Turning your passion into passive profits online

February 17th, 2017 by Bob Bly

My oldest son, Alex, who was a history major in college with a
particular interest in military history, wrote an interesting
short paper, “World War II at a Glance,” that you can download
for free here:

www.theww2site.com/world-war2-at-a-glance

In this special report, you get a quick-reading overview of some
of WWII’s key initiatives including:

** Underground resistance groups in Europe.
** Enigma, other rotor-based coding machines, and the U.S. Navy
code breakers.
** The 5 most important intelligence groups operating during the
War.
** The real reason why the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.
** The deadly WWII sniper who racked up a record 542 confirmed
kills all in one year, without using a scope.
** Plus: the B-25 bomber raid on Tokyo… the 1944 attempted
assassination of Adolf Hitler … the top Allied spy of WWII …
Kamikaze and Blitzkrieg attacks … and more.

The reason I urge you to check it out, even if you are not a WWII
or history buff, is so you can see how Alex and I are building a
new topic-based site …

…and how we plan to go about “monetizing” the site to produce an
annual passive income stream in the five or six figures within
the next 12 months or so:

www.theww2site.com/world-war2-at-a-glance

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Are typos a big deal?

February 14th, 2017 by Bob Bly

Subscriber TW writes:

“Bob, here’s a question I’d love to see you address in one of
your e-mails: Have you noticed the constant misspellings and
incorrect homonyms on the web and in e-mails? People not knowing
the difference between ‘to,’ ‘two,’ and ‘too’ — or ‘there’ and
‘their’? Terrible grammar?

“Did you think that the ability to dictate on smartphones and
other devices and our reliance on spellcheck and text shorthand
(“r u home?”) is dumbing us down? Either that or is it
desensitizing us to these types of errors?”

Well, we have always lived with spelling and grammar mistakes —
but yes, they have definitely increased in e-mail and on web
sites. What’s the reason for the proliferation of typos online?

In e-mail, it’s two things.

First, people are crushingly busy today. So they dash off their
e-mails as fast as they can, without reading them over or even
using the e-mail proofing function.

Second, some people believe that e-mails don’t have to be as
flawless as a traditional letter. And so they are sloppy e-mail
writers.

Unfortunately, many of their e-mail recipients are aghast when they
see bad grammar and spelling errors. As a result, such mistakes
distract your readers, diverting attention to the typos and away
from the content of the message.

Some readers even lower their opinion of you and what you are
saying if there is even a single misspelling.

As for web content, there are also two reasons for the
proliferation of spelling and grammar mistakes in web pages,
white papers, blogs, and other online writing.

First, back in the day, before the Internet, when our writing was
all print, we proofread carefully, because if an error was found
after a magazine article, direct mail letter, or product brochure
was printed, it would cost a fortune to go back to press. So we
were much more careful.

Today, if you write and post a new web page, and someone spots
typos, they can quickly and easily be corrected at virtually zero
cost. Easy peasy, no biggie.

Second, with large web sites having dozens or hundreds of pages,
many of the pages come from different sources — product bulletins,
articles, blogs, press releases, newsletters — some of which were
created for other purposes and then repurposed on the site.

So many firms either just don’t have or are not willing to devote
the time to carefully proof each new page.

It’s not that they don’t think proofreading is important, but
rather it is not at the top of their priority list, and they do
not have the bandwidth or resources to get to it.

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Category: General, Writing, Writing and the Internet | No Comments » |

Time: What Einstein and Hawking didn’t tell you

February 12th, 2017 by Bob Bly

A kindly subscriber sent me as generous gift: a hardcover copy of
Stephen Hawking’s best-selling book “A Brief History of Time.”

I am now reading it, though slowly, as I find many of the
concepts difficult to wrap my mind around.

But here’s one thing about time that Hawking missed in his book.
Einstein also missed it in his book “Relativity: the Special and
General Theory.”

Namely, the older we get, the faster time goes. That’s Bly’s
Theory of Relativity!

Conversely, the younger we are, the more slowly times passes.

When you are 5 and your 6th birthday is a month away, that month
feels like forever.

When you are 12, the 4 or 5 years you must wait to get your
driver’s license seems like an eternity.

And as much as I liked college — and I did, for the most part —
it seemed to me at times during my 4 years as an undergraduate
that I would be there forever.

But now, I will soon turn 60 — and yet, it seems to me I was just
21 … and starting my first corporate job at Westinghouse … only
yesterday.

My sons recently turned 27 and 24 — and they have reached that
age in the blink of an eye.

Life itself goes by so quickly — and the older you get, the faster it
moves.

Also as we age, our opportunities and options become fewer and
fewer — a statement I know some of you will dispute, but hey, I
calls them as I sees them!

When I was 21, for instance, I briefly considered going back to
school to become a pediatrician — and I believe I could have done
so.

For me now, at 60, medical school and a residency are clearly off
the table.

I don’t know if any of this is helpful, but I can tell you my 3
guidelines for making the most of each day while you are alive:

1- Every day, without fail, tell your spouse and your children
(and grandchildren, if you have them, which I do not) that you
love them. Every day. Even if they complain that you say it too
much.

