Big Mistakes Small Businesses Make: Podcast

copywriting mistakes small businesses make

What’s are the biggest mistakes small business owners and solopreneurs make?

Well, I can name a handful of major ones — and I dealt with a couple of them during my guest appearances on the Rhino Daily Podcast with Steve Sipress.

Steve is a well-respected, well-connected guy in the direct marketing world. He gets excited about big marketing ideas that help small businesses make big money.

Naturally, we get along very well.

He brought me on the show to talk about some of the most painful mistakes entrepreneurs make when sitting down to write sales copy…and how to fix them. In the short time I had, I gave a few specific tips:

  • Make your message about your customer, not so much about yourself. Even your “About Me” page should really not be about you
  • Never forget to appeal to the emotion. I gave one tip that even the least exciting industries can use to crank up the emotional volume of their messages
  • Boring = marketing death. How do you make a boring business interesting? What are the only two things your prospects are guaranteed to be interested in? You’ll have to listen to find out my prescription
  • “3 strikes and you’re out” is bad way to think about marketing, but it’s better than the “one and done” approach. Strangers rarely turn into paying customers the first time they see your marketing material. Don’t give up! Build follow-up and multiple touches (in multiple media, if possible) into your strategy

Check out Episodes 171 through 174 of the Rhino Daily Podcast on iTunes or on the Rhino Daily website. All 4 are less than 14 minutes long for your listening convenience and enjoyment.

I’ve also contributed a few articles to the Rhino Daily blog in the past, just in case you were wondering. You can read here if you like.




For Coaches, Consultants and Consultative Salespeople ONLY

Consultant training

I came across a way to consistently attract high-paying clients to your consulting or coaching business that I HAD to tell you about.

You’ve heard me talk about my “secret society,” an international group of marketing-savvy entrepreneurs and thought-leaders. You may have purchased the book I co-authored with some of them. Michael Zipursky has been in that group for a number of years. I’ve always been impressed with his business (appropriately named Consulting Success), and I’ve learned a lot from him.

We recently hopped on the phone together and had an awesome conversation. Michael shared with me a new business model specifically for consultants and coaches who want to attract more ideal clients consistently and get paid higher fees.

Michael’s clients have seen a 200-300% growth in their revenue within weeks of implementing this model. He shared with me how consultant after consultant and coach after coach is making this work in their business.

Michael said he would be willing to share the EXACT model with my audience. Naturally, I agreed. I always try to share the best information I can find with you, and Michael is a top-notch expert I deeply respect.

So here it is: Register for this special webinar, “How to Consistently Attract Ideal Clients and Significantly Increase Your Fees,” which we’re hosting Tuesday, May 5th at 1PM Eastern. That’s one week from today.

–> <–

I don’t do many webinars. This is something I really believe you’ll benefit from. If you’re looking to remove the ‘trial-and-error’ from your marketing… If you want a straightforward way to attract ideal clients and earn higher fees… Don’t miss this special webinar I’m doing with Michael.

You’ll learn about the

  • 4 biggest mistakes consultants and coaches are making and how to fix them right away
  • single most effective marketing method for coaches and consultants
  • 6 step process that consultants use to DOUBLE and TRIPLE their revenues in weeks
  • 3 common myths holding back your success and how to unlock your true potential

You’ll also hear about how this model has helped..

– A consultant go from $0 in revenue to over $100,000 in revenue in 7 weeks

– A speaker that increased her fees over 700% in 5 weeks

– A coach that added 300% to every project she lands.

The model Michael will share with you is the SIMPLEST way I’ve seen to for coaching and consulting practices to attract their ideal clients – and do it consistently.

Sound good? Sign up for this training –> <–

To satisfy your curiosity, here’s a little more about Mr. Zipursky:

Michael Zipursky is the CEO of Consulting Success. He is an expert in helping consultants and consulting firm owners to create marketing systems that consistently attract their ideal clients and significantly increase their fees. Michael’s work has been featured in MarketingProfs, Financial Times, Huffington Post, HR Executive, Institute of Management Consultants, Consultant News, Macleans and many other publications. He is author of 6 books and publications on consulting including the best-selling Consulting Success System. Over 6,000 consultants around the world have taken Michael’s training and each week over 20,000 people read his consulting newsletter.


