“Ch-ch-changes, oh look out, you rock and rollers…” (David Bowie, “Changes”)
All last week, on Facebook, I opened myself up to the mob…
… and promised to answer the best 5 questions posed in an experimental “Bug The Grizzled Pro” post. I just wanted to see what was bothering folks, holding them up, disrupting sleep and profits and happiness.
I was pretty damned impressed with the level of questions that poured in, too. Finding 5 good ones was easy. Answering them required my full focus… and the stuff is good.
So, just to make sure this advanced Q&A isn’t lost in the mire of Facebook (where stuff fades away forever), I’ve posted the entire exchange here. (If you want to see the comments, you’ll have to go to my Facebook page and root around in the posts for the week of November 9-14. And while you’re there, thrilling to the banter, trolling, and fevered debate, sign up to follow me, why don’tcha?)
Here’s the relevant posts. Enjoy:
Bug The Grizzled Pro: Anything you’d like to ask me about, or see me rant about here or on the blog?
I’ll never run out of my own ideas (you oughta see the cluster-mess of untapped stories, advice, epiphanies and general bullshit roiling around in my head)…
… (just be happy you aren’t experiencing this kind of internal chaos yourself)…
… but I’m always happy to see what folks are curious about.
I mean, really — how often do you get a chance to strafe the deck of a veteran, seen-it-all professional like this?
Give it a shot. The worst that can happen is public humiliation, or accidental enlightenment that forces you to change your life (or something in-between).
Don’t be a coward. Ask.
I’ll answer the first… um… five good questions during the week. But they gotta be good…
“Train whistle blows, lost on its own track…” (Dwight Yoakum, “Long White Cadillac”)
I thought you’d want to see this.
I first posted it on Facebook, and it generated an avalanche of “likes” and comments… which always means I’ve hit a nerve. And since many of the nice folks on my main list are curmudgeons who refuse to participate in social media (“Facebook, bah, humbug!”)…
… I’m reprinting it here. So you don’t have to sully yourself by dropping by Facebook. (Bonus: The post below actually trashes large swaths of the Web.)
The cold, dark days of December are, traditionally, a breeding ground for both regret over mistakes in the past year…
… and (more happily) for bold new plans in the coming year.
So, in the spirit of helping you end the year on a positive note… while also teeing up 2014 as possibly your best new year ever…
… let’s see if this advice (which has transformed so many entrepreneurial adventures into something amazing) will have any effect on you. Maybe get a head-start on wading through the mounting piles of nonsense out there, and snuggling up closer to the reality-checks and truths that can help you attain your wildest goals and dreams.
Here’s the post:
Warning (and your brain may curdle if you ignore this): I’ve been paying close attention to human behavior for longer than many of my readers have been alive. And because I felt so clueless, even as a kid, I devoured every available source of “spying” on how everyone else managed to exist in such a strange world…
… which included reading advice columns (street-level psychology at work with Ann Landers and sis Abbey), monitoring adult conversations, and stalking older kids (who were navigating life just a few hormones ahead of me).
So I’ve been a one-man research center for decades. I still haunt multiple advice columns online, see what the trolls are up to in the comment sections of NYT opinion pages, and (here’s the important part) discuss human behavior with a wide selection of colleagues both online and in person.
The discussions are critical… because there is a FLOOD of bullshit cascading down on us from every direction in the culture. It’s impossible for one individual to keep track of the spin, urban myths, misinformation campaigns…
… and (especially) the really, really, really awful investigative reporting that passes for news organizations today.
My colleagues are biz owners and pro writers well-trained in applying high-level skepticism to incoming data, and following through on research when necessary. We represent every age group of functioning adults in the culture, from all over the world (including the US hinterlands, Canucks, Limeys and other uncivilized joints), specializing in all kinds of different markets, hobbies, lifestyles and professional goals.
So when — for example — the media gets looped into a meme on how millennials (the generation of kids just now emerging from college) are bringing their parents to job interviews, and are incapable of critical thought (because of helicopter parenting) and just generally not becoming adults at all…
… we can look behind the glib stories and anecdotes and see a deeper truth.
Such as how all of us, from every living generation, have oodles of friends and family who meet every single detail of the problems now being assigned to millennials. The lack of independence, the living at home until late 30s, the whining and narcissism and sense of entitlement…
… all of it. And when you get a broader view, from older and younger colleagues, you quickly see how DEEP the bullshit can get in a media firestorm.
