“He was a one-eyed, one horn, flying purple people eater…” (Sheb Wooley)
In the spirit of screwing off as much as possible this fine July, I’m replenishing the blog with another oldie-but-goodie post from the archives.
So you’ve got something good to chew on, while I wander off to the beach to get pounded by merciless surf and fried by an uncaring sun. You know: Good times.
Anyway, I love meandering through the archives here… especially when I find a post that still packs some mojo.
Here’s a nice short one from ’07, on the non-scientific process of finding great hooks for your headlines. At the time, I was bummed that a favorite newsstand shock-rag was ending its run… however, the good news is that WWN is still alive and kicking (just like Elvis) online. (Today’s headline: “Saturn Ready To Explode!” Um… okay.)
The ability to find a way to hook readers (and drag them into your story) is what separates the Big Dog writers from the wannabe’s.
And creating hooks (especially from otherwise boring raw material) is an art form that needs to be developed. It’s not a skill that comes with your standard brain equipment.
Here’s some insight to how the best veteran copywriters do it, slightly edited, via the Archive Time Machine, from July ’07:Read more...
“Well, do ya, punk?” (Clint Eastwood, “Dirty Harry”)
What’s Lady Luck done for you lately?
Humans have a strange relationship with Luck. Rome conquered the known world, yet firmly believed in a goddess named Fortuna who ruled over their fates. More modern successful folks than you can count consider luck to be a con-game. “I make my own luck,” is a common refrain… and yet these same smug studs often indulge in stark superstitious behavior.
I imagine more than a few folks have earned a PhD or two going deep into the concept of luck. Is it a random thing in the universe (like snake-eyes rolling exactly when you call it)…
… or part of a pre-determined script you’re just playing out (so of course the dice came up ones — it was part of your life’s plot-line)?
Or is it something much more mysterious and powerful?
You’re really got to settle this for yourself, I learned… Read more…
“If you see my little red rooster, please send him home…” (Howlin’ Wolf)
Just a quick dispatch here to let you know all is well, and I’ll be getting back to regular blogging soon.
I got waylaid by some things, including my first serious sports injury ever: A major boo-boo in my rotator cuff. Which is a marvel of biological engineering, but nevertheless prone to problems in people who insist on abusing it over a long lifetime.
So, while it doesn’t really qualify as a Shakespearean tragedy (yet), it has still consumed a lot of my time with MRIs, x-rays, doc visits, and now long painful (“Ow! Ow! Hey, that hurts, mofo! Ow, you did it again!“) physical therapy sessions.
Stuff like that can take over your brain for a few weeks. I’m not complaining — I have too many friends with more dire health problems (and I’ve been through other surgery dramas with people close to me many, many times) that puts this in perspective.
In fact, tonight — after another round with that sadistic physical therapist (the bastard) — I’m relatively pain-free, and able to type without problem.
And I’ve got several blog posts mapped out in draft form, waiting for my attentions. (With titles like “The Sociopaths Who Are Eating Your Lunch”, and “Learning How To Brag”… really fun, and essential stuff for anyone looking to live a better life and make more moolah without guilt.)
But it’s already Superbowl weekend, so you’re gonna have to wait a little longer for a real post. I’ve got an old, cherished college pal and his son (to whom I’m kinda like an uncle) coming up for what is now our rock-solid tradition: We find the sleaziest sportsbook in downtown Reno, settle in, and enjoy the chaos and pompous nonsense of the grand game amongst the weirdest set of characters this side of a Fellini movie.
God, it’s fun. And I expect Madonna’s halftime show to rile up the geezers in the crowd (and we can only hope for a few wrestling matches between blowhards and bums as people take the game personally).Read more…
“Only your real friends will tell you when your face is dirty.” (Sicilian proverb)
I’m handing the blog over to our good buddy Jimbo Curley again this week. He’s done several guest posts, all hilarious, all excellent insight and info for marketers, writers and anyone in biz.
Jim and I go back a looooooooong time. And my favorite story of how we became brawling colleagues is included here — this tale sends grown men into gasping fits of laughter whenever Jimbo re-tells it in the bar (where, during seminars, all the REAL networking and professional bonding takes place). Last week, it was the Phoenix Hilton, for Joe Polish’s and Dean Jackson’s shockingly-good “I Love Marketing” event.
So this is fresh stuff.
Jim’s the real thing. A top, consistently smokin’ hot copywriter and a keen observer of human behavior (and buying psychology). He’s an original teacher in the Simple Writing System, and one of the very few writers I’ve personally asked to write FOR me.
This post is must-reading for anyone wondering how their latest and greatest ad is gonna do in the real world.
