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My job is to look at the world and wonder... "How can we make things better?"
I recently had an experience with a Groupon promotion run by a local hotel, which I think makes a great example of how NOT to do customer service.
Briefly, here’s how it went…
In May I signed up for a Groupon promotion by the Buxton Palace Hotel for “£59 for a leisure day with two treatments, cream tea and a glass of Prosecco for two”. I got a message saying they were already booked several weeks ahead, so I left it a while.
Yesterday (August 9), I looked up my Groupon account to check the promo was still valid. Yes, great!
So it’s still listed as “Available”, with “21 days left!”. I sent off an email to the hotel, excited to make my booking.
This morning, I was surprised to receive…
I enquired what they proposed to do next.
Only to be told…
I can accept that I missed the window and I can say goodbye to my £59. My issue here is that the Buxton Palace Hotel seem to have missed an opportunity.
Let’s start by examining the whole point of running group-buying promotions like Groupon. As I explain on this post in Open-Source Marketing, the single biggest reason for doing these promos is to build your customer base.
The legendary economist Peter Drucker wrote in his famous book “The Practice of Management” that…
…there is only one purpose of a business: to create a customer.
Businesses that don’t build a customer base don’t stay businesses for very long.
Now, I have to say that businesses can often lose money in the short-term with a Groupon campaign. That’s absolutely kosher marketing strategy (called a “loss-leader”): you sacrifice short-term revenues specifically in order to build your customer base.
It is worth noting that small businesses in particular should be aware there is a very real risk of bleeding themselves dry by running too successful a loss-leader campaign (so I hope that Groupon & Living Social etc. counsel their clients carefully before they let them take on too big a promotion).
(I’m sure I remember reading another quote by Drucker that most fundamental rule of business is, “Don’t run out of cash!”)
So, Buxton Palace ran this promo in order to build their local customer base. (Remember, that, it comes up again.)
The model is straightforward:
Here, the hotel has managed to screw up that simple process in style. They fell at the first hurdle, because they failed to get me and my wife through the doors.
Even IF they had to lose a bit of money by honouring the offer, they would still have the chance of making a new regular customer. I am actually actively looking for a spa that we can visit regularly for a monthly wind-down!
Plus, by showing good grace, I would also feel an automatic sense of goodwill or indebtedness, making me actually more likely to become a frequent flier.
Tip: Always be the first to give, and the last to give.
So they missed out on the opportunity to delight me and Mrs Hunt, and they lost the chance to get our regular spend.
And to fall back on, “It says in the small-print that we don’t have to honour this” is basically giving your prospect the bird. Sure, it’s legally fine, but it’s a terrible way to do business!
First, never, ever, insult your potential customers! (Did I just have to say that?)
(Feel free to disappoint those who will never be your customers, but take care whom you insult, because the market is a fuzzy, rich soup and word gets around.)
Here’s what I would have preferred to see…
The point is not that they are obliged to give me £59 of value. I’m a reasonable person and understand how these deals work. I have missed the window on group buying deals before and was not 100% confident I would still be able to claim this one.
But manners cost nothing, and even a token offering of alternative compensation has significance, because it respects the business-customer relationship.
As things stand, Buxton Palace Hotel has lost any chance of this previous customer’s business, not just in 2017, but for ever, which is a great shame.
Peter Drucker would not be happy.
Okay, I have finally taken the plunge and have decided to sell WebDesignFromScratch.com.
I know it could do a lot of good for some people out there. I know that because, when I was in the web design business, that site generated all the leads I could handle. I was able to run a six figure web agency with very little marketing effort or spend.
The truth is, this site really was one of the first tutorial sites in the industry, and has been very influential for a lot of people. But my interests and business have moved on from “web design” into broader marketing and green issues, so sadly I have not found very much to talk about around that topic.
This is an incredible resource, and it would be a huge shame to see it go to waste, so I’m looking for someone who will be able to profit from the site.
The result is that, lacking fresh new content, the traffic has very slowly died off over the years.
For several years, while I was more active, WDFS was getting 100,000 monthly visits or more, hitting a peak of 229,000 in September 2011. Now, we’re looking at just 20,000 visits each month.
