By Lori Allen
Thursday, June 30, 2011
How to Turn Any Hobby Into a Saleable Photograph
By Lori Allen
By Lori Allen
During his time off from grad school, Danny Warren takes trips with his wife and friends to hike, camp, and climb in the woods and mountains of the Pacific Northwest. It's one of his favorite things to do.
Plus, it pays for his camera gear.
While he's hiking and camping, Danny takes photos along the way and sells them on the stock photo website iStock.com. By doing this, he makes a nice side income... and helps fund his next adventure.
Like Danny, indulging in your favorite hobbies can really pay off - literally.
Here's a tip for getting started:
Don't just photograph your hobby. Photograph everything surrounding it.
For example, if you love keeping a flower garden, don't just take pictures of flowers. Flowers are an overdone subject. And to take saleable flower photos, you've got to be one of the best.
But you can easily take marketable shots of flower gardening by focusing on everything AROUND the flowers, or by photographing them in a unique way.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
A mixed metaphor is a combination of figures of speech that unintentionally results in an incongruous or impossible image. This anecdote supplies a perfect example of the error:
A sportswriter interviewing a basketball player asked how his team was doing. "The ship be sinking," he replied. How far could it sink? "Sky's the limit."
Here are a few other mixed metaphors, culled from my routine reading:
- "I'm going to milk the gold rush as long as I can."
- "This will take the edge off the nail biting."
- "Flying under the radar, we don't do everything with a splash."
- "By 2011, Mr. Robinov plans for DC Comics to supply the material for up to two of the six or eight tent-pole films he hopes Warner Bros. will have in the pipeline by then."
- "I'm the last of the Mohicans and I'm hanging on by a thread."
- "We saved for a rainy day, but... the depth of this emergency means there are no longer any sacred cows."
- "I had issues with the DNA of the project... there were so many chefs in the kitchen."
- "Just before the ax fell, lightning struck and my life changed...."
In your writing and speaking, be sure to avoid mixing or mashing your metaphors, lest you produce embarrassing results like those above. Aside from that caution, feel free to "push the envelope out of the box"!
"There are powers inside of you which, if you could discover and use, would make of you everything you ever dreamed or imagined you could become."
Orison Swett Marsden
But there are obstacles along the way to achieving those dreams.
Business management expert Elihu Goldratt explains this with what he calls the "Theory of Constraints." In accomplishing any goal, he says, there is a bottleneck that serves as a constraint on the process. This constraint sets the speed at which you achieve the goal. But he has found that if you concentrate on eliminating that limitation, you can speed up the process.
Let's say you want to double your income. What is the limiting factor that's holding you back and slowing you down?
Well, you know that your income is a direct reward for the quality and quantity of the services you render to the world. This tells you that if you want to double your income, you have to double the quality and quantity of what you do for that income. Or you have to make a change so that your time is worth twice as much.
Let me give you an example...
A friend of mine is one of the highest-paid commission-based professionals in the United States. One of his goals was to double his income in three to five years. When he analyzed his client base, he discovered that only a fraction of them contributed the majority of his profits. He also found that the amount of time he spent on a high-profit client was pretty much the same as the amount of time he spent on a low-profit client.
So he very carefully, politely, and strategically handed off the low-profit clients to other professionals in his industry.
He then put together a profile of his top clients and began looking exclusively for new clients who fit that profile. And by taking on only clients who could become major contributors to his profits, instead of doubling his income in three to five years, he doubled it the first year!
Three Keys to Living Without Limits
So what is holding you back? Is it your level of education or skill? Is it your current occupation or job? Is it your environment or health? What is setting the speed for achieving your goals?
Remember, whatever you have learned, you can unlearn. Whatever situation you have gotten yourself into, you can probably get yourself out of.
To live without limiting what you can achieve, you must recognize your constraints and then act to expunge them. To do that, you need clarity, competence, and concentration.
Clarity means that you are absolutely clear about who you are, what you want, and where you're going. You write down your goals and make plans to accomplish them. You set priorities and do something every day to move yourself forward.
The more progress you make toward accomplishing what's important to you, the more self-confidence you have and the more convinced you become that you have no limits.
# 2. Competence
Competence means that you begin to become very good in your chosen field. You dedicate yourself to continuous learning. You never stop growing. You realize that excellence is a moving target. And you make a commitment to do something every day that enables you to become better and better.
# 3. Concentration
Concentration means having the discipline to focus on one thing, the most important thing, and stay with it until it's complete.
It's knowing exactly what you want to be, have, and do. It's persevering, without diversion or distraction, in a straight line toward the things that can make a real difference in your life.
When you allow yourself to dream big dreams, abandon the activities that are taking up too much of your time, and focus your energies on alleviating your constraints, you start to feel an incredible sense of power. As you focus on doing what you love to do and becoming excellent in a few areas, you begin to think in terms of possibilities rather than impossibilities. And you move ever closer to the realization of your full potential.
"If you ask the wrong question, of course, you get the wrong answer."
Okay. Try it. Say "I am rich."
What just happened? Did you hear a voice in your head that said: "Yeah, right!"?
The problem with "affirmations" is that they don't work for most people. Why? Because you're trying to convince yourself of something you don't really believe.
Have you ever been persuaded to try "affirmations"... and then had... absolutely nothing happen?
