Category Archives for small business marketing

The Difference Between Cash and Happiness

Sunday, 11:16pm
Reno, NV


Let’s chat about money.

Cash, moolah, the big bucks, treasure. Greenbacks. Funds. Scratch. Coin of the realm.

You know — the stuff we kill ourselves (and sometimes each other) to get ahold of.

People who pretend to know will tell you that money cannot buy you happiness.

In fact, they say, too much of it can even cause you grief, and ruin your life.

There is ample evidence that there’s something to this, too — lottery winners are often right back where they started, financially, a short time after taking possession of their loot… wealthy business owners often lead lives of desperate loneliness, estranged from their own family and without any real friends… and many folks who strike it rich go into life-long funks worrying about losing it all, and the paranoia makes them suspicious, nervous, unlikeable pricks.

Still… most of us want to experience the horror of having lots of dough for ourselves, thank you very much.

We’ll take the risk of being ruined forever by a too-fat bank account.

Well… as with most of the good info in life, this topic bears a little airing out. It’s not black-and-white, and it’s definitely worth exploring a bit.

In fact… I just returned from a weekend brainstorm at my pal Joe Polish’s joint in Phoenix (attended by a bevy of bucks-heavy business mavens) where this very subject was a hot discussion point. (I was there as a guest lecturer. The regulars were all part of Joe’s schockingly-successful “$25K Mastermind Group” — who literally write twenty-five thou checks just for the privilege of attending four of these carefully-presented events each year.) (If you’ve ever demanded real-world proof that mastermind groups are worthwhile, this should shut you up quickly: The event I spoke at was the last of the year, and everyone in attendance considered the cost a genuine bargain… and most were eager to pay again for another year.) (Think about that.)


Joe asked me to clarify an operating statement I’ve been tossing around for years. It goes like this:Read more…

Wii Don’t Suck, YOU Suck

Sunday, 5:49pm
Reno, NV


One of my favorite hobbies is to go into stores and be insulted by clueless sales staff.

It used to offend me… until I realized all the really good marketing lessons inherent in every face-to-face encounter with anyone selling anything. (One of the coolest taxi rides I ever took was in Vegas, many moons ago, when the driver spent twenty minutes trying to pimp out his personal line-up of hookers. He used every salesman’s trick possible — including take-aways, upsells, cross-sells, urgency, guarantees and special offers. I actually took notes.) (And no, I didn’t become a customer. Shame on you for thinking so ill of me.)

For online marketers, the offline sales encounter might not seem relevant, but it is.

Your ad is your salesman, and your ordering process is your checkout experience.

All the things that can go wrong in the store, can and do go wrong in the online virtual sale process.

Quick example: I’ve been hot to get a Nintendo Wii gaming console since, oh, about five minutes after the product was announced last year. (I’ve been a gamer longer than you, and I don’t care how old you are. Back inRead more…

Freedom And Fraudcasting

From: Reno, NV

Thursday night, 9:26pm

Subject: Going off on The Man, Part II


One of the talents I’m most proud of is my knack for naming stuff.

I’m good at it because I love all forms of language, and I’m not afraid of mixing up forbidden slang with fifty-cent words to arrive at something fresh and compelling.

I could, for example, have called my first course “A Really Good Tutorial on Creating Ads” and written it in proper English … and it would have promptly (and justifiably) sank to the bottom of the barrel of courses on advertising.

Fortunately, I eschewed mediocrity and — instead — went for the jugular.

And the slang-ridden, take-no-prisoners course I did write — “Kick-Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel” — hit a nerve among entrepreneurs and small biz owners world-wide.

The lesson: Words matter.

Never confuse “smart sounding speech” with real Read more…

Next Stop: Panic & Chaos… Or Maybe It’ll Be Fun…

Sunday, 12:04 am

Do you like gruesome, everybody-dies horror stories set in the near future?


Cuz we all may be living through a real one in about… oh, less than two years.

Maybe sooner.

This happy news comes out of a wire service story launched by PC World publications yesterday afternoon.

Consider: A fresh study just released by an organization called the Nemertes Research Group — a self-described “independent analysis firm” — says the sky could very well be falling on our heads very soon now.

The virtual sky, that is. Specifically: The World Wide Web is about to blow its circuits as the new wave of video content overloads capacity.

They’re calling it an “exaflood”, because video really is the main culprit. (An exabyte is 1.1 billion gigabytes, higher than I can count. And apparently we’re flirting with disaster because of the dramatic increase in the size of data being shared, viewed, created, and stolen.)

I can see the final straw now, announced in banner headlines on the last of the real paper newspapers (because Web brown-outs have left everybody with blank screens across the land): “Ten-Millionth Viewing of Dancing Blonde Yeti Being Run Over By Speeding School Bus Video Shuts Down Web!” (Okay, I made that up.) (But you just know that — if a cyber-armeggedon does happen — it will be from some silly, non-essential piece of streaming video that goes apeshit viral.) (Though, I’d watch a dancing Yeti get run over any day…)

The key to avoiding such an ignoble fate: About $137-billion in infrastructure upgrades.

Or approximately what Bill Gates normally carries in his wallet.

And, man, I sincerely hope Bill and his buds (including Jobs, The Other People Who Own Silicon Valley, and the evil Google trolls) do pop for the upgrades, so I can continue my dreamy cyber existence without burps or other inconvenience.

