13 Quick Copywriting Tips

13 Copywriting Tips

From this week’s newsletter:

1. Talk about one thing. The tighter the focus, the better.
2. Speak to just one person. Copy should be a one-on-one conversation.
3. Force your reader to “pick a side.” Don’t allow him to sit comfortably on the fence.
4. Whenever possible, write to people who are already at least half-convinced.
5. In most cases, you can get away with infuriating 95% of your list/audience in an effort to win over the 5% who are your best buyers and referrers. Court the kingmakers in your list.
6. Trust is EVERYTHING.
7. Clarity is everything, too. The clarity of your message and offer. And the clarity you create for your readers by explaining the reality of their problem and the available solution.
8. Sequences beat single-shots.
9. Better products make for better copy.
10. Make your copy empowering, not condemning or depressing. If the reader can get some benefit just from reading the marketing message, you’ve “made the sale before the sale.”
11. That being said, psychologically, the fear of loss is twice as strong as the desire for gain.
12. Curiosity is the strongest human incentive, says Claude Hopkins. Leverage it.
13. If you use curiosity to grab attention and get clicks, do yourself a favor: pay off that curiosity. “Bait & Switch,” clickbait copywriting tends to burn out their audiences quicker than straight-shooters.

Want more tips like this delivered to your inbox every week (more or less)? Sign up for the Connecting with Your Customers newsletter in the form to the right (or on the bottom of the page, depending on what device you’re using right now).

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Is Working for Free the Best Way to Start Your Business?

working for free stairs to nowhere

The idea of doing projects “on spec” (without pay) came up in one of the few Facebook groups I participate in.

To be more specific, a woman launching a new service business was offering to work for free in order to get testimonials and build her portfolio.

Is this a good way to start your business? Or is spec work a flight of stairs leading nowhere?

In business (almost) nothing is true across the board. What works for one entrepreneur may flop badly for another. In this Facebook conversation, I felt qualified to chime in and express my opinion, based on my extensive, often painful experience in a field closely related to the one being offered for free. Here is a slighly modified version of my comments:

I’m going to do something relatively harsh here…by recommending you seriously limit this offer (to work for free).

Having testimonials is great, but absolutely not necessary to launch your business. In a way, you’re postponing the launch of your business by clinging to the idea that you need “proof” of the value of your services.

Your time is extremely valuable. Especially since you have a family who likes having you around and “present.”

In all likelihood, doing content marketing for yourself will advance your business more than doing free work for other people, no matter how good their testimonials will be.

The thing is, there’s a huge need for the service you provide — but most of the people/businesses who need your skills do not fully appreciate that need. They don’t feel pain, so it’s hard to pry money from their hands, especially at a rate you deserve.

You would do well to seek people who already feel that need, that have a bleeding neck problem, to use the words of John Paul Mendocha.

See if you can get testimonials from colleagues and friends who already know you and are familiar with the quality of your work. Build up your portfolio working on your own website and marketing materials.

It’s also well worth your time to connect with people who might already be in touch with your target audience. Maybe you can work out a referral arrangement or a way to bundle your services together. Or subcontract work from other established people in the space you want to occupy (or an adjacent one).

Think graphic designers, etc.

And remember, don’t sell your services, as such. Instead, define the transformation you produce for your clients. How will their lives and businesses be different, better than before they hired you — or anyone else for that matter.

Define what you’ll do for them — and what you won’t. Specialize, if you can.

BTW, I’m not always right. This just advice based on my experience.

— — —

What about you? How do you feel about spec work?

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Foolproof Attention-Getting Tactics of Great Copywriters

attention-getting copywriting secrets

How do you break through the hullabaloo that your “should-be” customers are immersed in and get YOUR message across?

Well, it starts with attention. “Have I got your attention? Good.” **Queue scene from Glengarry Glen Ross**

I got the chance to spill some of what I’ve learned about getting attention online, in print and in person on The Small Business Marketing Report podcast with Robert Tyson. In 56 minutes, we discussed

  • How to use hidden dangers and unexpected consequences to draw people to your message like moths to a flame
  • Why certain kinds of statistics get shared on social media
  • Why picking a fight is often great for business (and how to benefit even if you don’t do the fight-picking)
  • How to use personality… and how much personality is too much?
  • How to use secrets and codes for almost guaranteed attention

Check out “The Psychology of Attention: 5 Foolproof Ways to Grab ‘Em by the Eyeballs”

Or, if you prefer, you can listen on iTunes or Stitcher.

Honestly, I’ve been fiending to be a guest on The Small Business Marketing Report podcast for quite some time, and I’m a big fan of Robert and his co-host Sean Clark, so I’m excited about this.

Enjoy!

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Science of Copywriting: Blab with Lamar Tyler

Copywriting Blab with Lamar Tyler

For me, Lamar Tyler is one of my top answers to the question “If you could spend an hour with one person/celebrity, who would it be?” I have a TON of respect and admiration for Lamar’s business acumen, leadership and brilliance. Plus, he’s one of the coolest guys you’d ever want to meet.

Last weekend, I got my hour with the man.

Lamar hosted the inaugural Traffic, Sales and Profit Lunch and Learn on Blab, and I had the honor of being his first guest. We discussed a lot of topics close to my heart, like:

  • What is a unique selling proposition (USP)?
  • How do I make people want what I sell?
  • The differences in writing emails, landing pages, general web copy, etc.
  • The most painful mistakes people make when writing copy
  • When it’s time to hire a professional copywriter
  • “Why can’t I find a good copywriter?”
  • and plenty more.