Me too. And about a billion other people.
Well, one morning in April 1997, I was taking a shower and thinking about how the human mind is always in the process of asking and seeking the answers to questions. For example, if I were to ask you "Why is the sky blue?" your mind would start searching for the answer.
So I asked myself a logical question: "If the human mind is always asking and searching for the answers to questions, why are we told to repeat positive statements we don't believe? Instead, why don't we ask ourselves empowering questions - questions that will force us to change our thought patterns from negative to positive in order to answer them?"
Take a statement like "I am rich" - to which the brain replies "Yeah, right!" What's the empowering question you should be asking instead?
That question might look something like this: "Why am I so rich?"
Try it. Ask yourself "Why am I so rich?"
Do you know what your brain is doing right now? Searching for a positive answer to that question!
The staggering realization I made that morning in April 1997 was that you create your reality in two ways: by the statements you say to yourself and others, and by the questions you ask yourself and others. Until then, no one had fully realized, or shown how to harness, the awesome power of what happens when you ask the right questions.
I named my discovery The Afformations Method.
The 4 Steps to Creating Afformations That Change Your Life
Step 1: Ask yourself what you want.
You can use a goal you've previously written down or start from scratch. You decide.
Please note that traditional success coaches stop right here. They tell you to "set your goals" and then say "affirmations" in an attempt to convince your brain that you will have what you want... sometime, somehow, somewhere.
Let's use Brandon from Utah as an example. He wanted to make more money by doing something he loved. He was an insurance salesman who'd spent $30,000 on every "how to succeed" program out there, with no results. So for his goal, he wrote: "I want to be all I can be in life."
Now, the breakthrough step...Step 2: Form a QUESTION which assumes that what you want is already true.
Forming a question which assumes that what you want is already true is the key to creating Afformations that change your life.
Your life is a reflection of the subconscious assumptions you make. That's why Step 2 of The Afformations Method is to change your communication with the world inside yourself. Afformations are the fastest, most effective way I've ever seen to immediately change your communication with the world inside of you AND the world outside of you.
So Brandon began afforming: "Why am I allowed to be, do, and have all that I want in life?"
Step 3: Give yourself to the question.
The point of Afformations is not to find "the answer" but to ask better questions. When you ask better questions, your mind automatically begins to focus on what you have as opposed to what you don't have.
Once Brandon began to afform what he wanted, his mind automatically began to search for the answer. He started doing things a little differently and talking to people with new confidence.
Which brings us to Step 4 of The Afformations Method - the one you MUST do to get optimum results...
Step 4: Take new ACTIONS based on your new assumptions about yourself.
Even though Brandon had spent thousands of dollars on every "how to succeed" program out there, he subconsciously assumed they wouldn't work for him. So they didn't.
After reading my book, he realized that this was what was keeping him from what he wanted. So he began to take new action on the very programs that had not worked for him.
He began calling more people. He followed up with more confidence. By focusing on what he had instead of what he lacked, positive results naturally followed.
Once Brandon followed the four steps of The Afformations Method, his sales tripled in 30 days. In less than nine months, his income increased 560% and he was named Agent of the Year.
The point of Afformations is not to find "the answer" but to change your questions. When you follow The Afformations Method, you will form empowering questions that immediately change your subconscious assumptions.
For example, Andrea had been trying to get pregnant for more than a year but had a huge mental block. She thought she didn't deserve it, her body couldn't do it, and so on. After her psychologist told her about Afformations, Andrea began asking herself "Why do I conceive so easily?" and "Why am I so fertile?" Within a month, she was pregnant. Now she's asking herself, "Why do I carry my babies full term?"... "Why am I free from morning sickness?"... and all kinds of other questions that are making her feel great.
Omar, a car salesman, was selling one or two cars a month and making less than $600 in commissions. Then he started afforming "Why am I so successful at selling cars?" And in just two days, he sold four new cars, three used ones, and made more than $1,800.
Judy, a 55-year-old grandmother from Texas, wanted to lose weight but told herself she was too old. In November 2008, she joined my Platinum Weight Loss Club. I recommended that she start asking questions like "Why do I lose weight so easily?" and "Why do I love eating healthy foods?" During the holidays, while most of America was gaining weight, Judy lost 24 pounds. And by February 2009, she was down over 30 pounds and feeling fantastic.
Can you see how this process must, by definition, change your life? Using Afformations, you can take conscious control of your subconscious thoughts . Change the questions, change your results, and change your life!
A short list would include Tina Fey, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Stephen Colbert, Steve Carrell, Amy Poehler, Mike Myers, Chris Farley, John Candy, Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, Joan Rivers, Eugene Levy, Harold Ramis, and Dan Castellaneta. Doh!
The Second City: Testing Ground and Launch Pad
Tina Fey wrote about her experiences with The Second City in her book Bossypants:
"[Second City] was like a cult. People ate, slept, and definitely drank improv. They worked at crappy jobs just to hand over their money for improv classes.... In the touring company we were paid seventy-five dollars per show plus twenty-five dollars per diem...."
The touring companies play for post-high-school prom shows, drunken college audiences, charity auctions, corporate meetings devoted to telling employees that their health benefits have just been slashed, and lots of other rough crowds. After months of this, the best performers are invited to join one of the main companies and earn a living wage and get noticed.