2–Be kind and generous to others. Do not exert power or show
meanness or cruelty, especially to those weaker than you.
Remember, just because you can do something to someone doesn’t
mean you SHOULD do it to them.

3–Find work you enjoy. Get good at it and keep at it. A career,
job, or profession you love can give you happiness every day. As
Max Ehrmann wrote in Desiderata: “Keep interested in your own
career, however humble, it’s a real possession in the changing
fortunes of time.”

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Category: General | 2 Comments » |

Goodbye digital, hello paper

February 3rd, 2017 by Bob Bly

In an article in The New York Review of Books (2/9/2017), Bill
McKibben notes that an increasing number of folks are turning
away from electronic communication and instead choosing
old-school media.

For instance:

>> In 2006, just 900,000 new vinyl records were sold in the U.S.
In 2015, the number of vinyl records sold was 23 million — an
increase of 20% per year.

>> Despite a hefty $150 price for an annual subscription, in the
last decade the magazine The Economist has seen its print
circulation grow by 600,000.

>> Students who take massive open online courses (MOOCs) perform
worse, and learn less, than their peers who are sitting in a
school listening to a teacher talking in front of a blackboard.

>> In many classrooms and office conference rooms, schools and
corporations are replacing digital smartboards with paper and
colored markers.

>> Hundreds of board game parlors, where people get together to
play on game boards made of cardboard moving pieces made of
plastic or metal, have opened in North America.

So … what are the reasons a portion of the population is turning
back to old media?

>> Well, in the case of records, people enjoy handling and
playing them, and appreciate the cover art and liner notes. They
also gain a sense of ownership over the music some don’t get from
digital.

>> For The Economist, when you carry the print edition, people
can see what you are reading, which if the magazine is
prestigious, shows you are smart, cultured, and in-the-know. Much
harder to see that the bloke next to you is reading the digital edition of The Economist without sticking your face right in front of his smart phone.

>> MOOCs does not surprise me. Podcasts, online courses,
streaming video, and other digital classes simply cannot match
the interaction and personalized attention a teacher gives in a
classroom or a speaker like me gives at a live workshop.

>> As for video games vs. board games, McKibben quotes writer David Sax: “Even if you were playing World of Warcraft with the same group of friends around the world each day, talking smack over
your headsets, and typing in snippets of conversation, you were
ultimately alone in a room with a screen, and the loneliness
washed over you like a wave when the game ended.”

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7 small graphic tweaks that can create a huge lift in response

January 27th, 2017 by Bob Bly

Last week I asked ace graphic designer Dwight Ingram for some
ideas on how to improve the performance of our direct mail and
online marketing through changes in design.

Dwight replied:

“Sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest
difference. I’m often called upon to ‘freshen up’ a fatiguing
control, and I’ve developed a toolkit of small design changes
that can revitalize a promotion without having to create a whole
new piece.”

Here are 7 of Dwight’s go-to design tips you can use to boost
response and breathe new life into your control:

1–Change the envelope or the outside of the mail piece. If the
design is too busy, remove or move something. If the design is
too simple, add something.

Use a new teaser, freshen up the design, and try new fonts. Use
the back … think of the extra space like a buckslip. It’s a great
place to showcase the product and reinforce the offer.

2–Use bigger buttons. For e-mails and landing pages, try a bigger
button, a different color, or change the shape. Add a button to
the top or bottom in a key location near the offer language.

3–Simplify. Make the order process clean and fast, especially in
digital efforts. Don’t make your audience jump through hoops to
order.

One of the first things to look at is how many fields are on a
form? Are there too many choices, and is the process intuitive?
Decide what information you must ask for and what you can
eliminate.

4–Change the order form. Enhance the format of your form by
adding a notch, or make it an L-shape. Strengthen your offer
language, focus on the key benefits. Add an offer summary box.
Stress the deadline. Use more personalization, but not too much,
and use it appropriately.

5–Add an insert. A lift note, buck slip, or other element can
focus your prospect on the right features or benefits of the
product. Highlight the guarantee, the premium, or a unique
feature of your product or service.

6–If you use a business reply envelope (BRE), change the color.
Using a different paper color for the BRE can lift response.

7–Make sure your e-mails, landing pages, and order pages are
coded to display optimally not only on PCs but on mobile
devices including tablets and smart phones. (I’ll have an entire
chapter on designing e-mails for smart phones in my forthcoming
book “The Ultimate E-Mail Handbook” from Skyhorse Publishing.)

Remember, it’s all about clarity and thinking like a potential
customer. If your offer is hidden, or too complicated, or if
you’re asking for too much information, your response will be
affected. Make it easy.

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Category: Direct Marketing, General, Online Marketing | 1 Comment » |

Don’t state your opinions as facts when in fact they aren’t

January 24th, 2017 by Bob Bly

Recently, I sent an e-mail marketing message to my list offering
one of my audio home study programs.

BP, a subscriber of mine whom I like and respect, was highly
critical of this offer.

In BP’s opinion, “An audio course is reminiscent of platform
shoes, the IBM Personal Computer, and when the Bee Gees were all
living” — implying that audio products are somehow old school and
antiquated.

