Category Archives for small business marketing

Welcome, EOFire fans

Howdy.

If you’re here via the EOFire interview with me that was just published…

… welcome.

Let me introduce this blog to you, briefly.

First: We’ve got a sizzling (and free) “Simple Writing System Express Course” going on right now at www.simplewritingsystem.com …

… where you can score some real marketing skills in just a few minutes.

The lessons are available right now, and it goes quick. It’s also solid fun, if you’re in any kind of business that requires killer marketing tactics to bring in the Big Bucks.

You’ll enjoy this… and the new skills you discover will transform your ability to turn prospects into customers.

Next: There’s a nice “If You’re New To The Blog” post just to your right, in the right-hand column… just click on it to bring up a quick post explaining everything.

There are some 13 years worth of FREE archives here, accessible in the lower part of the right hand column by year. Yes, this is one of the very first marketing and business blogs, and it’s been a regular stop for top entrepreneurs, copywriters and lovers of outrageously successful advice since it debuted in 2004.

In these archives, you will find a vast library of specific tactics, strategies, philosophy and direction on running a successful biz and living life well. All written by me (with two or three exceptions, when I asked colleagues to post something important). All revealing the really good stuff from my 30-year career as an “A List” copywriter, business consultant, marketing guru, and all-around bon vivant.

Dive in anywhere you like. There are tags and categories on each post… or, you can just browse.

You can get a mini-MBA education right here, straight from the street-savvy secrets I share here. All tested and proven in the brutal and unforgiving real world.

I’ve also targeted a few “must read” posts you might want to start with, from the archives.

Also in the right hand column, you can browse through the courses, books and consulting offers I keep current. Just click on any icon for more info.

Finally… remember…

you can sign up to get email alerts when I post something new, up in the top of the right hand column. You’ll also get a cool free report.

I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. I’m sometimes crude, but always honest…

… and everything I share comes from my personal experience in the biz world. Where I established a pretty nice reputation as a copywriter to be followed, a consultant to seek out, and a speaker who blows the roof off the joint on stages worldwide.

I hope you’re the type who appreciates solid, reality-checked insight to creating, maintaining and nurturing solid business models. From creating killer products, to advertising effectively (which most marketers do NOT), to putting the pedal to the metal on living large and raking in the Big Bucks.

Because… if you ARE this type of entrepreneur or biz owner… then you’ve just stumbled on a true treasure trove of exciting, relevant and useable advice.

Go on, dive in.

Love to hear what you think, in the comments. I’m always hovering, personally answering comments and inviting others to join the threads.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. If you’re interested in a good place to start, I suggest the first course I created…

… a primer on becoming a true “insider” in the advertising and marketing world called “Kickass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel”.

Dog-eared copies of this course (it’s not digital, and will be rush shipped to you when you purchase it) sit on the desks of famous, notorious and wealthy entrepreneurs, copywriters and marketers all over the world. Just check out the testimonials to see how others have put it to immediate use.

Grab your copy here.

 

Gratitude, Schmatitude

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Friday, 2:22pm
Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones…” (Bob Dylan)

Howdy…

Lots of talk about gratitude these days. There are entire movements (run by schmaltzy guru’s in nice suits) centered on getting folks to feel the gratitude, to embrace and become it.

Like it’s magic or something.

It ain’t.

Knowing how to appreciate the important stuff in your life is a good thing, of course. Being grateful for what you have should be a daily moment, part of being mindful about what’s going on around you and within you (and around and within those you love, deal with, oppose and haven’t met yet).

Early in my career, while devouring self-help books — I read one Og Mandino for every biz book I read for awhile, just to keep my heart and soul moving forward along with my brain — I even went so far as to acknowledge the non-living things around me. I would thank a keyboard, for example, for serving me so well when I replaced it. And mean it. Give it a decent burial in the trash, introduce myself to the new keyboard and get back to work. Same with my shoes, my thrashed car (which needed the encouragement, I can assure you), my favorite pens, and so on. It doesn’t even seem silly now… it makes sense to be mindful of the tools that help us do what we do. Astronauts name their shuttles, sailors name their ships, and I assign my beat-up leather coat a personality.

So I’m an old hand at thanking the universe and the things and people around me as I move along.

But a little perspective, please.

For too many business people, there’s no real thought given to the notion of gratitude. They act like just saying the word creates a magical forcefield of wonderment and power.

So we get airline flight attendants urgently crooning over the intercom that if there is ANYTHING they can do to make our flight more comfortable, just ask.

Which is, of course, pure bullshit.

The things that would make me more comfy — like more leg room, wider and plusher seats, and maybe a mickey in the drunk’s beer next to me so he’ll shut up — are not within their toolkit. I mean, a foot massage would be nice, too, but even mentioning it would have the air marshals on your butt in a heartbeat.

So why do they even say it?

