I just had an annoying experience that reminded me of a nasty little lesson in human behavior… and how it can eat away at your bottom line.
This guy emailed in with questions about the options listed at my “main” site (www.marketingrebel.com). Only one of the questions wasn’t already answered at the site, which meant that the guy didn’t read the copy.
Fine. It happens. I answered the one question, and referred him back to the site.
He emails back, with more questions. Still hasn’t read the copy.
So I punt him over to my long-suffering assistant, Diane, who politely tries to answer most of his questions… and then she points him back to the original letter. One more time.
Guy emails back again. Long email, too, sharing way too much about his life as a “top businessman” who “doesn’t like surprises” and that’s why he’s asking all these questions. So he won’t have any surprises, you see.
Diane writes him back, still polite, explaining in her own words how all his questions are already answered in the letter posted at the site. She even amplifies some of the main points.
I let her go on with this time-wasting penpal exchange for another couple of emails, and then I tell her to stop. What this guy wants is his own customized explanation of what I offer. Even if it’s a complete re-telling of everything in the original piece, he needs it rectied to him, personally.
Special treatment, in other words. Because, you know, he’s a top businessman.
This is a form of “Psychic Vampire” behavior. If you’ve read anything I’ve written, then you know I’m not in the habit of leaving out important bits of info when I create copy. I over-explain, if anything, because I learned long ago that clarity is the backbone of good marketing.
This guy, however, had another agenda entirely. Which was proven out when — after, I kid you not, eight emails sent in to us — he finally told us he wasn’t quite ready to buy anything yet, and was gonna think about it.
Needed to kick some more tires, I suppose.
Fine. My material isn’t for everyone, and you should always shop around before making a decision on which teacher you want to learn from.
Nevertheless, this guy — even if he had bought something from me — would almost certainly have nestled into the “mushy” part of my list. What’s mushy about it? That’s where the non-hard-core people settle. The looky-loo’s, the pretenders, and the “one foot already out the door” crowd.
Managing your list is a very important part of your business, no matter what market you’re in. And no matter how large or how small your “house” list is, you can divvy it up into 3 basic categories.
First are my favorites — the clear-eyed people who make informed buying decisions, who appreciate good information and material, and who consider their participation as an “advanced education” opportunity that can help them reach their goals faster.
This first group is a pleasure to deal with — mostly self-starters, motivated to learn and be proactive in their work, no chips on the shoulder or smoldering resentments about how badly life has treated them.
The larger this part of your list is, the happier you will always be.
The second segment of your list will be — usually — larger, and less hard-core about what you offer. They will appreciate your product or service, and get a lot out of it. But they are less motivated to move quickly, and will come and go as they feel the need.
This group, too, is generally great to deal with. They’re just slightly less intense about following through.
The third segment is all mush. If you’re lucky, it’s the tiniest part of your list. If you’re unlucky — or if you’ve been negligent in putting your list together, filling it with unqualified prospects — your entire database could be one big pile of slop.
This last segment is full of people “unclear on the concept” — unmotivated, slow to move on opportunity… and often requiring more time to nurture than the rest of your list combined. They will account for most of your returns, and almost all of your problems. They’ll take forever to make a decision, need constant stroking, copy your stuff and hawk it on eBay, and ask for refund.
And, if you stop them from selling on eBay (which I always do), they get mad.
They will suck up your time and energy if they hang on, too. They’re the ones who write long letters to the editor of the local paper whenever the post office raises the price of a stamp. They know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.
Think: High maintenance. Very high maintenance.
Most marketers operate on the idea that their entire list is some kind of monolithic example of humanity, and treat everyone the same. Bad move. Every so often, you should make some kind of offer that no one really interested in what you have would refuse… and cull the ones who don’t respond promptly.
Of course, while it’s still dirt-cheap to do blast emails, there is little motivation among online marketers to pare their list down. For some businessmen, the very idea is outrageous — they cling to each name as if it were gold.
And, hey, if you’re going to err, err on the side of being too generous with your list. It would be a financial shame to cut out someone who was an actual prospect.
But think of your list in terms of human behavior. The very best are your “hot” customers, and they deserve solid gold treatment… and even special treatment, when you can arrange it.
The big “middle” of your list may indeed hold many who are “on the fence” about buying, and just need a little more time to make the big decision. You may not hear from them much, but they’re there. And they’ll buy, every once in a while.
