Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Three Best Business Books

If you’re an avid reader like I am, it’s difficult to recommend just a few books about business and making money. Think and Grow Rich is definitely an all-time business classic. How To Win Friends and Influence People is another one. If you don’t have definite, clear-cut goals, along with good people skills, it’s very difficult to succeed in life.

Lately, I’ve narrowed it down to three books that I believe are ‘must-reads’ for anyone who wants solid, usable, real-world advice on how to succeed in today’s Business Jungle.

1. To Be Or Not To Be Intimated by Robert Ringer.
There are so many good lessons and theories (that work in the real world) that it’s hard to narrow them down. The basic premise of the book is that the less intimidated you are in business and personal situations, the higher level of success you’ll have. The author does not advocate trying to intimidate or bully anyone. He gives you solid, real-world theories and strategies of business self-defense.

2. NO BS Sales Success by Dan Kennedy
. Another excellent real-world guide about selling yourself and your services. One skill I wish I would have learned earlier in my career is the ability to sell. It’s priceless – not just in business, but in your personal life too. Dan Kennedy, in my opinion, is THE best guy to learn sales and marketing from.

3. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert
Kiyosaki. A great story about the author’s life, the lessons he learned from his real dad (who he calls his poor dad), and his best friend’s father – his ‘rich dad.’ It’s an easy book to read – even if you have little to no business background.

If you have kids 6th grade or older, they should absolutely read this book. Why? Because job security is an oxymoron or myth nowadays. Schools don’t teach kids how to be self-employed or to make money. They educate (or indoctrinate) kids on how to be a good Dilbert drone – also known as an employee. Nothing wrong being a good employee.

However, I feel schools are doing today’s students a disservice. Especially with how much they gouge – er, I mean charge - students for tuition and books. These institutions of higher learning aren’t really preparing them for the realities of life in the 21st Century.

This book is also a good place to start for anyone who wants to make the transition from employee to entrepreneur. Rich Dad, Poor Dad won’t tell you exactly how to get out of the Rat Race, since everyone has different and unique skills. The book will show you the attitudes, mindsets, and ideas that can help you find your own path to financial independence.

I’d recommend you go to or your local bookstore and purchase all three of these books – or at least borrow them from your local library. You may think that you don’t have time to read, or that reading isn’t that important in being successful.

I’ve read literally dozens of business books, and haven’t watched TV programs in my residence in the last three years. Sounds pretty radical, I know. Over that time span my thinking has gotten so much sharper and clearer, and I’m a better businessman, communicator and leader because of this. Turn off your TV, and get turned on to reading. It’s one of the best decisions you can ever make.

If you don’t believe me, I’ll end this post with a quote from Dan Kennedy:

“Rich people have large libraries, poor people have large TVs.”

Monday, October 31, 2005

Why Copywriting Is The Most Important Part of Your Marketing

The more I write for myself and for other clients, the more I’m convinced that the right words are without a doubt THE most important part of your marketing. Flashy image or “branding” type ads can get your prospect’s attention, maybe make him or her laugh or be impressed for a short amount of time.

It’s like seeing a 4th of July fireworks display. You may see some nice sights and sounds, but they won’t last in your prospect’s mind much longer than you’ll remember the fireworks.

More importantly – these flash-in-the-pan type ads can be very scary for your bank account. Why? Because these cutesy, ‘brand-building’ ads don’t tell your prospect WHY your company, product or service is better than your competition. And today, consumers are more skeptical than ever.

They’re bombarded with these same kind of flashy ads that all look and sound the same. Even if someone sees your ad, there’s no guarantee they’re really paying attention. Americans’ attention spans have never been real long, and they seem to be getting shorter all the time.

When you use direct-response marketing, you’ve got a prospect’s time and attention. Once you have this important asset, then you can tell your full story about who you are and what you can do for the reader.

If you don’t want to hire a professional copywriter, there’s a way you can learn this important skill. My friend Lorrie Morgan-Ferrero is a top-notch copywriter who also teaches others how to improve their copywriting and public relations skills.

To learn how Lorrie can help your business, click here:

Being the skeptical business guy that I am, I don’t recommend anyone to friends, associates or acquaintances that doesn’t know their business pretty darn well. I think it’s downright frightening to not give good, solid business-building information to folks that read what I have to say.

My reputation is on the line when I make a ‘reco’ to anyone. Especially when it concerns your business, bank account and family.

I met Lorrie last summer at a marketing seminar here in Denver. Besides being a top-notch copywriter, she’s a great person as well. If you’re serious about learning the art of copywriting, Lorrie’s one of the best copywriters to learn from.

If you want to take your marketing, business and bank account to the next level, click here You’ll also want to subscribe to her e-zine. I always learn (or re-learn) great copywriting and marketing tips in each issue.

That’s all for now - Have a Happy and Safe Halloween!


Thursday, September 01, 2005

Blogger Fundraiser - Katrina Relief Efforts

Today over 500 bloggers in seven countries are helping raise funds for people affected by Hurricane Katrina. This effort was spearheaded by Hugh Hewitt, a law professor at Chapman University in California, who also has a nationally-synidcated radio show.

