What to Do When Your Idea Sucks

Imagine being an author, writing a book and toiling away in solitude.

You’ve got a general idea for the overall subject matter that’s good, but of course that idea has to be executed on chapter by chapter.

How would you know if one of those chapters sucked?

I suppose if you had a really good, attentive editor, she might tell you. But that’s a luxury that even most published authors don’t have.

So, in all likelihood, you just wouldn’t know.

Blogging is quite different. It’s fairly easy to see when response heightens or dips with certain subject matter.

As Darren pointed out this week, only about 1% of your audience routinely participates in the comments. When you hit one out of the park, participation rises.

But when even the 1% fail to show up, you know you’re in trouble.

Which brings us to the Tutorial Marketing series.

Now, I can’t say that the subject itself sucks. I’ve used these methods to sell stuff online for 8 years, and you’ve seen it in action as an audience builder on this very blog.

Still, you don’t seem into it. The response to the first post was ok, but interest died once I started to get into the substance.

So what do you do when your readers don’t respond to something you felt was important and viable?

You ask why.

So, what is it? I’m leaning towards the name… maybe “tutorial marketing” is just so un-sexy that it’s a turn off.

Maybe it’s something else. You tell me (please). :)

Why not just drop it all together?

Well, like I said, it’s a fairly important topic. I just need to hear from you so I can figure out how to reframe it for the book.

You did know about the book, right?

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Comments

  1. The title works for me, but I’ll guess sucks for most people. Tutorial sends people mentally back to high school perhaps, and not the part about drinking beer and not getting caught.

    Tutorial reminds me of “forced work camp” and similar unpleasantries.

    Editors — mine was great and he got fired. Expect the publisher to get the book in the stores, and not much else, but you know that!

  2. I’m still coming back to your site every day, Brian. In fact, several times per day.

    I think the reason you receive so many comments on other posts is because they’re either controversial or you bait us with ambiguity.

    With tutorial marketing, I don’t think you’ve given anyone anything to argue over. You’ve just been informing us.

    I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m fine with that… at least for one series.

  3. Hi Brian,

    I really like the site [that despite it could be considered direct competition to a product that I sell ;)] but I find the tutorials are coming too slow.
    I’d like to watch the “Info Products” series from start to end, or at least one a day, but once every week or two and it loses its value.
    My 2 cents.

  4. Jon (Symons), thanks for the feedback, but I’m not talking about Tubetorial (that site is doing fantastic).

    I’m talking about the Tutorial Marketing series of posts I’ve been doing lately.

    Sorry about the confusion!

  5. I’m not sure that I would agree with you when you say “But when even the 1% fail to show up, you know you’re in trouble.”

    Comments are nice but they are not the foundation anyone should necessarily be building their blog on.

    The most important factor in a successful blog or successful posts are the number of people who come every day to read.

    Perhaps you delivered your message in a way that was perfectly clear and understandable. If that’s the case who cares whether people comment or not?

    Sychophantic ‘great post’ comments aren’t worth the bytes they’re written on imho.

  6. ooops, sorry…it did surprise me since the site is so cool.

  7. I’ve enjoyed the series personally but I simply haven’t anything to add, also If I see a bunch of “Great post Brian!” sort of comments, I don’t see any real value in commenting.

    (besides, I am part of that 90% of lurkers)

  8. >>Comments are nice but they are not the foundation anyone should necessarily be building their blog on.

    Of course they are not the foundation, the content is.

    But comments are a guide that one doesn’t get via other avenues. If someone actually takes time out of their life to say “great post,” that means something.

    Getting people to take any form of action is the secret to effective marketing, so never discount the effort someone takes to comment on your post, no matter how brief. I’m really surprised at this reaction from you, Stuart.

  9. Comments are awesome Brian. Take it from a guy who doesn’t get any :)

    Anyway, on to tubetorial. I agree that the tutorials are coming quite slow. Maybe more effective communication with your list would be in order, and letting us ( them) know when you are going to update?

    PS- maybe also, actually walking someone through the creation of a info product?

    (This would be time intensive, so you should charge).

    Basically Brian, if people are willing to pay you for your knowledge, which they are, leverage that in some way.

    If you are honest, and I think you are, then go above and beyond all the other gurus out there.

