Ian Brodie

Ian Brodie is the best-selling author of Email Persuasion and creator of Unsnooze Your Inbox - *the* guide to crafting engaging emails and newsletters that captivate your audience, build authority and generate more sales.


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The opposite of timeshare sales

Posted on 28th March 2021.

The “always be closing” school of thought in sales is much derided these days.

The world has realised that for most significant sales you need to build credibility and trust before someone will be ready to buy. Or at minimum, if you push too hard before the time is right you'll lose someone who could become a great client later.

But the opposite approach of feeling you need to spend weeks or months nurturing a relationship before you ever offer anything for sale is equally wrong too.

The reality is somewhere in the middle.

For any given product or service, the majority of people won't be ready to buy straight away.

But some will. And they're incredibly valuable to you.

So are the larger number of people who might buy later.

So your challenge is to make sure the people who're ready to buy straight away (or after a week or a few weeks) do. But in the process you don't repel the people who aren't ready yet. And ideally, you strengthen your relationship with them

There are a bunch of ways to do this, but the simplest is to give something of value first, then offer the next (paid) step.

In essence, you're saying “here's something great. By the way, would you also like this amazing thing that complements it and helps you get results faster?”

(It's the opposite of those awful timeshare sales people who offer you a carriage clock but won't give it to you until after you've sat through their 3 hour presentation. Here you give them the goodies first, then ask if they'd be interested in your paid thing. Not the other way round).

If people sign up for your free report, you can tell them it'll be in their inbox shortly and ask if they'd like your video training course that gets them going and gets results fast.

Nobody (or hardly anybody) is going to object to that.

If you do a free video with 5 tips on something, at the end you can tell them about your paid product where you do everything for them to get them the results they're looking for.

Nobody (or hardly anybody) is going to object to that.

As long as you give value first and you offer something relevant without being super pushy about it, you'll get sales from people who are ready now, and you won't lose the people who aren't ready yet.

Win win :)


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What’s your “time to value”?

Posted on 18th August 2019.

In the “Software as a Service” world they have a metric they pay a lot of attention to: “time to value”.

It's the time from someone signing up for a service (for example on a free trial or paid plan) to them first realising how valuable the product is going to be for them.

Once they realise that value, of course, they're hooked.

If they don't realise the value before their trial ends or they have to pay another monthly subscription, there's a high chance they'll quit.

Realising the value doesn't mean they need to have already got all the end results they're looking for from the service. Just enough of an indication of what they're likely to be.

Dropbox, for example, know that once someone has added a file to their shared folder, they'll “get it”. Facebook know that once a new user connects with ten friends, they'll begin to get things on their feed they're interested about and get engaged.

So not surprisingly, the goal of these SaaS companies is to get their new users to take those actions as soon as possible.

So they make it really simple. And they lead them through taking those actions as part of onboarding them into using the service.

And if they don't take those actions, they remind them in the app or by email.

They obsess about this because they know that the number one determinant of whether someone will stay with them is how fast they get value or at least see what it's going to be.

Not how much they sell the service. Or the quality of their copywriting. Or how well they build a relationship.

They know it's time to value because they measure everything obsessively.

Now most of us run human businesses, not software businesses. But there's a lot we can learn from this approach.

Firstly: do you know what value your potential clients are looking for from you when you first connect with them?

A quick hint here: people who connect with you on Linkedin or meet you at an event are looking for something very different to people who sign up for your email list.  

Secondly: are you doing everything you can to deliver the value they're looking for as fast as possible? Minimising time to value.

Do you “onboard them” when they first meet you like a SaaS firm would do?

Do you know what actions will lead them to see the value they're looking for? Do you lead them step-by-step through those actions?

Because if you don't get them to see value quickly you'll lose them.

They'll unsubscribe or stop paying attention to your emails. They won't make an effort to speak to you at the next event you're at. They won't pick up when you call.


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The simple rule that will save you a ton of time

Posted on 20th August 2018.

Years ago I learned a simple (but sadly, easily forgotten) rule about what you should prioritise in your marketing.

Strangely enough, I heard it again from three different sources in the last week. So I'm going to take that as a hint that I should explain it.

