Feeding Your Marketing Muse

I don’t have to tell you we’re drowning in information.

With a few keystrokes, you can tap into an ever-expanding repository of statistics, opinions, and advice that makes the Library of Congress look like a neighborhood newsstand.

There’s no shortage of online business advice available.

Gurus have made millions peddling hope, instant results, and get-rich-quick schemes.

So access to information is at an all-time high…

But most of it is toxic.

99% of it is about as useful as a piece of chewing gum you stepped on in a parking lot.

“Listicles,” social media feeds, and celebrity gossip make up most of the average user’s online diet.

They offer a quick hit of pleasure, but nothing substantial for a discerning business owner like yourself.

They’re empty calories for your brain.

It’s easy to waste a lot of time on this stuff. It happens to me if I’m not careful.

What we put into our heads shapes the quality of thought that comes out of them.

You wouldn’t expect to get a six pack eating pizza every day…

But many forget this principle when it comes to their information diet. They chow down on empty words and sound bytes. Then they wonder why they’re struggling to grow their business.

If you want to have a better understanding of what it takes to run a successful business, maybe it’s time to consume better information.

Ray Bradbury, one of my favorite authors of all time, urged aspiring writers to “feed the muse.”

He encouraged them to fill their minds with short stories, essays, and poetry. To draw information from a variety of quality sources so it could rattle around inside their heads. Bradbury credited much of his creativity to practicing this throughout his career.

I think it can also work for businesses.

That’s why I’m on a mission to consciously improve the quality of my information sources.

We can’t absorb all of the stuff out there, and because most of it’s garbage, we don’t need to.

It’s time to go deeper instead of broader.

Less clickbait and tweets.

More books.

If you’re low on ideas and struggling to improve, take a look at what you’re letting into your mind.

Is your marketing muse a sedentary, overweight fast-food junkie?

Or is she a healthy, happy, organic-food loving inspiration?

The choice, as always, is up to you.

On Cutting Corners and the Death of Customer Service

I’m writing this from about 30,000 feet somewhere over west Texas.

It’s my bachelor party weekend – Vegas. And with my friends running the show, I’d say I have about a 50/50 chance of making it back unscathed.

I grabbed a cup of coffee while I was waiting for my plane to board.

Paid the frazzled cashier, and she just handed me an empty cup and pointed.

“You get your coffee over there. It’s self serve.”

What?

The craziest part: she said this like it was a good thing. Progress.

But all it meant to me was standing in another line and trying to guess which carafe was fresh.

I’ve noticed this trend practically everywhere I go.

Self checkout at the grocery store.

Pump your own gas (that’s been going on since before I can remember).

Airlines that won’t even give you a freaking drink on a three-hour flight.

And on and on.

With the exception of a few companies like Zappos, customer service is going the way of the dinosaurs.

I call it the customer service death spiral.

Everyone’s cutting corners on the most ridiculous things.

Everyone’s obsessed about shaving costs to the bare minimum.

These businesses are foolish. They’re pinching pennies while real money slips through their fingertips.

Was it really worth saving fifty centers on a soft drink to lose a customer for good?

(I’m talking to you, Frontier Airlines…)

But this is a great opportunity for you.

Consumers are so used to being disappointed – to being frustrated from every angle – that it doesn’t take much to delight them.

When everyone around you is lowering the bar, it’s easier than ever to clear it… as long as you’re willing to look at the big picture.

It’ll cost you some time and money up front…

But it’ll pay off for months and years to come in the form of more sales, profits, and raving fans.

So send that email asking customers how you’re doing.

Spend an extra half hour each day bonding with people on social media.

Figure out the language they use and weave it into your web copy.

These are your customers, after all. Your lifeblood.

I can’t think of a better investment.

Why Obsessing about Originality is a Recipe for Low Conversions

Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. – Jim Jarmusch

Tired of looking for the latest, greatest way to captivate your audience and turn them into customers?

Sick of striving endlessly for that new angle – that hook that no one’s ever seen before?

You aren’t the only one.

A lot of business owners make “being original” one of their guiding philosophies.

This carries over into not just how they develop products, but how they write copy and blog posts.

Entertaining and useful aren’t enough. Everything has to be original.

Except there’s a big problem with that: it’s not the best way to operate your online business.

This is something I struggled with for a long time when I first started writing. I refused to accept that I was influenced by others. I refused to accept anything that even looked like someone else’s ideas or work.

(You probably don’t have to guess how that worked out…)

But a lot of trial and error shoved me against the harsh reality: we’re all products of the people we meet, the movies we watch, and the things we read.

Those ideas are stirring around like soup broth in our minds. They flavor every product we design and every word we write.