    How? Simple.
    1. Be contactable: Most of these guys don’t ever let anyone personally contact them. Big mistake. It breeds mistrust.
    2. Be sincere: You’ve got this one down.
    3. Don’t promise to make me rich in 30 days b/c you know some stupid secret. Give me real life examples.
    4. Be razor sharp specific: Don’t be vague. Are there links? Websites? resources? we want those.

    Hope that helps.

  10. I don’t know why you should be surprised Brian – I’ve never been one for ‘great post’ comments.

    More often than not those comments are just coming from people who are looking for a little link-love (either through click throughs or search engines) and so those comments are of little value if you are trying to assess the relevancy of something you might have covered in your original post.

    Personally I would much rather have someone go and buy what I’m selling than sucking up to me by telling me what a great post I wrote.

  11. The more I think about this… maybe you’re a feedback junkie.

    You like stepping up to the plate, not because you want to score, but because of the roar of the crowd. Batting 1000 and winning the game isn’t enough; you want to hear the cheers… or failing that, the boos.

    Of course, if that’s what you’re in it for, there’s nothing wrong with that. You’re just not Seth Godin. You turned on comments, and you want to hear from people.

    Or maybe I’m just being dramatic.

  12. Great Post!

    ;)

    I’m a lurker. But I’ve learned SO MUCH reading this blog.

    So…

    I don’t care what you call the tutorial marketing series. Just keep doing it!

    P.S. Brian, will you please sell me something so that I don’t feel guilty getting all this great information for free?

  13. Jon, that’s hilarious.

    This blog is the first “public” thing I’ve ever done.

    I’m actually a sales junkie, and I am much more comfortable behind the scenes.

    And as for Seth… trackbacks (as links) are more valuable than comments, and he can get away with that so he does. But I guarantee you he factors in what people are saying when he’s planning the next book.

    The comments on this post are hugely instructive to me (even if they seemed to go off in their own direction). It lets me know that there’s a lot more I have to offer, and yes Lawton, it won’t be free.

    Stuart, again, surprising. WordPress blogs have “no follow” instituted by default, so if people are here looking for google juice, they’re deluded. And “great post” comments do not inspire click through traffic.

    Man, I thought I was cynical… :)

    Thanks Craig. The funny thing is, I just announced in this post for the first time that I’m in the process of writing a book, and no one said a word. Did everyone just assume that? :)

  14. I assume you like to surprise, and I was right.

  15. This blog is the first “public” thing I’ve ever done.

    Brian, what about that little “exposure” thing in Austin back in ’93?

    How soon we forget.

  16. Chris, I believe the actual final charge was merely public intoxication. Please check your facts. :)

    (this is a joke people)

  17. Hi, I’m following the “tutorial” series as I’m working on a (fairly boring) product tutorial project. I found you following links and I immediately put you on favorites and signed up for the e-mails. I RARELY do that, I’m a HARD sell.

    I don’t post comments generally because I am ignorant and therefore have nothing positive to add. :)

    I really wanted you to know that your content is excellent, I know a master when I read one, therefore I’m reading and re-reading your stuff avidly, I’m working on putting your knowledge into my niche. So, I’m in your tutorial “class” and I don’t expect results for awhile. Writing a good tutorial isn’t as easy as it sounds and every point requires a lot of work, thinking, emoting, and brainstorming.

    What you really might be wanting is a “sound-off” of those using your blog as a “tutorial class”. I’m here!

    You’ve fired me up to begin, let’s see if I can go through each point and turn out something exceptional (especially on a relatively dull topic, lol).

  18. Can you link to some examples of posts that you thought should have gotten more feedback?

  19. Rafi, I never think posts “should” get more of anything, I just watch to so which ones do. :)

    The best advice I can give to all is to pay very close attention to your comments, and become an active participant in your comment section.

    If you get one comment, jump in there and respond. Not only will you have doubled your comments for that post, you’ll encourage others to step up and comment as well.

    People want to feel like there’s someone there who will talk to them. That’s one of the really cool things about blogs, but it seems like some people think they are above the fray when it comes to their own comment sections!

