Archive Monthly Archives: November 2005

Been There

Most of the people I consider my “e-colleagues” — in other words, the guys who have the Web wired, and are making major bucks with their online efforts — are too young to have ever experienced a real recession.

Or a genuine economic panic.

I’m not bragging. At the last big seminar I spoke at, I enjoyed the respect I garnered from my many years in the front line trenches of advertising… but jeez, I was fifteen years older than the next oldest speaker. That’s just… annoying as hell.

Still, you’re only as young as you think you are… and since I never really “grew up” in the sense most people consider the concept, I’m not all that freaked out over being the wise ass with the salt-and-pepper hair. To my mind, I just have more stories to tell. Better ones, too.

And this is one of those stories.

The last vicious recession worthy of the name experienced in the Western economy was just after the first Iraq war (back when W.’s daddy did the honors). Almost fifteen years ago. To the thirty-something business moguls I deal with, that’s ancient history. To the twenty-something upstart entrepreneurs, it’s a hazy rumor that happened while they were watching Sesame Street.

That recession, however, was brutal enough to cost Bush the Elder the election… but it was still considered “medium-mild” by economists. Like an earthquake that only knocks a few buildings off their foundations — nowhere near “Hollywood-level disaster” status.

You wanna talk disaster? I left college and entered the job market in 1975, during the worst economic downturn America had seen since the Great Depression. Nixon had slapped on federal price and wage controls, gas lines went around the block, and Bears chewed up Wall Street something ugly.

The gas lines came back in ’79, when OPEC used the Iranian revolution as an excuse to starve us. (And, I kid you not, that was the first time it was finally deemed “okay” to drive a foreign car. Detroit was still pumping out behomoth gas-guzzlers — the typical sedan drank a gallon of gas every dozen miles or so — oblivious to the reality of the market. My little Datsun truck was a life-saver for a broke guy like me.)

A few years later, the economy went south again. There used to be these cute little quasi-bank institutions called “Savings and Loans” — and they became fodder for the new kind of pillage coming from the investing class. Imagine going to your bank one day to cash a check, and finding out the doors are locked, your money’s gone, and no one seems to be responsible. Or care much about it.

This happened, folks. An entire nation-wide financial institution, wiped out by uncontrolled greed (fueled by sudden, purposeful rule changes coming out of Washington).

This was around the time I started freelancing for the financial newsletter industry. So, hey, I know a little bit about the way things went down.

In fact, I had three — count ’em, three — direct response packages in the mail, all for Bullish advisors, on Black Friday in October, 1987. The day the Dow lost an arm and a leg.

On the following Black Monday, I hung up my financial writing spurs, and went back to more stable clients.

If you’re too young to remember any of this, don’t sweat it. I’m through with the short history lesson — I just needed to establish my bona fides to make a larger point.

See, I was immersed in the financial world at that time. The world seemed to be imploding — AIDS, the Cold War stare-down getting really nasty, role models telling kids that “greed is good”… and gold hitting $800 an ounce.

The mood of those mid-to-late eighties came back today in full fire-breathing color… when I saw a headline saying that gold had just topped $500 an ounce for the first time since 1987.

I bought two Kruggerands just after the $800 peak, for around $500 an ounce. Everyone I knew was hording silver dimes, rare coins, and as much gold as they could lay their hands on. Mortgage rates had recently hovered around 20%(!), several of the oldest and most stable U.S. airlines had just been dismantled through hostile take-overs (because greed-heads wanted the pension money) (I’m not making this up)… and I briefly succumbed to the panic.

And bought a couple of gold coins.

At a price that immediately collapsed… and hasn’t been touched again until today. Almost two decades later.

So what’s my point?

Hang on. It’s about the Web.

It’s important.

