Do you know these marketing rules of thumb?

September 1st, 2015 by Bob Bly

Do you know the “50/50 rule” of content marketing?

How about the “99:1 rule” of affiliate marketing?

Or the “25-50-25 rule” of time management for entrepreneurs?

Or Fred Gleeck’s “10X rule” of information product pricing?

My new infographic shows you in a concise, graphic format the 12
important marketing rules of thumb every marketer should know.

You can view it for free by clicking here now:


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The 3 Differences Between a Direct Response Copywriter and an Above the Line Copywriter

July 24th, 2015 by Bob Bly

“Above the line” (ATL) means marketing that focuses on branding and image, not response and sales.

There are 3 significant differences between a direct response copywriter like me and the ATL copywriters who serve Madison Avenue ad agencies and big consumer brands:

1—The direct response copywriter focuses on sales.

Everything we do is designed to get the cash register to ring – to bring in either an order or a sales lead.

The direct response copywriter has an advantage – namely, the sales results of most of what we write can be measured down to the penny.

Above the line copywriters often have no idea whether their ad moved the sales needle one iota, and so they are operating largely in the dark.

2—Branding people are obsessed with creativity.

Most ATL copywriters I know create advertising that is fun, creative, offbeat, humorous, entertaining, and beautifully designed.

The reason is that their clients, consumer brand managers, like those characteristics in their ads.

The direct response copywriter, as I have said, focuses on results, not aesthetics.

We don’t care whether the consumer likes our ad. We only care that she buys the product.

And long experience shows there is little or no correlation between people liking your ad and buying your product.

3—Branding people are obsessed with originality.

To them the goal is to be creative and original – to come up with a completely new idea or selling approach.

The direct response copywriter takes a different approach: We study what has worked exceptionally well in the past and then model our new promotions after these proven winners.

Most direct response copywriters keep “swipe files” which are collections of ads known to be proven winners.

We know they are proven winners because we see them run again and again. If a promotion bombs, marketers don’t tend to repeat it.

If it pulls like gangbusters, they do.


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Marketing with a One-Two Punch

October 8th, 2014 by Bob Bly

Regardless of what your marketing objectives are, your marketing efforts must achieve two results. Think of it like a prize-fighter’s one-two punch. Marketing must get attention and communicate value.

One of the best ways to communicate value is to share information. The value of infographics is their ability to communicate information concisely. When it comes to effective communication, an image will trump a paragraph or even a page every time. Why? Because it grabs your attention.

Here’s why infographics work so well.

Attention Grabbing
A colorful infographic with a powerful headline is impossible to ignore.

Quickly Scannable
The strength of infographics is that large amounts of often diverse information can be presented quickly and organized for scanning. Rather than expecting your audience to take the time to read through an article sentence by sentence, they can scan an infographic in seconds and quickly find interesting bits of information that cause them to linger longer.

Broad Appeal
Infographics appeal to different learning styles. There are lots of learning styles out there, but it is widely accepted that images communicate information more effectively than words alone.

Color and image have more emotional appeal than black-and-white verbiage. Marketers know that emotion is what causes people to take action. When you want your audience to act, use an infographic

Infographics can add variety to your messaging. Not every message is suitable for an infographic, and using them judiciously is important. But, when you want a particular message to really stand out from the rest of you content, an infographic is likely to do the trick for you.

What are you waiting for? Put on your gloves and land your next knockout blow with an infographic.


This article appears courtesy of Ivan Serrano,


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On “pitch-fests” and why I don’t do them

September 9th, 2014 by Bob Bly

In a recent essay, I complained about an association that asked
me to speak for free. They would not cover my expenses. And the
worst offense: they even wanted me to pay to attend my own talk!

Although most of my subscribers agreed that this was a raw
deal, a couple of you suggested I could make it pay off by
selling my services, my books, or both during my talk.

Well, this doesn’t work for me, because I will not, under any
circumstances, pitch my products or services from the platform.

Yes, I am aware many speakers make a lot of money selling their
books, CDs, and coaching programs from the platform or “BOR” —
back of the room.

I do not condemn them or say it is wrong. Indeed, BOR selling
is a time-honored method of income generation for professional
speakers. There are books and training on how to do it. But it
is not for me and never will be.

There are a few reasons. The first is that, for me, it has a
sleazy feel. I know it is a legitimate method of revenue
generation for speakers. But to me personally, it is distasteful
… and in 35 years of speaking I have never done it, not even

Second, and worse, your audience has paid to be there. So they
have a right to expect that if they paid to attend your hour
session, every one of the 60 minutes is dedicated to you
delivering the content you promised — and plenty of it.

You are there to educate the audience on how to do a task or
improve their mastery of a skill — and not convince them to hire
you for consulting or coaching or to buy your tapes.