From there, the best writers, directors, and actors get snatched up by Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show, Conan, or they go to Hollywood to make funny movies. It's understood that anyone who survives The Second City gauntlet is just THAT GOOD.
So what can The Second City teach us about Google AdWords?
1. Just as The Second City touring gigs were the hardest places to get laughs, AdWords is one of the hardest places to compete for customers.
2. The Second City and AdWords are both the best places to develop your A game.
3. Once you've made it with The Second City or AdWords, your success is virtually guaranteed in every other relevant medium.
The Second City, like AdWords, is a testing ground and launch pad. Nobody aspired to a career whose pinnacle was Second City's Mainstage Company. For that matter, Saturday Night Livewas itself considered a launching pad for movie careers and not an end in itself.
AdWords is also a testing ground and launch pad.But here's the crazy thing: Most people treat AdWords as if that's all there is. People ask me all the time, "How can I make enough money with AdWords to make a million dollars a year?" Or whatever number fits their vision of having "made it."
Yes, it's possible to make a lot of money using AdWords. But two things are true for every business that does that successfully:
- They use AdWords traffic to systematically and obsessively test, refine, and improve their marketing.
- They can multiple their AdWords profits by 1,000-100,000% by leveraging their AdWords experience into other media.
In marketing and in comedy, creative improv plus rigorous testing is an unstoppable formula.
Life: Once Complicated, Now Easy
That may be only half true.
While a lot about selling never changes, consumer expectations can change quite a bit. Take today's "lifestyle" cutbacks, thanks to the economy. What feels like "cutting back" to today's crowd is actually a step up in living standards when you roll back to nearly 30 years ago. On a more subtle level, that's even true when you roll back to just 10 years ago... or five years ago... or a couple of years ago.
Modern consumers expect more. In some ways, they also expect to work less hard to get it. This just goes to show you that the promises you'll make in your sales pitches can't remain static. They have to keep getting bigger. Or at least sounding bigger.
Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, I can't tell you. After all, innovations happen when everyone from big companies to mom-and-pop outfits are pushed to compete.
On the other hand, it can go only so far. There's only so much luxury and service we can sell before the expense of it breaks us... or drains the consumer's bank account.
So what happens when no marketers can afford to offer more... and no customers can afford to pay more?
A while back, two marketing experts saw a whole new consumer trend coming down the pipeline. After the wake-up call. After the bust. After the recovery.
The boomers, they predicted, would sideline their ambition for a life of luxury and convenience... and start yearning for something a little beyond the material. When they said that, I figured they'd gone a little loopy. But now I'm wondering... could they be right?
In his landmark book Breakthrough Advertising, Gene Schwartz wrote that people's superficial desires weren't all that tough to spot.
But only the best marketers knew that all people share an even deeper, second "secret" desire.
It's the desire not just for products, services, or pitches we "like"... but a deeper desire for products and services that help us flesh out our own idea of who we are. Not to mention who we could be. And maybe most important of all (to us), who OTHER people think we are.
I've long said - and I wasn't the first - that the deepest desire shared by most prospective customers (a.k.a. people) is the desire to be loved and respected. Or at least respected.In good times, when it feels like everyone is getting richer and living larger than the next guy, respect comes from living like a king. Piling up stuff. Earning luxuries. Getting pampered.In tougher times, character starts to matter as much... or more. Austerity becomes honorable. Excess, an embarrassment. Security, prudence, sound judgment - those become the hot sellers.
We start rolling back to the fundamentals. Looking for answers. Or at least looking for people who seem like they have the answers... and the substance to back them up. Credibility, always important, becomes even more so.
Could it be that this is where the boomers - the biggest market in the history of capitalism and the driving force behind more than six decades of economic growth - are headed next?
Look, for instance, at how many things have trended back toward fundamentals. People walk more, use glass instead of plastic, cook at home, eat healthier, cut up their credit cards.
It might well be out of necessity. Yet even necessity has a way of wooing her bedfellows. By simplifying, we may very well find ourselves in a position to rediscover the things that matter.
Is that why advertising hype is dead? Is it why "relationship marketing" has become the most powerful force online? Is it why so many marketers love to talk about "brand," not realizing that brands don't matter until a consistent relationship of quality has been established?
Your guess is as good as mine.
Personally, I'm guessing yes.
Monday, June 20, 2011
"Get over the idea that only children should spend their time in study. Be a student so long as you still have something to learn, and this will mean all your life."
Every entrepreneur had to learn how to be effective at what he was trying to accomplish - and practice being effective until it became a habit.
I don't talk about it much, but before I opened my chain of hypnosis centers, I traveled all over the world, learning from the best neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and hypnosis teachers. I was certified in NLP by Richard Bandler himself, the creator of NLP. I studied with Robert Dilts, Michael Hall, and every other big name out there.
I am telling you this because I want you to know that when I share something I know about learning new skills, you can pretty much bet it is based on a concept I was taught by a master.
Today, I want to share an NLP learning model with you. Once you understand the model, you can leverage it to establish new skills rapidly.
First, I'll explain the model. Then, I'll give you examples to make it easier to understand. And then, I'll show you how to use it to make yourself more effective at any skill you've chosen to pursue.