I hunt down photos and resumes of the reporters, and sigh. They’re like, twelve (or 32 going on 12) — insulated, given vast unearned attention through posts and stories, and dishing out accusations based on minuscule life experience.
And yet the stories stick, and become “common wisdom”.
As a marketer, you need to immerse your bad self into the culture, and understand what your prospects know and — very critical — THINK they know. And what they suspect they don’t know, or feel paranoid about not knowing.
That means you’ve got to go deep, all the time, and have resources you trust to bounce incoming data and ideas off of.
Masterminds have always been my #1 tool for this. I’m in multiple free ones, have paid for membership in others…Continue reading
Well, we do have a couple of winners to announce here.
It was a hell of a quiz, wasn’t it. Over 400 responses (and still climbing)… and, as several posters noted, just reading the thread was an enlightening experience (with dozens of great stories and insight shared).
Crowd-sourcing at its finest.
Before I give the two winners their moment in the sun, however (and ship out their signed copies of “The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together“)…
… let’s get straight on the answer to this one-question quiz.
Recall: I asked what — in my 30 years consulting with biz owners, freelancers, entrepreneurs, inventors and dreamers — was the Number One problem I saw folks encountering in their quest for wealth and happiness.
There may indeed be many other problems troubling folks…
… but in my experience, there is only one Big Kahuna problem.
And solving this big one also solves vast chunks of other problems in your life and career. Just like that.
The last great clue (no, I’m not gonna just roll over and tell you the answer without preamble) is in the photo up top here: That’s (from left) Joe Polish, the marketing whiz-kid who wrote the forward to my book…
… Gary Halbert, my uber-infamous mentor, biz partner and close pal…
… Gary Bencivenga, whose controls I stalked and whose teaser copy inspired me to rewrite my own bullets 30 times for every ad I penned (and who I actually wrote some stuff for in the late 80s)…
… and me.
Bencivenga loved this photo. We’d all known each other and worked in the same part of the direct response world for years… but we’d never all been in the same room together. (This was in NYC, at Gary’s legendary “Bencivenga 100” seminar.)
Think you have the answer yet?
Consider: Just from these four guys, you’ve got generations of successful copywriters and marketers who owe their “breakthrough moment” to one of us. Ads that brought in gazillions, and created empires. Advice that transformed a moribund business plan, or a headline, or a career. An entire revolution in biz attitudes, success strategies and persuasion methods…
… all emanating out like rocket-fire from just these guys.
Got the answer now?
We leaned on each other, borrowed from each other, learned from each other, watched each other’s back, traded war stories and admired each other’s skills…
… and, in general, shared often large parts of our professional lives in the thin, rarefied air of world-class movin’-and-shakin’.
In short… Continue reading
Rancho Cucamonga, CA
“One way or another, I’ll gitcha, I’ll gitcha, I’ll gitcha gitcha gitcha…” (Blondie)
Okay, quick post today… aimed at ruining your life by prying open the profit floodgates with a few simple rules even grizzled old veterans seldom learn.
We’ll discuss later how to deal with all the extra moolah (so you can salvage an excellent life once the realities of being richer sink in).
First, let’s make sure you understand these 3 basic (and mostly ignored or botched) rules from our Operation MoneySuck manual.
Ready? Okay, release the life-changing stuff:
Op$uck Rule #1: Get an assistant.
Hey, I totally understand the “go it alone” mindset of the average entrepreneur. I was a one-man-band for the first 5 years of my career — if you got a letter or phone call from my office (in my collapsing beach house in Hermosa), it was from me.
However, once I decided to start teaching and offering courses and coaching, I took to heart the Prime Operation MoneySuck Directive: “If you’re the dude responsible for bringing in the big bucks, then that’s your #1 job. And your #2 job, and #3 job, etc. Hire out or delegate everything else.”
I brought on a part-time assistant for 10 hours a week, who worked out of her house (so we communicated mostly by email, phone and only occasional visits). She was smart, had biz experience, and was thrilled to have a part-time gig with totally flexible hours, with a generous and savvy boss (me) so she could work from home and raise her kid.