  20. Yargh. That title was misleading…I was looking for a solution to my failed ideas :O

  21. And I gave it to you…

    Ask someone why. :)

  22. Better bold that :D!

  23. Hello Brain,
    First off, I am not someone to comment quickly to postings, ..maybe I should.

    For the low comments on your Tutorial series… maybe there to good!
    I love them and read them mostly several times and then find myself visiting your site again and again.

    So if your postings on the mather are this good as a Tutorial :-) go and put it all together in a book!

    But first let us enjoy your Tutorials even more, I always look forward to a new one.

    And yes, I promise to comment more, positive and sometimes critical.

  24. Tutorial marketing is a great series – please don’t kill it!

    You could be right about the word ‘tutorial’ putting some people off. I’m discovering a similar thing on my current research project – some people hate the word ‘coaching’, even when they like the activity.

    So if you come up with a cool new word for teaching/tutoring/coaching, I’d love to hear it!

  25. Nice tutorial on comments, Brian. I like the way you teach through example by posting responses to comments. I always send a personal note to each commenter thanking them for participating in the conversation… but of course that reveals that I don’t get many of them! On coachezines.com, the content is pretty straight forward, educational, and I don’t expect many comments. As for feedback, my experience is you have to ask each time and only the 1% respond. I know I need to stir things up a bit to get better responses. The most response I got was when I wrote about the proper use of em dashes and en dashes… go figure…

  26. I don’t really understand the concept. I’m sure it’s simple, but I never really bothered to find out. I couldn’t tell you why I have been so apathetic in comparison to, say, your ‘headline’ series.

  27. Brian – You’ve received some really insightful comments here, but I’d like to add:

    1 – Some things are easier to comment on then others. I don’t know if you’ve gotten any email feedback on the series, but maybe you could suggest that. Some folks like critiquing an author publicly, and others don’t. They may be afraid of saying something they think is stupid, or that they may not have the “authority” to suggest or say something sucks. Though there are lots of people who don’t have this problem at all :)

    2 – The concept is a great one. I’ve used the “How Do I Do This? Marketing” premise myself in speeches and such. I’ve been looking forward to your take, but it may not be something people get. I think your first post on the topic did a good job of explaining from a general sense, but based on a couple of comments and how it could be read, some may be scratching their heads.

    3 – You launched the series around the same time as the Tubetorial. Again based on the comments, there may be some confusion as to what is what. The names are similar (well, at least have “torial” in them).

    Just my $0.02…

  28. You’re writing a book. That’s awesome. Where do I buy it?

    As for me, I admit that I don’t find this series as sexy and immediately practical as say “Copywriting 101″ or “How to Write Headlines.” So I just read it and move on. (Except yesterday when you goaded us about the false dichotomy between copywriting and journalism.)

    As for your comments about the importance of editors. Thanks! Mostly, we just get abused by writers who think their work is some kind of holy inerrant revelation.

  29. I think I’ll save the practical part of Tutorial Marketing for the book. :)

  30. Hey, i don’t think “your idea sucks” anymore . I opened up gmail today with the comment tags, and it was like a forum of ideas and opinions. Just what you wanted :)

    P.S- I don’t really agree that Seth doesn’t want comments on his blog. I mean, don’t turn them on, i get that.

    But don’t be like , ” i’m too important and don’t want my ideas challenged”.

    That’s how it comes across to me. I could be totally wrong.

  31. I meant, that it seems that Seth is too good for comments. Is this what others feel?

  32. Seth does allow comments, in the form of trackbacks. And every trackback results in another link to his blog, making it even more popular.

    He also answers his email, even from nobodys like me :)

  33. Brian;

    You would be better off hanging your hat on educational marketing or “edu-marketing” as Bob Bly calls it.

    I have been selling educational marketing for some time, BUT I have not called it that.

    Maybe affinity building, selling by way of education, …

    It seems to me that people are MOST interested in what you have to say about writing.

    I would use that as a platform to get your covert educational message conveyed.

    All my best!

    Mike

  34. Like I said, if I could get away with just trackbacks, I would. :)

    And Seth is amazing with email… I don’t know how he does it. My inbox is a disaster area!

  35. My inbox is a disaster too. Maybe it has something to do with too much hair? :)

  36. Michael, nice feedback, thanks.

    Tutorial marketing *is* a strategic approach to writing copy that sells without using in-your-face tactics, so maybe I just haven’t done a good enough job of making that clear.