Sometimes it’s just habit, from the old scripts they used to read. The job requirements included big smiles, friendly demeanor even in the face of rudeness, and a steady stream of patter to calm folks down while the jet screamed through the heavens eight miles up.

So even in towns like Reno, you still get the pilots schmoozing about “we know you have a choice when you fly”… when we absolutely do NOT. And every passenger on the plane knows it. If you’re headed anywhere on the beaten track, it’s Southwest or the highway.

And AT&T robots love to drone while you’re on hold, about how grateful they are to have you as a customer. It’s all please and thank you and yes, sir. The gratitude practically drips from the phone…

… but they aren’t grateful enough to hire more operators to handle your complaint. I mean, c’mon, people. Get real. Those 30-minute hold times are planned. By evil fuckers with big smiles all bubbly with gratitude for your business.

Yeah, get real. Which is what I always advise entrepreneurs and biz owners to do when crafting their business plans and operating scripts. Don’t use the drivel doled out by big corporations when you’re creating pitches to your prospect and customer bases. Be real, tell the truth, and don’t make promises your ass can’t fulfill.

The worst are businesses that hire some PR firm to write up a “mission statement”. This is all the rage every so often, as the MBA schools recycle old tropes on doing biz. Not understanding what a USP is, and possessing no clue on how to actually deal with a prospect or customer, dazed biz owners will spend a lot of time and money positioning a statement out that is supposed to “define” the “culture” of the joint.

So we get lots of vague “the customer is king” and “you’re the boss” crap… which sounds great, but is just blabbering babble if not put into action.

Just like your old drinking buddy who would swear on his mother’s grave to pay you back for the ten-spot he borrows when he needs it… but, of course, has no ability to bring that promise along with him into the future, because he spends every dollar he makes, can’t plan to save his life, and gets offended when you become that asshole who wants his money back. Being true to your word is a vague concept without real meaning. Stop bugging me, man.

If you decide you want to shine at customer service, then DO IT. Don’t talk about it. Don’t slime me with your bullshit sincerity and grandiose promises. Just be really fucking good at customer service. The word will get out, trust me.

Think about this, and about your relationship with gratitude.

Yes, you’re VERY thankful to the grubby dude from the garage who drove out to fix your car in the rain. At the time he’s getting things done, and you’re sensing you’re gonna get out of this ordeal after all, you want to hug him. And you say, over and over again, how grateful you are that he exists.

Yeah, yeah, whatever. You’re not grateful enough to invite him over for Thanksgiving dinner, are you? You gonna help him move to a new apartment next weekend? Go watch the big game with him at the garage?

No, you’re not. Your main tool is expressing your gratitude, by saying it over and over. But once you’re off on your way, he’s a distant memory.

A nice twenty buck tip gets oodles more mileage than another heartfelt handshake. He may even go out of his way to rescue you the next time you run into a tree, remembering how monetarily grateful you were.

On the other hand, he may demure and not come at all, if he’s all creeped out over your slobbering hugs of impotent gratitude.

Lying is lying. The small lies in life set up the big ones. Nobody trusts nobody these days, for good reason — trust is and always has been earned, one act at a time. You can’t just announce that you’re trustworthy and have it mean anything.

In fact, one of the old street maxims is: Take whatever the guy says, and figure the opposite is true.

In biz, the client who brags about money not being a problem… has a cash flow problem. The colleague who talks big about trust is screwing your spouse. The accountant who has a mission statement centered on “serving the client” is embezzling. The joint is filled with liars.

This means there is always one darn good way to stand out in even the most crowded, cutthroat market out there. Just be honest. Don’t bullshit your audience, and don’t try to front-load your reputation with promises you can’t fulfill.

Your audience will let you know what your reputation is, soon enough.

Don’t be like that pilot blabbing about choices when there aren’t any. He is announcing to everyone that he is, at best, a mindless corporate shill. And if he wanders into the cabin during the flight and tells you something about not worrying, everything’s just dandy…

… you will be excused if your next act is to look for a parachute.

Consequences matter. Stop lying to yourself, to others, and to your business. Yes, to your business — it may not be a living, breathing thing, but it still operates in the corporeal world, just like the rest of us.

Don’t turn it into a lying shit heel, just because you want to sound all corporate-like.

It matters. Real gratitude has teeth, and is connected at the hip with action. Not bluster.

Thanks.

No, really, thanks.

Stay frosty,

John

 

Rumors Of My Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

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Monday, 12:45pm
Reno, NV
Hey, you bastards, I’m still here!” (Steve McQueen, “Papillon”)

Howdy…

I was talking to a colleague the other day, and he asked me how I liked retirement.

Uh, what retirement is that, I asked.

Well, he said, I thought you’d pretty much left the biz.

Sigh.

