Category Archives: technology

The Entrepreneur’s Checklist

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Friday, 2:15pm
Reno, NV
“I read the news today, oh boy…” (Lennon, “A Day In The Life”)

Howdy…

One of my favorite quotes from Gary Halbert: “There is nothing that cannot be accomplished by a man who refuses to face reality.”

You laugh, but he was dead serious. One of the reasons we became fast friends was our mutual outlook on life – whenever reality was inconvenient to our goals, we just ignored the facts, lowered our head, and bulled forward.

That photo, above, is me in high school (from the yearbook). I loved basketball, and was good enough to become the captain of the “B” squad my junior year…

… however, as should be evident in this photo, I ran into a brick wall trying out for the varsity a year later.

The guy guarding me as I took that jumper is taller than me by a foot. I was the smallest guy on the squad…

… and really, at some point a caring coach probably should have taken me aside and said “John, I know you love the game… but look at your family. No one is taller than 5’10”, and basketball is a sport for tall folks. You’re not going to magically grow into the size they want on the varsity team…”

I wouldn’t have listened, anyway. I’m like a Jack Russell terrier – a big dog trapped in a small dog’s body. Eventually, in sports, my poor eyesight and lack of height stopped me…

… but I had fun for a couple of years in the meantime.

Later on, as I was gathering my courage to try copywriting, an actual professional copywriter earnestly informed me that I should not even try.

“It’s too hard,” she said. “You’ll never be a pro writer.”

That was, of course, the BEST thing she could have ever told me. I doubt I could have survived the first years without that internal motivation of needing to prove her wrong.

I call it “negative motivation”… and it’s actually one of the most powerful forces available for getting stuff done. I never saw her again, and don’t even remember her name…

… so it wasn’t a need to flaunt my success in her face. It was all internal for me – I used her as the “face” of the obstacles in front of me, and I even laughed when I later realized I was in a position to tell her “Fuck you, I made it anyway.”

Yes, my internal ego is an immature twerp sometimes. Chip on the shoulder, snarling underdog attitude, and an almost stupidly-aggressive and irrational refusal to face reality.

I am so grateful for it, too.

(By the way… I nailed that shot in the photo, above… and ended up with 20 points while also hitting the winning basket. Easily my finest moment in a futile, doomed effort to be a “real” basketball player. A has-been at 16.)

You do not need to be a belligerent rebel to be a good entrepreneur…

… but it can help sometimes.

Certainly, given the choice of sitting down to dinner with the business types in suits, who are uber-polite and careful in their conversations…

… or the rowdy crowd of rule-breaking ne’er-do-well whack job entrepreneurs who may easily get kicked OUT of the restaurant….

… well, you know which one I’d pick.

I was Halbert’s sidekick for a very long time, and one of the most enjoyable parts of the gig was wandering into a new client’s offices and creating massive chaos. In a rational world, none of the buttoned-up biz owners we dealt with would have tolerated us for more than a few minutes…

… but, because we brought the “magic” of ads that worked, they HAD to not just tolerate us, but sometimes coddle us and even pay us more than they were going to earn themselves in the project.

We weren’t mean. Perhaps arrogant at times. But both Gary and I had wandered into the entrepreneurial world precisely because we didn’t “fit” in the normal corporate environments. We were outlaws by nature, outrageous by temperament, and adventurers who ate risk for breakfast by choice.

Again – you do not NEED to be a half-crazed rebel to succeed in biz…

… though, I’ve noticed that a great number of the dudes and dudettes at the top of the entrepreneurial game don’t easily fit into nice, tidy molds. They don’t behave themselves in polite company.

I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about what you DO need to be a successful entrepreneur. In my mastermind, there have been many members who were unclear on what it “meant” to be an entrepreneur…

… and we’ve helped every one of them get over their fears, stop obsessing on the wrong things, and become much more confident  (and successful) marketers. Mostly, they are stunned by the magnitude of profit that comes from doing things right.

It’s all a matter of hanging out with veterans who can commiserate with your stumbles, help you correct the damage, and reveal the secrets of getting into a solid success-groove, and riding it all the way to wealth and happiness.

My goal is to, eventually, have a comprehensive menu of things you can do at every step of your business life. That’s gonna take a while, though…

… so, for now, I have a starter checklist here you might find helpful.

Let’s just get into it. Here (in no particular order) are the main things you’ll need in your “toolkit” as an entrepreneur:

[] Survival resources. This includes books (both the ones you read for general knowledge and put on your shelf… and the ones that stay on your desk, dog-eared, because they are tools that help in your day-to-day work)…

… an ever-expanding network of experts, mentors, colleagues and go-to-guys (including tech geeks, hosting services, spies, friendly competitors, and helpmates in your quest for animal-level contentment)…

… and whatever courses, seminars, and tutorials you need to attain a mastery of the details of whatever biz you’re in.

[] Goal-setting skills. You need to understand, clearly, where you’re headed and what you want from both your journey and your final destination.

It’s okay, early on, to not be clear on you ultimate goals. Sometimes, you work hard to attain something, and only then realize it wasn’t what you wanted after all. That’s how life works in the active part of the pool. You will constantly re-adjust your long-term goals as you go.

Short-term, however, you need to get good at breaking down the best path to your target, while also learning how to fix problems and deal with unexpected emergencies.

[] Thick skin. You simply need to put your ego aside when entering the entrepreneurial world…

… cuz you’re gonna get stomped, bullied, abused, insulted and assaulted. Often. In new and fascinating ways that your civilian pals will never believe possible.

Your motto must be “eyes on the prize”, at all times. There will be setbacks, disasters and breathtaking failures.

You know you’ve “arrived” as a true entrepreneur when all of this becomes just part of the process, and you even enjoy the constant challenges raining down on you.

[] Risk tolerance. This is what sets most entrepreneurs apart from other civilians. Against the advice of your drinking buddies (who really do not want you to succeed, because that will destroy their own belief that the little guy can’t win)… contrary to the fears of your family (who are terrified that your wild-ass biz plans will bankrupt the joint)… and in utter defiance of your own Red Flag danger alarms…

… you’re going to have to lay your reputation on the line, and climb into a fight with the forces of capitalism armed only with your wit, meager skill sets, and raw determination.

And no one else except other entrepreneurs will even vaguely understand what you’re going through. Working without a net. Daring the universe to slap you down. Going into situations, over and over again, where you’re a complete rookie, apt to make embarrassing mistakes.

In short, living with risk. And the consequences of risk, which can include failure.

Of course, a true entrepreneur regards “failure” as just another step on the rocky path to breakthrough success. It’s a process. Few get it right the first time.

So, you need to assess your capacity to accept, and deal with risk. If the very notion of taking a risk terrifies you into inaction, it’s probably a sign from God that you need to get a job somewhere safe.

[] Your basic bag of tricks. You may have to learn the basics from books at first, or by observation… but no matter how you learn them, you need to understand the fundamentals of a sales funnel (qualified leads are captured and closed)…

… the details of fulfillment and customer management…

… and how to craft a sales message that can be easily communicated to prospects.

It’s not rocket science, but you’re an idiot if you think you can “fake it” as you begin marketing your biz for real.

Fortunately, there are a lot of courses out there to shortcut your efforts…

… or, you can dive into the many books out there on these subjects. In a weekend, you can begin your self-education by reading one on marketing, one on sales, and one on writing copy.

Your first choices may be the wrong ones to read, but that doesn’t matter — because you’ll have started the process, and that’s the critical part of this step. Next weekend, read three different books on the same subjects. Rinse and repeat until you feel you have a toe-hold in each subject, at least.

The longest journey begins with a single step. Just try not to fall on your face immediately, all right? Read critically and intelligently, and continually seek out authors you can trust and identify with.

[] A budget, or war chest. You will need cash in your biz adventures. No getting around that.

I’m not a great role model. I started my freelance career with one tank of gas in a rattle-trap car, one month’s rent paid, and enough spare change to feed myself for a couple of weeks. I had no Plan B.

Much better to have a planned budget, and the money to meet it for at least a few months. If you’re already in business, and you want to expand or get into a new project…

… then have a “war chest” of cash you can invest in the adventure. Don’t go in broke, or clueless about what you may need to pull out of your existing biz.

Most entrepreneurs hate budgets and planning.

