Schedules, Scalability, and Screaming

Sorry I haven’t been blogging much lately. Very exciting stuff going on, and time has been at a premium.

But I’m back now, eager to bother you with all sorts of fresh wonders and scary advice.

I’m reorganizing my entire life here… plus traveling hither and yon to seminars in such far-flung joints as San Diego, Chicago, Melbourne and San Francisco. I’ve squeezed as much action and adventure into the last three weeks than I managed to experience all last year combined.

Operation MoneySuck is in full tilt boogie mode, finally. My old pal Stan has signed on as partner, and his first order of biz was to drag me — kicking and screaming — into the world of schedules, scalability, and outsourcing. He’s a long-time operations expert, who just hit a wall working with house-hold-name corporations in Silicon Valley and Europe… and succumbed, after several years of cajoling on my part, to the lure of the entrepreneurial universe.

My loyal and much-overworked assistant, Diane, is breathing a deep sigh of relief, too. We accomplished amazing things as a two-person office, but my lack of operations savvy put an automatic crimp in every project’s potential.

That was then.

Suddenly, my personal workload has dwindled to almost obscenely-logical proportions, with not a whiff of being overwhelmed. Every hour I log now has trackable consequences that mean less work down the road, and more money coming in.

It’s just friggin’ amazing what a little planning can do.

Stan and I drove back together from the copywriting seminar in SF I just held with my buddies Harlan Kilstein and David Garfinkel, talking biz the entire trip… and spent Tuesday filling up flip-charts and mapping out the conquest of the Western world.

Kickin’ ass and takin’ names… that’s what it’s all about, here in the wonderful world of entrepreneurial capitalism.

I’ll be harping more on all this as things continue to pan out. Online entrepreneurs and small business owners have needed a good dose of operations voodoo for a long time… but we’re slow to realize it. Many of us came to the Wild West Web from the coporate world, and resist implementing anything that smacks of the stick-up-your-butt formalism that dominates nine-to-five office life.

But, as Stan has proven to me, basic planning can still allow for being a lean and mean machine… especially with the wonders of outsourcing. Which, coincidentally, is now a million times easier to do with the global reach of the Web.

And I’ve been thinking about that — about adopting the best parts of well-planned Cubicle City type corporations, while nurturing the sleek and fast jungle animal style of good old kitchen-table entrepreneurism.

It’s how I’ve survived so long in my career, in fact. I’ve never been locked into any particular way of doing things, and I never have a dog in any fight — I’m open to what works.

This came up at both seminars. In San Francisco, an attendee was just incredulous that people “still” read long copy online. “That’s all changed, hasn’t it?” she asked, innocently.

With the brouhaha of Web 2.0 still roiling the blog-0-sphere, she can be excused for her doubts. And the fact is, if I woke up tomorrow and realized the universe had changed in such a way that a decent sales pitch no longer required persuasion, proof, credibility, believable offers, and all the other classic ingredients… and we could now create sales with just a smidgen of copy here and there, like dabs of gray ink in the colorful wonder of an over-designed Web page… well, I’d be the first one writing short copy that day.

I don’t write long copy because I like long copy.

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

You start at the beginning of your sales message… cover the points your prospect needs to hear in order to make a decision… urge him toward the right decision (buy your stuff)… and close with panache.

When you can do that in a few terse sentences, or in a single brief whiz-bang video, let me know. I’ll be right on your heels with my next pitch.

After almost three decades in the front-line trenches of business — slogging through the fog and chaos of multiple technological upheavals — I’m not holding my breath, though.

Still, the nature of business requires flexibility.

And, curiously, this is NOT an age-related thing.

At both seminars, I encountered wizened old farts who were cleaning up online, totally hip to every cutting-edge burp and tweak of the Technology Beast… and I met bright young business would-be-wizards who couldn’t ossify and wall themselves up in a cave fast enough.

And vice versa, of course.

The guys, young and old, who were making it work were flexible jaguars, alert and eager to learn. The ones wandering off into the desert — young and old — were dogmatic dinosaurs, unable to change even when the case for change couldn’t be more obvious.

Two quick examples: (1) I met several too-young-to-be-considering-suicide online biz owners who were, indeed, considering some form of suicide… because the Google Slap of last summer ruined their only business plan. Without the easy traffic of unchallenged Adwords, they became depressed and sleepy and unable to adjust.

Get a grip.

(2) I also recently critiqued a direct mail letter that looked like it’d been written in the early 1970’s, fossilized, and put somewhere safe from every single change that’s happened to advertising since Jobs and Woz wandered bleary-eyed from their garage-lab, giddy with success.

