Nurse Taking PulseI’ve spent a ton of time writing for the world’s biggest investment advice publishers…

These are private businesses, not well known except to their customers, whose circulation exceeds that of the Wall Street Journal and other big names in financial publishing.

And, interestingly, most have been built almost exclusively with direct marketing.

Most came up in direct mail, many have transitioned totally or at least partially to the internet today.

All along, they haven’t used a sales force.  They don’t use mass market advertising.  They don’t rely on branding, or trade shows, or any other “traditional” marketing and selling methods to grow their business.

Instead, they send out a sales letter (or video, or some variation of media) that goes out to one prospective customer, makes a pitch, and the prospect either buys or doesn’t buy.

The marketing does all the selling.

And they are constantly testing.  Both tweaks to their current campaigns and sales appeals, and full-blown, brand-new challengers to their most effective marketing pieces.

They are always trying to keep their finger on the pulse of what will make an investor buy today — because if they don’t make an investor buy today, their business will begin to decline.

Along the way, they’ve learned some very interesting things about what motivates an investor to buy…

It’s been commonly said that the two big motivators are “desire for gain” and “avoidance of loss” — or, in other words, “greed” and “fear.”

And while the truth is more nuanced, the investment publishing market does really swing between these polar opposites, just like the actual stock market swings between bull and bear markets.

We go through periods where investors buy publications based on the promise of relieving fear.  We go through periods when investors buy publications based on the promise of achieving financial gain.  (Incidentally, these don’t always correlate with the best time to take this stance in terms of investing strategy.)

During a period where investors are most likely to respond to an “avoidance of loss” or “fear” pitch, it’s very hard to sell based on “desire for gain” or “greed.”  And vice versa.

The best of the best investment marketers are always testing along the spectrum.  Because sometimes the market shifts are very sudden.

Yesterday, your greed pitch for the hot stock of a tiny company set for a 10-bagger return may have been going gangbusters…  But then Janet Yellen testifies before Congress, and suddenly investors are running for the hills and only responding to fear.

I like the investment market because it’s a good illustration and dramatization of a simple fact that marketers must recognize…

Every single market is always changing.

It’s in a state of flux.  The context and culture in which the market exists is changing.  The competitive landscape is changing.  Related technologies are changing.  The maturity of the market and the offers they’ve been exposed to is changing.  Your business is changing in relation to the market.  As your customer and prospect lists grow, they are changing in makeup, perhaps through different traffic sources or targeting.

Change is the only constant.

Many of us naturally resist it.  It’s not that we don’t like change.  It’s that we prefer change when we can go from one comfortable spot to another — when it’s not tumultuous.

However, change is usually tumultuous, and it’s only in embracing it that the process is smoothed and made more comfortable.

The trick is, recognizing change as it happens.  And being ready for it.

That’s why really great investment marketers are always testing ideas on either side of the fear-greed spectrum.  You can’t avoid market volatility in the investment advice industry.  It’s a fact of life.  And so you embrace it, and account for it in your strategy, to be ready for change when it happens.

And the way you do that, is…

You must have an ongoing strategy to keep your finger on the pulse of the market.

I’ve written before about Ryan Levesque’s Ask Formula.

And specifically, about using the Deep Dive Survey to take the pulse of your market, and determine what is most relevant and motivating to them right now.

I’ve also been in some private conversations with other copywriters and consultants inside Ryan’s private Facebook mastermind, discussing how copywriters and consultants can and should implement Ask to better serve their clients (Ryan has stopped taking on client work, as far as I know).

If you don’t have the same process the financial publishers have for keeping your finger on the pulse of the market, this is a good (if not better) alternative.

On a regular basis and as often as is relevant for your market, send out a survey to your email list of customers and/or prospects.

Ask, “What’s your single-biggest question or challenge having to do with [YOUR BUSINESS TOPIC OR FOCUS] right now?”

Follow Ryan’s instructions in the Ask book (linked above) to make sure you know how to understand and score the answers, to get the most actionable data.

Then, make small adjustments or full-on pivots in your focus, messaging, and offers to best serve what your market is motivated by right now.

This is going to be a HUGE differentiator in copywriting and consulting going forward…

Kevin Rogers, of Copy Chief fame, was part of the conversation when we were talking about this in Ryan’s group (as were a LOT of other copywriters, including many readers!).

He was basically saying that in the future, this is going to be a huge differentiator.

You know Ask, and you know how to take the pulse of the market, or you don’t know Ask, and you just keep guessing.

As the power of Ask becomes more and more apparent, smart clients will demand that you integrate it into your copywriting process.

After all, how better to make sure you’re speaking to what your audience is interested in than to ask them directly and make your decisions based on their feedback?

Personally, I’m taking on less and less consulting and copywriting work, being more and more picky, and I mostly only want to work with very entrepreneurial companies who want me to help them use Ask to play slow-pitch softball in targeting our message to the market.  (If you want to be on my client wait list, email me at

I’d rather take a little longer up front, make sure I know what the market wants, and speak to that.  Then, once we’ve experienced some success, continue to use the Ask method to keep taking the pulse of the market, and catering our approach to best serve whoever we’re speaking to.

The great thing?  This will create breakthroughs in every viable market in which it’s applied.  It will help us speak directly to the market, about topics and in language that reflects the conversation already going on in their head.

It’s exciting!

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

PS: I have a TON coming up, starting next week, for the Story Selling Master Class.  And I most definitely used the Ask method to make sure I cover all your most important challenges and questions about using stories in your marketing, copywriting, and selling.

If you’re not yet on the wait list, click here and sign up now!

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