See, back then, I wasn’t running around scared. Hell, I’d grown up with ICBMs pointed at me. I was born during the Korean War, hit puberty during the Cuban missile crisis (“duck and cover”), went through high school in the late sixties — I’ll never run out of stories about that trip — and limped out of college just as Vietnam was ending. I lived in Silicon Valley during the years it was the prime target of Russian spying. And, as I said, I slagged finanical advice for much of the go-go eighties.

Crisis was my life, dude. I ate crisis for breakfast… and sipped a beer with it at night.

When the Great Dot Com Stock Market Crash rocked the globe at the turn of this century, I yawned. I had friends watch their fortunes vanish, right there on their computer monitors, and knew several businessmen who — having bought the hype that “the good times will never end” — had leveraged themselves to their eyeballs… and were now leveled onto their asses.

I don’t like seeing good people get hurt… but I had been wondering for a very long time why otherwise smarkt people were buying all the “we’ve reinvented the economy” nonsense. You don’t reinvent an economy. It can change, even mutate, under your feet… but nothing YOU do will ever make a ripple.

What was it Greenspan warned everyone of, just before the dunk? Irrational exhuberance?

People thought they could control Fate solely by being really, really goggle-eyed positive. And ignoring bad stuff.

For several years now, I’ve been telling anyone who’ll listen that the Web has been going through a Gold Rush period — where the lack of rules and standards (and especially the lack of seasoned Big Companies competing) meant that almost any wild-hair scheme could succeed. And you could make a fortune slapping up silly Websites… because the Big Boys were not yet paying attention.

It was fun. A lot of people made a lot of money. And good for them.

And there’s still a lot of money to be made.

But… it’s not so much a Gold Rush anymore. The change happened very recently, and was spurred by economics.

Two very recent news stories sum it up: On November 19th, the Wall Street Journal more or less announced that newspapers as we knew and loved them… are now in their graves, waiting for the dirt to be shoveled on. The smart papers, like the Journal, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and a few others, are going online in a big way now. Soon, there will be no more paper-rustling at the breakfast table.

Just the faint buzz of the DSL line.

Of course, there are many online e-mags, blogs and all sort of other e-media waiting for the “Old School” journalists, and the battle has begun in earnest.

As someone who cares about information, and about truth… I have a horse in how this all plays out.

The other story is from the Post. November 21st: The United Nations makes a bid to “control” the Internet. By taking over the registration of domain names from the U.S.

Now, that ain’t gonna happen just because they asked nice.

But the writing’s on the wall, kids. China is desperately trying to control blogs and incoming news online. Up-for-election Congressmen in the U.S. are voting for laws that will make the Web obedient to their Puritanical peeves. When was the last time you visited your bank? You’re likely doing most of your bill-paying online… and all your money is just blips on a hard drive somewhere.

Perhaps in India.

I’m not panicking. I don’t panic easily — not because I’m brave, but because I’m so jaded.

The Web is changing, and changing fast. Google’s stock is out of control, considering that MicroSoft and Yahoo are gunning for their share of the search engine market. That’s like being the biggest and baddest guy in the local bar, and getting all the respect… and then hearing a couple of hard-ass bikers are now in town, and they’re comin’ for ya.

Hey, it’s like living through a real sci-fi novel. If anyone tells you they know what’s gonna happen, get as far away from them as you can. (My favorite pre-Dot Com Crash go-go financial advice book of 200 was “DOW 30,000!”)

But you don’t have to run around blind and crazed and freaked. If all the conspiracy theories in the world all come true tomorrow, then maybe we’ll be UFO food, and none of this matters.

However, if the economy is as flexible as it’s shown itself to be — over and over and over again since the Industrial Revolution — then you shouldn’t be losing sleep over the possibility of a Neo-Nazi take-over of the West Wing.

Instead, you should keep your wits about you. Stiff upper lip and all that. All we have to fear, is fear itself, and all that other time-tesed jargon is pretty good to remember. Whatever doesn’t kill you, blah, blah, blah.