That can be reversed! All it needs is someone who cares and is active in the web design space. Could that be you?
The site still has plenty of page-1 rankings, and will have a MASSIVE ability to rank for any new terms related to web design.
Here’s today’s Open Site Explorer snapshot, showing the very respectable domain authority of 54!
Here’s a summary from Analytics of the most popular search terms (2017).
Aside from HTML/CSS reference terms, I still have pages ranking very highly for phrases around “best websites in the world”, which is clearly a massive opportunity for anyone in the website delivery business (designers, producers, or theme vendors).
And clearly anyone who wants to sell courses in website production (HTML / CSS) will find it very easy with the traffic this site gets (197,046 visits from organic search terms that include “HTML” since January 1st).
I’m open to selling the domain and all the website content. (If it’s feasible, I can even transfer the Moz Pro property, so you can use the historical data.) I don’t have a price, will probably take the best offer I get in the next two weeks.
Alternatively, you may prefer to lease the site! If so, just let me know.
In addition to individuals or businesses, perhaps you may like to go into a coalition with others? If so, I’ve set up a temporary Facebook group where you can post your ideas and invitations, or look for other people who might have compatible goals.
I have some ideas for who the ideal new owner of WDFS might be. These include…
If you’re interested, please feel free to comment here, or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any thoughts, suggestions, or offers. But my advice is to move fast! Even if you don’t have a firm offer, let me know if you’re interested, as I don’t want you to be disappointed.
The WDFS Facebook page is also included, obviously. It currently has 2770 likes.
Also feel free to ask me if you’d like any more data from Analytics, list building etc.
If you know anything about me, you probably know that I think a lot about land, soil, the way we live, and where our food comes from.
One of the reasons for my fascination with dirt is that it’s extremely important. (Soil erosion may be the single biggest threat to humanity there is, as it’s happening at a predictable and frightening rate.)
But I also love to learn lessons about life, business, and marketing from meditating on dirt. It’s increasingly clear to me that everything follows the same natural laws, which are as beautiful as they are complex.
The same patch of dirt could be abundant with life, or it could be practically dead.
You can change soil from being fertile to infertile very quickly. You can also make infertile soil fertile again, but it takes longer.
If you take too much from your soil, and put too little back, it becomes impoverished.
Strip away the dirt’s natural protective “skin” of decaying matter, leave it bare and open to the elements, and it will become parched and dry. When the rain comes, the precious topsoil will be washed away into watercourses, rivers, and eventually oceans.
So short-term thinking can be catastrophic for the land. When we take Nature for granted and think that we can take and take and take, without a care for her natural balance, the net effect is rapid impoverishment.
But when we work with Nature, revering the soil and caring for it, it will remain productive indefinitely. That approach is simply more profitable over time.
There’s a saying in gardening that I love…
Don’t feed your plants. Feed your soil; let your soil feed your plants.
I see two distinct approaches to business and marketing:
The first way is a kind of parasitic or cancerous behaviour. As Alastair Smith put so well in this interview before his passing, a cancer cell has “broken the sacred covenant with Life” in its quest for endless resources.
Ultimately, of course, cancers or parasites can destroy their hosts. Sometimes they are able to jump to new hosts. In marketing terms, that means taking so much that you constantly have to find new customers.
The second way is more symbiotic. Your business is not there only to take resources, but to enrich its environment, in the knowledge that, when we build up our ecology, everyone benefits.
The first approach seems to be short-term and separate; the second is longer-term and integral.
What would a symbiotic marketing approach look like? Some initial ideas might include…
Is there a right way?
Does it all come down to how one defines success? Do we measure success as short-term profits, long-term profits, value created, or through other, softer factors?
And does it really matter if we set out to take what we can? Life is short, so why not take everything it has to give? If there’s always a big enough market to sustain everyone who wants to take, can caveat emptor (buyer beware) provide all the cover we need?
It’s certainly clear that it’s possible to take the parasitic approach, bleed customers dry, cut corners, bend the truth, and “win” — at least through the measure of making good profits. I know plenty of people doing this.
And there is also plenty of evidence to support the idea that, when we give value with no expectation of reciprocation, that that value can come back to us in complex, fuzzy ways at some later time. (I’ve had people who have followed my work for years who suddenly pop up with a proposal or join a course etc.)
