Spy Games

Have any of you seen the new AMC series “Rubicon?”

Four episodes have aired so far. I’m loving every second.

(I’ve always been into conspiracy theories, espionage and stuff like that. If you have a similar interest, you really need to take a look at this show. You almost never hear me recommend that you sit in front of the television, so you know this is serious.)

There was an acronym that one of the characters used in this Sunday’s episode that I wanted to share. There is, naturally, a practical application to go along.

Forgive me: like the obsessed fan that I am, there is a bit of an introductory synopsis coming up. If you want to get to the point of this post, skip down to where you see THE POINT in red letters.

We follow a team of intelligence analysts working at the American Policy Institute, aka API. They basically tell various government and military agencies what the data they collect from wire taps, satellite images, etc., really means.

In this episode, the team is assigned to make the analyze info and advise the military’s decision on whether or not to drop a bomb on a potential target. Innocent lives are at stake.

Trying to determine the risks involved in the mission, the 3-person team guesses the number of civilians that could be in harm’s way. One of them exclaims that the estimate quoted is a “total WAG.” This is defined as a Wild “AGuess. Feel free to guess what the “A” stands for.

So here’s THE POINT:

In direct response marketing, you cannot afford to make WAGs. You don’t have the luxury of fooling around with the money you spend to roll out your campaign. Every dollar has to be accounted for. This is especially true if you’re working on a project for a client. You can’t play around with their investment.

The good news is that you don’t have to settle for making guesses in your marketing.

Too many business and ad agencies develop concepts without ever doing research to find out exactly what motivates their target audience. Even more proceed with their ideas without ever testing to see if what they’re doing is producing results.

This is wasteful at best, and potentially suicidal for your business.

Lesson for today: don’t make WAGs when it comes to your business decisions. Strike that: never guess at any of the important decisions in your life, business or personal.

Do the necessary research so that you can move forward prepared for what’s out there. What is your hottest prospect really scared of? What is your wife’s favorite flower?

Then test everything. I’ll go out on a limb and say that everything in life is quantifiable to some degree. Find out what kind of results you’re getting, and work on improving them constantly.


Headline Analyzers? Do These Things Really Work?

A discussion in one of the groups I’m a member of on LinkedIn brought an interesting tool to my attention. It’s the Advanced Marketing Institute’s Headline Analyzer. This tool will take a look at the emotional value of the words in your headline and give you a score.

From the site:

This score indicates that your headline has a total of ***% Emotional Marketing Value (EMV) Words. To put that in perspective, the English language contains approximately 20% EMV words.

And for comparison, most professional copywriters’ headlines will have 30%-40% EMV Words in their headlines, while the most gifted copywriters will have 50%-75% EMV words in headlines.

A perfect score would be 100%, but that is rare unless your headline is less than five words.”

Let me post my response to the group on this topic:
There’s another pretty cool tool, the Carlin Ad-Speak Calculator, which will tell you if your headlines sound to “salesy” or “hypey.”

Maybe the two could be used in combination

It probably goes without saying, but I’d like to note that it’s impossible for a computer to “know” the emotional power of any given headline. Human psychology can’t be broken down into logorithms.

No one really knows how words will hit home. Headlines will affect different groups of people differently. Current events, whether national or personal, will also determine the impact words will have on an individual. For example, the “foreclosure” is a pretty compelling word for many of us.

To add some perspective, I tried the AMI Headline Analyzer, just to see what happens.

It appears to simply add the “emotional value” of the individual words in the headline.

Example: Having an idea of a couple highly emotive words, my first attempt was “Free Money Now.” Guess it was too short, because that didn’t get a result.

So I tried “Get Free Money Now.” Guess what? 50% EMV. Not bad, eh? My personal analysis would be that there may be some power in that headline, but a lot of skepticism would accompany it. Who could believe it?

Next, I added the most powerful word in any language. “You Get Free Money Now.” The score: 60% regardless of where in the sentence the word “you” is placed. “Get You Free Money” got the same rating.

Finally, for whatever reason, I removed “get” from the headline. “Free You Money Now” scores at a full 75%!

(Incidently, each of those headlines scored low [less than 2%] on the Carlin Ad-Speak Calculator that I promoted myself.)

On the other hand, “Stop Your Foreclosure Now” only produced a 25% emotional value?

Those are the scores you want. But the limited ability of tools such as these is demonstrated.

Your best bet is to bring your writing prowess to the table, coupled with an intimate knowledge of exactly who you are speaking to.

What do you guys think?

I mentioned the Carlin Ad-Speak Calculator on in an earlier post, which you can see here.


Quote of the Week 19

I’d like to touch on the perpetual “long copy versus short copy” battle one more time. Don’t worry, I’ll keep it brief. (Sorry, that was funny to me.)

This week’s inspiration comes from French Enlightenment political thinker  Charles de Montesquieu:

“What orators lack in depth, they make up in length.”

Again, the lesson is pretty plain. Many times, a person who has little to say will take a long time saying it. Their comments seem more substantial (in their minds) because they are more lengthy.

This goes for writers as well. All kinds of writer, from novelists to journalists. And, yes, copywriters, too.

Many times you will read a marketing message that takes 1,000 words to say what could be stated in 500.

Writing is a discipline. A huge part of what makes it a discipline is deciding on the best words and the best way to make a point. Well-chosen words and sentences keep writing tight, and protect your readers from boredom.

In advertising, a writer can’t afford to be too long-winded. Each word has to earn its place on the page. Like poetry. The audience needs to get all that you have to give, but you have to keep them interested in reading.