Business Growth Secrets for 2015

Creating Business Growth

My international secret society is officially coming out of the shadows.

Twenty-one of us have collaborated to write what’s sure to be one of the most useful books you’ll read in 2015. Creating Business Growth is focused on effective lead generation, but you’ll learn a ton of information that can be applied to other parts of your business.

This isn’t an ordinary marketing book written by academics. Some of the smartest entrepreneurs I know reveal the secrets they’ve used to grow their own businesses and make their clients very happy people. My co-authors include a TED speaker, contributors to the Washington Post, CNBC and BBC World Services, a Clinton White House speechwriter, several best selling authors… the list goes on.

You know some of these gentlemen:

  • Mike Seddon
  • Steve Gordon
  • Bnonn Tennant
  • Ian Brodie
  • Matthew Kimberly
  • Srikumar Rao
  • and 15 others.

Because we feel passionately about marketing and we want to help as many people as we can, we’ve decided to give the book away gratis. Amazon will only let us do that for a short period of time. So from January 1-5, the Kindle version will be free.

Remember: you don’t need to have a Kindle device.  When you download the ebook, you can pick up a free app for your phone, tablet, laptop or PC. Easy as apple pie. 

Get more details and pre-register to get your free copy on New Year’s Day at



Writing Copy to Sell Your “Crazy” Offer

Yesterday we talked about turning your prospects into paying customers by making crazy offers. Did this concept haunt you the way it’s been haunting me? I hope you spent a good deal of time coming up with an almost too-good-to-be-true offer you can use to move potential clients from interest into action.

Ideally, you will come up with an offer so crazy, so compelling that you don’t need much sales copy (or pitching if you’re selling in person or over the phone). Start with a winning product or service and create a very valuable offer and you’re already most of the way there. Now the copy has an easy job. (Confidentially, this is one of the big reasons copywriters are picky about which projects they work on.)

But no matter how strong your offer is, you should still…

…Sell the Heck Out of It Anyway

Even though making the right offer to the right prospect is 80% of the battle, persuasively-written sales copy can improve response by 10, 100 or 1000%.

Here are 4 qualities that will add extra oomph to your copy:


Your message should aim for the heart of who your target customer is and how he sees himself.

Nike could talk about comfort, but their customers are athletes concerned with performance, so that’s what their marketing highlights. Lexus could talk about performance, but Lexus buyers are thinking about status. That’s what they showcase in their ads.

What causes one person’s heart to race may not excite the next person at all. Know your customers. Write copy that appeals to their sense of who they are and who they want to be.


Don’t be the least bit vague about what you’re offering. Tell them exactly what they’ll get, how long it’s available for, how they’ll benefit from their purchase, what to expect next, etc. Clarity creates vision; without vision there is no action. On the other hand, confused people generally don’t buy.

Bold Claims

The idea of under-promising and over-delivering seems to make sense, but it can be suicidal when it comes to marketing. These days, with so many sales messages begging for our attention, you can’t afford to be shy.

Don’t be afraid to make big claims, as long as you can back them up.

People are searching for the best answers to their questions, the best solutions to their problems. Imagine a dentist who marketed his services as getting your teeth “pretty clean.” How long will he be in business? Even if he’s the best dentist in town, marketing like that will ruin him.


Skepticism is at an all-time high. So is the volume of hype-filled sales pitches we see and hear every day. People are looking for providers they can trust. Any hint of dishonesty or shadiness will send most potential buyers running.

Sincerity is like a breath of fresh air. Almost no one is using it.

The less you seem to hype up what you’re doing, the more believable you are. You come across as honest and helpful instead of desperate and opportunistic.