Personally, I am financially diversified up the yin-yang. (I’m even considering stuffing money into coffee cans and burying them in the back yard… except I’d have to shoot the neighbors if they saw me…)

And I’m still very close to many of the young entrepreneurs who work magic on the Web, because it’s the only marketplace they’ve ever known or cared about… and they do what they do very, very well.

However, the smart ones also stay close to grizzled old veterans like me, and Halbert, and Kennedy.

Cuz we’ve been there, man.

Experience is like insurance, in uncertain times.

Things are getting interesting. Consider yourself blessed to be living in such exciting, fast-moving times. In another life, you could have been tending corn on a peaceful farm somewhere far from the action.

Now, the action comes to you, online.

Okay, I’m done.

If gold goes up another fifty bucks, I’m selling the Krugs, though. on eBay.

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

Thank You

I know a lot of people get pissy during the holidays. The crowds are unruly and rude, the roads are clogged, the pressure is on and stress goes through the roof.

I really lucked out, though — I thoroughly enjoyed my family while growing up (my twin cousins and I are still best friends) (and we still marvel at the adventures we shared as kids)… and later on, I hooked up with friends who know how to cut through the bullshit and get to the calm, pleasurable center of special occasions.

I don’t care if the turkey’s burnt or underdone, I don’t care if the weather is perfect or sucks, and I don’t care if any particular guest has a coping problem.

Because all I care about is the opportunity to reflect on where I’m at, and what I truly do have to be thankful for.

Seems odd that we had to create a holiday to do this… but I’m all for it. The football is fun, the way merchants try to make festive messes in their stores is entertaining, and my memories of being taught all that crap about pilgrims and Indians still makes me smile.

But, as I head into my upteenth holiday, I’m amazed — yet again — that I’ve survived my rollicking past, and have somehow arrived at this place I inhabit now. Teaching, writing prolifically, wired into the red-hot center of the Web… I’m just stunned at my good fortune.

And I’m not taking any of it for granted. There were many, many other paths I could have taken over the years… each one leading to God knows where. I have close friends no longer with us, and others in various stages of disrepair, and I know (now, after feeling invulnerable for most of my life) that every new lap around the calendar is a gift.

I love this season. For me, it’s not just leaves turning and the landscape going bare under the coming snows. Rather, it’s a time for renewal, a time to refill my soul with gratitude and, yes, even more amazement at the ride we’re all on here.

I’ve been depressed, and I’ve been insanely happy, and I’ve been everywhere in between. It’s a journey, and you gotta find your own mojo and learn how to deal with your own physiological and emotional idiosyncracies.

Nobody has it down “perfect”. Everybody bleeds, and everybody screws up now and again. Getting it all into perspective helps calm you down. All this will pass, no matter how unyielding and overwhelming it seems at the moment.

I know the holidays are difficult for many folks.

But I hope that this time, you remember to take a deep breath, get centered… and take it all in. Living life well requires a healthy appetite for every detail, both the good and the bad.

Enjoy yourself.

And stay frosty.

John Carlton

Telling The Truth

I’m going through another maze of medical “opinions”… this time trying to find a vet who’ll give me some straight talk about the condition of my dog’s health.

I’ve sat down with dozens of vets over the years. Interesting breed of professional — they are, typically, the most educated and least paid in the medical field. The best go through as much schooling as “human” physicians do… and though they aren’t officially sanctioned to work on people, I would not hesitate to seek care from one in an emergency.

There are bad ones, no doubt… but the good ones are really good. Maybe it’s because they love animals so much — if you hate fur, you’re not a good fit for the job. You gotta enjoy getting dirty.

At any rate, I’ve learned a ton of important stuff from hanging around vet’s offices. My little adventure this time through the system took me to the UC Davis vet teaching hosptial… where the head of oncology spent over three hours with us.

He wanted to make absolutely sure we had every question answered, and answered to our satisfaction.

