How to submit copy

February 13th, 2018 by Bob Bly

Subscriber BM writes:

“Bob, can I ask a dumb logistical question? How exactly do you
submit your copy? And in what form? In a word Doc? PDF?

“Do you format the copy exactly as you envision it, down to the
headline font and size? And what about images and charts and
things like Johnson boxes?

“Do you dictate how things look graphically or just submit the
raw text for everything? Just curious about that.”

So let me briefly provide the straightforward answers to these
questions, which are anything BUT dumb:

1–I submit copy to clients as a word file, single-spaced, sent
via an email attachment.

2–The body copy is in 12-point Times Roman. Headlines are
14-point Arial bold. Subheads are 12-point Arial.

3–If there are graphics, I cut and paste the image into my Word
document directly from the source material (e.g., Powerpoints,
white paper PDF documents, websites) whenever possible, with the
source referenced in a footnote.

4–If the source material is copyrighted content owned by my
client, I assume they can use the visuals as is.

5–If the source is copyrighted material belonging to someone
else, I still cut and paste it with a footnote into my document,
but alert the client that they must either obtain written
permission to use it or redraw it so as not to violate copyright.
Or, I paraphrase to avoid copyright violation.

6–I often include in the Word document for my copy some
“copywriter’s roughs” — crude layouts, drawn in Microsoft Word.
Note: I have collected my layout templates in a kit you can buy;
see my PS below for details.

7–I clearly indicate what is a headline, subhead, or body copy;
provide images for guidance; and either give layout instructions
in text [in square brackets] — or using my copywriter’s roughs
(see #6 above).

But, I do NOT “dictate how things look graphically,” format the
copy in final form, or do a finished graphic design or layout of
any kind.

Instead, I provide sufficient “art direction” (layout
suggestions) so that the graphic designer can produce a finished
layout that will work in print or online.

I will also, at no charge, review the layout, often several
times, as it is being developed by the graphic designer and made
final by them and the client.

But I do not try to tell the graphic designers how to do a job
for which they are better skilled and suited than I am.

Share

Category: Writing | 1 Comment » |

Is content marketing overhyped?

February 9th, 2018 by Bob Bly

A week or so ago, I received via email a link to an article
titled — “How to Stop Acting Like a Marketer and Start Thinking
Like a Publisher.”

And the misguided ideal it promotes — that we are all publishers,
not marketers — is a sure road to ruin.

The problem with this attitude … that we are educators, not
sellers … is it fools too many unsuspecting content marketers
into believing we are in the business of creating and giving away
free information.

But we are not. No, the business we are really in is that of
marketing and selling our products for a profit — ideally,
products that can help our customers solve their problems and
give them better value than anything else out there.

To that end, content marketing (publishing) — is merely one of
multiple channels we use to promote our business.

But it is not THE business we are in. It is simply a way of
generating leads and sales. The thinking implied in this article
title is fallacious and potentially wasteful and costly.

For instance, if you manufacture valves, pumps, and mixers, you
are in the chemical process equipment business.

You may publish a variety of materials about these products and
their features, design, and application — everything from data
sheets and videos, to technical articles and white papers, to
case studies and installation manuals.

So yes, you are publishing useful content.

But, you are not IN the publishing business. You publish these
materials only to support the real business you are in: the
process equipment business.

If you believe otherwise … that your business is publishing or
brand journalism … you are fooling yourself.

Worse, you may be turning out a ton of publications that, while
interesting and educational, are not supporting the marketing and
selling of your products — and are therefore largely a waste of
time, money, and effort. In other words, content pollution.

Action step: create a marketing plan, and integrate content in
support of the sales funnels, calls to action, marketing
objectives, and the information needs of buyers — overcoming
objections while convincing them that your technology is the best
solution for their problems.

Share

Category: Direct Marketing, General, Online Marketing | 3 Comments » |

Why bragging does not pay

February 6th, 2018 by Bob Bly

I have two simple and inviolate rules I live my life by: (a)
don’t give unsolicited advice and (b) don’t brag.