The only “selling” takes place when the meeting coordinator
reads your 1-minute bio right before you go on stage. The bio
explains why you are a credible speaker on the topic, and by
extension, makes the audience want to know more about what you
can do for them.

I intensely dislike it when speakers take 5 or 10 minutes out of
their hour talk to deliver a rehearsed, canned pitch on buying their
products, with special offer packages that are good only that

My informal surveys show that half the audience is OK with this.
But to the other half, it demeans you and causes them to lose
respect for you. Who wants that?

The worst offenders are “pitch fests” — events where sponsors
actually take a cut of the speaker’s product sales from the day.

To maximize their profits, these event producers pressure
speakers (it has happened to me, and of course I refused to
participate) to sell expensive packages of books, info products,
coaching, and other services while on stage … and to push them

As a result, many speakers push the product throughout the talk,
and in doing so hold back valuable tips, telling the audience
instead “this is in my book.” In some of these events, virtually
the entire presentation is a thinly disguised sales pitch.

This is the cesspool of professional speaking. To be fair, many
embrace and profit from it. And to them I say: You can have it.
But if you are a meeting planner, please let me know in advance
so I neither speak at nor attend your event.


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The awful truth about online customer reviews

August 25th, 2014 by Bob Bly

The notion of posting online customer reviews of products and
services — such as is done on Angie’s List and Amazon — has some
troubling flaws.

I will focus here on Amazon since I have never used Angie’s
list … and as an author, I have a lot of exposure to the reviews
posted on Amazon.

The first problem is what book marketing guru John Kremer,
author of the classic “1,001 Ways to Market Your Book,” calls
“agenda-driven reviews.”

One example is when I am looking at the page on Amazon for some
marketing guru’s new book and I see immediately two dozen
five-star reviews and nothing lower.

I can’t help notice that virtually all the reviewers are the
author’s friends, associates, joint venture partners, and

The reviewers’ agenda is clear: to help the author hype his
book. The motive? To have the author reciprocate and do the same
for them.

The opposite situation is when the reviewer clearly has a grudge
either against the author or his philosophy or ideas — and posts
a one-star review for what any sensible person would agree is a
solid, good book on the topic.

The second problem with the Amazon review system is that,
incredibly, I have seen a number of reviews where the reviewer
says she has not read the book yet but will get to it soon — and
amazingly, Amazon has let the review stand.

Can you imagine a book reviewer for the New York Times Book
Review writing in his review that he has not yet read the book
in question?

The third problem, which brings up a broader issue I will
address in a minute, is reviews written by reviewers who are
unqualified to evaluate the book in question. A related problem
is when the reviewer’s comments are just plain stupid or

I subscribe to the New York Review of books, and if they are
running a review of a new biography of Abraham Lincoln, the
reviewer they hire will most certainly be a historian or
presidential biographer or Lincoln scholar.

But on Amazon, you can post a review of a book on woodworking
even if you have never in your life driven a nail into a 2X4.

And in your Amazon review, you can blatantly say things that are
wrong, because Amazon doesn’t seem to check it or prevent it
from being published.

As for stupid or trivial comments: one of my books got a
one-star review because the reader did not like the paper it was
printed on.

The reason I like traditional print media like newspapers,
magazines, and published books is that the authors and their
writings are vetted by editors and publishers.

A columnist for PC Magazine once wisely observed: “The worst
thing about the Internet is that anyone and everyone can publish
anything to it.”

The Internet in general and social media in particular
encourages the belief that everyone is entitled to their
opinion. And it has given those people a vehicle for easily
publishing those views, no matter how wrong or inane.

Writer Harlan Ellison correctly states: “Everyone is not
entitled to their opinion. They are entitled to their informed

“Informed opinion” means you have some experience, knowledge,
qualifications, or credentials in the subject you are writing

For instance, is it OK for me to write a negative review of a
book on home schooling if I have never tried the author’s
methods or worse, never home-schooled my kids — or even worse,
don’t even have kids? I think not. But I can do it on Amazon all
day long. And so can you and everyone else reading this e-mail.

If the NY Times Book Review hired me to review a book on home
schooling, you can bet I would have to be a parent and probably
a pediatrician or parenting writer to get the gig.

Another example: I once was hired to write a direct mail package
being mailed to engineers selling them a membership in a
professional society.

The client gave it to a dozen people to review. Many of them
suggested changes that made no sense to me, mainly based on the
fact that they did not understand some of the technical topics
discussed in the letter — for instance, why chemical engineers
want to increase process yields.

It turned out that none of the reviewers was an engineer. As
such, I considered their opinion as to what would or would not
engage engineers to be extremely uninformed.

The only one involved in the creation of the DM package who was
in fact an engineer was the copywriter — me.


