7 reasons why you should stop complaining

We’ve had brutally cold weather here lately. Basically the temperature has been hovering around -40 with the windchill (and for those who don’t know, -40 Celsius is also -40 Fahrenheit… so “cold” is better described as “dangerously cold”). As a result, I hear A LOT of people complaining about the temperature.

To be fair, -40 is cold. I’m not denying that. But is it worth complaining about? No. Complaining about the weather, or anything else for that matter, is not worth the effort.

Regardless of whether life has dealt you a rough hand in business, relationships, health, (the weather!) or whatever, here are 7 reasons why we all need to stop complaining:

  1. Stating a fact is okay. Sharing your trouble with others is good. But complaining (bemoaning how difficult it is for you to exist in the given circumstances) is not okay. The longer you complain about the something, the more you are trying to force your opinion on others.
  2. Complaining about something doesn’t change anything.
  3. If we can change the circumstances then we should. If we can’t change the circumstances (as with the example of the weather) then we can at least change how we operate in those circumstances. (Again, to use the example of the weather: You can dress warm, stay inside… or move away).
  4. Complaining takes time. So does saying something positive. Since time is something that we use up and cannot get back, why not spend your time thinking about the positive?
  5. Complaining takes energy. It uses up some of our energy to do and it sort-of sucks the happiness out of other people’s lives. We don’t want to be remembered as a person who made other people unhappy, do we?
  6. Complaining about our circumstances is silly. We are alive. We are breathing. Life might not be perfect but it’s pretty darn good (compared to what many other people are facing). Someone always has it worse and when we complain about our situation, we selfishly focus on our needs and ignore the hardship of others.
  7. We are given just a few years on this earth. Don’t you want to leave it in better shape than when you arrived? Complaining won’t help. Instead, there are tons of positive changes we can make in our own lives and in the lives of other people to help make this world a better place.

Next time you want to complain about something, please take a moment and think about whether or not you are contributing to a better world. Then replace your complaining with action — constructive criticism is okay, so is charitable effort, so is hard work, so is embracing big changes. All of those are better solutions to complaining.

Improve your copywriting with Oren Klaff’s ‘Pitch Anything’

I’m in the middle of reading the book Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff. It’s a great book!

Klaff has raised hundreds of millions of dollars in venture cap money during his career. Not surprisingly, he has honed his presentation skills into a science and in this book, he shares that science with his readers.

As someone who has read a TON of sales and selling skills books, this one is unlike anything I have read. Most selling skills books will cover the basics like AIDA, handling objections, asking for the sale, and so on. Yet Klaff handles the topic quite differently. I don’t want to give away a lot of his info (you should just buy his book and read it) but he covers a lot of helpful ideas that go quite beyond the scope of what you might normally read in a sales book.

I can’t help but read the book through the lens of a copywriter. (I do some copywriting work at CashMachineCOPYWRITER and at Real Estate Investing Copywriter. So copywriting as at the top of my mind and so much of Klaff’s book has valuable applications to copywriting.

One of my favorite chapters with the most obvious copywriting application is chapter 5. Again, I’m not going to give away much of Klaff’s secret sauce, except to say that he closes his pitches with a formula that can also work for copywriters. I’m summarizing a bit here and taking out words that might not make sense out of context (if you haven’t read chapters 1 through 4) but here is the formula Klaff suggests:

  1. Intrigue: Tantalize your audience with the beginning of a story, particularly about a person. You should place a person in a difficult situation and then raise the question about how they will extricate themselves from it… which will be revealed later in the pitch or the copy. In effective copywriting, this can be done throughout the copy and will help to rivet the reader’s attention.
  2. Prize: Instead of coming across needy and begging your audience to buy, take the opposite approach and become the prize. Be the pursued, not the pursuer. This is such a refreshing change of pace from a lot of copywriting that tries to go for a hard sell but ends up coming across as too needy.
  3. Time: This element of copywriting is already familiar (although not always well used) and Klaff says to set a time limit and stick to it. Unfortunately, many copywriters create false timeframes (“this page can be taken down at any time!”) and most buyers can see right through it.
  4. Moral authority: This is Klaff’s way of describing how the pitcher (or copywriter, in my case) needs to be positioned as the person with the highest amount of authority in the room. He uses the example of the President — someone with a lot of moral authority — becoming instantly subordinate to his doctor — someone whose moral authority supersedes even the President’s.