Compare that with my friend who found himself in a Miami emergency room with a life-threatening condition last month. They saved his ass… but the doctor spent all of two minutes with him, and if my friend didn’t know how to Google for his own information, he would still be in the dark about what actually happened. And how to keep it from happening again.

So, over all, I’ve been very happy with my experiences with animal docs.

However, there is still one nagging, very bothersome complaint: Though I know some of these vets well… it was like pulling teeth to get the truth out of them.

They all have a natural tendency to want to “coat” bad news with jargon. They also downplay the bad side effects when they’re urging us to go with one treatment method. The only way I know this, is that by boning up on info ourselves, and playing “dumb” with each new vet we saw, a better picture of what was going on emerged.

The truth — defined as what the broad spectrum of possibilities were, rather than the narrow opinion of any one vet — was elusive. It was only at the university hospital… and only at the very end of a long and grueling discussion… that the head doc finally leaned back, actually threw up his hands… and told us the truth about what was going on.

Basically, he said “If this was my dog…” and then delivered his educated opinion. I won’t bore you with the details, because what’s important here is this delivery of straight talk.

The vets are very much like many marketers. When you’re steeped in the details of anything, it gets more and more difficult to nurture absolute opinions, and you start including all sorts of disclaimers. A rookie consultant — and I’ve been around a few — might say “You do this and then this… every single time.” After twenty years in the biz, though, I find myself starting every piece of advice with “It depends on what outcome you want…”.

I say this because I now know that “truth” is dependent on the variables of the situation. There’s is seldom just one answer.

There are no — or at least very few — absolutes in anything. Two plus two always equals four… unless you’re dealing with amoebas that merge and purge, and then you may end up with three, or one, or a dozen. Staying with math, pi can be described as a rather small, tidy number… or a monster several hundred numbers deep. Which answer is the “truth”? Depends on what the question is.

And, I’m sorry, but if your politics involve principles you consider absolute — no matter what — then you’re a deluded idealist. The current government is full of ’em… all trying desperately to stuff square complex problems into round simple holes. It doesn’t work so well.

In marketing, ask yourself which camp you fall into — either trying to convince your audience that the answers to their problems are simple and absolute, or that the answers are so complex they need a guide like you. And then step back, and re-examine that position as a prospect.

You know what I’ve found? Most folks just want the truth as it applies to their situation, no matter how brutal or unpleasant it may be. They distrust rosy pictures that deny anything could ever go wrong. They bristle not just when they’re lied to — which is unforgivable — but also when misled.

And yet, they are seldom treated with straight talk.

Long ago, I decided that when I critiqued a piece of copy — a service I offer my Insiders — I would do it the same way I critique my own copy. Which means, there’s no flattery involved. It’s just a straight-on “does it work” assault, run through my Bullshit Detector and my Innder Salesman. If the copy doesn’t meet my high standards, it most likely will not produce world class results.

And so I am not shy about trashing your effort if it’s bad. There’s money on the line. There are other places you can go if all you want is someone to stroke your ego. I won’t do it — if you’re gonna send an ad out into the bad old business world, it needs to be all grown up and ready to meet the skepticism and disbelief and outright hostility of the real market. Or it will bomb.

That’s all I’ve ever done, in my newsletters, my blog, and my teaching events: Just lay it out, and tell the truth, as precisely as I can.

Now, there are many markets where telling the truth will get you burned. Politics, for example. The diet market, for another. (There is and alwasys will be a niche for truth-telling in both examples… but the main part of each audience will never appreciate the truth. They want to be lied to.)

I was shocked when that one vet just opened up and spoke to me like I was a peer, minus the soft soothing tones he obviously used for most people. I wanted the straight dope, and was ready to hear the worst. Turned out, the worst wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I’d feared.

Now, finally, we can decide what to do… armed with good info.

