Ian Brodie is the best-selling author of Email Persuasion and the creator of Unsnooze Your Inbox - *the* guide to crafting engaging emails and newsletters that captivate your audience, build authority and generate more sales.
Posted 9th October 2022.
There are, of course, plenty of different ways of marketing your business (despite certain “experts” telling you theirs is the only way).
The good news is that you can choose which to use.
The bad news is that choosing isn't easy.
But over the years (and a lot of missteps) I've found three simple and somewhat counterintuitive rules that can help you pick the best methods for you.
Rule #1 – do marketing you enjoy (or at least don't hate).
Marketing only works if you do it, and do it consistently.
If you hate making cold calls, making videos or doing presentations then no matter how effective those methods may be, you won't do them consistently enough to get results.
Rule #2 – do marketing that's quick and easy (for you)
This goes against the whole hustle-culture idea that you have to work 18-hour days and devote your life to your business to get meaningful results. I've not found that to be true.
And in particular, the reality is that most of us don't do marketing full-time. So the marketing we do has to be simple and intuitive.
I've found this with software for example. If I'm a regular user it can be pretty complicated but I'll learn the shortcuts and the best ways to use it.
But if I only use it once a week it has to be simple and intuitive, otherwise I'll just get stuck and give up.
It's the same with marketing. I used to use Google Ads and then Facebook Ads a lot. I don't now. So when I log in it's just a confusing mess for me. There's no way I can figure out how to do anything meaningful in the limited time I have available.
On the other hand, posting on Linkedin or writing an email is pretty quick and easy. I can do it without having to re-learn it each time. So I can focus my limited time on the message and the marketing, not on the mechanics of doing it.
Rule #3 – do marketing that whispers rather than shouts
We all know the reality that the vast majority of our customers aren't ready to buy when we first start interacting with them.
Marketing that shouts – aggressive, pushy tactics like cold calls or cold emails or ads and social posts that are straight pitches – may get you a small number of buyers. But it pushes away the much larger number of potential customers who are your long-term future.
And frankly, shouty marketing isn't something that most of us enjoy doing or find easy (see rules 1 & 2).
Marketing that whispers is marketing that adds value, is interesting, and has a gentle sales message.
It's marketing your potential customers will keep paying attention to. It's marketing that will build credibility and trust over time. It's marketing that will be there when they're ready to buy.
A podcast or youtube show does this. Email marketing does this the best.
The marketing you select using these 3 rules probably isn't going to be the latest silver bullet. Or anything cool. But it will work – for you. And that's the important part.
Posted 25th September 2022.
I've been reading Rob Fitzpatrick's “Write Useful Books” while on hols.
Yeah, I know, super boring. But there are some very obvious applications beyond books for our marketing, our courses and services.
Fitzpatrick has authored two hugely successful books that – very unusually – have grown their sales over time rather than peaking at launch. “Write Useful Books” is about how to do that with your books but the principles apply much more widely.
The “secret” is to get your current readers to regularly recommend the book to others. Obvious really – but there are a few keys to it.
The first key, not surprisingly, is to pack your book with value per page. You need to wow your readers if you want them to recommend your book.
But how many books have you read that are really just a decent article stretched out so that the author could say they'd written a book?
Far too many.
That doesn't serve your audience and it won't get your book recommended.
And the same goes for online courses, or even our live work. Clients are buying the results they get from you and the faster that happens the better. More hours is bad not good.
The next key is to make sure your book (or service or course or lead magnet) provides a clear solution to a problem lots of people ask about.
When do people recommend things? When someone asks for recommendations. Or says they've got a problem.
That means your thing must be ultra-specific. But just being specific isn't enough.
It needs to answer a question that many people often ask or a problem many of them have and tell people about.
It can't be a solution to a problem your clients don't know they have. Or that they won't admit to in public. Or that only a few of them have,
So it takes work.
It takes actually talking to potential clients.
Which is where the third key comes in – I'll talk about that soon.
Posted 11th September 2022.
We're on holiday this week – on a big old ship headed towards Oslo :)
I must admit I had a little too much to drink last night (Kathy would say a lot too much) and I found myself thinking “never again” this morning.
Of course, time passes. Memory fades. And we do it again.
