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Should you tell old or new stories?

The chief storyteller in my family is my Grandad. He’s almost 85 and full of fascinating stories.

Stories about Berlin in the 1950’s. Stories about walking the Snowdon Horseshoe in Wales. The story about finding a dead guy on Ben Nevis. The wartime story about jumping over the fence at Everton to get in free, only to jump into an empty stand. The story about Everton’s PA announcer asking if anyone had brought their boots, because they were short on players. Stories about how he once cycled from Liverpool to Canterbury.

Of course, if you were to meet him a second time, he’d tell you all the same stories over again. But he’s old, so we let him off for that.

Importantly, the stories he tells the most often are all 40+ years old. Which is relevant to what we are doing here.

I see the same pattern recurring in my work. Many of the stories I tell are 5 years old or more. Stories about setting up in business. Stories about my solo travel in South America. Stories about my early creative writing efforts. Stories about truanting at school to play snooker. (I still maintain that occasional truanting encourages healthy independence, at any age and in any walk of life…)

Part of the story research process I follow is to explore very early stories – as far back as you can remember. I’m not being a nosy when I do this; I’m looking for early threads and patterns.

It’s normal for the stories that sit at the heart of your marketing to be not-so-recent, and not necessarily about your current line of work.

You’ve probably changed less than you think. It’s your older stories that build the most trust, because they showcase the real you in the most vulnerable way.

February 4, 2019

A key ingredient for good stories

Linzi and Hugo were away for a few days last week. Leaving me all alone at home on my lonesome.

(Can you hear that tiny, tiny violin?)

What do you think I got up to?

Was I looking at the front door, pining for them to return? I’ll give you a second to mull over the possibilities…

On Wednesday I went to… the theatre.

Imagine that – the theatre! Can’t remember the last time I went to the theatre. Certainly pre-baby. I saw a play called The Department of Distractions, which I enjoyed.

On Thursday I went to… the spa.

The spa! I kid you not. I sat in a steam room all afternoon contemplating my own existence.

Other than that I’ve been riding the tram around, drinking posh espresso.

Basically I’ve been living the sweet life for a few days.

Linzi and Hugo are back now, and I’m glad. Daddy Day Care is open again. But I’ve come to the assessment that to be a good storyteller, you also have to carve out some time for you. Regardless of how busy you are, and how many commitments you have.

It’s a bigger deal than it sounds. Otherwise, what will you ever write about?

February 1, 2019

Anything But Facebook

Every business has a bottleneck of some sort, and in mine the bottleneck is lead generation.

I’m currently one platform down. As you might remember, I’m at war with Facebook. Or more specifically, Facebook is at war with me, having disabled my account.

All of which has prompted me to look again at some of the other ad platforms. I’ve currently got four lead generation offers to test, and I’m going to test them on Google Display, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube. I’m also testing Amazon ads. I’m going to test different offers as both front end offers, and remarketing offers.

Anything is game. Any ad platform and ad format. Except Facebook.

(Screw you Facebook).​

I’ll carry on doing this until I find a handful of things that work. I’m calling this project ‘Anything But Facebook’.

I’ll document ‘Anything But Facebook’ as I go, and publish my findings in the March edition of the Magnetic Expert print newsletter.

If lead generation is your bottleneck, then at some point you have to roll up your sleeves and take responsibility for it.

January 31, 2019

What does real expertise look like?

“Who do you work with?” is one of the questions we all must answer with as much clarity as we can muster.

I’ve struggled with this over the years. I now tell people I work with ‘coaches, consultants and experts’. Which has led me recently to ask… what actually makes someone an expert?

(Because often the people claiming to be experts actually aren’t…)

The experts I’m after usually don’t have the best or slickest marketing. A true expert won’t have much time for marketing at all. They’re mostly out of sight, doing their thing. They’re hard to find on Google. They often don’t fully appreciate how valuable that thing is. They don’t collect as many testimonials as they should. They have at least three books in their head, but worry nobody will be interested. They have fascinating stories. They provide an outstanding service and experience, but you wouldn’t know it from first impressions.

The type of expert I seek out has lived a life, and brings multi-disciplinary insights. They see connections between things that aren’t obvious. They have a contrarian take on things. They think deeply about things, at least from time to time. They ask questions about why things work they way they do. They disappear unapologetically down intellectual and vocational rabbit holes. They have eclectic reading habits.

You could describe that as an ‘avatar exercise’ if you like, or at least the beginnings of one. Perhaps really it better describes the type of person I want to become.

