My theory of haste-based rudeness

May 19th, 2017 by Bob Bly

More and more people today are curt, cold, unfriendly, mean, and
downright rude.

But I believe most of them are not bad people, and they aren’t in
many instances deliberately being mean or discourteous to you.

They are short with you and impolite because they are just so
darned busy!

I call this phenomenon haste-based rudeness.

People used to be kinder and more civil.

But especially in business, they are just so swamped, they are
always crazy/busy.

And as a result, feel compelled to get through every conversation
as rapidly as possible.

This leads to the impression that they are uncouth louts for two
reasons.

First, everything is fast. They want to get the conversation done
as quickly as possible. Which may make the other person feel they
are getting the brush-off. Also, the tone of a rapid-fire
conversation is often not genteel.

Second, they are in such a rush, when you try to get a word in,
they feel you are interrupting them. When you try to express your
opinion, they view it as arguing — and they get irritated.

If you are a client, customer, or the boss, you do have power
over certain people, and may feel it’s OK to treat them
dismissively or brusquely.

It’s even worse if a boss is talking to an underling, or a vendor
to a client, because they are the ones in a position of power.
But as Ben Parker tells his nephew Peter Parker in Spider-Man:
“Just because you can do something to someone doesn’t mean you
should do it.”

So what can you do? And how can you act better?

A few suggestions….

< < First, if you find yourself being short or impatient with others, slow down. If you are stressed, close your door or put on ear buds, and listen to something relaxing and soothing for a bit. Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata works for me. Then do a little deep breathing. Only then do you open the door, invite the person in, and start the meeting or conversation. You will be less rude because you are calmer. >> Second, if you find others being rude with you, and they are
the boss, client, team leader, or even fellow team member, don’t
lose your cool.

If you respond with a smile and a non-angry rebuttal, spoken in a
soft, measured voice, it can usually get them to back off and
match your more reasoned demeanor.

On occasion someone will say something that is incredibly rude,
offensive, insulting, or inappropriate.

Pause a second, look the person in the eye (if you are
face-to-face or on video chat), and firmly but calmly say, “What
was your purpose in saying that to me?”

Eight out of ten will instantly realize they were inappropriate.
They will then apologize and continue in a more civil tone. Try
it.

For the 2 out of 10 who don’t, at least you have made them aware
that their words and demeanor crossed a line — and most people do
not want to do that.

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Is great research really necessary to write great copy?

May 16th, 2017 by Bob Bly

Subscriber JL writes:

“Bob, I was hoping that you could do a few posts about research.

“How much time do you spend just on product research for a
copywriting job?

“Where do you start and how do you know when you are finished?”

Well, as to the first question, I would say that of the total
time I spend on a copywriting project, 25% to 40% is devoted to
research.

By “research” I mean:

–Reading the background material the client provides.
–Reading the additional research I request from my freelance
online researcher.
–Doing additional research on my own.

I start by reading everything the client gives me, and then going
on to supplement that with additional research by me and my
researcher.

The research materials I study for a copywriting project
generally cover three areas:

1–Information about the product.
2–Information about the market.
3–Promotions for competing products.

As to JL’s second question, I created this short video to give you
as precise an answer as to when you know you are finished:

I’ve already said where I start — with the background materials
the client has provided.

And as for when to start, I would say: start within 24 hours of
getting the assignment.

Reason: If you put off research, you may find that when the
deadline is around the corner, then it’s too late.

So you don’t have enough time to do a proper research job and
still get A-level copy written on time.

The late, great David Ogilvy said, “Advertising people who ignore
research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy
signals.”

One more thing….

My client AS has said to me repeatedly, “To get a big idea for a
winning promotion, you have to do research until you find the
core idea in the research materials.”

I would add that sometimes the great promo idea leaps out at you
and strikes like a bolt of lightning the instant you come across
it.

Other times, it doesn’t come easily. You have to dig and dig. But
you almost always find something good eventually in the research.
And if you are lucky, you often find something great.

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Does the world really need the book you are writing?

May 12th, 2017 by Bob Bly

My FB friend BL writes:

“We need fewer books by people who feel having a book is good for
their career. If you’re going to write a business book, take time
to put some meaty information in it. It pisses me off when I
spend good money on a fluffy ‘ego’ book.”

It may surprise you, but I agree with BL.

“Wait a minute, Bob, you hypocrite,” you may be thinking. “You
have written dozens of books on marketing and copywriting to
boost your career. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!”

Well, here’s what you may not see….

Yes, the business books I have written certainly have boosted my
freelance writing career and helped build my reputation in the
marketing field.