If you sell — whether face to face or on the phone or through copywriting (or in some other way), go get Oren Klaff’s book and read it for yourself. You can also read more from Klaff at his site (PitchAnything.com) or on Twitter (@PitchAnything).

The top action to take right now to get more customers immediately

Do you want more customers? Every business does. Here’s the very best thing you can do right now to start getting more customers immediately:

Narrow your target market.

That’s it. It seems simplistic and even counter-intuitive. After all, why would you narrow your available customer-base if you want to get more customers?

Here’s the answer: The bigger your potential market, the harder it is to speak clearly and compellingly to their problem. Conversely, the smaller your potential market, the easier it is to truly connect with their problem and demonstrate how effective your solution is.

Here’s an example: If you have a friend who has a problem, you can give them advice, assurance, and a little helpful guidance to fix their problem. You’re laser-targeting your solution to your friend’s very specific needs. But what if you have several friends who each have the same problem? You might not have enough time to help each one individually so instead you help them generally or as a group. Your recommendations will still be targeted to their problem but it will be slightly more generalized. But to extend the analogy further, most businesses tell all of their friends about the solution, whether or not their friends have a problem.

That’s how it works in business. In a perfect world, you have one customer with a problem and you work with them until the problem is solved. Your message to them, as well as your advice and recommendations, are laser-targeted. However, that is not very profitable. So you need to back up just a bit and find a bunch of people who each share a similar problem and you can communicate to all them a little more generally. Unfortunately, many businesses (the struggling ones, at least), share their solution with anyone and everyone, regardless of whether or not they want to hear it. One is not enough, “everyone” is too many. The best thing to do is find the group in the middle — those who all share the same problem.

If your business is struggling a bit, or even if it’s humming along nicely but you’d like to get more customers, the very first thing you need to do right now is to identify your target market… and be as clear and specific as possible while describing a fairly large potential base.

If you’ve been in business for a while then you have some examples of previous customers to draw from. Find the ones who are the most profitable, the most positive, the ones who tell others about you the most enthusiastically… and figure out what is similar about them.

Then, look at the people who didn’t become customers, as well as your least profitable and highest-maintenance customers. What characteristics do your best customers share that these “worse” customers and almost-customers do not share? Try to identify the characteristics that DON’T describe your customer-base.

Once you’ve done that, you have a pretty good idea of who IS and ISN’T your ideal customer. Then hone your marketing to meet those specific people.

And if you haven’t sold anything yet, then give it your best guess but be prepared to refine it further — perhaps even dramatically — if you need to.

Let me give you an example from when I was doing a lot of a freelance writing.

I started by writing for anyone I could find. Over time, I found that I was being asked to write a lot of business (specifically B2B), financial, and real estate content. Later, I realized that my best customers were from the financial and real estate field, particularly in the US. And even later, I learned that my very favorite and most profitable customers included real estate investors, debt collectors and credit experts, and lenders. With each “step” toward a more specific customer base, my marketing was refined, I closed more deals, and my prices went up (because I was more specialized and there was less competition)!

So if you’re sitting at your desk and wondering what you can do right now to improve your business, drop everything else and refine your customer-base. Get very specific and narrow them further than they have been. Trust me, it’s the best thing you can do for your business right now.

Itch marketing: How to get more people to buy from you

Have you ever had an itch you can’t scratch? It’s awful.

