Category Archives: long copy websites

Department Of First-World Problems

clivelab

Thursday, 10:37pm
San Francisco, CA
If you want it, here it is, come and get it…” (Badfinger)

Howdy…

Quick post today — I’m hosting my awesome Platinum Mastermind early tomorrow, and have a little prep work left to do.

However, I thought you might enjoy sampling the kind of posts I’m getting global recognition for… on Facebook. So I ripped a recent one from the site, and put it here for your delight and consumption.

Social media confuses most marketers — many refuse to even engage with Twitter or Facebook (or any of the myriad other options online to share silly secrets and post photos you’ll regret later). But I was an early adopter, and eagerly so — I had one of the very first marketing blogs (which you’re enjoying here), one of the first biz-oriented podcasts on iTunes (and if you haven’t listened to the latest free podcasts I’ve been hosting, go to the Psych Insights For Modern Marketers site now and indulge: www.pi4mm.com)…

… and I’ve been breaking every “rule” on Facebook ever since it hit the mainstream. I use FB to have fun, sometimes… but also to share insight, advice, lessons and some of the more obscure (and funny) war stories I’ve gathered in my 30 year career. (I currently have 5,000 “friends” — the limit — plus another couple of thousand “followers”… and I expect them all to show up at my wake and cause trouble. I’ve made them promise, in fact.)

To get the full flavor of what’s up — including the very long comment threads that you are invited to join — you’ll need to pop over to my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/john.carlton).

However, here’s a nice little taste:

Dept. Of First World Problems: Wow. Does ANY big biz in the country have even semi-decent customer service anymore? Is there a seminar somewhere national chains attend to learn how to frustrate customers online or on the phone?

Macy’s furniture store. Simple question with no possible answer to be found on their website, or in their byzantine robot phone maze… and no way to reach a living rep. PLUS, they want me to key in my social security number — not the last four digits, mind you, but the whole thing.

Eventually, I did reach a live person… who promptly disconnected me. Scared off by my question (which was “where do you recommend I go to get a chair purchased at your store repaired?” — admittedly, a VERY scary question).

Yeah, yeah, I know what you cynical dudes are gonna say — there’s no privacy left, we should all have such easy problems…

And let me shut you up right now: I post about biz and marketing here most of the time. (Well, when I’m not having fun, anyway.) Somewhere along the line, in the rush to automate and fire human beings, much has been lost. A decade ago, I left Gateway (where I’d bought multiple PCs) when their customer service collapsed, and went to Dell for several years… until they very publicly decided to cut back on their customer service.

Sent me into the loving arms of Apple… where, sure, you occasionally get some snark, but they do rock when it comes to support.

Business owners and entrepreneurs pay me a buttload of cash for consultations… and frequently, their most urgent problems involve some mysterious desertion by customers. Which often leads to the kind of super-simple solutions they do NOT wanna hear: Hire more people who know how to deal with people.

The DIY ethic is great — I did it myself for many years, loved it. However, just hiring a part-time assistant revolutionized my productivity… AND made customers fall in love with the biz. Diane (who’s been with me for 13 years now) handles complaints personally, adds a very friendly touch to every communication she has with people, and — very important — knows how to solve nearly every problem that comes across her desk. Including saying “I don’t know — let me find out and get right back to you”, which can transform a potentially angry situation into a good experience for the customer. (The other great line she’s used: “That sounds like a genuine problem, and let’s see how we can make it right for you.”)

No amount of advanced technology will ever replace the power of good human interaction in your biz. The natural impulse of failing businesses often is to get stingier, drift into more unethical behavior (like lying to prospects), and make the customer experience a nightmare of inaction and avoidance. The smiles are phony, the info is deceptive, and the pretense of being a “full service” store becomes a total sham.

We have a once-favorite pizza joint nearby sinking fast. A small dose of competition sent them into a death spiral… and every decision they make seems like it was scripted by that “How To Fail With Customers” seminar that Macy’s sends its staff to. Flat sodas, mushy undercooked food, lost orders, dirty silverware.

There is a time in certain business’s lives where the end is hovering. At that point, it might just be best to fold up the tent and move on. Limping along with an attitude and commitment level guaranteed to fail isn’t an answer — it’s denial masquerading as “trying”.

The best entrepreneurs often fail at certain projects. I always caution biz owners to be clear on their goals, and constantly question their assumptions about where they are, and where they’re going. Success can be fleeting, and fad-fueled success (like Candy Crush and Pet Rocks) can be flukes never to be repeated.

It’s a process, without guarantees, that cries out for reality checks. However, the lessons you take from your losses and your wins are what will give your NEXT project a better chance.

The fundamentals, like customer service, get ignored too often. Don’t be short-sighted about your biz.

Okay, I gotta call Macy’s back… or maybe search for furniture repair joints (cuz I maybe learned my lesson about Macy’s “commitment to excellence”…).

Next: Can’t wait to call AT&T later, and enjoy their robotic idiocy, too…

I was gonna post some of the action in the comments, but there over 38 of them (at last count)… so just hop over and see what mayhem went on there yourself.

As you can see, I’m not abusing the opportunity to reach folks so easily on social media. There is method to my madness, and my “reach” to new audiences (and ability to refresh my marketing lists) has exploded. (My Twitter account is up around 17,000 followers, too.)

This style of social media — avoiding what everyone else does, and just laying out good, funny, interesting rants that get passed around by your “friends” — isn’t being taught by any guru out there. I have no interest in creating a “product” about it, either — if you want to see how I do it, just follow me… and try some of the techniques yourself.

Hey, I’m inviting you to join in. I’m maxed out on “friends” (the maroons at Facebook limit non-fanpage accounts to 5,000), but you can “follow” just as easily, and get most of the same privileges. It’s www.facebook.com/john.carlton.

C’mon in, the water’s fine…

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. One last thing. I almost forgot — be sure to sign up on this blog, in the upper right hand corner… to get your bitchin’ new “Grizzled Pro Report”…

… which just happens to be a collection of my BEST Facebook posts over the past few years. All in one dazzling digital presentation.