But here’s why I’m just a tad suspicious of this news: First, I’ve been hearing about the imminent collapse of the Web for years now.

And for excellent reasons, too. (Excellent reasons.) The billions-deep parade of new-to-the-Web Chinese logging on every hour (with their cheap communist computers)… the crumbling 30-year-old analog gateways of the original Internet, still supporting the entire slap-dash network like an exhausted Atlas, sagging dangerously under the weight… pissed-off anarchist hackers from Eastern Europe eager to bring the entire world to its knees… and on and on.

Yet, we keep passing up the deadlines for disaster without, um, any disaster.

Second: There’s a very interesting tidbit of info in this new study… which admits that the current fiber and routing resources actually support “virtually any conceivable user demand…”

However, the authors warn, all this new-fangled video, music file-sharing, and other “content” crap we’re flooding the joint with is gonna blow the circuits. Very soon now!

You’ll see!

Not the Chinese hordes logging on. Not the absinthe-swilling nihilist hackers. Not the inherent weaknesses of the system.


It’s all this damned content.

Now, don’t get me wrong.

I’m all for the end of civilization and all that, as long as it’s like a good George Romero movie.

But I kinda resent being jacked around by Servants of The Man whose real agenda for scaring people like this… is their desire to control what we watch, what we read, and what we share.

The one guy quoted in this article is a dude named Bruce Mehlman from something called the Internet Innovation Alliance… who claims to have been warning of this imminent melt-down for ages.

Name sounded familiar… so I did a little digging.


Bruce is not a geek, as we understand technology lovers.

Rather, he’s a wonk-type-geekoid… a political animal who gave in to the Dark Side long, long ago.

In 2001, after trying to tell Cisco how to run its biz, Bruce oozed over to the Bush Administration… where he became assistant secretary for technology policy.

Now, I don’t care what your politics are. I believe that, in order for this nation to survive, we need both set of wingnuts doing their thang, so neither side takes over completely. (It’s a balanced view, in the way that allowing your nutso mother-in-law to move in with you balances out the unbridled fun you used to have as a couple. You can still have fun, but now you gotta be clever about it, like civilized adults.)

Anyway, I have far right friends, far left friends, and every other stripe of political beast represented in my address book of colleagues, buddies and resources. They are all sane in some ways, insane in other ways, and I learned long ago that nothing I say or do will sway them in the least, politically. So we peacefully co-exist.

But here is something I believe with all my heart: You simply cannot let agenda-driven political hacks be in charge of technology.

I’m sorry. You want a non-political group of dudes, ideally. Or at least someone who wasn’t in an administration that actively distrusts the Web. (I’m serious. Tom Delay, the former majority whip for the GOP House, has never let up on his insistence that people who do research on the “Internets” — as W. has famously called the Web many times — have committed some obvious weird blunder.) (Hey — google it, if you don’t believe me.)

Look. Vote how you like. I’m not writing a political blog here.

But seriously. Melman’s ultimate comment — after jumping on this uncertain study as proof of impending disaster — is that we first need to stop taxing Big Telecom. You know, so they can invest in infrastructure instead. (Major GOP talking point.)

I’ll let that point slide. Maybe there’s something to it, maybe not.

It’s the unspoken next point that is the kicker: We also need to immediately stop all this uncivilized file-sharing… or we’ll all die!

Especially video. And music sharing. And other should-be-illegal stuff those darn kids are doing.

I don’t yet know if this news release has gained traction in the “if it bleeds, it leads” mainstream press. I found it on the Washington Post’s website… so at the very least, it’s leaking into Beltway brains this very evening.

The doomsday scenario presented by the study seems to be fragrant with fairly easy, painless solutions… like pumping some money back into the infrastructure. And I kinda doubt that Big Web (I just made that up, to represent all the large corporations finally dragging their asses online in a big way) will sit by while this wonderful new way to reach customers shrivels and flickers because of Youtube enthusiasm. (I mean, Big Web just bought Youtube for a gazillion bucks.)

I’m just warning you.

If the story does gain traction, don’t swallow it whole.

There are people out there who are deeply frightened by the uncensored freedom of the Internets. Many of them are in powerful positions… and the entrepreneurial Wild West environment of the Web gives them ulcers.

They need to be watched carefully… cuz they would dearly love to clip the Web’s wings, so the big corporations could settle into their rightful place online, controlling and dominating everything. Without having to worry about all these “little guys” making waves.

Their dire tales of wolves gathering nearby need to be filtered through your Bullshit Detector. That’s all I’m saying.

Now, I’m gonna go enjoy some viral video…

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

P.S. Did you see this story anywhere else? Was it buried, or is it spreading? Heard references to it on any of the prez debates?

Lemme know what you’ve heard… and what you think.

And if you have inside info on this “collapse of the Web” thing — because you work in a secret dungeon in Silicon Valley or something — let me know THAT, too.


Crime Lords and Killer Copy


I just fielded a GREAT question in the Marketing Rebel Radio Rant coaching club Forum… and I liked my answer so much, I decided to share it here with everyone else. (It’s an excellent “taste” of the quality of info/advice/insight you get in that club, too.)