    Of course there are also non-writing strategies that go hand in hand with the actual copy.

  37. Brian,

    Every post you write is a mini-tutorial on something.

    Further, you have a popular posts, and resources.

    Why do you want the extra category? It does appear to be doing any real work – but, what do your log servers say about visits to the category? Perhaps the number of comments are consistent with the number of visits?

  38. Hi Brian – I just recently discovered your blog and think that the information is very useful and insightful (as well as the comments and dialogue from your readers).

    I too am embarking on a Free Video Tutorial Series in the pay per click arena that I hope to showcase very soon on my blog – so I firmly believe in tutorial marketing. It’s such an effective sales tool – you have to be willing to give in order to get (not to sound cliche). I work in a number of niches, one of them being real estate. The most successful realtors are ‘SERVICE oriented’ versus ‘SALES oriented’. They are willing to give an awful lot (time, information, knowledge) just to win the business. Please keep up your series on tutorial marketing. I’ll continue to check back and make comments as I make more progress on my own work.

    On the other hand, maybe this post from Scott Adams will be useful:

  39. Your absolutely right. Sorry about the Seth thing. I forgot about his awesme email response.

    Brian, I need all the feedback I can get. Do you guys care to take a look at my blog , http://www.songsblog.com.
    I think it does suffer from a lack of focus. There are so many doing this online though, when it comes to marketing, Idon’t want to copy people.

    Sorry if it’s inappropriate to ask for feedback on your blog here. :)

  40. Brian, been following the series with interest, filling in the big gaps of what I found by accident. Tutorials sell, or posts with “tutorial” in the title are popular.

    The most popular post on my blog is”Layering flash and html tutorial” which is a very simple step by step how to, it get three times the attention of the original post “Flash and the fluid elastic design”. Which was about the pros and cons of using that method, and provided some details, but not enough, so I provided the “tutorial” after a request.

    I know that tutorial marketing works but maybe selling it to others requires a better name than “tutorial marketing”. “tutorial on marketing with tutorials” is not an alternative. “teaching sells”, “marketing by teaching” or even “marketing by teaching tutorial”;-) is the best I can do, but I am a lousy copy writer. That is why I am here and prime target audience for your book.

  41. >>Why do you want the extra category? It does appear to be doing any real work –

    It’s not a category, it’s actually an important aspect of the book I’m writing. In essence, I want to teach people the methodology I use. There’s way more to it, but I lost steam due to lackluster response, and am now taking a step back to work on it based on everyone’s comments. :)

  42. Hi Brian – I wrote a “how to” on white papers. Had 40,000 people download it over a few years. The trick is figuring out what to do AFTER they have the document so you can sell to people. Eveyone wants something free. But, how do you convert that into a sale. Something worth talking about in your book. (I would be happy to share my thoughts offline if you need a case example). – Mike

  43. Well, the focus of that document was tough… too bad your book wasn’t out yet. :)

    But if I get something downloaded 40,000 or even 100 times, it had better sell something, whether it’s a product, a service, a subscription, or an idea.

  44. Brian – In my case, they “registered” for it. So, I had that captured important information. Helped establish my newsletter audience, sell some big services, the book, etc.

    So I am big proponent of the ideas you talk about.

    Mike

  45. Yep, the opt-in is a key point.

  46. What , do you feel, is the best way to get folks to opt in. I notice that you don’t offer a incentive. But, i guess the incentive is your free content and tutorials.

  47. Lawton – Depends what you are offering. I am an advocate of a partial free sample and then register to get the rest.

    See how I did it here:
    http://www.stelzner.com/copy-HowTo-whitepapers.php

  48. I used to do everything strictly opt-in, and in most cases still do. Here, I like to keep things as open as possible, which is more in keeping with the spirit of the blogosphere. I didn’t even put Viral Copy on an austoresponder, while I normally would have.

    That being said, I’m not selling anything here yet either. And if I had to do it over, I might have made VC contingent on a subscription.

    Still might. :)

  49. I write howtos all the time on my blog, but I must be doing something wrong, because I’m not getting any feedback. It must be me, not the name of my blog… (I didn’t choose it).

    I wonder how much my site gets censored because of its name and how much my mail goes unanswered because I use the same site in a signature line. oh well.

