“You’ll lose 20 pounds while you sleep!” (Go-straight-to-jail diet-ad lingo that nevertheless pops up every couple of years)
You know what?
I haven’t pissed anybody off in a while. So let’s see if we can’t rile up the mob a little bit, cause a little unrest in the ranks.
The best way to do this, of course, is to lift the blinders most people wear 24/7… and force them to face some uncomfortable truth or another.
Pop some bubbles. Expose the myths.
Oh, people HATE it when you harsh their zombie mellow… and snatch away their cuddly delusions.
Some may thank you later for the wake-up call. But most will snarl and bite, and rush back to the warm embrace of the dream they’ve languished in their entire life.
To be a great marketer, you must be willing to see things as they actually are. Not as you wish they were, nor as you feel they ought to be.
You gotta leave the bubble, and wander outside your comfort zone.
Reality scares the bejesus out of most folks.
However, once you get over the initial shock, you can finally begin to see the wisdom of self-knowledge and reality-based thinking. (The Oracle at Delphi, in ancient Greece, delivered the “Know thyself” quote long ago… and it’s been the main dividing chasm between the Truly Hip and the Hopelessly Clueless ever since.)
So that’s my basic premise, as a teacher and a writer: The myths must be shattered.
Yahoo, damn the torpedoes, and bring it on.
There’s no better premise for a righteous headline hook, by the way, than to challenge the assumptions, common wisdom, and cherished myths of any particular group of people.
However, when it comes to nailing down your own best marketing plan, you MUST have a firm handle on what nonsense beliefs your audience labors under.
It’s perhaps the most fundamental tool in biz. (Consider how deeply Apple understands their fan base of Mac users… and also understands the mindset of PC users across the aisle. Those TV commercials are hilarious inside jokes to the Mac devotees, and gruesome “the truth hurts” reminders to PCers of how much MicroSoft sucks.)
So here is the myth I wanna bust today:
“People who accomplish things must possess some kind of super-potent magic hidden from the rest of us.”
This is — to anyone who has actually rolled up their sleeves and gone after a goal — unmitigated , dangerous bullshit.
Yet, it’s a central belief to the majority out there. I believed it back when I was a slacking loser, and it took a long time to work through to the truth.
And once I did… I immediately realized why so many marketing campaigns are designed the way they are.
Here’s how this is playing out right now, online: During any economic downturn, the urge to engage the Business Opportunity market (biz op) becomes an obsession for many marketers.
Legions of info marketers who — a few months ago — were completely realistic in their advertising…
… are now adopting the mantra of the classic biz op: “This works automatically, without you needing to do ANYTHING!”
Biz op is as old as advertising itself. The appeal is simple: A complete lifestyle change, with no effort. Everything is done FOR you.
It works like… magic.
Now, all good direct response ads emphasize the “fast, simple, easy and cheap” rule. It’s damn difficult to sell a product with slow results, that requires massive effort and a steep learning curve.
Pain don’t sell.
When I counsel clients with products that really are difficult and complex, I urge them to find ways to break down the process… so they can legitimately offer shortcuts, or accelerated quick start guides, or some inside advantage that takes the sting out of the thing.
I mean, even a new degree in rocket science can be broken down into digestible chunks.
You start with an introductory course, you get mentoring if you can, you face up to your shortcomings and fix them (with, say, some remedial math classes), and you buck up and take that first small step on the journey.
The first step can be easy. .. even when the entire journey will be long and arduous.
As a freelancer, I have often tackled a job in a field that I knew absolutely nothing about. So I learned how to get hip as fast as humanly possible… and that skill became an integral part of my ability to teach others how to shortcut the process of understanding new stuff.
You break it down.
You identify areas of mystery or confusion… and clear it up. You get expert help, either from books or interviews with actual experts. You confront what you don’t yet know…
… and do what you need to do to get a handle on it.
You don’t need to become an expert yourself. I still suck at golf, for example… but I’ve nevertheless written dozens of ads that have brought in fortunes for clients.
After grilling true experts, and filling in the knowledge gaps in my brain with info from good resources, I “know” golf as well as many professional golfers.
In fact, “real” golfers are astonished to learn — after chatting with me — that my game is abysmal. And that I do not — as they do — dream, eat, and breathe for the sport.
I like the game, don’t get me wrong. I even lust for the opportunity to play a round with buddies, despite my inability to dink 4-foot putts and my predictable skulling and and shanking and topping of the ball. I live in sand traps. My drives resemble a Rainbird sprinkler — all over the place, and only infrequently in the direction I’m aiming.
I even KNOW all the shortcuts to getting better. The “how to” DVDs I’ve written about are real… and if I’d just take the time to learn the easy step-by-step processes they teach, I would get better.
I just don’t care about getting better. I’m having fun right where I’m at with the game. My buddies are at the same level, and though we stink, we are competitive with each other… and that’s a form of enjoyment you can’t buy.