Do it anyway. There are plenty of misadventures awaiting you in biz — don’t stumble on stuff like budgets, which you have control over and can figure out easily.

[] Ability to judge what’s worth doing, and what’s going to hold you back.

This is a biggie. You may suck at it right now, but one of your goals must be to get pro-level good at judging client requests, job offers, new projects, partner assessment (in both biz and love), and all the little and big decisions that will cascade upon your head every single day.

One tactic: Use the 1-10 “pain scale” measurement many doctors use in assessing patients. Use it on yourself – what level is the value… the risk… the reward… and the danger of any decision you encounter?

Is it a big deal, or a little deal of no lasting consequence?

Get good at this, as fast as possible. One of the main failure points of unsuccessful biz owners is a lack of prompt, good decisions.

[] Stress management. You’re going to encounter stress as an entrepreneur. That’s a given.

Ignoring this stress is a very, very, very bad idea. It will never leave, it will build up, and in due time it will fry your brain like an egg in a skillet.

You are not a superman. Your body and mind are vulnerable to the ravages of poor diet, lack of exercise, and constant hormone dumps of adrenaline and other bad chemicals.

Massage, meditation, lots of vacations, reading good books (not biz books) to relax, having “safety zones” in your week where you are free from the tentacles of your biz (no phone, no email, no nothing)…

… the tactics for battling stress are easy to find and experiment with. Find what works for you, and give it PRIORITY status in your life.

For example, I began weekly massages early in my career… long before I started buying better clothes, a newer car, or eating out more often. Massage “re-set” my physical stress levels, and I’m convinced it has saved me from ulcers and worse. And kept me mega-productive for decades.

I started out with a “business before pleasure” mindset… but included in “business” was de-stressing and being a good animal (loose, strong, well-fed, lots of restorative sleep, etc).

And finally (for this short “starter list”)…

[] Have an exit plan. Go after your goals like a terrier after a squirrel, with total focus and commitment.

However, realize that sometimes your goals need to adjusted, or even abandoned.

When the facts and circumstances change, your goals change. (This includes sudden changes in technology, like Google slaps… booming new opportunities that didn’t exist earlier… even realizing you no longer crave what motivated you so desperately before.)

I’m not suggesting you have an easy “bail out” plan, that you can take whenever things get dicey. Like Cortez burning his ships upon his conquest of Mexico, a lot of entrepreneurs do better when there is no turning back.

Rather, I’m talking about visualizing your life after success. Many entrepreneurs, right after “making it”, immediately begin to sabotage the biz. Because the fun is in the building up of the thing, the adventures of tackling challenges and working without a net.

Once you’ve been successful, you either need to pivot to management of the biz (yawn)…

… or consider the consequences of cashing out, selling your biz, moving into something else, or just becoming an “intrapreneur” like Steve Jobs did at Apple.

At least consider what your life will be like when you succeed. And consider options for yourself.

Okay. That’s the starter list. Not a bad checklist to have on the wall above your desk as you move forward, either.

One last thought on reality: Yes, I ignored the reality of who I was, and what I brought to the game, as I plowed through life going after unrealistic goals.

However, there is ONE reality I never ignore.

That would be the reality of results. I love seeing how ads and tactics work, or don’t work, through actual sales numbers (and click-through and open rates, and so on).

However, I look at these results CRITICALLY. I don’t accept them blindly. They are tools for moving forward. Where did, or where could the ad have failed? Can we fix it? What other things can be done to navigate a sales problem? Where IS the main problem, anyway?

My stupidly-aggressive and irrational refusal to face certain realities has served me well over the years. If I’d listened to the nay-sayers, or even my own fears, my life would have been much less exciting and happy. And rich, in every respect.

Still, all vices in moderation. That’s my motto.

Find out what works for you.

I hope this list is a good starting point.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. Did I leave anything off the list that should have been on there?

Love to hear your take on the matter, in the comments section below…

Modern Rules For Naked Online Living, Part One

Saturday, 7:14pm
Reno, NV
Out of 9 lives, I’ve lived 7…” (The Band, “The Shape I’m In”)

Howdy…

I almost called this post “Web 2.oh no!

And I know I’m just gonna scratch the surface here…

… but a few rules need to be laid down by somebody concerning this “Brave New World of No Freakin’ Privacy Left At All”.

Now, I’ve never noticed much “common sense” actually being very common among my fellow humans…

… but Jeez Louise, the arrival of social media and smart phone cameras has turned us all into ethically-challenged TMZ-level paparazzi.  No sense of right or wrong, no sense of crossing a line or going too far.

And people are gonna get hurt.

Do we need a collective and not-very-subtle whack upside the head here?  Metaphorically speaking, that is.

You decide…

Slap Some Sense Into You Rule #1: Just because you have a camera and recording capabilities on your smart phone, doesn’t mean you have a license to USE it.

Yes, the rest of the world is hurtling toward a Zuckerberg-envisioned future where “privacy” will be a quaint notion that strangely only irritates geezers… sort of like how we now view petticoats, doo wop and basic manners.

However, I would caution privacy-anarchists that this “nothing you do is a secret to us” mindset is how Stalinist Russia maintained control over citizens (see also “1984″, by George Orwell).

Now, what you do in your own sordid life is up to you, of course.  Including allowing basic privacy rights to be dismantled and shed.

However, as a professional, you’ve got to recognize boundaries.  Because there’s a lot at stake here.Continue Reading

Burn Down The House

Thursday, 8:53pm
Reno, NV
“Code Blue! Gimme the paddles…” Dr. House (alot)

Howdy…

You got a favorite TV show?

I was a charter member of the first TV-addicted generation, and I may yet live to see the end of network television as we’ve all known and loved it all these seasons.

The Web’s already killed it for the youngest generations. Once the last of the Boomers wander off, we’ll take our fond memories of Howdy Doody and The Twilight Zone with us… and no one will much care, being too busy with fourteen incoming Twittering IMs on their ear/eye implants and a fresh scene loading up from the new Grand Theft Auto XXVII they just injected straight into their pituitary gland.

Sometimes I think about that — television, easily the most culture-shaping technology advance in the history of mankind… eclipsed before it reached seventy years old… murdered by hotter, more intensely interactive tech. (Okay — I know that television was actually viable in the 1920s, but get real. It wasn’t a cultural phenomenon until the fifties.)

But that’s not what I want to write about tonight.

Naw.

Instead, something else triggered my interest. We just watched the season-ending episode of “House”, which had everyone in the room reaching for tear-soaked tissues (including the cat, who was barely watching).

And, if you’ll give me a minute here, I’m gonna tie that show in with you making money with your ads. (VERY major lesson coming up, so pay attention.)

First, though, you gotta put up with some ranting: Television, overall, has followed the same arc that — in micro — the show Saturday Night Live has followed: Great for a couple of years… suck for several years… recover, and be great again… then quickly descend into Suckdom once more… and over and over, in a cycle that (someday) historians will probably be able to track down to the second. (“As we can clearly see, class, the show left the rails thirteen minutes into the first episode after Lorne Michaels left in season five… you can almost — chuckle – see it jumping the shark as Louise-Dreyfus sputters in yet another vapid, unfunny scene…”)

And I believe we’re currently in one of the recurring “up” bumps. Always good when you realize there are actually a couple of shows on that DESERVE to be watched. Not brain-dead watching, but active interest watching.

What do you Tivo?

We religiously record House, 30 Rock, The Office (though I suspect the shark is in mid-air on that one), and Manchester United games on Fox Sports. (Okay, Michele won’t watch soccer with me, and I can’t stomach Brothers And Sisters with her. Trade off.)

I love the medium, but I don’t “need” it. I grew up watching all the sixties sit-com, sci-fi, drama and kitsch I could cram into an evening (The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Addams Family, Outer Limits, The Prisoner, The Avengers, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., American Bandstand, She-Bang, Soupy Sales, Phil Silvers, Ed Sullivan, Gilligan’s Island, Star Trek, The Monkees… God, I’m embarrassed to admit all that…).