When I was a kid, I would get a bad sunburn every summer and my skin would feel like bugs were crawling all over it for days on end — it was brutal because there was nothing I could do to alleviate it. My entire back, shoulders, and neck would be insanely itchy and no amount of scratching would alleviate the problem. And in my late teens, I walked through poison ivy and couldn’t scratch my itchy ankles for fear of tearing the skin or spreading the poison ivy elsewhere.

Although I’ve never had a cast on a broken limb, I know of several people who have and each one complained of a similar problem: Of having an itch under their cast that they couldn’t scratch.

Just try NOT scratching an itch. It’s nearly impossible and you’ll drive yourself mad trying to avoid scratching. Whether it’s psychological or physiological or you’ve just walked through a cobweb, that slight tickle just under your skin is an itch that MUST be scratched and nothing provides a greater sense of relief than running your nails over the itchy spot.

Itches need to be scratched.

Your marketing should create an itch that demands to be scratched.

Regardless of who your customers are for and what you sell and how you market your products or services, your marketing should do just one thing: Create an itch. And every time your prospective customers encounter your marketing, they should feel itchier and itchier until finally they scratch the itch by handing over their money and getting the product or service you offer.

So how do you generate that itch?

One of the best ways is to spend more of your time on the problem rather than the solution you have to offer.

Unfortunately, very little marketing actually does this. All too often, a company’s marketing is focused on the product or the service or the offer. All too often, marketing is about a clever promotion or a sale price. It’s focusing too much on the scratch and not enough on the itch.

A small itch can be ignored. But a big, prolonged, repeated itch cannot. By focusing your marketing on the itch, you create a “must scratch” sensation for your potential customers. I believe most marketing should spend most of the time (as much as 75% or 80% of the time or the page or the design or the copy) focused on the problem. Yes, you can tease that there is a solution but you need to build up that itch sensation over and over and over and over again.

Here are a few itch-generators to get you thinking:

  • Talk about the cost of the problem. (Not necessarily in dollars but the cost of lost relationships or lost time or lost happiness… whatever)
  • Don’t just stop at a single mention of a cost. Name them all and revisit them over and over. You might phrase something in one way that resonates with one buyer and you might phrase the same problem in a different way that resonates with a different buyer.
  • Talk about how frequent the problem is experienced.
  • Don’t just mention that the problem is frequent… hammer home just how bad it is that problem is so frequent!
  • Talk about how long the problem is experienced each time.
  • Don’t just talk about how prolonged the problem is, put it into perspective: A problem felt once for 10 minutes isn’t a big deal but if it is felt once a week for 10 minutes each time, that’s 520 minutes — more than 8 hours — of discomfort or inconvenience or frustration or whatever.
  • Talk about how important the problem is. (Even if it’s not important in the big scheme of things, it is important to the person who is experiencing the problem at the time).
  • Discuss how many other people have the same problem.
  • Focus on how the main problem — and all of the subordinate challenges that result — make the prospective buyer feel.
  • Talk about the impact that this problem has on those around the prospect.

I hope you’re starting to see some of the possibilities. Marketing isn’t about putting celver content out there for the world to see and for some people to maybe act on. Marketing is about finding the right people and making them feel itchy. And then, at the very last minute, showing them how they can scratch the itch with your product or service. But the itchier you make them feel ahead of time, the more likely they will be to scratch.

9 surprising lessons from running email marketing campaigns

I’ve run several email marketing campaigns for my own brands and for my clients. I’ve run them for entrepreneurs, consumers, equity investors, and real estate investors. I’ve run free and paid campaigns, educational/positioning campaigns and affiliate/ad-funded campaigns. I’ve run regular broadcast and autoresponder campaigns.

From those campaigns I’ve learned several lessons — like the importance of building that relationship and credibility with an audience.

