Don’t Sell… Teach

In the beginning, people spoke with one another directly in the local marketplace, and the merchants taught those people about the value of their wares.

And as things began to be sold one to many, and the brand was born to assure buyers of quality and consistency, publicizing that brand to lots of people was all that was necessary.

But it was soon not good enough.

And Claude Hopkins said, “Let us sell with scientific advertising,” and there was systematic testing for determining which words worked best when selling a product.

And Hopkins saw that testing was good, as it increased advertising response and efficiency.

And David Ogilvy said, “Let us sell image, not product,” and behold, there were television commercials that focused on brand image, not features or benefits.

And Ogilvy saw that selling brand image was good, because it told people stories bigger than the product itself.

And Raymond Rubicam said, “Let us hire this Gallup fellow, and sell based on demographic profiles,” and the separate worlds of scientific advertising and brand image would eventually become melded together into one powerful force.

And years later, many, many advertising agencies saw that it was good, and so did Nike.

And Seth Godin said, “Let us not interrupt, but instead sell by permission,” as smart marketers began to realize that the Internet was somehow very different from other media.

And Godin saw that permission marketing was good, because consensual relationship selling, mixed with tested copy and demographically-targeted stories, boosts response significantly.

But then something happened.

People began to efficiently speak with one another directly in a virtual marketplace.

And they refused to be marketed at, as they were as media savvy as the marketers themselves (and often more so).

And permission and trust were harder to find online, as they had been abused.

And so some random guy, who doesn’t even belong on the same page as those above, said “Let us not sell, but instead teach,” based on his experience using educational copywriting to begin relationships that lead to sales.

And so he wrote a tutorial series called Tutorial Marketing, about a strategy that places a blog at the very center of your online marketing efforts, since good tutorials not only sell, but also attract vital links and traffic as well.

And you’ll be the one who determines if it’s good, right?

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9/11/2006

Leave it to a Brit to say it best:

New York still remains the greatest city in the world. That must really bug America-haters everywhere. 

Thanks, Hugh.

Why is “Sell” Such a Bad Word?

Sell.

Selling.

Sales.

Not very popular words, are they?

Quite frankly, I wasn’t initially sure whether I would be banished from the blogosphere for daring to use the word “sell” in my tagline.

Even “marketing” is a dirty word.

It’s now “unmarketing” or some crazy new word altogether.

Like ooze.

And don’t even dare say “viral marketing” around Pinko Marketer Tara Hunt:

Anyone who even uses the word ‘viral’ should be dragged out onto the streets and shot brutally…

Oh my.

For a group espousing authenticity and transparency, these people spend a lot of time trying to cover up what they do for a living.

They sell.

And they are all praying for their ideas to go viral.

Now, some may feel that this qualifies as hypocrisy on their part.

No, not really.

It’s just selling.

If the audience doesn’t like a word, find one they do like.

So, I suppose I should go ahead and “re-brand” the word sell myself.

I’ll give it some thought over the weekend.

Hope you have a good one.

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3 Coercive Copywriting Techniques

I spent some time recently talking about manipulation and lies.

I told you those two stories so you could see where I think the line gets crossed by marketers, but also so I could tell you this story.

In 1999 Douglas Rushkoff published a book called Coercion, which essentially tracks the evolution of marketing into a branch of psychology. He illustrates exactly how marketers try to influence and persuade you in various media, and outlines the history of marketing as a measured science.

It all started with a copywriter named Claude Hopkins who first applied empirical testing to advertising elements back in the 1920s, and of course things have only become more sophisticated. Massive database profiles, television “programming,” contextual web ads, sophisticated algorithms that make recommendations based on past behaviors—these are some of the ways marketers are trying to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time.

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Why Magnetic Headlines Attract More Readers

Do you know who Nellie Connally is?

I do, but that has a lot to do with me being just barely old enough, and because I’ve lived most of my life in Texas.

That’s why this News 8 Austin headline works for me:

Former Texas first lady Nellie Connally dead at 87

However, there are a whole lot of people who are interested in the bigger story that Nellie played a part in, but that News 8 headline would have sailed right over their heads.