Warning: Do NOT drink coffee while reading this. Or you’ll snort it through your nose during the funny parts. Which is funny in itself, the image of hundreds of readers all over the globe spitting up coffee at their desks at the same time, courtesy of a master storyteller.
Okay, you’ve been warned.
Thanks for the intro John.
I’ll dive right in.
Today I want to talk about a Street-Marketing lesson I call “How to take it in the shorts… and love it”.
It’s about how to get qualified critiques for your writing.
First, I’ll hit you with the big setup statement.
Here it is: Read more…
“Just take those old records off the shelf, I’ll sit n’ listen to ’em by myself…” (Bob Seger)
At the end of this post, I’ll explain how you can win a bitchin’ prize that will make you the envy of all your friends forever.
First, though — let’s learn something about marketing to humans, whadya say?
Here’s two quick “how to deal with the screaming chaos” tips for everyone in business today who’s just a tad freaked-out at the way things seem to changing so damned FAST:
Screaming Chaos-Dealing Tip #1: If you’re older, you need to cultivate solid relationships with younger folks who can help you understand the Zeitgeist of the dominant culture out there. (Yes, even if you hate it. Especially if you hate it, actually.)
And I’m not talking about having your nephew program your TV remote while you mow the lawn.
Nope. I’m talking about entrepreneur-minded young adults, who just happen to be totally wired into the Grid…
… and can translate current trends while offering you some solid, smart perspective.
Screaming Chaos-Dealing Tip #2: If you’re a young entrepreneur, you need to cultivate relationships with geezers who can give you some perspective on how we GOT to this current state of affairs.
Key thing to remember: Read more…
Rancho Cucamonga, CA
“Hot fun in the summertime…” (Sly Stone)
I’ve been doing some Critical Think (trademarked term, by me) about one of the main keys to “real” communication with your fellow humans:
Not sympathy. Empathy is a very different animal — it’s where you essentially walk a mile in the other guy’s shoes. You start, conduct, and end all conversations with active knowledge of how the other guy is perceiving your side of the tale…
… and you actually give a damn how he’s reacting.
Empathy is not just a secret weapon in your tool kit…
… it’s the freakin’ nuclear bomb of high-end communication.
And it’s so powerful, because most folks simply do not possess it. The vast majority of your neighbors and brethren think, speak and act from inside a confining little echo chamber where their own prejudices, beliefs, notions and cockamamie thoughts completely dominate.
And there is almost zero chance of anything contrary penetrating that white noise in their brains.
Thus, marketers get mad at customers, entrepreneurs ignore opportunity and pitfalls with equal obliviousness, and biz owners with superior products are passed over by prospects.
Don’t get mad. Get knowledgable! Lots of business boosting, life-enhancing secrets in my free report, you know! Get it right here.
You know who always seems to win? Savvy politicians, con men, and psychopaths. The dudes who cynically know how to turn on the charm and say all the right things to get what they want.
By far the hardest thing I’ve been trying to teach people over my career…
Is that good salesmanship is a tool.
Like a hammer. A hammer works to pound nails into the foundation of your dream house… just as effectively as it can pound holes in the head of your mother-in-law when you finally lose it.
The hammer doesn’t care who’s using it, or for what purpose.
That’s why, when I teach high-end salesmanship, I express the fervent hope that anyone using what I teach to push unethical shit will die and rot in hell.
Using good salesmanship tactics will vastly improve the bottom line for ethical, honest businesses.
The tactics that work to persuade people to vote for corrupt politicians, or sleep with smooth-talking psychos, or buy into scams…Read more...
“Out of 9 lives, I’ve lived 7…” (The Band, “The Shape I’m In”)
I almost called this post “Web 2.oh no!”
And I know I’m just gonna scratch the surface here…
… but a few rules need to be laid down by somebody concerning this “Brave New World of No Freakin’ Privacy Left At All”.
Now, I’ve never noticed much “common sense” actually being very common among my fellow humans…
… but Jeez Louise, the arrival of social media and smart phone cameras has turned us all into ethically-challenged TMZ-level paparazzi. No sense of right or wrong, no sense of crossing a line or going too far.
And people are gonna get hurt.
Do we need a collective and not-very-subtle whack upside the head here? Metaphorically speaking, that is.
Slap Some Sense Into You Rule #1: Just because you have a camera and recording capabilities on your smart phone, doesn’t mean you have a license to USE it.
Yes, the rest of the world is hurtling toward a Zuckerberg-envisioned future where “privacy” will be a quaint notion that strangely only irritates geezers… sort of like how we now view petticoats, doo wop and basic manners.