I also revealed the most powerful characteristics of email copywriting — and why some people should NOT hire a copywriter to write their emails for them. (I’ve told potential clients on multiple occasions I couldn’t do better than what they’re doing.)

Check it out: The Science of Copy Lunch & Learn

An Important Point I Didn’t Make in the Interview

I realized after the Blab that I forgot an significant point when we talked about why it’s sometimes difficult to find a good copywriter. If you’re expecting a stranger to instantly create a miraculous transformation of your business, you might be expecting too much.

Your copywriter isn’t (necessarily) weak just because he can’t make your boring offer exciting…or make a dead mailing list suddenly spring to life.

I’ve often quipped that I do work miracles, just not on demand. (Yes, I’ve said it to potential clients.) Even copy that seems brilliant doesn’t work 100% of the time. Believe me, I know from embarrassing experience. All of the pros have. For optimal results, you have to make the right offer to the right audience at the right time.

On the other hand, a great offer or a hot list can make even a pedestrian copywriter look like a superstar…

Resources mentioned during the conversation:

Lamar’s Traffic, Sales and Profits private Facebook Group

Bencivenga Bullets

The Gary Halbert Letter

 

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How Do I Land My First Copywriting Client? Aspiring Minds Want to Know

Steps to get copywriting clients

“I’m an aspiring copywriter; How do I land my first client?”

This is a question I’m asked on a pretty regular basis. I’ve typed out responses more times than I can count, and I’ve even addressed this topic in a previous post. But since I’ve been approached 4 or 5 times over the past month or so, maybe it’s time to revisit.

Below you’ll find the slightly modified/depersonalized body of an email I sent to a new copywriter a few days ago. Forgive me if you’ve heard this before…unless you’ve heard it but haven’t done anything about it.

And remember, this is my personal experience-based advice. I’m not saying this is the one and only way to become a copywriting pro.

When I started learning to write copy, I was an assistant manager at Kmart, working 50-80 hours a week and studying copywriting on my lunch breaks and after work…then harassing people who I thought might hire me, until some of them started to.

Step 1, I think, is deciding to make a real go at this. Regardless of what you read anywhere, copywriting is about helping people SEE:

  • See the reality about their current condition
  • See the hidden truth about whatever you’re talking about
  • See what the future holds, both the good and the terrifying
  • See what they have to do now. It’s a skill that has to be developed, but one you’re probably already familiar with as a professional.

Building your business will probably take some time (it does for pretty much all of us), which is why you have to be resolved to put forth the effort.

You’ll probably have to “feel your way around” the copywriting world before you make too many big choices as to niches, mediums, etc.

As a freelancer, you’re going to want to exploit every form of leverage you can get. That includes your formal or informal experience in an industry, contacts you have and stages where you are already recognized. For example, you may be able to leverage your current job expertise and connections to get your foot in the door somewhere. That may be a great way to start finding your rhythm, figuring out how you like to work with clients, and building a portfolio. Oh, and earning some money. Not to say you want to get pigeonholed there, but it’s a start. Or, maybe you’ll love it and find all the business you can handle.

Step 2, Put a website together immediately.

This step took me FOREVER. I didn’t know what to say, and I didn’t feel like I had anything impressive enough to say publicly. Then, once I finally got started, I spent over a year using a free WordPress blog. (HA! It’s still there, 6 years after I abandoned it. https://donniebryant.wordpress.com/)

Believe me, come up with something and just get it up. Something simple will do the trick. The site will take shape and grow as you do. The longer you wait, the more you’ll kick yourself later.

Let Google start getting familiar with you. Start sharing your stories, your perspectives. Share what you’re learning. That will help you develop your skills AND your confidence as a copywriter.

Plus, you need to have someplace to send potential clients to when they’re researching you or after you reach out to them.

Step 2b, While you’re at it, make sure you have a decent LinkedIn profile, too. I don’t love my profile, but you can borrow inspiration from me if you like –> https://www.linkedin.com/in/donniebryantjr. Or, just search “direct response copywriters” and analyze the profiles that rank high.

You’d be surprised how many people are looking for copywriters through LinkedIn. I earned in over $60K in 2015 from a single client who found me on LinkedIn.

Step 3, Start searching for prospects. As I mentioned, you’ll do well to at least try reaching out to people you already know who need to promote themselves, their products or services.

I started out searching the Writing Gigs section on Craigslist. It can be grunt work, but it’ll get you moving. You’ll have to filter out a lot of crap, but may be some good opportunities there. I found a couple great clients there, and I still use one of the sales letters I wrote for a Craigslist client in 2009 as a sample sometimes. I graduated to bugging sellers on Clickbank.

You can also search writing/copywriting job boards (there are quite a few).

Step 4, Connect with other professionals. This has been huge for me, too. Purposefully engage with people who may someday become 1) clients, 2) referral sources, 3) joint venture partners and/or 4) hosts of “shows” you’d like be on. Always be generous and genuine, and the seeds will reap a bountiful harvest over time.

Not every connection will “pay off.” A lot of them will never become relationships. But some of them will. Some could be goldmines in terms of remuneration or camaraderie. Again, one colleague I connected with years ago (via semi-cold email)  has gotten me in the front door of 2 dream clients and several others who were pretty darn good (and one who became like a brother to me). That one connection will end up being worth multiple six-figures to me when it’s all said and done.