There are many, many fine charities to contribute to. The one I'll recommend is Lutheran World Relief. They're a very efficient organization with a very low % of overhead. This ensures that the majority of your dollars go to the folks that really need it.

Check out Mark Daniels, Hugh Hewitt, and Instapundit for more info about and links to other charities you can contribute to.

I know this is a big departure from my usual posts. I thought this was a small way I could contribute to people who have had their lives turned upside down. Contribute what you can, and pray for our leaders, relief workers... and especially the families affected by this natural disaster.

Monday, August 22, 2005

What's Your Market Hungriest For?

By meeting your (paying) customer’s needs consistently, you’ve conquered more than half the battle in business success. This may sound pretty basic, and just plain ol’ common sense. But I’ve noticed that common sense isn’t always common practice.

In other words - folks may KNOW what to do, but unless they put it into ACTION, it’s just a good idea with potential.

Ask yourself this: What is your market hungriest for? More responsive or faster customer service…a greater selection of products/services…making it easier to buy your product or service – maybe having the option to purchase online at their convenience.

Take a half hour to an hour, and think about these things. Or better yet (if its possible), be your own customer, and go shopping at your own physical store or website. Then you’ll see if the buying experience with your company is as good as you think it is.

I’ll admit it does take some extra effort, and time from your schedule to do this. However, the time and effort you put in now will reap bigger dividends later. Especially when you hit your busy season, and you may be scrambling just to keep your head above water.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Your USP, Part II

On my last post, I explained what a Unique Selling Proposition is, and why your business needs to have one. Now, I’ll explain what mine is in the marketplace.

What makes me stand part from other copywriters/marketing consultants, is having an accounting, investing AND copywriting/marketing background. I’ve worked as an accountant/financial analyst in the corporate world for 9+ years, and passed the CPA Exam.

I’ve also profitably invested in tax lien certificates and stock options. I made over 22.2% in 18 months on a Jefferson County, Colorado tax lien I bought and sold…and 1,232% in 10 days on a stock option. That’s an accurate number - not a typo (I know it sounds too good to be true) - and I’ve got the trade record to prove it.

With this investing “grand slam” that I hit, there was some good fortune involved. But if I weren’t financially literate (able to accurately read and interpret a financial statement), I wouldn’t have put myself in position to make this profit.

On top of this, I’ve been involved with a couple of start-up companies, and learned some valuable lessons about what you should – and shouldn’t – do in starting a business.

These skills, along with the ability to sell in print, make for a unique USP.

Now it’s your turn to develop your USP. Think about the things you like. Maybe it’s a sport, like golf, baseball, or racquetball. Or a hobby like collecting baseball cards…investing in stocks, options or real estate…quilting….restoring antique cars.

It could be something like exercise or health & nutrition, and a specialized niche of either. It could be for kids, people in middle age, or seniors.

This exercise might be difficult for some of you at first. If it is, think back to what you liked when you were growing up. Or think back over your career – what industries have you worked in, or liked working in? And what tasks did you love to do?

It may not come to you overnight. But it’s necessary for your personal satisfaction, and business profitability.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Why A USP Is Crucial To Your Business Success

It’s a simple – but absolutely CRITICAL – factor to your business success. USP is short for Unique Selling Proposition. This tells the marketplace why they should do business with you, over and above your competition…even instead of doing nothing!

It's what makes you different (and hopefully better) than your competition. It’s also your ‘reason for being’ in business. Most business owners’ USP is (at least privately): “Do business with me because I need the money.” That’s an honest USP, but doesn’t say anything about the benefits it’ll give your customers and prospects.

You should ask yourself this question before getting into business, and if you’re already in biz: “What is my Unique Selling Proposition (USP), and what makes me stand out from my competition?” If you’re not sure where to start, here's a couple examples:

Domino’s Pizza: "Fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less – guaranteed."

M&Ms Chocolate Candies: "Melts in your mouth, not in your hand."

With Domino's Pizza, they didn't say it was the best, or even great-tasting pizza! Domino's was started in a college town, and they knew their market: College kids.

College kids aren't looking for gourmet pizza, usually they just want hot, reasonably-priced pizza delivered quickly. And that's exactly what Tom Monaghan - the founder of Domino's - brought to the marketplace.

There are two main reasons why you should have a USP: 1) To make your company stand out from the competition, and 2) To increase the actual value you’re giving your customers, which allows you to charge higher prices.

In my next post, I’ll go into more detail about how to craft your USP, and what MY USP is as a copywriter and marketing consultant. Until then, here’s a couple of links to help you better understand this important marketing concept:

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Advice From The Godfather On Creating A Great Offer

I’m not a huge movie buff, but I do remember some quotes from some of my favorite movies. Bull Durham. Caddyshack. Major League. I know, they’re not exactly highbrow entertainment, but they’re worth my money to rent from Blockbuster.

Although I haven’t seen The Godfather from start to finish, there is one very memorable quote that you can apply to your business and customers that will make a BIG difference in your profitability. The Godfather himself, Don Corleone, who says these often-quoted, now-famous words:

“Make ‘em a offer…dey can’t refuse.”