But I’ve also learned several surprising lessons that I never expected:

1. The calendar is cruel and relentless

If you’re writing autoresponders, you’ll burn through your list of pre-written autoresponders faster than you think you will. If you’re writing broadcast emails, you’ll be amazed at how soon it will be to send out the next message (“has it been a week already?!?”). So as much as possible, prewrite as many as possible. For autoresponders, you can prewrite and schedule them weeks in advance. For broadcast messages, you can still prewrite some of them (even the time-specific ones can be prewritten to some degree). And even beyond the ones you prewrite, plan for another quarter (or two quarters) of topics beyond what you’ve already written. Trust me, the time will FLY by.

2. You take the unsubscribes personally

Maybe that’s a good thing; maybe that’s a bad thing. I think it’s good because it forces you to treat your subscribers well but it’s bad because you end up wondering why they unsubscribed (if they didn’t tell you).

3. Geography matters

In most of the email campaigns I’ve run, I’ve been surprised by the location of my subscribers. In two financial campaigns, I received far more subscribers from Australia than I was expecting or had initially prepared for. After that, I revamped some of my work to recognize them a little more. And in another email marketing campaign that was initially (but loosely) targeting Canadians, I was surprised to discover the number of subscribers from the midwest US. When you see this happen, think about how you can adjust your information to connect with them.

4. Be prepared for interactive subscribers

When you blast out an email, you may get some responses, especially if you invite them. Be prepared for that level of interactivity. I’m always surprised by how interactive my subscribers are. For the most part I like it.

5. The day of the week matters

There are different days of the week that people open email. Not every day is the same. I sometimes don’t like sending stuff out on Mondays or Fridays because public holidays might keep people from opening your emails. Depending on the type of information, it might be better sent in the morning or in the afternoon or in the evening. In some cases, I like to send emails at night so that they are waiting in the inbox first thing in the morning. I can’t give you an exact day or time to send because I’ve found that the topic really influences this decision. But be prepared to learn for yourself.

6. Some of your subscribers will be more proficient in the topic than you

Although this isn’t always the case, there have been many email marketing campaigns when a subscriber replies with questions or thoughts about a particular email and it becomes apparent that they are more proficient in the topic (or some aspect of the topic) than you are. it happens. Even experts can’t be an expert in absolutely everything. Being aware of this reality is important but how you deal with it is essential. Some of these people might unsubscribe because they just don’t find your information to be at the level they need. Others might be made “partners” who can feed you information and help you level up. I prefer the latter but I have also suggested to some subscribers that they might want to unsubscribe because the material is targeted to a different audience.

7. Watch the numbers and test them. It’s hard but do it anyway

Watch your open rates and click through rates. Pay attention to the numbers. As much as possible, test various ways to increase open and click-through rates. It’s hard to do because it’s impossible to create a perfect scenario where you can get a nice, clean split. For example, testing two separate subject lines on subsequent days is not only measuring subject lines but also the days of the week. Do your best. Be prepared to make changes based on your discoveries — such as the types of subject lines people open, the length of content in an email, and the days of the week that people open emails.

8. Listen to each person but don’t necessarily act

As your subscriber list grows, and as your subscribers become more interactive, you might get people giving you specific requests — “can you talk about this?” or “can you send out information on that?”. If their requests fit your plan then go ahead. If their requests don’t fit your plan then thank them for the request and put it to the side. Pay attention to other requests. If you get a lot of people asking for the same topics to be covered then fit it into your plan. If you get these little “one-off” requests, you can ignore them. Don’t be forced to bend to the will of just one subscriber… but be willing to act when several subscribers want the same thing.

9. The rewards you get from email marketing are surprising and not always financial

From each of the email marketing campaigns I’ve done, I’ve been richly rewarded but it hasn’t always been a financial reward generated from affiliate promotions or product sales. I’ve developed good connections with subscribers; some subscribers have become clients or referrers; I’ve built my brand and credibility; I’ve become a better writer; I’ve become a better investor.

What lessons have you learned from running your email campaigns?