Make money with the college of knowledge

September 19th, 2017 by Bob Bly

There’s a lot of money in teaching the business, tasks, and
skills you have mastered … and the information you have
researched, learned, and produced … to others who seek them.

Collectively this is the knowledge business, or as I like to call
it, “the college of knowledge” — packaging your knowledge as
products and services to sell for a price.

Including: ebooks … newsletters … special reports … books …
online courses … webinars … seminars … college courses …
conferences … boot camps … coaching … consulting … DVDs … audio
CD albums … training … membership sites … Facebook groups … the
list goes on and on.

So, how is it that a “knowledge business” even exists? What makes
it possible?

The key to it all a simple principle George Clason wrote about in
his book The Richest Man in Babylon:

“That which one man knows can be taught to others.”

That’s the premise — proven since the dawn of humankind — on
which today’s knowledge business is based.

Now, some who want to get into the knowledge business protest,
“But I am just ordinary; I don’t know anything others will pay
for.”

This is almost never the case.

As my colleague Dr. Gary North warns: “The great mistake of most
small business people is to imagine that their detailed knowledge
of their niche market is widely dispersed.

“On the contrary, hardly anyone knows it. They are owners of a
capital asset that others do not possess and have no easy way of
possessing it.”

And will therefore pay handsomely to obtain.

Another objection I hear is: “Well, I know something about topic
X. But I am not the world’s leading expert. So how can I presume
to teach others?”

Info marketing guru Fred Gleeck astutely notes:

“You don’t have to know more about your topic than anyone else in
the world. You just have to know more than 90% of the people in
the world.”

And either you do now … or can get to that level with some work
on your part.

Widely quoted research shows it only takes 1,000 hours to be
competent at something. And it requires 10,000 hours of practice
and study to become a master of it.

Also, if you know the subject and how to teach it to others, you are
a better source of knowledge transfer than other experts
who perhaps know more than you — but are lousy teachers, as so
many are.

The next objection is: “There is so much information available
for free on my topic already on the internet, why would anyone
pay me for the same information they can already get on the web at
no cost?”

Here’s the thing: What is widely available online is just data
and information.

But in the knowledge business, we don’t merely sell data and
information … although, both are usually part of our offerings.

What sets us apart is that our paid info products and services
provide:

>> Data we have collected through long effort that others in fact
do not have.

>> Deep knowledge gleaned from our data and long experience.

>> Analysis of the data and knowledge to show what it means and
how our customers can benefit from it.

>> Actionable ideas tested and proven to enable those using them
to achieve the desired results.

>> Wisdom to understand what will work in a field, what won’t,
and to consistently know the difference.

In other words, mere data and information are often free for the
asking.

But actionable ideas on how people can use it for their gain are
in short supply … and again, people will pay you handsomely to
get this knowledge.

One more fact about the knowledge business:

If you gain a fan base and become a recognized authority in
your field, people will pay a premium for your knowledge.

If you don’t, they are less likely to do so.

Also, it doesn’t take a huge audience to make a good living in
the knowledge business.

If you build a list of just 10,000 fans and each spends only $100
a year with you, your gross annual income is a million dollars.

Not too shabby.

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More of this + less of that = success

September 15th, 2017 by Bob Bly

As noted in an earlier issue of this newsletter, I believe that
today many people — and in particular, many younger people — are
fascinated with bright, shiny objects (BSOs).

By “BSO,” I mean they embrace the new, trendy, hip, and cool …
and as a corollary, eschew the old, the proven, and the tried and
true.

This favoring of BSOs over tested methods and ideas is true in
many fields, but especially so in marketing.

I contend that doing so is an egregious error.

Why?

Two reasons.

First, to paraphrase George Santayana — “Those who forget the
past, don’t learn from it.”

Or more to the point, as Martin Cohen writes in his book Reason
and Nature:

“The notion that we can dismiss the views of all previous
thinkers surely leaves no basis for the hope that our own work
will prove of any value to others.”

To me this is “axiomatic,” which means it is irrefutable logic
and always true.

Think about it: if you dismiss the views of all who came before
you, then shouldn’t the next generation conclude they can learn
nothing from you?

Second, the problem with BSOs is: they are untested and unproven.

That makes them highly risky and more likely to fail.

By comparison, the tried and true is tested and proven.

That reduces your risk of a big failure … and increases the odds
of success.

How does this translate into direct marketing?

Well, many times I have come up with an initial selling idea for
a product.

When I run it past the client, they say — “That won’t work; we
know because we have tested it many times, and in each test it
always failed.”

A BSO fan would argue:

“Well, just because you guys couldn’t get it to work doesn’t mean
it won’t work now. Get some cojones and try it my way!”

Not me. As an old-school direct response guy, I am grateful the
client knows the idea has been tested and proven ineffective, as
it saves me from writing something that will more than likely
bomb.