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Everybody writes … but should they?

August 13th, 2014 by Bob Bly

My colleague Michael Stelzner recently did a podcast with a woman, AH, who wrote a forthcoming book called “Everyone Writes.”

AH is right: everyone writes. But I have always wondered whether everyone should write. And I have come to believe that they should not.

Reason: In the good old days, just because you wrote something didn’t mean it would be published. In fact, likely, it would not.

To get published, you had to convince a publishing house to buy your book – or a newspaper or magazine editor to print your article or your letter-to-the-editor … and most people were not able to do this easily. So what got published was vetted by professionals – and the quality reflected that editorial guidance.

But today, in the digital era, anything that anyone writes can be and often is instantly published to the Internet where theoretically millions of people can read it – and at least a few people, if only just your Facebook friends, almost certainly will.

Some people see this “everyone writes (and publishes)” phenomenon as a wonderfully liberating new age in human communication.

To me, it is the end of western civilization as we know it – and the death of literacy – and the heralding of an unceasing age of what I call endless “content pollution.”

Content pollution is everyone publishing every thought they have, and almost everything that happens to them, without the benefit of an editor or publisher to filter what goes out into the ether.

The job of the editor is quality control for written communication. Without editors, which the Internet has largely removed from the equation, the quality of published writing has fallen to a new low – not an easy accomplishment.

Example: Facebook posts featuring a picture of what the person has just eaten for breakfast. The amazing thing is that some readers actually seem interested!

The ease of publishing blogs, online newsletters, online articles, posts, and the like has caused amateur writing to flourish. And that’s bad news for professionals: it’s difficult to command a living wage for something thousands or even millions of people are happy to do for free, even if you are ostensibly better at it.

People ask me why I take the old-school stance of preferring traditional book publishing with NYC publishers to self-publishing on Amazon with Kindle.

The main reason is this: with traditional book publishing, you know that at least one person – the editor at the publishing house – thought highly enough of the work to pay for it. That’s a quality control self-publishing is sadly lacking.

Normally at this point in my essay I suggest solutions or give tips for profiting from the situation.

But I don’t really have a solution to content pollution. People feel compelled to express their thoughts, and thanks to the Internet, can do so at any time and are assured of at least some readers taking note.

There is nothing I can do to change the human compulsion to write and publish. I just wish more people who feel this compulsion would produce content at a higher level – that is, writing actually worth reading — and filter what they put on the web.


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Is writing this book a waste of time?

August 6th, 2014 by Bob Bly

Anne Fernald, an English professor at Fordham, has spent 10 years — that’s right, a full decade — working on a scholarly edition of the Virginia Woolf novel “Mrs. Dalloway” … and she’s not even done yet.

Mind you, she’s not writing a novel. Virginia Wolf wrote it in 1925. All she is doing is annotating it with footnotes.

When I read about this in the 3/31/14 issue of The Christian Science Monitor, I had 2 immediate reactions.

First, 10 years to annotate an already written book? Seriously?

And second, who on the planet aside from a few scholars and Woolfaholics would read what sounds to be a really boring book like that?

I ask because there is a broader question: With so many books on just about every conceivable topic under the sun already out, should you and I even bother to write yet another book on one of these subjects?

For instance, it almost causes me physical pain when someone sends me a new marketing book with a request to review … because I know without looking that, with rare exception, it’s just the same old thing already done to the death in hundreds of other books.


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Can robots replace human writers?

July 18th, 2014 by Bob Bly

It appears that they can, at least as far as content writing is concerned.

According to the article below, Wikipedia “bots” – software that writes without a human operator – write a staggering 10,000 articles a day for the site:

The quality is apparently good enough that the articles pass muster – people read them and don’t know a robot wrote them.

Does that mean content writers are obsolete and irrelevant, much like factory workers who have been replaced by robots on factory assembly lines?

For decades, my dad worked in an office building with a manual elevator run by an elevator operator, Frank. The day the building unveiled its new self-service push-button elevator, Frank was gone.

I know a number of older IT professionals who became obsolete and were fired when either their technical skills became outdated or were outsourced to India. Not exactly death by bot, but the same idea.

Do you believe that bots will become powerful enough to handle more sophisticated writing tasks – including poetry, novels, movie scripts, and sales copy?

Just because I cannot see my way clear to believing that what I do as a copywriter can ever be captured in software does not mean that it won’t happen.

What’s scary is the possibility that almost any worker living today may become obsolete in ways he or she never expected.

There are already robots that help perform surgery. Who is to say one day an AI (artificial intelligence) bot won’t eliminate the need for a human surgeon?

Do you feel sorrow for people who are being made obsolete and unemployable by advances in technology or do you see it as their fault: they didn’t keep their skills state of the art, and so they get what they deserve?


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