4 Laws of Leap-Frogging

About this time last year, I finally read Robert Ringer’s magnum opus, Winning Through Intimidation.  It had been recommended by so many people that I respected, so I had to pick it up.

Tonight, I’d like to lay out a couple of quick thoughts on one of the most important lessons we take from the book: the leapfrog principle. Ringer describes it this way:

“The quickest way to the top is not by fighting your way through the pack; the quickest way is to leapfrog over the pack and simply take it upon yourself to proclaim that you’re above it.”

Let’s look at this theory, particularly in reference to people in the freelance writing or design field. Many people now considered “gurus” in their industries started out this way. Rather than “paying dues,” they simply elevated themselves to the next level.

Four major thoughts come to mind:

1)This should go without saying, but if you are leap-frogging, do not let anyone know about it.  Appearing like an amateur defeats the point.

2) You absolutely must do the preparation necessary to go to the level you’re leap-frogging to.  You have to actually be prepared to be above the pack.

3) Assume the posture of someone at that new level. This introduces another of Ringer’s ideas, the posture theory.  This theory states

“It’s not what you say or do that counts, but what your posture is when you say or do it.” 

Act like you’ve been in your position for years. Again, having the appearance of an amateur defeats the purpose. Get an attitude, as John Clausen says.

4) Don’t overdo it. Don’t simply say, “I’m the best widget maker in the universe.” Statements like that destroy credibility, and reek of immaturity. The best don’t have to go around telling everyone. They do carry themselves with the confidence of a world-class pro. You’ll have to strike a balance.

You could take this line of thinking much further, but that’s not my current intention. There are plenty of good lessons in Winning Through Intimidation. Do yourself a favor and read the book. You can thank me later.


Business Growth Lessons from the Delivery Room

I honestly hope my wife doesn’t read this article. She will not be happy. Let me explain…

My 4th child was born yesterday afternoon. He’s as handsome as can be, by the way.

I’m just getting home from a hospital stay that lasted nearly 30 hours. It’s a long story; I’ll spare you the details. Everything worked out well. Mama and baby boy are both in fantastic condition

Here’s the problem. If my wife finds out I spent even one second thinking about work rather than being focused on what was going on in that hospital room, I’ll probably be needing a doctor myself.

After I got home (because I seriously was not thinking about marketing until after I left the hospital), I thought about 6 dynamics that had big impacts on me throughout the experience. If you apply them to your business, I promise you’ll be impacted, too.

Let’s get into it:

1) Use of technical language/jargon

Have you ever been to visit the doctor, and experienced the confusion that comes from trying to understand what in the world they are talking about? If they aren’t careful, they start using acronyms you can’t decipher and terminology you’ve never heard of? This is especially bad when they answer questions in that manner. Unless the patient is also in the medical profession, he or she is probably going to get lost in all those big words.

This occurs in just about every field. Professionals can often use technical terms and industry-specific language that is completely unintelligible to regular folks. Confused people do not make the best customers. Communicate in ways that the people who want to hand you their money can understand. It takes conscious effort to form the habit, but you will not regret it. And your clients/customers/patients will thank you.

2) One overriding purpose

At least in the case of my son’s delivery, we were at the hospital for only one reason: to bring him safely into the outside world. Everything that the doctors and nurses did worked toward achieving this goal. Nothing else mattered.

In business, the same principle is true. You have to determine what your purpose is. What is it that you have to offer? Get that one thing right and focus your energy on killing it in that area, and you will be surprised at the results.

P.T. Barnum said, “A constant hammering on one nail will generally drive it home at last, so that it can be clinched. When a man’s undivided attention is centered on one object, his mind will constantly be suggesting improvements of value, which would escape him if his brain was occupied by a dozen different subjects at once.”

Let me clear one thing up: this doesn’t mean only offer one product or service. It means get down to the singular purpose of your business’ existence, and build your efforts on that foundation.You should probably be able to find your business’ purpose in your business plan, if you have one.

3) Exclusivity

This is an extension of the 2nd point. It’s pretty simple. Once you determine exactly what your business’ purpose is, you will have to begin cutting things off. Exclude anything that takes away from your strides to reach your specific, clearly-defined goals.

4) Doing great work really matters

This can’t be overstated. I’ll just make the point about my hospital visit. All 4 of my children have been born at this particular medical facility( sure, I’ll name names: I’m talking about the University of Chicago Hospital). As a matter of fact, my wife and all of her siblings were born there, too. My wife would never dream of giving birth anywhere else.