In the movie “A Few Good Men”, Jack Nickolson (playing a Gitmo commanding officer) famously said “You can’t handle the truth.” It was a stunning moment. And his opinion, I’ve discovered, is shared by many people in positions of power.

But the Tom Cruise JAG lawyer disagreed. He didn’t say it, but his stance was “The truth will set you free.” That isn’t true across the board, because, as I said, there are many people who really don’t want to hear the truth, not ever.

Still, it’s worth spending some time figuring out what stance is best for your particular market.

I’ve always advised people to aspire to become the “Go To Guy” in their market… because few markets already have someone in that spot. And, being a Go To Guy means you must have a handle on the bottom line truth… and be willing to explain that truth in a way that informs and empowers your customers.

It’s not the easiest row to hoe. We’re not brought up to appreciate the value of the truth, and we’re not taught to respect it. (I haven’t gone through medical school, but I’ve spent enough time with doctors to know that they do NOT believe you — as the patient — deserve to know everything. Too many of them believe M.D. stands for “Medical Deity”, and that you should just take their advice and shut up. The only way to avoid nasty surprises is to get hip. You only get the “peer” treatment when you prove to him that you know nearly as much as he does.)

This is not a simple subject. I wish it were.

Do what you believe is right. In my experience, however, the truth is always better than delusion. If it’s bad news, you’re not going to shed more tears than if you were “protected”.

It’s funny, in a way — here we are, deep in the Information Age, and truth remains a rare thing.

Ah, the irony.

Stay frosty.

John Carlton

The Silly Basics

The Big Seminar was a huge success, of course. One of those seminal events that will be talked about for some time to come, and used as a reference when talking about how other events compare.

Armand Morin deserves congratulations. I had fun, and I did business there, as planned. It was a success on all fronts — even the “fun” part.

I didn’t talk myself hoarse, but I did smile myself numb — literally felt my jaw start to cramp up. I work alone most of the time, you see. You don’t have to smile so much when there’s no one else in the room — when I do smile during the workday, it’s usually at the dogs. They just wag their tails and go back to sleep.

Seems more efficient, somehow.

Had my hand shaken a lot, too, at the event. Strong grips, weak grips, damp grips, confused soul-shake grips, crushing vices. Why do some guys feel they have to hear bones cracking when greeting someone? I’m a big fan of a nice, brief, firm handshake that skips the “I could crush your phallanges” Tweak Of Doom.

But the handshake is one of those cultural expectations that isn’t taught to anyone anymore — too many folks muddle through them, or try to avoid them, and hope they did the right thing without ever knowing for sure. And yet, so many people (especially in business) place a silly amount of significance on a handshake that you MUST figure out your own style, or start out every meeting awkwardly.

If you are confused, stop fussing. Offer your hand, grip the other person’s offered paw gently but with the purpose of a short, non-threatening squeeze-and-shake, and pull away. Smile and look ’em in the eye. Nothing more needs to be done. If you’re presented with an alternative kind of handshake, take it as a sign that you’ve been identified as cool enough to accept it. If you don’t know the particulars of that shake, find some way to give your gentle but firm squeeze, and pull back, smiling. And say, clearly, how good it is to meet them, or see them again, and get on with the conversation. Never obsess on the awkwardness of any botched shake, or even show evidence that you noticed.

That’s the sign of confidence other people are looking for. A comfort in your own skin, especially when confronted with something unfamiliar or awkward. Take it in stride, stay focused on what’s important — the sharing of recognition and the pressing flesh — and move on.

I say this, because I keep coming across younger people who increasingly are just helpless during what should be a two-second gesture of formality. They don’t know what to do. They’re self-conscious. Or, they insist on performing shake rituals they picked up from music videos, involving fringe culture niches of which they have no connection with whatsoever.

If you aren’t a pimp, don’t try to shake hands like one.