Step 4b, Start looking for ways to appear in places of authority as a guest blog writer, podcast guest, expert source, etc.

Step 5, Do your research. You learn as much from watching other pros as you do from just about anything else. They’ll also give you raw materials to create your own content from.

Step 6, Ask for what you want. If you need advice, if you’re looking for introductions, if you want to write for someone else’s website/blog/newsletter, be courageous and ASK.

I hope that this is helpful.

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What You Can Learn from My Biggest Blunder

Fail to Learn podcast

They say experience is the best teacher
That’s what they teach us in school
I say experience is the teacher of fools
‘Cause a wise man will learn from another man’s errors
Then apply that to determine what he shall choose
~ Da T.R.U.T.H., Click (No Regrets)

No, my biggest mistake wasn’t trying to become a rapper, although the idea did appeal to me for a few years in high school.

It’s not often that I talk about the time when my copywriting business nearly suffocated under the weight of my own stupidity. But Matt Fox got me to open up and dive into the details on an episode of his shiny new show, the Fail to Learn podcast.

I’m not going to give away the juicy details here. If you’re interested to hear about the attitude that nearly put me in the poorhouse, the advice I didn’t listen to — even though I tell other entrepreneurs not to do this all the time — and the steps I took to make my comeback, click over to Matt’s site and listen to Freelance Copywriter Painfully Discovers What Happens When You Neglect Your Own Marketing.

There are a couple other great interviews on the site you should check out, too.

As Da T.R.U.T.H said, there’s no need to learn things the hard way, in many cases. Learn from the mistakes of others…find out what warning signs you need to watch out for and how to avoid the pitfalls that may await you.

In the interview, I also talk about

  • a book that had a big impact on me in 2015
  • why my voicemail greeting offends a LOT of people (and why I’m happy about that)
  • the importance of proactive scheduling
  • a tool most freelancers don’t use enough that could help them close a lot more of the right kinds of deals
  • my worst habits
  • …and a whole lot more.

Another cool thing about the Fail to Learn site: Matt’s giving away How A Business Fails, a very helpful PDF report that outlines the 5 stages you go through when failing and give yourself a fighting chance to thrive. This is something you’re going to want to download and perform some self-analysis.

I had a lot of fun recording this interview and I hope you have a blast listening and learning.

One more thing: A couple years ago, I had a conversation with Matt about how to communicate more persuasively. He hands out some great gems in this interview.

 

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The Disbelief-Based USP

Allow me to summarize the Belief-Based USP report, for which this report is the natural counterpart:

Your selling proposition will be most powerful when it 1) aligns with a deeply-held and strongly-felt belief your ideal client holds and 2) offers something that he wants to believe is possible, and believes he can attain – with the right assistance.

The same way that the USP isn’t about being primarily about being unique, a belief-based USP isn’t focused on being believable, although it needs to be credible. Rather, it’s focused on matching existing beliefs and attaching itself to them.

Example: Many people believe Wall Street insiders know secrets the average investor doesn’t. Companies that sell financial newsletters bank on that belief – literally.

“Doomsday Preppers” believe disaster is right around the corner, and they can’t trust the government, their neighbors, etc. But they do trust their preferred source of information. (This is a booming industry, in case you didn’t know.)

Steve Jobs believed alternative treatments were superior to traditional Western medicine for fighting pancreatic tumors.

We believe police officers are hate-filled racist bullies…or everyday heroes.

Belief is human nature. Your beliefs determine your actions, including your buying decisions and “brand loyalty.”

“If you are not reminding your prospective customers of the existent foundation of an accepted fact that supports your proposition, you are missing out on something important.” ~ Chip Kessler

The Flip Side of the Belief Coin

You USP has to both inflame the desire to believe AND the willingness to suspend disbelief as necessary.

Consider this. Whenever you step into a movie theater or turn on Netflix, you engage in a subtle volitional activity: you flick off the unbelief switch in your brain — or at least put it in standby mode. You know you’re watching a movie…you know parts of the plot are totally unrealistic…but for the sake of enjoying the story, you accept what you see as truth.

Sales, marketing and copywriting experts often repeat the idea that people make decisions emotionally, then justify their emotional choices with their rational minds. And that’s true.

Let’s take it one step further.

If your USP generates a strong enough desire, if it hits the right emotional sweet spot, your ideal customer will, of necessity, explain away any disbelief.

I’m told that a surprisingly high number of medical doctors purchase “male enhancement” pills. A good story about a scientific breakthrough or the discovery of ancient herbal formulas mixed with some testimonials overpower 6+ years of higher education.

“The strongest appeal you can make is emotionally. If you can get their emotions going, make them forget their logic, you’ve got them. AT MTV, WE DON’T SHOOT FOR THE 14-YEAR OLDS, WE OWN THEM.” ~ Bob Pittman, “MTV is Rock Around the Clock.” Philadelphia Inquirer, Nov. 3, 1982

Your USP has to strike at the emotional heart of the hearer/reader and create a vision in his mind. For a moment, he has to dissociate from the “real world” and see himself enjoying the benefits he’ll receive after buying from you.

Self-Sabotage

If you’ve ever tried to sell anything, especially belly-to-belly, you’ve seen it happen. Your prospect obviously sees the value in what you’re selling. It’s clearly the solution to his problem. But something is holding him back from saying “yes.”

So you explain your risk-free guarantee. He STILL can’t get past the obstacle.

What’s the problem?