Luckily having a bit of a sore head the next day isn't too big a deal. But the same trick often happens with our marketing.
We get so busy with client work that we just don't do enough to line up our next clients.
Then when our projects end we swing from feast to famine and we have to desperately scrabble around trying to find the next one. Often we end up working on stuff that's maybe not the best use of our skills or the best paid.
And we say to ourselves “never again – next time I'm going to keep marketing even when I'm busy”.
But time passes. Memory fades. And we do it again.
With feast or famine cycles, the impact is much more serious than a sore head. So it really is worth doing something about.
And it doesn't have to be much.
If you only need a handful of clients each year, a couple of emails and phone calls every week to keep in touch will help.
If you create courses or get clients online, a short article on Linkedin or an email or a bit of “keep in touch” with potential partners who could help promote you will help.
Just a little bit each week will keep things ticking over so you won't find yourself thinking “never again” when you're short of clients.
And if you're in that situation right now where you haven't done any marketing for a while – don't put it off.
Don't nod as you read this email and think “I'll get right on to that…tomorrow”. Do it now.
Send a couple of emails. Get a “crappy first draft” done of that article you've been meaning to write. Jot down a list of 3 people to call tomorrow morning along with what you can talk to them about (that isn't a sales pitch).
As my kids would say “do it…do it…do it”.
It's simple stuff but it makes a big difference.
If only it were so easy when it comes to over-indulging on holiday :)
Posted 28th August 2022.
We've been at a wedding this weekend. One of those one-in-a-million British weddings where it's actually sunny :)
The groom was my friend David (of whose stag night I wrote about a few weeks ago). And I can't think of anyone more deserving of another chance at happiness.
It's tempting to think that at a certain point your future is set in stone. But that's just not true. It can be really hard, but anything can be changed.
I gave Twitter a second chance recently. I'd grown very tired of the amount of anger and nonsense on it. But by essentially starting from scratch I've been able to get a feed full of interesting, useful and positive messages.
But more importantly, you can get another chance.
Just because you always used to work with a particular type of client doesn't mean you always have to.
Just because you always used to offer a particular service doesn't mean you always have to.
Just because you always used to use a certain type of marketing doesn't mean you always have to.
You get my drift, I'm sure.
Of course, it's easier to harness skills and contacts and resources you already have. So you might not want to change everything.
But if you change nothing, you're going to get the same results you've always got. And there's a good chance you're going to get bored doing so.
Might a different type of client value your services more? Do you have other skills you've developed you might be able to build a business around (that's how I got into my current business).
One of the reasons new startups often leave established businesses standing is that despite the established business spotting an opportunity, it just feels too different and too risky for them to take.
I see the same thing again and again with individual consultants and coaches who struggle with their marketing.
Instead of rethinking who they're offering their services to, what they're offering and how they market themselves, they look for a silver bullet which will let them plough on down the same furrow but somehow with better success.
It rarely works like that.
Sometimes you find a magic method that lets you do the same things, just more successfully. But not often.
More usually you have to take a chance and do something significantly different. Focus on different clients, different services, different marketing.
A challenge, for sure. But it's how you get another chance at success.
Posted 26th August 2022.
About a decade ago I partnered on a webinar with a guy who did Linkedin training, and he did something live that I've never forgotten.
This was back in the day when we thought that appearing high up on searches on Linkedin was something valuable.
So what he did on the webinar was to get people to search for the keywords they wanted to rank for on Linkedin. Then he got them to make a few changes to their profile and search again.
I can still remember the little chat messages coming in:
“I'm number one!”
“Amazing – thank you”
And it went on and on.
Now I'm not sure that appearing higher up in Linkedin searches was ever all that valuable. But the impact of getting an immediate result in the workshop was a sight to see.
Not surprisingly, he sold a lot of copies of his training program on that webinar.
Normally in training courses or workshops, we give people skills they can use later to get results.
But the impact of getting results inside a workshop is huge. You can just see people become inspired and motivated.
Now the results you give inside a workshop are unlikely to be monetary ones. But, like the immediate improvement in Linkedin search ranking, they can be tangible.
Or they could be mental too. Giving attendees an amazing new insight or breaking down a big barrier for them.