It's the 40:40:20 rule. It was coined by Ed Meyer, CEO of the Grey Group (later acquired by WPP) and apparently the richest man in advertising in his day (he retired a decade ago).

The rule says that in marketing, 40% of your success is due to reaching the right audience. 40% is due to your offer. And 20% is due to all the other factors: your messaging, the marketing tactics you use, the presentation, etc.

Over the years I've found this formula to be pretty darned accurate.

We tend to obsess over the details: should I use Facebook or Linkedin? What images should I use in my ad? What should my email headline be? 

All of these are important. But they're exponentially less important than finding the right audience for your product or service, figuring out exactly what they want, and then creating an offer they find irresistible.

Put the right offer in front of the right people and you'll get decent sales even with so-so marketing. But even the greatest marketing genius won't be able to save a mediocre offer pitched at the wrong audience.

In practice, where do we spend most of our time?

In the 20% of course.

Now truthfully, we're always going to spend more time in the day-to-day tactics than in refining our audience and offer which we probably should only do every few years.

But even so, my experience has been that we don't spend anywhere near enough time on our audience and offer (me included).

We think we know them, but we don't really. I witnessed a correspondence recently where someone who was struggling to structure an offer kept insisting he knew exactly what his audience wanted – but he hadn't asked them and he couldn't put his finger on which structure they'd prefer.

We resist interacting with them to find out more about what they really want because we think that we'll look silly asking. Surely we should know by now? So we end up focusing on their surface needs on not on their deeper frustrations and desires.

And we think we know the best product or service to meet their needs because, well, we're offering the same as everyone else. It's hard work figuring out a completely new offer. Much easier just to look at what everyone else in the market is offering. 

So instead, we spend most of our time trying to learn how to do immensely complex marketing like Facebook Ads or multi-step funnels. Or we try and grind out results through endless networking events and “coffee meetings”.

And whenever we get rejected we resolve to work harder. To do more calls and meetings. To do even better ads. To write more blog posts and do more on social media.

But most of the time the problem isn't the tactics. It's that the people we're targeting simply don't want what we're offering them. No amount of brilliant marketing is going to change that. You need to change your audience or your offer.

Every minute you spend figuring out who the right clients for you are and building a deeper understanding of what they need will be paid back 100x or 1000x downstream. Every minute crafting an offer that really touches on their true wants and needs will save you hours and hours later.

Are you sure you have the right offer for the right people?

If you're not getting great results with your marketing and you're having to spend a ton of time working on it then that's the place I'd turn to first rather than trying to work harder, longer or learn more tactics.


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You’ve heard this a thousand times…

Posted on 29th April 2018.

“Strategy beats tactics”.

I'm sure you've heard that more than a few times.

But what does it mean when it comes to marketing?

Strategy is understanding what your clients care about and what will motivate them to buy. Tactics are the latest whizzy survey tools.

Strategy is knowing that winning clients takes multiple steps. That you need to attract them and then nurture your relationship with them before they'll be ready to buy. Tactics are things like Facebook Advertising that might work today, but will be rather less effective in a few years time. Or the choice of which email marketing system to use (which tends to occupy 10x the amount of time as writing effective emails despite being 1/10 as important!)

Strategy is knowing that it's way easier to sell more to an existing client than to a cold one, so investing in marketing with lifetime value in mind. Tactics are which lead magnet or initial product you sell them.

Tactics are important, without them your strategy just doesn't work.

But good tactics last a few years. Good strategy lasts a lifetime.  

Understand strategy and you can pick the right tactics and outsource them to others if needed. Fail to understand strategy and you jump from silver bullet to silver bullet and are at the mercy of every vendor who tells you their tactic will “explode your business” or whatever the latest hype is.

So…what's your strategy?


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This beats pitching every time

Posted on 22nd April 2018.

Nobody wants to be pitched at.

You know this from your life outside of work. We don't willingly invite people in to pitch their services at us. In fact many people have signs outside their houses telling salespeople exactly where to go.

Yet when it comes to work, we often forget that there are alternatives to pitching stuff at clients. Much better ones. All it takes is a little thought.

Example: one of the easiest “sells” you can get is for existing or ex clients to buy more stuff from you.

But how do you offer that stuff to them?

If you just call to ask for a meeting to talk about some of your other services they might value you're basically saying “let me come and pitch at you”.