One way to answer the question would seem to be to choose a time scale. If we work quarterly, then long-term benefits may not factor. This seems to me a reductionist approach.
On the other hand, if we aren’t counting our returns and assigning them to specific actions (with associated costs), can we actually prove a return on investment from a more symbiotic approach?
This is anti-reductionism. We would actually have to let go of the notion that all returns are, or should be, measurable.
What’s true? Ultimately, it comes down to your world view.
Just like morality, ethics, politics, or spirituality, the way you see the world is a framework that you use to gather feedback. There is no right or wrong, only your truth.
Me, I see the world as one huge, messy, lovely, interconnected, symbiotic mess. To me, my market is like my soil. I have a duty of care to create value that I can’t measure, and that echoes beyond my lifetime.
The life I enjoy today is not my own. It is the result of the gifts of past generations, my parents, my educators, the peers who invited me to their conferences, the bloggers and podcasters who shared their wisdom, the crazy folk who let me interview them. So who am I to hold back my knowledge or gifts as “my own”?
Those are my values, and I really don’t care if they’re yours. You are free to judge me by your values, and I will judge you by mine. That’s the freedom we enjoy.
Thirteen people have already signed up for the Intensive Group for my new Marketing Strategy Course.
(To those 13, thank you so much, you’ll be hearing from me soon with details.)
If you haven’t decided yet, I’d like you to consider whether marketing strategy could play an important part in your professional business over the next few years.
Because I really believe it’s the missing element.
In Internet Marketing circles it’s the elephant in the room that nobody talks about. Why?
The first is, you can’t bottle it. You see, information marketing is easy money, and the way it works is that you take strategies and tactics that have been shown to work, document them, and then sell the how-to information to buyers, usually at a high price.
Ah, but there’s a problem…. You see, when you take one thing that works in certain contexts and you apply it in other contexts… it may not work.
What would you think if someone said, “Hey, this chat-up line worked for me, look at my beautiful wife! I’ll sell YOU my chat-up line for $1000!”
You’d tell them to stick their chat-up line where the sun don’t shine. Quite right.
But info marketing is very close to that. The info marketers say, “Hey, look at how well Strategy X worked for my launch! I made a gasquillion dollars!! I’ll sell it to YOU for only $4997!”
You see the problem. You can’t take A STRATEGY, transplant it to a different context, and expect it to work.
So you CANNOT say that the product launch strategy always works (at least not with integrity). I found that out only recently, when a team I’ve been advising followed Jeff Walker’s PLF and managed to reduce their sales from double figures to ZERO.
You CANNOT say that funnels always work! Yes, that model and methods will definitely work for some products in some markets some of the time, just like a cheesy chat-up line will work on some people in some bars in a certain state of inebriation, some of the time.
And you CANNOT take copy from a weight loss pill campaign, change a few words, and expect it to be effective selling
But there is NO STRATEGY that you can apply profitably in any situation. None.
That’s the big problem the info marketers don’t want you to know. That is the darkness they dare not face.
Because the truth is, the right STRATEGY is different in each scenario. It depends on a number of factors (but it’s a finite number). It depends on analyzing those factors with truth, integrity, and sensitivity. It requires creativity, sideways thinking, big thinking, analysis, imagination, courage… All stuff you can’t bottle.
The right strategy for you has not been created yet. The right strategy for each of your clients has not been created yet.
That’s why I believe you can’t sell STRATEGIES with integrity. But you can sell strategy as a service. Because there is a way to work it through, there IS a method. That’s what I’ve been working on for the past few years. That’s what Open Source Marketing is all about.
If you take one of the last places on my Intensive Group, I will personally help you master the marketing strategy process by applying it to your own real-world scenarios.
Whether it’s for your own business, or for clients, I’ll do what I can to apply my marketing strategy process so that you come out with a clear plan and you can proceed with more confidence than you’ve ever known.
I am considering running a short course in Marketing Strategy, and would like to get your views on it.
In brief, here’s the plan I have in mind.
The importance of marketing strategy is explained pretty well in “Web Design is Dead”. If you haven’t read that, make sure you’re on my email list. But here’s a quick summary.