The 4 Stages of Learning a New Skill
Stage 1. Unconscious Incompetence. This is when you don't know how to do it, and you don't even know that you don't know.
Stage 2. Conscious Incompetence. This is when you know what you don't know, and you begin to work on learning it.
Stage 3. Conscious Competence. This is when you know what you need to know - and you can do it. But it takes all of your concentration.
Stage 4. Unconscious Competence. This is when you can perform the skill without even thinking about it. It's now a habit.
Okay. Now let me give you two examples of how this works.
Learning the alphabet...
Stage 1. When you were very young, you didn't even know that there were 26 letters in the alphabet. You didn't know what you didn't know. Hence, you were unconsciously incompetent.
Stage 2. You learned that there was such a thing as an alphabet, and that it had 26 letters, but you didn't know them all. You knew what you didn't know. Hence, you were consciously incompetent.
Stage 3. You finally learned all the letters. So you knew what you needed to know. But in order to write a word, you had to really concentrate on each letter. Hence, you were consciously competent.
Stage 4. Now, you can write words without even thinking about it. Hence, you are unconsciously competent.
Just to make sure you really get it, let's look at another example.Driving a car...
Stage 1. There was a time when you had no idea of what was involved in driving a car. Hence, you were unconsciously incompetent.
Stage 2. You started to learn about driving. You read the book. Your parents explained what they were doing while they were driving. You asked questions and got answers. You gave it a try - with Mom or Dad in the car - and realized you still had a lot to learn. You were consciously incompetent.
Stage 3. After a lot of practice, you could drive. But you had to really concentrate on what you were doing. You were consciously competent.
Stage 4. By now, you've driven so much that it's become automatic. You no longer have to think about what to do, you just do it. You are an unconsciously competent driver.
But... are you unconsciously competent at parallel parking?
Most people are not. They haven't parallel parked enough. They are consciously competent at it - meaning they can parallel park. But first they have to turn down the radio, stop talking, and focus.
What all this has to do with the achievement of your goals...
The parallel parking example illustrates that when you are working on developing the skills you need to achieve your goals, simply being effective from time to time won't help you fully establish the habit.
To become unconsciously competent at those skills, you must recognize which stage you are at - and then understand what you need to do to move to the next stage.
More than likely, there are still a few areas where you are unconsciously competent - things you simply don't know you don't know.
So your job right now is to become cognizant of what you need to know to achieve your main goal.
That will help you transition to Stage 2.
In Stage 2, you will start to learn what you need to know to be effective.
In Stage 3, you will apply your newfound knowledge. But you must do it consciously, consistently, and often.
Before long, you will pass on to Stage 4: unconscious competence. At that point, you will be effective by habit, performing the skills that ensure your success without even thinking about it.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Is Your Marketing Plan All About Fun?
Part of that plan might include creative tasks like coming up with innovative copy approaches or design layouts. But don't let the "fun" stuff take precedence over the plan's real purpose: making a profit!
According to Inc. magazine, these are some of the nuts and bolts that hold every successful marketing plan together.
1. A specific target market for each product. "Men" is too general. "Baby boomer men" is still too general. "Baby boomer men with back problems" might still be too general. "Baby boomer men with a certain type of back problem" is just right.
2. An anticipated return on investment. If you don't know how much money you need to make from a marketing effort (a print ad, for example) for it to be worth your while... you're just wasting money.
3. A way to test until you find the best copy and offer. Marketing campaigns are never set in stone. Tweaking and fine-tuning (even wholesale overhauling) is necessary until you find the right mix. This goes hand in hand with the next essential component of a marketing plan...
4. A way to track and monitor all your marketing efforts. Without this feedback, you won't know what's working and what isn't. That's why Michael Masterson and MaryEllen Tribby almost always recommend direct-response marketing. As they say in their book Changing the Channel:
"Your online [direct-response] marketing efforts can offer you almost immediate feedback. And if you've done your testing properly, you can roll out instantly with your winner, while continuing to test different elements that can bring in more bottom-line dollars."
5. A goof-proof system for accepting orders. If a customer tries to buy and your online order form doesn't work - or the customer service rep who takes incoming calls can't answer his questions - you've just lost a sale. If it happens enough, you're going to be out of business.
Make sure every one of your marketing plans is built on this solid foundation.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
The truth about testimonials
One of the most effective (and affordable) marketing tools you can have is a heartfelt testimonial from a happy customer. Why? Because if you tell the world how amazing you are, few people will believe it. But if someone else raves about you, it's a whole other ball game. Here are a few suggestions that will help you get testimonials from your customers.
Call your first witness.Even the happiest customers will rarely send unsolicited praise, so if you want a testimonial you have to ask for it. Personally call or email your best clients to request a testimonial. If your client base is larger, conduct an open-ended survey or hold a "biggest fan" contest to collect testimonials.
Capture off-the-cuff remarks.Most positive feedback from customers happens on the fly. The next time a customer tells you something great about your product or service, ask this golden question, "Can I quote you on that?" Then write up their quote, email it to them for their approval, and voila! You've got a great testimonial!
Leverage the power of pictures.Whenever possible, ask your customers for a picture that can accompany their testimonial, or better yet, get a video testimonial. You can share these videos on your website, YouTube page, and in emails. Whether professionally produced or taken with a Flip camera, video testimonials go a long way in establishing trust with prospects.