I thank them, go back to the drawing board, and brainstorm, both
on my own and often with them, to find a new idea with the
potential to be a winner.

Other old-time direct response copywriters tell me they agree
that the surest and most likely route to a winner is to take what
is tested and proven, dust it off, and give it a new twist.

As my old friend, superstar copywriter Richard Armstrong, wrote
in an article for AWAI:

“I believe there’s a much better word than creativity to describe
what we’re really striving for in this business: Ingenuity.

“What you really want to do is study what’s worked in the past.
Find out what’s working now. And see if you can come up with a
way to do the exact same thing … only better.

“If you do that, I guarantee you catch more customers … and
eventually more clients, too!”

In copywriting, it is rare to find something under the sun that
is entirely new.

More often, winning comes from saying the same old thing, but
saying it in a fresh and compelling new way.

And then test, test, test.

Don’t assume your idea, whether old school or BSO, is the best.

You don’t know. You have to test.

In marketing, as the great Claude Hopkins wrote: The only way to
settle the question of whether an ad will work is with a test,
not with arguments around a table.

And then, once we direct marketers roll it out, while continually
testing to beat our control.

Back in my day, people at Madison Avenue ad agencies hated the
tested direct response control.

They believed in their intuition and subjective judgment of their
peers: If everyone at the agency or my friends in advertising
think my ad is clever, funny, or creative, it must be good!

This in part explains the gross ineffectiveness of so many widely
admired national ad campaigns for major brands produced by the
big ad agencies.

My friend, motivational Rob Gilbert, says the key to success in
virtually every walk of life is:

“Do more of what works, and less of what doesn’t work.”

Pretty simple. Common sense. And good advice.

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Are marketers who embrace these notions cowards?

September 12th, 2017 by Bob Bly

I know instantly whether a potential copywriting client and I are
simpatico just by the marketing terms he or she uses.

For instance, when I hear a client use words like “response” …
“conversion” … “click-through rates” … “break-even” … “results” …
“leads” … “sales” … “selling” … “offer” … “closing” … “call to
action” … or “profits” …

… I know we pray from the same hymnal of direct response.

It’s only when clients use other marketing words that my radar
signals we might not be a good fit.

For instance, it was trendy for a time to say that marketing is
having “conversations” and not selling.

When I wrote about conversations in this e-newsletter, subscriber
WM replied:

“I am a salesman. At the end of the month, my sales manager asks
me how much I sold. If I was to reply, ‘I didn’t sell anything,
but I had a lot of conversations’ — I’d be out on the street.”

I’m not saying conversations are not a valid part of the sales
and marketing process.

But marketers who focus on “conversation” sometimes do so to
avoid revealing that they do not know how to sell.

“Branding” always makes me a bit wary. Yes, it’s also a valid and
often important part of marketing.

But in marketing speak, it’s often code for, “We just position
our product in the marketplace but don’t know how to sell.”

And “brand awareness” is sometimes code for, “I talk about
awareness because it can’t really be measured and therefore I am
shielded from having to produce a result that can be measured,
which would reveal whether my ad is working and profitable.”

For many years, “content” didn’t sit well with me, as I thought
it devalued and positioned writing as a commodity — just as
calling a writer a “word smith” did back in the day.

But content has become an accepted term, and I am good with it
now.

Same with “content marketing,” which we used to call “getting
more leads and sales by giving away free information.”

The title “content marketing strategist” though is a bit
overblown to me, as many (not all) people who call themselves
that essentially just write online articles for clients.

“Impressions” is another term I shy away from. I am not trying to
impress anyone. I am trying to sell them a product or service.

“Likes,” “followers,” and “connections” in social media. Well,
they are valid and measurable, and have some value.

But they are nothing to get excited about, if they are not
driving traffic, converting, and filling up your PayPal or bank
account with money from customer orders.

Any particular marketing terms you like or don’t like? And do you
agree or disagree with my assessment of marketing lingo here?

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My least-known secret for getting new copywriting clients

September 8th, 2017 by Bob Bly

Last month, I wrote an article saying I am against copywriters
working “on spec” — with rare exceptions.

Subscriber DW agreed that spec work is a bad idea for writers.

But when she added, “In my opinion, it’s right up there with
sending prospects samples of your work,” I immediately replied
“On that, we do not agree.”

The fact is, showing potential copywriting clients samples of my
published work … with my current clients’ permission, of course …
is a key factor in me making six figures a year for almost 4
decades.

Here is my online copywriting portfolio posted on my site:

www.bly.com/newsite/Pages/portfolio.php

Notice 3 important things about my portfolio:

>> First, it’s big. Really big. I don’t know of a copywriter who
has more samples posted online than I do, although there may be —
I haven’t looked hard.