I didn’t even bother getting into the copy — instead, I gave the mailer a focused little pep talk about what had transpired since the digital explosion.

The basic rule is simple and eloquent: Things change.

And most folks resist change. Yes, that super-tight polyester disco-era leisure suit in the back of your closet may yet come back into vogue… but nearly every aspect of successful advertising has moved along at a brisk clip.

The days of easy traffic online are now as quaint as the days when having a toll-free 800 number was an exotic luxury. Ancient history.

The good news: It’s actually fun to stay hip and wired into the cutting edge.

There never was a rule dictating that the adventure and excitement had to stop in your life after a certain expiration date.

The key is simply to stay loose and alert, like a jaguar. The action is still hot and heavy at the front lines, as it always has been and always shall be.

And if you need a little help finding your way through the fog and chaos of the rear ranks… well, that’s what guys like me are for.

We live in exciting times. I understand the urge to go hide under the covers… but I also know the thrill of going mano-a-mano with the great Technology Beast, and winning.


Stay frosty…

John Carlton

P.S. Whole new killer piece of copy at the above site, too. Check it out, if you’re not scared of new stuff…

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"11 Really Stupid Blunders You're Making With Your Biz & Career Right Now."

  • Thanks John,

    Looking forward to hear more about “schedules, scalability, and outsourcing”.


  • Isn’t it amazing how things move in cycles? You mentioned the Sugarmans and such who got into the toll-free order-taking early on, and we’re seeing the days of easy traffic become more competitive, but of course infomercials and direct mail itself all went through similar transitions. And the ones who can’t handle the competition skulk off looking for the next easy way, while the savvy folks adapt their business models and make even more money.


    P.S. Like the new site.

  • BrettFromTibet says:

    I don’t read long copy on the web. Not even yours, John. I see it as a fossil from the 70’s that is being arc-welded into a new medium that it isn’t suited for.

    I’ll read e-mails and blogs with marketing lightly sprinkled into good content, of any length. But once the sales pitch tone starts and the copy goes on and on – I hit the back button on my browser.

    Maybe there are still gullible people with REALLY LONG attention spans who are captivated a given message, but I’m not one of them.

  • Dan says:

    I’ve discovered something interesting about myself. Maybe it applies to others, too…

    I read long copy about stuff I’m interested in (that is if the copy is interesting) but I don’t read long copy about stuff I’m NOT interested in.

    Hmmmmmmmm… is there a lesson there?


  • John,

    Wonderful stuff man.

    A wise mentor once taught me that “the copy needs to be as long as it has to be to sell whatever your selling.”

    I think copywriters tend to get hung up on “long copy” or “short copy” when they should just be focused on selling the product or service and testing different marketing ideas.

    Joseph Ratliff

  • Hi John,

    It’s been interesting watching the “long copy” debate resurface under the guise of a move towards Web 2.0.

    The results of various tests conducted lately suggests long copy still outperforms short copy *most* of the time.

    I’m still testing to try and pin down the specifics – but I suspect that it has to do with the purpose of the page you’re copywriting for.

    However, so far I haven’t seen any hard evidence which suggests long copy is extinct – and in spite of all the hype, I don’t know of a single person who is using long form sales copy online who is experiencing any ill effects.


  • John,

    As usual, great stuff! Right to the point, must be why you make the “big bucks!” Copy is King, no matter what the medium is. Human nature will compel people to read an ad that is interesting and tailored towards them, no matter the length!

  • Ken Calhoun says:

    Hi John,

    Great points re adaptability and change, and the hip elements of persuasion that are still needed to sell, regardless of the packaging.

    Gotta love that comment re I write long copy because that’s what works. When my paycheck is on the line, which is every day as an entrepreneur, I use long copy, much of what you taught me, in 100% of my promotions. Because I want to make the sale, and that does it.

    It’ll be fascinating to see what technological marvels the ‘net of 10 years hence, or heck even next year, will hold for us. But the key, as you so aptly reminded me as one of your grateful Insiders, was to keep the prospect dead center, and reach them, as the primary goal… not to be blinded by the shiny new toys out there.

    So the web2.0 (god I hate that term) whatever it is, just serves as a wake up call, to add the business side of things (like blogs/rss feeds/sales videos, whatever) to the long copy side of it, without distracting or taking away from the pitch.

    Glad to hear from you again, John – your tips keep me centered, and I owe a big chunk of my ongoing wealth/success to what I learn from you.

    Staying FOCUSED on the pitch, on connecting, drilling down, as the primary part of it, with the technological window dressing only in service of, not a distraction to, the message to market match.

    Operation Moneysuck’s on track for a 7 figure year. Thanks, man.

    Stay cool,

    Ken Calhoun

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