Your Action Steps

1) If you haven’t come up with it yet, keep working on your crazy offer.

2) Write the first draft of your sales copy ASAP.

3) Test out your offer. Don’t be scared.

If I’ve ever shared anything on this blog that I think you should act on right away, this is it. Don’t let another day go by without considering the immediate and long-term effects this “crazy offer” concept can have on your business.

And get moving!


The Business Growth Question I Can’t Get Out of My Mind

Robert said something a few weeks ago that has been ringing in my ears ever since it rolled off his lips. He has no idea it’s had such a lasting –almost haunting– effect on me. Maybe I should call him and let him know.

“Have you ever offered anything crazy get people onto your buyer’s list?”

He posed the question to about a dozen bright entrepreneurial minds during our mastermind group call. As I recall, only one or two of us came up with a response.

For the record, Robert Michon is a very smart marketer, so his inquiry comes loaded with knowledge, experience and an ever-present curiosity.

This is an idea we all understand, but most of us don’t do it. Or we don’t take it as far as we should. For whatever reason, we never cross the border into “crazy.”

When You Understand This, You Understand How Direct Marketing Really Works

You hear a lot of talk these days about building your email list, and that’s a good thing. But there is a fundamental difference between people who subscribed to your list to get something for free and paying customers. Understanding the difference and focusing on it appropriately will virtually guarantee increased conversion rates, sales and profits.

The best new customer is a satisfied old customer. The second best customer is one referred by a satisfied old customer. The best prospects to buy your higher-end product or service are satisfied buyers of your less expensive offers (all things being equal).

This idea reminds me of a lesson I learned from Richard Armstrong, direct marketing veteran and AWAI Copywriter of the Year for 2012. In chapter 11 of his book My First 40 Years in Junk Mail, he shares the story of his time working with the legendary Dick Benson. The takeaways are golden. Stealing from pages 56-57:

“Oh, let me tell you one other little secret I learned from Dick Benson. Now that he’s passed away, I can share this with you. Dick was never in the publishing business. He was in the list-building business!”He sold subscriptions to those newsletters for just ten dollars a year! In the process, they became the most widely-circulated newsletters in America… But Dick didn’t really give a damn about the newsletters… All Dick cared about was the lists. In other words, he literally gave away the newsletters in order to build up gigantic mailing lists of subscribers…

“When you understand why he did that, you understand how direct marketing really works.”

I can’t recommend Richard’s book strongly enough. Grab a free copy here.

How Does That Impact Your Business?

A significant psychological shift takes place when someone gives you money. If you’ve been in business, either as an owner or an employee, you know there’s a huge difference between a customer and a tire-kicker. Rather than being passive about the process, be proactive. Don’t sit and wait for prospects turn into buyers. Consider making a “crazy” offer, one that’s harder to turn down than to buy. You’ll jumpstart that psychological shift in those individuals, and that begins what will hopefully be a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship.

Either that or you’ll find out that those 1) prospects aren’t as hot as you thought they were, 2) your offer wasn’t crazy enough or 3) your potential buyers don’t see your product as solving their problems or enhancing their lives. No matter what, you’re learning something that you can use to make improvements.

Any type of business can put this idea into practice. A little creative thinking and some courage can make this experiment wildly successful.

I’ve talked before about how Gillette sent me a Mach 3 razor in the mail for my 18th birthday.  Some businesses would be too scared to go that far. It’s crazy, especially since the only thing they knew about me was that I turned 18 on November 2. But their small investment (probably no more than $5) secured my loyalty as a customer for over a decade. I’m in my 30s and I still use the very same razor they sent me. When I need replacement blades, there’s no question who gets my money.

Do you see how this could change the way you do business?

Your Action Steps

1) If you’re not already doing it, start collecting a customer database. Be as detailed as you can. This is a separate list from your general mailing lists.

2) Come up with a hard-to-resist introductory offer and give your prospects compelling reasons to buy. Not just opt-in, but actually send you money. You might be surprised by the difference between $1 customers and free newsletter subscribers.