However, I would caution privacy-anarchists that this “nothing you do is a secret to us” mindset is how Stalinist Russia maintained control over citizens (see also “1984”, by George Orwell).
Now, what you do in your own sordid life is up to you, of course. Including allowing basic privacy rights to be dismantled and shed.
However, as a professional, you’ve got to recognize boundaries. Because there’s a lot at stake here.Read more…
“To the moon, Alice!” (Ralph Kramden)
I’m recycling a post from a little while back, because it’s on a subject that can never be discussed too many times…
… especially when it’s important that you establish a real, visceral connection with people to make your business work.
In fact, what I’m bring up here is much more critical to creating effective advertising than many of the obvious things people tend to focus on (like “long copy versus shot copy”, or how to test offers).
Listen: If you understand how to use the powerful tool explained below…
… you can screw up almost every other part of creating your ad (or video, or website, or email, or whatever you’re using to get your story across)… and still crush it with results.
So ignore the details in this dusty post (like references to “Six Feet Under”, that great HBO series now long-gone)…
… and know that the insight revealed here will forever be one of the most influential you’ll ever use in marketing.
In fact, it’s just becoming more and MORE important as social media and info-overwhelm continues to nudge everyone toward ADHD-Land, where attention spans are pathetic and fundamental human emotions like empathy wither.
Here’s the post (with a few edits and some added stuff):
Jeez Louise. Did you catch Sunday’s episode of “Six Feet Under”, with the jarring funeral scenes?
It was… shattering.
I was jarred back to every funeral I’d ever attended, and had emotions wrung out of me I’d long forgotten about.
Screw reality TV. The truly well-written fictional shows (most of them on HBO) can still rattle your cage like classic literature.
That episode was quality emotional-wringing.
Got me thinking, too. About empathy. And writing.
I’ve known people who seem to have shut down their empathy gears… and it becomes evident when they lose the ability to get outside of themselves and see the world from other people’s viewpoint. Movies require you to emotionally connect with the characters…
… and I recall uncles who fell asleep during the pea-soup-spewing scenes in “The Exorcist”…Read more…
Tampa Bay, Florida
“So I said to the captain, please bring me my wine… he said we haven’t had that spirit here since 1969…” (Hotel California, of course)
Another guest blog post here (while I’m off to get ready for the totally awesome Action Seminar down in sunny San Diego this coming weekend)…
… by our good friend (and notorious freelance copywriter) Kevin Rogers.
I asked him to share the stories below, because they cracked me up when he first told them to me…
… and I realized the lessons for entrepreneurs here are just as solid as the stuff I picked up (early in my own career) from the street-wise salesmen I hung around.
Those real-world lessons from the dudes who knew how to close a deal face-to-face are critical to any decent sales process… even if you’re completely digital and never actually meet your prospects in the flesh.
This stuff is pure gold. So listen up. Here’s Kevin…
Okay, let me tell you a story about why bellmen don’t mind wearing those goofy uniforms at busy hotels and resorts… and how the lessons I learned in the job fit so well in the entrepreneurial world.
It’s true. One of the most eye-opening jobs I held in my previous life — before freelance copywriting — was as a main entrance bellman here in Florida.
I learned more about “street-smart selling” in my short time in that role than from any other gig, including stand-up comic, bartender, or even Marketing VP of an online real estate company.
Here’s why…Read more…
“Rommel, you magnificent bastard! I read your book!” (Gen. Patton, ambushing Nazi’s before they could ambush him)
Early Halloween memory: I’m getting ready to go extort candy from the neighbors with my older sister (cuz while I’m starting to suspect that Santa Claus ain’t real, I’m still pretty convinced that ghosts and witches are out there, thus requiring a bodyguard)…
… and, putting my worldly experience to work, I choose the biggest bag available to carry my haul in.
Dreams of endless sugar-rushes have my 5-year-old brain twitching like a junkie as we join the throngs of vandals and kids outside, and I’m raking it in.
However, just before calling it a night and heading home, I realize that my bag was a little TOO big… and I’d been dragging it along the ground, and all that glorious booty had fallen out in the street somewhere behind me.
It was unfair. It violated every code of how kids should be treated by the universe that I knew about. It was a memory-scarring traumatic event.
And I’m pretty sure that was my first lesson in empathy. Because it sucked to feel like I’d been cheated out of something.
Sucked, sucked, sucked. I’d headed out that evening snickering to myself about being so clever with the big bag… and… and…
Well, I can’t even talk about it anymore. It’s just too painful a memory.
And from that moment on, I have nodded in solidarity and sympathy whenever someone else was cheated. “Yeah,” I’d say to myself. “Been there.”
In fact, there are three lessons here:Read more…