But the mush… if you can identify them, let them go. I know several marketers who are in love with “crush ’em with contact” tactics, and who swear that some prospects just take fifteen or twenty emails or letters to make the buying decision.
In my experience, you’re just loading up the mush pile doing this. Track returns, track problems, and track any name that comes up over and over again in unpleasant ways. You — like many other marketers who finally got hip — may discover that each sale you make from the mush pile eventually becomes a big net loss, chewing up time, energy and money.
It’s like brow-beating someone into marrying you. You may succeed, after years of exhausting courtship… only to discover the real game doesn’t start until after the deal is done.
Let the nightmare begin.
Better, in my experience, to focus on people who come into your world freely, and make their decisions without a lot of grief and hand-wringing. Your best prospects, customers and clients will always be those rare individuals who assess situations rationally, gather their info, and make a decision. And follow through.
The squishy bottom of your list is where the monsters dwell.
Just my two cents on the matter.
Don’t forget to check out the special message posted at www.john-carlton.com/Hot_Seat_Seminar.pdf.
Just a quick note — I have posted the letter describing the upcoming “Hot Seat Workshop” seminar in March in a link attached to this site. To read it — and you need to jump on this if you’re at all interested — just go to www.john-carlton.com/Hot_Seat_Seminar.pdf
Note the underscores between the words “hot” and “seat” and “seminar”.
For some people — me, for example — hands-on learning is the only way to go.
I love this Information Age we’re in, because I love information. However, my office book shelves probably resemble yours — crammed with interesting information I fully intend to get to… when I have time.
As a teacher, I’m aware of the “gap” in getting info… and putting it to use in your life. That’s why all my courses and other material are aimed at providing shortcuts. I’m short on theory, long on action.
Still, the students who have zoomed to the head of the class fastest… are the ones who have sought out hands-on, personalized sessions with me. The easiest way to do this is on the phone, as a consultation.
But the BEST way remains face-to-face Hot Seat action. I’m a hard man to corner, however. I don’t offer on-site consultations, because I hate to travel anymore. No amount of cash will get me on a plane to come to you for personalized service.
However, twice in the past four years, I have given small “workshop” style seminars. I keep them small, because I connect with each attendee, and you can’t do that when there’s a crowd.
I’m offering a new workshop seminar — only my third one, ever, since I began teaching (and, as always, maybe my last one) — on the weekend of March 10-11. Here in Reno. There will be no other speakers, and no will try to sell you anything at the event. It’s just you, me, and the other attendees… getting down and dirty with the specifics of successful marketing.
My Insiders have already been informed of this event, and over half the available seats are reserved. I am now opening this workshop up to everyone else.
I call it a “Hot Seat” workshop. It will be casual, because we’re gonna work. This isn’t “take notes during a lecture”. Each attendee allowed in will have their own Hot Seat examination, by me personally. And, you will get to watch me work over everyone else (which is often the best way to get those critical “a-ha!” experiences that jettison you off on the fast-track to success). It will be brutal and effective.
This will sell out fast. It is not cheap. I am finishing up a letter that explains everything, and I will send you a copy if you will email me at email@example.com, and write “Hot Seat info, please” in the subject line. (Otherwise, you stand a good chance of being deleted as spam.)
Things are popping, both online and offline. The sooner you establish your successful marketing-model, the faster profits will come flooding in… and the more secure your position in your market will be.
Competition is mounting and getting more vicious everyday, in every niche out there. The days when you could be success with sloppy marketing and weak concepts are long gone. Yet, the money is still there for anyone willing to take control of the opportunities available.
It’s fun when it finally starts working, too. Life changing. Freedom and independence and the life-style of your choosing are all within easy reach… once you get your basic marketing model fixed.
Let me know if you’re interested in this event. Don’t dither, or you could get shut out. This will be small, intense, and results-oriented.
And stay frosty.
In copy, the words “free” and “guaranteed” are both powerful and weak… both easily understood and completely misunderstood… and both essential to successful advertising and a good way to murder your sales message.
The problem — and the solution — is in a small detail that most rookies miss.
That detail is… proof.
