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My job is to look at the world and wonder... "How can we make things better?"
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.)
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.”
What represents survival > security > comfort > ease > luxury? What do you choose to earn?
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?
Just pick one thing that you can BE right now, in this moment. Practice being the master of WHO YOU ARE.
List all the reasons why you haven’t got the life you would like right now.
In the summer of 2016, I got together with a couple of other coaches or facilitators to put on a course on “whatever you most want in life” and called it “The Path Program”.
We ran the course for four weeks, and I made one short video per day over that time, building from some basic principles through to putting your big plan for your life into action.
Now I’m sharing my videos with you for free. I hope you get as much out of this material as I did making it. I certainly discovered a massive amount about what I’m doing here. Enjoy!
And here’s the “Stop It” sketch I refer to.
I’ve been mulling on this idea for a few months, and I guess it’s just time to put it out there.
In brief, I’m looking to partner with a few people who want to take advantage of my online marketing platform in return for some compensation (fee / share of revenues / etc.). Specifically, I want to know YOUR ideas for how YOU would partner with me.
Here are the facts as I see them…
Webdesignfromscratch.com is a kick-ass domain! Here are the top traffic keywords from Google Analytics over the past four weeks.
That’s only what I could fit on the screen, but Analytics shows 38,313 visits to the domain in the past month, of which 29,766 came from organic search.
I also have a mailing list with over 8000 contacts that has grown by 4000 in the past year.
Bottom line: If YOU were to post your high-quality content on my website, it has a great chance of ranking well. Plus we can instantly promote it to thousands of people who are interested in web design, marketing, copywriting etc..
When I was in the agency business, I ran a five-figure monthly business with several staff with zero marketing work, other than posting on Web Design from Scratch.
Here’s what I learned early on…
Sharing what works and telling people how you get great results for clients is the perfect advertisement for your business!
While I am still working in web marketing, design, development, I don’t have the time to continue to develop new courses, books, and other products.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll have seen the evolution away from web design, SEO, CRO etc. and through ethical marketing and the open-source movement.
These days my professional focus is more on innovation for companies, and my personal passion is in the area of sustainability and green living.
So I’m not posting enough on WDFS, and I’m not mailing my list enough. These are amazing resources that are simply not being used optimally. That means there’s a huge amount of business — and money — sitting on the table.
I’m looking for a few partners who share my values, who have big ideas, and who are keen to build something cool.
This opportunity may be for you if…
Your specialist area could be almost anything, as long as it’s interesting and helpful to my audience (people who do web design, web development, or online marketing).
You may be interested in WordPress, graphic design, copywriting, email marketing, web security, search engine optimisation, pay-per-click marketing, social media, conversion rate optimisation, or pretty much any area of online marketing and tech.
I’m offering you:
What I’m asking from you is your ideas for trade.
To take the next step, simply email me with your proposal! (I promise to reply to any genuine proposal that isn’t fucking stupid.)
Today I learned that my friend and mentor Alistair Smith passed over into “whatever happens next”.
Our history is relatively short. Alistair contacted me around a year ago to discuss his visions for reconnecting the spiritual and business realms, and his ideas for bringing a new creative vitality into entrepreneurship. We struck up a friendship.
Alistair also told me that he was living with late-stage cancer, but, far from being a death sentence, for him it was an embodiment of his relationship with life. Alistair had a lot to say about his insights with this experience, and I know there will be books published about it.
I feel extremely privileged to have had the opportunity to interview Alistair about life, the universe, and everything, just a few weeks ago (as a bonus for my course “The Path” that I ran recently).
While he was physically very sick on the day we spoke, he felt energised and was able to talk for an hour.
I would love to share that interview with you.
Now, please don’t think this is about marketing or making money, although we do go into the ethics of wealth (which is fascinating). This is an opportunity to walk alongside a phenomenally wise human being on the last stage of his “earthwalk”.
I learned a huge amount from this short time with Alistair. I hope you will too.
God speed, my friend!Download MP3 Version
This is something that has been brewing for some time, and probably won’t come as a big surprise if you’ve been following me for a while.
Basically, I have decided to retire from the business of online marketing / web design.
Why? Because it is no longer a complete expression of who I AM, and there is an urge to do something more that I just can’t shake off.
I’ll explain the reasons more below, but first let me give you an outline of what’s going to happen from here:
For several years, I have been bashing my head against a wall, trying to make something happen that I thought I should do… Some kind of ethical and fair reinvention of the online marketing model that could involve a flexible network of specialists using a new profit-sharing model.
Great in principle, but (as my inner circle friends will be only too aware) never managed to see the light of day.
For a while, I told myself that the reason why I never realized that new business model was because I was either too lazy, or lacked the ability to manage.
But I now know that’s bullshit.
I now believe the real reason it never happened is because it wasn’t supposed to. Without getting too woo-woo on you, it feels like a voice has been getting louder in me, pushing me in a different direction.
As my “Finding Your Why” essay suggests, that true path or calling has always been there, and has been expressing itself through various projects and achievements…
Web design, copywriting, usability, conversion optimization, branding and positioning, ethical marketing… ALL this stuff is an expression of what I’m REALLY about… which is
“to explore and to share ways we can do things better together”
Lying beneath all those symptoms and expressions there has always been something deeper. And the truth is that none of those things has been a true, full expression of that one thing.
So I have decided to take the plunge into the one thing. If I don’t, I’ll keep going round the same carousel ride, ignoring the increasingly loud messages from (the Universe?)
Next question: What is my ultimate expression (right now) of exploring and sharing ways we can do things better??
Right now.. it’s this! It’s what I’m doing myself. It’s what I’m writing to you about in this letter..
If you go through my Circuit Questionnaire, you’ll pick up that the essence of what I want to help people or brands discover is their magnificent and unique gift that they can offer the world. (And, to be totally honest, I get a lot more excited about doing that exploration with people than with brands!)
That’s what this is… It’s the process of discovering and manifesting the BEST that we can be. Stepping into our true calling, which will not only be what will deliver personal fulfilment and happiness, but will also allow us to give the most we can to the world.
Now that I write it down, I can see how everything has been pointing this way.
Do I know exactly how it is going to pan out? No, of course not! If I did, I wouldn’t be on my edge, I’d be playing it safe!
Am I scared? Yes.
But I’m excited too.. and right now I know that some of you guys on my list will share that excitement…
Because you may be one of those folks who have felt this gnawing doubt, probably for several years, that there’s something more that you’re supposed to do… But you don’t know what it is!
So that’s where I’m going to invest my energy next. With pride and humility I’m handing over other areas of my business to people who have more drive and commitment than I can offer, so that I can create something to try to help other people (like you) to step into the life you truly want.
Briefly, I’m sketching out a program to deliver exactly that, in partnership with two other amazing facilitators. I don’t know exactly what form it will take, but I know it will be unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced, and I know it will be an experiment, a step into the unknown. If you’re interested to know more, please email me back.
There will be more to follow in the next few days. If you’ve read this far, thank you! I don’t take your attention for granted, and I truly hope I can continue to serve you in new ways.
With love, your friend,