One of the “forum rats”, as we affectionately refer to each other, posted the question that is on the mind of most business owners’ when they first encounter the concept of “learning” to write their own copy.

Essentially, that question is this: “Really, why should I bother to learn the skills of writing copy at all?

When you look around at the mega-wealthy, they OWN things and manage from the top.

Like a crime boss. They want someone hit, they send out Guido.

Hard to imagine Donald Trump chewing a pencil, coming up with a dozen new headlines.

So… why bother to learn copy, if your dreams are big? Wouldn’t that time be better spent playing Monopoly-style biz boss, amassing property and holdings and moving and shaking?

And just hire the best writers to do your copywriting work?”

And here is my answer:

You ask a very good question. It’s so good, in fact, that it mimics exactly how I’ve been postioning my copywriting course lately in seminars.

My general message is this: Sure, you can (and probably will, in some cases) end up hiring writers to do the bulk of the writing for you as you grow your biz.

However, just as a crime boss hires hit men to do the dirty work… chances are, the boss still knows HOW to do the hit himself… and probably spent mucho time in his “rise to power” days actually doing just that. (Very Shakespearean, these modern crime lords.)

Same with biz.

ALL the top multi-millionaire marketers I know — from Jay Abraham to Dan Kennedy, from Eben Pagan to Frank Kern, from Rich Schefren to Mike Filsaime — know how to write killer copy.

And, for the most part, they still handle the important jobs themselves. Even though they may hire out the less-than-critical projects. (Eben — who will gross tens of millions this year — recently spent weeks sequestered, alone, in his home office pounding out copy for his recent launch. Wrote every word himself.)

The reason for this is fundamental: If you don’t know how to write good copy, how will you be able to JUDGE whether whoever you hire has done a good job?

If you are clueless, you’ll be at the mercy of your freelancers. You won’t understand what’s needed, you won’t know if the copy submitted is any good, you won’t be able to set real deadlines… you’re just a babe in the woods, vulnerable and potential lunch for every predator who catches your scent. (And even good, ethical writers will take advantage of you, because it’s so easy. Never forget that the writer/client relationship is inherently hostile — each person wants the best deal for themselves, and wants to do as little work/pay as little money for the process as possible. It’s the nature of the world.)

Just like a crime boss who has no idea how hits happen. The freelance killers he hires (if they know he’s clueless) will jack him around, take forever, botch the job, etc. It’s the stuff that built the Sopranos lore. Remember: Tony did his own hits, when he wanted it done right. (Like offing his cousin.)

There is NO other skill in biz more important than writing copy.


Show me a CEO who doesn’t understand advertising (which is built around the copy), and I’ll show you a screw-up about to tank the stock. He may get the recognition, but he’s utterly dependent on whoever he has doing the actual marketing… and his entire existence rests on the competence/incompetence of that hired dude behind the scenes.

Shudders all around. Sleepless nights. Ulcers and early death.

But hey — he didn’t “waste” any valuable time learning how to write copy.

Same with politics. The guys who rock as politicians write most or all of their own speeches. The hacks hire it out, oblivious of how embarrassing and exposed they become when their ghost writers put the wrong words in their mouths. (Plus, they get that “deer in the headlights” look whenever they face the press without a script.)

You ever see an actor on his own in an interview? Fielding tough, unexpected questions, they reveal that they are not even close to being as witty, or charming, or smart as the characters they play.

The power of writing has never been proven more important than the way network and cable television has nearly shut down entirely due to the current writer’s strike. Leno, Letterman, Stewart, Colbert, et al, are funny dudes… but they rely on writers to provide the bulk of their show’s wit. (Slight twist here: All those guys COULD write their own stuff, if they had the time, though. They are all seething bastards when it comes to judging the quality of their hired writers, because they know what they want. Thus, they produce high-end shows that rock. But pay attention: During free-form interviews, they are on their own, and they’re “writing” their own witty, funny stuff AS THEY TALK. This, too, is writing copy, even though there’s no typing involved. When you understand HOW to write what you need, you eventually get good enough to write it in your head as you talk. You become a living, breathing copy-producing monster.)

No copy, no action. It really is that simple.

Operation MoneySuck demands that you spend your precious (and very limited) time honing your most important chops. And yes, amassing the outside fortifications of larger and more efficient businesses is important… but they will crumble without the foundational support of killer copy. (All the largest mailers in the world — Rodale, Phillips, Agora — were started by people who understood and wrote copy. Some have stumbled along the way, whenever non-writers gained control and lost sight of basic salesmanship. Great lesson there.)

Copy is salesmanship-in-print. Selling is what you do. The largest and most efficient business is just an empty shell if it cannot sell what it produces.

Learn the craft.

Stay frosty.

John Carlton

P.S. One last point: The idea that you can just hire the “best” writers to do your copy has a big hole in it.


Because, the “A List” of top writers is only around two-dozen names long. And they are all pretty much booked through eternity. No amount of moolah can get them to write for you, until you start offering partner-sized equity in your biz.

The “B List” of writers are also booked solid, most of the time. If you intend to pay for your most important copy, you may as well hook up an umbilical cord from the writer to your bank account… because you’re gonna pay a LOT (even if you can’t find an “A List” writer to do your job).

Worse — there’s a mob of untested, unproven, and weak-skilled freelancers out there masquerading as grizzled professionals… charging huge bucks to write lame-ass copy.

