“I never drink… wine.” (Bela Lugosi, “Dracula”)
Special treat today. I’ve asked an old friend (and killer copywriter) to guest post on the blog here.
Jim Curley and I go way back (to, gasp, Before The Birth Of The Internets As A Marketing Force)…
… and he’s one of those Web-hip veteran copywriters who brings a healthy dose of old-school wisdom and experience to everything he does. He’s well steeped in all the manly markets (golf, self-defense, hot rod body artwork, family life, vampires, stuff like that). I’ve had him as a wingman at multiple seminars, and I’ve hired him as a writer for my own projects.
That’s how good he is.
I didn’t give Jimbo any directions on what he could write about, either. I trust the guy completely…
… and just told him to dig into one of the subjects he and I enjoy talking and bitching about when we get together.
This is a good lesson Jim’s sharing with you.
Enjoy… Read more…
“There are eight million stories in the naked city…” (Jules Dassin film noir classic)
Here’s a nice little piece of insight for writers.
And by “writers”, I’m referring to those ink-stained wretches (of whom I share a proud bond) who really care about the craft of writing. For whom the act of stringing words together is — when done right — a sacred thing.
You can make a living as a hack writer (meaning: Someone who can communicate through writing, but who neither loves language nor attempts to create phrases with rhythm or dynamics or craft).
Most of the best-selling novelists these days are complete hacks, in fact. (Talkin’ to you, Dan Brown.)
Metaphor Alert: If you need a comparison to understand what I’m talking about, let’s take the mastering of a musical instrument. What’s the difference between the dude who noodles away at a guitar for decades but never plays for anyone… and the guy who steps on a bar stage to cover a Cream tune… and Eric Clapton?
Answer: The first dude can’t Read more…
“You’re either on the bus, or off the bus…” (Ken Kesey)
Quick lesson here I thought you’d enjoy.
The phrase “there are two kinds of people” is used by comics, politicians, and just-plain-folks trying to set up a point with an easily-understood little story.
It’s an over-simplification, most of the time, of course. Life is too nuanced and complex to fit into just two tidy categories.
However, sometimes you can make a damn good argument behind the two-groups thing.
In selling, this is what we’ve called “the dichotomy of futures”…
… meaning, you can make two distinctly clear divisions:
1.) The “in” group, which is your target market…Read more…
“Out on the edge of an empty highway, howling at the blood on the moon… ” (Grateful Dead, “The Pride of Cucamonga”)
Quick post tonight…
… just to let the conspiracy theorists know I’m still rattling around this mortal coil.
But it’s gotta be quick… because I’m heading off to celebrate Pop’s 90th birthday down in Cucamonga.
(Okay, okay… I know it’s now called “Rancho Cucamonga”, but they tacked on the rancho part long after I’d left town… and without my permission, too. Bastards.)
Anyway, it’s always a treat to head back down to that weird, wonderful, whacked-out dream-scape desert in the spooky foothills of Mount Baldy.
Things are different there, that’s for sure.Read more…
“So what?” (Miles Davis)
Okay, I know I’m a few hours late delivering the answer to the very excellent Quiz #8.
I had writer’s block. Just couldn’t think of what to write…
Kidding! I’m joshing with you.
I apologize for the delay. Simple matter of being abducted by friends and whisked off to an enjoyable Friday adventure. I earned it, and knew you’d forgive me for being a tad late with the solution to the Quiz. (You know it takes me several hours to concoct these posts, right?)
Let’s get down to it, then.
First: I want to thank, and congratulate, everyone who posted for the Quiz. The threads on this blog are always energizing mini-riots of good critical thinking…
… along with a smattering of cleverness, sheer brilliance, pontificating idiocy, and (always) one or two utterly outraged comments from folks who wandered into the fray by accident.
I love it all.
As many have noted… the comment threads at this blog rival the actual posts for being fascinating reading.
There’s some smokin’-hot wisdom out there, for anyone paying attention.
Second: Here is the answer to the Quiz question…
“Writer’s block is…Read more…
“It’s alive!” (Baron Von Frankenstein, kickstarting the Monster)
We’ve just fired up the Simple Writing System blog (www.simplewritingsystem.com/blog)…
… which means a stunning (and unprecedented) pile of free tools, tactics, advice and insight can be yours…
… just for the grabbing.
This is an all-out assault on reason and logic. We’re just GIVING AWAY stuff that — not too long ago — would have cost you a pretty penny just to get a quick glimpse of.
We’ve created a beast here, and it’s name is FREE.
Here’s just a small taste of what’s piling up over there (that you’re missing out on if you haven’t signed in):
What? You didn’t see that presentation?