Seek neutral ground.Your website visitors will take everything on your site with a grain of salt but a testimonial posted on a third party site can be incredibly powerful. Encourage your customers to send praises via Twitter, Facebook, blog entries, or forum comments. To feature these comments on your site, add a live Twitter feed to your homepage or link to blogs and other places where customers have left favorable comments.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
"Feeling and longing are the motive forces behind all human endeavor and human creations."
To create powerful marketing campaigns, you must go beyond the demographics to understand what motivates these people - who they are, what they want, how they feel, and what their problems and concerns are that your product can help solve.
There are 3 levels on which copy can reach your prospects: intellectual, emotional, and personal.
Intellectual is the first level and, though effective, is weaker than the other two. An intellectual appeal is based on logic. For example: "Buy the stocks we recommend in our investment newsletter and you will beat the market by 50% to 100%."
More powerful is to reach the prospect on an emotional level. Emotions that can be tapped include fear, greed, love, vanity, and, for fundraising, benevolence. Using our example of a stock market newsletter, the emotional appeal might be: "Our advice can help you cut your losses and make much more money so you become much wealthier than your friends and neighbors. You'll be able to pay cash for your next car - a Lexus, BMW, or any luxury automobile you care to own - and you'll sleep better at night."
The most powerful way you can reach people is on a personal level. Again using the stock market newsletter, this might be: "Did you lose a small fortune in the stock market meltdown? So much that it put your dreams of retirement or financial independence on hold? Now you can gain back everything you lost, rebuild your net worth, and make your dream of early retirement or financial independence come true - a lot sooner than you think."
Veteran ad man JS once had an assignment to write a campaign for a new needle used by diabetics to inject insulin. What was its key selling point? Not being a diabetic, JS talked with potential users.
The main thing they liked about the needle was that it was very sharp. A non-user probably would view being sharp as a negative. But if you have given yourself or anyone else an injection, you know that sharper needles go in smoother, with no pain. JS wrote a successful ad campaign based on the claim that these needles were sharp, thus enabling easier, pain-free insulin injection.
To reach prospects on all three levels - intellectual, emotional, and personal - you must understand what Michael Masterson calls your buyers' "Core Complex." To do that, you ask yourself questions about the beliefs, desires, and feelings that drive them:
- Beliefs. What does your audience believe? What is their attitude toward your product and the problems or issues it addresses?
- Desires. What do they want? What are their goals? What change do they want in their lives that your product can help them achieve?
- Feelings. How do they feel? Are they confident and brash? Nervous and fearful? How do those feelings apply to what your product can do for them?
- Beliefs. IT people think they are smarter than other people, technology is the most important thing in the world, users are stupid, and management doesn't appreciate them enough.
- Desires. IT people want to be appreciated and recognized. They also prefer to deal with computers and avoid people whenever possible. And they want bigger budgets.
- Feelings. IT people often have an adversarial relationship with management and users, both of whom they serve. They feel others dislike them, look down upon them, and do not understand what they do.
Occasionally, insights into the prospect's desires and concerns can be gleaned through formal market research. For instance, a copywriter working on a cooking oil account came across this comment buried in the appendix of a focus group report: "I fried chicken in the oil and then poured the oil back into a measuring cup. All the oil was there except one tablespoon."
That comment became the basis of a successful TV campaign. (You might remember it.)
Another way to get a deeper understanding of your prospects is to use the Internet to ethically "spy" on them.
For instance, I had an assignment to promote a leasing service to computer resellers. My client had been "bribing" resellers into giving him their leasing business by offering a generous free gift, like a TV or iPad, with each deal made.
Posing as a computer reseller, I joined a forum for resellers and started a discussion on "What do you look for in a leasing company?" I discovered that while resellers liked free gifts, what they valued most was lower rates. My client adjusted his marketing accordingly, with good results.
As copywriter Don Hauptman (ETR's "Language Perfectionist") advises, "Start with the prospect, not the product." When you gain a deeper understanding of your prospects before you try to sell them, stronger marketing campaigns usually follow.
Monday, June 13, 2011
|Wednesday June 8, 2011|
"A strong foundation increases the value of everything you do."
"Because this woman has been online and in the marketing world for two years and she is teaching people things that are incorrect," I replied. "It drives me crazy!"
Yes, I will admit it - it makes me freaking nuts when I see this kind of irresponsibility. And I see it all too often. Men and women who tout themselves as experts... yet supply information that's flat-out wrong.
I try to tell myself that she is probably a nice person and she probably believes the advice she is out there hawking.
But I want to shout at the top of my lungs, "STOP!"
It's not as though the right information is hard to find. Hundreds of GREAT marketing tools - books, newsletters, DVDs, and white papers - have been published over the years. These resources explain the fundamentals, the tried-and-true strategies and proven methods that have been making sales for decades.
Of course, this includes the masterpieces written by David Ogilvy, Claude Hopkins, Dick Benson, Robert Cialdini, and Eugene Schwartz. But plenty has been written by successful businesspeople and marketers working today. Experts like Michael Masterson, Clayton Makepeace, Bob Bly, and your very own MaryEllen Tribby. (That's right. The bestselling book I wrote with Michael Masterson, Changing the Channel: 12 Easy Ways to Make Millions for Your Business, is all about direct-marketing fundamentals.)
