Why I read paperbound books only

November 17th, 2017 by Bob Bly

Recently, on a Facebook post, I casually mentioned in passing
that I get a lot of my books to read at the local town library.

My Facebook friend LW wrote:

“Bob, why the public library when there is Kindle?”

My immediate thought was:

“LW, why Kindle when there is the public library?”

I absolutely prefer paperbound books over digital books — and I
am a regular patron at my town library.

As Louis L’Armour writes in his book “Education of a Wandering
Man” (Bantam), “Education is available to anyone within reach of
a library.”

My fellow copywriter and FB friend DG says:

“I’m a public library guy and I also buy books. I only read
paperbound books myself, and I’m already way out of room to store
the ones I have.”

Now, I understand the many reasons why people tell me they love
their Kindle readers. I just don’t find them personally
appealing.

One of the big reasons people advocate Kindle is the ability to
easily carry dozens or hundreds of books with them wherever they
go.

But since I almost never go anywhere, there’s no benefit to me.

And in those rare instances when I do travel, one thick paperback
is enough to get me through the round-trip flight.

There are legions of people who just love paperbound books as
physical objects: the feel, the look, even the smell and feel of
the paper.

I’m one of them. And Kindle takes that all away from me.

As the author of more than 90 books from mainstream publishing
houses, one of my greatest rewards is holding my published
hardcover or paperback book in my hand — and putting a few
copies in our bookcase.

Holding electrons in my hands just doesn’t give me that same
pride of authorship.

(Similarly, I get much more of a charge holding a magazine with
my article in it than I do seeing my article on some website.)

Another big advantage of physical books is the venues where I get
them: bookstores, libraries, and used book catalogs, my favorite
of which is Edward R. Hamilton, though Bas Bleu and Daedelus are
not far behind. (Especially Bas, because they often carry my
books.)

When you are in a library or a bookstore, or thumbing through a
book catalog, you encounter all sorts of books, information, and
subjects that you otherwise would never have thought about
before.

Yes, this can also happen online

But in a bookstore or library, with the actual book in front of
you, the compulsion to browse is, for me, even greater than
online. And yes, like so many people, I like web surfing.

Now, you may be thinking that I am a hypocrite, because I
publish, sell, as well as read PDF ebooks.

But when I buy a PDF ebook, I don’t read it on a screen. I print
it out, put it in a 3-ring binder, and read it has a hard copy
document.

And I suggest to my PDF ebook buyers that they do the same.
Although, of course, they are free to read it on a screen if they
prefer.

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Category: General | 3 Comments » |

What you like vs. what works: not always the same thing

November 14th, 2017 by Bob Bly

Subscriber DH writes:

“Bob, what are your favorite websites in terms of the copy they
have, so I can see myself which copy style you think is great?

“I was working for a client and came across a website from a
company that sells the same thing he does.

“I was blown away by the simple, fun, almost magical style of
their site vs. the more technical copy on my client’s site.

“But I wonder if I was right to admire the competitor site —
does that kind of copy draw customers?”

There are two key parts to the answer I gave DH.

The first is something copywriter Peter Beteul said that I never
forgot: “Don’t let personal preference get in the way.”

Meaning subjective judgment is absolutely the worst way to judge
advertising.

Why?

Because countless marketing tests and many research studies prove
that there is no correlation between people liking an ad and
whether they buy the product.

Second, regarding DH’s websites, she has little or no access to
analytics and metrics measuring the website’s performance.

And results … not whether the site has a fun or “magical” style …
is what determines whether she should admire and emulate it.

In this case, she just doesn’t know. So following the competitor
site as a model would be questionable at best and unwise at
worst.

Back in the day, with print ads and direct mail, it was
different.

Running newspaper and magazine ads, and doing postal direct mail,
is expensive.

And so marketers who use them test very carefully.

If an ad or direct mail test is not successful, they will not
repeat it.

On the other hand, an ad or mailing that is profitable is run
over and over until it stops making money.