TW recently asked me, quite reasonably, “What is wrong with
bragging?”

Well, as my mother once told me, there are 3 types of people you
brag to, and therefore 3 reasons why there is no percentage in it
for you.

>> First, some of the people you brag to are much more
accomplished, successful, or fortunate than even you are.

So what’s the point of bragging to them?

When they hear you boasting, they won’t be impressed.

If anything, they’ll look down on you from their loftier vantage
point.

>> Second, some of the people you brag to are your peers.

So one of 3 things happens when you brag to an equal.

Either (a) they truly see you as an equal, in which case you are
on an even playing field, and therefore they are not impressed.
All they come away with is what you like to brag.

Or (b) they get envious and fearful that they will seem inferior
to you, and so immediately inform you that they have something
equal to or better than what you just said — and the result will
be a pissing contest that nobody wins or enjoys.

Or (c) they feel that they are in fact ahead of you, not behind
you, and are eager to let you know this right away — and so the
pissing contest commences, and you probably lose.

>> Third, some people you brag to are not at your level in terms
of whatever you are bragging about — whether it’s money, career,
possessions, achievements, fitness, looks, or whatever.

And in that case, your bragging, if you are honest with yourself,
has really only two purposes or effects:

It makes you feel better about yourself.

And it makes other people feel inferior or badly about
themselves.

What’s the point of that?

It is either mean and hurtful at worst, or irritating and
annoying at best — and either way causes the other person to like
you less.

So how do you keep your chest-thumping — and the damage it can
do to yourself and others — to a minimum?

>> Step one: do not voice anything that could be considered
boastful or a brag unless the other person asked you about it
first.

For instance, if when we meet, the first thing you say to me is,
“My son just got a free ride on an athletic scholarship for 4
years of college,” I am thinking you are boastful and trying to
make me feel bad that my kids did not.

>> Step two: even if you are asked, frame the boast in a way that
makes you seem modest.

You can do this most easily by not taking credit for it … not
presenting it in its full glory, but rather limiting your brag …
or voicing a small negative along with the positive — for
instance:

“Well, my son was so lucky. We just found out he got an athletic
scholarship to college. It’s amazing, because he barely made the
team in high school, but he worked so hard at it, and I guess got
good enough. Also amazing because you know he didn’t get it from
me — I am a total klutz!”

Notice that the speaker said it was lucky … that it was achieved
by the skin of the kid’s teeth … that it was done through sweat
and not natural talent … and the speaker makes a self-effacing
remark at the end about not being an athlete himself.

TW also said to me in defense of his boasting, “Bob, if you
have done it, then it ain’t bragging.”

Well … yes it is. If you think on it, you already know why.

If not, here’s the answer: because even if you have done it, all
three scenarios above still apply.

And all of them are losing propositions. Right?

Share

Category: General | 4 Comments » |

Writing: the #1 barrier to digital marketing

February 2nd, 2018 by Bob Bly

Digital marketing has an insatiable thirst for good content and
copy to fuel it and produce results.

And therein lies a problem: companies that lack writing resources
neglect certain digital channels — because they do not have the
time, talent, nor temperament to write the copy these marketing
tactics require.

In my experience, the marketing-related writing tasks that are
most problematic are blogs, e-newsletters, email marketing, and
lead magnets.

>> Blog posts … writing one or two 500 to 1,000-word blog posts
daily is difficult, especially in a corporate environment where
everything published has to go through a review committee.

>> E-newsletters … experienced online marketers know the
importance of having an e-newsletter and building its subscriber
list. But the #1 complaint of marketers I advise in this area is,
“We don’t have the time to write an e-zine or the budget to hire
someone to do so!”

>> Email marketing … not a problem if you send one email blast to
your list a month, but it suddenly becomes a huge burden if you
want to send 2 to 3 email messages a week.

>> Lead magnets … the marketer creates a squeeze or sales page.
They then realize they want to offer a free bonus report. But
they don’t have one. The deadline is around the corner and the
budget has been spent. So they skip the report — and response
suffers because of it.