    I love your tips. They are incredibly useful. Copyblogger is kind of like a watering hole for thirsty travelers on the web.

    I wrote a funny article on top ten tips to know if you are a loser blogger, but I self-censored it. (sigh). I’ll just keep trying….

  50. the title ‘tutorial marketing’ IS just plain unsexy and offputting. You are the king of headlines, so you’ll just simply reframe it with a great catchy title: “get rich, change the world, acquire fame”
    with the power of tutoral marketing (this would be the second line).

    I’ve been reading your tutorials, and haven’t been responding due to my own shortcomings; I’m learning from you and want to learn more.

    Thanks

  51. I am representing one who skims your entries when they pop into my mailbox, then stash them in a folder for hard times. I usually go back to them when I want to review specific info related to what I’m doing at the time. So I have missed out completely on what your big idea was even about. My first instinct response to your quandry was “What is Tutorial Marketing, anyway? What is he talking about and do I really have time to go and investigate it? No.” (Not until I’m intrigued)
    I’m with some of your other fans here, it would grab me if your title told me much more specifically what it is you are offering.
    A while back I bought M. Port’s Book Yourself Solid: …even if you hate marketing and selling… because I wanted exactly that at the moment. Something snapped me out of my email trance and I bought the idea immediately.

    Good luck!

  52. I’m going to go a different route here and say that it may ne a little less commented on and subscribed to due to the actual content, which I think is actually out of line for a lot of bloggers.

    Blogging and marketing people are very different.

    Bloggers, for the most part, think everything should be free and to design something to sell is against their grain.

    Marketers that use blogs, like me, love the hell out of this series.

    I now market to 4 different industries with corporate sponsores or paid blogs.

    Most of the blogosphere just wants a way to say something, not sell something.

    We that use blogs as another way to market look for every angle to create a product that sells.

    The idea of creating an info product scares the crap out of most people.

    All it needs is a new angle on the exact same product.

    I have the rights to a product that was poorly marketed. All my partner and I did was redo the sales letter and create a different angle.

    Same content, different angle, 400% better results.

  53. I am at the tail end of the food chain when it comes to knowing how to blog. I started blogging in hopes of picking up some $$ by click through’s and links to my Cafe Press shop to maybe sell some of my art. People like me really need your advice because we feel like we are just jumping on the blogger train (I am 56) after it has hit top speed.

    You write such great headlines for everyone else, but you say you wonder if your own book title (no, I didn’t know about the book) isn’t cutting it. Maybe books are like children, and if you don’t name them right away (with a *real* name) then you are protecting them until you feel they are OK to go out into the real world?

    “Tutorial Marketing” does sound a little “vanilla ice cream-ish”.

    My $0.01

  54. First, I’m chiming in with a couple “me too”s.

    1. The series is good, helpful, worth continuing and worthy of inclusion in the book.

    2. Given your obvious high-level skills, the title is oddly uninspiring even though the content is spot-on for those of us who sell for a living.

    3. (final me too) Let me know when the book comes out – I’ll buy it.

    I think the “Tutorial Marketing” concept is directly applicable to anyone who sells the output of their brain. More often than not, the reader who enjoys the tutorial and isn’t (yet) your client, but is a prospect, is really reinforcing your worthiness in the value / dollars exchange. They may have time to read, but most don’t have the time to implement.

    Like white papers, the tutorial (or any free advice) merely reinforces your authority.

    And your authority is clear in this context.

    Thank you!

  55. Brian, what you give away for free, and the feelings such gifts create, reminds me of the feelings I got recently when I received get well cards in the mail after an operation I endured (and still am).

    It’s a selfless, nobel thing that brings light and joy to those who share the experience with you.

    “From me to you” Marketing
    “Yours truly” Marketing
    “Sincere” Marketing
    Tutorial Marketing

    No matter what the name, we’ll remember who send us cards and who didn’t and we’ll make damn sure we thank them when we get better.

    Regards
    Buck

  56. Hi Brian, maybe someone said this. (Too many comments on this one :-)

    The Tutorial Marketing posts are very “tutorial” in nature, not a lot of room for conversation. You present your idea, but there’s not much to be added. Darren mentioned this as one of his comment draws.

    Just my 2 cents.