You also will be notified when new blog posts appear. So, you know, you aren’t left out in the cold, while lesser colleagues are enjoying all the fun over here.

Sign up now, while you’re thinking about it. Use your best, every-day email address. Your report will be zoomed to you over the Internets immediately…

How To Hire A Copywriter.

photo-1Tuesday, 2:14pm
Reno, NV
Are you going on this crazy voyage?” (Sailor in “King Kong”, 1933 version)

Howdy…

It’s high time for a little “public service” message here, for any marketer wanting to hire a freelance copywriter.

Cuz it’s a jungle out there.

There’s a veritable mob of available writers, of all levels of expertise (from world-class down to “should be hung”), charging all kinds of fees and making all kinds of promises.

It can get confusing, abruptly, and you can end up mismatched (or getting roughed up financially) if you don’t know what you’re doing.

So, here’s a Quick Start overview of what you – the dude or dudette doing the hiring – should get straight on before heading into the Big Scary Jungle Of Freelance Copywriters to find your perfect scribe. (This works for hiring ANY consultant, actually, so pay attention.)

Step One: Deconstruct and list what you want done.

Do you need a single ad written, or do you need your entire website created or overhauled? Do you need someone to write the necessary emails, Video Sales Letters and sales pages for a launch? Do you need a sales funnel created, starting with Adwords and traveling through landing pages, auto-responders, landing pages, and sales support?

Or what?

Step Two: Admit it if you aren’t sure what you want (or need). Double admit it to yourself if you’re absolutely clueless.

This is a critical step.

You’re about to shell out a lot of money, and put a lot of your hopes and dreams on the back of the writer you hire…

… so this is no time to be deluded, or to try bullshitting your way through the process.

Whether you find the perfect copywriter (someone you’ll end up working with for years successfully) or whether you bring on a misfit (who leaves your marketing efforts sputtering)…

… this is gonna be one of the most time-and-money intensive relationships you have in your business.

Copy is the MAIN ELEMENT in your ability to attract prospects and close them as customers. (Yes, the quality of what you offer matters… but never forget that the Marketing Graveyard is crammed with superior products that died horrible and fast deaths because no one figured out how to sell them.)

So, if you’re an experienced marketer who is positive that you know what you need from a hired copywriter… great.

And if (despite your other experience in business) you’re not sure precisely what you need… because you’re maybe new to a certain advertising tactic, or market forces are crushing you (like changed technology, fresh competition, or the sudden obsolescence of your product), or what you’ve done before just ain’t working anymore…

… you’re going to need a different kind of freelance copywriter.

This is a process. It will be come clear in a moment.

Step Three: Figure out your budget. For the entire project, which might include hiring professionals, paying for services (like designers or programmers), buying lists or ad space, every conceivable cost you’ll encounter.

Experienced marketers will have a “war chest” for any new project (or any other situation requiring hiring outside help). It’s an approximate amount of moolah they’re willing to shell out to get things rolling.

If you’re new to using freelancers, you may not know how much to set aside. There’s no exact formula… but you can at least figure out what you can afford right now.

Entrepreneurs often learn about the cost of outside services as they go. It can be a shock, so you have to understand what the “value” is to your business of every new move. (In other words, get clear on what a winning ad, in a winning campaign, to the right lists, via the right media, in the right vehicles will mean in terms of buckets of cash cascading into your life…

… versus how a losing ad in a total bomb of a campaign will harsh your mellow.)

At first, you may have to be vague. This applies to everything you do – from going to a high-priced seminar, taking a course or joining a coaching program, hiring a writer or consultant, designing new product, investing in new infrastructure, and so on.

There’s a “cost” to everything, which includes both the dollars involved, AND your time and invested energy… all balanced against the odds of success. If you “save” time doing certain things yourself, and the results are abysmal, how much have you really saved? Or, if you write a check that makes your hand shake to a top copywriter who produces something that opens the wealth spigot on your head, how much did that writer “cost” you?)

When it comes to hiring a freelance copywriter, you have decided that either (a) your own ability to craft an ad/website/email/etc is not up to the task at hand…

… or (b) it makes “sense” to hire a professional writer… because you have the resources to pay for the help you need…

… and the time saved (by having more people involved in the project) allows you to move more efficiently toward your biz goals.

(Side Note: If your ability to write your own marketing materials is zero… and there is no one already on your staff able to write this material at a level needed in your niche to convert prospects to customers… then your problem is magnified. I highly recommend that anyone craving success as an entrepreneur learn how to write fundamentally-solid sales copy…

… so (1) you can avoid being dependent on outside writers when it’s not necessary… (2) you can write decent copy in a pinch during emergencies… and (3) you will understand precisely what you need from freelancers when you do hire them (and never be in the dark about whether their copy is “good” or not). There are a lot of ways to get this fundamental education in copywriting…

… and because it’s the lifeblood of all your marketing plans, you should consider this as important as anything else you do in your quest for success. I can recommend the Simple Writing System – check it out here. But whatever you do, get this fundamental understanding of what goes into good sales copy under your belt asap. Consider it a primary asset in your business toolkit. A PRIMARY asset.)

Step Four: If you’re unclear about any of this, admit it.

No one is born knowing how to plan for a business project. And even MBA degrees can leave you clueless (amazing, but true) (and common).

So take stock of your resources: Who amongst your staff has the knowledge to do… or the experience to know how to price out… the things you need done?

If you’re a one-man-band, this is easy. And, you may have zero skills, and be mostly riding your passion for becoming independently rich into the entrepreneurial world. Hey, it can work. I know a lot of entrepreneurs who made a gig work, learning everything as they went. Not the recommended path, but it’s an option.

Eventually, however, every biz owner will have to come to terms with the need to invest in getting help where you need it. You can never do everything yourself, if you’re going to grow.

If you’ve never hired a freelancer before, use whatever resources you have to help you make a good decision. Ask colleagues for recommendations, shop around (never just hire the first copywriter you realize exists), and understand that learning how to hire the RIGHT copywriter is a process, not an end game. If you’re gonna use writers often, you’ll learn as you go. If you’re gonna hire someone permanently as a writer, you better know how to judge their ability to do the work first.