3) No matter what price point you pick, over-deliver. Give more value than the customer expected.

4) Create back-end offers. Dream up ways to offer targeted products and services (your own and those of other providers you trust) to your customer lists. This is the Dick Benson secret.

5) Test different offers to convert the prospects who didn’t respond to previous offers. Measure results.

I hope Robert’s “crazy offer” question is burning in your mind the ways it burns in mine. One of the reasons it affects me so much is that I know I could go much further into “crazy” in my own business. But more than that, I know this concept can have a huge impact on your business.

I hope this article provides the spark that gets you to take action on this idea.


All’s Fair When Avoiding Price Wars

As a soldier, what main characteristic did David possess that allowed him to defeat Goliath, who was bigger, stronger and more heavily armed?

Most people will say that it was his agility or speed. Just moments before the battle, David decided against suiting up with King Saul’s armor to maintain his mobility.

More important than these things, though, was his willingness and ability to choose the terms of the fight. Even though he was very confident in his physical strength (he’d beaten wild lions and bears in the past), he picked up stones and decided to take out the giant from a distance. I’m inclined to believe David would still have been victorious over Goliath in hand-to-hand combat, but there was no need for that.

He took a weapon he was skilled with and slew the Philistine champion before the fight even began.

When your small businesses square off against entrenched competitors… ones that are bigger, stronger, better-known and better-equipped than you… you can learn a few things from the young warrior David.

Setting up Battles Where Your Victory Is Inevitable

There is a strong temptation for look at your potential customer base and think, “If I drop my prices, more people will buy from me. That’s what everyone else is doing.” In most businesses, special offers mean discounted prices. Every conceivable holiday is an excuse to offer a sale. And some of your big competitors spend thousands or even millions of dollars broadcasting these discounts.

How can you compete with that?

Make no mistake: low prices are attractive. There will always be a market for cheapness. That’s probably the biggest reason why a huge percentage of startups open their doors with plans to become the low-cost provider for the customers they’d like to serve.

But unless you have the buying power of Walmart or its equivalent in your industry, that’s a tough fight to win.

Take a page out of David’s book. Pick your battles strategically. What do you offer that’s better than everyone else who is competing for the customers you want?

Your lunch menu is healthier than McDonald’s.

Your plumbing work is guaranteed for twice as long as anyone else in town.

Your T-shirt brand has been worn by more rock musicians in concert than any other brand this year.

Force The Comparison

In general, you don’t want a potential customer to be able to make an “apples to apples” comparison between your product or service and that of the guy who insists on cutting his prices to the bone. All other things being equal, the customer will buy the less expensive option.

You can’t allow other things to be equal.

It’s essential that you create some differentiator that forces the consumer to make an “apples to orange” comparison.

Your marketing and your sales people force the comparison between your product and the competition at the point of differentiation.

“Look how healthy our lunch menu is!”

“No one guarantees their pipework for as long as we do.”

“If you’ve been to any concerts this year, you’ve noticed how popular our brand is with your favorite rock stars.”

Juxta-position your product in a way that appears unique, especially if your product or service is seen as a commodity.

Create Your Own Category

Have you ever noticed how many different choices are available for chicken eggs at your local grocery store? There are probably dozen options (yes, I thought that was funny).

What’s really interesting is the price difference between some of the choices. For example, your “average” large eggs sell for $1.79/dozen at this particular store. Eggland’s Best Vegetarian eggs normally sell for $3.79/dozen. That’s more than double the price of your “commodity” eggs.

egglands price wars

How does that happen?

Eggland’s Best has capitalized on a key differentiator. This type of egg is in a distinct category: cage-free, vegetarian brown chicken egg.

This destroys the “apples to apples” comparison and forces the customer to consider whether it’s more important for them to save a couple bucks or treat himself to this special kind of egg.

Dutch Farms (the Goliath in this example) probably sells a lot more eggs at the much lower price. But Eggland’s Best (David) is carving out a nice corner of the market to dominate.