And how do you do that? Pack as much value into it as possible. In order to do that, you must know what’s valuable to your customers. If you don’t know, for goodness sakes, ASK! When you send out a print newsletter or e-zine, have your customers/prospects fill out a quick survey.

Nowadays, time is a valuable commodity. People won’t do anything just because you want them to. You may need to offer a free gift, in exchange for them taking their time to help you out.

Here’s an example of a great offer from an Italian restaurant owner. Dan Kennedy writes a letter about Giorgio, the ‘Romance Specialist’ who wants to help busy, weary couples rekindle the flame of romance by spending a special night at his restaurant.

What’s the offer? This was written approximately 15 years ago, so adjust the prices in your mind. For only $99, a couple will get a limo ride to and from their house to Giorgio’s establishment, and an Italian dinner for two - with an unlimited amount of red wine - awaits them.

There the lucky couple will have a secluded, quiet candlelit table with a great view of a bay at sunset reserved just for them. Is that a great offer or what?

To create these great offers, look at the marketing ideas from companies and industries other than your own. You can copy and borrow the best and most applicable ideas for your company and industry. Combining this with the survey results from your customers, should allow you create an offer your customers can't refuse.

When you do this at least once – and preferably several times during the year – you’ll stand out from your competition, and give yourself and your business a BIG advantage.

Have a Happy, Fun and Safe 4th of July – appoint a Designated Driver, DON’T drink and drive!

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Lead Your Reader Towards The Offer

After you’ve gotten a reader’s attention, you need to keep that vise-like hold on his attention, in order to get him to your offer. How do you do that?

Always, ALWAYS focus on the benefits for the reader. What’s in it for her. And present it in a compelling manner that keeps the reader eagerly jumping from one sentence to the next. If you don’t stay focused on this, it’ll be very difficult – if not impossible – to lead the reader to your offer.

When you’re writing, keep the sentences short and punchy. Just like I’m doing here. Don’t get overly worried about perfect grammar.

Dan Kennedy has another way that’s pretty effective, summarized in this formula:

Problem – Agitation – Solution.

Re-state the problem you addressed in the headline (lousy golf game, being overweight, looking or feeling old, etc.). Then – remind the reader how bad it makes her feel, and what she’ll miss out on by not using your solution to this problem.

This will lead to your product or service – the solution! - and how it’ll make your reader’s life better. Focus more on the emotional satisfaction, instead of pure logic. Remember, people make decisions based on emotion, and reinforced by logic.

By following these keys, you’ll write more effective sales letters, ad copy and website copy. This will lead to increased response rates and sales.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Best-Written Ads Are Worthless Without This Element

Some marketing experts say the offer is the most important part of an ad. While I agree that a sales letter MUST have a great offer, it's not the most critical part. I'll give you a hint: It's the sentence that caused you to read my post.

Also known as the headline.

The words you use in a headline should fuel your target audience's greatest desire - or calm their greatest fear. Think about the questions Baby Boomers may be asking themselves:

- How can I make and save enough money to live well in my golden years?
- What can I eat, and how can I exercise to staying looking and feeling young?
- What can I do to keep my libido strong into old age?

Here's some examples of headlines that address these questions:

How To Invest Like Warren Buffett, and Live Comfortably When You Retire
The 'Superfood' You MUST Eat To Reverse The Aging Process
Three Little-Known Nutrients You Need To Supercharge Your Sex Drive!

By knowing your target audience's 'hot buttons,' or what motivates them the most, is the biggest key to writing an effective headline. This will ensure more people read your ad, and increase your chances for a higher response rate.

Here's a good post from Kevin Nunley about headlines that will energize your ads, sales letters and web copy:

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

To Brand Or Not To Brand - That Is The Question

Today a lot businesses think they should be concerned with their "brand" or image in the marketplace. That's a valid concern, but not the most important one for most small-to-medium sized businesses.

Why? Because they're trying to advertise like a Fortune 500 company, and smaller businesses simply don't have the cashflow to justify this high-dollar, high-repetition marketing that's hard to measure the results. Another reason is you're competing with so many other brands, images and ads people see on a daily basis; it's difficult to have yours stand out from everyone else's.

Quick Quiz: Name 3 ads that you've seen or heard on TV, radio, in the newspapers or online in the past day or two. Kinda tough to remember, isn't it? Again, that's because of the information overload in the marketplace. If branding isn't the way to go, what is?

Direct-response marketing that you can measure, monitor, adjust and control (in my opinion) is a better and smarter way to market yourself or your business. Why? First of all, people are skeptical about advertising claims and promises more than ever.

By explaining your product, service and company, you show prospects why you're unique from your competitors, and can provide all-important proof to back up your claims and provide credibility.

Second, when people read your e-mail, print ad, sales letter or Web copy, you've captured the most important assets in the marketplace today - a reader's time and attention. American's attention spans have never been real long to begin with, and seem to have gotten shorter over the past few years.

With an attention-getting (and keeping) letter with the right words, you've captured a person's attention. With image-type ads on TV, people may or may not be paying attention...or, they may use their Tivo and completely blow them off.

My next few posts, I'll go over the different parts of a good sales letter, and keys to making them work effectively for you and your business.