Both words have been so overused and misused that, all alone in a piece of copy, they are pretty much meaningless. Even the most gullible prospects today know that a simple declaration that something is “free” doesn’t mean it’s actually free of strings. It’s free when you buy this. Free when you’ve saved up enough coupons. Free as long as you meet these requirements.
Same with “guarantee”. I see this a LOT when I critique copy for rookies — the word gets tacked onto the end of the headline, followed by an exclamation mark. As if the pure power of the word is so staggering, they’re risking the wrath of God just writing it down like that.
But they seldom explain what the guarantee is. And so it is meaningless bragging… much like that uncle who gets drunk at family gatherings and starts yelling to make his point during an argument.
Yelling is not being bold and convincing. It’s just yelling.
Smart writers know their reader is skeptical of these words… and immediately (as in the next sentence) explain what they mean by “free” or “guranteed”. Or at least allude to that explanation — so the reader knows the details are forthcoming.
The concept of the guarantee is the easiest to screw up. You make a promise to your reader, and then say you guarantee it. But what does that mean? Many writers use the word to imply that they are so confident, they will use the most powerful word they know to punctuate their promise.
But if there’s no meat behind the guarantee — if the consequences of NOT fulfilling the promise are not spelled out — then the word becomes limp baggage in your pitch.
The concept of the guarantee is all about reversing the risk in the deal. Instead of the prospect shouldering the burden of how good your product is… YOU take on all the risk. And not just with bragging — with real money, or a real promise of something that helps convince the reader he actually doesn’t risk anything if he gives your product the old “look see”.
At the very least, you need to guarantee a prompt refund. Even better, explain how there are no hoops to jump through, either — no forms to fill out, no questions asked, no delay. Even better, sweeten the deal so that he gets to keep most or all of the stuff even if he decides he wants a refund.
That’s what a truly confident salesman does.
And give him a long time to think it over, without penalty. The basic 30-day money-back guarantee helps to make the prospect feel safe, but still seems like he’s being rushed a bit. Ninety days is better. Six months is even more calming. And a year… well, the risk just evaporates when you know you have a full year to examine something before deciding if you want to keep it.
I even throw in a line, sometimes, about being able to return the product “in any condition”… so the prospect can actually use it during his guarantee period without worrying about having his refund denied. Sometimes I even insist that he return it beaten up and bruised.
That’s what shows real confidence. (“Why do I insist you use it as if you own it? Because I know that, once you see it in action, you won’t part with it for any amount of money…”)
Take away ALL the risk. Every scrap.
What’s more… in my experience, having a few “strings” attached to just how free anything is… is acceptable to most readers, as long as the conditions are thoroughly and honestly explained. Sure, you need to buy something first… but since you have a long guaranteed refund period on that purchased item, and you can keep the free stuff even if you return everything else to get your money back… well, “free” fits.
It’s all about explaining things honestly, and making your explanation make sense to the reader.
The old saying “he could sell ice to Eskimos” has a deeper meaning — which is: Objections are not a deal-killer to a good salesman. (How hard do you have to consider before buying some clean, fresh-water ice for your evening cocktails, when it’s made clear that all the snow around you is dirty and mixed with sea water? For example.)
If what you offer fits your prospect’s needs or desires… then all that stands between you and a sale is the way you present the deal. You’re selling apples, I’m hungry and I want an apple… but I’m not sure I want YOUR apple. It’s your job to make it seem like a no-brainer to try one of yours.
If I don’t like it after the first bite, I get my money back. And I get to keep the apple anyway.
And you’ll even throw in a free second apple… because that’s the kind of guy you are.
Pleasure doing business with you.
P.S. By the way… I realize the archives of this blog aren’t yet attached. They soon will be… and it’s a lot of good material. Going all the way back to the start, around a year ago. The tech person I’m working with is busy changing the host for this blog… and once that’s done, the archives will go up, too.
P.P.S. Thanks to everyone who sent me an email, glad I wasn’t abducted by aliens or drowned in a freak accident. Next time, though, post your comment here, on the blog. New readers like to see what you think.
I’ve been pretty damn lucky in life.
Not lucky as in “wins all the time, against the odds.” Rather, lucky in that my attitude fostered a lifestyle that opened up a lot of opportunities for good stuff to happen. Once I started taking advantage of these opportunities, I took on the persona of a “lucky guy”.
What was my attitude?