But I watched, primarialy, because it was there. Mom had the kitchen radio on all day (it’s how I discovered rock and roll), and the boob tube was cranked on when Pop came home, and wasn’t turned off until beddy-bye. (Laugh-In, Red Skelton, Where The Action Is, Your Show of Shows, The Match Game…)

Once I was old enough to beg Pop for the car keys, my evening rituals changed dramatically. I didn’t even own a TV through the seventies. (Never saw a single episode of Mork & Mindy, Mary Tyler Moore, or Three’s Company, thank you very much.) (One of TV’s “down” cycles, I would say.) (Showed up, often drunk, at friends’ houses with toobs for SNL, of course.)

MTV and cable brought me back to the fold, fitfully.

Now, I’m in a groove once again.

Gotta have my “House”, and the occasional Law & Order SVU. (BTW: Why is Rooney not playing for Man U lately? Did he get hurt? Traded? What’s up? He wasn’t in the Moscow grueler…)

Okay, back to the point of all this:

The last episodes (it was a twin-hour ending show) of House were pretty riveting television. I’m ALWAYS impressed with good writing (Boston Legal, CSI: NY, the commentors on the World Series of Poker, Californication)… and I’ve learned to watch both passively (to enjoy the moment)…

and to go back over what just hooked me, and watch critically.

I like to break down exactly what the writers did to tweak my emotions, my interest, and ESPECIALLY my resistance to being sucked into the story.

That’s right. With every show, I challenge the writing to do its job.

We have an unwritten rule in the house: Any time either of us can start predicting the dialog before the actors speak it… that show is toast.

The shark has done jumped, when the script is so weak you can burble along with the actors in real time.

So here’s the thing…

… this House final episode (WARNING: Spoiler alert!) polished off one of the major characters. That’s not unique in television… but the way the writers did it defied what any viewer would have predicted.

It was as if… the script burned down the house.

Just created all kinds of emotional havoc and brain-tickling mayhem.

It was that riveting, and satisfying.

I can’t wait for next season. Seriously.

I’m pissed I gotta wait.

I’m addicted.

Consider what the writers did, as you consider how to write compelling, riveting copy yourself.

Sometimes, you gotta burn down the house just to get your prospect’s attention.

Not literally, of course (“you idiot”, House would add).

Figuratively.

Most ad copy is like an episode of Three’s Company — at best, vaguely suggestive, but nothing you’d remember the next day (or even the next hour).

Great copy, on the other hand, is like South Park — you simply cannot snooze through it.

You gotta be prepared for the reaction, too, if you ever get ballsy with your writing. Not everyone will cheer you on. “He can’t say that, can he?” will be a common response.

“Somebody’s got to do something about that repulsive material.”

“Can’t we shoot them, or deport them, or something?”

I’ve never gone for straight outrage, but neither were my first golf ads greeted with encouragement at the big golf magazines. They swallowed hard during the first round, took the money, and pretended not to notice how much those 3-page copy-dense beasts fouled up the pretty “look” of their publications.

When my client went back for multiple insertions, it was almost too much to bear.

Fortunately, the publishers were shameless money-grubbing whores, and the ads ran despite the cries of alarm from readers. (But only from readers outside our target market. The guys we were after LOVED those ads.) (Still do.)

We, essentially, burned down the nice golf house, like vandals in a riot.

Something to think about, the next time you absolutely have to get attention for your copy. Don’t you think?

What TV shows do you remember fondly? (I’d watch MTV for hours in the first years, when it was all video, all the time… and I still consider The Larry Sanders Show to be one of the best ever written. Entourage ain’t bad, though it’s occasionally infuriatingly stupid. The Simpsons, yeah. Seinfeld, I guess. What else am I missing here?)

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

P.S. Hey — we just put another super-hot Radio Rant Coaching Club show in the can. I cannot understand why any marketer with his head screwed on straight isn’t breaking a leg to get into this club — it’s fun, it’s informative up the yin-yang, and it’s without doubt the greatest single resource for marketers available today.

Check it out. I believe we still offer a free month’s trial, with no obligation to stay when the trial’s up. (Yep — you can rip us off.) Plus, since you get access to all the current shows still posted, it’s actually like getting 2 free months. (Again, no obligation to stay, ever.)

Here’s the link:

http://www.carltoncoaching.com

Later…

Tech Snobs, Geek Angels, and Dinobots

Monday, 7:33pm
Reno, NV
“You called me… Bizzaro. Must be my name.” Bizzaro, Superman’s twisted doppleganger (circa 1958)

Howdy…

I think I just created a new word.

Tell me what you think of it.

It came about this weekend while Michele and I were taking her nephew David out for a “grill lunch”. A grill lunch is where you hold someone you care about (but haven’t seen for a long time) captive for a couple of hours while you grill them on every detail of their lives.

When I was growing up, I always resisted such info-mining, and became a petulant, sulking zipped-lipped prisoner, offering nothing. To this day, the worse way to find out how I’ve been or what I’ve been up to is to ask me directly.

Child psych still works pretty well with my type, though. Trick me into spilling the beans, and I’ll give it all up.

I’m easy that way.

Nephew David, however, is of better stock. He handles grill lunches with grace and wit, and he’s a joy to hang out with.

He’s also my main contact in the new generation coming up the ranks. He’ll be a senior next year at a major mid-western university, studying subjects that didn’t exist when I was in academia.

That is, he’ll be a senior if his summer “project” doesn’t haul in a million bucks, which it could. The kid is tech-savvy to a scary degree, both as a creator of sites and ideas, and as a cutting-edge consumer of technology. And now he’s honing his business chops, too.

He’s got entrepreneur’s blood in his veins, and he smells the financial adventures ahead.

However, my guess is that, like his other summer projects, he’ll experience some success, gain amazing experience, have too much fun, and finish out his education like a champ.

Or, as he refers to himself: Like a budding tech snob.

In other words: He’s SO wired into the virtual culture, that he has a sixth sense of what’s coming down the pipe… and waiting a bit longer to launch into the business world might be an advantage during this phase of the blossoming online world.

What I’m taking from talking to him… is a cultural warning: Increasingly, the gap between tech-savvy kids and technophobic geezers threatens to become an unbridgable chasm.

However, it doesn’t necessarly mean the tech snobs will automatically win.

Take, for example, how the ability to be in “constant contact” with your friends has morphed into something weird and icky: A few short years ago, the dude with the cell phone permanently screwed into his ear — so he could chat with both hands free — was either a cultural warrior bravely navigating the far reaches of technology (as he saw himself)… or a shallow chatterbox, devoid of deep thought (as the people around him thought).

This condition (“Phone-Welded-To-Brain-Itis”) is no longer startling to encounter. You see someone walking around in a distracted state, babbling loudly to no one in particular, and you just shrug. He’s not crazy — he’s wired.

Though, sometimes I can’t help myself from leaning over and telling him to say “hello” to Kathy, and that I sure hope she gets those packages out to Fed Ex in time. I mean, I felt such a part of his conversation (it’s called “cell shouting”, with no known cure), it’s like we’re now old buds.

Anyway…

… cell shouting now seems SO innocent, with the arrival of “micro blogging”.

Texting constantly to people wasn’t enough. No.

Now, it’s critical to keep whole populations of other folks hip to exactly what you’re doing at this very second.

Wow.

I can see where this is going, too — once we combine GPS systems, micro-video, and IM with Twitter into something that can be wired directly to your autonomic nervous system, you can be a walking reality show.

Everyone you know will have instant, unrelenting access to your every thought, action, and movement. Like “The Truman Show”, only more invasive. (“Hey, everybody — my iPhone just alerted me that Susie’s blood pressure spiked twenty points, so she must have arrived at the prom… and… wow… looks like she’s gonna fart…”)

Listen: I live with someone, and I often don’t know where she is in the house, or what she’s doing… and I don’t NEED to know.

A little mystery, folks, is not necesarily a bad thing.

Here’s some insight from a guy who’s walked both sides of the knowledge divide: When I first met Gary Halbert, I was composing ads on a personal computer (early model), playing hip video games, and totally clued-in to the cultural Zeitgeist… while he was still usng a No. 2 pencil and a legal pad, had zero video-game dexterity, and considered MTV as something akin to an alien invasion of UFOs.

I was in the room when he was ridiculed by other writers, in fact, for his retro-style. Younger, hipper, more tech-savvy writers actually shook their heads and pitied the guy.

That was an important moment for me.