So if you see an ad or mailing that runs continuously, you know
that copy is working — and in that case, it would be wise to
emulate.

It’s pretty much the same for ongoing email campaigns and web
pages, although not as certain, because they are less expensive
to run than print — and therefore, are more forgiving of
mistakes.

One more point….

You only know whether someone else’s marketing is working if you
see the evidence with your own eyes, as indicated by frequency
and repetition.

If another marketer says response rates for their campaign are
through the roof, or that they are raking in money hand over
fist, the problem is you have no idea whether they are telling
you the truth.

As my good friend top info marketer Fred Gleeck says: “The only
numbers you can trust are your own.”

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

When internet marketing works

November 10th, 2017 by Bob Bly

Sometimes internet marketing is a pain in the ass.

You work hard on a product, launch it, and nobody is interested.

Now you have to salvage the product either by improving it or
bundling it with other stuff.

Another disaster scenario: You send an email marketing message to
thousands of people, driving them to a product landing page.

And then they start emailing you to let you know your landing
page is down — and it is — and as the minutes go by, you are
losing orders left and right.

On the flip side, when info marketing works well, it can really
put a smile on your face.

For instance, a few weeks ago, I decided to promote an existing
product with an existing email to drive traffic to the existing
landing page.

Total investment of my time: less than 2 minutes — because
everything was already done.

Within the next few days, we got 112 orders for the $29 ebook for
gross sales of $3,248.

Overhead aside, because it was an ebook, our net sales were also
about $3,248.

Now that’s peanuts compared to what some info marketers make.

But consider two points:

The average American has to work 3 solid weeks at a 9-to-5 job
that probably bores them to tears to make that much money — and
with the commute, that’s probably 130 to 150 hours of their time.

While my 2 minutes of “work” generated over 3K in sales, which
comes to an hourly rate for my labor of $97,440.

And this is not a freak occurrence: $3,000 or more from a single
email blast using existing copy, which means no labor on my part,
happens many times throughout the year.

Passive income and info marketing online don’t always work.

But when they do, it’s a beautiful thing.

Again, my info marketing business is a spec on the windshield
compared to the big boys.

But if I wanted to, we could live nicely on it with me “working”
about 2 hours a week.

I have no intention of ever quitting my day job as a freelance
copywriter, which I absolutely love.

But having a spare-time six-figure passive income … and being
able to earn 3K from one eblast with zero work … sure takes the
financial pressure off — and makes you more relaxed.

Try it. You’ll like it.

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The 2 ways reading makes you a better writer

November 7th, 2017 by Bob Bly

One of the most common questions I get is, “Bob, what book are
you reading now?”

And most people are shocked to find that it is a novel, short
story collection, play, nonfiction narrative, social issue,
science, math, history, economics, or informational book on a
topic other than marketing or business.

The 2 best ways to get better as a writer are to write a lot and
read a lot. And to read widely. Not just about writing,
copywriting, marketing, or business.

And there are 2 reasons reading a lot and widely helps you become
a better writer.

First, you read the books for the content. So your brain’s
storehouse of information, from which you pull content for your
writing, is large and varied.

Second, you absorb the techniques and tricks of the trades other
writers use, and incorporate the best of those in your own
writing.

Sounds simple. It is simple. But it also takes a lifetime and
only stops when you die.

So, what do I like to read? Well, without further preamble, here
in no particular order are my 15 favorite books of all time:

1–“A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving.

2–“Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller.

3–“Everything That Rises Must Converge” by Flannery O’Connor.

4–“The Prince of Tides” by Pat Conroy.

5–“Ogilvy on Advertising” by David Ogilvy.

6–“Essentialism” by Greg McKeown.

7–“Lord of Light” by Roger Zelazny.

8–“Drought” by J.G. Ballard.

9–“The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka.

10–“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee.

11–“Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes.

12–“Deathbird Stories” by Harlan Ellison.

13–“The Ascent of Man” by Jacob Bronowski.