I feel for them. My generation rebelled, loudly and obnoxiously, against anything seen as being too “Establishment” oriented… and the siimple handshake ritual was a casualty. I’m glad most of us have moved past the nonsense of trying to come up with something “different” or more “meaningful” — like the group hug — and have just gone back to a brief but firm grip-‘n’-shake with a smile. Bam, bam, and you’re done and moving on with whatever it is that brought you to this point, standing there grinning expectantly at someone.

There was a great story I read a few years ago, about a guy who took the time to teach some inner city kids how to play chess very, very well. They, in fact, earned an invitation to Washington, D.C., to play in a tournament… something this guy thought the kids would be happy about. But they weren’t. Instead, they acted up, insisted they had no intention of going anywhere, and spewed venom on the very idea that any stupid tournament was a worthwhile thing to be involved with.

It took him a while, but this guy slowly realized that what seemed to be bravado was really just stark fear. These kids had never been outside the city. Never been in an airport, let alone been inside a plane. They didn’t know what was expected of them, didn’t know how to behave, didn’t know the rituals, and were scared… but their code of honor wouldn’t allow them to say so.

So he did some basic desensitizing work, slowly. First, he had them look up D.C. on a map. Showed some videos of both the city… and of people taking plane trips. Eventually, he took them all down to the airport for a tour. Found someone to open up a jet, and let them look around. By the time the trip came up, the kids were not doing anything new anymore — they’d either studied, seen, or been in most of the places they had to get through to arrive at the tournament. Even practiced dressing in a way that made them feel like they belonged, yet still showed a bit of personal style.

So, at the event, they walked in not wearing a jacket and tie for the first time, and they smiled and shook hands like they’d been doing it all their lives.

They acted like they belonged, because the details were no longer a big stupid mystery… but merely a series of silly rituals that had been explained and practiced. No big deal.

They did well at the tournament, too. In effect, they marched in, took their seat at the big damn feast that life offers, and partook, heartily.

Good for them.

And shame on the rest of us for allowing such simple rituals and basic knowledge of details to separate us from each other.

Right now, whole generations are trying to get through life without saying “please” and “thank you”. By not saying these simple phrases, they are seen as rude, and people get offended, and all sorts of stereotypes are reinforced and all sorts of hostility comes bubbling up.

I’m not a culture warrior. I think you should be able to do your thing as you see fit, as long as you don’t harm anyone or harsh my mellow. If you wanna pretend you’re a gangster, go for it. I pretended for years I was some version of a lost, romantic poet/musician rogue, too hip for living in The Man’s world.

I know the drill.

However, when and if you’re ready to join the rest of us, get your basics down. Say please and thanks, and don’t make a big deal about shaking someone’s hand. It’s not a social or political statement. It’s just the details of meet-and-greet and getting to the next stage of whatever it is you’re attempting to accomplish.

You can still be the hero of your own private counter-cultural drama.

Hell, I still am.

In fact, one of my longterm goals is to show that you can be hip, and cool, and have fun… and still participate in the grand game of capitalism (yes, even without being in the music biz).

The worst realization I ever had as a young man was the thought that, as an adult, I had to give up enjoying life.

It was bullshit, but it was also the message most of the adult world was sending out. Gotta get serious. Get a haircut, get a job, get your ass into the mine and start hauling coal. (Sorry — I was channeling Tennessee Ernie Ford there for a second.)

You don’t have to give up your personality, or your lust for life, just because you’ve decided to get after the American Dream. That dream can — and should — be whatever appeals to you. Not what anyone else tells you it should be.

You will know the good ones by their laughter.

Yes, some of us have retained our skills at having fun, even as we go deep into the business world.

Good God, there are so many important things to worry about, other than whether wearing a tie and jacket means you’re “selling out” or not.

Please — stop fighting tradition. It won’t bite you.

And thanks for stopping by.

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

So How’s That Working Out For You?

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 youdo about whatever it is you’re selling.

And it’s almost never true. You’re dealing with your product 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 business as you, he has other priorities. He may desperately need what you offer… but that doesn’t mean he’s researched you and your product as thoroughly as you might have, in his shoes.