By having so many samples, I increase the odds that I have
something online that will impress the client and make him want
to hire me.

>> Second, it’s organized in two sections: one by media (e.g.,
brochures, landing pages, white papers) and the second by product
or industry (e.g., financial, health care, software).

For the client who, unbeknownst to me, is browsing my site, this
makes it easier for him to find what he is looking for.

>> Third, each sample has a unique clickable hyperlink that I can
cut and paste into an email or document.

This allows me to send to prospects I am in contact with the
samples that best fit their needs and interests within a minute
or two — by pasting their URLs into an email and sending it to
them.

I have constructed my online portfolio this way because if a
sample is well written and generated good response, the closer
the sample is to what the client wants me to write for them, the
more likely I am to be hired, all else being equal.

Yes, I understand that, when you are a newbie (I never use the
term “copy cub”), you don’t have a lot of samples at the
beginning of your career.

But my advice is: get as many samples of your work as you can —
and ask the client’s permission to post them on your site. So you
can build a bigger portfolio rather than a smaller one, as
quickly as you can.

Two warnings: Never post or share a sample of your work unless
the client has given you the okay.

And never post a promotion that you did not in fact write.

Aside from being completely unethical, for all you know the
prospect you are showing it to is the person who actually did the
promo you just tried to pass off as your own.

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Being snarky does not pay

September 5th, 2017 by Bob Bly

Here’s a quick and easy communication tip:

Being snarky, rude, sarcastic, or caustic doesn’t pay off.

It doesn’t help win the other person over to your side.

In fact, it turns them off.

As an example, here’s a somewhat snarky email I recently got from
subscriber MF in response to an essay I wrote about why I prefer
writing books for mainstream publishing houses rather than
self-publishing.

He begins:

“Dear Bob: I never buy any of your products.”

Already a tad snarky.

“But I do enjoy your emails.”

That’s nicer.

Next he writes: “Here are 2 things you seem to be missing about
the whole getting a book published process.”

Now, MF has every right to disagree with what I say or think —
just as I have an equal right to disagree with him.

But whether mainstream is better or worse than self-publishing
is, in my opinion, a matter of opinion. Not an indisputable fact
one way or the other.

So saying “I disagree with you” is fine. Polite.

But saying “you seem to be missing” is arrogant, rude, and
presumptuous — as it assumes he is right and I am wrong, which is
exactly what MF did.

Another obnoxious phrase you should avoid in communication is
“You failed to,” as in, “You failed to do this or that.”

Hey, I didn’t FAIL to do it.

I either deliberately chose not to do it, deciding it is not
worth doing … or I didn’t do it the way you would have.

Or maybe I actually didn’t do something I was supposed to do.

In that case, just say “you did not do it.”

But don’t say “failed,” as it connotes insult, criticism, and is
snarky.

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Why your free stuff has to be your best stuff

September 1st, 2017 by Bob Bly

MS recently downloaded a copy of one of my free special
reports.

I offer it free to folks interesting in my copywriting services,
books, and courses — and MS took advantage of it.

After MS downloaded the free report, he sent this quick email to
me in response:

“Hi. Thanks. This is an awesome report — much better than some
I’ve paid for.”

And therein lies a simple but powerful marketing lessons:

***The content you give away for free should be as good as, or
preferably better than, the content you sell!***

This may seem counterintuitive.

You think, “Well, the person is not paying. So it doesn’t have to
be that good. For free, so-so should be good enough.”

But the purpose of giving away a free report is to either (a)
strengthen your reputation as a subject matter expert or (b)
upsell prospects to your paid products or services.

So riddle me this: If I get a report from you, and it’s a yawn,
then why would I bother to give you money for more of the same
level of thinking, expertise, or advice?

And don’t tell me, “Well, people know the free stuff is just a
taste, but for the steak dinner, they gotta pay the full price.”

Because actually, they don’t see it that way: If the free sample
sucks, you’ll almost surely fail to whet their appetite for doing
business with you on a paid basis.

That’s why the content you give away for free should be as good
as, or preferably better than, the content you sell!

But … just because the free has to be as good or better than the
paid, it doesn’t have to be the SAME as the paid.

Here’s a useful rule of thumb from my colleague WM: The free
content tells people WHAT to do.

The paid content or service either tells the how to do it or
actually does it for them.

See the difference?

One more time:

Free content is “what to do” … paid content is “how to do it” …
paid services are “done for you” — doing it for them.

Back in the day, we called these free reports “bait pieces,”
the idea being we used them to go fishing for leads.

Today these free content offers are called “lead magnets,”
because they are used to attract potential customers.

Also back in the day, we didn’t call it “content marketing.” We
called it “giving away free information.”

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The worst prospecting technique ever invented

August 29th, 2017 by Bob Bly

This happens to me with some regularity:

A person emails to criticize something I have produced — often a
book, ebook, info product, or one of my landing pages or web
sites.