I guess I need to address this now. I mean, seeing as how I’m speaking next week to a seething crowd of 500 copywriters at one of the biggest bootcamps of the year (the sold-out AWAI gargantuan event in Florida). AND, the following week, hosting our autumn Platinum Mastermind meeting (now in it’s 7th year). While, you know, handling multiple calls from colleagues looking for advice, plus paid consulting gigs, writing a new book, monitoring the next Simple Writing System classroom, and…

If this is “retirement”, it sure looks an awful lot like a regular workweek.

But, yes, there has been a rumor floating around that I’m retired (or “semi-retired”), not traveling anymore, not taking clients, etc.

And, in a word, it’s all bullshit.

What happened was, a couple of years ago, I decided I sucked as a manager, and sold the Marketing Rebel corporation to my longtime business partner, Stan Dahl. Who has been handling it quite nicely ever since. The Insider’s Club membership site is cooking on high heat… the Simple Writing System just had another All-Star Teachers session (with A-Listers like David Garfinkel, Mike Morgan, Lorrie Morgan-Ferrero, and former Gary Halbert sidekick Scott Haines all hosting classes)… and all the good work we’ve always done in the advertising and marketing worlds has continued without a hitch.

It’s working so well now, because I realized what a bottleneck I was as a manager. Once I got out of the way, things blossomed.

Jeez Louise, that’s humbling. But it’s all worked out great.

And I got back to what I do best: Writing, consulting and being one of the most notorious bad-ass creative advisors in the game.

This is a VERY common entrepreneurial blunder, by the way. You get a biz going by handling almost everything personally… the ideas, the planning, the implementation, the writing, the schmoozing and networking, and all the hiring of tech help and support teams and lawyers and contracts and…

… and pretty soon, you’re working 70 hours a week, the biz is thriving, but you aren’t doing the creative stuff you’re good at.

For me, the calls and meetings with lawyers and accountants and affiliate managers and everyone else’s lawyers and biz operatives just crushed my spirit and will to live.

I was unhappy.

And so I sold the biz, and moved back into my old role as writer, creative dude, and consultant extraordinaire. The “wheelhouse” of my talent and skill-set, where I’ve always made the most impact.

And, I was happy again. While working around 20 hours a week, just like the first decades of my career. A 20-hour workweek is just about perfect, and because I know all the productivity hacks allowable for humans, I get more done in that 20-hours than most folks do in the 60 hours they slave at.

So, I’m in my “bliss groove” again. Good writing requires lots of down time, so your brain can cogitate on the crap you’ve stuffed in there, cook it up in a fresh batch, and make it all accessible when you sit down to actually write. Reading lots of books on different subjects, including gruesome fiction and light articles on diverse (even dumb) subjects, is also part of a well-lived writer’s lifestyle. Plus engaging in the adventures, pleasures, misadventures and bumbling horrors of modern life.

In fact, without immersing yourself in the culture and the Zeitgeist, you quickly become stiff and boring as a writer.

Yuck.

But I don’t count the cool, fun stuff as “working”. I love the process of being a complete, well-rounded writer with his pulse on the culture. It’s what makes this the best damn gig on the planet (for introverts or wannabe introverts seeking influence, wealth and happiness).

In the 1990s, I both wrote most of the ads for which I’m now infamous (all the screamingly successful golf, self-defense, health, music and small-biz ads that changed the way entire industries approached marketing)…

while ALSO taking off three-to-six months a year to go do something else. I was following Travis McGee’s advice (from the “you gotta read ’em” novels by John D. MacDonald) of “taking your retirement while you’re young, in pieces, and returning to work when you need to replenish the coffers”. For me, that meant indulging in exciting mid-life crises (I’ve had six so far, and loved every single one) like when I disappeared from the business world for half a year, formed a 3-piece rock band, and played all the biker bars in Northern Nevada. What a blast.

I also took time off to write some novels, and dip a toe in the world of writing fiction for a living. It was enormous fun, but the pay was dismal. Most of the working novelists I met made less in half a decade than I did for writing a couple of winning ads in a good market (and it only took me a few weeks to write those ads). I decided to keep fiction as a side hobby, and came back to my old clients to write a string of ads that doubled their bottom line.

And then, just after the turn of the century, I decided to get serious for a few years. And write a monthly newsletter (the notorious “Marketing Rebel Rant” that mailed for 6 years to the most influential marketers alive), while maintaining a client list that required me to be available the entire year. No more taking off massive chunks of time. I loved the whole process, which happened to coincide with the explosion of the Web as a viable marketing vehicle…

… and I hung out in a very insider network of movers-and-shakers that included Frank Kern, Jeff Walker, Eben Pagan, Joe Polish, Dean Jackson, Tony Robbins, Jon Benson, Joe Sugarman, Ed Dale, and of course my best friend in the biz, Gary Halbert.