Either way, it’s good to be more specific about the type of person you’re trying to find.

January 30, 2019

My take on Infusionsoft’s name change

I’ve been asked a few times in the last 24 hours about Infusionsoft’s name change. Infusionsoft is changing from ‘Infusionsoft’ to ‘Keap’. Which to my eyes seems to be a miss-spelled or made up word. According to CEO Clate Mask, it’s a nod to the tenacity of entrepreneurs to ‘keep at it’.

Which to put it mildly, is tenuous.

I’ve been repressing a number of frustrations about Infusionsoft for a long time. Perhaps the biggest is the number of add-ons you end up using. Bafflingly, neither web forms or order forms are mobile responsive out of the box.

Sure, you can use third party add-ons like PlusThis to fix the web forms, and Spiffy to fix the order forms. But shouldn’t that be a core part of the software, not an add-on?

I love the Infusionsoft campaign builder. I love the potential of what you can do with it. But for a long time I’ve been asking: why not just make the core software really great?

Instead, they’ve introduced a new landing page builder. I suspect a lot of customers were asking for it, because they don’t know how to Google ‘LeadPages’, but it doesn’t solve any core issues with the software. ‘WHY COULDN’T YOU JUST FIX THE ORDER FORMS’, I’ve been shouting in my head.

I’m not asking for much. Web forms that work, and an ecommerce refresh would be nice.

Infusionsoft’s solution to all their problems has been to develop ‘new Infusionsoft’, effectively a completely new product built on a new code base. I know enough about software development to know that sometimes you’re better off starting again. But for an existing user it’s deeply frustrating, because almost all core product development of ‘old Infusionsoft’ has been put on hold.

Yesterday, Infusionsoft announced the next wave of cosmetic change – a new name change. From now on, Infusionsoft will be known as ‘Keap’. I’ve received a fanfare of emails announcing the change.

I can barely convey how underwhelmed I am. They didn’t need a new name – the name was the least confusing thing about the whole thing. An anchor in increasingly choppy waters.

All I’ve wanted them to do all along is fix the order forms, fix the web forms, and ideally add multi-currency. That’s just my personal wish list – others will have their own. But to do the really cool stuff Infusionsoft is capable of you have to sew together a bunch of paid add-on services.

I’m not against add-ons, incidentally. No CRM software is going to cater to all use cases. But add-ons shouldn’t paper over cracks in the software.

I don’t recommend buying ‘new’ Infusionsoft, or Keap, or whatever it’s now called, because in development terms it’s still in nappies. And I don’t recommend buying ‘old’ Infusionsoft, or ‘Infusionsoft by Keap’, or whatever that’s now called, because there will be no major development put into the product.

Fundamentally there’s also a huge issue of confusion. When you mention ‘Infusionsoft’, do you mean the old or new version? What are those versions even called now? As somebody who regularly changes his corporate identity, I definitely don’t recommend changing if at all possible. And certainly not if the existing name is fine.

I might be wrong about all of this. On some level I hope so at least.

But I really wish they had just knuckled down and made the existing version of Infusionsoft really great.

Time will tell.

January 29, 2019

How to write regularly

I live on Sheffield’s Supertram route, right outside a tram stop. The first tram usually passes at 5.30AM, unnoticed like a ship in the night.

Until the last few weeks, that is…

When just once or twice, you might have noticed a huddled figure at the tram stop. Me.

A coffee shop ten minutes up the line opens at 5.30AM. So by 5.50AM I can be writing and nursing an espresso. The staff think I’m mad. I think I’m mad. But stuff does get done. Books get done. Podcasts get launched. I can write all my emails for the week, or a full edition of my print newsletter.

I’m not a fan of the ‘get up at 5AM like a winner’ nonsense, but once or twice a week it’s the only way I get stuff done.

The downside is that 1PM I look like I’ve been taking crack, and have to take an enforced 90 minute nap. Or else I throw ALL THE TOYS out of the pram (my toys, not Hugo’s toys), and wander round the house clutching a jar of Nutella.

The bottom line is this: the only way to communicate regularly with your list is to make time for it.

Are you making enough time?

It’s really a question of priorities. If you don’t deliberately block off time, other things usually take over.

January 28, 2019

Announcing: New edition of Simple Story Selling

We were talking on Friday about the benefits of publishing a book fast, and updating it as you go…

I’ve just finished a major update to my copywriting book Simple Story Selling. Since I first published the book two years ago, certain things have become apparent to me.