Can you think of a way to create a special category for what you sell? 


Date Your Leads, Marry Your Customers

In October of 2001, the prettiest girl on my college campus, a popular upperclassman, agreed to go on a date with me, a nerdy freshman.

That following February, she agreed to marry me.

Yes, it was quick and this sort of relationship often crumbles as quickly as it starts. But after 12 years of marriage, I still tell everyone that taking my wife “off the market” was one of the smartest decisions I’ve ever made.

The things that made the wooing process so fast and the ensuing relationship so successful work equally well in my approach to attracting leads and winning customers (taking them “off the market”): singularity of focus, clarity of purpose, selfless commitment to providing value, trustworthiness and reliability.

The Dating Game

When I was 19-years old, I was different than most of my peers. I wasn’t in a rush to jump the broom, but I wasn’t interested in casual dating, either. I was going to treat my girlfriend as my potential future wife. Never did I imagine my life would change so rapidly, but the point is clear: if you’re serious about who you date and why, you’ll move towards wedding bells quicker than those who are “playing the field.”

You have to know who you want as potential customers and why. You wouldn’t just date anyone, and you don’t want just anyone as your customer. Who is your target market? What kind of prospect is a good fit for you and your business?

Read the rest of this article in the February issue of Evolution Magazine, (it’s the Guest Editorial on page 9).


(The Beat Goliath System is my prescribed strategy for attracting date-worthy leads and turning them into wife-able customers and clients. Find out more by entering your name and email address in the box to the right. )


Free Kindle Books from Some of My Favorite Marketers

I can’t help myself.

Over the past few months, I’ve been stealing quite a bit.

The guys who run the One Hour Startup have been creating so much great content, and rolling it out so masterfully, I haven’t been able to resist the urge to rip-off some of their ideas. John Breese and Ryan Healy are certified marketing geniuses.

For this weekend only, John and Ryan are leaving the door unlocked and asking people to steal from them. They’ve made their entire array of Kindle books (normally $10) FREE for decisive entrepreneurs and marketers.

Check out this too-good-to-be-true offer at

If your business can use some breakthrough ideas, it’s time to be decisive. I can’t recommend these resources strongly enough.

Head over to the One Hour Startup $10 Library page to take advantage of this steal of a deal (which they’re calling an “ethical bribe”) before you go to bed Sunday night.

P.S. Don’t forget to check out the Kindle contest OHS is holding. I don’t mean to spoil the surprise, but the winner will receive a rare copy of Ken McCarthy’s final System Seminar from 2011.


What An Alley Mechanic Taught Me About Selling ANYTHING

In the middle of last  summer, I took my Chevy Astro to Chuck, a mechanic my father-in-law recommended for some long-overdue tuning up. He had done some work for Pops in the past. He was one of those backyard mechanics who worked more for the love of cars than for the money. So he was a lot cheaper than the big name shops, but he did good work and he was fast.

I know very little about fixing cars. But Pops does. If he trusted Chuck, I wouldn’t give the recommendation a second thought.

So we took him the van. He did his thing. He was fast and friendly. When I returned to pick it up, Chuck mentioned that the car wasn’t in perfect condition, but he had gotten the “Check Engine” light to turn off. As long as that light didn’t come back on, he said, I should be in good shape.

The drive home was smooth. I felt good about myself. I saved some money and supported a small business in my community at the same time.

But the next drive was not nearly as pleasant. By the third trip, the van was acting exactly like it had before Chuck worked on it.

I was baffled. What did that mechanic do to the van? Had he really done anything? I didn’t actually see him do anything, and he seemed to be finished faster than he should have…

And what about this Check Engine light? It hadn’t turned back on.

Maybe the only work he did was to remove the fuse for that warning light!

Can You Make Up Someone Else’s Mind?

To be honest, I never confronted Chuck about the work he did. He may or may not have actually done what I paid him to do.