People, the world is ready for talented and committed professionals to step up as Marketing Strategists. It is very early days, and if you’ve been around online marketing for long enough, you’ll know that’s exactly the best time to get involved.
I want to help launch this new profession, and to do that I need good people. You don’t need to know it all, because nobody CAN know it all. There’s simply too much to know.
If you answer “Yes” to these questions, the next question is: “How do you feel about being one of the first of this new breed?” If you answer “excited” or “inspired”, read on.
Marketing strategy has been one of my main roles for a few years now, and I love it! Why? Because it suits me! It’s the perfect match for the kind of person I am, the way I think, the way I communicate, and the way I want to serve clients. It challenges me in the way I love to be challenged, and it allows me to avoid the tasks that I don’t enjoy so much (and therefore don’t do so well).
And that all means I can deliver more value to more clients more of the time.
I know that now is the time to formalize the role into a well defined professional service. That’s why I have been working on turning my strategy development process into a step-by-step system that others can follow and help develop.
This is only the first phase in a significant strategy that I’m rolling out (with a few partners) over the coming months. (It’s too early to share details now, but this could be BIG. I’m talking about developing this into a recognized profession, complete with on-going professional development, certification, marketing and lead-generation, etc.)
All I need to know is, are you interested enough to know more? I don’t need a commitment yet, but please comment below, including your email address, and letting me know…
When you think about it, marketing is very much like sex.
When it works, it can be so right, empowering and creative. When it’s wrong, it can be disempowering and destructive.
The relationship metaphor is often applied to marketing. The idea being that you go out and look for your prospects, or attract them to you, and then go through some kind of courtship that may take anything from moments or months. But let’s be honest — ultimately it’s about the consummation. (There’s a reason why we use the term “proposition“.)
When the chips are down, what really matters is, is this going to work? Is this a fit?
As I’ve said so many times, marketing is all about creating the conditions for a trade.
In “The Secret of Selling Anything”, sales genius Harry Browne defined a trade as a transaction where two parties exchange something of theirs for something else that the other offers, each party convinced that what they’re getting is worth more to them than what they give up.
When we’re selling, it’s possible to have what seems like a great product and an ideal customer, but for some reason the trade doesn’t work. Maybe it’s timing, or maybe the communication is incomplete or inaccurate.
That’s just like relationships and sex. You can have two great people who look made for each other at face value, but the chemistry just isn’t there.
Maybe it’s the wrong prospect, maybe it’s the wrong product, or maybe the proposition was badly put together or mis-communicated.
Whatever it is, that’s all marketing.
Marketing is about finding a fit between brand, product/service, problem/opportunity, and customer. The proposition is where those elements come together.
So as a marketer or businessperson, what you’re really doing is designing that fit. The “male-female fit” is all around us, whether you’re a carpenter creating a mortise and tenon joint, or you’re using a VGA connector to get a monitor to work with your computer.
So far so obvious. The real question this raises for each of us who’s in the selling business is…
What kind of marketing (sex) do you want?
Just like sex, marketing can work for both parties, or can benefit just one side of the arrangement.
Are you looking for people who really need or desire what you offer, or will you take any sale you can?
Marketing can be consensual or non-consensual.
Are you committed to providing all the information a prospect could need in order to know for sure whether your offer is right for them, or are you prepared to withhold, misrepresent, or embellish the facts in order to get the sale?
Marketing can be a genuine two-way experience.
Are you willing to get intimately involved with your market? Will you listen to their needs and concerns so you can respond positively, or just keep pushing directly to get your immediate needs met?
Marketing can focus on building long-term relationships or single transactions.
Does your marketing activity filter your prospects so that you can concentrate on those who are likely to have a long-standing customer relationship, or does your focus stop at the first consummation?
It all comes down to the nature of the relationship you’re looking for. Depending on what you’re selling, you can choose to have an extended, friendly, consensual courtship so that your prospect really gets to know you, and wait until the time is right for them to say “yes” to you.
You can choose to have your customers wake up the next morning with a warm glow, knowing they have been an equal and respected partner in the event.
Even after the transactions are over, you can choose to remain friends, giving your customers every reason to speak well of you.