Because I knew that the accoutrements of writing — whether pencils and paper, computers and hard drives, or chisel and clay — were irrelevant IF YOU HAD NOTHING TO SAY.

What Halbert possessed was deep experience and knowledge of classic salesmanship… stuff that transcended the physical act of writing. Or talking, for that matter.

For me, it was a major epiphany that still reverberates in my career today.

Technology is fun, and important. And, especially with the arrival of the Internet, you very well may be left behind if you refuse to get hip.

But, dude… it’s still JUST human-to-human communication. No matter how much electronic whiz-bangery occurs between the thought in your skull and the receipt of that thought by another person… the rather crucial issue of IMPORTANCE still matters most.

I often get blank stares from seminar crowds when I bludgeon them with the concept of learning classic salesmanship early in their quest for wealth and fame. I understand how confusing it can be, too. In many of the first marketing seminars we gave (back when we were inventing the model), we would often get some guy who would stand up and announce that he’d just popped for THE most expensive and tricked-out computer in existence… and now he wanted to know how to make money with it.

We’d sigh, collectively. And then patiently explain that, no, it’s not the equipment that brings in the bucks. It’s the brains behind the equipment.

In fact, in most cases the equipment is just a side-show.

I do not remember ever having any of those guys do a double-take as we explained all this, and suddenly say “By Jove, you’re right! I need to learn salesmanship and marketing skills!”

Usually, they stared at us without comprehension. Our answer couldn’t find a toe-hold in their brains.

Back to kids and tech: Nephew David called himself, in a moment of rueful self-actualization, a “tech snob”… because he is SO wired into the technological hinderlands, that he gets bored with “dumb” tech (like software or games or devices diluted for the masses).

When you can write code, you have little patience for people who can’t make their new GPS system work in the car. (We call our GPS “Know It All Betty”, cuz the voice sounds like a Betty, and she DOES pretend to know it all… especially when you miss a turn, and she goes into “scold mode”…)

His aunt Michele, however, sees him as a “Geek Angel”. Because he can explain things in ways she can understand.

To her credit, she first takes the technology she wants to learn to the absolute furtherst reaches of her learning curve… so she’s not bothering him with questions she could find out herself.

When she presents a problem she can’t figure out, she really can’t figure it out… because she’s spent massive hours in dead-ends, and needs help.

A Geek Angel will never be out of a job. He possesses a rare ability to both immerse into the mysterious Tech Culture and thrive… and yet still be able to sit with unfortunate earth-bound tech-illiterates, and reveal some of the magic to make their lives better.

I’ve heard many tech-savvy people complain about the way clueless friends waste their time with incessant demands to “fix” their buggy computers, or detangle the electronic miasma of their TV remotes. (I have 3 remotes for my plasma, sound system and cable, which can all be thrown utterly out of synch when the dog sits on one of them. Don’t you?)

I sympathize. I learned long ago not to tell people I’m a writer. Trust me — soon after revealing your occupation, one of the folks you’ve just enlightened will approach you with a killer offer: “Hey, man. I’ve got a great story to tell. How about you write the screenplay, using my idea, and we’ll split the profits from the movie 50-50?”

I’ve had guys get ugly when I’ve begged off, too. Hey — all I had to do was write up their idea, you know, do that “typing thing” for a few hours. Greedy bastard. How dare you withhold your pathetic little writing tricks from the rest of us?

I’m sure it’s the same when you’re super tech-savvy, among the tech clueless.

And you ARE an angel when you help, though. Consider it a good deed, which will fortify your karma. (But make sure your second help session includes contacting a professional outfit that offers computer help, so your desperate technophobes have an alternative path when their bugged-up laptop crashes the next time, and they can’t find you.) (Or, you don’t want to be found.)

Anyway…

Here’s the new word I invented: “Dinobot.”

It is, of course, a quasi-clever combo of “dinosaur” and “robot”… and I consider it a description of the best place to be in business right now.

Part old-world, part new-world.

It’s important to have a certain level of tech savvy, if you’re gonna do any online marketing. If you’re new to the Web, this transition may be painful… but it’s critical.

The Web is technology made manifest, to get gnarly about it.

It’s a new life form — there is now a world of flesh and blood, and a world of virtual data.

And we need to learn to thrive in BOTH.

Gone are the days when a marketer could proudly proclaim to be ignorant of new tech. (Hey — it wasn’t that long ago when direct mail, print and broadcast media were the ONLY way to go.)

Also gone are the days when simply being hip to the latest and greatest software applications will give you any astounding advantage online. (Again, not too long ago, just having a pop-up squeeze page would so overwhelm a visitor to your site, that he’d give you his email and name out of existential fear.) (Man, those were the days, weren’t they?)

I don’t expect to win over many converts… but I’ve always taught that the best position to be in… is to straddle the worlds of old-time salesmanship and ultra-modern tech.

Thus: Dinobot. A little bit of the stubborn street-wise classic salesman… welded to a shrewd knowledge of what the ‘Net is capable of providing you in terms of traffic, attention-getting tactics, and practical social networking.

Emphasis on the word “practical”.

Look — I have immense respect for my colleagues in the online entrepreneurial world. Some of these guys are pulling down vast fortunes while literally creating the business model for Web marketing that will be around for decades to come.

True pioneers.

However, the models they’re creating are all based on concepts that go way back. Essentially, online biz is all about finding a hot market, becoming the “go to guy”, and creating a greased slide sales funnel. Just like offline marketing.

The difference, of course, is in scale, and cost. What would have worked in, say, direct mail… and cost you fifty grand to pull in two hundred grand… can now be re-fitted for the Web, and cost a couple of hundred bucks to bring in the same two hundred thou. Or more.

And instead of months using the postal system… you can use email, and get ‘er done in a few days.

The Web has created an opportunity for anyone to become a filthy-rich capitalist from their kitchen table, using a laptop and a few low-cost online vendors for processing orders and managing data.

I have been one lucky son of a bitch to have a front-row seat for much of this current marketing revolution, too.

I make no claims for exceptionality, other than I have remained open to opportunity my entire career… and I happened to start in the old-world model of direct mail and infomercials, and smoothly segued into the new-world model of online marketing.

And from this cat-bird seat, I can tell you without doubt that the guys raking it in… are all using classic salesmanship, welded to a basic understanding of the current technology. They are NOT geeks. They hire electronic cowboys to wrangle the technological details.

It’s an important realization.

The world is fast moving to a new class system: The top layer will be the guys who know how to USE the technology to their advantage… and they do not need to be masters of the code and electronics.

The second layer will be the geeks who roll up their virtual sleeves and immerse in the Grid to keep the tech alive.

The bottom layer will be a tiered mess of technology consumers. Some will be mostly clueless. Others will be wired to the max, with a satellite connection installed in their brains.

But they’ll still be “just” consumers.

You wanna grab a seat at the top?

Become a dinobot.

Dude, I’m telling ya. It’s the path less trod, but it’s the way to go.

Okay, I’m done.

What do you think?

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

P.S. Increasingly, the coaching we do in the “Radio Rant Coaching Club” (which is all virtual, by the way) settles into a groove of convincing people to find happiness with a balance of high-tech savvy and classic marketing skills.

It helps to realize, as you clamber aboard the Web, that you need both. You’re able to move ahead quickly, and you’re not surprised by any sudden gap in your knowledge base.

We’re creating a race of dinobots.

Check it out: Go to http://www.carltoncoaching.com and see what’s available.

The world is changing under your feet. Hooking into the right resources for info and tactics and savvy is essential.

Just a suggestion.

P.P.S. Okay, here’s an update (a week later): Enough parents have written in to inform me that Dinobot has already been taken by the Transformers juggernaut.

Bummer.

I’d toyed with other options before choosing dinobot: Geek-o-saurus. Techosaur. Dinology.

You guys got any suggestions?

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…

The Naughty List For Businesses

Sunday, 11:59pm
Reno, NV

Howdy…

Quickie post here, cuz I’m a walking petri dish of germs. There’s a slug of Nyquil sitting here with my name on it, and I’ll be worthless about three minutes after I slam it.

Gulp.

Done.

Here’s the post (while I can still type): One of the grand traditions of year-end journalism is the round-up of “worst” lists.

I love ‘em all.