So you can’t tell from their fees how good they are.

You can shell out gold for peanuts… unless you know how to judge good copy.

The only way to do that: Learn the craft.

Don’t make me come down there…

Slippery Truth


Let me share with you an important re-discovery I was just bludgeoned with about the nature of what is “true”, and what is manufactured bullshit.

It’s a version of “truth” I believe is critical for all marketers and seekers of success (both in life and in biz)… and yet remains shockingly elusive and hard to nail down.

Why? Because some very dedicated people do not want you to get hip about it.

Here’s the story: Technically, I just got to share a stage with Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines/Virgin Records this past weekend.

Maybe “virtually” is the better word, though. I was in Phoenix, at Joe Polish’s stunning Super Conference, and I pulled a shift onstage chatting with Joe and then putting the audience of 700+ though their paces writing some headlines.

Branson was “on” the following day, via satellite. Very cool technology — totally live (well, almost, with a 3-second delay bouncing the images and sound off the orbiting junkpile up there) — and amazingly intriguing for a live audience. I had no idea a real audience could be held captive so effectively by someone’s huge head on a screen, broadcasting from half a world away.

But it works.

And I gotta tell you: I was prepared to NOT like Branson, and was ready to bolt the room the second he bored me.

Why? I’ll get to that in a moment. But by the third or fourth minute of his talk, I found myself really liking this guy… and thoroughly enjoying both what he had to say, and how he said it.

By the time he finished his “speech” and generously began to answer questions from the audience, I felt bad that he and I would never have the opportunity to hang out together. I felt that simpatico with him.

Later on, I thought about my prior feelings about him… and how they had been formed.

Bottom line: I was duped.

By the media, and probably also by corporate monsters who hate his message of independence and responsibility for taking care of the world.

The Man (the icon of the beasts who control this world) loathes rich people who attain success by alternative means, and then insult the Power Structure by challenging the “pillage and rape” methods they use to acquire and hold dominion over markets, populations and the “reality” most of us experience through media. (The beasts really, really, really want us sedated and mollified by the value-less aspects of such things as Youtube and Facebook, which act as opiates to keep the bulk of society from questioning anything The Man is doing.) (There IS some value to Youtube and Facebook, of course… but they’re not exactly sterling examples of enlightenment.)

Branson’s main ventures have all been centered on his experiences in modern life… and how he found them lacking and in dire need of updating or complete revolutions. Air travel has sucked for several generations, and so he created Virgin Airlines, which apparently rocks. (I’ve never had the pleasure, but my partner Stan gives it 10 out of 10 stars.) He created his record label to fill the huge gap of taste and relevance that the Big Ugly Record Companies left open… and they have despised him for it ever since.

Now, of course, he’s doing amazing things to try and make the world better… and The Man is apoplectic with rage for the effort. (Branson had Nelson Mandella and Kofi Anan of the UN ready to go to Iraq and convince Saddam to step down and go live in exile in Liberia — which would have been a bloodless, peaceful coup that accomplished everything the Bush administration said it wanted — but the day they were ready to leave for Iraq, the war started and it was too late. I remember this getting scant media attention — at least here in the US — and being completely squelched soon after. The Man hates being second-guessed.)

All this has reminded me, yet again, of the unpleasant responsibility of enjoying the privileges of a free society: We can NEVER take the word of those in power as gospel… and we are saddled forever with the need to stay vigilant and challenge authority on every major point.

The media has not been totally unkind to Branson… but the general attitude about him (if you never actually listened to his side of the story) was skeptical and sneering. Rich do-gooder guy, who was a self-admitted “party animal”, trying to ignore the rules the rest of us have to live by. Deserves to be taken down a notch or two, the little bastard.

Which, of course, is an ABSURD notion for a guy like me to have in his head at all. Heck… I never play by the rules, and I distrust authority with the best of them.

In fact, my entire teaching style is centered on “waking up”… ditching the zombie lifestyle The Man prefers you to stumble though life with… and claiming your place at the Feast.

So what I’ve come away with — from this little exercise in awareness — is the POWER of the media in this regard. I hadn’t bothered to go deep, and get the story myself. To be fair, I’m a tad busy to be doing my own research on everybody in the news… but in this case, we have a guy who is knocking himself out trying to do the right thing in many, many ways that require courage, vision and piles of his own money… and I allowed the snarling media to gobble up his basic message and keep the BEST part of it away from me.

Entirely my fault. I dozed, and got snookered.

The truth will always be slippery, hard to nail down, and subject to misinformation and propaganda.

Still, it’s worth remembering who’s in charge of most of the “news” you are spoon-fed. Rich people who have a stake in you NOT becoming rich, too. They got theirs, and aren’t too happy about you getting yours.

It’s a good thing to spend just a little more energy to get a better view of any story by uncovering alternative news outlets.

And it’s also a good thing to remember how nasty The Man can get when riled. I have zero interest in any kind of “real” fame specifically because of this. I’m fine with the very minor celebrity status I enjoy on the seminar circuit, and among my subscribers and clients and customers. It’s like having a big, raucous, fun and interesting extended family to hang out with.

But the kind of fame that would regularly get you on the front page? Forget it. You instantly become canon fodder for a heartless media that doesn’t care a whit about truth or serving the Greater Good.