There’s no magic. Sorry. And it’s not quite like hiring a plumber to fix the pipes – a lot more is resting on good copy.

Step Five: There are oodles of ways to find writers. Many advertise their services. Others are well-known within marketer networks.

There are many different kinds of freelance copywriters, too. Quick breakdown:

[] The non-advertising writer. This is the guy or gal who knows how to string sentences together, but does not know how to sell. They can be great at providing content for your blog, or writing the special reports you offer as bonuses, or fleshing out the other materials you need that your biz is not relying on for sales.

They should come cheap, too – and work by the article, or by the hour, or by the project. But because they are not responsible for your bottom line profits, they are more like a vendor. They provide materials you need that require being written.

[] The “regular” advertising writer. They may come from the world of ad agencies, or from publications. They also are NOT usually steeped in the art of selling – they rely instead on cleverness, slogans, and graphic-oriented advertising that cannot be tested because it does not produce actual results.

Their fees will be all over the map. They may have a good resume, having written material for recognizable companies.

For most entrepreneurs, I’m gonna go out on a limb and warn you away from any copywriter who doesn’t understand “direct response” advertising. (The term “direct response” simply means “asks for an action, which can be measured”. A sale, an opt-in, a reply. The “response action” is where profits will be made.)

[] The direct response copywriter. This is the dude who understands how to write copy that will ask for an “action”…

… which (it’s worth repeating) includes closing a sale, capturing a lead, or moving a prospect to becoming a customer.

Real salesmanship applies. In nearly all “big” entrepreneurial jobs, this is the kind of writer you want.

There are 3 approximate “levels” of expertise to any direct response writer you hire:

Level One: Raw rookie. A beginner, with little or no track record, and few if any prior clients.

Believe it or not, a rookie can actually be a decent bet, depending on what you need done. IF he’s been trained in direct response, or is in training with a good mentor, then he will at least understand the fundamentals of good marketing-oriented writing.

However, they are untested, and you must be clear that you will be paying for part of their education. If you need something that requires real expertise, the rookie will be over his head.

Expect to pay under five thousand dollars – all the way down to a few hundred bucks – to hire a rookie writer for almost any project. And you will have to manage him closely, and know exactly what you want (and why you’ve gone with a rookie to get it).

You may be able to bully a rookie into working fast, or constantly change copy as you go… but remember that he is not experienced at meeting tough deadlines, and may not handle stress well. (A writer needs a buttload of time cooking in the front trenches to develop the thick skin of dealing with most clients, under deadline, with a lot riding on the ads. It doesn’t come naturally.)

Remember: A rookie is not a “bargain” if you’re relying on their copy for anything critical in your biz. It’s like hiring a Little Leaguer to pitch opening day for your Major League team.

Level Two: The veteran direct response freelancer. This is a writer with references, success stories, and examples of his work he can point you to that already exist online or in other media.

They will have experience in all forms of advertising and marketing, including direct mail, Video Sales Letters, email auto-responders, web sales pages, print ads, just about every way a sales message can be delivered to a prospect.

More important, the high-end freelance veteran will also have massive marketing experience – after being involved in many, many different projects over the years, he’ll have insight to what has worked, what hasn’t worked, what is working now, what isn’t working anymore, and in many cases what is NEEDED to make your project work (that ain’t there yet).

The best veteran writers are essentially marketing consultants, who provide the copy once the marketing plan has the bugs kicked out of it.

In other words… you can hire them JUST to provide copy, if you know exactly what you need done, and they’ll deliver great ads. Or, you can allow them to look at your current efforts…

… and they may help you discover where the “real” problem is with your sinking sales (hiding behind what you thought was the culprit)… where unseen problems are murdering your bottom line… where new problems may develop down the line…

… as well as pointing out what may be missing in your product or marketing plan.

Top writers earn their fees many ways, and you can expect to shell out ten grand up to thirty grand (and more) just for fundamental advertising (like a Video Sales Letter, or a web sales page, or a sales funnel from Adwords to name capture to email auto-responder to sales page, and so on).

This is why knowing what you need done… and WHY you need it done… can be so critical. If you don’t have a clear idea of how great copy is going to produce a pile of new profit for you, you cannot “fit” a high-end freelancer into your plans…

… without realizing that you’re gambling.

A lot of entrepreneurs have done just that. Some have thrived, hiring a writer to do their first campaign without really knowing what to expect… while others have gone under, because they didn’t earn enough back to justify the expense of a top writer.

When you know (or strongly suspect, based on reality) that great (or even just “better”) copy will bring in more prospects, and turn those prospects into customers… then you’re in a perfect position to hire a freelancer.

Expect to compete with other marketers looking to book any good, respected writer… and he’ll need weeks or longer, minimum, to produce copy for a project.

Warning: I recommend you do NOT do any royalty agreements on the first job. It may sound great to push off part of the fee to result-oriented royalties paid later…

… but you need to remember that you’re just beginning your relationship with this writer. A good one will usually not even propose royalties on the first job… because he doesn’t know or trust you any more than you do him.

What you pay to hire him MUST fit into the results you expect from the project. You must have your other ducks in a line – your product must be good and ready to go…

… you must have ways to access your target audience (through your house lists, or affiliates, or paid-for lists, or “push” marketing like Adwords or niche publication banner ads, etc)…

… and you must have the resources available (in your budgeted war chest) to pay for putting everything into action.

For example: If you’re selling an existing ebook on Clickbank, you may only need to hire a writer and someone to convert their copy to a Video Sales Letter.

If you’re launching a full-on new product, though, you’ll need an affiliate manager, a project manager, possible several copywriters, programmers, designers, and more.

Side Note: Some copywriters will provide ONLY the copy, in manuscript form, to you. And you must then convert that copy into a Video Sales Letter, website, published advertisement, whatever.

Other copywriters bring more to the table, including producing the VSL (though unless you’re dealing with a copywriter who is part of a full team, it’s rare that he will produce camera-ready art for publications, or direct mail, or the programming necessary for web pages).