In truth, 2007 had some totally bitchin’ highlights for me and my colleagues. The gloom-and-doom mainstream media would prefer that we all become quivering masses of hysterical anxiety… but after you’ve been around the block as many times as I have, you get some perspective.

Things have been worse. And they’ve been better.

That’s kinds how the world works.

Still… there are all these wonderful lists to enjoy.

So here’s a good one, in case you missed it. Not your standard “celebrity eats own head” kind of material, either.

It’s literally a “worst of biz” 2007 list. By Fortune magazine.

Read, enjoy, discuss:

http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2007/fortune/0712/gallery.101_dumbest.fortune/index.html?section=money_topstories

Stay frosty… and don’t catch what I have…

John Carlton
www.carltoncoaching.com

Freedom And Fraudcasting

From: Reno, NV

Thursday night, 9:26pm

Subject: Going off on The Man, Part II

Howdy…

One of the talents I’m most proud of is my knack for naming stuff.

I’m good at it because I love all forms of language, and I’m not afraid of mixing up forbidden slang with fifty-cent words to arrive at something fresh and compelling.

I could, for example, have called my first course “A Really Good Tutorial on Creating Ads” and written it in proper English … and it would have promptly (and justifiably) sank to the bottom of the barrel of courses on advertising.

Fortunately, I eschewed mediocrity and — instead — went for the jugular.

And the slang-ridden, take-no-prisoners course I did write — “Kick-Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel” — hit a nerve among entrepreneurs and small biz owners world-wide.

The lesson: Words matter.

Never confuse “smart sounding speech” with real Continue Reading

Life Under A Cloud Of Tobacco Smoke…

I hate it when I discover a show on TV that forces me to watch it compulsively.

See, my private vision of myself is of a suave, worldly guy who nurses a beer in an overstuffed leather chair while reading good literature and expanding my mind with Big Thoughts.

In reality, I keep finding my ass welded to the couch instead, riveted to mindless visual crap on the tube. (I love “Whacked Out Sports”. So sue me.)

I’m so ashamed.

But, heck, I gotta stay involved in the culture (or so I keep telling myself).

So, every late summer, I check out the new offerings. Besides, HD is so bitchin’ to watch, it’s like television has been reinvented all over again.

The new show that’s got me obsessed is “Mad Men”, a rare series on AMC (the cable channel that usually shows old movies, mostly from the MGM catalog). It’s not on HD — big minus — but it IS the brain-child of a former Soprano’s producer. (How HBO lost the bid on this show, I’ll never figure out. It’s getting shockingly-good press, and the water-cooler buzz is amazing.)

The “mad” part refers to Madison Avenue — circa 1960. Easily the most classic year of the most classic period of advertising seen by our civilization. It’s a period piece, and they’ve paid excruciatlng attention to detail: Everyone chain smokes, the guys wear thick glasses, globs of Brylcreem, and fedoras (the hat disappeared from fashion right after John Kennedy got elected prez in the autumn of 1960 — part of his “youth appeal” was his habit of not wearing a hat)… and racism, sexism and religious bigotry is so ingrained, there is zero self-consciousness about behavior that — today — would be considered at best offensive, and at worst criminal.

You keep finding yourself stunned by passing comments, by the treatment of women (who are called girls and regarded as intellectually inferior), by the casual alpha male refusal to take ulcers, sobriety or fidelity seriously on any level. (Trust me — the drug and sex fueled immorality of the 1980s have got NOTHING on 1960.)

I love period stuff. I was just a kid back then… but this was the golden age of the super-agency, when John Caples was still around, Rosser Reeves was just getting reved up, and David Ogilvy was writing his most famous copy. Most of the ad and copywriting books on my shelf are from this period.

Sure, the ads are all about slogans, with lots of graphics (mostly paintings by damn good illustrators, since photography didn’t print so hot yet)… but salesmen were still in charge.

It was a different world back then… bad in many obvious ways, oblivious of psychological and physical health concerns (doctors smoked in the exam room), and you gotta wonder how anything ever got done when nearly every guy in the agency started drinking — heavily — at noon every day. In fact, you were regarded with suspicion if you weren’t a lush. (No promotion for you, Mr. Teatotaler.)

You can draw a straight line from the online advertising of today, clean through those late-fifties/early-sixties days, on back to the “official” beginnings of direct response in the heydays of the late 1800s.

You can laugh at how naive they seemed back then… but these are your ancestors, working away at the new-fangled IBM Selectrics after the exact same goals you’re after with your plasma monitors and laptops. (And really, we aren’t all that smart today… and a good case can be made that we’re going backwards intellectually, Devo-style, in spite of technological spurts.)

People often ask me for “extra” secrets to getting really good at marketing and copywriting and advertising in general. What they usually expect to hear is some overlooked secret about technique or some hidden tactic I’ve been keeping from everyone.

But you wanna know one of the really juicy, extra-advanced secrets to getting really good?

It’s becoming a student of history. Not just advertising history, but the history of our culture, of language and art and war and technology. We do very much live in exciting times, and the online adventure is as much a sci-fi story as anything else humans have ever experienced before.

But nothing has happened in a vacuum.

There are precendents to every detail of modern life. We tend to take things for granted… but that’s thinking inside the box, and that kind of stunted non-imagination is for losers.

History is the easiest way to expand your consciousness (without drugs, even), and to get the Big View of life (where all the truly mind-blowing revelations like to gestate).

Most folks fear history because they can’t see how it’s relevant to modern life. (Plus, it seems to be centered on lots and lots of reading, and that scares Americans.)

Just get over it. History is where genius finds inspiration, and where the most creative among us can put their ideas to the test.

Just catch a couple of “Mad Men” shows. It’s got a good series of plots going — ala the Soprano’s — and it’s a joy to watch. Well written, tightly edited, just a blast to veg out and absorb. I was years away from being a teenager back then, but I sort of remember the Zeitgeist of the period. So I’m mostly watching it as a stranger to the era, too. Don’t think it’s not for you just because you weren’t even a glimmer in your daddy’s eye in 1960.

Expand your horizons. Get a well-studied, documented taste of what life was like for your immediate ancestors in advertising.

The show comes with my highest recommendation.

Stay frosty…

John Carlton
www.marketingrebel.com

Part Deux: The Continuing Saga of the Sales Challenged Geek

And the firestorm continues to rage.

There are a number of issues that have reared their ugly head since I posted the first “Sales Challenged Geek” piece here. I’ve got a lot to say, so let’s just take ‘em on one at a time:

1. The skills behind world-class salesmanship are aggressively misunderstood by most people. This is exemplified by the polls taken by news organizations after the annual blitz of Super Bowl ads: They ask which ad was the “best”… and millions of people toss in their two cents.

This is marvelous theater… but a piss-poor way to judge the effectiveness of advertising.

People believe they understand the function of advertising, because they’ve seen so much of it over their lifetime.

And yet, almost universally, they are dead wrong about what makes an ad “good”.

There is just one way for a biz to judge the quality of any ad they run: Does it work?

Not, does it entertain? Not, is it inoffensive in every conceivable way, so no one gets riled up? And certainly not, does your spouse “like” it?

If you are a rookie in business, please take this one piece of advice from a grizzled veteran: Be VERY careful who you take advice from.

You can gather two dozen of your closest, most trusted friends, and ask them for advice on how to market your biz. Their hearts will be in the right place, they will be sincere, and many will honestly believe they understand the function of advertising enough to confidently tell you exactly what to do and what to avoid.

And, if none of your friends has any actual experience in marketing… you can bet all that wonderful advice will be somewhere around 100% wrong.

World-class salesmanship may not be rocket science… but it is a very non-intuitive set of learned skills on par with, say, learning to play a musical instrument. It’s not normally part of the original equipment issued when you come into this world.

And, fortunately, your business can probably get by with less than world-class salesmanship… but you do need to at least need to learn the basics. The equivalent of learning to play a simple song on the piano all the way through, to follow the analogy. (And keep in mind, most people screw up “Chopsticks”… and can’t even clap in time to a simple beat.)

These analogies are important, because the default belief out there about advertising and marketing is aggressively wrong. You can see this in some of the comments left on my last post — people are so sure that what they believe about long copy is the Truth (with a capital “T”), that they will not hesitate to argue with people who make their living at it.

This is not surprising to hardened advertising veterans, by the way. We know from experience that belief always trumps logic (and even science).