It was FUN. And thrilling, because we were inventing the marketing models that would become the STANDARDS for all online marketers for a generation. My first website, which I designed on a napkin, was a go-to template for many businesses for a long while. I recorded one of the first ever podcasts in the marketing section of iTunes (with help from Dean Jackson)… became one of the hottest speakers on the global seminar circuit (hosted by Armand Morin, Dan Kennedy, Rich Schefren, Kern and others)… and of course our Simple Writing System has pumped over a thousand entrepreneurs and copywriters through the process of creating killer ads on demand.

While some old-school marketers fought the Web and resisted new technology, I was an early adopter. I grabbed many of the first generation gizmo’s, created early video sales letters (before the term was even invented), hosted some of the first online webinars and membership sites, and in general surfed the new wave of modern possibilities right at the crest.

I’m not bragging. I’m just as amazed at the way things have turned out as anyone else. I happened to write “Kick-Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel” at the precise time a vast mob of newbie marketers were becoming online entrepreneurs… and it was the perfect fit for them.

But it also led almost directly to those 60-hour weeks that eventually started to fry my brain.

I’ve counseled biz owners against burning out a lot in my career as a consultant. It’s common, it’s horrific, it can ruin your life…

… and, it’s completely avoidable.

But you have to act FAST when you sniff the burning rubber coming off your brain.

For me, it meant backing away from the reins of a business I’d nurtured for a decade… and sliding back into the more comfortable position I knew so well, of being a writer-consultant. Working a fraction of the hours required of a manager.

To some folks, this somehow meant I’d “retired”.

Nope. Just moved back into my former career lifestyle.

Like I said — I suck at management. I’m not built to argue with lawyers, or proofread contracts, or get deep into the weeds of making the day-to-day details of running a biz work. I KNOW what needs to be done, and I can spell it out for you in precise steps.

But that doesn’t mean I’m the guy who should be doing it.

A big part of happiness is finding out where you fit. And then sliding your bad ass into that position, away from the drudgery and angst of doing stuff you’re NOT built to do.

And let’s set the damn record straight: I’m NOT retired.

I love this biz too much to leave. I’m traveling as much as I ever have (though being more picky about which gigs I travel for). I’m flying out to Florida next week, as I said, to speak in front of 500 folks who rightfully expect to have their cages rattled by me from the stage. I’m flying to Los Angeles both for our mastermind, AND to hang out with Jon Benson at another biz gathering (including James Schramko from Oz).

And we’ll be in Vegas in January for another mastermind, in Phoenix for secret tapings of a new show, I’ll continue co-hosting the rollicking (and still free) Psych Insights For Modern Marketers podcast with Kevin Rogers…

… and I still maintain a full-time desk in the Marketing Rebel Insider’s Club… where I personally answer questions from members, do monthly “Hot Seat” consultations (free, for members) alongside Stan Dahl, and generally act as the community’s resident copywriting expert.

Okay, I’m not putting the old rock band back together, though. It was fun, but I’m kinda done with the bar scene. And I get bored on cruises and tourist-trap trips. I like to travel with a purpose.

I’m built to handle the advanced, high-level workload of a top copywriter and business consultant. So that’s what I’m concentrating on these days. While flying out to speak at seminars, networking with my pals, and staying rooted on the pulse of the modern business environment.

It’s a wild time to be alive, and to be an active member of the hottest entrepreneurial movement the world has ever seen.

I ain’t retiring for a long, long time. Baring getting hit by the occasional city bus while jaywalking, I should say. Nothing’s guaranteed in life, is it.

Will I see you in Florida… or at one my upcoming other seminar appearances? Or, gasp, at my Platinum Mastermind? (Got a seat waiting for you, and there’s still time to grab it. Go here for details.)

If you, like so many of the best (and happiest) marketers and writers around, value the input, savvy, advice and experience of a guy like me…

… who’s been around the block a few times, and knows the game inside and out…

… then check out some of the stuff we’ve got for you all over this blog page. Including a deep, roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-down-to-work consultation.

It’s only going to get more exciting out there in the big, bad biz world… with more opportunities to either thrive or get lost in the weeds than you can imagine. If you’re in biz, you need a resource like me watching your back.

Why not make 2016 (coming up fast) the best damn year of your life? Put your team together now, and see if including me and Stan and the rest of the gang here doesn’t make so much sense you can’t stand it.

Meanwhile…

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. The photo, by the way, is from another huge event this past year where I was a featured speaker. And got to hang with my buds (from left) Kevin Halbert (Gary’s son), A-List copywriting legend Clayton Makepeace, marketing legend Dan Kennedy, me, former CEO of Boardroom Brian Kurtz, and A-List copywriter (and my podcast partner) Kevin Rogers.

Quite the little braintrust right there…

Buzz And Awe, Redux

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Tuesday, 2:08 a.m.
Reno, NV
Is there gas in the car? Yeah, there’s gas in the car…” (Steely Dan, “Kid Charlemagne”)

Howdy…

Those of you in the loop know we’ve re-launched the coaching program of the Simple Writing System again.