When I realized those 10 hours were INSTANTLY gobbled up by random stuff like scheduling consultations, dealing with refunds and printers and non-essential client requests…
… it became obvious that I’d been STEALING 10 hours of energy/time/thinking/effort from my biz. Which I could have been force-feeding back into the money-making part of that same biz.
Total WTF moment.
I immediately doubled Diane’s hours, and the ROI shot up again.
There are OODLES of folks out there who are qualified for full-time work (cuz they’re awesome) but prefer flexible part-time work (especially if it involves some problem solving challenges and opportunities to engage their brain and experience). Not hard to find, either. Craig’s List, referrals from friends, local job boards.
The point is: Stop being stubbornly independent. One part-time assistant will change your life, immediately and for the better.
Op$uck Rule#2: Aim for a refund rate between 7%-15%.
This seems counter-intuitive. Most rookie biz owners want a zero percent refund rate, and will even brag about having one. (And it’s so embarrassing when they brag around their more experienced colleagues.)
For veteran (usually wealthy) entrepreneurs, though, getting less than a healthy 10% or so in refunds just means you’re not marketing hard enough.
Look — in any given population (including the folks in your niche) up to 20% will be batshit crazy, unclear on how capitalism works, or sociopaths. That’s just a given.
So if you’re carefully navigating around this chunk of whacko’s in your niche, then guess what?
You’re actually working BACKWARDS. You’re wasting time chasing the wrong goal.
What the Big Boys usually do is to market aggressively enough to get that sweet spot of 7-15% refunds. That means they’re hitting the ENTIRE market…
… and for every nutball refund junkie they net, they’re going to find MULTIPLE new good customers who may become lifelong fans.
In other words, the savvier marketers play for the long haul. More action means more good AND more bad initial customers coming through the front door…
… and you have your assistant deal with the dead weight, while you concentrate on doing biz with the legitimate new customers.
Which leads us to…
Op$uck Rule #3: Give your assistant a clear, written protocol of how to handle mad, bad and sad customers.
So she can confidently deal with the usual suspects without involving you.
Yes, you will occasionally still have to get involved when a customer goes off the rails. You may have to give a lawyer a call, and spend some precious time dealing with the shit sandwich just served to your biz.
But the other 99% of complaints, refunds, problems and crazy talk never gets past your assistant’s desk. Give her total freedom to come to you with anything she’s not totally confident about dealing with, of course…
… but I’ll tell you, after a very short time she’ll be an expert on the personalities of your market. And she’ll get better than you at giving every problem a happy ending. (Side note: After a few months, ask her to write out her SOP — standard operating procedure — for most tasks. This will become a valuable document, especially if you need to replace your assistant without notice.)
Diane has been with me for 12 years. Part time the entire time. She’s the most amazing, efficient and effective customer service “face” of the biz possible. Clients adore her, and she takes care of them.
She’s still the most precious resource I have in the biz, freeing me up to do the dirty work of making moolah.
Hiring her was the best decision I’ve ever made in my entire career. Seriously.
Bonus Rule: If you can, NEVER see any complaints or refund rants that come by mail, email, voice mail, or whatever. Have your assistant intercept these, and unless it’s absolutely necessary for you to see what’s going on, HIDE them from you.
It’s human nature to ignore the thousand raving fans giving you thumbs up on a project, and devote days to writing your reply to the troll who insults you, or tries to con the system to get a refund he doesn’t deserve, or is just an awful person.
The operative phrase to remember is: “Never wrestle with a pig. You’ll both get dirty, and the pig likes it.”
Operation MoneySuck is all about you spending the best hours of your day on bringing home the bacon…
… not wrestling with it.
Enjoy the last of your summer.
P.S. Just lettin’ you know…
The very elite mastermind group I’ve been hosting the past few years has a couple of open slots.
It’s clearly the most unique mastermind around, run Hot Seat-style and focused on solving specific problems for each member (not just ruminating about the philosophies of biz). Results oriented, hard-core, more fun than entrepreneurs should be allowed to have.
Small hint about the quality of the meetings: Past guest experts I had join us include Joe Sugarman, Jay Abraham, Rich Schefren, Dean Jackson, Joe Polish, the Halbert boys, and most of the best copywriters on the planet.
Anyway, there’s a very strict vetting process (though we’ve accepted semi-rookies as well as grizzled veterans as members because we look for smarts, worldly experience and overall mojo as the key to a good member) which you should look into regardless of where you’re at right now.