Be aware of what you’re getting. The services AFTER the copy is written are all less important than the quality of the writer, but they are part of the process of getting a campaign going. The copy must contain essential killer salesmanship first – afterwards, you pretty it up for delivering to your prospects.

Level Three: “A List” writers. The best in the world.

You may be able to book one of the handful of the best copywriters in the game, but at a minimum you should expect to pay $30k and up past $50k into six-digits… including (not in lieu of) some type of royalty, even on the first job.

The best writers will not take jobs they are not guaranteed will deliver the kind of profits that make their outrageous fees worthwhile. They become, in essence, a partner in the project, possibly earning more than you will…

… and they’ll be worth it.

However, you as a client are under more scrutiny than they are. If you have to ask how to find an “A List” copywriter, you aren’t ready to hire one yet. You cannot make “deals” with them. They write for the largest direct response marketing outfits on the planet, and are out of the league of nearly all entrepreneurs.

And they often require three months and longer to create a package. Advance planning (and booking) is mandatory.

Good to know they exist. Down the road, after you’ve earned your first couple of fortunes, you may be ready to hire one and reap the rewards.

For now, I recommend you get your plan down as well as you can…

… and hire a veteran copywriting professional to help you put that plan into action.

Listen to what he says, if his experience and skills at dissecting current and potential problems suggest a change to your plans.

Test what he writes, but never change it without knowing from a reality-based market test if he’s right or not. Your niece with the degree in English literature is not qualified to judge sales copy. Nor is your lawyer (though a good copywriter will work with even the most nervous attorney on your team to keep you on the side of the angels). Nor are you, unless you have a better track record than the writer.

You can test a professional’s copy against whatever else you think should be better… and you’ll learn a lot doing this. The best copy I’ve ever written has nearly given my clients heart attacks. If they say “hey, this is great copy”, then I suspect I’ve failed to deliver the best ad possible.

I want them up all night, worried sick about how the ad gonna’s do… because great copy always takes you out of your comfort zone.

Selling is hard. You have to find your prospects (after figuring out who they really are), reach them, get them into your sales message, and wake them up to the point that they will take action (like buying).

The fastest-moving, most successful entrepreneurs all know how to craft good sales messages, and get them into shape to deliver to prospects. And then follow through.

If you’re not confident, or not in a position to craft a great sales message… or, if you have the budget that allows you to take advantage of hiring your copywriting out… then wading into the freelance world makes a huge amount of sense.

There are many more details to this (including the creation and handling of contracts, setting deadlines with teeth in them, and having escape clauses when things go south)… but a good professional freelancer will help you with all of this. They want a successful gig as much as you do.

This is just a first-blush attempt to help you understand the process better. I may get into more details later, if enough people bug me about it.

Now, be wise and prudent, and get busy after your goals.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. Yes, if you’re asking, I do still take on clients. Rarely, but I do.

You’ll notice I’ve clearly separated this P.S. from the rest of the post, so nobody should get offended about me letting you know I’m still in the game. (Everything above is still solid gold info.)

Anyway, here’s how I approach the “should you hire me or not” thing with fresh clients, below. You may get some ideas yourself on how to best approach other copywriters from this, too:

“To find out if I’m available, and whether I’m your best choice or not, send an email to my personal assistant, Diane, at consult@john-carlton.com… and clearly state your answers to these simple questions:

1. What general market are you in… how long have you been in business… and what products or services do you offer?

2. What website URLs are you currently hosting for your business… and approximately how much are you grossing now, and how much have you grossed at the highest point in your marketing efforts? (This information is completely confidential… and if you’re squeamish about stating specific figures, you can just say whether you’re grossing more-than or less-than a certain figure. Whatever makes you feel more confident in sharing.)

3. Have you ever worked with a professional copywriter before?

4. Do you have a budget for hiring a copywriter? If so, what are you budgeting, right now, for hiring one?

5. Finally, what do you feel are your biggest advertising problems right now?

I have set fees for specific projects I take on for clients. We’ll know quickly if I’m your best choice for a writer, and if you’re a good fit for the kind of advertising I create. And, we’ll figure out right up front what the exact fees will be for what you need.

Sometimes, the best route is to start with consultation, then agree on a plan for your advertising, and only then actually produce the ad (or Video Sales Letter, or broadcast media, or whatever you agree you need). Consultations are good when the problem you THINK you’re having isn’t actually the main reason you’re having problems with being profitable. I bring 30 years of hard-core, front-line experience in marketing to everything I do, and I can help you see things you’re too close to, or haven’t yet considered.

Other times, you really do “just need an ad”, and I will simply and quickly create one for you.

First, however, we need to have that conversation. So, again, to move this to the next step…

… email my personal assistant Diane at consult@john-carlton.com, and include your best answers to the 5 simple questions above. Diane alerts me immediately to potential clients, and we’ll get back to you as quickly as possible. I know you’re anxious to get fresh advertising out there, and I want to help you do exactly that.”

 

So, How’s That Working Out For You?

Friday, 12:26pm
Phoenix, AZ
Been there, done that…

Howdy.

I am, today, resurrecting a post from a very long time ago…

… because the subject matter just won’t die. Like a zombie, it just keeps getting back up and stumbling forward to irritate and annoy me.

So let’s file this under “Necessary Reminders If You Wanna Get Rich“…

… cuz it’s one of those fundamental lessons for anyone who got into business to create wealth.

As opposed to, say, getting into business just to have something to do during the day.

Every successful entrepreneur will tell you the foundation of their wealth comes from paying attention to the fundamentals. The wild-and-crazy ideas are fun, the vows to take over the world make you feel awesome, and gorging on fresh technology is invigorating.

But you won’t earn a dime off any of it without knowing the nuts-and-bolts part of putting ideas, vows and tech into action.

Just like being really, really, really eager to demolish your opponent in a cage fight will get you killed if you don’t have the fundamentals down of hitting and getting hit.

Enthusiasm is great. Skills and knowledge are how shit gets done, however.