We rarely offer this hand-holding, personalized, one-on-one mentoring (by coaches who are also successful copywriters). The last session was a couple of years ago.

No idea when another session will come around… if it even does.

We take this one program at a time. It’s notorious among marketing insiders, because of how effectively we’re able to transform almost anyone into a sales-message-producing machine… quickly and efficiently. It’s life-changing, and business-changing mojo…

… and that’s why the top marketers in the game have demanded that the folks in their organization responsible for marketing TAKE this course.

The personalized coaching in the SWS is extremely interactive Perfect for anyone who knows that hands-on mentoring is the best way to learn the simplest possible system (crammed with short-cuts) for creating all the sales messages needed for a profitable business…

… including all your ads, websites, video scripts, emails, AdWords, blogs and other social media broadsides…

everything that pumps eager prospects into your Sales Funnel.

So you can close the heck out them.  And get filthy rich and happy, and become the most successful entrepreneur or biz owner possible… because without killer, persuasive copy, you’re not going to find, nor close very many prospects.

Most marketers wander through the wasteland of Bad Business Practices their entire career…

… and never figure out how to SELL anything.

So, no matter how totally hot and good and righteous your product or service might be…Continue reading

How To Force Me To Personally Advise You On Your Business… For Cheap.

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Friday 8:09pm
Reno, NV
“Just move on up now…” (Curtis Mayfield)

Howdy.

Quick post here to help you figure out when you should probably consider consulting with a respected, proven veteran marketing expert…

… and what your perfect consulting option is, once you’ve decided it’s time to kick your biz or career into high gear.

Step One: As a small business owner or entrepreneur (especially if you’ve been going at it alone, or mostly alone)… if you have any kind of success at all… there will come a time when you’re simply overwhelmed and need a little help. Or a lot of help.

For example:

[] It may be time for you to move up a level in your marketing… and you know that having a veteran marketing expert comb over your new plans can shortcut your path to increased wealth, while jumping over the unseen pitfalls that ruin so many other biz owners trying to expand.

[] Or, you may have a problem that needs serious attention… like sales going into the toilet, or new competitors chewing you up, or sudden changes in the marketplace that crush your bottom line (like a Google slap, or adverse rule changes at Clickbank, or the obsolescence of your product, or technological left-turns that disrupt your sales process). Even worse, what was working before suddenly isn’t working anymore, and you don’t see a clear reason why.

[] Or, you’re just working harder and harder, but sales are stagnant. Time, perhaps, to bring in an objective, experienced marketing whiz who can help you restructure your biz plan… so you maximize results, and get your life back (by working less, not more.)

[] Or, you may want high-end professional advice on your current sales funnel… just to make sure you’re not hemorrhaging money somewhere, or murdering potential sales through marketing blunders you can’t even see.

[] Or, you may be ready to start a new business adventure, and just want to be positive you’ve got your ducks lined up and you aren’t forgetting something critical.

[] Or, you have copy that may or may not be working, which you know could jack up your bottom line if a professional copywriter helped you with a total make-over.

Step Two: The best reasons to seek professional help from a veteran dude like me always have one main goal: To fix problems, and goose your bottom line into obscene levels of newfound wealth.

When your situation is urgent, the cost of hiring a consultant who can provide solutions is almost always “cheap”, because you’re extracting yourself out of a dangerous reality that threatens your business and peace-of-mind.

And it’s a screaming bargain when that consultant can offer you simple fixes inside of a plan you can put into action immediately…Continue reading

How To Lose Friends & Persuade People To Hate You

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Tuesday, 8:54pm
Reno, NV
“You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave…” (Eagles, “Hotel California”)

Howdy…

Today, let’s explore a little-discussed part of running a biz…

… using a couple of enlightening (and very brief) anecdotes from my recent (and continuing) “Adventures With Hotels”.

Let’s call this lesson: The Faded Lady and the Trump.

With all due apologies to Disney’s classic dog-romance movie, of course.

See if you can spot how the following short story applies to YOUR business…

Ahem.

Each of the last two weekends found me in different cities, staying in hotels I booked online, sight-unseen.

In Sin City, it was the splendiferous Trump International Hotel Las Vegas.

In San Francisco, the once-famous, now-infamous Cathedral Hill Hotel.

Now, the Trump joint was built with luxury in mind.  Shiny, tall, imposing building with huge well-apportioned rooms and super-modern equipment like elevators and art.

As a “product”, the building was great. (Though it seems idiotic not to have any gambling on the premises, as a wanna-be “player” in the Las Vegas scene.  I heard that Trump got skunked on getting his gambling license, but that’s not the spin the staff offered.  “We just didn’t want gambling here,” is what they said, unconvincingly.)

Great price for the rooms, too.  (Most likely because of the lack of casino amenities and dearth of unit sales, which turned it from condo to hotel.)