But, that was a byproduct of writing the books — although I was
well aware of that benefit and it was a part of the motivation
for doing them.

My main reason for writing how-to books however, has always
been this….

Whenever I learn new skills or information of a practical nature,
I feel immediately compelled to put what I know into a book about
the topic — and teach it to others.

Especially when I feel my grasp of the material is strong and my
application of it has been effective.

So my primary motivation for how-to book authorship is to teach …
to pass on what I know to those who might find it interesting,
useful, or both.

This has three benefits:

First, it creates a loyal readership that appreciates the books I
write, so that they continue to buy new books and other info
products by me.

Second, writing a book builds your reputation as an expert in
your field, which in turn helps promote you and your services.

Third — and this is the one benefit many newbie authors don’t
realize — writing a book on a subject probably teaches you as
much or more as the people who buy and read your book!

That’s because writing a book forces you to do further research
on your topic … think more deeply about it … organize your
material more logically … and then explain it so clearly that
even a layperson can easily understand, enjoy, and profit from
it.

By the way, the same is true of teaching a course in the subject.

So IMHO, writing a book or teaching a course on your specialty is
one of the most worthwhile activities you can pursue.

On the other hand, some people only write their nonfiction book
for the sole purpose of achieving guru status.

This has resulted in a tidal wave of the fluffy “ego” books BL is
talking about.

If you ever read a business book and think, “This is a book that
should never have been written,” you are reading a fluffy ego
book produced solely to promote the author, and not to educate
the world or even herself.

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The awful truth about online reviews

May 9th, 2017 by Bob Bly

Anybody who is in the public eye on the internet … even someone
as minor as me … will invariably get his fair share of people who
feel compelled to bash him — often in a nasty and mean-spirited
way.

Of course the conventional wisdom is to shrug it off. But I
sometimes find it difficult not to take personally.

For instance, MM writes:

“I have purchased several of Bob’s products on his websites and
found them to be a complete rip-off. He charges $50 for 80 pages
of useless, outdated content.”

It’s easy for me to prove that MM is by far a minority opinion;
take a look at some of the testimonials from my e-newsletter,
book, and e-book readers:

http://www.bly.com/newsite/Pages/Testimonials.html

Also, most of my e-books are in the $29 to $39 range, not $50
(though a few are).

MM’s comment proves to me something I read in an article in a PC
magazine more than a decade ago:

“The best thing about the Internet is that anyone can post
anything to it.

“The worst thing about the Internet is that anyone can post
anything to it.”

Evidence of the latter statement is in an article on Quora
reporting a Harvard study concluding that one out of five reviews
on Yelp are fake.

And on one occasion, a reviewer gave my new book a one-star
review saying I hadn’t been polite to him when he asked me a
question online; he had not even read the book.

Amazon says reviews cannot be personal vendettas and have to be
based on the book itself.

And though I have notified them 3 times that this particular
review is based on a personal incident, Amazon has ignored my
repeated requests to have it removed on that basis.

Also, back in the day, book reviews were written by professional
book reviewers who often had a background and knowledge in the
topic of the book.

And their reviews were vetted by a newspaper or magazine editor
prior to publication.

Now online reviews on Amazon and elsewhere are written by any
Tom, Dick, and Harry with a computer and an internet connection.
They are not required to have a working knowledge of the topic of
the book … and no editor is there to make sure the reviews are
civil, literate, and accurate.

Which do you prefer — book reviews by professional reviewers, as
in the New York Times Book Review or the New York Review of Books
(the latter is my favorite periodical)?

Or the opinions of consumers, which range from honest and smart
to pure Bozo?

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How to get better input from clients

May 5th, 2017 by Bob Bly

If you are a marketing manager … copywriter … ad agency …
creative director … or content marketer …

… the marketing you produce is only as good as the information
you are able to gain on your target market and your product — and
your understanding of it.

Therefore, in the profession of marketing, we ad writers are
extremely dependent on our clients.

The better the briefing and research they provide us, the better
our copy will be.

Conversely, when we copywriters lack either enough information on
the product and the market – or worse, have wrong information —
it’s extremely unlikely the promotion will be a home run.

Computer programmers call this GIGO, which stands for “garbage
in, garbage out.”

So we need good background information — and not garbage — to
write the best ad we can.

Yet it is our responsibility as ad creators to help our clients
and guide them so they get the right information to us … and
enough of it to write a kick-butt promotion!

Some people call the transfer of product and market knowledge
from the client to the marketing creator the “discovery process.”