So how do you get around your resource limitations and get these
things written with sufficient quality and quick turnaround without
breaking your marketing budget?

Here are a few suggestions:

1–Recruit in-house wordsmiths.

At most organizations there are usually some people who, while
not professional writers, are decent “wordsmiths” — as we used to
call them at Westinghouse back in the day.

2–Repurpose and recycle your content.

Don’t reinvent the wheel with every new piece of copy and content
you write.

A blog post can be reworked into an article for your online
newsletter. A series of articles from your e-newsletter can be
compiled and edited into a special report or white paper.

3–Use other people’s content.

You probably already get a ton of material on your topic —
e-newsletters, webinars, trade magazines, and other sources.

As you read them, you can extract and reprint this information,
rephrased in your own words, in your e-newsletter and other
digital marketing. Just be sure to credit the source.

4–Set a schedule to publish regularly.

If you decide to blog or write e-newsletter issues sporadically,
then you have no commitment to get the material done by a
specific date — and therefore the writing is in danger of being
continually put off as more pressing tasks come up.

On the other hand, when people sign up for and you promise them a
weekly e-newsletter, you have an obligation to deliver — and you
somehow get it done.

5–Carry a smart phone, digital recorder, or pen and note pad.

Copy and content ideas will pop into your head when you least
expect them to.

Write them down. Capture ideas immediately. If you don’t, by the
time you get to your desk, you will have forgotten that great
idea or content tidbit you wanted to use in your next blog post
or podcast.

By the way, the problem companies have with getting blog posts,
online newsletters, email blasts, and lead magnets written seems
not to apply to bigger writing projects — including websites,
landing pages, and video sales letters.

That’s because these can usually be planned, and that plan
includes a production schedule the team agrees on and finds
reasonable — or at least possible.

Also because these projects are perhaps bigger, more critical,
and less frequent than the blogging or online newsletters,
marketers are comfortable devoting more time and effort to their
creation.

So they can afford and are willing to pay qualified professionals
higher fees to write these bigger pieces.

Share

Category: General, Online Marketing, Writing, Writing and the Internet | 5 Comments » |

Copywriting vs. traditional freelancing: no contest

January 30th, 2018 by Bob Bly

Back in the day, most freelance writers made the bulk of their
income, which was often quite modest, writing books for
mainstream publishing houses and articles for magazines and
newspapers.

Today this is still the province of “traditional” freelance
writers, though many of the books are now ebooks and the articles
are just as likely to appear online as in print.

But the problem with these conventional and popular writing
assignments — book, articles, columns, essays, stories, poetry,
plays, scripts — is that it is all done “on spec.”

For instance, if you want to write articles for magazines such as
Cosmopolitan, Popular Science, or Modern Bride, here are the
steps:

>> First, you sit around and try to dream up ideas for articles
you think these magazines might publish.

No one has asked you to do this. You aren’t paid for
brainstorming. With rare exception, it’s done totally on spec.

>> Second, you research and read the magazines you might write
for — including the name of the right editor to approach — to
better understand what they publish. Again, on your dime. No pay.

>> Third, you write a “query letter” to the editor describing the
article you want to write for her and why her readers would be
interested. And you guessed it — you are not getting paid to
write that letter.

Although some writers disagree, the best practice is to offer a
given article to only one magazine at a time. So you wait weeks
for them to respond.

Many times, it’s a rejection. Or you may not hear at all and have
to follow up to get an answer. Sometimes you never get one.

>> Fourth, if an editor is interested, there is often no
commitment stronger than “I’ll take a look at the article; send
it along.”

Sometimes, you do get a contract. But read it carefully. Most
allow the editor to reject your article … even though you think
that by giving you the go-ahead, she “ordered” it.

>> Fifth, you research and write the article.

The editor does not provide you with the research materials. You
have to dig it up on your dime.

The editor will probably want you to interview 3 to 5 people for
the article. Again, you have to find them, reach out to them,
conduct the interview, and work the material into your story.

>> After all this effort, the editor still may decide to turn the
piece down, in which case you get paid either nothing or a small
kill fee. So it’s close to a total loss.