I have complaints about the joint… but not because of the room, the rate, or the basic delivery of stuff like air conditioning, clean water, nice beds, etc.  (In fact, their pillow-top beds are amazing to sleep in.  Like being cuddled by angels.)

Now, back in SF, it was a completely different situation.

We hosted a gathering of writers, affiliates, and other mucky-mucks at the Cathedral Hill Hotel because we wanted to treat everyone to an evening with the world-renown “Beer Chef“, who puts on fabulous dinners there once a month.  (You can read more about Bruce Paton’s unique meals at www.beer-chef.com. )

You want the “Beer Chef”, you deal with Cathedral Hill. (And yes, we very much wanted his magic.  He creates these shockingly-tasty gourmet meals there, with each course matched by a local micro-brew beer instead of boring old wine.  It’ll knock your socks off, even if you aren’t well-versed in pilsners, ales and lagers.)

We also started the day off with an afternoon-long brainstorm session in the hotel’s main meeting room.  (I’m sure you caught some of the updates on Twitter from the luminaries and stars in attendance.)

However…

… none of us had ever stayed at the hotel.

And while it has a storied past (well-chronicled in San Francisco lore), it has, alas,  fallen on hard times.

Culminating in being bought out a short time ago and scheduled for the wrecking ball.

Ouch.

We made the most of it.  The stories and jokes we all shared about our rooms and experiences in the hotel are howlingly funny…

… but still, as a “product”, there’s no getting around the fact that the building was in serious disrepair.

Sort of like a once-beautiful lady who has fallen on hard times, and ended up sacked-out in a filthy alley, soused with cheap booze and a reputation heading south at light speed.

The price was actually a red flag: You cannot stay in the city, in a decent room, for anywhere near the rate Cathedral Hill was asking.

Kind of like seeing an ad for a luxury Caribbean Cruise in the paper for five bucks.  It sort of sets off your early-warning alarm.  (Five bucks and your kidney, maybe.)

So… while no one got robbed, or found a dead hooker in their room… Continue reading

[Quiz] Okay, So What’s Your NEXT Step?

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Saturday, 8:42pm
Reno, NV
“Look Dave, I can see you’re really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over. (HAL to astronaut Dave in “2001”)

Howdy…

Okay, let’s do a quickie quiz, what d’ya say?

It’s Saturday evening, after all… and I just got my ass whupped by Michele at Scrabble (her first win, ever, in 10 years of trying) (and I don’t expect to ever hear the last of it anytime soon).

(What’s the time limit on doing the “Ass Whup” dance, mocking your partner, anyway?)

So, to keep my mind off the misery of such a wrenching loss (she accidentally used all 7 letters in her third turn, and that bonus 50 points is what beat me), I’m hiding in my office.

I’ve got maybe 10 minutes before I have to come out and face more taunting and jublilation.

Thus, a quick blog post.  (“Get out of here!  I gotta work…”)

I’m giving a prize away, of course.

Let’s se… how about a fresh copy of “Kick-Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel” to the first right answer.

I’ve got a nice new one burning a hole on the shelf across from my desk.  It’s got your name on it, Mr/Ms Winner.  I’ll sign it, and have Diane ship it out asap.

Sound good?

Okay.  Here’s the quiz:

The most common question I get from entrepreneurs who are stuck on some part of their marketing…Continue reading

C’mere… I Wanna Take You Somewhere Cool…

Wednesday, 7:35pm
Reno, NV

Howdy…

Can you do me a favor?

Actually, two favors:

1. Just forgive me for not paying close attention to this blog over the next week or so.

… and…

2. Please hop over to www.simplewritingsystem.com/blog/ and indulge yourself.

Am I forgiven?

Great.

I’ll be back here with a vengence soon enough.

Right now, however…

… we’re launching the Simple Writing System, and it’s taking all my time.

No, seriously, I mean ALL my time.

I haven’t slept much this week… and when I do, I’m dreaming about the damn launch.

I was going to give you a blow-by-blow, “behind the scenes” commentary on the process in this blog…

… but it turns out I was deluded.

Launches are consuming events. Especially when — like us — you defy the standard “rules” and just boldly march into the process with as little preparation as possible.

Gotta love the entrepreneur spirit. Damn the torpedoes and all that.

The best part of a launch, of course…

… is that it’s over when it’s done. Sort of like a short jail sentence, where you’re chained to your desk… but you get cut loose when the curtain goes up, and all sins are erased.

“Curtain Up” day is coming up fast, too.

And that means the cool, deeply insightful webinar/interviews on the SWS blog go away, too. Not gonna leave ’em up for very long.

You definitely need to see them. We just posted Mike Filsaime, who revealed (for the FIRST time ever) his private mentoring notes from his intense learning days as a salesman…

… and Rich Schefren, who allowed me to expose all his secrets about making mere blog posts bring in massive fortunes (shocking revelation, by the way)…

… and Eben Pagan, who just unloaded on the specifics of his million-dollar marketing tactics (especially how he wrote to sell and influence so successfully)…

… and Frank Kern, who… well, who was so totally Frank in this interview, that I may bottle his webinar and turn it into rocket fuel.