Here’s that zombie post. Enjoy:

I tell rookies to never, ever assume anything about anything. Ever.

Especially about your target audience. One of the biggest mistakes marketers make is to assume your prospect knows as much as you do about whatever it is you’re selling.

And it’s almost never true. You’re dealing with your product/biz/service day in and day out, and you’ve dealt with the details so often, it’s all second-nature to you.

But your prospect isn’t working in your office. Even if he’s in the same general market as you, he has other priorities. He may desperately need what you offer… Continue Reading

A Big Steaming Cup Of Hysteria

Earth in Danger

Saturday, 8:53pm
Reno, NV
“It’s the end of the world as we know, and I feel fine…” (REM)

Howdy…

Nice big glob of seemingly-nasty news hit the grid this week.

The FTC (brrr, even the name causes Halloween-style chills, doesn’t it) fired a shot across the bow of the good ship Capitalism with their “final guidelines governing endorsements and testimonials”.

In case you’ve been in a coma or something, here’s the Fed-sponsored link:

http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/10/endortest.shtm

What immediately followed was a lot of hair-on-fire screaming and rending of clothes by both online and offline business owners who use testimonials or endorsements in their marketing.

It was kinda fun to watch, actually.

A lot of entrepreneurs, I’ve noticed over the decades, are skittish enough already about the whole “provide a product to customers in exchange for money” model of doing business.

They’re like “Are you sure we can do this?  Actually accept moolah just for giving people this thing of value we created?”

It’s understandable to be a little paranoid.  Business is part of the grown-up world, all full of consequences and responsibilities and risks…Continue Reading

Need A Damn Good Copywriter To Save Your Butt?

typewriter

Monday, 9:21pm
Reno, NV
Stop sniveling…” (Pretenders, “Tatooed Love Boys”)

Howdy…

Quick note here for those in need.

I’ve been almost completely retired from freelancing for some time now.  I still indulge a few long-time clients…

… but I haven’t taken on a new gig in over a year.

I’m devoting my time to teaching, and writing stuff for myself.

This makes me happy.

But it bums out business owners and entrepreneurs in a major way.  Because, often, someone will realize they need copy written…

… and they know, deep down, that I’m the guy who needs to write it to squeeze out max results…

… and… here’s the sad part…  they cannot bribe, cajole, threaten or offer me enough money to come out of this semi-retirement to do the gig.

Man, that’s frustrating.

Here’s the good news, though: I can now offer you… the next best thing.

If you need a writer who meets my strict, Operation MoneySuck, no-BS-allowed requirements for professionalism and quality…

… I now have a small “stable” full of them.

And we’ve just released a simple program that gives you immediate access.Continue Reading

Avoid The Void

sunset

Monday, 11am
Reno, NV
Facts are stupid things.” (Ronald Reagan, ’88 GOP convention)

Howdy…

Well, that was fun.

Over 650 comments on that last quiz so far (with a bullet).  Some really good responses, too.

Also some really out-there ones, which always makes for giddy reading.

The main thing, of course, is that so many folks put on their Thinking Caps and went for it.  As I’ve said before: You win just by trying with this kind of brain stumper.

Anyway…

… we have a winner.  I’ll let you know who it was in a minute.

First, let’s relieve the tension and reveal the answer already.

Or at least head in that direction.  It’s probably worth noting that only a tiny handful of the comments were on the right path.

The question was vague, on purpose.  This is high-end street-level psychology…

… and one of the main features of this kind of advanced salesmanship is that it is NOT easily understood by most people.

In fact, you’ve likely encountered the answer to this quiz before in your life… but because it didn’t “fit” with your intuition and belief about “how things work”, it didn’t stick.

Most of what classic salesmen know about people runs counter to what the majority calls  “common sense”.

This is startling to rookie marketers.  Confusing.  Disorienting.  Challenges long-held beliefs about the nobility of human endeavor and the lofty inclinations of the human brain.

Thus, we saw long sub-threads in the comments that ignored the entire concept of a “glitch” in people’s thinking…

… and instead dove into all kinds of elaborate explanations of how a successful sales pitch might smoothly proceed with dignity and logic.

It’s good to have these discussions, if you desire to get anywhere in marketing.

I, too, had trouble getting into the minds of my prospects at first.

This is why I jumped on every opportunity that arose, early in my career, to hang out and grill every “street wise” marketer I ran into.

Cuz those guys knew how to SELL.

No theory.  Just experience (and the bank accounts to prove it).

This group included:

… Jay Abraham and Gary Halbert (both of whom had door-to-door selling experience where, if they didn’t make the sale, they didn’t eat that day)…Continue Reading

Quiz #7. Hot New Prize, Too…

exlim-6-09-108

Thursday, 10:11pm
Reno, NV
“Ain’t it hard when you discover that he wasn’t really where it’s at… after he took from you everything he could steal?” (Bob Dylan, “Like A Rollin’ Stone”)

Howdy…

This is gonna be good.

And a whole lot tougher than any previous quiz I’ve given.

I’ll explain the prize in just a sec.

First, the set-up for the question:

I find it shocking that so many wanna-be-rich marketers out there still think the question of “short copy vs. long copy” is unsettled online.

I can tell you this: For the top guys — the ones sloughing off the vast majority of the moolah being made by entrepreneurs on the Web — it’s settled.

Whether you’re primarily using video, or email, or websites, or social media…

… the Main Big Damn Rule for getting people to part with their hard-earned money in trade for what you offer hasn’t changed since the first caveman traded up to a new cave with a view for a slab of mastodon meat:

The more you tell…

… the more you sell.

Hey — I love a good argument.  Don’t get me wrong.

And I’m always open to hearing someone out on this subject.

I realize that — for many people unsullied by actual experience in the biz world — it’s just plain tempting to believe that the rules of the universe have suddenly changed.

And you no longer have to be so… vulgar… to make a sale anymore.

Because, you know… the Web has changed everything.  Social networking has somehow mysteriously short-circuited the old skepticism, doubt, and fear of getting “taken” that has marred the smooth exchange of money in the past.