People get in their own way. They often prevent themselves from doing what’s in their own best interests:

  • They don’t believe they can really accomplish the long-awaited goal. Maybe their peers, but not them
  • They become addicted to their identity as a non-attainer – they like being “starving artist,” failed inventor, or mediocre performer. People sabotage themselves ALL THE TIME. They want to succeed, but not more than they want to keep doing the same things that guarantee they won’t succeed
  • They’re scared of what it would mean to succeed (i.e. CHANGE)
  • They’re worried about what their spouse or their friends will think about them
  • The topic you’re talking about isn’t a priority for them, even though it should be
  • Etc…

How do you get people to suspend these limiting (dis)beliefs?

Instead of head-on argument, give them raw material to come to draw their own conclusion in your favor.

“Without a doubt, we are more committed to what we conclude than what we are told. If we come to believe something is false, virtually nothing will convince us it is true. If we come to believe something is true, virtually nothing will convince us it is false.” ~ Blair Warren

1) Be the kind of character people WANT to believe in and trust. This is rarely done by coming up with a catchy catchphrase. It takes demonstration, consistency and clarity of message.

Strong personalities take us on journeys and activate the imagination. Polarizing figures force us to make choices. Authoritative experts engender trust. Enthusiastic people are contagious. Don’t you feel like you know the characters and celebrities personally?

  • David Blane
  • Elon Musk
  • Stephen Curry (NBA’s 2015 MVP)
  • Warren Buffett
  • Oprah Winfrey
  • Rick Grimes (from Walking Dead)

2) Stack the value – and don’t leave out the cost of inaction.

Let me use an example from my world. John Carlton touts himself as “the most ripped-off and respected copywriter on the planet.” And he probably is. You wouldn’t take that at face value, but after reading his stuff, listening to him and seeing how many other people esteem him, you’ll come to the conclusion that he’s legit.

If you’re looking for a copywriting mentor, he’s right at the top of the list. If you COULD hire him, the value is clear. If you’re thinking about hiring someone else, it is implied that such a decision will cost you unspeakable sums in lost profit.

Believe me, Carlton’s public persona is no accident.

Think about a simpler proposition: the George Foreman Grill. The value stack is making delicious food quickly and easily with less fat than other cooking methods. The cost of inaction? Rubbery burgers swimming in pools of liquid cow fat on your dinner table.

3) Exude confidence, both personally and in your messaging. Make big enough, bold enough promises to ignite desire. Draw a specific picture in the mind of your should-be customer, one he can see himself participating in.

4) Offer undeniable proof to alleviate fear and justify their desires with logically.

It should go without saying that a proposition MUST be believable if it’s going to work. Proof elements (testimonials, scientific or clinical evidence and demonstrations) help clear away doubt. People don’t buy when they don’t trust.

5) Make it easy to take the first step.

6) Dig in for the long haul. In many cases, the first exposure may not do the trick. The more a person is exposed to an idea, the more likely he is to believe it (look up the illusory truth effect and mere-exposure theory).

To Conclude

In a movie theater, people voluntarily hit the pause button on their disbelief and skepticism.

In business, that is not your customer’s job. It’s your job to make it desirable and easy to suspend their doubts.

Helping your should-be customers get out of their own way and believe your USP is a two-fold duty: inspire desire and earn trust.

Easy for me to say, right? Of course it is. But I also help my clients achieve this goal in their own marketing efforts.

“Belief is today’s most overlooked yet most powerful key to boosting… Harness it and you unleash the core atomic power for exploding response. Because the hunger for belief is so vast in every market, so deep-seated in human nature itself, you can tap into it again and again—infinitely—to make yourself and your clients rich.”     ~ Gary Bencivenga

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The Belief-Based USP

What is the real power behind powerful USPs? How can you harness that power to craft a monster USP of your own?

Most entrepreneurs and marketers have a serious misunderstanding about USPs. Frankly, most teachers on the subject haven’t taught it correctly. But then again, most of them don’t understand what makes USPs really work, either.

Unique. Selling. Proposition.

As with so many other things in society, we’ve tried to make USPs tangible and mechanical. Scientific, even.

A+B=C

Target Audience + Problem + Solution = USP

“Hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less – or it’s free.” (Am I the only one who’s tired of this example?)

In the process of making USP formulas, we’ve missed the point.

Despite the name, a USP isn’t good simply because it is unique. Customers don’t buy a product just because it’s different. They buy because it’s uniquely suited to fulfill a desire.

“Consumers have access to a multiplied and multiplying range of choices, so classic brand loyalty has been replaced by search for and expectation of the thing that is precisely, perfectly appropriate. The market for all manner of goods and services is greater than ever before. The attraction of wealth in this environment has little to do with somehow “locking up” a limited portion of a limited market and everything do with directly connecting with individuals and meeting their needs and interests.

~ Dan Kennedy

A USP’s magnetic attraction comes from within the would-be buyer himself and from the product, service or company.

“We see people and things not as they are, but as we are.” ~ Anthony de Mello

Customers see your products as THEY are. Their desires and beliefs dictate how they perceive your business and your USP.

Now, I don’t want this to become some scholarly dissertation. I know you don’t want, that either. So let’s make this clear and practical. News you can use.

This article is entitled The Belief-Based USP because belief is an essential element in getting people to take action, but the power of belief rarely makes it into discussions about what makes a strong selling proposition.

(Again, most people don’t understand this. That doesn’t mean no one ever stumbles into a compelling USP. Understanding what makes people do what they do gives you an immense advantage over you competitors, no matter how big and well-established they are.)