Me? I’m gonna get Branson’s book and read it right away.

The dude has me intrigued… and I feel I owe it to him.

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

Misfits In Charge

News flash: If you are neither on, nor in need of, attention-deficit medication… you’re probably at a serious disadvantage marketing your business online.

I’m not judging anyone here — I’m just making an observation.

A few weeks ago, I was sitting at a big sloppy banquet hosted by one of the top online entrepreneurs. Very nice restaurant, and we had a back room all to ourselves.

Seated around me were a dozen other rich, respected online entrepreneurs — mostly men in their thirties, and one or two women in the same age group. Everywhere you turned, there was another fun and invigorating conversation going on.

I really like my colleagues in the online marketing world. And I appreciate the fact that, while I’m much older (and I’ve been around the block about a thousand more times), we all have so much in common that we treat each other like equals.

Which mostly means we engage freely in totally uncensored conversations that are hilarious, revealing, and often amazingly profitable.

At this particular dinner, however, I had a sudden realization… and was able to field-test it immediately with the people sitting around me.

That realization was this: While we have much in common as marketers and advertisers and just being cutting-edge creative types… we ALSO share another trait that I almost NEVER used to see in the pre-Web days of direct response advertising.

Once I tell you what this trait is, it will seem obvious.

But few of us have ever put a finger on it before.

Wanna guess what this trait is that so many online entrepreneurs share?


… being a misfit.

And not just a run-of-the-mill misfit, either.

I started asking my table-mates, point blank, if they had ever been diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), OCD (obsessive/compulsive disorder), or any of the other less common “social outsider” categories that doctors seem to love using to catalog people.

Everyone started sharing their private histories… and it was eye-opening.

I’m not gonna name names here. (Insiders will probably be able to guess who I’m talking about… but then, they probably also share the same diagnosis.)

I just think this is an important insight to online marketing success.

There were brilliant people at this table… and at least one honest genius, IQ-wise. There were technical wizards, stunningly talented thinkers, writers with breathtaking talent, and lots of super-savvy guys who had learned to “game” the online system so massive quantities of moolah flowed in their direction.

Often with little extra work.

And yet, in the offline world, nearly all of them would be STRUGGLING to hold down a regular job… or, in some cases, possibly forced out of “polite” socieity altogether.

These people were misfits. Literally, they didn’t FIT in the mainstream world very well at all.

Some of the brightest ones had common memories of being forced into “special needs” classes in school. Many were dropouts, because their intelligence was overlooked and understimulated.

For the ones who were most successful… the birth of the Web presented SALVATION.

Many started online as gamers — staying up late (or for days at a time) dodging dragons and shooting aliens, sharing the new fantasy worlds with an ever-growing community of other misfits. They got to know each other, started exploring the capitalist possibilities of the Web, and traded in games for marketing.

While the Web frightened and confused traditional businesses, these younger guys were fearless about code, software, building sites and everything else in the new virtual world-wide city center.

I got into freelance copywriting because I was a notoriously bad fit in the corporate world. I can’t stand wearing ties (they literally chafe my neck), and I’m a flagrant night owl — which, I have now discovered, is something else I share with many of the best online entrepreneurs out there.

As far as I know, I do not have any attention deficit problems… yet, I can enjoy long and chaotic conversations with the worst of them, and I even enjoy the non-linear thinking.

So, I dunno, maybe I’m ADHD, too. Can you have a mild case of it?

Actually, I kinda doubt it really exists. Getting to know these brilliant, wacky online entrepreneurs leads me to believe that — in the bad old pre-Web days — there simply wasn’t a place for them.

“Normal” society hates misfits, cuz we make uptight people uncomfortable. (I’ve been fired from almost every “real” job I’ve ever had.) (With good reason, too — I refused to play by stupid rules, and I still consider the REAL insane people to be the ones who surrender their individuality to The Man for a paycheck.)

The Web has nurtured a fabulous explosion of entrepreneurial opportunity… and now smart misfits can work their own hours, dressed however they like, from chaotic home offices, doing whatever funky project they dream up.

You can make your own rules, and change them daily. You can obsess to your heart’s content, or be as lazy and distracted as you like (once you’ve set your systems in place) and still rake it in.

The entire playing field has changed, drastically. In traditional corporate environments, the people who rise to positions of authority and power (and high salaries) are often the jerks who know how to play “the game” at work. Kiss ass, take credit for other people’s efforts, avoid responsibility for failure, stab co-workers in the back, etc.

The biz-as-usual soap opera.

Online, however, you’re essentially naked except for your brain. There’s no corporate game to play… and none of the skills that normally shoot a person up the ladder are relevant.

Online, being good looking, or suave, or a good worker, or even likeable won’t win you any victories.

Online, the misfits have the advantage. They can create their own attention paradigms, set their own standards, and take their biz directly to people who want what they offer… with nary an intervening newspaper, magazine, television standards and practices attorney, politician, store shelf position, billboard or sweet talking salesman to harsh anyone’s mellow.

I don’t know if anyone else has fully understood the implications here. Maybe I’m slow getting on the band wagon… but the other entrepreneurs I’ve talked to have all agreed that no one’s really noticed how many true misfits there are at the top of the online world.