Actually, it was more a lack of attitude. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this or not, but a huge percentage of the population walks around with a chip on their shoulder. People make up all kinds of silly rules that dictate who they can hang out with, what they can laugh at, where they can go. And they can get fairly riled up when other people violate these restrictions.
Standing next to your average pissed off, resentful, paranoid and judgemental person… and any lack of attitude becomes an attitude. Being tolerant and open to new or strange ideas definitely puts you in the minority in most crowds.
I get reminded of this whenever I refuse to let someone get away with insisting that life is hard here in the States… or that the “little guy” just doesn’t stand a chance against The Man.
Fear change and opportunity if you must — and most people will — but don’t even try to make the case that’s just the way things are. Because it ain’t so.
If the wonders of this exciting new world of entrepreneurism and Web-based economies scares or depresses you… you can fix that. By adjusting your attitude, so you allow new information to enter your little world, and you stop nixing every possibility just because you’re not yet sure how to pull it off yet.
The key word is “yet” — there is NOTHING happening in today’s markets and economies that you can’t get hip to in a long weekend. Getting a site operating online is now simpler than driving a car. Understanding how to tap into even weird, off-beat niche markets is just a short mini-education away.
And the resources for figuring it all out are at your fingertips.
Sure, it’s a daunting task when you’re alone, and you’re not sure of what first step to take, and no one around you is supporting your quest for a better life.
All the really good adventures involve a little discomfort, and even pain, at first. Success does require effort.
But it’s not rocket science.
My Insider’s Club is crammed with some of the best people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. Many are still skittish about this scary entrepreneur stuff… but they don’t need to be convinced it’s worth a shot.
I don’t deal well with people who can’t even admit that much — that the possibility they could make it, and even thrive, working at their own business, is just too much for their heads to bear.
That, of course, is the first big hurdle to be jumped — the raw fear of the unknown. It’s totally understandable — and totally okay — that most folks will just never get past that fear. The freedoms and joys of working for yourself is NOT for everyone.
However… if you believe it might be something you’d enjoy… but you’re having trouble getting over that first hurdle… let me suggest you start with your attitude.
Again, I was lucky. People have called me a rebel all my life, because my lack of attitude (at least their definition of attitude) set me apart.
It just never occured to me to care about another person’s politics, sex, age, race… or anything else that seemed to ignite such hostility in other people. All I cared about… was the “quality” of the other person. Their ability to laugh and make me laugh, and to add to whatever we were doing.
Most people, I’ve discovered, feel an inner duty to keep events under control. They don’t like it when conversations, or play, or ideas get beyond easy comprehension… and they will use all the negative tools at their disposal to continually bring things back to “normal”.
Which to me, meant “boring”.
My two best friends in high school were a Japanese American and a Chicano — a pair of the funniest and smartest free thinkers I’ve ever met. My two closest colleagues today consist of a man 15 years older than I am, and another guy 15 years younger. I count ordained clergy, penniless hippies, right wing and left wing office holders, anarchist artists, dopes, nerds, kids and sociopathic musicians among my friends.
I can’t necessarily get them all into one room at the same time — they might fight.
But individually, we’re all fine.
I pity people who restrict their friends to only those folks who agree with them on every subject. What a cramped, claustrophobic world they must live in.
They’re the ones with the real attitide. An attitude of intolerance, anti-intellectualism and a refusal to explore any idea outside of their comfort zone. To a guy like me, it’s a huge “screw you” attitude.
I’ve made a fairly substantial living being the guy who operates “outside the box”. Business owners pay me outrageous sums to come in and shake up their thinking… look at their marketing model with the eyes of someone far outside their cramped corporate culture… and, most of all, create new marketing that makes them quiver with anxiety.
If a client isn’t nervous about posting or mailing a piece I’ve written for him, then I know I haven’t done my job. World-class advertising isn’t soft and squishy, folks.
Attitude. I think about it a lot. I didn’t set out to be a rebel… it just so happened that by not caring much for the predudices and rules (especially the rules) of whoever was claiming to be “the authority figure” at the moment, I appeared to have a “bad” attitude.
Naw. I’m just thinking my own thoughts. Trying hard to see things as they are, and not as they “should be” according to some lame ideology. Or, worse, as other people wished things were, so they could stop being nervous about the uncertainty of it all.