14–“Mockingbird” by Walter Tevis.

15–“The Shootist” by Glen Swarthout.

If you asked me for a list of my top 100 instead of just these
15, I could fill it easily.

I can’t help it. I just love books and reading; the addiction is
beyond my control.

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Category: General | 4 Comments » |

A short course in making money with microsites

November 3rd, 2017 by Bob Bly

A “microsite” is a small website dedicated to selling a single
product, service, or offer.

I am frequently asked, “Does each microsite need its own domain
name, or can I just make it an extension of my main domain name?”

For instance, if your main site is www.jacksfoodsite.com and you
have a separate microsite selling your healthy eating cookbook …

… your domain could be an extension —
www.jacksfoodsite.com/cookbook — or a unique URL; e.g.,
www.eathealthyfood.com.

For my product microsites, each has a unique domain name.

And an article in ClickZ (7/26/17) agrees with this domain
strategy, saying:

“As a general rule, a microsite should have its own dedicated
domain or subdomain.

“While it might be appealing for a microsite to be hosted on a
primary brand domain for SEO purposes, and there are instances in
which this might make sense, more often than not, it’s best to
host the microsite on a dedicated domain.

“There are numerous reasons for this. For one, a dedicated domain
is typically easier to promote.”

They point out that a dedicated domain such as cooldomain.com is
easier to remember and type in than brand.com/microsites/something.

For instance, the domain for my microsite on how to write and
sell your first ebook is www.myveryfirstebook.com.

Having an easy-to-remember dedicated domain is especially helpful
when someone asks me about one of my products, because I can
instantly recall and tell them the site domain.

Now, you may object, “But that means I have to buy a separate
domain for every microsite I have and every product I sell!”

Well, last time I looked, you can buy a domain name on
GoDaddy.com for an annual fee of around $12.

Domain names are the real estate of the web.

That means for $12, you can own a piece of real estate online
that produces for you sales of $5,000 a year … $50,000 a year …
even $100,000 a year or more.

Owning actual real estate doesn’t give you anywhere near that
kind of return most of the time.

And having just spent $4,500 to fix problems at a rental property
we own, I can tell you microsites are a lot less of a headache to
manage than houses.

To be fair, my best microsites make just thousands of dollars a
year each — not $100,000 or $1 million or more like the big boys
of ecommerce do with their websites.

But with dozens of sites each making a few thousand bucks a year,
my little online info business makes me a nice spare-time annual
income … in the six figures … with me “working” on it just a
couple of hours a week.

Another key to having a business with a lot of microsites is to
get a hosting service that allows you to host an unlimited number
of sites for one flat monthly fee.

For instance, one hosting service is, on the surface, very cheap
at just $19 a month.

But, it’s $19 per site. That’s OK if your business has one big
website, as many do, such as my CPA and my attorney.

My hosting service is more expensive at $49 a month — except, for
that fee, I can host as many sites as I want at no extra charge.

And with my 100 microsites, that means my hosting costs are less
than half a dollar per site per month.

Very affordable.

One more tip…

Your microsites should offer only one choice of action; e.g.,
download a free white paper or leave.

Or buy the product or leave.

Nothing else.

No navigation … no links to other pages … no free content.

If you have navigation on your squeeze pages for lead generation
… or on microsites for product sales … strip it off immediately.

Then sit back and watch your conversion rates rise like bread
dough in a hot oven.

And make more bread online!

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Category: Online Marketing | 4 Comments » |

The ideal length for online video

October 31st, 2017 by Bob Bly

Abraham Lincoln was, for his day, unusually tall and gangly.

Once a man asked him, “Hey, Abe Lincoln … how long should a
person’s legs be?”

Lincoln answered, “Long enough to reach the ground.”

It’s the same with copy in general and online video in
particular.

Both should be as long as they need to be to get the message
across and generate maximum ROI.

TwentyThree, the maker of a video marketing automation platform,
studied over 1.5 million videos to better inform marketing and
content creation teams about preconceived video myths.