If the misguided woman I mentioned earlier had only taken the time to study these resources - understand the fundamentals and apply them in a real business setting - then and only then would she (and anyone else in her position) be qualified to proclaim herself an expert.
Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. What bothers me so much about so many so-called marketing "experts" is that they have never built or run a real business.
Often, they run a "copycat" business - a company that's based on a modification of what other marketers do. They simply duplicate it, add a little twist, spice it up with their own little flair, and Shazzam!
Well, guess what? It is a whole different ballgame when you are the one to brainstorm, test, and roll out REAL marketing campaigns. When you are the one to either hire the copywriter or write the copy yourself. When you craft an offer and select the media. Until you:
And, dare I say, you cannot assure yourself of your next paycheck.
Mark my words, until you've mastered the basics, you will always be scrambling to find the next "magic button," the next "instant fix."
Well, it's time. It's time that we say "No more B.S." That we resolve to practice the same thing we preach to our kids: Education is the key. That we sit down and master the marketing essentials that have always worked in the past and will always work in the future. Let's get started.
"Here is the basic rule for winning success. Let's mark it in the mind and remember it. The rule is: Success depends on the support of other people."
David Joseph Schwartz
I just put together a super-fast product launch.
By Ryan Lee
By Ryan Lee
From product idea to affiliate recruitment to launch, it took just a few weeks. In today's market, that is almost unheard of. And we still hit six figures in sales.
How were we able to get people behind us on such short notice? I attribute it to two major lessons I've learned through the years. Today, I'm going to share them with you.
LESSON #1: Get Face-to-Face
Okay, this one might sound like common sense. But just about every person who mailed for us was someone we have met in person, often numerous times. I can't stress how important it is to step away from the computer, get off your ass, and go to LIVE events in your market.
There's NOTHING that comes close to looking someone in the eye and shaking their hand. E-mail, phone, video chat, or Skype can't hold a candle to meeting people in person.
A few tips:
- Attend AT LEAST two live events a year.
If a guy like me with four young children can attend at least two live events a year, you can do the same. It's THAT important to your bottom line.
Just make sure the events are in your market.
For example, if you want to sell products to professional DJs, go to association events for DJs. Going only to "Internet marketing" events and skipping the DJs is not a good idea. You can go to both, but don't miss events that are specifically geared to your market.
Again, this might sound like common sense. But it really was a KEY part of getting affiliates to mail for us (and push other programs off their calendar).
- When you meet someone at an event, don't be "that guy."
You know the guy I'm talking about. The annoying one. The person who always wants to talk business. The one who is there every time you turn around.
Go to industry events with the intention of meeting potential affiliates and asking those magic words... "How can I help you?"
And for goodness sake, loosen up and have fun. Laugh, smile, and don't be so serious. No one wants to be around a big fat bore!
Annoying plus boring is a deadly combo.
LESSON #2: Give potential affiliates a reason to want to promote your products.If you pay good commissions and have a strong conversion rate, your affiliates will have a bigger EPC. And that's what most really care about. EPC stands for "Earnings Per Click." It's the average amount of income they earn from traffic they send to your website. And most big affiliates want to know that number.
There are some affiliates who have a really strong relationship with their list. They don't care much about EPC. They only care about sharing the best products with their subscribers. And because the trust level is so high, their EPC ends up being higher anyway.
These affiliates always review the product first. They offer special bonuses. And they personally endorse it. We've had some affiliates without a strong list relationship that had low EPCs of $.33, and we've had some with an EPC of $5.00 and higher.
Same product. Same offer. Different relationship.
The ideal situation is to have a great offer with compelling copy that provides tremendous value. A lot of my original students in the health/fitness space have done that with integrity, and their bank accounts are proof. (The list is a mile long, but here are just a few examples of people doing it right: Mike Geary, Isabel Del Los Rios, Vince Del Monte, and Joel Marion.)
But sometimes you have to make sacrifices. For example, I could have sold more if I had made outrageous promises with Nano Continuity. Fake Paypal screenshots and headlines that promised wealth with no effort would have certainly increased the EPC for my affiliates. That would have made me more sales up front, but it would have been harmful in the long run.
This shortsighted approach always leads to...
- More refunds. Some of the big "Clickbank" offers that over-promise and under-deliver have refunds up to 50%. (Ours is around 3%.) Remember, it's not what you make, it's what you KEEP that matters.
- No trust. When you lose the trust of the people on your list, you won't be able to sell them more products/services in the future. And forget about having them sign up for your continuity programs. So your list will have no value. It's much easier to resell existing customers than to try and find new ones.
- A bad name. With social media, discussion forums, and the viral nature of the Internet, if you provide a sub-par product or wrong your customers - word will spread like wildfire. And people are just a Google search away from seeing all those pissed off comments.
- More expense. More refunds and more chargebacks = more customer support staff. And that means more costs for you!
Monday, June 6, 2011
"Creativity comes from trust. Trust your instincts. And never hope more than you work."
Rita Mae Brown
You brainstorm to get ideas when you have none. Ideally, you do so in a group. So you can feed off each other. So you can legitimize sitting around drinking coffee. So you can get others to do all the hard thinking for you.