What You Need to Know

1) USP is a reality, not a goal or dream, not a clever-sounding statement. It is the underlying core of your offering.

For example, Tim Ferriss is the 4-Hour guy. He’s obsessed with finding shortcuts and productivity “hacks” to help his audience get better results quickly in various area of their lives. Regardless of the flack he gets, he’s world famous and known specifically for this personal USP.

When you think about Tim Ferriss, one thought automatically precedes all others: 4-Hours. He’s helped countless people (or so I’m told) improve their business and personal lives

The big question is, how did he get such a large group of people to believe his USP?

2) USP is a decision – or at least it should be. Decide what you’re going to do and who you’ll do it for/with. Then resolve to be world-class in that area.

“You must work extremely hard on what comes easy to you.” ~Jeffrey J. Fox

Harry Houdini dedicated his life to becoming the greatest escape artist and showman on the planet.

Domino’s decided to deliver pizza in 30 minutes – and they put their profits at risk if they couldn’t keep that promise.

3M really put their money where their proverbial mouth was when it came to their security glass. (Supposedly) $3 million dollars’ worth…

UVP USPImage from 3m

The point? Your USP isn’t about what you say. It’s about what you do for your customers.

3) In conjunction with Point 2, you must decide who your ideal customer is in order to make a meaningful claims. No single feature or benefit appeals to everyone. When you have clarity about who you’re serving, you can

  • get very clear about the most profitable use of your time and resources
  • determine what products and services will be most valuable to them (and lucrative for you) and
  • how and where to promote your offerings to be most effective.

If you don’t pick your audience, you run the risk of spreading yourself too thin and working on things that don’t matter much to anyone.

Why Negativity is Essential

What your business does is important. What it doesn’t do is probably just as important.

Peter Drucker once said that “Whenever anything is being accomplished, it is being done, I have learned, by a monomaniac with a mission.” Monomania is a crazed focus on ONE THING and the ruthless exclusion of anything else that would compete with or dilute that focus.

What are you maniacal about?

I think this is truly the most difficult lesson when it comes to finding your USP. Why? Because it takes clarity to know what you should focus on, courage to dedicate yourself to mastering that thing and conviction that you’ve chosen the right path. Any distraction is dangerous.

Examples:

Strategic Coach – you cannot become a member if you don’t have a person income of $100K per year. Their organization works exclusively with high-achievers (defined by dollars earned).

FarmersOnly.com – the name says it all.

I’m a happily married man, but when I heard the jingle for FarmersOnly.com, I couldn’t help myself. I had to check out the website. The uniqueness of their angle took me by surprise. Competing in a very crowded space dominated by a few major players, FarmersOnly has a singular focus. The name itself tells you who their customers are – and who they absolutely will not help. The tagline (“City Folks Just Don’t Get It”) excludes a huge segment of the potential market. Just the way they like it.

The in-crowd psychology is powerful. When someone in the target audience sees their marketing materials, he instantly knows “this is the place for me.”

If there’s nothing you won’t do, and no one you won’t work with, what does that say about your business?

Belief and Your Ideal Customer

“We choose what we choose because we believe in it…

“Who we think we are is why we do what we do.

“We live in our stories, and we live according to them. We wear clothing and drive vehicles, which are consistent with who we believe we are and who we are trying to become. We chose relationships and information as ways of subconsciously validating our beliefs, to make us feel good about our points of view. Our treasured books and music embody us. Our closest friends are our kind of people.

“Ultimately, we expect to find meaning in our lives by editing our stories, by freely mixing and matching our decisions to create an authentic narrative that represents who we believe we are, to ourselves and to others.
~Tom Asacker, The Business of Belief

People buy products, join memberships, read emails, etc., because of their beliefs. What does your potential client believe about

  • himself – What kind of person does he see himself as? How does he want the world to see him? What does he aspire to be?
  • you and/or your business – What kind of experiences has he had with you up until now. How have you positioned yourself in the marketplace? What kind of reputation do you have?
  • your industry in general – Does he trust doctors implicitly or fear Big Pharma has tainted everything? Does he think all coaches are quacks?
  • similar products/services – Is this his first experience with a product in this category? Has he been burned by previous purchases? Has he been frustrated about NOT being able to find a solution? Have you created a brand new category? What is he already familiar with that he will associate you with?
  • what’s possible and impossible – What ideas have been drilled into their brains by education, society and the media? If you’re making unique claims, you’ll need some proof to substantiate them.

How does working with you fit into his “story”? Do the values you represent resonate with his values and beliefs? Do your claims inspire the desire to believe?

You can see why it’s easier and more convincing to choose a well-defined target market! According to The Business of Belief (quoted above):

“We hunger for direction and inspiration. We want what’s important to us to get better – our bodies, work, home and relationships. We want to imagine ourselves transforming our lives and the lives of others. We want to feel good about our evolving narratives. It’s why we read books, scan the Internet, and flip through magazines. We’re looking for the before and after stories. We want to feel the pull of possibility, of moving beyond our existing reality…People are drawn across the bridge of belief by their anticipation of a better experience and a better life. Effective leaders ignite people’s imaginations by painting vivid, compelling, and personally relevant pictures – ones that move them.” ~ Tom Asacker

Does your USP do that? Does your favorite USP formula show you how to do that?

Practical Path to a Belief-Inspiring USP

A great USP makes an ideal prospect want to believe. It connects with a specific desire and offers a glimmer of hope that he’ll get it.

