was struggling with his AdWords because his audience was ill-defined, not because his existing ads were especially lousy. He had ‘been through’ a number of agencies because his problem wasn’t with the creative.

On my part, I took on the project because I too wasn’t clear about my audience. At the time, George satisfied all three of my criteria:

  • He had a pulse
  • He had money
  • He’d been through at least one AdWords disaster

These days, my definition of an ideal client is a little different. I look for people selling transformational, life-changing products or services where the trust-building process is potentially long.

Do you see how that is better?

Anything I can tell you about storytelling only matters once your audience selection is right. The stories you tell after that are simply creative.

*Names changed for privacy.

March 21, 2017

The Six Rules of Story Selling (1 of 6)

This article is part of a series of posts I wrote about telling better stories about your work. Whether you're writing a book, an email series, or a Facebook ad, you'll find these six rules helpful...

Rule 1: Unless you’re doing something deeply meaningful to a statistically significant group of people, no amount of story selling can help you.

On the face of things, I had a fairly ‘regular’ childhood. I went to a decent school. I got good grades. I had no major run-ins with the authorities.

Under the surface though, I was terrified.

It all started when I was 13, in a second year French class. My French teacher that year was Mrs A. Mrs A was five foot tall, with a huge booming voice. If you were going to mess with any teacher, it wasn’t her.

French lessons would usually start with us reading passages from the textbook. For some reason I was directly in her eyeline. Three times out of five, she’d ask me to start reading first.

“Roberrrrr,” she would begin in French. “Please read from the top of page fifty four…”

I opened up page fifty four, with butterflies in my stomach. The first sentence began ‘Ce matin…’. I went to start reading, and couldn’t talk.

“Ce-ce-ce-ce, Mmmmmmm,” I stuttered.

A few boys laughed and looked round at me.

“Ce-ce, Mmmmm,” I stopped.

Inside, by belly filled with hot burning shame. I glanced forward at Mrs A, whose face had dropped slightly. Eventually, she asked somebody else to read. As I listened, I stared blankly at the words in front of me. What had just happened?

In one fell swoop I had gone from a reasonably confident speaker, to someone terrified at the thought of speaking to a group.

What did I do?

I did was any self-respecting 13-year old would do. I hid it.

I stopped raising my hand in class. I avoided making eye contact with the teacher. On the inside I felt constantly anxious. What if it happened again?

About a year later I was nominated to participate in a school elocution competition. I must have slipped up at some stage, and said something that sounded good. A few boys congratulated me on the nomination. In my head I was like, shit. Shit shit SHIT.

How did I get on at the competition? Simple – I did the mature thing and didn’t show up. I hid out on the yard instead. I still maintain that not taking part was the right thing to do, but I went about it all wrong. I should’ve told someone I needed help.

These days I still stammer on rare occasions, but I’m big enough now to deal with it. First, I laugh. Second I breathe. I hardly ever need it, but that’s my process if things fall apart. It sounds simple, but it took me another 13 years to stop being truly afraid of speaking to groups.

What I didn’t have when I was 13 was a process. Something I could fall back on when I needed it. In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins calls this the ‘Hedgehog Principle’.

The Hedgehog Principle is something you know that keeps you on track. The hedgehog knows that squishing itself into a ball will keep it safe from a fox, almost all of the time. The fox may be cunning, with multiple tricks, but as soon as the hedgehog curls into a ball none of the tricks will work.

What I needed when I was 13 was a Hedgehog Principle – something I could fall back on to guide me through a stammer crisis.

I now have a Hedgehog Principle in my business too: the idea that marketing is about relationships, not information.

It’s tempting to see your ‘prospects’ as statistics in a funnel. The trouble is, at some point in your ‘funnel’ you have to speak to a real human. You have to tell your story. You have to communicate your values. You have to build trust. You have to show your value. A funnel by itself cannot do any of that.

That’s what I know – my core Hedgehog Principle. When I need it most – when the marketing tactic of the moment threatens to derail me – it keeps me on track.

The first rule of story selling is you need your own Hedgehog Principle. Some core belief that sits right at the heart of your message. Anything I can tell you about storytelling is only useful once you have a core belief you want to share with other people.

Rule 1: Unless you’re doing something deeply meaningful to a statistically significant group of people, no amount of story selling can help you.

I see a lot of people telling stories as a marketing tactic: bolting on stories to some crummy marketing message. When you do that, it doesn’t work. A story isn’t a magic trick, or silver bullet. You need a message worth sharing to begin with.

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