Although it seems as if there’s quite a bit to learn from this story, I wonder if you detected a lesson that can literally transform your ability to sell whatever it is that you have to offer.

Do you see what happened with the Check Engine light? Chuck gave me a very specific and unmistakeable indicator that he had done a good job. The Check Engine light was off, so  he must have fixed the problem I asked him to take care of.

Those of you who have been around for a couple months or longer know about my penchant for education as a selling too. When done properly, I don’t know of a more effective way to get people to take action.

Looking back on the situation, I don’t think Chuck was aware of what he was doing, but he taught me how to appreciate his work. Here’s what happened:

1) I had a problem that I needed to solve,
2) I perceived Chuck to be an expert in his field (mostly based on the recommendation of my trusted father-in-law)
3) Chuck defined the criteria on which I would judge the quality of work done for me.

When you think about it, how much do your customers know about what you do? They should understand the benefits of buying from you, but do they know how you achieve the results you deliver? Do they even want to know?

In other words, most of your prospects and customers are a lot like I am when it comes to fixing cars: I know I need help, but I don’t have a clue how mechanics do their job. I just know that when it’s done, I’m looking for the thing that was wrong to be repaired.

That means, I don’t really know the difference between a good mechanic and a great one. When I’m having car troubles, I can either rely on referrals from people I trust, or I pick whoever’s the cheapest or closest.

From the car shops’ perspective, they’re relying on factors outside of their control (random word of mouth or having the lowest prices) to determine the fate of their business. That’s not a recipe for success. It’s hoping and praying that the dice rolls your way time after time. No wonder over 90% of businesses fail in their early years!

Take Control of Your Sales Process and Marketing

One of the biggest advantages of selling though education is that as an authority figure, you can tell your prospects what they should look for when choosing a product or service.

For example, if you were a mechanic, and your website featured an article or special report about “6 Misconceptions About Car Repairs that Can Cost You Thousands of Dollars,”  how easy would it be to define the process of fixing in a way that highlights your distinctive benefits and subtly disqualifies your competitors who operate differently?

What about a dog groomer who gives presentations on how proper care extends the health and life of pets? Not only can you define the buying criteria for anyone looking for a groomer, but you also position yourself as someone dog lovers can trust to take the best care of Rover.

There is nothing manipulative about this method, as long as you’re telling the truth. So, of course, there is the danger of con men and swindlers using education to misinform people and rip them off, but you’re not that kind of person.

During a presentation I gave last month, I joked that the way you hire the best copywriter is to look for the ones whose first and last names start with “D” and “B” respectively. That’s a joke you can use, as well as an example of what not to do as you educate your market.

Leveraging the power of education is one of the most important ways businesses can maximize their growth in any economy. It takes extra effort, but if you do it correctly, I can’t think of a better way to boost the results your sales people and marketing materials are producing.

Strategies are less fun than tactics, but without a strategy, you’re just hoping and praying. Is that where you want your business to be?


Are You Sabotaging Your Own Marketing?

On Thursday, I have the privilege of participating in Yasmin Razaq’s Explode Biz Profits teleseminar event.

Every day this week, business growth and marketing experts will be sharing their best insights into attracting more customers and clients, strengthening your personal or business brand and improving your overall profitability.

I’ll be talking about “5 Ways Businesses Sabotage Their Own Marketing.” Some of the topics we’ll get into are:

  • the mistake most businesses make when creating their online and offline marketing materials — actually, I’ll probably talk about at least 3 big ones
  • how recessions can be good things if you know how to weather the storm, and
  • the truth about Unique Selling Propositions (almost everyone I work with gets this wrong)

Go over to to find out more about this week’s sessions. Plenty of good content is on the way. If you see anything that might help make your business better, register and attend the talks that appeal to you.

Each speaker will also be giving away a special freebie after the call.

Why not take a look right now? As I mentioned,  I’ll be live at 12 noon Eastern on Thursday, March 29th.

I’d love for you to get your hands on this high-quality content.


Listen to the interview here.