I don’t know your business, and I’m not here to tell you what you should do. And there’s nothing wrong with quick, dirty, cheap marketing.
The ultimate question is, what do your customers expect from your brand? How do they expect to be treated? Answer that question, then you can choose the right way for you to proceed.
Everybody knows that information marketing can be super-profitable. And while it isn’t my intention to piss on anyone’s salad, I have a feeling deep down that something isn’t quite right.
Why is info-marketing so profitable? It’s simply because any digital product that is delivered electronically has practically no cost of production or cost of delivery. So the only cost of sale comes from advertising, meaning that gross profit = sale price – advertising costs.
These days you don’t even have to burn and mail a DVD. So whether you sell two units or twenty thousand, each one is just one more record on your membership area database.
No wonder so many people are drawn to this “easy money” and there are so many courses on the market (themselves info products) promising to show you how you can tap into it, with new ones coming out all the time.
My issues are twofold:
I’ve written about the second point at length before (including “Internet Marketing is Broken“) so let’s focus on the first point.
I’d like to compare what goes on in “info marketing” with established sectors like science, medicine, and academia.
There you get very smart people, who’ve spent a lifetime studying their particular niche. They come up with an idea, verify and validate it, get it reviewed by peers, and then finally publish it for the benefit of the whole world.
Here’s an example, taken from the Lancet (a UK-based medical journal).
Now, I don’t claim to understand exactly what this article is about, but just look at the number of professors and doctors who have been involved in the study! You can get a feel for the level of sheer excellence that has gone into this work — literally months or possibly years of research, testing, validation, and review.
There is a cost to access this report via the Lancet. A year’s single online access currently costs £151 (US$187). That’s for everything they produce – a whole library of potentially life-saving knowledge that has been rigorously tested before publication. I would argue that £3 per week is a fair price to justify the costs of maintaining the online library, making the information practically free.
Now, let’s compare something taken randomly from the info marketing space. Eben Pagan’s “Digital Product Blueprint” (sales page) costs $1997, over 1000% the cost of a subscription to an entire library of potentially life-saving knowledge.
Now, I’m sure that Eben’s product can deliver the goods. I’m sure it will take me step-by-step to creating a digital product in 90 days. (I’m not sure that will also guarantee my life is taken to the next level, but let’s let that slide.)
How and why can Eben’s 90-day programme possibly be worth ten times a Lancet subscription?!
Has DBP taken more work? Looking at the list of contributors to the Lancet article, I would say not, and certainly not 10x the work.
More expertise? No way.
Originality? Well, I’m sure DPB is based on many marketers’ previous work, probably including Brian Clark’s “Teaching Sells” (2009), Product Launch Formula, and many more.
And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with building on prior art! In fact, the vast majority of science, medicine, and technology necessarily does the same. That’s how we have made so much progress as a species!
The Lancet report will certainly reference a lot of previous work (although probably in a totally transparent way, as it’s very bad form to pass off any previous study as your own).
So let’s be generous and say there’s little difference between the two products in terms of originality. Both are built on decades of prior art, and have had taken at least months of original work to put together.
No case for a 10x price tag so far.
In fact, let’s cut to the chase and say that the ONLY case you can make for DPB’s $2000 price tag is… The promise to make you more money.
That’s the crux of the whole argument. The cost is justified by the promise… no, the implication, that you’ll not just make money using this, but that you’ll make so much more money that it will “take your life to the next level”.
Is it true? It may well be true. It may well be the case that, if you follow Eben’s 90-day plan, and you have the prerequisite assets and skills at your disposal, you could get more than your $1997 investment back.
Is it guaranteed?
Um… Er…Shit, no.
Actually, here’s Eben’s guarantee.
This marketer will guarantee that you get a digital product done in 3 months. That’s it. Not launched, not sold, not one penny of your $1997 investment recovered.
In fact, if you want to get really picky, the guarantee requires that you present your homework for the entire program, which I’ll bet actually necessitates that you’ll have actually created the product in order to reach the end. So in reality this could be no guarantee at all.
So Eben isn’t promising you’ll see your $1997 again. And why should he? He can’t drag you through to commercial success by the hair, ultimately it’s down to you to apply what he teaches you. That’s a fact.