Their “State of Online Video in 2017” report found that videos
can, and should, last longer than 90 seconds if publishers want
to see higher engagement rates.

While 80 percent of videos are under 5 minutes, the short ones
drive less than a third of overall video engagement.

Mid-form and long-form videos, which are at least 15 minutes
long, drive over half of all video engagement despite
encompassing just 8 percent of all video.

The subject matter has a lot to do with how long viewers will
stick with videos.

I wrote scripts for marketing videos in the late 1970s when I was
at Westinghouse Defense and Aerospace, and our average run time
was about 8 to 10 minutes.

Yes, you can argue it was a different time with longer attention
spans.

But the footage — F-16s soaring through the air and tanks
blasting apart concrete targets with rounds — was really cool to
watch. And so people did.

I recently read an article saying the human attention span is now
less than 8 seconds.

But if you’ve ever watched a half-hour sitcom or a movie in a
theater, you know that is pure baloney.

Four hundred hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.
Almost 5 billion videos are watched on YouTube every single day.
Average run time is about 3 minutes.

Stansberry Research had a home run with a video sales letter
awhile back called “The End of America.”

It was one of the most successful financial promotions of the
last few years, and its running time was an incredible 45
minutes.

I’m sure the Stansberry team heard from a lot of friends and
family who said, “You’re crazy; nobody will watch a video that
long” or “Whenever I click on those things, I immediately click
away.”

But Stansberry wisely ignores subjective opinion, especially of
noncustomers. All they care about is ROI and gross revenues, and
“The End of America” made them a small fortune.

And that’s all any marketer, including you, should care about,
too. Right?

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Category: Online Marketing | 3 Comments » |

Is the writing profession doomed?

October 17th, 2017 by Bob Bly

We recently saw War of the Planet of the Apes, where intelligent
apes take over as the dominant species of our planet.

Well, it’s happening … only instead of apes taking over, it’s
smartphones and laptops!

According to an article in ClickZ, Gartner predicts that by 2018,
20% of all business content will be written by machine.

In July 2017, Google invested over $800,000 in the Press
Association’s initiative to generate news stories solely through
the use of AI.

The frightening future for writers is that AI machines may make
us totally obsolete by doing our jobs as well or better than we
can — and for a lot less money.

And it’s not just writers whose jobs are in danger of vanishing.
It’s a much bigger portion of the working world.

In his book The Rise of the Robots, Martin Ford reprints a
perfectly adequate sports article and reveals it was written
entirely by computer — without the touch of a human hand. It’s
not spectacular, but it’s certainly competent B-level sports
writing.

Swedish programmer Sverker Johansson built an AI writing
algorithm that has authored nearly 3 million articles now posted
on Wikipedia.

And it’s not just writers who are in danger of losing their jobs
to a computer.

In China, human customer service representatives who handle live
chatbot calls are now being replaced by algorithms.

[x]cube, a maker of automated chatbots, says that 34% of
businesses surveyed believe that half of all customer service
calls could be handled by robot chatbots without a human agent.

Elon Musk believes that by 2030 to 2040 computers will be able to
do anything a human can do.

It makes me wonder why Musk, Google, the Chinese AI chatbot
maker, and other clever tech entrepreneurs are so darn eager to
put billions of human beings permanently out of work.

Years ago, I had this debate with AN, an old college friend.

AN gave the party line about automation and robotics “freeing”
people from dull, repetitive jobs so they can do more rewarding
and creative work.

What AN and others miss is this: there are a number of people who
don’t have the skills or ability or drive to work at a higher
level than the “dull, repetitive” jobs they hold now.

So when you “free” them from their current boring jobs, you move
them into permanent and boring unemployment.

For instance, in the early 1960s, as a kid my mom would take me
to visit my dad at work.

His building in downtown Paterson, NJ, the city where we lived,
had a manual elevator run by Joe, a friendly elevator operator
who was always nice to me, because he liked kids.