And that’s okay!

We don’t have to fight that. We can let go of the insane burden to come up with a never-ending stream of revolutionary ideas… all on our own.

It’s a lot less stressful that way.

If you’re struggling to produce more engaging content, why not draw on the deep well of knowledge thousands of experts have already drilled?

Why not research content topics that are already performing well in your niche?

Why not reverse engineer your competitors’ best products to figure out why they’re selling so well?

Why not study direct response copywriting concepts that have been split-tested to death for decades?

You might be worried about “losing your identity” when you tap into time-tested formulas and concepts…

But you shouldn’t be.

Your influences matter, but so does your unique prospective. That’s the special seasoning that turns the chicken broth into something unforgettable.

All you have to do?

Be authentic.

Don’t put on a front to make your business sound more professional.

Don’t water down the unique quirks that makes you you.

Biker Gangs and Bad Copywriting

Ever seen the show Sons of Anarchy?

It’s an action series on FX about motorcycle gangs in Northern California.

A bit cheesy at times, but it’s full of plot twists and surprisingly complex characters.

Not really my scene. I didn’t love the show at first, but now I’m hooked.

(Seriously. You should see my Netflix queue…)

Anyways, there’s something about the main character that rubs me the wrong way.

This guy, a long-haired, Viking-looking dude named “Jax,” makes plenty of reckless decisions.

He butts heads with the club’s president a lot, but his intentions are pure: he’s trying to make the club something better.

For all of his badassery and witty remarks, there’s something about the character that doesn’t ring true to me.

He’s supposed to be a small-town tough guy from California…

But there’s something strange about the way he delivers his lines.

It took me a few episodes to pick up on it. But now I can’t unhear it. Every now and then, a British accent slips into his white trash drawl.

It isn’t completely obvious, but it’s there.

It’s enough to pull my attention away from the drama and remember it’s just some dude reading lines – not a badass biker.

The dialog is well-written…

It’s the delivery that’s the problem. And that little mismatch is all it takes to break TV’s magic spell and throw people off.

This happens with web copy all the time.

A subtle gap between the message that resonates with the visitor and the message on the page.

It diverts attention and crushes momentum: two key components for every conversion.

You can avoid this by using the exact language your target customers want you to use. Matching the message and the delivery to make it as compelling as you can.

Great copy is like a clear mirror.

It reflects your prospects’ problems, frustrations, and deepest desires. And it does this by tapping into the conversation already going on inside their heads.

You might have the hook of your copy right. But it won’t be as effective as it could be if the delivery is a little off.

I’m talking a matter of degrees here. The smallest substitutions in language can make a huge difference in conversions and profits.

Market research will get you on the right track…

But the only way you can really nail it?

Talk to your customers. Pick up the phone or send them an email survey. Listen to how they frame their frustrations and how they’d like to eliminate them.

Death to all assumptions!

Those are what make you come off like a part redneck, part British guy pretending to be in a biker gang.

Martial Arts Marketing

A few months back, I was in a bit of a rut.

I was working hard on my business. That meant spending most of my days (and nights) sitting behind a desk.

I needed something to get the blood flowing – to challenge myself physically.

I ended up meeting a Brazilian jiu jitsu instructor at a friend’s housewarming party. I saw my opportunity, and I jumped on it.

It’s been two and a half months and a ton of bruises and sore muscles…

But I haven’t quit.

The learning curve’s steep, but it’s been a blast. A great workout and a way to meet some cool people.

One of the things that struck me the most was how consistently people gave me the same piece of advice:

Remember to breathe.

It sounds like such a simple thing.

But it’s amazing how quickly you forget it when there’s a 200-pound man on top of you trying to choke you.

Something that usually comes so naturally flies out the window under so much stress. It gets much harder to fight back and pull off effective techniques.

This happens in online business too.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the insanity of the day to day.

There are customers to satisfy. Products and services to develop. And countless new traffic techniques and tools to try out.

It’s enough to drive even the most organized business owner loco.

Getting sidetracked from time to time is only natural… but it can cause us to “forget to breathe” and lose sight of the fundamentals.

What makes any online business successful for the long haul?

A systematic approach to drive new visitors to your website.

An engaging platform that fosters profitable relationships.

And outstanding service and follow up to convert customers into raving fans.

These things are like oxygen.

Are you treating them accordingly?

Do you have a plan to keep them pumping through your business?

Most importantly: are you executing that plan consistently?

For a lot of people struggling to find the “missing piece” between them and profits, the answer lies in getting back to basics.

Things are nuts out there. Especially online.

But don’t forget to breathe!