If you assume he understands all the technical jargon and insider terms you’re laying on thick, you stand a good chance of losing him. Even when I’m dealing with rabid markets — like golf or guitar playing or cigar smoking — I use jargon sparingly, for emphasis. Like adding spice for flavor — don’t overdo it.

That’s why it’s important to “translate” everything into plain English in your copy… even if you would swear on a stack of Bibles that “everyone knows what this means”. This is especially true when you’re slinging slang around.

I have to watch the assumption thing, myself. Constantly.

For example, when someone books an hour’s phone consultation with me, I assume they prepare. At least a little, teeny-tiny bit.

My hour’s aren’t cheap, and often it’s tough to squeeze the consultations into my schedule. It’s not like a friendly chat with the guy down the hall. When your hour’s up, it’s up.

And it goes by fast.

So, I’m always baffled when the guy on the other end of the line starts arguing with me about something basic.

Especially the stuff I assume he must know, or he wouldn’t be asking me for advice.

I assume, for example, that he would have at least glanced at the “Kick-Ass Copywriting Secrets” course first. You know, to sort of get an idea of where I’d be coming from.

Silly me.

The last consultation I had started out fine… but five minutes into it, I found myself in a heated argument about whether long copy really works in online ads or not.

I thought, okay… you wanna waste half the call going over one of the very FIRST and most OBVIOUS parts of what I discuss in my materials… and what EVERY top marketer knows, from experience and testing… fine.


It’s good practice for me to go over the argument. Again.

Look — just in case you’re one of those guys who looks at top-grossing entrepreneurial sites, and wonders “if people really read all that copy”… stop and think for a second.

We don’t use long copy for our sales pitches because we enjoy slaving over the keyboard.

No, we use it… because that’s what WORKS.

In essence, your copy is your salesman. Face-to-face, he has to cover the entire sales message to make the cash register go ka-ching — cover all the benefits, explain all the features, establish credibility, and make a case for money trading hands, right now while the iron’s hot.

You wouldn’t tell your salesman to only use 100 words, and then clam up, would you? (Go back to the end of the line if you said “why not?”)

Your copy is your sales pitch. It’s long, because great sales pitches are long. You’re asking someone to part with money… and online, they can’t see your product, can’t hold it, can’t smell it… in fact, they have to take your word for everything.

Or rather, your words. And your words must convince, persuade, influence and close the deal… or you don’t make the sale.

That’s why the top marketers all use long copy.

“But,” says this guy on the horn, “There are a lot of people out there who insist that short copy is better.”

Oh, really? Like who?

“Lots of people.”

Nobody who’s making any money, I tell him. Does your competition use long copy?


And how are your ads pulling, compared to theirs?

“They’re creaming us.”

Soooooooo… how’s short copy working out for you, then?

That line is a favorite of folksy therapists. Someone explains how they’re sleeping with their brother’s wife, cooking up crank in the bathroom for extra cash, and getting in bar fights as a hobby.

And the therapist sighs and says: So, how’s that working out for you?

Humans are a stubborn bunch. All of us. We all have huge blind spots about certain things we do.

In marketing, it’s pretty simple, though, to know when your beligerence is unjustified. Look at your results.

If your bottom line isn’t what you know it should be… then you’re doing something wrong.

It ain’t working so hot for you.

You cannot argue your way to wealth in the open marketplace.

You gotta make your case, and do a good sales job. Everything else is just pissing in the wind.

Do what works. Get hip, to get rich.

And now, I’m off to Los Angeles to speak at Armand Morin’s excellent Big Seminar. Wish me luck.

And stay frosty.

John Carlton

Overlooked Corollary To Operation MoneySuck

You ever feel like life is speeding by?

Like, summer’s gone and you feel robbed because you had so many vague plans that never got addressed. And now fall is almost over, and where the hell did the rest of 2005 go, anyway?