The first version of the book looked to apply what I call the ‘plot archetype’ structure to an individual email. You can still do that, but I’ve since found these ideas are more effective over a full email series.

I’ve also developed a better methodology on how many emails to include in a welcome series (one sent immediately after a contact opts in), and how to use open loop ‘soap opera’ sequences.

The revised book also discusses Facebook ads, and contains a template to create effective story-based ads. I talk about when to include a personal story, and explore key differences between email and Facebook.

There’s also a section on Google ads, and a section on how to tell stories when writing or publishing a book.

This is definitely a book to keep near your desk, I would argue.

Simple Story Selling normally costs $8 on Kindle, or $10 paperback. For the rest of January you can grab a Kindle copy for $2.99, or a paperback copy for $5.12. Plus it’s Amazon Prime eligible. Paperback copies are available from:

Amazon.com
Amazon.ca
Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.fr
Amazon.es
Amazon.it
Amazon.de
Amazon.co.jp

Or search any Amazon property for a Kindle copy (available worldwide).

Prices go back to normal on Friday 1st Feb.

If you have a list or audience of some sort, please do spread the word. I’m happy to help if you need copy writing.

January 25, 2019

Why self-publish a book

I’ve been busy in the last few months updating my two main books, Magnetic Expertise and Simple Story Selling.

Simple Story Selling now includes additional sections on email sequence structure, Facebook ads and Google ads. It’ll be live on Amazon hopefully later today, and I’ll be offering a discount next week.

*Just saying – keep an eye out*…

All of this would never have been possible if I didn’t own the rights to the manuscript, like in a traditional publisher arrangement. That’s fine if you’re going after national media coverage. It’s not fine if you’re publishing a book to generate leads for your business.

If you try to publish the ‘perfect’ book, you’ll never publish anything. Ever. Writing a book is a moving target, where the target moves away the closer you get to it. Even just updating two books has taken me four months.

A book that only exists in your head, or on post-it notes, or in a Word file, is a liability not an asset. It’s better to publish something imperfect, and iterate. Amazon will let you update the manuscript, or produce the perfect cover later on.

And thank God for that, because my first book covers were crap.

I’m still looking for a client or two to work through this with. Read more here.

January 23, 2019

What aren’t you writing about

Linzi attended a ‘speed awareness’ course on Monday. Which is something the police can offer you when they catch you speeding, if you’re a first or infrequent offender.

For a number of weeks I’ve been referring to it as ‘detention’, and calling her Linzi ‘Schumacher’ Drummond.

Despite my jokes, she came away with some interesting insights. For example did you know:

  • For the police to put up a fixed speed camera, there have to be at least three casualties or major incidents in that spot. They don’t just put up cameras in the most lucrative locations.
  • If a spot has had one or two major incidents and a camera has been demanded by residents, the police will sometimes send a mobile camera in a van. But again, this is always in response to an incident.
  • The variable speed limits on newer ‘smart’ motorways are determined by pressure sensors under the carriageway, which feeds data into a mathematical model. (I always assumed traffic was monitored by cameras overhead, but it isn’t.) If the model works correctly you won’t actually see a congestion incident.
  • If you’re doing 31mph instead of 30mph, you’ll still be travelling at 8mph at the point you would have stopped.

Why relay all this?

There are always interesting insights about what you do that you aren’t talking about. Common misconceptions people have that you haven’t addressed.

What things do you know that a potential customer likely won’t have thought about?

That could be your next email.

January 22, 2019

The problem with benefits

Marketing 101 is to convert features into benefits. A feature is what your product or service does. A benefit is the implication for the person buying it.

The trouble is, benefits come with multiple layers. You can always go a level deeper by asking “so what?”

If you ran a podcasting service, a handy feature might be automatic listing with various podcast platforms. The benefit is that saves me the time of doing it myself, and the headspace of figuring it all out. The end benefit of which is more time with my son in the evenings.

Which actually is a very compelling end benefit, but one that is basically impossible to use in your marketing unless you know I have a son, and store that in a custom field in your database.

End benefits usually boil down to time… people are generally more interested in saving time than earning money. Unless you’re perhaps 21, and have much more time than money to begin with.

The trouble with end benefits is you risk ending up with a generic message. Basically everybody in the world is claiming to save you time, or earn you money. Big deal.

Besides talking about the time you’ll help someone reclaim, it’s also worth thinking about how they are different after working with you. Do you deliver a fundamental change in perspective, greater confidence, or a permanent skill?

People want the benefit, but need the transformation.

To come up with a unique message you should write about both.

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