It’s marketing theater at its finest… Read more…
“You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave…” (Eagles, “Hotel California”)
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…
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.)
… 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.
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… Read more…
“… and in the early mornin’ fog, I looked into those Mystic Eyes…” (Van Morrison, with Them, “Mystic Eyes”)
Had a little extended email exchange with our old pal Shawn Casey today.
See, he’s about to turn the Big Five-Oh… and I offered him the same gift that Gary Halbert offered me when I turned 50: An open invitation to hear about all the horrific shit he has to look forward to as his body slams full-force into official middle age.
Halbert used to absolutely delight in detailing for me some of the more evil indignities of waving bye-bye to youth.
Let’s just say your days of indulging in a bar brawl, and sleeping it off so you can do it again the next night, too…
… are over.
(Bonus insight: However, you can still have fun minus the dangerous stunts and life-threatening bravado that used to cap a good night out. Who’d a thought?)
I’m still laughing from that exchange with Shawn.
In truth, if you’re healthy, it ain’t all that big a deal sliding into your fifties. If you’ve spent the last four decades thrashing yourself, then yeah, you may be looking at getting your ticket punched early.
But if you listen to your body, keep the stress under control, get some freakin’ exercise once in a while, and avoid chunking out like Jaba The Hut…
… well, it’s actually kinda nice being a grizzled, older ape.
The real pleasures of life are just as intense… and you’ve pretty much identified which ones you want to focus on. (I spent my youth sampling almost every forbidden fruit in the feast… which I felt was my duty as a buddng writer. Many of those experiences were just downright awful, and yet they’d looked so good from a distance…)
And — even if you dinked around a lot for the bulk of your youth (as I did) (and, boy, was I good at dinking around) — you can’t help but have gathered a ton of experience.
And whatever mangled philosophy of life that got you this far must have something going for it… or you wouldn’t have made it.
Now, the reason I’m writing this post…Read more…
“There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.” (Ansel Adams)
I grew up in a photo-loving family.
Pop still has his trusty Kodak folding camera — a true antique now — and I cannot yet bring myself to dig through that box in the garage with all my old cameras (cuz I know it’s time to start assigning them new fates somewhere else).
I swear to you I still have a box of Polaroid film in the butter drawer of the fridge. Might even be the last batch they ever made (and R.I.P. Polaroid, dear departed friend).
Mom was the photo archivist of the family, and even as other families gravitated toward 16mm film, I retained a purist’s preference for the snapshot over the home movie.
(Side note: I remember meeting someone 20 years ago who mentioned that they were on video from the moment of their birth, and it was unsettling.
Now, it’s rare to meet anyone under the age of 30 who isn’t cataloged on film through their entire childhood. I can’t even imagine watching myself being born. I have a hard time watching old seminar footage of me from ten years ago, for cryin’ out loud.
Anyone out there hauling around a library of self-referenced film with them? What’s it like?)
I believe I fell in love with photography the moment I saw my first photograph… and realized it was actually a moment in time captured forever.
And I formed some very intense ideas about what makes a “good” photograph as a third-grader thumbing through the still-amazing stack of Nazi photos Pop brought home from his stint as a rifleman during WWII.
(There’s no way to tell for sure, but those two dozen shots seem to be a German officer’s front-line cache of “Here’s what I did during the War” snapshots. Fascinating subject material that forced us to imagine what the story actually was behind those uniformed men… especially the one with the open bullet wound in the dorsal lat.)
As I grew up, I would become captivated by very few photos in the piles coming back from the drugstore of family and friends and pets and outings.
I never questioned why I found those few snapshots so iconic.
Later, one of my first jobs in advertising was overseeing the photography for a computer supply catalog every quarter.
That job meant gathering all the equipment (cables, monitors, furniture, floppies, etc) and spending a week or so with a professional photographer in Palo Alto trying to make plastic crap look good.
(I won’t bore you with the hassle that pre-digital photography presented — the need to refrigerate film, manually load it, and nurture it like a fragile duck egg until it could be color-separated and made “camera-ready”, which means ready for the printer to fuss with during the offset process of applying wave after wave of ink until the correct color was achieved.)
(Okay, sorry, I think I just bored you there.)
Anyway… I learned a lot about the technical aspects of photography (like using mashed potatoes as a substitute for ice cream, cuz the real treat wouldn’t survive under the required hot lights for a good shot).
Pro photographers in the ad field earned big bucks. They knew the voodoo.
But you know what?Read more…
“What’s keeping YOU up at night?”
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?
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.
… 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…