Now, hey, we’re all buddies on Twitter and Facebook!

Mi casa es su casa.

How much do you need?  Here, take my wallet…

Naw.

For anyone paying attention to what the entrepreneurs actually making money online are doing…Continue Reading

Hey, I Need Your Help Here…

Thursday, 8:25pm
Reno, NV
“What’s keeping YOU up at night?”

Howdy,

Quick post here, I swear.

I have a small problem…

… and I could sure use your help.

It’ll take you, like, two minutes or so.

And yet… it will be of tremendous value to me. If I’ve ever given you something of value before — a piece of advice, a tip, a hint on direction, a good belly laugh, whatever — then I’m calling in the chit.

I want you to comment here.

Here’s what’s up: Among smart marketers — those who have their money-making act together — my core message is a well-known commodity.

“Nothing good will ever happen in your biz… until the copy gets written. And… the best person to write the most important stuff… is you.”

This message is unquestioned among the top marketers I hang out with.

They even eagerly tell anyone who will listen, to listen to me.

Many of the best (like Eben Pagan, Frank Kern, Rich Schefren and others) almost never talk about copy without mentioning my impact on their own learning curves… and they help spread the message.

The heavy hitters all know — without a shred of doubt — that copywriting is the foundation of all things profitable in business.

But here’s the rub: Outside that group of “in-the-know” marketers…

… I often run into a brick wall trying to get entrepreneurs and biz owners to truly understand the importance of writing.

I feel like the first guy to see the aliens land in a sci-fi movie… and the townspeople all ignore my dire warnings of Armegeddon. They smile and nod, and agree that it certainly WOULD be nasty-bad if evil aliens were coming, but…

And their minds wander off in total distraction.

If you’re in business…

… and you’re ignoring the role of great copy in your quest for success and wealth (and your need to learn HOW to write that great copy)…

… then, like the oblivious townsfolk, you’re risking becoming TOAST.

Especially in the economic melt-down happening now.

It’s really pretty simple: Those who know how to write killer ads, emails, video scripts and everything else…

… are going to thrive.

And those who don’t…

… well, it ain’t pretty.

And that’s my dilemna: I’m very good at reaching the “insiders” in business. They immediately “get” how critical and how totally cool it is to know how to write sales copy.

As for the people who are “un-initiated” in direct response?

Not so much.

The message seems to take a while to sink in.

So here’s what I would love to hear from you: What is your NUMBER ONE problem with writing ads right now?

Are you frustrated with the process of trying to write? Do you see it as hard work or — worse — as a big voodoo mystery you’ll never figure out?

Do you avoid learning the essentials of writing for any conscious reason? Or is there something personally difficult about writing that makes you just want to skip the whole concept?

Or what?

I am seriously looking for input here.

If you’re an entrepreneur… or small biz owner… or even a rookie… and you don’t know how to write what you need written…

… could you please look inside your own brain…

… and honestly share with me what the problem is? What is your Number One constraint holding you back from digging into this skill?

I’d appreciate it.

Thanks, in advance.

Hey — let’s make it a little contest.

The person who most succinctly and clearly helps me see what I’m missing here…

… will win a free copy of the freshly updated “Kick-Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel” — the course that launched so many of the online marketers now dominating the virtual landscape.

Does that make it worth your time to look inside… and give me some insight as to why it’s so hard to break through the resistance so many people have on this mega-important subject?

C’mon. It’ll take you a couple of minutes. You may even learn something about yourself.

And…

… if you’re already writing your own stuff, successfully… you can get in the competition, too.

Just remember back to what held you up from getting started learning the skill.

What was your biggest obstacle? The cost of getting help? Not knowing where to turn or who to trust? Not having the time? What?

Let’s give it until Monday to decide on the winner, what do you say?

The competition begins now…

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

Your Tip For The Week

Monday, 7:51pm
Reno, NV
You know everybody is ignorant… just on different subjects.” Will Rogers

Howdy…

I’ve been meaning to give you some tips you can use, like, immediately to help your business boost its mojo.

So here’s a specific tactic that will absolutely pump your copy full of good energy the first time you even dabble in it.

It’s advanced copywriting voodoo from deep in my bag of tricks… yet very simple to pull off.

My favorite kind of tool.

Before I just dump this tactic into your lap, though…

… I think I’ll explain where it came from.

Might give you some context. And make you feel more confident using it.

Here’s the story: I am not a naturally-gifted writer…

… though I loved the act of writing as soon as I learned the alphabet. It was just so cool to be able to scratch out symbols with my big pencil (tongue firmly stuck out the side of my mouth) and make people laugh when they read it.

Or squirm.

Or respond in any old way at all.

I wish I could say my Inner Salesman was tickled awake by this discovery, but he was still fast asleep… even as I got sucked into the world of great fiction, and created a hobby of trying to mimic what I was reading.

I wrote a terrifically horrible little novella in the sixth grade based on the “Mars Attacks!” bubble gum card series. (You may remember the mid-nineties movie they made about that series, starring Jack Nicholson. Great fun.)

At age 13, I wrote several short stories based on my own fevered post-adolescent twist on James Bond. Just brutally awful stuff.

I mean, what the hell does a 13-year-old know about drinking vodka and slaying women with a wink?

Not a damn thing.

Still, the entire English class once skipped lunch to hear me read one of those absurd tales.

I may have almost flunked, because my knowledge of basic grammar sucked… but I had an inkling on how to tell a story.

And yet, the more I “tried” to write, the worse I got. Right into and past college, the stories became more and more bloated with tangents and flowery language that would have choked a Victorian.

You know what the turning point was, for me, in my quest to become a decent writer?

Advertising.

Saved my ass.

All my heroes — Claude Hopkins, John Caples, David Ogilvy — wrote in a similar manner. Very sparse, very on-target, very no-bullshit-allowed.

And I had my epiphany about five minutes into writing my very first ad.