Not surprisingly, you won't get many people saying yes.

It's similar with asking to find out more about their business. They know what's coming, and there's no value for them in telling you all about their business and their issues.

Instead, put a bit of time into how you could make the experience valuable to them.

You still want to find out about their issues that you could help with. You still want to show them some of your services they might value.

But instead of a pitch, turn it into something where you share valuable information in those areas.

A simple example would be to create some case studies from clients you've worked with who've made improvements in the areas that you think your other clients would like to improve too.

And then offer to come and share those case studies and show them what these companies did that enabled them to make those big improvements.

(Please note: by case studies I don't mean the usual salesy nonsense you often see on websites that just basically says what the client problem was and the improvements you got. There needs to be real valuable information in the case studies about what they did and how they did it. Something the people you present it to would find useful).

How much more appealing does that sound than an offer to come and talk about their business or tell them about your services?


They get useful insights that will help them. And, of course, if they're interested you'll end up talking about their issues in that area and your services that might help them. 

But with no pitching needed.


Get Clients Online

How To Make The Time For Marketing: The Ultimate Guide

Posted on 16th April 2018. How to make the time for marketing

Of all the problems I hear from people struggling to win enough clients, probably the most frequent is “I just can't find the time for marketing”.

It's an insidious problem. No matter how smart you are, no matter how brilliant the marketing strategies you're trying to implement: if you can't find the time for them then you won't get results.

And it's such an easy trap to fall into. If we're not naturals at marketing we probably don't know how to do it efficiently. And we probably don't enjoy it, so we kid ourselves that we're doing OK, we have enough clients for now, something will turn up anyway…and so we avoid doing the marketing we really need.

But it absolutely is possible to fit effective marketing into a busy schedule. What it takes is a combination of mindset, ruthless prioritisation, scheduling and techniques for doing your marketing efficiently. And that's exactly what you'll learn in this guide.

Click here for the Ultimate Guide to Making the Time for Marketing »


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Sometimes, this is all you need…

Posted on 20th February 2018.

It's so easy to get overwhelmed with all the advice coming your way about marketing.

I'm supposed to be an expert, but honestly, I hear so much conflicting information that sometimes I sometimes have to sit back and think “hang on, does this really make sense?”

Take an article I read today for example. It was about increasing engagement with your email marketing.

It had a couple of useful tips, but also included gems like:

“Make sure you include links to your social media profiles in all your emails”, and…

“Use a beautiful, professional-looking template”.

Ostensibly, sensible advice. Stuff you'll often hear repeated. Until you actually think it through using common sense.

So firstly, how does having links to your social media profiles increase engagement with your emails?

If anything it'll decrease engagement because people will click through instead of actually reading or replying.

And if someone is already a newsletter subscriber, do you really need them to follow you on social media too? Usually, the flow is from social media to email.

Perhaps a link every now and then with a specific call to action would work. But having links to your social media profiles in every email like a signature line will actually hurt your email deliverability. You should really aim to have only one or at most two links in each email otherwise the receiving email systems tend to flag it as spam or promotional.

Similarly with a fancy template, it's going to be more likely that your email ends up in the promotions tab or spam folder because it will look like commercial email.

And think about the emails you engage with the most…

Are they “professional” looking emails with banners, background colours and multiple columns?

Or are they the plain and simple emails your friends and colleagues send you?

Unless you're very weird it's the latter. So doesn't it make sense for the emails you send to subscribers to look like the sort of emails they normally read and reply to?

Of course, they'll know it's a newsletter type email. But if it looks and feels and is written like an email from a friend then subconsciously they'll tend to react to it in the same frame of mind as to an email from a friend.

So here's the point of all this…

…You didn't really need me to tell you that fancy emails with social media icons won't increase email engagement.

All you really needed was to think it through a bit and apply some common sense.

As I said at the start, sometimes when you're getting hit by a ton of “useful advice” you need to take a little bit of time to sit back and think.

Ask yourself whether the advice seems true from your own experience.

Apply a little logic, like thinking “why would a social media icon get me to read and reply to an email more?”. 

Common sense isn't always right. but 95% of the time it is and that helps you cut down on all the clutter and conflicting advice.