So, the AP wisely went with this instead:

Woman in JFK limo during shootings dies

Great headlines specifically tell the big story, unless you’re absolutely, positively sure that your audience gets the big story without elaboration.

For more on writing great headlines, including tips on keywords and winning headline templates, check out the Magnetic Headlines series.

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Pez Dispensers and Living the Big Lie

As a follow-up to my last post, I thought it might help to revisit this excerpt from Viral Copy:

During eBay’s rapid rise, the company nurtured a quaint rumor about its origins, claiming that founder Pierre Omidyar had created the site in 1995 so that his fiancee could trade Pez candy dispensers with other collectors.

Alas, the Pez myth, it was later revealed, had been fabricated by eBay’s public-relations director in 1997 to generate buzz about the site. Source: Anecdotage

It’s up to you whether your story is a complete fabrication. I tend to lean aggressively toward complete honesty, delivered in a creative fashion. Ethics aside, the blogosphere will call you out at the first opportunity. And it won’t be pretty.

No matter what, you must have a story that people want to hear, and then you’ve got to live that story. In that regard, eBay CEO Meg Whitman was often photographed with Pez collections and had more than 100 dispensers displayed in the lobby at eBay headquarters, despite the fact that the company origin was a fairy tale.

Now, the eBay origin story may seem like only a little white lie, but it’s actually a big lie. Whether it be science, religion, comic books or companies, origin stories are hugely important, and that crafty PR director knew it.

Because the lie was big, and because eBay lived the lie, it worked.

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Viral Manipulation for Fame and Profit

While it’s been a hot topic since Hotmail went huge, the buzz about viral marketing has never been stronger thanks to both social media and ubiquitous online video. No doubt every MBA with an emphasis in marketing is talking about “viral stories” in between latte slurps.

As a painful example of a story that went viral big and fast, think about how many people knew the name John Mark Karr prior to two weeks ago.

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7 Steps to Creating and Selling a Niche Information Product

The announcement of Tubetorial has generated a nice response. Some people want to get involved, hundreds have signed up, and others simply want to know what the initial topics are.

Three guesses what my first one is.

Now, creating and selling information is certainly not as compelling as a human Mentos and Diet Coke mixer, or a toilet-flushing cat. But I figure there are some people out there that would like to learn more about it.

Here’s the index page for the video series on creating niche ebooks.

  1. Why Sell Information?
  2. What’s Your Information Product About?
  3. Your Information Business Model (Part One)
  4. Your Information Business Model (Part Two)
  5. How to Create Your Information Product the Quick and Easy Way
  6. Why Ebook Covers and Information Packaging Are Crucial to Success
  7. Why Copywriting is the Key to Selling Ebooks and Other Information Products
  8. Dramatically Increase Sales With Copywriting Software and Conversion Tracking
  9. The Traffic Advantage of the Information Product Publisher

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Has Problogger Been Hacked?

I was just over at Darren Rowse’s Problogger leaving a comment, and when I hit send I was redirected to a script-kiddy / hacker page telling me I’d been owned. I didn’t stick around to look more carefully than that.

Now the whole site is broken at the database level (safe mode?).

Anyone know what’s going on?

UPDATE: The b5 guys are on it, main site back but the job boards are “owned” by an alleged political group. Just to clarify, Darren is not hosted with the rest of b5 — he has separate hosting with Rachel Cunliffe and others (who were also partially hit by this hack).

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Telling People a Story They Want to Hear

I really enjoyed Hugh MacLeod’s interview with Seth Godin (two great reads who read great together). And it was especially interesting to hear about the frustration Seth feels when people sometimes don’t get what he means.

This reminds me of some of the flack he caught when his book All Marketers Are Liars was released. Now, I’m quite sure Seth knew exactly what he was doing when he titled the book (students of headlines take note). But I think he might have been caught off guard when some people didn’t get the real points within the pages (like the reviewer from Publisher’s Weekly).

Good marketers aren’t liars, except to the extent all people are—because we all lie to ourselves constantly. We want to hear stories that fit our existing world views, whether those views are accurate or not. And we want to primarily satisfy emotional needs, because ultimately that’s where we all seek happiness and contentment.

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