“I know what I want, and I know how to get it…” (The Sex Pistols, “Anarchy In The UK”)
Dept. Of Culture Shock, memo #1: I’ve been thinking about how Carlton’s First Inconvenient Rule of Entrepreneurship (“Step one is to implement a simple idea that succeeds; step two is to complicate the shit out of that simple idea so it eventually fails”) also applies to the civilization around us.
My father was perhaps one of the last men to actually experience a period where he completely understood — and could recreate and fix — almost everything around him. Born in the Industrial Age in 1920, he’d dug wells for water, tore apart and reassembled car engines, fixed his own plumbing, grew food in the back yard. He built things, including large government buildings, from blueprints. He knew how clocks and toasters and and asphalt and support beams worked.
Most of my colleagues, today, can’t even start a fire from scratch (let alone rewire the electricity in the house). And I clearly remember the day (in the early nineties) I was standing in a lot staring at the car I was about to buy, the hood open, wondering where the carburetor was…
… when the salesman casually informed me that engines were sealed now, and even if there had been a carburetor (which there wasn’t, since cars are all fuel-injected now), I wouldn’t be able to access it. Let alone fuss with it. Owners were no longer allowed to see, let alone touch, the working parts of the internal combustion engine anymore. If anything needed attention, I’d be alerted by a flashing light on the dashboard, and certified mechanics with bizarre tools not available at Home Depot would take care of it.
You? You keep your filthy civilian hands off the merchandise. Even when you own it.
As kids, we used to take telephones and radios and even TVs apart, and some of us could put ’em back together in working order. Not too long ago, an old and very savvy pal (who was handy building ham radios from scratch) admitted that he’d taken a laptop computer apart to see how it worked, and realized he had officially become a completely-clueless tech dinosaur… because there was zero way human eyes could even begin to see the tiny transistors inside.
Analog dudes living in a digital age. Not good. I can hear the Millennials laughing at us.
However, another Carlton Rule is: “There is always a way.” No matter what problem or situation you face, there is a way out. Saul Goodman (the lawyer from “Breaking Bad”) is the primary practitioner of this philosophy, of course (“I know a guy, who knows a guy… who knows a guy who does this”).
But it’s also the basis of all my high-end consulting. In 30+ years, I’ve never met a biz problem (or a personal problem) I couldn’t find a solution to. Or knew a guy who had the answer, one phone call away.
You may not like the solution, but it exists. You may have to change direction (or your attitude or bank account) radically, or entertain options that are distasteful to you… but there is always a way around a problem. My example of this, in “Kick Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel”, is the drug war. Who are you gonna bet on — the multi-gazillion-dollar-funded US border security complex, with the most advanced helicopters, drones, submarines, scanners, weapons and computers…
… or the little Guatemalan farmer with his stash of weed he wants to sneak into the country?
Hint: Take the farmer. He’ll find a way.
And these two rules go hand-in-glove with each other. Yes, the culture (and everything around you) is getting more and more complex, spiraling away from your ability to understand any of it…
… and, at the same time, yes, there are ways around being a slave to complexity.
Getting hip to this can save your butt, in biz and in private life.
Let’s take rock and roll as another example. In the early seventies, bands had gotten better and better in musicianship, stagecraft, and working in the studio. Just a few years earlier, garage bands without knowledge of electronics or soundscape management could still weasel their way into a studio and record a record live… and have it sell. “Louie, Louie”, by the Kingsmen, was recorded live in a garage. One take (cuz the lead singer was too drunk to do another). Mono, one mike hanging from the ceiling, a “good at the time” tape machine, no sound check. It was a different time, back when do-it-yourselfer’s could win.
But then things kept getting more complicated. By the early seventies, rock was taken over by bloated musician-heavy bands like Yes and stagecraft-oriented groups like Genesis. The garage bands were hopelessly outmatched in skill, technical ability, and resources.
Then, punk arrived. As a reaction to the bloated sound and restrictive nature of “professional”, expensively attired bands. Suddenly, it was a free-for-all again, and details be damned. Garage bands thrived for a second time.
The music had found a way around the problem.
Today, folks consider moving from an iPhone (phone, computer, web access, personal robot all-in-one) back to a now-ancient flip phone as a brave act of moving away from dependence on the Grid. Of course, they still can’t fix the flip phone if it breaks. It’s an illusionary and futile mission.
And I’ve met my share of pure geeks — guys who make the cast of The Big Bang Theory look like slacker hippies. They DO understand, and can manipulate (or hack) the digital world around them. However, they also tend to be weak on interpersonal skills with their fellow humans. Even freshly armed with state-of-the-art “pick-up artist” tactics, they can’t easily find love or intimacy or any of the interpersonal stuff they crave. And plumbing, growing your own food, and understanding how the infrastructure around us works isn’t on their radar.
In marketing, a few years back, you could build your own website on a laptop, find online traffic for cheap, and create an information product to sell in a weekend. With PayPal, you didn’t even need a merchant account. People were literally starting hot new businesses on their kitchen table, overnight.
Eventually, things got more complex. The rules changed, Google started slapping site owners who didn’t follow the fast-changing rules, Facebook started punishing folks who used their page for biz (after urging them to do so), affiliate mailers started demanding more sophisticated sales funnels with high-production video and pro-level design, federal regulations took aim at online biz…
… and things just got more complicated. Rookie entrepreneurs looking to break into online marketing can be excused for fainting at the sheer volume of stuff they have to learn to just get started. The heady no-holds-barred Wild West days of the Internet have drifted away into memory.