There’s room for everybody, of course.

But I think I now see why so many wannabe entrepreneurs I counsel are having trouble getting traction onine — they need to get in touch with their Inner Misfit.

It’s a brave new world… and I, for one, welcome it.

Misfits of the world, unite!

And stay frosty,

John Carlton

Test, Test, Test, Test, Test, etc.

Bulletin from the powerful Altitude event in Los Angeles last week: Testing equals Big Bucks.

This shouldn’t be news, but it is for an alarming number of even veteran marketers. (I’ll certainly cop to being guilty of not testing anywhere near enough.)

The bottom line is that, at some point, you’ve got to step away from what you “believe” to be true about your market, your advertising, and your sales funnel… and test the critical parts of your pitch. Price, headline, bullets, voice, attitude, layout, guarantee, name capture, email follow-up, freebies, all of it.

The rewards of dedicated, focused and obsessive testing have never been made more obvious to me… than when, smack in the middle of the seminar, Eben asked the room how many people tested “regularly” on their Websites.

Bunch of folks raised their hands.

Then he asked how many tested EVERY DAY.

About half a dozen kept their hands up.

Then… and this is where it gets good… he asked each of the “every day testers” how much they were grossing.


The low end take of that small group was over $12million/year. The mean average was over twenty million.

Moral: Testing rocks.

You will, of course, continue to do what you want to do. It’s your biz, after all.

However, you’ll never know how much moolah you’re leaving on the table until you test. And test often. And learn from your results.

Just a small tidbit from the vast mountain of stuff I learned (and re-learned) at the Altitude seminar. Eben really threw himself, and his entire organization, into making that event a shocking success… and you know you’ve done well when grizzled, cynical, “seen it all before” veterans like me give you an enthusiastic thumbs up.

Everyone I talked to — and the room was packed with movers and shakers — was ecstatic over the material presented and the opporunities offered.

Well done, Eben.

I’ll be synthisizing my notes over the next weeks, and sharing more soon.

My head is still buzzing from the overload of input…

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?


Just kinda checking in here, let people know I haven’t been kidnapped or anything.

It’s been a super-busy past couple of months, and the hecticity (is that a word?) is scheduled to continue for another month at least.

And right now, I’m getting my head straight for the big damn Copywriting Sweatshop this weekend. (I haven’t pestered anyone about this exclusive event because it filled up right away.)

For anyone who’s curious, this will be somewhere around my gazilliointh seminar (counting all the ones I’ve hosted, co-produced, spoken at, and attended as a special guest)… and over the years I have learned 2 basic lessons about mounting the stage:

1. Get your physical system in shape. Hosting even a short seminar is like running a marathon, in terms of taxing your body — and if you’re not prepared, you’ll experience mental and physical fatigue equal to being in a car wreck. (It was typical, in the early days when we piled up seminars one after the other, for the entire staff to suffer cold-like system-shutdown symptoms beginning about five minutes after each event ended. It was our bodies way of saying “That’s it, we’re taking a break.”)

2. Have a couple of “Plan B” options in your back pocket.

I always know I’m dealing with rookies — in any kind of venture or project — when I hear them say “We got it covered — what could possibly go wrong?”


I’ve always nurtured an attitude of optimistic pessimism. I happily expect things to go horribly wrong… and thus I’m never shocked or unprepared to dive into alternative plans.

So when the electricity goes out… or the hotel double-schedules a wedding in the meeting room we’re using… or an attendee has a schizophrenic episode that requires intervention… or the camera guy shows up drunk or missing… and yes, all of these things have happened… I do not suffer even an instant of paralysis.

Just take a deep breath… knowing you’re gonna have one hell of a funny story to tell later… and start fixing things.

Also… if everything accidentally does go off without a hitch, you are more appreciative… because smooth sailing wasn’t expected.

Nothing tempts the gods of mayhem more than someone who takes it for granted that all will go well.

Right now, every detail of this upcoming sweatshop has been handled by my loyal assistant, Diane, who has weathered several of these events with me. She’s a human dynamo, and the hotel staff is terrified of her, as they should be. She knows their jobs better than they do, in most cases… and she is well versed in disaster avoidance and problem resolution.

Still, as an irony-drenched joke, we often say to each other: What could possibly go wrong?

I hear this quite a bit from clients, by the way… only, they’re serious. And I always stop the consultation right there and lay down the law. Get real, dude. No matter how much money, time, energy and staff resources you’ve poured into this project… a LOT can — and will — go wrong.

It’s not a cause to panic, in most cases, if you’re prepared for detours.

Usually, anyway.

I had to laugh, grimly, at this recent AP story in the paper: The University of Central Florida just had opening day at their brand-spankin’ new 43,000-seat football stadium. Cost: A nickel over $55million.

The big story: Piles of people collapsing from heat exhaustion.

Because, in that entire $55million cutting-edge facility, there is not a single public water fountain.

In Florida.

Stunned officials, clearly surprised by the sudden attention of news crews, actually said: “Well, you’re supposed to buy water at any of the several beverage stands when you’re at a game.”

A PR moment for the history books.

I’ll bet they really thought they had everything covered. Top architects, all the ticket machines humming, all the beverage stands well-stocked.