I find it useful to post my own discovery process on my web site
and refer clients to it — so they can see the kind of
information we need to gather and share to create winners:

http://www.bly.com/newsite/Pages/documents/HTPFAC.html

Getting the right information from the client is so important, I
outline the responsibilities of both me, the copywriter, and the
client, in my standard agreement as follows:

CLIENT AND COPYWRITER RESPONSIBILITIES

As your freelance copywriter, Bob Bly is responsible for:

–Requesting all the information he needs to write your
promotion.
–Writing the strongest copy possible.
–Making any revisions you ask for within the terms of the
copywriting agreement.
–Always telling you the absolute truth about any of your ideas,
edits, or plans — even if it’s something you may not want to
hear and could even possibly upset you.
–Keeping the client’s project confidential.

As the client, you are responsible for:

–Providing Bob with the information about your product, offer,
and market he requests for the writing of your copy.
–Being as specific as possible about any edits, revisions, or
changes you want Bob to make to his copy draft.

I can’t force the client to comply, and of course I always do the
best job possible with whatever materials I have to work with.

But by taking on the responsibility of assisting your clients in
providing what you need in the discovery process, you greatly
increase the odds of having a winning promotion.

Which is good for both you and your client.

I also think guiding the discovery process proactively means you
are meeting your fiduciary responsibility to the client by doing
due diligence to the best possible level.

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The secret of “M-Day”

May 2nd, 2017 by Bob Bly

For decades, I have been a semi-workaholic who works 11 to 12
hour days and rarely takes a vacation.

But I do have a technique I want to share with you for giving
yourself a break once a month.

It makes you feel as if you are playing hooky for the day, though
in fact, you are getting a lot done.

I call it “M-Day” or “Miscellaneous Day.”

Each month, I pick one day.

It has to be a day when I have no pressing deadlines, no phone
meetings, no other appointments, and nothing to deliver to a
client or publisher due that same week.

On regular days, I schedule my work during the day so I am
working on one project or another during every hour, with a short
rest between hour increments.

On Miscellaneous Day, there is no schedule. So I don’t HAVE to do
anything at any particular time.

I crank up the music.

And I spend M-Day working on whatever project or task strikes my
fancy.

Then I jump to something else … well, whenever the mood strikes
me.

I often start M-Day with easy, light work — like a magazine
article, working on one of my info marketing projects, or writing
an article for my e-newsletter, as I am doing right now.

But often I will get inspired to tackle one or more tougher jobs
on M-Day … such as a particularly challenging sales letter … and
if that mood strikes me, I do it with great gusto.

And somehow, because of the immense freedom I have on M-Day, if
anything I enjoy it even more than usual (and I really enjoy
writing sales letters) … and do it even better and faster than
usual!

M-Day is also a good day for me to handle miscellaneous tasks
that I often put aside because of my usual multiple writing
deadlines, such as filling out paperwork or straightening out the
occasional problem with a health insurance claim or similar
stuff. Miscellany that is boring and distasteful, but still needs
to be done.

(For instance, recently my health insurance didn’t pay a provider
because they said my other health insurance carrier should handle
it. And you guessed it, I do not HAVE another insurance plan.
They are my sole carrier. But I had to spend time on the phone
and filling out forms to prove it before they would pay the
claim!)

For me, M-Day relaxes and revitalizes me, while giving me a full
day in the office that is different and therefore even more fun
than usual. And, it is always a very productive day — not really
a hooky day at all!

I think it’s the change of pace in an otherwise fairly set
routine that is part of the secret of M-Day — it’s a full-day
“pattern interruption.”

The other aspect is, with all the projects I can work on during
M-Day to choose from, I feel like a kid in a candy store, picking
whatever I want as the mood strikes me. There is a big smile on
my face and a lightness of spirit that is so invigorating!

So why don’t I do more Miscellaneous Days?

One M-Day a month is just about right for me. I tried doing two
Miscellaneous Days a few months ago, and it didn’t feel right — I
felt like a slacker. You may be different.

My suggestion is that you try giving yourself a Miscellaneous Day
soon.

If it works for you as it does for me, give yourself one M-Day
a month.

You will thank me for it.

Time to sign off now and get back to more M-Day fun!

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Is college a waste of time and money?

April 28th, 2017 by Bob Bly

An investment guru I respect recently wrote in his e-newsletter,
“It’s not necessary to go to college. You’re likely to be
corrupted, and indebt yourself like an indentured slave for many
years to come.”

Well, yes, maybe it’s not necessary to go to college. But is it a
good idea to go?

For many people, yes — and others, no.

CNN Money reports that the unemployment rate among those with
only a high school degree is about double that of people with a
college degree.

Those with a college degree earn on average around twice as much
money a week as those who did not go to college.

So the statistics would seem not to support Mr. Investment Guru’s
anti-college stance.

