"Earthman"

All Posts by Ben Hunt
My job is to look at the world and wonder... "How can we make things better?"

How NOT to Handle a Groupon Promotion, According to Peter Drucker

Published a few months ago - 10 Comments

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…

OK, what’s so wrong with this “Customer Service”?

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 legend Peter Drucker

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:

  • you offer an attractive discount (on a product that should be a repeat buy),
  • then do everything it takes to delight your customers,
  • and hopefully they’ll come back many times,
  • so you make your money back manyfold in the long-run through repeat business

How they totally screwed it up

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!

And now a message from Buxton Palace Hotel and Spa

What they could have done

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…

  1. Any kind of taking responsibility or apology. Even saying, “I’m so sorry, but the promotion actually closed on {x}.” (Signing off “Sincere apologies” does not count!)
  2. Any kind of alternative offer. “While I cannot honour that voucher, we would love to see you, so here’s what I can do. I’m sending you a £15 voucher for…”

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.

I am Selling Web Design From Scratch (SOLD)

Published a few months ago - 0 Comments

Update: WDFS is up for Auction on Flippa, ends August 24, 2017

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.

Traffic Erosion

The result is that, lacking fresh new content, the traffic has very slowly died off over the years.

WDFS traffic erosion over nine 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?

Massive Ranking Potential

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!

OSE summary

Here’s a summary from Analytics of the most popular search terms (2017).

Top search terms

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).

What’s the Offer?

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.

Who Should Be Excited Right Now?

I have some ideas for who the ideal new owner of WDFS might be. These include…

  • Web designers / agencies (I ran my whole 6-figure business for years on the leads I skimmed off WDFS)
  • Theme vendors
  • Course vendors
  • SEOs who specialise in the web sector (the outbound link value of this content is terrific)
  • Entrepreneurs who want to run a blog or magazine to build an audience
  • Affiliate marketers who sell web/marketing related products
  • …or whatever you do, perhaps?

If you’re interested, please feel free to comment here, or email me (ben@benhunt.com) 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.

Thanks,
Ben

A Marketing Lesson from Land Fertility

Published a few months ago - 15 Comments

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.

Here are some thoughts about how the life in our soil could relate to marketing.

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.

How does this apply to your business?

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:

  • One common approach is to consider only what you can get or take from a market.
  • A second is to view one’s business and one’s markets as interdependent.

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…

  • Creating valuable free content (not sales material in disguise)
  • Pro bono work for good causes
  • Mentoring, speaking, or coaching without demanding direct reward
  • Freely sharing your experience on social media or forums
  • Promoting others without compensation

Which way is the right way?

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.

The Elephant in the Room

Published 7 months ago - 0 Comments

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.

How would you feel about working it out together?

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.

Interested in a Course in Marketing Strategy?

Published 7 months ago - 58 Comments

The Marketing Strategy Course is now live here.

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.

  • One recorded video presentation per week for eight weeks (probably).
  • All the recorded sessions will be FREE for everyone to access (based on the views I made clear here)
  • In addition, and if there is enough interest, I may also run one or more premium live workshop sessions each week over the 8 weeks.
    • Here you get to explore the material in greater depth, and get direct support to apply it to your own situation.
    • The live workshops would be ideal for those who want to take marketing strategy further, whether to go in depth for your own business’s strategy, or to develop your skills for client service.
    • There would be a fee for these sessions, say $25 per week ($200 total).
    • These sessions would be recorded and shared only with the premium group.
    • Numbers will probably be limited to 50.

Why Marketing Strategy?

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.

  1. Marketing strategy is about knowing where a business, brand, or organization wants to get, and why. It is absolutely central to business strategy, and ultimately, success. It answers the questions: “What does it mean for us to succeed, and how will we get there?”
  2. Any campaign that is based on a well-thought-out and articulated strategy knows exactly what it needs to do and what needs to happen to achieve that. As a result, the campaign will be far more effective and less wasteful.
  3. Marketing today is more complex than ever before, because we have far more options, channels, tactics, and advice. (And much of the advice is misleading!) That makes it confusing to know how the heck to proceed with any certainty.
  4. Many of the options open to us today make it far easier to burn through a pile of money without seeing a return on your investment. This is true for education programs, consulting and other professional services, as well as marketing channels like pay-per-click.
  5. All these factors mean we could be getting to a crisis point for business owners. They will cry out for help to know how to move forwards, but have been burned enough by service providers and so-called experts who peddle “cure-all” solutions that their trust and confidence are at an all-time-low.
  6. That’s where a new profession of Marketing Strategist comes in! A Marketing Strategist is an independent consultant who has the skills to interview a client about what they want to achieve, then help put together a plan for getting there before they think about investing in platforms or creative and technical services. A professional Marketing Strategist can advise on how to roll out a strategy, and even help manage the project, but will (importantly) remain independent from specific service providers.

