I won’t reveal the guy’s name, because I don’t want to publicly embarrass him… But someone contacted me via LinkedIn, asking if my book, The Copywriter’s Guide to Getting Paid, was still relevant today.
It was written in 2015, he reasoned (actually, it was 2014, published 2015). And now it’s 2017.
There have been two new generations of iPhones since its publication date. So surely, I must be in the process of rewriting the book, for the all-new 2017 secrets to copywriting business success… Right?
Well, that might be a great marketing ploy to sell more of books… But… Nope!
And here’s where I love having just written and published The Architecture of A-List Copywriting Skills essay last week.
Because I would have just been angry about the question before coming up with that model — now, instead, I can provide a really useful response!
Here’s what it all comes down to…
Marketing PRINCIPLES almost never change…
You know you have a principle when it’s not reliant on a specific technology or media to implement. You know you have a principle when it describes fundamental human nature, including how we relate with each other.
Human nature doesn’t change. And so principles don’t really change much, if at all.
We may discover new things, and so we can add new principles to our short list of what we know to be true and an effective foundation for making decisions.
But it’s pretty much impossible for a principle, once established, to fall off and no longer apply.
Strategies are almost as enduring. A principle may be that multiple contacts with a prospect increase their likelihood of response. A strategic implementation of that may be that you do a series of follow ups.
None of that has changed any time recently. Not in 100 years.
What’s changed? The techniques and tactics used to implement. Classic technique may have been multiple visits from a salesperson, or multiple letters sent. That’s changed to multiple touches via letter and phone. Then fax and email. Then social media. And the content may have shifted somewhat, too.
But the principles and strategies endure.
This is why about half of my Top 10 Best Copywriting Books are decades-old. Because their principles and strategies are just as relevant as ever. (As are some of their techniques and tactics.) And every book on that list, regardless of publication date, is there because of its principles and strategies — which means if you’re reading them in 2017 or 2067, they’ll be just as valuable.
I’m not just trying to defend my book!
I very distinctly remember reading an Amazon review of a Perry Marshall book on Google AdWords. This was a couple years ago, so I’m not going to go hunt down the review.
The basic point of the review was that Perry’s AdWords book had been published something like 18 months before. That Google had made a bunch of changes to the AdWords platform since then. And so Perry’s book was outdated and useless.
One of the things I really like about Perry’s work is that technique and tactics have always been the superficial veneer of what he teaches. Perry doesn’t teach a topic without going deep into strategy and principles.
I’ll use another concept Perry has become known for to illustrate: 80/20.
The basics of 80/20 is that 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort. And within 80/20, there’s another 80/20 — he calls this 80/20-squared. So 64% of results come from just 4% of effort. And so on.
I’d say the 20% of Perry’s AdWords book that generates 80% of breakthroughs in the people who read it has nothing to do with tactical instructions for how to use Google AdWords.
Rather, it’s the strategic statements Perry makes, like, “I’ve never seen a highly-profitable Google AdWords campaign that doesn’t use email autoresponders for follow-up.”
Hmm. That’s a strategic decision. To build your AdWords campaign around permission-based marketing with automated follow-up, or to try to make the sale one-and-done.
That’s not 80/20. Nor is it 80/20-squared. Probably not even 80/20-cubed. More like to the 4th or 5th power, at least.
To know that you’re going to have a lot more success with AdWords if you build in email follow-up from the beginning completely changes how you approach it.
AND — here’s the important part — it doesn’t matter if you read this in a book that’s chock-full of outdated references to updated AdWords features. It will still create an enormous breakthrough.
As long as you’re looking for the principles and strategies, you can still get at least 80% of the value from that book as when it was originally published! And it’s a book about a constantly-evolving technology.
The more you focus on principles and strategy — and the less on techniques and tactics — the more enduring any lesson will be…
When you write about a technology platform, as Perry did with his AdWords books, you are tied into the tactics and techniques of the platform. That kind of book necessitates constant updates to stay relevant.
But let me tell you a little something about the copywriting business…
It changes at a snail’s pace.
The foundational principles of building a profitable copywriting career and business haven’t really changed since I discovered copywriting in 2005. And I don’t think they’ve changed all that much in the decades before that.
We’ve continued to learn new things.
The alternate business models for copywriters that I talked about in The Copywriter’s Guide are even more relevant today (Brian Kurtz’s The Next Million Dollar Copywriter post observed this trend).
There may be new tactical implementations and new media for approaching clients that weren’t as relevant before. But the principles and strategies laid out can be easily adopted — and were the focus anyway.
I seldom quote the Bible, but it’s probably the best collection of selling stories and persuasive parables in all of western civilization.
In the book of Matthew, Jesus teaches the parable of the wise and foolish builders.
I’ll quote from the New International Version:
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.
25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.
27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
To build your skill on tactics and technique is to build your success on sand. To focus instead on principles and strategy is the rock on which you can set a firm foundation for your success.
I won’t promise it’s a path to Heaven — but it’s definitely a reliable way toward a successful copywriting business.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,