Hey there Rainmaker, today I’m answering YOUR questions!
Just a reminder here, filling in the blanks for folks who don’t read every day (the shame!) or who are new (welcome!)…
For the last couple weeks, I’ve been writing a book while you watch, which I will pick back up again tomorrow.
On Mondays though, I reserve the right to continue with my “theme day” of Mailbox Monday — where I answer your questions.
(To have yours answered in an upcoming Mailbox Monday, email Roy@RoyFurr.com. Make it about anything, including but not limited to: marketing, selling, copywriting, business-building, the meaning of life…)
Today’s question is — I think — one of the most common roadblocks for the aspiring and novice entrepreneur. With an effectively unlimited font of information about how you can/should run your business, where’s the best place to focus?
My most pressing marketing or business need right now is to wade through all of the STUFF out there to determine what philosophy, app, service, etc., etc. will be most cost- and time-effective for my purposes. Wading through all of the stuff leaves me feeling helpless as to how to proceed.
President, Glorious Health Essentials
Great question Nancy! First, a story of two copywriters…
And note, while I’m using copywriters as a reference here, don’t dismiss this because, “I am not a copywriter.” This is a teaching tale, so you gotta figure out the lesson in it for you.
As you may or may not know if you’re newer to these emails, I was the copywriter for Brian Kurtz’s Titans of Direct Response event last year, the event that featured a true “Who’s Who” of the direct marketing world, and that Dan Kennedy called “THE event of the decade.”
At Titans, one of the sessions was a panel of Boardroom’s “Mount Rushmore of Copywriters” — four copywriters who collectively were responsible for close to a BILLION pieces of profitable direct mail from 1995 to 2014 — some of the absolute best copywriters alive today.
(Just for reference, assuming they got paid $0.05 per piece mailed on just the Boardroom direct mail packages, those one billion pieces of direct mail have resulted in copywriting royalties of $50 million, divided among the lot, not equally, but each would have received a substantial proportion of that. Enough so that by simply being on the panel, you can assume they’ve each earned enough sitting in their homes, banging on their keyboards, to have enough money to never have to work a day in their life again.)
There was a very interesting juxtaposition on that stage, between two of the top copywriters on the planet.
On one hand, there was Parris Lampropoulos, who is an avid student of selling, marketing, and direct response. He has one of the world’s largest personal swipe files of direct mail packages — a library of inspiration based on what he’s seen working in the marketplace. AND he has a complete library of marketing, business, and selling books, from the most popular titles of today to old, obscure, and out-of-print gems. He studies others’ work and teachings almost nonstop, and has used that to reach the pinnacle of copywriting and direct response success.
On the other hand, there was Eric Betuel, a comparably talented and successful copywriter. When asked about his swipe file, he said he has a handful of his favorite promotions from his favorite copywriters, colleagues, and heroes. He said he started reading a marketing book once, but didn’t ever finish it. He did receive copywriting training from Gary Bencivenga, as did his brother, and he’s had a lot of “on the job” training from working with some of the best direct response marketers today.
Parris and Eric could hardly be further to the opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of how much STUFF they consume about their professions. Parris, pretty much EVERYTHING. Eric, almost NOTHING.
And yet, BOTH are incredibly successful at what they do… BOTH at the top of the game… BOTH deserving of their spot on “Mount Rushmore…” And BOTH true Titans of Direct Response.
With such radically different approaches to consuming STUFF about their business, what is the common principle that has made them both successful?
Well, I don’t know them personally well enough to really speak for them, and what they’ve been doing for the last 20+ years to create their success…
But I have a sneaking suspicion that they both follow one of the single-most important mantras I repeat here at Breakthrough Marketing Secrets…
“Just Do It.”
Yeah, I stole it from Nike. (But I do give them credit just about every time I use it — including now. Free advertisement, I’ll call it!)
Parris studies a TON of stuff, but he’s CONSISTENTLY seeking out ways to apply it in his copywriting and his business endeavors. He’s not consuming for the sake of consuming. He’s consuming to use.
Eric on the other hand does very little consumption of marketing or business stuff, but he’s CONSISTENTLY doing marketing and copywriting, and learning from his direct experience.
Either way, they’re both focused on TAKING ACTION.
Getting their copy out into the marketplace, to try and generate a response, and learn from that.
Parris uses all the stuff he’s consuming as inspiration for the copy he’s going to write. Eric finds his inspiration elsewhere.
Either way, it’s not about where they’re getting their inspiration, it’s about how they apply it. How they’re constantly taking action in front of an audience of prospective customers, to try to generate a response.
And then, whether or not they got the desired response from yesterday’s activities, they’re getting up again today to put another offer in front of their market.
(And, as copywriters, “their market” can refer to the clients they wish to have hire them, and it can refer to their clients’ clients who see and respond to their copy. That part is irrelevant. What’s relevant is that they’re ALWAYS taking action to stimulate response.)
Yes, Roy, but what action should I take for MY business?!
Okay, so it’s one thing to say “Just Do It,” take action, etc.