With all this speculation, it’s a lot of risk to earn a wage that
in most instances is modest at best, and often — when measured on
a per hour basis — not much more than you would get asking
people, “Do you want fries with that?”

The whole time, you are sitting out there, all alone in your home
office, creating ideas and words that no “client” — which is what
the editor really is — much cares whether you deliver or not.

Now compare that with freelance copywriting where:

1–The client comes up with the idea for the project; e.g. a white
paper on central alarm systems for warehouses.

2–The client calls you and asks you to write a white paper on
central alarm systems for warehouses.

3–You get a contract and a retainer for half the fee up front.

4–The client has commissioned the piece and wants it on or before
the date in the contract.

5–The client provides you with a lot of source material on
central alarm systems for warehouses.

6–If you need to get more information, the client arranges for
one or more of their subject matter experts to cooperate with you
and be interviewed.

The interview subject is provided for you. And told they must
work with you. Unlike with a magazine article, where many people
you might want to interview can be difficult or refuse to
cooperate altogether.

7–You write the white paper, submit it, make any edits requested,
and get paid for the balance of the project.

Speculative time and effort on this copywriting project: zero.
Which means you get paid for all the thought, work, and effort
you put into it.

The fee? Typically 2 to 5 times or more what you’d get paid to
write a magazine article of similar length and difficulty.

I have often said that copywriting is at least 4 times more
lucrative than freelance magazine writing — because you make
twice as much money in less than half the time.

Which scenario — magazine writing or copywriting — sounds better
to you?

Full disclosure: They are not mutually exclusive. I do both. You
can too.

But over 90% of my freelance writing is copywriting, and less
than 10% is writing articles for magazines and newspapers or
books for publishers — because I like the respect and pay I get as
a copywriter. And none of the latter is on spec.

 

Share

Category: Writing | 5 Comments » |

Why those who can also teach

January 26th, 2018 by Bob Bly

In a recent dinner conversation — it happened to be at my best
friend’s wedding — the subject of an option trading course
promoted by Mr. X, a successful trader, came up.

ML, the person sitting at my table who was next to me, said:

“I doubt he is really successful as an option trader. After all,
if he was really making money at it, Mr. X. wouldn’t bother to
sell a course in it.

“The fact that he does so tells me X makes his money teaching his
subject rather than doing it.”

On the surface this may seem like a logical conclusion. But in
fact, ML and others who believe this old saw are wrong.

Nearly everyone in the Information Age has within his or her
grasp at least 2 revenue streams today.

The first is doing the skill or thing they are good at.

The second is teaching the skill or field to others.

And they are not mutually exclusive.

To answer ML, there are 3 reasons why someone who is making a lot
of money as an active practitioner in a skill — be it option
trading or copywriting — would actively create and market a
training program teaching that skill to others:

1–Teaching is a compulsion.

As a species, we are wired to teach, communicate, and pass what
we know on to others.

It’s in our DNA.

Perhaps it’s preservation of the species or our shot at a kind of
immortality beyond our physical lives.

When you teach, write, or speak, your knowledge continues to
benefit people even after you pass on to the next world (if there
is one).

If people did not teach others what they know, our society would
slowly but surely grind to a halt and cease to exist.

2–Development.

The world is dynamic, ever-changing.

So even experts cannot rest on their laurels.

When you teach — whether through speaking or writing — you have
to do two things that make you a better professional.

First, you are forced to organize your knowledge better — a
requirement of presenting it clearly to students.

And doing so gives you a greater grasp of your subject … and
fixes the principles even more firmly in your mind.

Second, you must, through ongoing study and research, stay
current in your field.

Which in turn maximizes your success and earnings — because the
more you know about a thing, the better you are at doing the
thing well.

This is why “continuing education credits” are a requirement of
staying licensed in many fields: the powers that be know that
without continual study to update their knowledge, practitioners
risk becoming subpar and even obsolete.

3–Money.

Even if Mr. X makes a fortune trading option contracts, many of
us really like money.

So if he can make even more by adding the selling of courses to
his business, more power to him.