These things are crammed with risky, maddeningly real-world revelations and insight these guys have rarely (if ever — Mike’s salesmanship notes, for example, are a total exclusive) shared in public.

I grilled ’em.

Now you get to feast.

So…

… again, I’m gonna be a ghost here on this blog. But only for a few more days… while I concentrate on the Simple Writing System blog.

Lots of great stuff posted over there, and more coming.

Go check it out.

As always, your comments are welcome, helpful and encouraged.

Back to the grind…

Stay frosty,

John

Hey, I Need Your Help Here…

Thursday, 8:25pm
Reno, NV
“What’s keeping YOU up at night?”

Howdy,

Quick post here, I swear.

I have a small problem…

… and I could sure use your help.

It’ll take you, like, two minutes or so.

And yet… it will be of tremendous value to me. If I’ve ever given you something of value before — a piece of advice, a tip, a hint on direction, a good belly laugh, whatever — then I’m calling in the chit.

I want you to comment here.

Here’s what’s up: Among smart marketers — those who have their money-making act together — my core message is a well-known commodity.

“Nothing good will ever happen in your biz… until the copy gets written. And… the best person to write the most important stuff… is you.”

This message is unquestioned among the top marketers I hang out with.

They even eagerly tell anyone who will listen, to listen to me.

Many of the best (like Eben Pagan, Frank Kern, Rich Schefren and others) almost never talk about copy without mentioning my impact on their own learning curves… and they help spread the message.

The heavy hitters all know — without a shred of doubt — that copywriting is the foundation of all things profitable in business.

But here’s the rub: Outside that group of “in-the-know” marketers…

… I often run into a brick wall trying to get entrepreneurs and biz owners to truly understand the importance of writing.

I feel like the first guy to see the aliens land in a sci-fi movie… and the townspeople all ignore my dire warnings of Armegeddon. They smile and nod, and agree that it certainly WOULD be nasty-bad if evil aliens were coming, but…

And their minds wander off in total distraction.

If you’re in business…

… and you’re ignoring the role of great copy in your quest for success and wealth (and your need to learn HOW to write that great copy)…

… then, like the oblivious townsfolk, you’re risking becoming TOAST.

Especially in the economic melt-down happening now.

It’s really pretty simple: Those who know how to write killer ads, emails, video scripts and everything else…

… are going to thrive.

And those who don’t…

… well, it ain’t pretty.

And that’s my dilemna: I’m very good at reaching the “insiders” in business. They immediately “get” how critical and how totally cool it is to know how to write sales copy.

As for the people who are “un-initiated” in direct response?

Not so much.

The message seems to take a while to sink in.

So here’s what I would love to hear from you: What is your NUMBER ONE problem with writing ads right now?

Are you frustrated with the process of trying to write? Do you see it as hard work or — worse — as a big voodoo mystery you’ll never figure out?

Do you avoid learning the essentials of writing for any conscious reason? Or is there something personally difficult about writing that makes you just want to skip the whole concept?

Or what?

I am seriously looking for input here.

If you’re an entrepreneur… or small biz owner… or even a rookie… and you don’t know how to write what you need written…

… could you please look inside your own brain…

… and honestly share with me what the problem is? What is your Number One constraint holding you back from digging into this skill?

I’d appreciate it.

Thanks, in advance.

Hey — let’s make it a little contest.

The person who most succinctly and clearly helps me see what I’m missing here…

… will win a free copy of the freshly updated “Kick-Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel” — the course that launched so many of the online marketers now dominating the virtual landscape.

Does that make it worth your time to look inside… and give me some insight as to why it’s so hard to break through the resistance so many people have on this mega-important subject?

C’mon. It’ll take you a couple of minutes. You may even learn something about yourself.

And…

… if you’re already writing your own stuff, successfully… you can get in the competition, too.

Just remember back to what held you up from getting started learning the skill.

What was your biggest obstacle? The cost of getting help? Not knowing where to turn or who to trust? Not having the time? What?

Let’s give it until Monday to decide on the winner, what do you say?

The competition begins now…

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

Your Tip For The Week

Monday, 7:51pm
Reno, NV
You know everybody is ignorant… just on different subjects.” Will Rogers

Howdy…

I’ve been meaning to give you some tips you can use, like, immediately to help your business boost its mojo.

So here’s a specific tactic that will absolutely pump your copy full of good energy the first time you even dabble in it.

It’s advanced copywriting voodoo from deep in my bag of tricks… yet very simple to pull off.

My favorite kind of tool.

Before I just dump this tactic into your lap, though…

… I think I’ll explain where it came from.

Might give you some context. And make you feel more confident using it.