One day mom and I went to visit dad, and Joe was gone.

“Where’s Joe?” I asked.

She pointed to the self-service buttons labeled G and 1-5 on
the control panel of the new shiny automatic elevator that had
replaced the creaky old manual — and eliminated Joe’s job.

“What’s Joe going to do?” I asked.

She shrugged.

So I still think about what happened to Joe. He was older, and I
suspect he had trouble finding another job, if he was able to at
all.

And I also think about what will happen to us in 2040 if Musk is
right.

And he probably will be, even if his date comes a little sooner
or a little later.

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Category: General, Writing | 7 Comments » |

The 10 greatest marketing books ever written

October 13th, 2017 by Bob Bly

Subscriber RK writes:

“Bob, I am trying to read some of the classic marketing books you
recommend, such as those written by David Ogilvy, Claude Hopkins,
John Caples, Robert Collier, and Vic Schwab.

“But all the examples in them are print ads, and it’s hard for me
to see how these relate to app banners or email follow-up
sequences.”

I hear this a lot from millennial marketers: They believe that
the rapid pace of change has made the marketing of the 20th
century irrelevant to marketing in the 21st century.

Here’s why such thinking is fallacious:

Yes, the technology, media, and methods — newspapers and network
TV commercials vs. social media, programmatic advertising, and
hyperlocal marketing — are much different today than they were
yesterday.

But the core of marketing is not channels, technology, databases,
or media.

Rather, the most important element of marketing and selling is
human psychology — or more specifically, the psychology of
persuasion.

And as the great Claude Hopkins noted, human psychology has not
changed in ten centuries.

That means the core persuasion techniques of Ogilvy, Caples, and
the other master marketers whose books I recommend have not lost
one microdot of their power and effectiveness.

And here are the 10 books I fervently believe every marketer, and
that goes especially for you young folk, should devour:

1– “How to Write a Good Advertisement” by Vic Schwab, Wilshire
Book Company. A common-sense course in how to write advertising
copy that gets people to buy your product or service, written by
a plain-speaking veteran mail order copywriter in 1960.

2– “My First 50 Years in Advertising” by Max Sackheim,
Prentice-Hall. Another plain-speaking, common-sense guide that
stresses salesmanship over creativity, and results over awards.
The author was one of the originators of the Book of the Month
Club.

3– “The Robert Collier Letter Book” by Robert Collier, Important
Books. While Schwab and Sackheim concentrate on space ads,
Collier focuses on the art of writing sales letters. While some
of his letters may seem old-fashioned and dated, Collier’s
timeless principles still apply.

4– “Reality in Advertising” by Rosser Reeves, Alfred A. Knopf. The
book in which Reeves introduced the now-famous 3-part concept of
Unique Selling Proposition; not one marketer in a hundred today
knows the 3 essential parts of a winning USP.

5– “Breakthrough Advertising” by Eugene Schwartz, Boardroom. A
copywriting guide by one of the greatest direct-response
copywriters of the 20th century.

6– “Tested Advertising Methods” by John Caples, Prentice-Hall.
Presents the principles of persuasion as proven through A/B split
tests.

7– “Confessions of an Advertising Man” by David Ogilvy, Atheneum.
Charming autobiography of legendary ad man David Ogilvy, packed
with useful advice on how to create effective advertising.

8– “Scientific Advertising” by Claude Hopkins, Bell Publishing. A
book on the philosophy that advertising’s purpose is to sell, not
entertain or win creative awards — and that only testing, not
subjective opinion, can determine what actually works.

9– “Method Marketing” by Denny Hatch, Bonus Books. A book on how
to write successful direct response copy by putting yourself in
the customer’s shoes.

10– “Advertising Secrets of the Written Word” by Joseph Sugarman,
DelStar. How to write ad copy by a master of mail order
advertising.

Have I left any out? Yes, many. But this list is a good start.

How many have you read? If not all, you ignore them at your own
peril.

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Category: General | 4 Comments » |