… and yet, just like corporate bands forgot that the real magic was in the music, and not in the outfits or stage show or pompously produced records…
… a lot of today’s online biz owners forget that the raw fundamentals of salesmanship are still more important than the gaudy glitz of flashy tech.
It’s still simply about having a good product or service that someone wants… put in front of an audience of hungry prospects… and sold with a persuasive message that covers all the basics of a standard face-to-face deal. A good hook, some believable credibility, a real solution to a problem that is interrupting your prospect’s life (whether it’s something major like needing money, or something nagging like needing special tools to finish your daughter’s swing set out back).
Plus a simple delivery system for the product or service that makes everyone happy. So you can sell more stuff on the back end (where all the real profit is). (You DO have a back-end, don’t you?)
It can all be very low tech, too. Uncomplicated. Sure, you want to eventually test all the ways other marketers are successfully closing their deals — with video, launches, elaborate cross-marketing campaigns, affiliates, the works. All of which require a bit more know-how, probably some hired help, and lots of math.
But you get into that AFTER you establish you’ve got a winner. Make a few initial sales, get good feedback, make sure the value is there, and the profit. THEN move onto more complicated methods… when you have money coming in to pay for it.
A good rule (not mine — it goes way back): Find out as quickly and cheaply as possible if you have a winner or a loser. Ignore hunches and gut feelings — just create a prototype that is “good enough”, and see if people buy it in the Real World. Your house list is fine to go to first. Or do a low-cost Adwords campaign — you can run a few hundred bucks worth of ads, based on the insight to what’s working now from Google searches (which you can access for free via your free Adwords account). Just get moving with the resources available to you now. (And “free” or “cheap” is always a good thing.)
I talk all the time to wannabe entrepreneurs who get it in their head they need $50,000, or $100,000 (or more) just to get started. And you don’t.
There is a way around every problem in biz and life. Including being broke. Save up enough for a “war chest” to test your ideas. A few hundred bucks can do it…
… IF you have the basics handled. That would be understanding salesmanship, having a good grasp of how to write your own sales messages (including ads, emails, pitches, etc)…
… and having access to a network of folks who can help you fill in the blanks in your skill set and information.
You CAN make a garage-band-style of entrepreneurship work. And you can still do it from your kitchen table, if you want, despite what all the “experts” are now trying to tell you.
The Web isn’t magic. It’s just another vehicle for helping marketers bring their product and services to prospects. It does this VERY WELL, and because it’s reach is global the number of prospects you can reach with an online message far, far exceeds what was possible in the old days where you only had newspapers, magazines, radio and TV.
What’s more, the costs involved, online, are a fraction of what it takes to run a print or broadcast ad campaign.
But the one thing that never changes, no matter where you present your product or service… is salesmanship. The fundamentals of crafting a damn good sales message that persuades people to buy your stuff.
That’s what this blog has been about since 2004. Smart entrepreneurs of every level (from rookie to veteran rockstar) have been browsing the archives as a daily ritual… because the joint is crammed to bursting with articles on every aspect of being a successful entrepreneur.
So, while it’s still early in the year, why not get into the habit of reading a handful of articles each week, starting today. The education you’ll get — for free — exceeds anything you’d get from a single seminar or book on biz. Even more, in some cases, than you’d get from a couple of years in certain biz schools (cuz the idiot running those classes have never actually been successful in the real world).
The thing is, get started. And know that no matter WHAT your problems are, or what your sticking points are, or what your biggest fears are…
… there is ALWAYS a way around them. Solutions exist. And many of them can be found here, in the blog.
P.S. Okay, while we’re talking “cheap”…
… it needs to be pointed out that the membership dues of the online Insider’s Club we run (hosted by my biz partner Stan Dahl, and where I have a virtual “desk” that I hang out at) is still just $29 a month. With no commitment beyond your current month. No sneaky obligations. Nothing standing in your way.
And yet you will immediately have access to the kind of resources that veteran biz owners lust after — coaching on the latest trends and fads, networking with the members and staff (very important), lessons on creating products and ads, archives of great ads to swipe (with instructions on how to do it successfully), interviews with the greats of marketing and advertising…
… plus a wide-open opportunity to get a personal phone consultation with me and Stan. On YOUR biz, or what’s bugging you or holding you back. Copy critiques, business plan help, emergency intervention in campaigns… we do it all, every month.
And, that part is free. Part of being a member. Your measly $29/month covers all of it. (Regular consultations with me run $2,500.)
If you aren’t part of a hot network of working entrepreneurs, writers and experts… then you’re just ROBBING yourself of the main resource successful biz owners enjoy: Networking.
Check it out here: See What The Insider’s Club Is All About.
One of the very best people to read. Thanks John. I drove out to Oregon and met Jason Moffatt. Only knew him from FB. We were talking about what FB friends we would actually like to meet face to face, and I said John Carlton. At that point I got to hear stories about you. You have always been one who “speaks” to me.
This issue of the RANT was very thought provoking indeed!
Thanks for taking the time to write another exceptional blog.
Dude — everything you say just makes so much SENSE.
I’m always excited by a new post, podcast, offer … anything.
Thank you John,
I’m one of those people you mentioned who, as I discovered more and more about the “complexities” of pursuing an online business and all that can go into it, has become overwhelmed and, subsequently, discouraged. Hence, reading these words from you – that despite all these complexities it is still possible – are inspiring, encouraging, and motivating.
John — I’ve said it about you before…
“No vessel is substantial enough in girth or belly to hold the bounty you pour.” — Thank you!
Thanks, John! Inspiring content – and a lesson in writing, too!