I love copywriting, but if I wrote copy for the whole of my 12-hour
work day, I’d risk burn-out and fatigue.

So I write copy for clients 90% of the time, but also teach,
write, and speak for a welcome change of pace — which keeps me
fresh and mentally stimulated — as well as producing multiple
streams of income.

So about this idea that if someone is good at something and makes
money at it, they wouldn’t also sell courses or coaching in it?

Yeah, it makes a little sense on the surface. But dig deeper, and
you see it’s mostly hogwash.

That being said, I only buy courses from authors who either
are currently practicing the discipline they teach or have been
practitioners in the past.

And I mostly buy only from current practitioners. Because the
longer a guru has been away from participating in the actual
game, the less up-to-date and relevant his teachings will be.

As for courses by authors who have slim or no experience in what
they teach, I avoid them like the plague.

In particular, never buy a course on how to get rich in internet
marketing from anyone who has sold absolutely nothing except
courses in how to get rich in internet marketing.

To close with a quote from Forrest Gump, “And that’s all I have
to say about that.”

Share

Category: General, Success | 8 Comments » |

Why I hate travel

January 23rd, 2018 by Bob Bly

In his book “Far and Away,” Andrew Solomon writes:

“I cherished travel for the way it stopped time, forcing me to
inhabit the present tense.”

Solomon loves travel. I loathe it.

I travel as little as possible and would be happy never to do it
again.

Why?

Here are 7 things I hate about travel:

1–Travel stops time.

Solomon says travel stops time for him.

It does for me too, except not in good way.

When I am in my home office happily working away, the time just
flies by … and so I am never bored.

But for me, being in a strange place, especially overseas in an
unfamiliar country, is a bit surreal.

Times moves at glacial speed, and I chomp at the bit until I can
finally get on a plane and go home.

I’d just rather be home.

2–Travel interferes with work.

Because I am only at my full writing productivity when at my
desktop computer in my home office, travel interferes with my
work.

I hate that.

I am a high-speed touch typist, so laptops are not an option for
me.

On the plane, when the guy in front of me leans his seat all the
way back, it pushes the screen down so I can barely see it or get
my fingers between it and the keyboard.

If two obese people are sitting on either side of me, my arms are
shoved close to my body, which also interferes with my keyboard.

3–Travel puts me out of reach of my stuff.

At home, I have everything I need — food, a refrigerator, books,
papers, files, computer, landline phone, umbrella, coat, boots,
medicine cabinet.

When you travel you must make the choice between having the stuff
you want with you vs. having just one suitcase small enough to
put in the overheads.

Hence I never have all I want and need … and feel deprived, like
a hobo carrying his worldly possessions in a sack on the end of a
stick.

4–Travel is inconvenient.

I long for the days when I didn’t have to take off my belt and my
shoes, or carry only tiny bottles of needed liquids in a clear
plastic case, to get on a plane.

On a recent trip, when I removed my belt, I realized I was
wearing pants that fit when I was 30lbs heavier, and without a belt,
I had to hold them up with my hand to prevent them from falling
below my knees.

Then in the scanner the airport security guard says — “Both hands
up in the air.”

And there are other inconveniences.

When I traveled on business as a young man, all I needed was my
briefcase, a legal pad, and a pen.

Now we carry so many electronic devices and their adapters and
power cards, I feel like I am lugging the Apple store with me.

5–Travel is risky.

I’m not afraid to travel, either of flying itself or of airplane
malfunctions, hijacking, terrorists, or whatever.

But because there is very little pleasure in travel for me … I
completely lack the desire and do not enjoy it … even a little
danger makes for a lopsided risk/reward ratio.

And I dislike the risk of my schedule being at the mercy of the
weather, which may suddenly strand me for a too-long period in a
place I do not want to be.

6–Travel is uncomfortable.

This discomfort has ranged from being in a hot, stuffy cabin
while the airplane sat on the tarmac for an hour delay before
take-off …

…to having to run across a huge airport from one end to another,
because my connecting flight is at the most distant gate
possible.