They just completely frigging forgot to account for human behavior. And while, at some near point in the future, the idea of water as a non-free commodity will be accepted by all (H2O is the new “oil”, you know)… it was just really, really dumb to think you could be a pioneer in this area without suffering the wrath of the beer-chugging, severely dehydrated public.

What could go wrong?


It doesn’t have to harsh your mellow, though. Just be prepared. Consider worst-case scenarios, and refuse to be paralyzed by challenges.

Another example of why choosing experienced veterans as your “go to guys” makes sense. (I’ll bet the “top” architect of that stadium was a rookie, right out of some fancy school.)

Stay frosty…

John Carlton

P.S. Quick rundown of upcoming events: I’ll be one of the experts with Eben Pagan’s upcoming “Print Persuasion” master-class teleseminar series — my spot is Thursday, 9/27. (My pal Frank Kern’s in the mix for that series, too.)

I’m then flying to Atlanta to speak at Armand Morin’s crazy-good Big Seminar the weekend of 10/5. (You got my email on that, right? I’m sharing the stage with Jay Abraham and other notables, and it’s gonna be another killer seminar.)

The following week, I’ll be one the slack-jawed attendees at Eben’s Altitude event in Los Angeles (hope you snagged a seat, if you caught wind of how great that event will be). And I think I’m scheduled to speak at another event in mid-October, also in LA — more on that when I get the details settled.

Busy, busy, busy.

I’ll be blogging when I can. If there is any subject you’d like me to write about, let me know in the comments section here, will ya?

In the meantime… enjoy your autumn. My favorite season, by far…

A Brief Jolt Of Intense Pain, And Then…

Have you ever figured out your own personal learning style?

We all have one, you know. This inconvenient fact is the bane of educators everywhere… because the teaching strategy that does so well creating a love of reading in Suzy, also puts Timmy to sleep (and makes him hate books).

I was discussing IQ with a buddy of mine recently — very smart guy, who’d just discovered his lovely wife had the exact same IQ as he did (this might be a bad thing in some marriages, but it was good news in his) — and I suddenly remembered the disorientation and stomach-churning confusion I had felt when taking my first IQ tests back in high school. I scored high enough to give the finger to all those grim, humorless teachers who were sure I was stupid (how could it possibly be their fault I wasn’t learning much under their obviously excellent guidance?)… but the actual score had to have been wildly off, because I distinctly recall never having encountered many of the words used in the test (which the creators took for granted that I knew).

It wasn’t that English was a foreign language to me… but rather that I’d somehow escaped learning a whole bunch of math, and was extremely vague on what a verb was. Among other embarrassments.

Now, I’ve trashed the U.S. schools before, and I’m not gonna do it again here. Too easy a target.

And I happen to know a couple of dozen teachers personally… all of whom are wicked smart people, dedicated to teaching, and universally upset that bureaucrats and politicians interfere with the process of filling semi-empty minds with the fodder of academia.

Nevertheless… it is ABSURD to think there is any single way to teach anything to everyone.

It’s simply not true. There may be a finite number of ways to teach effectively… but there are certainly more than a tidy few.

This was one of the main reasons I got into teaching entrepreneurs. I noticed, way back when I first started producing marketing and copywriting seminars, that there were always a number of people in the audience who simply didn’t “get it” when I tried to explain some specific salesmanship tactic or copy strategy.

We both got frustrated, because we seemed to be living in different worlds, where one man’s communication was another man’s Tower of Babel.

I was curious enough to look deeper into this… and discovered that among those people who didn’t get it, there were further sub-cultures of folks who couldn’t understand me no matter what I did or said or explained.

Some of these people were just aggressively stupid. Others could only “value” what I tried to teach through their need to control the message — they were offended by any show of cockiness, they were insulted by any kind of humor (especially the raw kind employed by the likes of Halbert and me), or they were aghast at the lack of democratic input I would allow into the conversation. (I’m sorry, but if you insist on wasting my time arguing about whether anyone reads long copy or not, we’re not gonna get anywhere special as far as learning new stuff. You don’t get equal time with your untested bullshit.)

At first, this bothered me. I felt I was a failure for not somehow possessing a super-broad array of teaching skills that would conquer any barrier put up by a student.

Then I got over it.

I stumbled through my own educational days mostly clueless about everything. If I hit the books at all to study, it was only from the mad hope that somewhere in one of the many classes I was taking, a clue might appear on how to live my life in a meaningful way.

I wish someone would have told me “Good luck on that quest, Bucko”… because it wasn’t gonna happen.

So I grew up thinking there was something wrong with ME — first, because I couldn’t find the value in what was being shoved down my throat at school… and later, because I kept encountering people who insisted they wanted to learn what they’d heard I had to teach about marketing and advertising and copywriting… but couldn’t seem to understand me at all.

And then, when I finally looked at the problem in a different way, it dawned on me: I was amazingly effective as a teacher… with the right student.

The “right” student was often an entrepreneur or small businessman who had a few unique things going for him. He could put his ego aside. He had an open mind about new ideas, even when these ideas contradicted his prior belief systems. And he had the ability to “translate” what I was saying, into language that worked for him.

I had always suspected I wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea… but now I finally realized that it was pointless to pay ANY attention to those good folks who didn’t “click” with me.

Because those people I DID click with stood to benefit enormously.