And it'll also give you a bit more confidence in your own marketing capabilities when you see how flimsy much of the advice from experts really is.


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Use this prime time wisely

Posted on 9th October 2016.

Like many people these days I'm trying to eat a bit more healthily. And like many people I don't always manage to live up to my goals on this front.

But one thing I do manage to get right is breakfast. For some reason it's much easier for me to have a healthy breakfast every morning than it is to eat healthily the rest of the day.

I guess I have more willpower in the morning. And apparently that's in line with recent research which shows that our mental capacities degrade significantly during the day. They're at their strongest shortly after you wake up and you basically “wear out” your decision-making and thinking abilities and your willpower as the day goes on.

That's why it's important to do the things that require the greatest thinking capacity or the greatest willpower early in the morning.

Things like planning and decision-making. Thinking deeply about a problem or a project you're working on.

But certainly not reading and answering emails or taking calls. That'll wear you out on on some of your least important tasks.

Early morning is a great time for marketing and keeping in touch. Many of us don't find marketing all that natural. So it requires both willpower and brainpower to make a good job of it.

My suggestion is to block out time each morning for your marketing, while you're fresh. Compose a few messages to keep in touch with your contacts. Work on that article you're writing or that presentation you have coming up to potential clients.

Morning = Marketing.

It's a great “healthy” habit to get into and will do for your business what a healthy breakfast does for your body.


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Sometimes you know, sometimes you don’t

Posted on 3rd July 2016.

I think it's close to impossible to be successful at winning clients if you don't have an excellent feel for how they think: what they want and need, what they believe in, their hopes and fears.

And very often the easiest and best way to get that feel is if you're very much like your clients.

If you're like them, you share their wants and needs, so you don't have to spend an age figuring them out – you just know.

That's certainly something that helps me. As someone who's done consulting and coaching for over 20 years now, 10 of them in my own business, I kind of know how other consultants and coaches think and feel.

But while that commonality is very useful, it's easy to forget that you're not like your clients in every respect. Or that you're not like all of them.

For example, for years I thought that no one would be willing to pay for a high priced program from me where I worked with them personally.

Because my preferred way of learning is to read and experiment myself (and because to be perfectly honest, sometimes I'm a bit tight), I found it difficult to believe that people would be willing to pay what seemed like a small fortune to work personally with me to help them achieve their goals.

And indeed, high priced programs aren't for everyone.

But there are very many people who do prefer this style of learning. Probably rather sensibly they feel that by working with someone closely and getting feedback they'll make much faster progress.

And it turns out I rather like working with these sorts of people.

Yet for years I didn't offer a program like this, simply because it's not something I'd buy myself so I assumed no one else would want to buy it.

Big mistake!

Even if, like me, you're very like your clients. Don't assume you're like them in every respect, or that you have the same wants and needs as all of them.

Make sure you sanity check your assumptions, otherwise you could be missing out on very lucrative opportunities just because they reflect a need you don't have yourself.


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I’ve wasted far too much time doing this

Posted on 22nd May 2016.

Here's something I've wasted FAR too much time doing. You'd do well to avoid making my mistake :)

What I do is I spend endless hours trying to find the “best” way of doing whatever it is I want to do.

Even if that thing isn't important.

Even if the difference between the best way of doing something and the average way of doing it makes little to no practical difference to my results.

I've spent more time trying to find the best “to do list” system and software than I could ever save by using it. By orders of magnitude.

I've spent more time trying to find the best wireless headphones than I could ever notice in sound quality if I lived to be 100.

And most importantly, I've wasted a ton of time trying to find the “best” marketing methods when I should have just been implementing good ones.

I know I'm not the only one. I've worked with clients who've gone round and round in circles trying to find the “perfect” niche for them – ignoring fantastic opportunities in the process. Or who never launch their lead magnet because it's not quite as good as it could be.

Of course, we want to do our best work. But as long as we do something that's good enough we can always come back and improve it over time.

In fact, with anything that involves clients, we can never really know what is best in advance of trying it with them. So trying to reach perfection in the comfort of our own world is really an illusion.

Get something good – be that a lead magnet, target market, marketing method – and try it out. If it works, great, start improving it. If it doesn't, great, now you know and can try something else.