You will never change someone’s mind just because you have facts and results on your side. People will stubbornly cling to a welded-in belief even when it clearly is hurting them. (Before I learned to parse out the most oblivious clients as a freelancer, I was frequently faced with biz owners who would interfere with a winning ad… because their spouse “had a better idea”… and refuse to admit they’d made a mistake even as their profits plummeted.)

The illogical nature of the human mind is precisely why high-end salesmanship causes such outrage among the clueless — it’s often counter-intuitive, and, yes, psychologically manipulative.

2. The stunning power behind this psychological manipulation is exactly why I urge people to study salesmanship — especially how it’s used in advertising copy — even if they aren’t going to be writing their own ads.

If you are so clueless that a stark “take away” tactic in a pitch is gonna make you swoon with uncontrolled desire for something you don’t really want… then you’re not going to live a very good life.

You are, in fact, an A-1 sucker.

And I don’t want ANYONE to go around being suckered, or conned, or manipulated. If I could re-design the world, I’d make the art of persuasion part of our basic equipment.

But that’s not the way the world works.

In my course “Kick Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel”, I am emphatic (in the opening chapter) about hoping that anyone using these proven salesmanship tactics for unethical reasons… will go straight to Hell.

And I’m serious. Good direct marketing techniques probably deserve the black eye they have in the public’s mind. The entire advertising industry has a long history of touting rotten products, and scamsters make full use of every tactic in the book.

But that doesn’t make the tactics “bad”.

Listen carefully: Scamsters use the selling models they use… because those models work. Duh. Most cons know they only have ONE chance at a sale (cuz they probably need to either leave town fast, or take down their Website before being traced). So they don’t dick around with techniques that don’t get results.

None of us like this situation. In a perfect world, all scam artists would spontaneously burst into flames the moment they entered illegal territory.

But that’s not what happens.

The Web has opened the floodgates of scams that used to operate at the fringe of socieity. Back in the pre-wired days, most scams were conducted face-to-face, individually. Direct mail was too expensive, and newspapers wouldn’t accept print ads from identifiable con men.

Now, though, even the most pit-bull spam filter can’t begin to catch all the illicit and criminal crap hitting your inbox every hour of every day. Cheap email has made it profitable for crooks to spam.

But none of this discredits the effectiveness of good salesmanship.

3. Why not?

Because successful marketers understand the inherently hostile relationship between seller and buyer. The marketing graveyard is crammed to bursting with fabulous products that failed… because the marketing sucked.

And you’re using products right now, every hour of every day, that are overpriced, under-performing, and right on schedule to be obsolete long before you’ve gotten full value. (How’s that nifty new iPhone working out for ya?)

Sellers want to get the best price they can, while delivering what they believe is decent value.

Buyers want to get the most bang for thier buck, scoring the biggest bargain possible.

And that’s just on the surface.

Further down, in the murky depths where all psychological battles are fought, it starts to get really interesting.

Even the simplest transaction is fraught with peril for both seller and buyer. Say you need some nails, cuz your hammer’s lonely. Unless you’re a carpenter, you’re gonna find yourself in Home Depot staring slack-jawed at a bewildering array of pointy-tipped products. Row after row of them, too.

A rookie might consider this the easiest kind of sale possible. Guy wants nails, you got nails… what’s the problem?

Information is the problem. Somewhere in that armada of sharp metal is the perfect nail for the job you have at home. But you don’t know where that nail is. Or how much you should pay for it.

Or even what quality of that type of nail you should get.

Enter advertising. First, probably, in the guise of the helpful employee, who tries to steer you to the right shelf. He’ll ask you questions, narrow down your search… and present you with a choice.

In most retail situations, it’s the old “good, better, best” choice. Sears started it — if price is your main consideration, we got these cheap-shit nails in a plain plastic bag. They’re good enough. If you want something better — and don’t mind paying a bit more — we got these other nails over here… better quality material, more trustworthy, probably some form of guarantee.

Or, if you want the best… we have the snooty brand name nails, in the sturdy box, with the rebate coupon, the free hammer, the endorsement of The Tool Guy, and yadda, yadda, yadda.

Sure, they cost more. But doesn’t your hammer deserve the best?

This is all very advanced salesmanship, rife with psychological manipulation. The SAME mind game stuff used by scamsters, in fact. A little bit of take-away, a lot of credentializing, a whole bunch of risk-reversal.

And a complete rout of your objections.

You go to Home Depot for nails, you’re coming home with nails, dude.

Why is so much salesmanship needed for such a basic transaction?

Because of the perversity of the human mind. The guy who thought he knew what he needed is faced with a bewildering array of choices. His first thought is to flee. He’s thinking “I don’t want to make the wrong choice. My buddies would think I’m an idiot. Maybe I should ask my uncle about this first…” and so on.

The objections pile up fast and furious. Because the desire to buy, and the need to sell, are part of an inherently hostile interaction.

Yes, even when it seems to be in everyone’s best interest to have the deal go down.

And this is just for nails.

In the Information Age… with information and knowledge the stuff being sold and sought… the objections multiply quickly. With retail products, like nails, you can do cost comparisons right there in the store. You may even have a sense of what is too much, and what truly is a great bargain.

But how do you price information? Prospects come into your world with vague, unformed desires… and a straight checklist of features won’t do the job of selling them.

So here’s the bottom line: If you honsetly have a product of quality and worth… that your prospect truly needs and can make good use of… then it’s your JOB to do what you need to do to make the sale happen.

Shame on you if you let your prospect go away unhappy and unfulfilled and empty handed.

You gotta answer all his obvious questions… and counter the unconscious objections he isn’t even aware of yet. He needs rational reasons to buy, as well as irrational reasons to soothe his un-named fears.

So you explain the benefits. You establish yourself as a go-to guy. You help him understand why the price is what it is… and help him “fit” that price into his head. So he can confidentally explain to the doubters in his life why he just bought.

You remove his fear of being suckered. You let him know he got the better end of the bargain. You take away all risk, so he feels safe in buying right away.

But even deeper: You know (because you’re an uber-salesman) that he still won’t pull out his wallet if there is an easy way “out”. You know that even though he’ll kick himself later for not buying right then and there, and even though he wants it desperately… if he feels a lack of urgency, he will act against his own self-interest, and decline to close the deal.

Thus: You use limitations, deadlines, one-time offers, bonuses and whatever else you have in your arsenal to light a fire under his butt.

Because, as an experienced salesman, you know that once he leaves without buying, the odds of him returning later are very, very, very low. He walks, and you’ve lost the sale, most of the time.

Is this starting to make sense now?

4. The geeks who rail against the perceived scam-i-ness of long copy ads are engaging in another common human foible that all veteran salesmen recognize: The need to protect yourself against Voodoo.

People who do not understand advertising — but believe they do — are so terrified of being “taken”, that they set up a psychological “electric fence” around their brain. They become convinced they are so savvy about the wiles and tricks of marketing, that they are now immune.

One of the most dangerous aspects of unchecked belief systems is the false confidence they offer the believer. You can believe — with all your heart and soul — that you’re the baddest ass in the bar… the prettiest girl getting off the bus in Miami Beach… or the savviest hustler on the street.

And it’s always ugly when belief runs up against reality. Always.

You know what a world-class salesman wants to see in a prospect?

A tight wall of reasons why he’s NOT gonna buy.

You know why? Because even the most rock-solid psychological “electric fence” of resistance… is just a rickety pile of simple objections. You give a good salesman an objection, and he will reduce it to ashes.

All day long.

And when he’s done, you’ll be standing there thinking “He’s right. I do want that thing.”

Believe otherwise if you like. It’s your privilege to believe anything you want.

But old time door-to-door salesmen knew that the easiest marks on any block were the ones with the “No Solicitation” signs on the porch post.

5. This is why I want to teach salesmanship to everyone.

People who understand salesmanship lead better lives. Not because they’re better people… but because they are unencumbered with the burden of stupid beliefs.

And, they understand the process of selling that is going on in every store, on every Website, in every magazine, on every TV station… and between every set of humans alive — spouses, friends, neighbors, colleagues, enemies, and even strangers.

6. I’ll bet I get brow-beaten over this post in the comment section.

You challenge people’s beliefs at your own peril.