He does note that, for the most part, if you want to enter a
trade or profession — doctor, lawyer, CPA, engineer, scientist —
you need college, both to gain the knowledge and skills, as well
as to obtain the credential that will get you hired.

If I did not have a BS in chemical engineering, IBM would not
have offered me a $23,000 a year job as a process engineer at
their semiconductor plant in Binghamton, NY in 1979.

Mr. Investment Guru notes that you can take courses online or
play CDs from The Teaching Company while driving in your car.

I am all for being an autodidact — which means educating yourself
through reading and study on your own.

But for many of us, the best education is a combination of
self-education with formal schooling.

There were so many difficult concepts I had trouble understanding
in my reading of science and engineering, I needed experts
(professors) to explain them and answer questions.

When you listen to an audio CD, you can’t ask it questions.

Also, while some teenagers are mature, many are not, and I was in
the latter category.

So being away at college was a maturing experience I sorely
needed — especially working my way through it washing dishes in
the cafeteria.

The other common complaint I hear about college is, “Don’t go,
because it just prepares you to be a corporate tool. Start your
own business instead — you’ll have more freedom and make more
money.”

The problem with the “everyone should own their own business”
school of thinking is that it assumes having a job is universally
terrible and everyone hates it. And also, that everyone wants to
and should be self-employed.

But I know many people who prefer being employees. They have no
stomach for the marketing and selling which is required of most
small business owners. They are quite content being given work to
do by a boss and then doing it well. They like having a regular
paycheck, too.

In my case, I was perfectly content in my two corporate jobs. I
only quit because in my second job, I was told I had to relocate
from Manhattan to Wichita, Kansas, and I did not want to.

Not up to another job search, I asked myself whether there was
anything I did in my job as an advertising manager I could offer
as a freelance service.

And that’s how I got into freelance copywriting.

One more thing….

For my first few years as a freelance copywriter, I specialized
almost exclusively in industrial writing.

Prospects challenged me: “How can you understand our products?
They are technical!”

I had a five-word answer: “I am a chemical engineer.”

And that was all it took to overcome their one major objection —
that a copywriter could not understand their products — and get
hired.

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The #1 challenge of writing a weekly e-newsletter

April 25th, 2017 by Bob Bly

I am a big advocate of publishing your own e-newsletter,
because it is one of the best ways to build a large opt-in e-list
… and to establish a good relationship with your subscribers.
Doing so builds trust that leads to sales.

“But where do you get ideas for all those newsletter articles
seemingly without end?” I am often asked (I have been publishing
this online newsletter continually since 2004).

If you wish to publish an e-newsletter — whether sporadically,
monthly, or weekly — all of which can work … let me share with
you my 5 favorite sources of ideas and inspiration:

1–Things I learn.

If you are an active practitioner in your field, and given the
breakneck speed with which new techniques and developments are
invented, you are learning all the time.

Many of my articles are based on things I learn doing and
observing marketing.

I don’t invent most of them. I merely study and then explain them
in my newsletter essays.

2–Things I see.

When I observe and admire a particularly clever or effective
marketing campaign, I tell you about it here — so you can learn
it and perhaps adapt it to your business.

3–Things I know.

After almost 40 years as a copywriter and marketer, I’ve seen,
read, and tested a lot of things most other marketers have not.

Many of them are evergreen, and I present these rules and tactics
here for you — hidden gems not 1 in 100 of your competitors even
know about — giving you an almost unfair advantage.

4–Rants.

When I see people repeatedly making egregious marketing mistakes,
ignoring time-tested principles, or saying things that are wrong
or stupid, I report their errors (not naming the person
responsible) so you can learn from their mistakes.

I call these “rants” because I do tend to get worked up about it.
I have a highly sensitive B.S. detector and share what it detects
with you — often in opinionated and forceful terms.

5–Recommendations.

Whether it is a new book, new guru, recognized expert, online
course, vendor, or other resource that I think you should take a
closer look at, you’ll read about it here.

I could go on, but for me, these 5 sources give me 90% of the
ideas I need to keep on writing two fresh essays every week like
clockwork.

As for frequency, start with monthly. If open rates are good and
unsubscribe rates low, test going to weekly.

If the unsubscribe rate doesn’t spike, then your subscribers like
your missives well enough to want one a week.

Since at least half of your messages should be content, and half
or fewer sales pitches, a weekly newsletter gives you at least
one opportunity to sell a product a week.

Which can substantially increase your online revenues to the
$100,000 to $200,000 a year level or more — a stream of passive
income that can make your life easier without you working too
hard to get it.

Who wouldn’t want that?

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