Here’s the story: I am not a naturally-gifted writer…

… though I loved the act of writing as soon as I learned the alphabet. It was just so cool to be able to scratch out symbols with my big pencil (tongue firmly stuck out the side of my mouth) and make people laugh when they read it.

Or squirm.

Or respond in any old way at all.

I wish I could say my Inner Salesman was tickled awake by this discovery, but he was still fast asleep… even as I got sucked into the world of great fiction, and created a hobby of trying to mimic what I was reading.

I wrote a terrifically horrible little novella in the sixth grade based on the “Mars Attacks!” bubble gum card series. (You may remember the mid-nineties movie they made about that series, starring Jack Nicholson. Great fun.)

At age 13, I wrote several short stories based on my own fevered post-adolescent twist on James Bond. Just brutally awful stuff.

I mean, what the hell does a 13-year-old know about drinking vodka and slaying women with a wink?

Not a damn thing.

Still, the entire English class once skipped lunch to hear me read one of those absurd tales.

I may have almost flunked, because my knowledge of basic grammar sucked… but I had an inkling on how to tell a story.

And yet, the more I “tried” to write, the worse I got. Right into and past college, the stories became more and more bloated with tangents and flowery language that would have choked a Victorian.

You know what the turning point was, for me, in my quest to become a decent writer?

Advertising.

Saved my ass.

All my heroes — Claude Hopkins, John Caples, David Ogilvy — wrote in a similar manner. Very sparse, very on-target, very no-bullshit-allowed.

And I had my epiphany about five minutes into writing my very first ad.

You see, most rookies try to goose the power of their writing with adjectives. And no matter how deep your adjective vocabulary becomes, your writing will forever be variations of a vapid Valley Girl trying to explain an experience:

“It was so, you know, like, amazing. Really, really amazing and fabulous beyond belief. It just… it just rocked, you know?…”

Adjectives, I quickly learned, are a tool for the communication-challenged.

They actually hurt your writing, more than help it.

No matter how cool you believe your precious adjective is.

Oh, go look it up, if you can’t remember what an adjective is. Good grief, man, it’s a fundamental element of the language you use everyday.

I’ll wait while you do a wiki search…

Okay, back?

Good.

Here’s your tip for the week: Strip ALL adjectives from your next attempt at sales copy.

Every last buggery one.

And write only in simple, unadorned sentences. Make zero effort to “fluff up” your meaning with adjectives.

And… guess what?

You have just automatically made your writing more readable, and probably more powerfully communicative.

Now, yes, all the top writers do occasionally use adjectives. Often in headlines. (Where would I be today without the word “amazing”?)

However… a pro makes sure his sentence can thrive even without any adjectives… before inserting one.

That nasty thing must EARN its way into your pitch.

Your sentence must scream for it. The foundation of your story must teeter and begin to crumble… before you give in and insert a single, tasty, mojo-laced adjective.

Treat them like nitroglycerin. Use sparingly and only when absolutely called for.

However, your time will be BETTER SPENT looking for action verbs instead.

That’s what separates the killer writer from the hack and the wannabe: Verbs.

My rule: No verb is repeated on any manuscript page of copy.

You know what that means? When I’m writing at fever pitch, I’m letting verbs drive the narrative.

And I can only use words like “get” once a page.

That’ll make you reach for the ginko and the Thesaurus. (Just never, ever use a word you know is not commonly understood by your reader. Don’t get too fancy, or you’ll lose him, and lose the sale.)

Quick example: The word “walk”.

As in, “he walked down the street”. How about “he staggered down the street”? Different image.

And what about “he lurched down the street”? Sober, healthy people don’t lurch. Drunk, hurt or zombified people do.

He bolted down the street. He raced down the street in a blind panic…

First time though, you just write. Use boring verbs, and don’t fuss with them.

When you’re done, let the copy get cold (at least 12 hours, if you can).

Then, go back… and edit viciously.

Challenge every verb you’ve used. You’ll be embarrassed by the number of times you’ve used “get” and “got” and other sleep-inducing deadwood verbs. Over and over and over, as if you’d never heard of another verb choice in your life.

Don’t get cute. Don’t get clever.

Just beef up your writing with good word selection. Mostly your verbs.

You’ll know you’ve reached Buddha-hood when you stop using adjectives altogether.

No matter how amazing they may seem at first blush…

Love to hear your experience with writing — especially harrowing tales of struggle and breakthrough and redemption.

Plus any input you have from using this tip.

Interact away, guys.

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

P.S. BTW, I have been successfully brainwashed into finally joining the Twitter cult (by my pal Eric, who remains the ONLY marketer I know who can demonstrate he’s actually earned cash moolah using it).

I’ll be sending out invitations to join me in Twitterland.

It’s actually pretty fucking cool, once you engage.

Assuming, of course, that the people you tweet with are interesting, deranged, or drunk.

More as events unfurl…

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