BUT… We still come back to $1997. We still come back to TEN TIMES THE COST of a whole library of potentially life-saving knowledge of the highest calibre.
The copy says, “Why would I offer a guarantee this strong and let you go through the entire course at my risk?” (my italics). But how much is the provider actually risking here? The cost of sale, that’s all, which as we’ve seen should be minimal.
So, unless I’ve missed something, the fact is that the buyer is taking 100% of the risk here.
Note that I’m not setting out to say that Eben Pagan is doing anything wrong, or dishonest. Rather, this is the pattern across the entire information marketing sector.
Several people have accused me in comments of being jealous of “successful” Internet marketers.
I’m not. I have nothing against people making lots of money, and I myself have made lots of money in the past (six figures) selling information. So these articles are as much a journal of my personal journey as anything else.
Others will come out and accuse me of lacking “abundance mentality“.
I don’t think that charging exorbitant prices for digital information IS abundance mentality. In fact, I thin the contrary is true. It’s scarcity mentality, and it’s unnatural.
If you ever want to know how things can work optimally, just look to Nature. Nature is abundant. Flowers release their scent freely. Trees and bushes produce nuts and fruit freely. Yes, plants actually “trade” nectar for pollination and produce fruit in order to procreate, but here’s the difference…
In Nature, the giving is not tied to an up-front cost. Sure, a flower expects bees to carry its pollen to another flower, but it offers up its nectar anyway, in the hope of the reward. It does not require the bee to commit massively up-front in the transaction.
In fact, you could say it is the flower that takes the risk.
So why, in information marketing, should it be the buyer that takes all the risk?
I believe it is possible to give away practically all our information, and still make a good living. In fact, I’m proving this by giving away all products (that are all my own work) for free via Open Source Marketing and other channels.
I’m still at the early stages of these ideas, but here are a few thoughts to digest:
And that’s the crux, really. As I said at the start, if knowledge can be used to benefit others, why charge for it? Why follow scarcity thinking?
If you have specialised, advanced knowledge — if you’re the best — why not make your money by applying that knowledge? Here are some ideas for you.
There are plenty of ways to get paid for your knowledge by actually applying it in the real world.
What? You think that by refusing to share your knowledge with anyone unless they can pay makes you more valuable?
I disagree. When I look at the world, I see the very best sharing freely, creating abundance AND profiting well, while those who are stingy with their know-how are not among the best. They’re shysters and penny-pinchers who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
So I guess what I’m saying is that, in terms of The Stack, the “DIY Paid” level should ideally be incorporated into “DIY Free”. That’s the way I’m running my business now, and I hope to show you how great it can be to follow the natural, divine model and to share freely. Want to join me?
It has been a while since I felt compelled to write one of these reviews calling out Internet Marketing bullshit.
(I honestly don’t like doing it, and would prefer not to.)
But then it has been a while since I saw anything quite like this email I received today from Internet Marketing guru Russell Brunson, with the subject “want ME to write YOUR copy?”
Here’s the subject line.
And here’s the body of the email.
Now I’m not guessing that this email was spat out by the magic software. It’s well written.
The subject line makes you think, “Hey, really? Russ is gonna write my copy?” which gives you a reason to open the message.
And it gives you the familiar market trader patter of setting up the usual massive price, before saying, “But wait. Now you don’t have to pay a fortune!” plus “Usually this would be out of reach, but not anymore!” All good, tried and tested sales copy.
I don’t have a problem with any of that.
I don’t have a problem with the fact that Russell is claiming that someone had to give him equity in order to write copy for them. I’m sure that happened, although in reality it was probably far more of a happy joint venture.
No, my problem is with the proposition itself. The idea that ANY software can actually WRITE COPY.
It’s bullshit of the highest order. The only way I can really describe the supremacy of this bullshit is to borrow a line from Pulp Fiction.
Why? Because anyone who’s written copy, whether it’s good or bad, knows how hard it is, how complex, and subtle it is. And how every piece is a brand new challenge.
The process is as human as things get! There is NO SOFTWARE that can WRITE good copy, period!