7. In fact, one comment kinda rankled me last time. Some yo-yo wrote “I don’t like what you’re pushing here”.

Pushing?

Dude, I am not pushing anything. This blog is free. And, if you’re honest about it, I’m delivering a ton of great info here.

For free.

I never push anyone into anything. You like what I’ve got to teach, and you want to go deeper with it, I’ve got courses and coaching programs. No, they’re not free. Neither is Harvard or Yale.

Is my advice worth the hefty price tag? Absolutely not, if you believe there is nothing I could teach you. Rock on, dude. I am not, and have never claimed to be, everyone’s cup of tea.

I earned my reputation as one of the highest-paid freelancers alive by getting results for over 25 years… often in the toughest markets out there. I’ve taught massive numbers of people the deep, dark arts of world-class copywriting and salesmanship for almost as long (and that would be why www.marketingrebel.com, my main site, is so crammed with excited testimonials).

So, disagree with me, if you must.

But don’t distort the argument. I never mentioned “get rich quick” schemes in my prior post. If you’re a geek who has made the sticky connection between long copy and scams in your head, that’s fine. Make a case for another path, by showing me results, though — not boring rants about your beliefs.

You know who uses long copy… with all the advanced salesmanship tactics available?

You’re not gonna like hearing this…

Reader’s Digest (they even use “grabbers” like pennies glued to their long-copy direct mail letters)…

Prevention Magazine point-of-purchase (published by the folks behind the mega-successful “South Beach Diet”)…

Men’s Health magazine…

Sharper Image catalogs…

Sky Mall catalogs (in the seat-pocket in front of you)…

The Wall Street Journal (owners of one of the most famous long-copy direct mail letters in history)…

Time-Life — their hour-long informericals for music CDs are legendary…

The ACLU… both political parties (and most third-party candidates)… and every charity out there: the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Cancer Society…

and on, and on, and on.

You think people bought iPods because of a few bitchin’ commercials featuring the Vines?

Please.

Apple orchestrated a tsumani of planned articles for a year in advance. Very much the equivalent of a stretched-out long copy ad… using every salesmanship trick in the book.

You think Ford and Toyota and the other car makers sell just from their splashy television spots? Get real. The big sales and rebates (great examples of desire-inflaming take-aways, by the way) are just to get you in the door. Once there, you are in for a spoken “long copy” sales pitch.

You wanna talk about scams?

How about the bullshit shoveled out by Big Pharma every night during prime time? Happy, healthy people dancing along tropical shores or sleeping like untroubled babies… while the list of admitted side effects are glossed over matter-of-factly (and the truly nasty side effects only make an appearance as headlines when people start dying).

Is Coke a “reputable” company? Nice, graphic-heavy ads. Nothing hard-sell, or offensive to be found.

Right. It’s sugar water. Not just with zero health benefits… but with negative health implications from the corn syrup, the fizz, the “secret ingredients”, even the caffeine.

In blind taste tests, I seem to recall, Pepsi even wins against Coke head-to-head… though Pepsi remains number two world-wide.

So, is it the nice, friendly ads doing all the selling?

Nope. It’s all about shelf position in the store, and monopoly status in restaurants and vending machines. Hard core, cutthroat, street-level salesmanship. They’re good at it, and have been for a century.

It costs them pennies to make the goop and bottle it. You pay a vast multiple of their cost for the privilege of dousing your guts with nutritionless sugar water. And the proceeds keep them fat, rich, and with an advertising budget bigger than the GDP of most nations.

And you’re pissed about the Nigerian bank scams, just because they offend your sense of “dignified advertising models”?

Well, okay, I’m outraged at the scamsters, too. They have sullied the skills of legitimate, world-class salesmanship, and given teachers like me an uphill battle when helping clueless newbies get their business chops together.

But really. Stop equating graphics-heavy, clever, entertaining ads with “reputable”. It’s bullshit.

And unless you take the trouble to at least learn the honest basics of real salesmanship, then you’re ripe for being a sucker over and over again for the rest of your days. In every human interaction you engage in, from buying crap to keeping the romance alive in your main relationships.

Get hip, stop fussing with belief systems, and get over your fear of Voodoo.

You can make your ads look nice. No rule against that.

But you cannot get world-class results without salesmanship. If you’re happy with your results, and content to be clueless, great. Carry on. Be well and happy.

But if you’re NOT happy with your results, then… just maybe… learning a few honest selling techniques can turn your life around.

Whew.

I got on a friggin’ roll there…

Stay frosty,

John Carlton
www.carltoncoaching.com

The Continuing Saga of the Sales-Challenged Geek

So it’s a gorgeous day, I’ve snuck out of the office on reasonable pretense, and I’m cruising down South Virginia Street with the top down and “Kid” by the Pretenders laying waste to my eardrums.

And I’m thinking to myself: Why don’t I get outa the office more often during the day, and drive around aimlessly like this?

South Virginia is a busy main drag, but traffic is moving fast, like feed through a goose.

I’m blissed out.

Suddenly, every lane north and south comes to a screeching halt, the cars hitting the brakes so abruptly that their rear ends bounce up like cockroaches running into a wall. I fishtail, and somehow everyone avoids a pile-up.

The problem? Some dude in a thrashed Riviera blowing across four lanes of heavy traffic from a cross-street with no light… and getting a good look at him, I start laughing my ass off.

He’s staring straight ahead as he barrels through, his left hand held aloft, giving a defiant middle finger to everyone he’s just given an adrenalin dump to.

Hey, you gotta get across a busy street, you gotta get across the busy street.

Hit the gas, and damn the torpedos.

Wow.

Two thoughts pass through my mind as traffic starts moving again.

First thought: This is why I don’t get out more often. People go all whack under the summer sun.

And my second thought: Hey, I know that guy.

Okay, I don’t actually “know” him. Never seen that warped Buick with the peeling Landau roof before in my life, or the “proud to give the world the bird” driver.

But I know his type. All my life, I’ve gone out of my way to hang out with different kinds of people. I’m not sure why I’ve done that — probably some vague sense of wanting to sample everything out there — but it’s sure helped me as a marketer.

And I’ll tell you why it helps in a minute.

First, I gotta tell you who that guy reminded me of.

Back in my first year out of high school, I had worked my way into some pretty tough crowds. My long hair and minor skill with a guitar was my back-stage pass to Hoodlum City, and I was eager to experience life outside the mostly-safe, “Leave It To Beaver” lifestyle I’d been raised in.

In fact, I spent close to a year hanging out with bikers and ex-cons and other riff-raff. The dregs of society.

I loved it. These guys had a total “up yours” attitude to mainstream America, and purposely violated every rule and social more they could find. Looking back, it was like playing in a lion’s den… but at the time, I felt dangerous and “real”.

And because I was so skinny and naive and young, I enjoyed the privilege of being considered something like the kid brother some of those monsters never had. So I somehow never got my skull bashed in.

Okay, I’ll leave the stories of debauchery and gettin’ chased by cops for another time.

The reason I bring those guys up now is their peculiar world view. I got to know it well, and watching that maroon in the Riviera nearly cause a twelve-car collision today — while flipping off the strangers he’d nearly killed, just to make his point of “don’t give a shit” as poignant as possible — clarified a whole other issue for me.

Here’s that other issue: Last month, my ears started itching. It was because a heated discussion about me was reaching fever pitch online — and I just hadn’t caught wind of it yet.

But my partner Stan noticed a serious spike in views to my main page, www.marketingrebel.com… and tracked them to a blog that had started a thread about “long copy Web sites”, with my site as the primary suspect hoisted up for inspection.

No harm there. In fact, I’m flattered. The blog in question is actually more than “just” a blog — it’s been called the top hit-getting Q&A site on the Internet (after Yahoo Answers and MicroSoft QnA).

Perhaps you’ve heard of it — MeFi, as it’s affectionately known by insiders. Or Metafilter, the real name.

It’s truly an amazing site, started back in 1999 by a 35-year-old programmer who wanted to have the best blog in the universe. You’d be hard-pressed to find a subject that doesn’t get covered within any 3-day period on MeFi… from technology, shopping and health to law, fashion and religion.

Oh, and advertising.

It’s as close to truly broad-based community as I’ve ever found online. A cacophony of voices, ideas, opinions, and — primarily — getting questions answered.