The ads I’ve written stress how easy and fast you can get wicked-good at the game. And it’s true.
However, there is SOME effort involved. You cannot just take a pill, or get hypmotized, and magically turn into a great golfer.
And yet, this kind of magical thinking is exactly what is starting to appear in many marketing campaigns.
It’s part of a cycle.
Over my long career, I’ve paid attention to the evolution of weight loss advertising, for example, very closely. Gary Halbert was a master at it, and both earned fortunes in it, and went through hellish legal trauma because of it.
Experienced marketers will tell you that the weight loss market can be THE most lucrative business to get into. Nothing else comes even close in America. Not looking younger, not making more money, not living longer.
Americans just want to get skinny.
And for the most part, they would rather not have to work at it. At all. Not even a tiny, little bit.
There are easy ways to lose weight that we all know about. Eat less, and exercise, for example.
You may find a niche in the weight loss market that responds to this appeal. Certainly, most gyms use some part of that angle to bring in new members. However, the marketing directors also know that 90% of new members will never set foot in the gym again after signing up.
It’s a hard gig to make work.
Especially when the diet markets swing around — as they do, regularly, every few years — to promising “lose weight while you sleep” with this new tasty pill.
People want magic.
They want to believe that you really can ingest a pill, or chant three words, or do something else mystical… and be rewarded with a complete new lease on life.
There is, actually, a placebo effect that can kick in… but it’s not something you want to bet on.
True life changes require some effort.
And that just pisses people off.
So marketers are forever seduced by response rates to go ever further into the dark world of promising magic.
Online, with the recession elbowing more and more folks toward looking for new income opportunities, biz op is thriving.
And I’m seeing more and more of the guru’s in the game promising more and more magic.
It’s a cycle. Right now, there are droves of would-be entrepreneurs who honestly want to believe they can create killer marketing using copy-and-paste methods or — shudder — software that magically produces copy.
And whatever large masses of people desperately want to believe… there will arise a marketer with the cojones (and weak integrity) to offer it to them.
I’ve always been the “eat less and exercise” kind of teacher, when it comes to learning to write.
Yes, that first step is both the hardest one you’ll ever take…
… and the easiest one to complete.
It’s like finally deciding to get serious about getting in shape. The first step would be joining a gym, getting some instruction on how to get started working out (either from a book, or a trainer)…
… and then actually showing up and going through the process the first time.
That’s hard. It’s a deal killer for most people.
But, in truth, it’s also everything promised: Once you do go through that first teeth-chattering step…
… results will come fast, the process becomes easy, and the whole thing is actually simple.
Compared with taking a pill, yeah, it’s only relatively fast, easy and simple.
Nevertheless, the real-life magic is in the DOING.
Before I discovered the power of goal setting, it was a complete mystery to me how people got anything done. Life, for me, was a series of accidents and lucky interventions.
Lots of company in that world.
The very concept that I could actually want something… plan to attain it… and then GO GET IT… was just science fiction for me.
Amazing. Life changing.
And it was freaking HARD to get started. I had to teach myself how to even want something in the first place. And going after it meant changing my “party hardy” attitudes, and putting my goals first (no matter how bitchin’ the fun stuff I was missing seemed).
But guess what?
Once I got a head of steam up…
… it got really, really easy.
Results happened fast and furious.
And suddenly, it was the simplest thing in the world for me to sit down and plot out attaining a goal. Any goal I wanted.
I moved mountains. I changed my life from top to bottom.
But the magic behind the magic… was that there wasn‘t any real magic to it at all.
It was just a matter of breaking it all down into digestible chunks, and going step-by-step through it, systematically.
I don’t offer voodoo to people coming to me to learn how to write.
I offer the systematic process that will take them from clueless to clued-in as fast as they are capable of moving.
I cannot compete — nor do I try — with marketers who insist that there are effortless ways to produce the writing needed to sell anything.
Go for it, if such a promise appeals to you. And good luck.
No… there IS some effort involved in doing what ALL the top marketers do to support their continued success. They understand that writing — pumped to maximum potency with great salesmanship — is the foundation of wealth, fame and happiness in business.
That reality is threatening to many people… because it seems so hard. And it’s so nice and comfy in this waking dream, with lots of ready-to-use excuses to deflect doubt…
So I don’t do well with zombie prospects.
I need people who are already awake, and ready to get moving.
Thus, my continuing efforts over the years in this blog to pull back the curtain, and expose the reality of selling.
Doing well in business really is easy, simple and fast… once you engage, armed with good advice and basic skills.
To others, you will appear to be performing magic when you write the emails, websites, ads and video scripts that fuel your success.
To those who know, however, it’s just a matter of taking the required steps to get in gear, and continue with the process for as long as you need to.
Relying on luck and believing in myths is a sucker’s game.
The real fun in life begins when you wake up and get busy taking action.
P.S. Okay, here’s a clue: www.simplewritingsystem.com.