Sometimes they are nice … but more often, a bit snarky.

And wouldn’t you know it, almost all of these emails end the same
way: “Hire ME to fix it for you!”

This doesn’t work, for 3 reasons.

First, you don’t start off any business relationship by insulting
the potential client or customer.

After all, client you are insulting may have done the work you
are saying sucks — not something he is likely to take kindly too.

Second, the person emailing me has only criticized. But they have
not presented a single shred of evidence that they are qualified
to fix it and can improve results.

Third, they think you are unaware of the problem, and that they
are somehow doing you a service by bringing it to your attention.

What they do not realize is: we already know about the problem.

We just haven’t done anything about it either because (a) we
haven’t had time, and it is a relatively low priority or (b) we
don’t agree with them that it is in fact a problem.

And not because we are stupid, lazy, unskilled, or unaware.

For instance, former subscriber (I unsubscribed her) PZ wrote:

“Last week I purchased Writing Brochures for Fun and Profit
ebook. Please issue a credit to my Paypal account.

“I’m more than disappointed, this just feels like a rip-off.

“While some of the ideas are still good, referencing mainframes,
VCRs, and tape reels is not only ridiculous it’s going to send
younger readers to Google.

“Below is a copy of my receipt, and screenshots of a couple of
the most absurd pages.

And of course, PZ moves in for the close:

“If you are interested in having this and other materials
updated, please do get in touch. I do a lot of editing and
updating to repurpose old material.”

I immediately wrote back:

“Why would I want to hire you? I can’t think of a single reason.

“We are going to refund your money, unsubscribe you, and block
you from our shopping cart and our email inbox.

“PZ, you are starving to death with a loaf of bread under each
arm.

“Because what’s important is what you said in your email: the
ideas are still good.

“Do you reject books like Ogilvy on Advertising, Scientific
Advertising, How to Win Friends and Influence People, and the
Bible because they were written years ago?

“If so, how sad for you. For you are the one missing out. That I
didn’t update mainframe to distributed computing, the cloud, or
whatever has absolutely nothing to do with the value of the
course you bought.”

Two important takeaways if you are a buyer of business and
marketing advice, a seller of services, or both:

1–Technology is transient. But human psychology has not changed
in 10 centuries.

2–Criticizing someone’s business and then offering to come in and
help them make it better is absolutely the worst prospecting
strategy on the planet.

To me, the best I can say about PZ is that she, to turn a phrase
from Coolio, is living in the “Idiot’s Paradise.”

KM, another writer/ignoramus trolling for business, wrote a
letter to my friend, RA.

He said RA’s direct mail package was terrible, and for a fee, he
would rewrite it and make the copy much better.

RA and I had a good laugh over this, because (a) the package was
selling the product like hot cakes and (b) it was written by one
of the top copywriters in the country — RA himself.

And that’s my third takeaway:

3–Talking about stuff without knowing the facts is a good
opportunity to make yourself look like a total idiot.

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3 idiot things some marketers mistakenly believe are true

August 25th, 2017 by Bob Bly

Lots of people pontificate about marketing. Always have.

Especially among young marketers, there is a propensity to latch
onto the latest bright shiny objects (BSOs).

The only problem: many of these marketers and BSO fans don’t know
what the heck they are talking about.

My first case in point: a young millennial marketer chastised me
for my old-fashioned website.

Even though it has in fact been optimized for mobile, it was
originally designed for desktop.

And my young friend told me, as so many have: “Every consumer uses
their mobile to shop online today … no one uses a desktop.”

Makes sense. The only problem: the facts say otherwise.

According to a recently released report from Akamai, less than
half of consumers browse the web with their phone.

But only 1 in 5 — a mere 20% — completes purchase transactions
on a mobile!

For me in particular, 80% of the subscribers to this online
newsletter read it on a desktop, and only 20% on a mobile.

So I said to my young friend who told me desktop is dead:
“Wrongo, Mobile Breath!”

(Being so young, I am sure he didn’t get the Johnny Carson
connection.)

Second case in point: the much ado about social media nothing.

A study by Riple found that 55% of small business owners listed
Facebook posts as their most important marketing tool.

They are apparently unaware of the MediaPost research showing
that email is ***6 times more likely*** to generate a direct
response than a social post.

Third case in point: The other day, a friend asked me if I had a
certain app.

I told him that I have NO apps.

“How can someone in today’s mobile age, especially a marketing
guy, not use apps?” he asked.

My question: If apps are so useful, important, and vital — why
does Localytics report 1 in 4 mobile apps is abandoned after
being used just one time?

The lesson for marketers: don’t listen to all the hooey and BS
out there.

Use what works. Test it for yourself.

Then do more of what works — and less of what doesn’t.

Not exactly rocket science, is it?

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