You see, most rookies try to goose the power of their writing with adjectives. And no matter how deep your adjective vocabulary becomes, your writing will forever be variations of a vapid Valley Girl trying to explain an experience:

“It was so, you know, like, amazing. Really, really amazing and fabulous beyond belief. It just… it just rocked, you know?…”

Adjectives, I quickly learned, are a tool for the communication-challenged.

They actually hurt your writing, more than help it.

No matter how cool you believe your precious adjective is.

Oh, go look it up, if you can’t remember what an adjective is. Good grief, man, it’s a fundamental element of the language you use everyday.

I’ll wait while you do a wiki search…

Okay, back?

Good.

Here’s your tip for the week: Strip ALL adjectives from your next attempt at sales copy.

Every last buggery one.

And write only in simple, unadorned sentences. Make zero effort to “fluff up” your meaning with adjectives.

And… guess what?

You have just automatically made your writing more readable, and probably more powerfully communicative.

Now, yes, all the top writers do occasionally use adjectives. Often in headlines. (Where would I be today without the word “amazing”?)

However… a pro makes sure his sentence can thrive even without any adjectives… before inserting one.

That nasty thing must EARN its way into your pitch.

Your sentence must scream for it. The foundation of your story must teeter and begin to crumble… before you give in and insert a single, tasty, mojo-laced adjective.

Treat them like nitroglycerin. Use sparingly and only when absolutely called for.

However, your time will be BETTER SPENT looking for action verbs instead.

That’s what separates the killer writer from the hack and the wannabe: Verbs.

My rule: No verb is repeated on any manuscript page of copy.

You know what that means? When I’m writing at fever pitch, I’m letting verbs drive the narrative.

And I can only use words like “get” once a page.

That’ll make you reach for the ginko and the Thesaurus. (Just never, ever use a word you know is not commonly understood by your reader. Don’t get too fancy, or you’ll lose him, and lose the sale.)

Quick example: The word “walk”.

As in, “he walked down the street”. How about “he staggered down the street”? Different image.

And what about “he lurched down the street”? Sober, healthy people don’t lurch. Drunk, hurt or zombified people do.

He bolted down the street. He raced down the street in a blind panic…

First time though, you just write. Use boring verbs, and don’t fuss with them.

When you’re done, let the copy get cold (at least 12 hours, if you can).

Then, go back… and edit viciously.

Challenge every verb you’ve used. You’ll be embarrassed by the number of times you’ve used “get” and “got” and other sleep-inducing deadwood verbs. Over and over and over, as if you’d never heard of another verb choice in your life.

Don’t get cute. Don’t get clever.

Just beef up your writing with good word selection. Mostly your verbs.

You’ll know you’ve reached Buddha-hood when you stop using adjectives altogether.

No matter how amazing they may seem at first blush…

Love to hear your experience with writing — especially harrowing tales of struggle and breakthrough and redemption.

Plus any input you have from using this tip.

Interact away, guys.

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

P.S. BTW, I have been successfully brainwashed into finally joining the Twitter cult (by my pal Eric, who remains the ONLY marketer I know who can demonstrate he’s actually earned cash moolah using it).

I’ll be sending out invitations to join me in Twitterland.

It’s actually pretty fucking cool, once you engage.

Assuming, of course, that the people you tweet with are interesting, deranged, or drunk.

More as events unfurl…

Cuz I’m The Taxman…

Monday, 10:44pm
Reno, NV
“…and you’re working for nobody but me…” George Harrison

Howdy,

Just plowed through the old tax grind here. Spent several hours chasing down documents, digging through files, double-checking my math.

Cuz I suck at math, you know. How I got through trig in high school is a mystery (let alone statistics and matrix theory in college).

In fact, I’m only half-joking when I say I’m pretty sure I’ve lost the ability to multiply by 8. That entire synapse has just dried up and fluffed away. (I still have vivid memories of squirming in my third grade class during the vicious head-to-head multiplication games the teacher forced us to play. I got tricked more than once with “five times zero”, blurting “FIVE!” before realizing my blunder. Argh!)

This is why one of my first splurges when my career got going was hiring an accountant.

Accountants like numbers. Watching their hands fly across a calculator is something to behold. Looky there — all my money vanishing like dots on a digital screen…

But here’s the thing: The first time I wrote a check to the IRS for an estimated payment… I was actually thrilled to death.

This first quarterly payment was proof that I was — finally — my own man. In my own biz. Paying my own taxes.

No withholding. No payroll check. No timing my bills to The Man’s schedule for doling out my hard-earned dough.

But I enjoyed that thrill alone.

Many of my early gigs as a freelancer were with business owners who considered taxes to be evil, evil, evil. Reagan encouraged them in this hatred — it was a time when government was seen as the problem, and unfettered free enterprise the solution.

The only solution.

I’m not gonna get into it… but after last month’s bailing out of Bear Stearns with taxpayer money (mine!) — because deregulation allowed them to act like four-year-olds with someone else’s piggy bank — I’m gonna slug the next guy who spouts ideological bullshit about the free market being able to regulate itself and fix any problem.

Economics has never been easy to understand, no matter what anyone else tells you. It’s a complex mix of theory, emotion, psychology, greed. con-man tactics, and lots and lots of wishing and hoping.

Oh, and gambling. The entire financial infrastructure of our civilization is essentially a big damn roll of the dice. If everybody woke up tomorrow and decided that paper money was worthless… it would be. Same with gold. And IOUs, and everything else of “value” you can’t eat, use for fuel, or build anything with.

Still…

…I was damn proud to start paying my taxes as a rookie freelancer.

Damn proud.

This confused nearly everyone I worked with at the time. Especially since I was hip to Ayn Rand and Robert Ringer and a small bit of economic theory…

It was like, I should know better or something.

Back then, it was almost heresy to like paying taxes. A few of my colleagues even became tax rebels, refusing to pay anything under the hazy notion that income tax wasn’t “in” the constitution, and so… blah, blah, blah.

They got in trouble. Ayn couldn’t save ‘em.

I kept my thoughts mostly to myself. As a vandal in my formative years, I destroyed lots of stuff. We were removed from the creation of bridges, street lighting systems, even stop signs. So we burned, blew up, cut down and defaced public property like it was a game.