On the Persuasive Email Writing cohort courses I'm running the things that are working best are the idea generators and the email and subject line templates.
Course members who were stuck coming into the workshop can leave with a dozen new ideas for emails. And they can instantly see how to use the templates to shave hours off the time it takes to write them.
Whatever kind of course you do, there are always opportunities for instant results. Take those opportunities early – ideally in the first workshop even if it doesn't naturally flow.
Because if you can get people excited about what they've achieved and what they'll soon be able to do then you've got them hooked. They'll put in the work. They'll get great results and they'll sing your praises.
All because you focused on giving them quick wins.
Posted 5th August 2022.
I've been struck recently by what seems like a contradiction in the advice given by my interviewees on Course Builders TV.
I get a lot of people saying that the route to success with courses is speed. To get something out quickly in a pilot version to get feedback and progress fast.
And I get a lot of people saying that the route to success is quality – to create a course that's so amazing and delivers such great results that people want to share and spread the word.
They can't both be right, can they?
Well, in some ways they can.
Firstly, quality doesn't necessarily take a lot of time. And it doesn't necessarily mean polished or high-tech or full of fancy features.
For most people, the “quality” of a course is really down to the results they get from it and the experience they have on it.
And it's certainly possible for people to get brilliant results from a minimum viable product version of a course that focuses only on the essentials. In fact for many that's far preferable to a huge course that takes ages to get through but only gets incrementally better results.
When it comes to the experience of the course, don't get trapped into thinking that means it has to be pretty with fancy videos and interactive quizzes and the like. A pilot version of your course that does everything live with a lot of interaction will deliver a great experience in a different way.
In fact, it's important to remember that the people who sign up for a pilot have different expectations to people who buy a mature product.
They're not expecting everything to work perfectly. And one of the reasons they've signed up is the opportunity to interact with you and get feedback.
So the live version will exactly match their definition of quality even if you don't have professionally designed slides and studio-quality video.
It's important to recognise this evolution of your course – and of your buyers.
Your first version will inevitably be a bit scruffy. Might even have gaps you have to plug via Q&A. But it will work for the innovators and early adopters whose primary motivation is early access.
As you begin to market your course more widely you'll get majority and laggard buyers. They'll be a bit more uncertain and want the traditional trappings of quality like a well-designed website, tried and tested exercises to help them learn, proper support and help features.
That means you can move fast and “do it live” in your pilot and the people there will think it's great quality. But you need to evolve the course over time to meet the quality expectations of a broader set of buyers.
But, of course, having done the pilot and early iterations of the course you're in a perfect position to upgrade the quality in that sense – and you should have the money from your pilot sales to enable you to do it!
Posted 22nd July 2022.
Last night I was out on that very British of institutions – the stag night. (hence the late post today, ahem).
One thing that always strikes me at events like these is just how much talent, intelligence and capability there is in “normal people”. And how it comes in all shapes and sizes and from all backgrounds.
It's easy to surround yourself with people like you. People with similar educations, similar professions, similar points of view.
It's comfortable. But it's a surefire way to kill off new ideas.
John Stuart Mill said “It's hardly possible to overstate the value, in the present state of human improvement, of placing human beings in contact with other persons dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar. Such communication has always been one of the primary sources of progress.”
He was spot on, in my experience. You learn more from people who are different to you than people who are the same. So it's worthwhile making sure you have that variety in your life.
It could be you get it from a mastermind group you're in. Or a course you take with a lot of diversity in members. Or you might seek out people who are different with interesting ideas and interview them for your podcast.
Whatever method you use, you'll find it's well worth it.
Posted 17th July 2022.
When I first started in business it seemed like about 90% of all the advice I got said “you've got to get good at marketing – it's the number one skill”.
Become a brilliant copywriter. Master SEO and content marketing. Excel at conversions.
I lapped it up.
Perhaps I should have noticed that the people giving the advice all sold marketing training :)
But it seemed to make sense. When you start a business your biggest challenge is getting customers. So surely marketing is the big thing you need to get good at?
Not necessarily. At least not in my experience.
You reed great results from your marketing. But you don't need to be all that great at marketing to get great results.
If you've got a great product or service and you don’t play in a super-competitive market then frankly, half-decent marketing is all you need.