This is why my first course was titled “Kick-Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel”. I still, to this day, get outraged emails from certain people who are deeply insulted by the term “kick-ass”. Many demand that I change it immediately. All decree that they would NEVER deal with a teacher like me, as long as I used such foul language.

What they do not realize… is that using the term “kick-ass” is a big damn cleaver I use to separate those folks who will NEVER learn from me in any meaningful way… from those who are PERFECT students for my teaching style.

Their learning style matches up.

I can’t pretend to be someone I’m not, and be an effective teacher. I’m never gonna wear a tie, or go to bed at a decent time so I can get up early, or create an academically-approved syllabus for anything I teach. Not gonna happen.

I’ll stand behind my balls-to-the-wall, street-savvy teaching method anytime… because I’ve got a loooooong line of people willing to testify that my style worked with them, where other styles failed. There’s often a brief jolt of pain from my methods, as the bullshit falls away and you enter, new-born-like, into the world of honest salesmanship and wicked-good copy… but it’s invigorating, not scary.

And for the right student — a savvy, independently-minded realist, who embraces the world for what it is, and doesn’t waste time wishing it was something else — this re-birth can be the start of anadventure that changes everything. Forever. In your business, and in your life.

The world is big, and people are wired with all kinds of kinks and passions that — when you’re playing it smart — fit into your sales funnel perfectly. You just gotta know what to say.

I liken it to teaching a foreign language. I suffered through six years of “formal” Spanish classes… and I still couldn’t have a real conversation with anyone fluent in the language. They tried to teach me by boring me to tears first, and wilting vast areas of my brain with useless info. (Who CARES where the friggin’ library is, already?)

However… had the program started out by teaching me how to make it through a day in Tijuana buying firecrackers, scoring booze and negotiating my way into strip bars (and out of trouble with the federales)… man, I would have studied overtime.

Teaching the advanced levels of marketing and copywriting aren’t much different. Most of the books you can read on the subjects tend toward the snooty “let’s look at this scientifically” angle… not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But in my long years as a successful copywriter, I’ve learned that getting “real” with your reader whenever possible increases your odds of breaching the skepticism and hostility most prospects bring to reading cold copy.

And no, you shouldn’t tell naughty stories to bank presidents when you’re writing B2B… but you DO need to write in a voice that rings true to him. (Dirty secret: I happen to have known some bank presidents in my time… and they are, sometimes, wild and crazy guys who are just as bored with formal business dealings as you are thinking about them. If you’re real good, you can sneak into their good graces through a side door no one else is using…)

My teaching style is vicious, fun, and shockingly effective… with the right student.

With the wrong student… not so much.

So one of my first jobs when pitching a seminar is to discourage the “wrong” people from attending. No sense of humor? Stay home. Indignant about being taken apart by a mere copywriter? Go get an MBA.

Can’t wait to roll up your sleeves, put your ego on a shelf, and get down and dirty with the reality of what it takes to write world-class advertising?

You’re my man. Or woman. Or extraterrestial, I don’t care.

My small, workshop seminars are such a hit because I let people self-select themselves as candidates to attend. I make no secret of my teaching style… so it’s up to you to decide if I’m the guy you really can learn from or not.

There are enormous, and very broad, marketing lessons in this attitude, by the way. If you use a lot of personality in your marketing, you’re going to offend some people. It’s unavoidable.

You could — if you’re the suicidal type — make yourself so bland and inoffensive that you blend into the background. No one will get insulted… but then, no one will consider you a “go-to guy”, either.

On the other hand, if you let your freak flag fly — and you’ve got the chops to back it all up — then while you may forever deal with smaller lists than your competitors… the intensity and passion and acceptance of that smaller list will dwarf the bottom line of your nearest Mr. Milquetoast competitor.

I’m not pitching you on my upcoming Copywriting Sweatshop here. (There probably isn’t room for you, anyway… but if you care to see what’s up, go to (Better hurry, though — as of this afternoon, there are only 2 spots left…)

It’s just that the process of teaching and learning is a hot topic right now… as more and more people enter the online business world, and discover they need to get hip — fast — to a whole bunch of insider stuff no one warned them about.

The most successful marketers subscribe to the “student for life” concept — and are forever searching for the right kind of teacher to help them discover the shortcuts and little-known cutting-edge breakthroughs that will KEEP them successful.

And I’m not saying I’m that guy, for you. Sure, I’ve helped a MOB of people break the code on creating wealth and living life with more gusto.

But I’ve easily offended many times more that number.

And I couldn’t care less.

The truth will set you free… but only if you find someone willing to TELL you the truth, in a way you can understand and use.

Okay, I’m done.

Stay frosty…

John Carlton

P.S. Hey, one more thing. I almost forgot.

I just did my very first video. Well, not my first video overall — I’m on dozens and dozens of videos and DVDs, from my participation in seminars and other events. (Nothing naughty, either, I assure you.)

No. This is my first “home office” video… just me and the Webcam, at my desk, delivering a short message to marketers.

If you’ve ever wondered what my secret cave-office looks like, check it out. Short video. Online video is, of course, a force that’s quickly taking over marketing (excellently, when shot using good copy, and boring when too much winging takes place), and I’m getting into it heavily.

To see my first one, hop over to

Beware — there are opportunities lurking…