Seriously. It seemed like a game.

I’ve had this idea for a “basic lesson” I’d like to deliver to “pre-vandal” kids in grade school and junior high. In this lesson, I would explain to kids where they “fit” in the culture, and where stuff like street lights and earth-moving equipment came from. Cuz no one ever did it for me.

My theory is that kids are too removed from the creation of the stuff around us. Strangers arrive in uniforms, build and fix shit, and vanish. In earlier times, you may have known the folks who put up the lights (“Hi, Mr. Edison!”), ran the tractors, painted the walls, dug the holes for power lines, etc. (Heck, you may have even been involved – I doubt a kid who helped raise a barn would later vandalize it.)

I got a taste of this when my little town formed a Little League. Parents got together, pooled scarce resources and money, sought out sponsors… and my Pop helped build the freaking baseball field. From scratch. Went out there and leveled the field, cleared the debris and rocks (big rocks in the dirt, too), erected the stands and concession, wired the microphones, poured concrete for the dugouts… all of it.

We treated that diamond like church, too. It was sacred ground.

Slowly, it was dawning on me that anarchy was dumb, and could harsh your mellow.

Building stuff… and (gasp!) even taking care of it… could make life better.

Once I became an entrepreneur, I was ready to step up and be an “owner” of the civilization I was living in. Taxes weren’t “taken out” of my paycheck anymore. Instead, I wrote quarterly checks to do my part in funding the upkeep and creation of local and national crap.

Crap we needed. Like roads, sewers, firehouses, power lines, the whole interconnected mess that kept the lights on, the beer cold, and garbage picked up.

Yep. I’m a proud taxpayer.

I have never forgotten listening in on a heated conversation between a couple of advanced businessmen, back when I first weaseled my way into those kinds of meetings. (Literally smoky back rooms.)

Most of the guys were all pissed off about taxes, hated the thought of paying even a single penny to “the gummit”, and considered the whole thing extortion.

But there was this one guy… the wealthiest and most Zen-centered dude in the group… who just shrugged.

He said — and I remember the sound of his voice — that he made his millions, and paid every penny he owed in tax, when it was due. And slept like a baby, and went about earning another million.

The other guys grumbled and bitched and moaned and agreed with each other that this was the wrong way to go about being a success. You fought with the taxman over everything, smuggled money into hidey holes whenever possible, lied, cheated, played dumb and dumped vast sums into off-shore accounts.

Over the years, I paid attention to who led the better life. No contest.

Off-shore money vanished (“Oops!”)… years were spent wrangling with attorneys and IRS agents… and many sleepless nights ensued.

And I slept like a baby, having taken the rich guy’s advice. And got busy with my career.

No one understands my joy at being able to say I pay for the upkeep of my quirky little town and my staggeringly-big nation. And though the checks I write are pretty damn huge (I quickly got used to paying more in quarterly’s than I used to earn in a year), I do not begrudge Caesar a single coin.

Sure, lots of it is wasted, misspent, stolen and worse.

The world’s a messy place. Choose your battles.

I focus on the never-ceasing wonder of living in a joint where a guy like me — lowly, formerly-clueless, working class me — had the opportunity to grab a seat at the Feast… simply by getting busy and setting goals.

This is an astonishing playground we live in here. Most of the rest of world is agog at our freedoms, and would happily pay twice the tax we dole out just for the privilege of being able to bitch about paying it… and not being jailed or shot in the process.

Taxes suck.

So pay ‘em and forget about it until the next quarter.

You really should be too busy making hay to even notice the money’s gone…

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

P.S. Important note to anyone who’s been gazing longingly at any of the offers over at www.marketingrebel.com: Every single package there is on the front burner for being taken OFF that site (probably forever).

In particular, the mega-popular “Bag of Tricks” package is about to be retired.

It’s just too good a deal (especially with the personal attention from me included).

We’re not getting greedy, mind you. We’re just getting hip to the structure our new biz model is becoming. And that killer offer needs serious revamping (and higher prices).

However, as long as it’s there on the site, we’ll honor the deal. I’m heading down to San Diego this week to speak at Frank Kern’s spectacular seminar, and I’m kinda focused on the upcoming “17 points of copywriting” workshop just around the corner.

Still, we’ve got geeks scrambling… and as soon as we can, the entire current set of deals at www.marketingrebel.com vanishes. I can’t tell you, right now, what will replace them… but I CAN tell you this: You will never see an amazingly hyper-generous deal exactly like the “Bag of Tricks” again.

So pop over and check it out while you can. This particular “menu” of essential info and tools and skills is what fueled so many of the top marketers now doing their thang online. Just check the testimonials.

We’re not shelving the “Bag of Tricks” to be mean… it’s just time to grow into a new model. Changes online demand it.

Don’t dally. I know you’ve been lusting after that package. I’m announcing it’s demise at the Kern event, and we’ll follow through soon after…

P.P.S. By the way… all incoming comments were disabled last night, due to a technical glitch while our server was upgraded. I know at least a few people emailed me, privately, to tell me they were denied.

Anyway, it’s all working fine now. Fire away, if you like…


All testimonials and case studies within this website are, to the best of our ability to determine, true and accurate. They were provided willingly, without any compensation offered in return.

These testimonials and case studies do not represent typical or average results. Most customers do not contact me or offer share to their results, nor are they required or expected to. Therefore, I have no way to determine what typical or average results might have been.

Many people do not implement anything I teach them. I can't make anyone follow my advice, and I obviously can't promise that our advice, as interpreted and implemented by everyone, is going to achieve for everyone the kinds of results it's helped some of the folks you read about and hear from here achieve.

The income statements and examples on this website are not intended to represent or guarantee that everyone will achieve the same results. Each individual's success will be determined by his or her desire, dedication, marketing background, product, effort, and motivation to work and follow recommendations. There is no guarantee you will duplicate results stated here. You recognize any business endeavor has inherent risk for loss of capital.

© 2004-2014 John Carlton. All rights reserved.