To put it simply and succinctly, a powerful belief-based USP promises to produce a specific result your ideal customer really wants, then offers evidence to make it easy and safe to believe.

Here’s how you get started:

Stay focused on your ideal customer’s desires, not so much on your own “uniqueness.” Of course, you have to offer something valuable. But you might be surprised how often products with no real uniqueness perform remarkably well in the marketplace.

Example: Beats Audio devices. Marketed as the handiwork of legendary hip hop producer Dr. Dre (the proof element), these headphones and speakers promise to let you hear music the way the artists intended for it to be heard.

Are they the best headphones available? That’s arguable. But many music lovers have paid between 2 and 10x more than they would for other headphones with the hope of experiencing the difference.

Beats devices have since become a status symbol and fashion accessory, broadcasting to the world how much the wearer loves music.

Have the courage to stand for something meaningful to your target audience. Be an advocate and champion for that cause.

“Music deserves to be heard this way! If you care about music and the artists that create it, how can you settle for hearing a distorted version through those ‘other’ headphones?”

Or in the case of Evernote:

“You’re busy, always on the move. Capture everything, organize your thoughts, ideas and notes beautifully and securely (much better than scribbling on crumpled napkins) and keep on moving. You’re smarter and more productive that way.”

Be specific. Generalized statements don’t move anyone.

Be bold. Under-promising is marketplace suicide.

Tom Morkes’s website homepage says this: “In the past 12 months, I’ve launched 6 books to bestseller, generated over 48,000 in first week book sales, and tens of thousands in book launch revenue. Want to see how I did it?”

For any author who’d like a successful book launch, this promise seems irresistible – especially when he finds out Morkes also offers a free e-course on the same topic.

Share your “reason why.”

“Given our goal of achieving a strong relationship with the prospect, it’s vital to know what the inner layer is…shared values are the foundation of strong relationships. ~ Jim Signorelli, StoryBranding

Why do you care about the work you do? Why do you want to work with your target audience? What makes you think you’re “their kind of people?”

Offer “proof.”

Back up your claims with evidence. With Beats Audio, Dr. Dre is the proof element. He’s a well-known and respected music producers and cultural icon.

Testimonials, endorsements, reviews, media appearances, certifications, awards, etc., make it easy for the brain to rationalize the desire and strengthen the hope that the promised results are forthcoming.

Remember, these are supporting elements. You’re not bragging, but reassuring your buyers.

“The desire to believe is a little-understood, extremely powerful force that, when consciously and deliberately harnessed, can lift an ordinary man or woman to great heights of influence, fame and fortune, and fuel the growth of a business like nothing else.

“…providing reasons to believe is a rather ordinary, commonly understood exercise in persuasion, but it is ‘low power’ unless and until it is paired with an inspired desire to believe.” ~ Dan Kennedy

–Postscipt–

“People will do anything for those who encourage their dreams, justify their failures, allay their fears, confirm their suspicions and help them throw rocks at their enemies.

“…Here’s what’s missing: YOU.

“There isn’t a word about your wants, your needs, your hopes or your concerns. There isn’t a word about your offer or proposal. There isn’t a word about what you think. It is all about the other person.

“…People write books about how to frame your ideas, how to present yourself, how to ‘put your best foot forward.’ And yet, all that people really care about is themselves. Can you imagine how much energy you will free up if you stop focusing on yourself and put your attention on other people? Can you even imagine how much more charismatic you will become when you come to be seen as the one who can fulfill some of their most basic emotional needs?

“… there is one thing you can count on: your family, friends, customers, clients and even everyone you have yet to meet will have these needs met by someone. The only question is, will it be by you?” ~ Blair Warren

 

Don’t forget to check out the flipside of this coin, the Disbelief-Based USP.

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My Recipe for Practical Invincibility

Practical Invincibility

At the end of the day, my momma told me don’t let no one break me
At the end of the day, nobody ever could stop me
At the end of the day, you can’t regret it if you were trying
At the end of the day, I’m walking with the heart of a lion

~ Kid Cudi, “Heart of a Lion”*

* In most cases. Cudi’s lyrics do not promote values I adhere to. But I like this song a lot, and it’s pertinent to today’s conversation.  🙂

In my most recent newsletter, I asked the question “Is it healthy to believe you’re invincible?” I believe it’s a dangerous path – an overblown ego is bad for everyone and pride goes before destruction – but an essential one if you want to become a successful and influential entrepreneur.

The problem with the previous email is that we didn’t talk about how one becomes invincible. Let’s correct that. Today, I’m going to share my personal recipe.

Please note that because this is MY recipe, it is imperfect (probably). I don’t claim exclusive insight. I’m just sharing what I’ve learned in my own study and experience.

Walking with the Heart of a Lion

When you think about the most successful people you know…and the ones you read about… one of the prominent characteristics that most of them seem to have is confidence. But telling you to be more confident is not helpful at all. That’s not how it works.

You don’t become more confident by focusing on being more confident.

In my experience, I’ve found that clarity is the sturdiest foundation for confidence. But clarity it is even more important than confidence. Why? Because clarity

  • gives direction – how can you make progress if you don’t know where you want to go?
  • minimizes distraction
  • decreases resistance by strengthening your conviction of the “rightness” of what you’re doing
    • internal – conviction is the combustion that drives your engine. When you know what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and what you’ll get out of it, those sneaky feelings of procrastination, doubt and lassitude are kept in check
    • external – your conviction gives you a hard-to-resist pathos when communicating with others. Powerful speakers, charismatic leaders and persuasive salespeople emanate certainty, and are able to move the masses.