A simple Google search would in an instant show BP that his
claim of audio being old hat is completely wrong.

According to the Audio Publishers Association (APA), audiobook
sales in 2015 totaled more than $1.77 billion, up nearly 21% over
2014.

Also in 2015, 9,630 more audiobook titles were published than in
the previous year — bringing the number of audiobooks published
in 2015 up to 35,574.

I can also speak a bit from personal experience, not just
third-party Google research.

In my tiny online business, CTC Publishing, we have grossed
hundreds of thousands of dollars selling how-to information on
audio.

The take-aways from BP’s brash, subjective, and uninformed claim
of audio information obsolescence:

1–Google makes it so quick and easy to do some research, you are
being foolish if you do not take a few minutes to get the facts
before writing or speaking on a topic.

2–Don’t give subjective opinions on topics that have factual and
undisputable answers. Want to debate with your friends about
whether Trump will be a good president? Feel free. Want to
convince me that TV psychic Theresa Caputo can speak to the dead?
That’s a tougher position to defend, given there is no scientific
evidence supporting the existence of the afterlife.

3–Don’t defend so many of your positions so rapidly and
vehemently. We are not always right. We are often wrong. That
includes me. And you.

In his best-selling Spencer novels, the late Robert B. Parker
said of Spencer’s sidekick Hawk: “Hawk always knows what he is
talking about. Not because he knows everything. But because he
only talks about things he knows.”

My version: Don’t proclaim your opinions to be facts unless your
certainty is 99.7% or higher. That purple is a color is a fact.
That purple rugs are beautiful is an opinion.

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Category: General | 1 Comment » |

Is copywriting the most humbling of professions?

January 20th, 2017 by Bob Bly

It mystifies me how it has come to pass that so many copywriters
have huge egos.

After all, copywriting is one of the most humbling professions I
can think of.

My colleague BC explains it this way:

“So many times I have put together a campaign, launched it, and
sat back and said ‘work, damn it, WORK’ — and it did not. Very
humbling.

“And by the same token, I launched what I thought was watered
down drivel — and saw it pull like gangbusters.”

Any copywriter who says every campaign is a winner and claims he
has never had any losers is either a liar, or putting out very
little work, or not swinging for the fences to beat strong
controls.

Once, I mentioned to a big-name client that I thought their top
go-to copywriter, a famous freelancer, was great.

She snorted derisively and said, “He has more losers for us than
I can count.”

Another big-name client confided in me that a legendary
copywriter they used wrote 7 promotions in a row that bombed for
them.

Once, my client PN called me and said, “You want a laugh?”

On my recommendation, PN had called Mr. X, a famous copywriter,
because PN’s company had way too much work for me to handle
alone.

“I asked the guy what percentage of his promotions were winners,”
PN told me. “You know what he said? 100%! Ha! I sure hung up the
phone fast!”

Another famous copywriter wrote a package for a new client that
was so brilliant and creative, the client began recommending the
writer to all his cronies.

Then weeks passed, until one day, the famous copywriter got a
phone call from the client who said abruptly: “Remember that
package you did for me? Total bomb. Didn’t work.”

The copywriter was stunned … and the referrals all dried up.

By the way, all of the copywriters I am talking about here are
actually tops in the field.

The point is that even the best copywriters don’t write winners
every time.

Like Mr. X, any copywriter who says every single one of his
promotions is a home run is a liar.

And given that even the best copywriters write packages that
bomb, it is a mystery to me why so many copywriters out there
have huge egos.

If anything, being a copywriter is a humbling profession.

One day you can be king of the world, and the next week eating
humble pie.

And that’s the way it is, despite all the bragging you read by
copywriters on Facebook and elsewhere to the contrary.

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Do you sweat too much of the small stuff?

January 18th, 2017 by Bob Bly

On January 7, 2017, a gunman opened fire in the Fort Lauderdale,
Florida airport killing 5 people in the baggage area.

What makes this personal for me is that my mother and her
boyfriend were standing in that same baggage claim in the same
airport one week earlier.

Many people, and I am one of them, complain too much over minor
things.

For instance, I lose my cool when the traffic going into NYC is
at a standstill or my Internet service goes down for 20 minutes.

Yet if my mother had left for Florida a week later, she might be
dead today.

Global terrorism has made it clear that whoever said “don’t sweat
the small stuff” had it right.

The week before my mom went to Florida, I was in an automobile
accident that totaled my car — on Christmas Eve.

Fortunately, I was not seriously hurt — not a scratch on me,
though I had some bruises.

Was I upset that my car, which I loved, was destroyed?

No, because after all, it’s just a car.

I have no doubt that some other people had car accidents that
same evening — and were seriously injured or even killed. Game
over.

So complaining over the demise of a 2008 Prius seems to me rather
silly.

Not being a natural Pollyanna, I feel funny saying this, but it’s
true: any day you wake up healthy, with food to eat and roof over
your head, in a house with working heat, is a good day.

I close with this Scottish proverb quoted by David Ogilvy: “Be
happy while you’re living, for you’re a long time dead.”

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