Life is uncertain. Good stuff happens, bad stuff happens, and in the grand scheme we really only get to exercise a tiny little bit of control. You’re never gonna change anyone’s mind about anything. Idiots will never recognize the folly of their ways, and assholes will forever plague our plans and dreams.
Again, so what? The best entrepreneurs — the guys I know who are raking it in and living the good life — are mostly flexible and open-minded. Maybe not in all categories… but when it comes to opportunity and the possibilities of any given situation… they’re ready to entertain any thought or idea that has a chance to work.
If you’re feeling a little hamstrung in your life right now… check to see that it isn’t your attitude. Your prospects are very likely not like you at all… and if you can’t get into their heads and understand their perspectives, you’re not gonna do very well.
On the other hand, if you can get your mind around the Zen concept of having an attitude that’s really an “anti-attitude”… you’re going to finally experience some vicious-good juice coursing through your system. All those little dams in your body that are necessary to maintain your uptightness will burst… and what happens when you break free will, frankly, blow your mind.
It’s not something you can imagine before you do it.
You just gotta trust me on this one.
The feast of life isn’t open to anyone with their nose stuck up in the air.
And you know what? They wouldn’t understand what was so much fun at the feast, anyway.
Something to consider, as you toy with the next step you take, no matter where you think you’re headed.
Wow. I apologize for the month-long silence on this blog site… but I’m here, and if the Web Gods will give me a friggin’ break, I’ll begin posting every week again.
It’s not a particularly exciting story. One day early last month, my blog software decided it didn’t like being told what to do anymore. Kind of like the uber-computer Hal in the movie “2001”. I put four tech people on the problem, and no one could find a fix — the host blamed the application software, and vice versa.
As I watched from the sidelines, in horror, weeks bled away. People started emailing me, wondering if I’d been abducted by aliens, or had quit blogging, or what.
The Web, and all its wondrous abilities, is changing the world fast. Two years ago, my 84-year-old father had never been on the Internet… now he writes long, literate emails to everyone, and buys prescriptions from an online source in New Zealand. I used to be on the cutting edge, doing my banking and bill paying online. Now, the bank charges extra if you don’t do everything online.
However, misadventures like this are good reminders of how fragile everything is on the Web. I know some of the smartest and most tech-savvy entrepreneurs in the biz — guys earning fortunes online — who nevertheless still have their entire database vanish in a hard-drive burp, or get hacked by high school kids, or have their IDs stolen.
It’s the Wild West, and will be for the forseeable future… simply because there is no longer time for changes to settle in, and for all the unintended consequences of change to be realized and dealt with. The new rule is: If you’re finally comfortable with any application, you can bet it’s time for an upgrade or major realignment.
Which is doomed to cause all sorts of unpredictable havoc in your life.
It’s one thing to be kept on your toes. It’s another thing, though, to be constantly knocked off-balance.
Just one more reason to stay rooted in the classic stuff — good old-fashioned salesmanship, down-to-earth conversational copy, and becoming a go-to guy in your market. There will no longer be calming breaks in the information-overload flooding through every one of your prospects’ heads.
The best defense against becoming overwhelmed is to stay connected with reliable sources of good info. If you want to dominate your market, you need to be one of those sources. Part of the “reliable core” of the Web, where mysteries are figured out and handled.
I’m having a blast following the tribulations of huge advertisers finally trying to make the Web work for them — with their annoying pop-up nonsense, their desperate attempts to excite prospects with graphics and streaming video that won’t load, and especially their arrogance about never giving entrepreneurs their due.
It’s a wild free-for-all out there. Getting more unruly every day.
Just remember: The guys making the most money are taking advantage of the Web as a great delivery system for what you want to say. It’s not magic — just a really cool, really efficient (when it works) way to reach people.
If you’re in business, that reaching out needs to consist of a coherent sales conversation.
Anyway, I’m back. We’ll be futzing with the design of this blog, and I hope the archives will arrive intact… and, even more, I hope this new host and new software remains cooperative. I’ve got a lot to rant about, and I’m anxious to start posting regularly again.
We’re living in a real-time sci-fi novel. When it goes well, it’s the most fun I’ve ever had. When it goes sour, it’s like the zombies got loose.
Stay frosty. I’ll post again soon. If you have friends wondering what happened to me, please let them know I’m back, will ya?