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.

Is This For YOU?

  • Do you genuinely enjoy working with clients to help turn their visions into reality?
  • Are you a high-level thinker, who prefers the big picture to day-to-day details?
  • Do you prefer planning and communication over technical delivery?
  • Is it in your nature to explore, to ask questions, to think bigger, or think differently?

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…

  1. If you’re just interested in following developments
  2. If you’d like to take the free course.
  3. Or if you’re also interested in the live training program.

Thanks,
Ben

Also see

Marketing is Sex

Published 7 months ago - 7 Comments

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.

Anatomy of a mortise and tenon joint

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.

Male & female connectors in a VGA interface

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.

How was it for 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.

Can Software Write Your Copy?

Published 8 months ago - 24 Comments

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.

Pulp Fiction Vince Lance

But when you shoot it, you’ll know where that extra money went. Nothing wrong with the first two. It’s real, real, real, good shit. But this one’s a fuckin’ madman.

It’s not just bullshit. It’s fuckin’ batshit-crazy madman bullshit.

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.

So What CAN Software Do?

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.

What Else is Out There?

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.”

What’s Your Problem, Ben?

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.

This is me about to lose my shit and turn green.

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.

Disclaimer

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!)

p.s.

Image from Russell’s G+ page: https://plus.google.com/+RussellBrunsonHQ

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.

Update

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.

My Conclusions

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.

The Path Program: Week Four

Published 10 months ago - 1 Comment

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.

Don’t watch these unless you’ve already worked through Week OneWeek Two, and Week Three.

Week Four Day One: Your definition of success

What does success mean to you? You don’t have to use anyone else’s measure. Choose your own!

Week Four Day Two: Break it down

Turn your big goal into smaller, manageable steps, and put a timescale on them. What resources can we call on?

Week Four Day Three: Resources

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?

Week Four Day Four: ASK

Who can best help you take the next steps on your path right now? Contact them! Be okay with “no”.

Week Four Day Five: Enrol others

What kind of team could help you along the way? Build it.

Week Four Day Six: Set up your support structure

What will help you keep taking the steps forward? What support would you like to have? Set it up.

Week Four Day Seven: Close

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 Path Program: Week Three

Published 10 months ago - 0 Comments

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.

Don’t watch these unless you’ve already worked through Week One and Week Two.

Week Three Day One: Constraints

Go through your list of reasons why you’re not enjoying your Path right now. Which ones are REAL?

Week Three Day Two: The Garden of Eden

Go through a list of stuff and mark it Right or Wrong. Then consider there is NO absolute right / wrong??

Week Three Day Three: FEAR

What’s the worst that could happen? Literally, write it down.

Week Three Day Four: Responsibilities and Masters

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.

Week Three Day Five: Verify and 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??

Week Three Day Six: Getting Free from Judgement

Freeing yourself from the fruit of the tree enables you to choose with power.

Week Three Day Seven: What Would You Like to Have Happen?

Pick a few things you can do in the next week.

The Path Program: Week Two

Published 10 months ago - 1 Comment

Here’s week two of four of “The Path Program”, which I’m making available for free. Why? Simply because I want you to have it, and I don’t want any reason for you to say no.

Don’t watch these unless you’ve already worked through Week One.

Week Two Day One:Your Path

Thread: Write down the times in your life where your Path has poked through (like a thread through cloth). What is it about those things? What is the thread?

Week Two Day Two:Your Vision

Describe the world you would like to see. (No one is right or wrong. The world you live in is the world you choose to live in.)

Week Two Day Three: Your Values

YOU get to choose. Write six words that are meaningful to you. (Or you may choose a different number.) “X is important to me, because I say X is important to me.”

Week Two Day Four:Money & Resources

What represents survival > security > comfort > ease > luxury? What do you choose to earn?

Week Two Day Five: Other People

How does your vision involve others? Who needs to be enrolled in this vision? Who will benefit from it? What’s in it for them?

Week Two Day Six: One Thing

Just pick one thing that you can BE right now, in this moment. Practice being the master of WHO YOU ARE.

Week Two Day Seven: What Keeps Us Trapped?

List all the reasons why you haven’t got the life you would like right now.

1 2 3 6