Good copy means fully and intimately understanding the audience, the product, the offer, the feeling you want to create, how to generate curiosity or intrigue or whatever hooks you’re going to use to get people to keep reading. It is really, REALLY difficult.
Red Smith was asked if turning out a daily column wasn’t quite a chore. …”Why, no,” dead-panned Red. “You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed.”
So the idea that software can WRITE even basic copy effectively is preposterous. Why? Because there’s no software anywhere that can empathise with human emotions. End of story, goodnight, sweet prince.
So for Russell to say “THIS is the next best thing to having ME actually sitting in your office writing copy for you!” is not just hyperbole; it’s a blatant LIE. I bet my ass that ANY moderately talented copywriter can out-perform Russ’s machine.
I’m not saying Russell hasn’t created something that can churn out words. Clearly he has.
(And he isn’t the first. Black-hat SEOs have been using software to chew up content and vomit it back out over the web for years. The bastards.)
But that’s not the same as copy. “Copy” is the result of a creative process. Humans can create things that elegantly balance the super-complex factors of psychology, emotion, imagination, and legal responsibility. Computers can’t, and won’t be able to for a while.
Let me predict what this magical “mechanical Turk” will turn out to be. It will be a template system that asks you a bunch of questions, then spins out some familiar-sounding wordage using your responses. And will miss the mark, by a long way.
If you’re going to go to the effort of answering all the questions you need, and you really don’t have the writing gene, you would be better off taking that time to put your answers down on a brief and giving it to a third-rate copywriter on Fiverr. I’m certain you you’ll get better results.
A quick search revealed this article by Bob Bly that talks about an alternative software solution called Persado, which had just (July 2015) raised $21 million to take their product to market.
Persado seems to be far closer to the kind of AI copy-writing software that you might be expecting. It uses algorithms to help it compose a range of copy, but even then it can’t actually write.
From the article…
But, as it turns out, the WSJ misinterprets what Persado’s software is really doing. So let me set the record straight, based on a recent interview I conducted with Persado CMO David Atlas.
First, the software does not write copy in the sense that you or I might write a sales letter, ad, landing page or brochure. It cannot do what we copywriters do — yet.
Atlas explained that the Persado algorithm is limited to creating persuasive sentences with a maximum length of 600 characters.
So far, Persado is mostly used to write email subject lines, Facebook ads, text messaging for mobile marketing and short-form landing pages.
“Persado solves a mathematical word puzzle to figure out the best sentence,” says Atlas. “It automates the creation of small sentences optimized for persuasion in digital marketing that drives action.”
I love to see people innovating, solving problems in new ways, and making money selling those solutions. Bravo to every entrepreneur and inventor out there who does that.
But when I see people peddling so-called “solutions” that promise to solve problems that are as challenging — and as important — as marketing, when those “solutions” are merely patterns that have proved effective in a few cases, and pitching them as UNIVERSALLY effective, that’s where I lose my shit.
I’ve railed against cookie-cutter marketing solutions in the past, and I’ll keep doing it as long as people are losing money on them.
For example, I literally just got off a call today with a group of people who are promoting a technology that could transform the world. They invested time in studying (wait for it) Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula, and followed the system thoroughly.
No sales. Not one. The previous 2 times they sold this product, they sold over ten units (it’s a fairly high-priced training). This time, after months of work to follow PLF, zilch.
Why? Because Product Launch Formula doesn’t always work! There is NO FORMULA, there is no special sauce, no cure-all, no magic fucking beans, no answer to YOUR marketing challenge… because YOUR marketing challenge is UNIQUE!
Anyone who says there is a one-size-fits-all solution to marketing is
a) lying, and
b) about to try to sell you one.
So yes, Russell Brunson’s team have created some software. It is probably the result of months of cutting up previously successful copy from a wide range of campaigns. It has probably taken months of programming. It will certainly spit out copy in response to what you give it.
And it will fail.
I would like to see this software in action. If it really can write great copy, I will eat my hat, retract this post, and will go on record proclaiming Russell Brunson as the saviour of marketing.
(Update: I’ve now seen it in action, and it cannot create great copy. My hat is safe, hooray!)
I’ve got nothing against Russ as a person. The first time I came across him was a couple of years ago when I saw a video of a presentation he gave, and I found him immediately likeable and authentic.