In the interest of brevity, I won’t drone on. My point, in short is this: GET TO THE POINT! The quicker the better.

That doesn’t mean I favor short copy over long.  I do prefer it when writers don’t waste words. Say everything that needs to be said. Then, not another peep.


Improve Your Marketing by Playing Board Games

Maybe I’m crazy, but it seems like you can find marketing lessons everywhere. I’m not talking about learning from the hundreds of sales messages that harass our eyes and ears daily.

You can gain marketing insight in what seems like most unlikely places…

Last night, my lovely wife and I had a great time playing Scrabble. After having the crap beaten out of me for most of the game, I had an epiphany.  Scrabble can help you be a better marketer!

I won’t take up all your time going trough all the details, but observe some of the benefits that you get from playing this classic game:

  • You’re constantly being exposed to new words. And advanced vocabulary (one that you actually put to use) is a key to the game. It will also help you with writing copy and content for your sales letters, website, articles, etc.
  • Scrabble is all about finding connections. Your brain can do a lot of exercise during competitive matches. Marketing is all about connections, too. Gotta find a way to bring your customers and your product or service together.
  • You’ll improve your ability to analyze details. A critical eye can do wonders for your advertising efforts.

The key lesson that I took away from my epiphany is that what’s on the board is more important than the letters on your rack. If you spend all your time looking at your own letters, you’ll get trounced (a word I am now quite familiar with). No matter what you have in your possession, if you can’t get it on the board, it’s worthless. Contrariwise, even if your assortment of letters is really sorry, you might still be able to create a huge word based on what’s already been played.

This is crucial with marketing as well. It is essential to understand your market. Understanding your audience is the most important part of marketing. Probably the most important aspect of running a successful business.

Short version: don’t spend all your time and effort looking at you. Look at your target, find out what they want, and figure out how to use that intimate knowledge to elevate your marketing to a higher plane.

Oh, and I’m selling my Scrabble Marketing Training Manual for $49. Give me a ring if you’re interested.

(Yes, that’s a joke!)


Courtship Copywriting

A thought for your consideration (which happens to be a comment that I made on John Carlton’s blog last summer)

Selling is just like a marriage proposal. You can’t just walk up a stranger and ask her to marry you. You have to take the process one step at a time, starting with small, easy-to-make choices (“hey, wanna catch a movie?“). Make the first step for your prospect irresistibly easy to take. Over time, the actions get larger.

Long copy allows the message to start small and move the customer increasingly toward making the purchase. Short copy doesn’t have that ability-there’s no time!

Long copy is can be a “greased slide” to the sale. Short copy is one big step, and grease on a step (stair) is not usually a good idea.

This is what Gary Bencivenga called “throwing the monkey fist.”  Most big tasks can’t be accomplished in one move. Master salespeople (that includes smart marketers) use a sequence  of expanding steps to move the prospect to take the desired action.

Think about it…

More importantly, implement it.


How Would George Carlin Respond to Your Ads?

From the Marketing Beyond Advertising blog:

Do your ads sound like ads? Do your ads boast about your superior service, your wide selection, or name the number of years you’ve been in business?

If so, you may be guilty of Ad-Speak.

Introducing the Carlin Ad Speak Calculator!

This cool tool will analyze your advertising copy and tell you if it sounds too salesy, too much like and ad.

I think its rather neato.

Advertising that sounds like advertising is easy for your target audience to ignore. If it does get read, it’s often disregarded.

Your message has to interrupt your readers enough to grab their attention, channel desire, and direct them to you and what you offer.

The Carlin Ad Speak Calculator is just another way to take a critical look at your copy. It will even list the elements that you’ve used that are commonly considered advertising lingo

Have a little fun, a little laugh, and another look at the quality of your message.


$50 Thousand in Free Publicity and the “Mystery Briefcase”

Here’s another great article from an outstanding resource.  Lawrence Bernstein is a brilliant marketer, and his InfoMarketing Blog is an amazing source of knowledge.

$50 Thousand In Free Publicity And The “Mystery Briefcase” is a case study about the attempted sale of a $17.5 million house on Ebay.  You’ll learn how to:

  • leverage the “newcomer’s advantage” in a field you’re trying to break into
  • build a competitive advantage
  • grab the attention of the world’s richest men (in this case, Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim)
  • use the media to increase the impact of your marketing
  • and more.

Don’t miss this information packed article, $50 Thousand In Free Publicity And The “Mystery Briefcase.”


Lessons from Copywriting Legend Jim Punkre

Jim Punkre is a legend. He’s widely considered to be among the top ten copywriters in history, generating over $1 billion in sales over his 35 year career.

I can’t even describe this treasure trove of copywriting and direct mail wisdom from an interview Daniel Levis did with Jim for his Masters of Copywriting compilation.

You can take a look at Part 1 and 2 on Clayton Makepeace’s Total Package.

Highly recommended!


Could You Sell the Eiffel Tower…Twice?

Anyone in sales, marketing or real estate can benefit from this interesting article by hypnotherapist-turned salesman Ken Ellsworth.

Take a look at the “Could You Sell The Eiffel Tower…Twice?” here. He tells the true story of scam artist Victor Lustig, who actually “sold” the Eiffel Tower to unwitting marks in the 1920’s. He then relates some lessons we can learn from an expert salesman.

There’s also a fascinating interview with Michael Senoff and Ken Ellsworth at TheBuyingCode.com. In this interview, Ken tells you how to unlock the unconscious selling strategy of your clients. He says that you should be able to reach 90% closing rate using these techniques.

Lots to learn here.