You don't need the higher-level skills that could squeeze an extra percentage point of conversion from an already hyper-optimised landing page. You just need the basics that your competitors probably haven't got.
Improving from 90% to 95% is really hard and needs world-class skills. It's worth it for a business doing millions in a competitive market.
Improving from 20% (where most small businesses are likely to be if they're lucky) to 60% is way easier. But relatively speaking it has a much bigger impact on your business.
And often you can do it based on simple principles and using templates and examples that have worked time and time again.
Templates and examples alone will never get you to 95%. But they'll get you to 60% or 70% which is all you need.
People trying to sell you marketing training are biased – and usually they can't see it. They live in the ultra-competitive world of marketing services so they tend to assume that all markets need the same level of sophistication and skill.
Whenever you're looking to get better results from your marketing, sanity check the advice you're getting. Does it apply to your particular market? Or is it calling for you to reach a level of mastery that just isn't needed (and would take far too long anyway)
Posted 13th July 2022.
Years ago in his book The Ultimate Sales Machine, Chet Holmes shared what he called the “Stadium Pitch”.
It perfectly illustrates the biggest problem you're likely to face when you're trying to sell your course.
Holmes asked his readers to imagine they had a chance to go on stage at a stadium filled with people who fitted their ideal client profile.
The big question: what would they say? What would their “stadium pitch” be?
He went on to say that most salespeople and business owners would try to sell their product to that audience. They'd talk about the benefits, pre-empt objections and make a great offer.
The huge problem though is that even if the stadium is filled with people who fit your ideal client profile, very few of them would be ready to buy at that point in time.
Holmes suggested that:
- Something like 3% of people are actively looking to buy at any given time.
- A further 7% aren't looking but would be open to it
- 30% of people aren't thinking about it at all
- 30% of people think they're not interested (but could maybe be persuaded otherwise)
- 30% of people know they're not interested
Of course, the numbers will vary business to business. But the point is the vast majority of people just won't be actively in the market for whatever you're selling at any point in time.
So if you try to hard sell them, you might get that 3% to buy and maybe even some of the 7%. But you're losing everyone else – including maybe 60% of people who could well buy – but just not right now.
That's why if you do a “stadium pitch” you need to talk about something that the 7% and the 30% and the 30% are interested in hearing about – not just the 3%. Then you keep the dialogue going until the time is right for them.
That's how you convert a high percentage of your potential clients into buyers – not just the fraction who are ready when you first start speaking to them.
I'm sure it won't have escaped your attention that this is exactly the strategy you follow with email marketing.
Attract everyone who could be a buyer with a valuable lead magnet. Then nurture your relationship with them until they're ready to buy with useful, interesting emails.
Of course, that's easier said than done.
You have to come up with great topics to write about consistently. You have to know what it will take to get people ready to buy. And you have to write so that people will open your emails, read them and take action.
But that's why you read these posts :)
Posted 3rd July 2022.
These days our idea of persuasion is to ramp up scarcity, throw in a deadline and a bunch of testimonialy social proof.
But the ancient Greeks had very different ideas.
In Aristotle's Rhetoric, he identified the three cornerstones of persuasion: logos, pathos and ethos.
Logos is persuasion through rational argument. In our case that primarily means demonstrating the benefits our potential clients will get if they buy our products or services. But it can also be the “logical” answer to objections they might have or other reasons why this makes sense for them.
Pathos is persuasion through the emotions of the hearer. For example, tying the benefits they'll get to a deep seated desire or inciting pride in the improvements they'll see. Or perhaps anger that they're not getting what they deserve, or envy that others are.
Ethos is persuasion through the character of the speaker. In our world it's about whether they trust you to deliver for them and whether they have confidence in your capabilities.
I'm going to suggest that the Greeks were on to something.
Psychological nudges can get people off the fence. They can even drive the whole decision for low-cost products where the stakes aren't all that high.
But for something big and important it's different.
Unless someone sees the benefit they'll get from your product, really feels what a difference it will make to them, and trusts you to deliver: all the deadlines, scarcity and social proof in the world aren't going to get them to stump up a small fortune to buy.
Psychological nudges are great and can make a real difference. But get your logos, ethos and pathos right first.