That’s what happens when a business exceeds expectations. Fierce loyalty, even across generations, and enthusiastic referrals.

5) Specialized knowledge makes a HUGE difference

How many kinds of doctors are there? More than I can count. And every one of the people who came to check my wife and baby had a specialty in some area.I take that to mean that each of these individuals is an expert in his or her field. Obstetricians, anesthesiologists, you name it. Their knowledge in their realms gives them credibility, which gives me confidence. I will listen to them, trust them, and do what they advise me to do.Specialized knowledge and expertise make a major difference in how you deal with your customers/patients. It also impacts the way you bill for your services. Never forget that.

6) Test/measure everything

Heart rates, blood pressure, ad nauseum. Hospitals go to great lengths to measure every possible metric. They also know what every measurement means.

For your business, think about it this way: find out what is working and what’s not working. In the same way you pay attention to the performance of your employees, make sure that your business practices are producing the results you desire. Constantly measure and test to ensure you’re getting the best of the best in every endeavor.

Putting these concepts to into action will bring new life to your business. No one will argue that the medical industry is good at extracting money from American citizens. If you’re interested in exchanging a valuable product or service to people, you would do well by applying the lessons hospitals teach.


7 Guidelines for Writing Eye-Grabbing Headlines

1) Use surgical precision. Know who your prospective customers are so that you can concentrate on stopping them in their tracks with your headline. Determine which words and themes appeal to your target right now; what is he thinking about? Wondering about? Worried about?

Headlines really serve a single purpose: they use words to get your advertisement read.

Advertising forefather Claude Hopkins, in his legendary work Scientific Advertising, further explains:

“The advertisement is read only by interested people who, by their own volition, study what we have to say. The purpose of a headline is to pick out people who you can interest……what you have will interest only certain people and for certain reasons. You care only for those people, so create a headline which will hail those people only!”

A headline must not “cast too wide a net.” There is no way to appeal to everyone without decimating the strength specificity creates in capturing your target. The attempt gain everyone’s eyes is an error that is all too prevalent in advertising today. The headline will only appeal to people who are interested in the product or service offered. Readers will not waste any time investigating an ad that isn’t selling something that pertains to him. Men don’t generally care much for tampon headlines…

Keep in mind that YOU are reading this article for a reason. Most of the people surfing the web will never read this article.

2) Go for the heart! Almost any expert (and anyone who is genuinely honest about their own purchasing patterns) will admit that people base their buying decisions more on emotion than logic. Shoppers buy what they want, and use reason to justify their choices. The most powerful purchase-driving emotions include Fear, Greed, and the Desire for Love and Prestige.

3) Focus on the Customer. The headline should be more about how the customer will benefit from the product or service than about the thing itself. As the old sayings go, “People don’t buy drills because they want drills, but because they want holes,” and “Don’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle.” Readers care about what you offer only insofar as they care about what they get out of it. Construct your headline with this in mind

4) Avoid hype. You will lose credibility if you rely on it. There are far too many superlatives and big promises that don’t reflect reality. “Super Awesome Cogs” sounds great, but that headline doesn’t convey any meaning to the reader, other than a setup for disappointment (which the he will protect himself from at all costs.) “New Cog DOUBLES Your Car’s Gas Mileage” better describes what the product does without resorting to hype.

5) People hate to be sold. They love to buy, though. If you can show your audience how to get something that they already want or know they need in a way that is easier, cheaper, or better in some other way, your advertisement will produce good results. Trying to convince a reader that they need something they know nothing about is a losing endeavor. Don’t fight against your target; go along with him. Help him get what he wants.

If the ad is for something that may be unfamiliar, the headline will have to appeal to a need or desire that the reader is familiar with.

6) Test Rigorously. Try different headlines. There is no need to guess at what will work. Find out with certainty by testing different word usage, benefit presentation, etc. This is a good rule in general, as each market will respond uniquely to different parts of your advertising.

7) Consult the masters. Advertising writers and marketers find instruction as well as inspiration from successful advertisements put together by others. Copies of headlines and body copy are often kept in “swipe files” for future reference. What worked well for others has a good chance of working for you.

The other aspect of learning the art of headline writing is studying classic works on the subject. From legends of the past such as Hopkins, John Caples and Robert Collier to contemporary pros like Clayton Makepeace and John Carlton, there are many lessons to learn. Discover the secrets of advertisers that have produced millions of dollars in sales. Continuing your marketing education will always be profitable, especially for a beginner.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of headline-writing guidelines, but following these seven tips is essential if you want to reap the benefits of effective advertising.