Don’t Let No One Break You

If you want to be invincible in practical terms, you need to get clear about

  1. The source of your ability: your God-given gifts, the skills and knowledge you’ve developed and your hard-won experience. No one can take these away. If you put your confidence in your position, the approval of peers or something else that can be taken away, you’re walking on thin ice.
  2. Your end goal. Most of the people you know drift through life. A clear destination gives you a target to aim at. Instead of drifting, you’ll be driven. Instead of taking whatever comes easy, you’ll strive purposefully toward the bigger future you want to attain.
  3. The steps you’ll take to get to the destination, if possible. Or at least the next step. It’s easy to feel paralyzed when you don’t know how you’re going to reach your goal. So take some time, do some research and think it through. Don’t let fear or knock you off the path.

You Can’t Regret It If You’re Trying

Clarity is the first ingredient in my invincibility recipe. Tenacity is the second.

I define tenacity simply as the understanding that success is an ongoing process with the willingness to keep showing up and making the difficult choices required to move forward.

Without clarity, tenacity is shadowboxing.

Tenacity allows you to keep trying, even when things don’t seem to work out. It gives you the courage to test different ideas and approaches to see what works…and what works even better.

And it keeps you going when everyone else is quitting.

Try to avoid second-guessing yourself. It’s a fairly destructive habit. You’re going to make mistakes, there’s no avoiding that. But make a decision and go for it. You’ll be surprised how much good can come from an imperfect decision. And if it doesn’t work the way you’d hoped, be tenacious: regroup and figure out your next move.

The Secret Ingredient

Of the three parts in my recipe, this is the most controversial. Donald Trump and Michael Jordan would probably disagree, and they both have much more money than I do!

I believe outward focus is absolutely essential for invincibility. Self-centeredness limits the amount of value you create for others. It hurts your relationships – all of them – and often leads to depression in the long run.

Remember what Zig Ziglar said: “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want. …If you put other people first, the dynamic of helping others will overtake you and put you over the top.”

Have an invincible day!

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Content Jam 2015 Recap: 60-Second Takeaways to ‘Level Up’ Your Content Marketing

Content Jam 2015 marketing conference Chicago

I’m still cleaning up the mess after having my mind blown at Content Jam last month. But it’s a good mess. Besides expanding my thinking and learning some new tricks and strategies, I’ve already taken some action to step up my content marketing game. A couple of my clients have benefited from the tips I picked up, too.

Plus, I met some super-cool people. (That’s what happens when you come out of the cave and meet with other smart, creative people in real life.)

If you couldn’t make it to Chicago, you missed out BIG TIME.

Never fear! After the conference, I reached out to each of the rockstar speakers and asked them to boil down their presentations into bite-sized takeaways for anyone who couldn’t make it.

Here’s what they shared with me:

If you had 60 seconds or less, what’s the #1 takeaway from your presentation you’d share with anyone who couldn’t make it to Content Jam?

Tim Ash, about “Context and the Power of Framing – Biasing Your Offer with Irrational Neuromarketing”

The brain is the real ‘operating system’ for marketing. Understanding the evolution of it, as well as the strong and often irrational built-in biases will help online marketers a lot more than focusing on the latest technologies.

Tim Ash Neuromarketing

Note: All the “graphic recordings” in this post were created by Alphachimp.

You can see Tim’s full presentation on Orbit Media Studio’s YouTube channel here. As a bonus, I heckled Tim from the audience right around the 10:00 mark. To get the context, start paying attention at 9:22. Yep, that interruption is me.

Tim handled it like a pro. Threats of physical violence were made, but we were able to reconcile after the session.

Angie Schottmuller on “Holy Grail of On-Page Content Optimization”

“You can’t optimize what you don’t measure.” Jumping into content updates without data-driven insights is time consuming and foolish. The “holy grail” event tracking approach replaces guesswork with strategic wisdom for content optimization that confidently drives measurable results.

Angie Schottmuller conversion optimization

Check out Angie’s slides on Slideshare and watch the presentation in its entirety here.

Nancy Goldstein, about her presentation “The Creative Brief: The Secret Ingredient That Will Make All Your Content More Powerful and Effective”

Creative briefs are critical. You have to make absolutely sure that everyone who has accountability for content – strategy, implementation, or approvals – is in agreement about how the execution is going to deliver on the strategy. The only way to do that is to get it on paper and have a conversation about it. If you skip this step, you risk going through round after round after round of creative approvals, debates, and frustrations.

You can find the slides from Nancy’s presentation on her Slideshare page.

Amy Schmittauer on “How to Develop and Execute an Effective YouTube Strategy”

Do not waste any time. When your perfect viewer stumbles upon your content because they wanted to discover more about a topic you’re covering, the worst thing you can do it make them wait for you to get to the point. The more time at the beginning of a video with extra stuff YOU think is is important are precious moments wasted that you could be proving to your viewer that you are the resource they need to stay subscribed to for the long-term.

Amy Schmittauer YouTube Strategy Savvy Sexy Social

Watch Amy’s presentation in full on here.

Mana Ionescu speaking about her “Guide to Results-Driven Email Marketing and Automation”

Stop worrying about making emails pretty and start thinking of how to make them quick to read and easy to click on mobile devices. Shorten paragraphs (have an average of one link per 8-12 words), increase font size and increase size of links and calls to action so it’s easy to tap them with your fingertip.