Shrinks will tell you that too much routine chews up your sense of passing time. If you have a series of routines that make each day go smoothly for you, there’s a risk that nothing will happen to make those days memorable. And whole seasons will blow by without a headline or event to remember them by.

There are many theories about the perception of time. When you’re eight, the summer you’re experiencing represents a huge percentage of your life history. When you’re eighty, and you’ve just gone to your 5,000th bar-b-que, the seasons sort of blend together.

As Einstein would say, it’s all relative.

There are lots of ways to slow down fleeting time. Most of them involve getting out of routines and ruts. A week in Italy, for example, can seem to last a month when you pack it full of adventure.

I’m thinking about time as I prepare for flying down to Los Angeles to speak at the Big Seminar. This will be my, oh I don’t know, sixtieth or seventieth seminar gig — I’ve already been a featured speaker at three seminars since June, and I’ve been producing and appearing at similar events for over twenty years.

Still, as it gets close to showtime, I invariably get backed into a time management corner. I know the drill, but the prep, packing and planning for being away never becomes routine — there’s always something new about each gig and the surrounding circumstances.

There are two warring emotions going on: I’ll be doing my first Power Point presentation, which I want to go smoothly… and I’ve been gorging on the autumn weather, because my summer skipped by too fast.

Now, when I discuss Operation MoneySuck, I usually focus on the business side of it — if you’re the guy bringing in the money, then that’s your main job. Don’t get caught up in time-consuming stuff that isn’t bringing in the money — you’re the bottom line of your success, and you need to learn how to delegate, ignore and/or manage problems so they don’t distract you from what needs to be done to make your business work.

However, there’s a corollary to this — another angle that may not be immediately obvious.

It is this: A huge (and mostly overlooked) part of being the go-to guy in your biz is to nurture your head and soul. You’re not a machine, you’re a human being… and you need to feed the soft-tissue parts of your game.

I’m not going into detail about it… but right now my extended family (which includes relatives, friends, colleagues, and dogs) is experiencing an unusual period of crisis and change. I have a long and storied relationship with Trouble and Sorrow… and I can tell you with certainty that it will slow time down for you.

Some people bury themselves in work when things start going awry. If that soothes your wounds, fine… but you must understand that it’s not Operation MoneySuck.

No. Sometimes, in order to be truly successful, you must put your pursuit of opportunity into perspective… and spend more time with the non-money-making parts of your life.

I could fill my day with details of the upcoming seminar, nailing down every nuance of my speech and tailoring things so they’re just right.

Or, I can do what absolutely needs to be done… trust my skills at winging it a little bit (which often provides better overall results anyway)… and spend some quality time with those outside of my business existence who rely on me.

I’m a walker. Most of my experience of the changing seasons comes from long walks, where I soak up the sounds, the air, the smells and the ambience of nature and town and neighborhood. Sometimes, I walk to clear my head and get straight on business stuff. Other times, I walk to purge the stress of impending tragedy.

I’m walking a lot these days. And I’m not thinking about work much, either, as I bolt along. Instead, I’m both marvelling at how great it feels to be alive — even when life is throwing curveballs — and remembering past autumns of bliss and doom.

I’m getting a lot done in the office, even so. I just work a little more focused, and box in my time on any given project. I get it done.

But, for now, staying inside of Operation MoneySuck means tending to my private life more than usual.

Time is moving at a slug’s pace. I don’t wish things were different, because I prefer reality. I still hope for the best outcomes, but I have no illusions that stressing out will change anything.

Sometimes, taking care of business means ignoring business.

Hell, I’m gonna go walk the dog, see if those maples down the block have turned yet. And when I get back, I’m gonna call a friend or two who needs to laugh or vent or cry.

And, if necessary, I’ll just stay up a bit later tonight going over that Power Point one last time…

Stay frosty.

John Carlton