In all those respects, group brainstorming is a good thing. But what do you do when you're writing sales copy in isolation?
Brain-writing is a way to kick ideas around... jumpstart your engine... and get into that "zone" of creativity that you hope to get into in a group session.
In fiction circles, there's something similar called "free-writing." USUALLY, it simply means setting a timer, putting pen to page, and letting the ideas pour. Whatever it is, you write it down. You don't stop until your pen runs out of ink or your elbow balloons like a grapefruit.
But there are two problems with free-writing when you apply it to writing sales copy:
- First, pens come with a lot of ink these days. Even the dime-store ballpoints could keep you scribbling well past deadline.
- Second, sometimes it's the very prospect of a blank page... the sight of a blinking cursor... and the notion of all that cerebral "freedom"... that's got you stymied in the first place.
If you were about to make bricks, would you begin without clay? If you were getting ready to make glass, would you begin without sand? If you wanted to make punch, would you leave out the hooch?
Of course not. So why is it that all writers so often try to start conjuring up ideas out of thin air?
For all the reasons to get "blocked," this is the easiest to resolve.
Before you begin your solo brainstorming session (or a group session, for that matter), get yourself a hefty pile of "stuff" related to the product you're going to write about. Aim for height. An inch is too low. A foot is too high. Somewhere in the middle ought to do it.
Next to this, put a fresh stack of index cards... a legal pad... and/or a computer.
This is where the "brain-writing" comes in. Start reading. Start taking notes.
The process remains "free" in the sense that you shouldn't try to organize ideas at this point. Record them as they come. You'll sort later.
However, contrary to popular creativity myths, discipline has a role. For instance: You'll need to keep yourself from focusing too long on any one aspect of your research. You'll need to force yourself to write full-fledged ad copy, rather than just recording notes. And you'll need to make sure, always, that the central promise of your ad is the magnet pulling you through the muck of ideas you'll produce.
You should have at least six kinds of things in your "brain-writing" pile before you begin:
1. Competitors' ads. If you're in the direct-mail business, either as a marketer or as a copywriter, you know there's no excuse for not being "seeded" on competing lists. Keep a box of other people's promos by your desk.
2. Samples of the competitors' products. You can probably get comped for competitors' newsletters, as a professional courtesy. But, at least once in a while, go through the purchasing process anonymously. You might learn something from the way they do business.
3. Printouts of relevant websites. Yes, printouts. If you'd rather, you can make handwritten notes while scrolling a screen. But avoid the temptation to bookmark links, save pages, or copy and paste text into Word documents. No matter what you think... the only way to really absorb ideas is to re-interpret them for your own notes.
4. Relevant magazines and newspapers. Big media has the budget to gather persuasive stats and anecdotes. Again, copy the information in your own hand. Don't just clip and count on coming back to it later. BUT, make sure you note every source - both for legal reasons and because you'll get extra credibility with your readers when you cite respected sources.
5. History and non-fiction bestsellers. Sometimes, nothing can be more valuable than going down to your local bookstore to see what your prospective customers are reading. It's an excellent way to put your thumb on the popular zeitgeist. Restrict yourself, however, to buying two books... tops. If you're under any kind of deadline, you won't have time for more than that.
6. Your product manager's "best of." Any good product manager will give you the following items when you start a copywriting project: product-related e-mails, raw testimonials, third-party reviews and endorsements, product-related news clippings, free "giveaways" that come with the offer, notes from past brainstorming meetings, past control packages, tapes or transcripts of conversations with customers, customer service letters, interviews with core people connected with the product, and phone numbers of people you can call to talk to about the product.
This is, of course, just a partial list. You could add more. But even with only the above, you should be drowning in new ideas before day's end. (At which point, you'll have a different problem - more ideas than you can use in one piece! Every copywriter should be so lucky, right? Save the leftovers for a test mailing.)
The beauty of this simple approach is that you don't need a soul around to help you make it pay off. In fact, isolation makes it easier.
Tip: At some point, you'll make it to the bottom of the pile or you'll feel in your gut that you've got all the key points somehow covered. At that moment, stop and get up. Put on your coat. Go shoot some hoops, take a walk, knit an afghan.
While you take that break, your subconscious mind will be mulling over everything you've come across. Absorbing. Sorting. Editing.
The next morning, put the pile of stuff in a box and get it out of your sight. Everything happens now with your notes. Re-read them all. Twice.
Take the points that stand out and re-write them on a fresh page. Some will stand out. Others will strike you as complete garbage. Distill and polish. Narrow. If you need to accelerate the process, mail or e-mail your notes to a trusted (and patient) friend to read.
If you try this technique and you're STILL stuck for ideas, you might consider buying yourself a pushbroom. Or running for public office.
By Michael MastersonIn his book "Failing Forward," John C. Maxwell tells the story of Samuel Langley, the man who should have invented the airplane.
Langley was Director of the Smithsonian Institution and a respected former professor of mathematics and astronomy. Decades before the Wright brothers successfully flew their plane, the government had given a $50,000 check to Dr. Langley. The purpose? To convert what he'd learned by experimenting with large models into the first manned airplane.