You can check out the slides from Mana’s presentation on Lightspan Digital’s Slideshare page.

Jeannie Walters on how to “Become Your Company’s Customer Experience Investigator™”

Understand your customer’s entire journey to improve how your content is relevant to them. Think about your customer on his or her worst day, struggling with whatever product or service you offer, and understand your brand is not what they think about 24/7. Make sure your content strategy supports their true goals. It’s not just about who they are, it’s about where they are in their journey with your brand.

Check out this video of Jeannie talking about customer experience

 

Andy Crestodina, speaking about “Fortune and Glory: How to Make Friends, Rank High and Get Famous”

Social media isn’t just about sharing links and hoping for clicks. It’s not about counting likes and favorites. These things are nice, but they don’t help your marketing very much at all. Maybe you’ve noticed.

Yes, social media CAN drive traffic, but the quality of that traffic tends to be low. So the DIRECT benefits of social media are often very small.

So try this: focus on the INDIRECT benefits of social media. If you use it to build relationships, the value of those relationships are often huge.

  • Use social media search tools to find very specific content creators in your niche
  • Follow them, read what they write, get to know them
  • Interact with them within their content, in comments and through sharing
  • Connect with them on multiple social networks, keep interacting
  • Offer to COLLABORATE with them, pulling their voice into your content
  • Take the conversation offline, coffee, phone calls, handwritten thank you notes, etc.

What happens next is often magical. If you great something high value and email it to them, or if you create something together that is truly original, they’re extremely likely to share it, or better yet, mention it (and link to it) from something they’re writing.

When this happens, you just got a search optimization benefit from social media. And it’s durable, increasing the likelihood that you’re content will rank forever after.

That’s an example of how social media affects SEO. It’s an indirect benefit, but very very powerful…

Andy Crestodina Influencer Marketing

The recording of Andy’s keynote presentation can be found here.  Side note: Andy’s presentation is what inspired me to write this post. Thanks Andy!

He also did a second presentation called “Applied Analytics: Insights and Actions from 12 Reports.” Click the title to watch the video.

Jill Pollack, on “Feeding the Beast: How to Keep Your Content Flowing, on Point and Endlessly Entertaining”

Focus on the details when telling a story.

There’s nothing worse than having to listen to generalities and jargon about the state of Internet marketing across the global platform and the influx of impactful and non-impactful content that reaches multiple demographics including those in the 24-35 age range when searches are conducted with an unmet expected outcome.

BOO!

How about saying: “There’s nothing worse than searching for history of Thanksgiving and winding up with ads and fake listicles about pilgrims and Black Friday sales.”

(Also, “impactful” is not really a word!)

Jill Pollack Storytelling Content Marketing

You can watch Jill’s fantastic talk here.

Susan Silver, from her presentation “Great Content Starts Here: Positioning is More Than a Statement”

Before you write a single word of content, you need to take the time to stop and think hard about your company or product’s very specific value proposition. You need to be able to succinctly and clearly answer five questions in layman’s terms:
1. Who is your primary target
2. What is the unmet need your target has that you fill
3. What is your competitive set
4. What is your unique point of difference
5. What are three real, no BS reasons that your point of difference is believable

Make sure to check out Susan’s presentation slides on Slideshare here.

Keidra Chaney’s advice on “How to Start (and maintain!) a Blog That Doesn’t Stink”

Be thoughtful and intentional when it comes to thinking about your blog. Think more about providing meaningful conversation, cutting through the clutter of content that’s already out there, by providing a perspective that you can give.

Keidra Chaney blog writing tips

James Ellis speaking about his “13 Non-Obvious Content Promotion Tricks”

Content that you promote is wasted content, so you need to build systems that force you to promote your content. They don’t have to cost you a thing, but if you treat promotion as a “oh yeah, I guess I have to” add-on to content instead of an integral process, no one will ever hear your message.

You can see the slides from James’ talk on his Slideshare page.

Joel Harvey doing his best to encapsulate “Mobile Optimization Essentials: Tips for Increasing Mobile Conversion Rates” in 60 seconds

“You should never just make changes to your site without testing them. If you can’t or won’t A/B test the changes, at least make sure you have a rigorous, data-centric methodology for doing a pre-post analysis to assess the impact of any changes you make. Beyond that, I would encourage everyone to think deeply about what kind of goals they should optimize their mobile site for. What are the questions that people at the top of the decision making funnel will be asking? Identify those questions and make sure your mobile site answers them quickly and clearly.”

 

Joel Harvey Mobile Optimization

Watch Joel’s whole presentation on Orbit’s YouTube channel here.

My Content Jam Regrets

  1. I wish I had taken more pictures!
  2. It would have been great to have a clone so I could have attended all the breakout sessions. Choosing whose presentation to attend and whose to miss was BRUTAL. (Thank God for these 60-second recaps!)
  3. Not writing this round-up article sooner.
  4. Not being more purposeful in connecting with the other brilliant attendees.

Content Jam Andy Crestodina Orbit Media

Content Jam 2015 was incredible. I took 17 pages of notes, filled with great ideas and insights that will benefit my business in a major way. If you didn’t make it, I hope this post gives you a little taste of what you missed.

I also hope you’ll start following the speakers who’s advice you read above. Each of them will help you sharpen your content marketing “axe” to make you more effective at your craft.

Oh, and I hope to you see you Content Jam 2016!

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