I also dislike cramped airplane bathrooms and the fact that the
planes are virtually always a full flight …

…which in turn puts in doubt whether I’m going to get overhead
space for my bag.

7–Travel wastes my time.

Flight delays for me are intolerable, as I am in a rush to get
home, back to my office, and back to work.

On a flight from the USA to Ukraine, I had a 3 ½ layover in
Munich between connecting flights.

“So what? Don’t you like to read Bob?” you may ask.

Yes, but in my favorite chair in the comfort and privacy of my
living room — not surrounding by masses of people in a noisy,
crowded airport.

A Kindle reader, then? Not for me, thank you anyway.

I love speaking and giving seminars so much that in the 80s I
considered making training my primary business — but because of
the travel requirements, I quickly abandoned the notion.

Now, thanks to the internet, I can write copy for clients all
over the world without leaving my house — giving me precisely the
lifestyle I seek.

Share

Category: General | 6 Comments » |

Copywriters: escape the “commodity trap”

January 19th, 2018 by Bob Bly

Subscriber DC writes, “What’s the biggest threat facing freelance
copywriters?”

Then he answers his own question: “It’s commoditization.

“To see where copywriting is going, look no further than
translation.

“This is now almost a commodity, in which freelance rates are in
a ‘race to the bottom.’

“In copywriting, barriers to entry are so low … and anyone
anywhere can bid for work.”

Then DC asks, “So how can copywriters avoid becoming a commodity
— what strategy works?”

To answer, here are 5 ways copywriters can escape the commodity
trap:

1–The “double pipeline” strategy.

You calculate the amount of marketing needed to generate enough
leads to keep busy.

Then, do twice that much marketing!

Result: a lead pipeline filled to overflowing — making you an
in-demand copywriter with more potential clients than you could
ever hope to possibly handle.

And when you have 2X more copywriting jobs offered to you than
you can take, then commoditization doesn’t matter.

Demand for your time outweighs the supply, and you eliminate
cutthroat competition or the need to compete on price.

2–The “niche” strategy.

Specialize either in a particular industry, such as financial,
health care, or manufacturing.

Or in a medium or copywriting task such as white papers, email
marketing campaigns, or long-copy sales letters.

The more narrow your specialty — e.g., direct mail selling
insurance — the more you can charge and the fewer your
competitors.

3–The “multiple streams of income” strategy.

If your gross revenue goal is $150,000 a year and all you do is
write copy for clients, you must get and complete $150,000 worth
of copywriting projects.

On the other hand, say you want to make $150,000 a year, and you
can make $25,000 in speaking fees, $25,000 in book royalties, and
$50,000 creating and selling your own info products online.

That adds up to $100,000. So the pressure is off, because now you
only have to make $50,000 a year in copywriting fees to hit your
$150,000 total revenue goal.

4–The “guru” strategy.

Write articles, publish special reports, author books, present
seminars, give talks at conferences, have a content-rich website,
build a Facebook group, tweet, and do other things to help build
your reputation as a guru.

5–The “superstar” strategy.

Be in the top 1% of copywriters in terms of results generated by
your copy.

This is an extremely difficult strategy as most of us have mixed
track records and almost no one writes a winner every time.

The preeminent copywriter in the superstar category today is
Clayton Makepeace.

All 5 strategies are essentially variations on one theme: Be
different in a way that makes you better or more desirable.

But it’s not enough to build or become a better mousetrap.

To get the world to beat a path to your door, you’ve got to
effectively communicate that difference to your potential
clients.

In Working Moms e-newsletter (9/7/17), Dan Kennedy writes:

“Project a powerful, persuasive, intriguing, compelling,
fascinating message. Is your message ordinary or similar to
others in your market? Is it plain vanilla? Easily ignored? Just
about the facts? If so, it needs to be doctored so that it
stands out. This is especially true if your product or service is
widely available.

“Review your marketing. Does it differentiate your business and
perhaps establish you as the expert people should work with,
regardless the cost? If not, it should.”

Share

Category: Direct Marketing, General, Writing | 6 Comments » |