  57. To me I do find tutorial marketing something I wouldn’t ever search for or read. However I found your website from someone elses blog and because of that link is the reason I visited and actually read what you wrote. If I found it through the search engines I would have probably left pretty quickly.

    By the way I think your site is awesome I find myself constantly visiting it and reading your posts.

  58. BC ::

    I have been out of the loop for two full weeks, between some needed family time and an NLP Certification course (thought of you more than once during the training!!).

    But I do believe that the only reason that you are getting less of a response on this is because it doesn’t appeal to all of your readers. The need to learn about great copywriting is pretty much universal for any blogger. But Tutorial Marketing will only appeal to a percentage of your audience, because only a small percentage of them have blogs in which Tutorial Marketing would fit into their existing content.

    So I bet you are still getting your 1% – it’s just 1% of a small group of regular readers :).

    W

  59. Hey Wendy!

    The concepts behind tutorial marketing only apply to bloggers who (1) need traffic, and/or (2) want to sell something.

    Does that leave anyone out? :)

  60. I think it leaves out a great deal of the blogging public.

    I don’t believe that a majority of bloggers want to produce any infoproducts to sell or give away.

    You 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. ”

    Most bloggers aren’t in the middle of an online marketing effort. Their one blog is all there is, whereas this series would work best for a business that blogs, it would seem.

    Why not repurpose it for the corporate/business world, where’s there’s a neeed and more money to pay for it ?

    In the past, I’ve often made the mistake of thinking I’m the customer or that they want what I want.

    Now I ask ‘em what it is they want so I don’t come up against this type of barrier.

    ASK campaigns are the stuff of dreams.

  61. >>Most bloggers aren’t in the middle of an online marketing effort. Their one blog is all there is, whereas this series would work best for a business that blogs, it would seem.

    Mike, we’re talking about people who read this blog, not bloggers in general.

    If there’s someone who reads this blog that isn’t looking for either traffic or sales of some kind, then I’m confused.

  62. I looked back at some of the sites from people who have commented and I see that a lot of them that have blogs that are in no way intended to sell anything but their views on life.

    You can control what you write, you can’t control who reads it.

    Maybe they all got here because you taught them how to write headlines.

    That doesn’t mean they want to sell, it means they want to write better headlines.

    They may not really care if they have 10 or 100 or 1000 visitors.

    You need to look at the sites that they link to, as I just did. Study your core of commenters and tell me that you see an ecommerce crowd.

    Finish the series and repurpose it for the crowd that needs it, the business crowd. Just because they weren’t here to comment doesn’t mean you can’t sell it to them.

    Most audiences aren’t there when the content is created, unless it’s a live CD or DVD.

    You’re creating a tremendous resource that has value … just do it !

    I just showed your post to a corporate client I was on the phone with and told him that this is exactly what we need to do for his business … educate his prospects.

    You’re on the right track, you just need to sell tickets to different riders for this train to make a profit.

    Again, look at their blogs and you’ll see them differently than if you just look at their names.

  63. Mike, look at the trackback above you…

    What’s that guy up to? :)

  64. I’m guessing he’s changing trains.

    If not, you’ll have to make it simpler for us country folk.

    I see ” … So, I now have a better idea of where I need to end up on this topic (which, as usual, is somewhere in between). And thanks to blogging, all I had to do was watch and ask. ” , jumping out at me, telling me you’ve seen the light and it ain’t gonna hit you head-on.

    I hope so anyway, this is too much work for me, at my age.

  65. Ha ha ha… yeah right.

    You’re not fooling me Sigers. :)

  66. Good to be back in the game Brian. :)

    I’m thinking of blogs that are more focused in content – perhaps they just don’t want to take the track of offering tutorials. You made a good case for it in your first pitch, and…

    I reread your more recent posts on the subject and I think I might have another clue.

    I think people were sold on the idea in your first pitch, but likely needed to be resold in each subsequent pitch due to the unsexiness of the topic.

    A simple, unsexy answer to an unsexy dilemma, perhaps? :)

  67. I’m not generally a person that comments unless I’m really, really moved to do so. Still, I read through this entire post and all the comments because I’m interested in the topic.

    There’s that 90% again, skewing your stats!

  68. I think I am in this boat. at least I think I have a good subject I get lots of visitors but no comments.