Anyway… the founder floated a rather innocuous question last month… wondering if anyone knew if “long copy” Web sites were efficient or not in getting desired results.

And he offered up three samples. Mine was first.

Oh, my goodness, but the stoning began immediately, and went deep.

Let me tell you something: The dust-up over the “Web 2.0″ bullshit is pretty much over in the active online direct marketing community. The top marketers may toy with fancier stuff here and there… but they still rely on long-copy sales pitches when it’s crunch time.

However… outside the tidy niche of entrepreneurs and small biz who track results… there’s a raging debate still going on about “nice looking”, high tech sites… versus the “scammy-looking” efforts of the marketers who dare to post copy that… well… looks like mine.

The horror!

I’ll give you the link in a moment, and you can go see how vicious the comments got. (I can recommend Metafilter, regardless, as a resource site. I’ve spent some time surfing it, and I like it mucho.) (Even though they used me as an ideological punching bag.)

The comments were brutal and cocksure. I could tell most of the writers were competent geeks, too, from the way they brandished high-tech language.

In thier view, long-copy sites were ugly blots on the virtual landscape, definitely scams, and obviously maintained by brain-addled low-lifes who were clueless about how to sell anything online.

Reading through the comments, I’m in tears… from laughing so hard.

I mean, I’ll cop to being brain-addled.

But clueless about selling online?

No way, dude.

And today — watching the Bird Man flaunt common sense (and safety) in a way that reminded me instantly of the biker drop-outs from my youth — the lesson here just coalesced in my mind.

It’s all connected.

And it’s about belief systems… and how they will screw your life up.

Harken: All humans are a perverse lot when it comes to logic.

There isn’t, and never has been, any kind of real “common sense” to be found throughout history. We like to believe we possess common sense, and also a clear-eyed view of the “truth”.

But the key word there is “believe”.

For most folks, common sense and truth are as real as the tooth fairy.

Those bikers had a very romantic mythology built up around themselves. They were outlaws, just a band of brothers unfairly hounded by The Man and hamstrung by a society intent on crushing their spirit.

And, to be fair, most of them had huge hearts and an admirable sense of loyalty and honor. I liked most of them immensely.

But their outlaw status was primarily the result of bone-headed, irresponsible behavior. They didn’t have rap sheets from robbing the rich to give to the poor. Often, they did time because they got high, lost control of their bike, and took out a lamp post.

Or forgot they were “carrying” when they flipped off the wrong cop, showing off to friends.

Nevertheless, to them it was a vast conspiracy by society to harsh their mellow.

The Bird Man in the beat-up Riviera?

Same thing. I’m sure of it, just from the glimpse I got of his defiant smirk.

In his world-view, rules and courtesy and order are for suckers.

Of course, Dr. Phil might ask him: “And how’s that working out for you?”

If you’ve got anything going for you at all — any measurable success in life — it’s probably easy for you to see the wrong-headedness of would-be outlaws and wannabe sociopaths. It’s one thing to be a non-conformist, right? And quite another thing to just ask for it by taunting the laws of man and physics.

Ah, but here’s the lesson for marketers: That same trap awaits you, every day.

It’s the trap of drinking your own Kool-Aid… and not having anyone call you on it.

The geeks trashing my long-copy site are a perfect example.

I’m sure they’re good people, and honestly believe what comes out of their mouths.

But that’s the problem. When you believe you know a certain truth… and no one around you refutes that belief, or challenges you on it… then you start to confuse belief with reality.

And whether your belief is “I’m a bad ass outlaw”… or “I understand advertising”… or even “no one reads long copy”… then that belief can become cemented into your head as truth.

Even though it’s bullshit.

Sometimes, you’re not an outlaw… you’re just a dick.

And sometimes, your ideas on what “works” in advertising is so wrong, it’s laughable.

Hey — we all suffer from the effects of an “echo chamber” at certain times in our lives. It just happens — we surround ourselves with people who think like us, we stop getting alternative input, and soon we start regarding everyone who doesn’t think like us as the “Other”.

So everyone with a toehold in the power structure is out to get you.

And everyone aggressively trying to sell are scamsters.

That’s just the way it is. That’s what you believe. And what you believe must be true, because you believe it so deeply, and never question it.

Like I said… we all fall victim to belief systems. We all have a love/hate relationship with reality.

In the case of the geeks, however, it’s just silly.

If you read the posts in the thread about long copy on Metafilter, you’ll see certain phrases pop up like weeds: “I don’t like it…” “I think it’s…” “This is obviously…”

And it’s all belief. No actual facts, or reality behind any of it.

Like I said — in the community of successful direct marketers, the question of long-copy versus graphics-heavy short-copy isn’t even on the table anymore. It was settled long ago by guys who test, and pay attention to what works.

And here’s the way it works: If you’re selling something, you start at the beginning of your pitch, move through all the things you need to say to establish credibility, incite desire, hold attention, counter objections… and move your prospect through every other stage he needs to go through to get tweaked enough over your offer to pull out his wallet.

If you can accomplish that with a few clever bon mots and a nice table of ironic animation, go for it.

However, if you haven’t tested anything… and you simply believe you “understand” what goes into good salesmanship because you’ve seen so many ads in your life that you MUST be an expert already… then please take a time out.

You need a reality check, dude.

Entrepreneurs who model their selling tactics on what Madison Avenue does with Coke and Toyota do not remain entrepreneurs very long. They quickly become ex-entrepreneurs, and are soon forced to get a nice, safe day job to pay their bills.

Business owners who have something to sell… and want to sell it… had better pay attention to the successful marketers who actually understand and employ real salesmanship.

It’s not entertaining… it’s not often pretty… and it’s not about “branding” or creating cool art.

Or even being “liked”. God knows those of us who champion long copy and aggressive sales tactics have suffered our share of slings and arrows.

Like I’ve always said: If I wake up tomorrow, and the laws of the universe have changed… so that pretty, clever, soft-sell ads suddenly sell product like hotcakes… then I will be the first veteran to start creating pretty, clever ads full of graphics and minus hard-core salesmanship.

I don’t write long copy ads because I enjoy sweating out vast sales pitches.

Nah. I’m too lazy for that.

I write long copy ads because that’s what works.

What you “think” about these ads is irrelevant.

That you don’t “like” them is beside the point.

When your belief system butts up against reality, reality wins every single time… at least when money’s on the line.

You can believe that three-of-a-kind beats a flush with all your heart… but you still won’t take home the pot.

The first time I voted for president, I was positive my boy would win in a landslide… because all my friends thought exactly as I did. The other guy running was a putz, no one with any brains would ever vote for him, and our platform was so reasonable and fair, we were a shoo-in.

That was 1972. I voted for McGovern, who got pounded by Nixon in the biggest electoral slaughter in US history. McGovern carried his home state, and nothing else.

I was in shock for a month, my youthful (and very naive) idealism shaken to its core.

But I’m glad I got that kind of vicious reality check so young. It healed fast, and forever after, I was suspicious of people with loud opinions that weren’t backed by practical experience.

There are, essentially, two groups of people in the world of small biz owners and entrepreneurs: Those who believe they know what should work in advertising… and the rich guys who KNOW what works.

Hey… I’m kinda fired up about this, aren’t I.

Just be clear: I’m not trying to embarrass anyone here.

I’m just taking my job as teacher seriously.

And I say this because I know — from personal experience — that getting slapped by reality can jar your entire world view.

It’s very much like getting busted by The Man… unfairly, rudely and wrongly.

How dare reality be so ugly and against my grain?

Ah, heck. Maybe I’ll get into this more later…

Stay frosty,

John Carlton
www.carltoncoaching.com

P.S. Check out that site — www.carltoncoaching.com – when you get a moment. My partner Stan and I have crammed the available mentoring opportunties there with free goodies that should get your greed gland quivering.

That is… check it out if you’re not scared of a little long copy.

P.P.S. Lastly… any rumors of me giving another “copywriting sweatshop” seminar, where I personally rip into your efforts at writing a good pitch, are just that: rumors.

I do have a small, intimate event coming up… but you can’t get into it unless you’re on my “private invite” list. Sorry.

P.P.P.S. Oops, almost forgot. Here’s the link to the Metafilter thread: http://ask.metafilter.com.


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