But WHAT action should you take? After all, you’re consistently getting a ton of information and direction about what actions to take in your business.
And the more STUFF/information you’re consuming, the more (different) directions you’re being sent in.
At the risk of sending you toward more stuff, there’s one book that I think you should buy (right now, don’t wait) and read.
Ready, Fire, Aim: Zero to $100 Million in No Time Flat. It’s by Michael Masterson, the “retired” pen name of Mark Ford (a regular Breakthrough Marketing Secrets reader), who is a partner with Bill Bonner in what may be the world’s largest direct response publishing empire, Agora, Inc.
Mark is definitely one of my heroes when it comes to marketing and growing a business. His thinking is very sharp, spot-on. And based in ample experience. Both in working inside and consulting with dozens of successful direct response businesses. I think last count put him over 30 different successful businesses in which he had a direct stake in their success. Through his teachings on copywriting and business-building (AWAI and Early To Rise were both at least partially his creations) he’s had an influence on thousands upon thousands more.
This book distills down the three main phases of a business between zero and $100-million, and the unique challenges and requirements for getting through each.
I’ll highlight the lessons for the first stage or phase of business — taking it from zero to $1 million — assuming that’s where you’re at…
But before I do this, I just want to re-recommend that you buy that book right now, because in summarizing I’m definitely doing a disservice to the full message.
In short, whether or not you’re consuming STUFF about how to grow your business, here’s what your main focus needs to be on…
Get really good at selling one thing that people like, at a profit.
Let me break that down a little bit.
— “Get really good at selling…” A business isn’t really a business until it’s making sales. Until that point, it’s an expensive hobby — a pastime. So figure out how to sell. Maybe to start, the only way people can buy is by sending you a check, or paying by PayPal (which also allows payment by credit card). Maybe you have to send an email to fulfill on every order. The most important part is that you’re figuring out how to get people to give you money for what you offer. You can study STUFF all you want, but if you’re not selling, it’s not a business.
— “… one thing that people like…” ONE thing. Not a ton of things. ONE thing. The reason for this is focus. If you focus on your one thing that people like, and get really good at selling that to people who want it, you can usually start to build your business pretty quickly. Get the ONE thing right, first, before you try to branch off and do a million things.
— “… at a profit.” This doesn’t mean your whole business has to be profitable. You should work to make it so, as quickly as possible. Don’t tie yourself up with a bunch of expensive overhead. You don’t need a swag office. You don’t need ritzy stationary. You don’t even need that fancy of a website (if you need one at all), or any of the really expensive things that too many early-stage businesses sink money into. You need the ability to reach your customers, make them an offer, and fulfill on orders. And here’s the really important bit: each incremental order should bring you more money than it costs to fulfill. If you’re selling an item and a sale generates $100 in revenue but costs $115 to fulfill, more sales will just cause you to lose money faster. On the other hand, a $100 sale that costs $85 to fulfill scales much easier. Each sale has to get you one step toward or further into the black, if you want a business that can grow without hemorrhaging money.
To pull this off, very simply, you need to break down the entire sales process, and answer these important questions:
— How do I find my market?
— What’s the best way (media) to get their attention?
— What is my message? What do I need to say to get them interested? To respond?
— What offer can I make to make them want to respond?
— How can I get them to buy NOW?
— What then? How do I get them to consume my product? Where does the customer relationship go from there?
That book is a treasure-trove of business-building advice… And honestly I recommend it enough to say if you were only going to pick ONE book on business strategy to read and re-read for the rest of your career, Ready, Fire, Aim would probably be my top recommendation…
A friend whose business expertise I respect immensely told me a while back that he’d bought the book on my recommendation. It completely changed the way he did business, and the level at which he was able to impact his clients’ businesses (and share in the rewards).
I don’t know anyone who has read and applied it, and hasn’t benefited from it immensely.
And we haven’t even gotten into the later phases of growing a business, which are equally profound. And potentially much more impactful, and more profitable.
In terms of really helping you focus, I have one more very strong recommendation for you…
Find a mentor or hire a consultant.
Find someone who has been where you want to go. And get them on your team. You may need to pay them. You may need to offer equity in your business. They may offer it free.
But seek out someone who has been there, done that, and gotten the results you want.
And IMPORTANTLY: someone who will tell you the truth.
You could spend $100,000 on business tools and education, and have it have 1/10th the impact of $10,000 invested in person-to-person learning and advice.
It’s hard for me to tell you what to focus on (aside from the more universal advice above). Because I don’t know the first thing about you or your business. If you get someone in there who can be a “partner” of sorts through a mentoring relationship — or, if you can’t convince someone to mentor you, an ongoing paid consultant WHO HAS BEEN THERE, DONE THAT — they can actually look at what you’re doing and provide some direct advice.
There’s little-to-nothing that compares.
They will tell you what to focus on. They will tell you what to ignore. Based on your business and your situation.
Even a few minutes of “do this, not that” advice could radically transform your business, and give you the breakthroughs you’re looking for.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets
Like This? Get More...
Get daily marketing tips by email... Enter your info below!