If you have a career or run a biz, and you’re ready to get some expert help watching your back while you climb to the next level… then check this out now:
“The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, unless you’ve got a black hole handy.”
Nice, short post here today. In keeping with the theme “KISS.”
Veteran entrepreneurs recognize this, of course, as an acronym of “Keep It Simple, Stupid“… easily some of the best biz advice I ever received in my long career. I carefully printed this slogan out, by hand, on a big notecard and had it taped above my desk for years (though, my sign was even more direct and vicious: Keep It Simple, Shithead. I wanted to get my own attention.)
I made good use of slogans during the early days. “Business before pleasure” was also huge for me, since I’d squandered my youth as a party-hardy slacker… and simply re-directing my energy first to biz (and having evil fun afterward, if I still had any juice left) instantly changed my entire existence. I made a vow to myself — my first real vow that I took deadly seriously — to follow that self-administered advice without hesitation or complaint… and to never apologize for basing my career on a hackneyed phrase that few people ever thought twice about. And that’s when things started popping for me, success-wise.
That was a key realization: All those dog-eared rickety slogans, as mocked as they are, have earned their way into the culture…
… because they Continue reading
“Who the fuck do you think you’re talking to?” (Travis Bickle, “Taxi Driver”)
Howdy. Sorry about being such a potty mouth right off the bat there… but that Taxi Driver quote is just too perfect for setting the stage.
Here’s what’s up: I’ve been involved in high-end, professional-level brainstorming and masterminding for, oh, around 30 years now. I think I’m starting to get a handle on it, too.
Okay, I’m joking. After spending half my career butting heads, arguing and mentally-wrasslin’ with legendary thinkers like Gary Halbert… with a LOT of money, reputation and consequences on the line…
… I actually DO know a little something about working over an idea, ripping away the bullshit, and uncovering the overlooked, ignored, and spot-on nuggets of truth and success-potential most people miss.
The process is very much like sausage-making: Not pretty, and not for the weak-kneed.
However, if you truly desire to run an idea, project or plan through the gauntlet of REAL brainstorming…
… it’s still the fastest way to load up your war-chest with tactics, strategies and solid creative mojo. So you can get moving on conquering the world (or your niche, whichever).
But here’s the kicker: Hardly any veteran marketers have a clue how to brainstorm effectively.
Folks just naturally suck at it. And recoil in horror when confronted with the real thing in action. (“No!“, they cry. “It just CAN’T be that brutal!“)
At least… Continue reading
“She’d drag me through the streets of Baltimore…” (Gram Parsons)
Quick note to let you know I’m still kickin’.
I’m just taking a little time off here to split the home-dive… meet up with some biz pals in Maryland (including Rich Schefren, Bill Glazer, and Perry Marshall)… and ponder the wonders of life. (Okay, and maybe catch an Orioles game).
I’ve got several blog posts almost ready for publication, so I’ll continue with my prodigious outpouring of voodoo and shinola (in equal parts) when I get back to Nevada.
Meantime, why don’t you slip into the archives over in the right-hand column (right there, see ’em, inches from your right hand), and dig into some of the stored posts. I’ve been laboring over this damn blog for years… and the joint is awash in treasure for writers, marketers, and bohemians of all stripes.
Also, I see all new comments when I’m doing admin stuff here, so if you care to leave a note on an older post, I’ll likely see it. The most popular articles here still generate some nice outrage and fresh insight from new readers.
The comment section is half the fun of this blog.
Anyway, I’ll be back next week. There’s beer in the fridge if you want some…
“Please allow me to introduce myself…” (Stones, Sympathy For The Devil)
This is one of those lessons that arrived accidentally…
… and I had to stop and ruminate about it for a while before it made sense.
I’m lucky I learned it early, too.
It’s provided me with a home base of sanity when the chaos has reached shuddering crescendos and it was hard to think straight (let alone make snap decisions when crisis loomed).
You may find it obvious.
That’s fine. Just don’t go thinking it’s obvious to the rest of the mean ol’ world out there… cuz it ain’t.
Here’s the story: One of my first jobs working for Gary Halbert was to fly to Detroit… and interview a guy who’d just lost 750 pounds.
Yeah, you read that right.Continue reading