I can’t remember the details of what he was talking about, but I remember sharing it with my group at the time saying, “I think this guy could be one of the good guys” because it definitely struck me with its integrity. And I know Russ has worked very closely with Dan Kennedy, who’s one of the smartest marketing minds alive.
So, before the trolls are released (as they always are) let me say this isn’t an attack on Russ, it’s a comment on the prevailing habit that many Internet marketers exhibit to extrapolate a product or service’s ability that works in some cases and claim that it could work for everyone. It can’t. Marketing isn’t like that. Sorry.
I’ve just been through a previous recording of Russ’s sales webinar where the product is actually demonstrated, which I found with a quick web search.
It’s called “Funnel Scripts“, costs $297 (at least that’s the “buy it now before it disappears” price offered at the end of the webinar), and it does exactly what I thought it would…
You enter a few details (main benefit 1, main benefit 2, main obstacle, etc.) and it spits out basically a document that slots your words into many combinations of boilerplate text (along with a bunch of other outputs like webinar presentations). So it’s basically a “fill-in-the-gaps” copy spinner.
For what it is, Funnel Scripts seems very good. But the problem is, what it is is not what it is being pitched in this email. It cannot replace a skilled copywriter.
The makers do not promise that Funnel Scripts will produce your final copy. In the webinar, they stress that all copy needs to be edited and tweaked, so you should expect to rework it to some extent.
If all you want is basic, generic, shallow, and narrow sales copy, this product WILL spit that out for you more quickly than writing it yourself, and probably more cheaply than hiring someone to write it for you.
If your market is relatively naive and dumb, that may be cost-effective, so go for it. If your market is sophisticated enough to have seen a range of similar generic sales copy before, it may not work so well.
If you know beyond doubt that your offer does not deserve its own custom strategy, this could work for you. But I can’t think of any offer I’ve worked on recently that fits that description. Even if you need to do something as basic as tell your offering’s origin story in an original way, you’re way beyond the scope of Funnel Scripts.
If your product and/or your market require particular insight (beyond the basic, brash, bold claim aimed at the unsophisticated impulse buyer), that will require close attention and the software can’t help you.
The end result will never be as good as copy that has been expertly crafted. The reason is that this software solution provides, by its nature, what is basically a relatively dumb process. As I’ve said, nobody can write software that can actually write copy, make it fit-for-purpose. All it can do (at least at this price) is automate a fill-in-the-gaps template.
To propose that this software means you don’t need to be a good copywriter or hire a good copywriter, or that it’s anything LIKE having a good copywriter write your stuff is disingenuous beyond measure, at least for 99% of us.
In other words, if you’re selling magic beans, go for it.
Here’s the final week of free videos for “The Path Program” where we start to put one foot in front of the other on the Path you choose for yourself.
What does success mean to you? You don’t have to use anyone else’s measure. Choose your own!
Turn your big goal into smaller, manageable steps, and put a timescale on them. What resources can we call on?
What do you need in order to walk your Path? What will help you? Which resources do you have access to now? Which do you not now?
Who can best help you take the next steps on your path right now? Contact them! Be okay with “no”.
What kind of team could help you along the way? Build it.
What will help you keep taking the steps forward? What support would you like to have? Set it up.
What do you need to get go of? Whose permission don’t you need? JFDI.
And here’s the wonderfully inspiring video of Pavi Mehta’s talk.
The videos for week three of “The Path Program” — a short course designed to help you get what you want most in life (really want most).
In this week we move into some serious head-work, clearing out the bullshit that keeps you standing in your own way.
Go through your list of reasons why you’re not enjoying your Path right now. Which ones are REAL?
Go through a list of stuff and mark it Right or Wrong. Then consider there is NO absolute right / wrong??
What’s the worst that could happen? Literally, write it down.
Write down all your responsibilities. Then go through and either choose each one or not. Be clear about the nature and limits of the resp. you choose.
Is it true / false / unknown? What do you choose to do with those false or unknown constraints? Is it powerful to use your Word to embrace your real constraints??
Freeing yourself from the fruit of the tree enables you to choose with power.
Pick a few things you can do in the next week.