On Oct. 8, 1903, Langley expected his years of work to come to fruition. As journalists and curious onlookers watched, Charles Manley (Langley's engineer), wearing a cork-lined jacket, strode across the deck of a modified houseboat and climbed into the pilot's seat of a motorized biplane called the Great Aerodrome. The craft was perched atop a specially built catapult designed to initiate its flight into the air. But when the launch was attempted, part of the Aerodrome got caught. It was flung into 16 feet of water a mere 50 yards away.
Criticism of "Langley's Folly" was brutal. But he was undaunted. He tried a second flight eight weeks later. This time, the pilot was almost killed.
This second failure was too much for the respected scientist. Defeated and demoralized, he abandoned his pursuit of flight. On. Dec. 17, just a few months later, Orville and Wilber Wright, uneducated, unknown, and unfunded, flew their plane over the sand dunes of Kitty Hawk.
The moral of this story is obvious: If you want to accomplish great things in your life, you have to be willing to fail. Again and again.
At Agora, ETR's parent company, this is a concept we teach to all new employees. But we take it one step further. We tell them that since we want to accelerate their success, they have to be willing to accelerate their failures.
How do we do that? By pushing them carefully.
Agora is an unusual company. There is almost no resistance to upward mobility. If you get hired to work as a telephone operator but get an idea for a new product or advertising scheme, you will be welcomed to present it. If your idea is any good, it will be tested. And if it works, you will be promoted.
Given this freedom, Agora's employees are coming up with new ideas all the time. New employees usually come up with not-so-good ideas. It's not because they are not smart. It's just that they lack experience.
But we don't discourage them. We encourage them. And if we think their idea has even half a chance, we let them try it. We do that because we believe that the only way to grow is by making your own mistakes. You can't shape the character of a quality person by telling him what he can't do. All you can do is give him feedback and let him learn on his own.
Our rule is: Test your idea as quickly and as inexpensively as possible. If it works, great. If it doesn't work, start working on your next idea.
This philosophy of "accelerated failure" may be helpful in your organization. It has been instrumental in Agora's growth from $100 million to $500 million in the past 10 years.
In his book, Maxwell provides this formula for "making friends with failure":
1. Recognize that a willingness to fail is the chief difference between successful people and average people.
In Maxwell's opinion, success has little to do with wealth, family, background, morals, or opportunity. "When it comes right down to it," he says, "I know of only one factor that separates those who consistently shine from those who don't: their perception of and response to failure."
2. Redefine failure.
Maxwell says that people are too quick to judge isolated situations and label them as failures. A successful person sees a setback as temporary and beneficial - something to learn from. As basketball coach Rick Pitino once said, "Failure is good. It's fertilizer. Everything I've learned about coaching I've learned from making mistakes."
3. Disconnect yourself from your mistakes.
The trick to overcoming the fear of failure is to disassociate yourself from it. To understand that, as Maxwell says, "your failure does not make you a failure." Instead of beating yourself when you make a mistake, tell yourself, "I am not a failure. I failed at doing this."
Keep in mind that every successful person has experienced failure. Mozart, a musical genius, was told by Emperor Ferdinand that The Marriage of Figaro was "far too noisy" and contained "far too many notes." Thomas Edison, the most prolific inventor in history, was considered unteachable as a youngster. And Albert Einstein, the greatest thinker of modern times, was told by a Munich schoolmaster that he would never amount to much.
4. Take action to remove fear.
Recognize that your fear of failure is based not on logic but on experience. To get rid of that paralyzing fear, you must take action. "If you can take action and keep making mistakes," says Maxwell, "you gain experience. That experience eventually brings competence, and you make fewer mistakes. As a result of making fewer mistakes, your fear becomes less paralyzing. But the whole cycle-breaking process starts with action. You must act your way into feeling, not wait for positive emotions to carry you forward."
5. Change the way you respond to failure.
Some people get angry when they fail. Others, unwilling to accept responsibility, look for scapegoats. Some people, stubborn people, ignore their negative results and continue to repeat their unsuccessful actions. Still others simply give up. "There's really only one solution to the gridlock on the failure freeway," Maxwell says, "and that's to wake up and find the exit." In other words, to accept responsibility for the actions that contributed to your failure. And to change your behavior accordingly.
The title that Maxwell chose for his book - "Failing Forward" - sums up this philosophy nicely: If you march long enough, you will stumble. Whether you stumble forward or stumble backward or stop marching completely is entirely up to you.
"I wish more people felt that photography was an adventure the same as life itself and felt that their individual feelings were worth expressing. To me, that makes photography more exciting."
It doesn't require years of experience. And it's fun.
Think about the pictures you already have on your computer. And think about the pictures you can easily take before the end of the year. Pictures of birthday parties, family get-togethers, hikes and camping trips, your kids, your grandkids, your pets, your backyard, your kitchen table, even your travels or a closeup of your driveway are all saleable to stock photo agencies.
It's so easy. You simply upload your photos, and the agencies do the rest.
What kinds of photos sell best today? Here's an inside tip on what's currently on request at iStockphoto.com:
- People eating Italian food
- Homes with damaged foundations
- A jewelry box
- A tidy horse stable
- A fig recipe
- People in business suits
- Multi-ethnic groups
- Seasonal photos - Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas, Valentine's Day
- Hobbies - golf, knitting, swimming, biking, scrapbooking, fishing, reading, sunbathing...
But once you get those things down, you can start uploading your photos to sell... and start making money.