Most People Start Businesses This “Backwards” Way (Here’s What To Do Instead)

When it comes to starting a business, there’s the simple, straightforward way that is more likely to succeed… and then there’s the way that most people do it.

Aaron Hoos

When I was a kid, I wanted to start a business. I thought about it constantly!

And my thoughts always started in the same place: what should I sell?

When my mind drew a blank I thought I was destined for a 9-5 job!

Problem is, that’s the backwards way to think about it. Yet, that’s how many aspiring entrepreneurs (not just me!) start their thought process. They think about what they should sell first. They try to come up with a product or service. They try to invent a product or innovate a new way of doing something.

This doesn’t work because it’s so wide open. It’s too hazy of a starting point and could go in any direction (often the wrong direction!)

It wasn’t until I was well into my career as a freelancer — having already started and failed once as a freelance writer, then picked myself up and started again — that I realized the better way to start a business…

Here’s How To Start A Business — The Better Way…

Start with an audience. Find a group of people that you are familiar with, or have a network around, or who you can connect with.

Get to know them. Really well. Find out everything you can about them. (If you pick the right group of people, this will go fast because you already know them well.

Identify a problem they have. Everyone has problems, challenges, obstacles, unfulfilled goals. Find the biggest burning problems they have.

Solve that problem. Figure out how to solve their problem. Maybe through a skill you have, maybe through a product you can make or import, maybe through a connection you have in your network or a relationship you can go out to build.

That’s it.

What? Were you looking for something more complicated than that? It’s not more complicated than that but most people make it more complicated than that.

Just find a problem that you can solve, and solve it. Period. Build a sales funnel around that solution and boom! You have a business.

If you do that for your network of people, and then expand it out to serve other similar clients, you can build up a solid business that gives you a comfortable life… or even more!

And this method works because it ensures that people will more likely pay for your solution (compared to the alternative of you identifying something to sell but not finding anyone to pay for it).

Of course you’ll want to use your skills and other advantages to solve the problem. If you identify an audience with a problem that you can’t solve, either find someone else to solve it or find a different problem or even a different audience. There needs to be alignment between what your audience needs and what you can do. But the key here is to start with the problem and work backwards toward yourself.

For The Naysayers

Some of you will point out something like, “well my cousin’s friend’s uncle started with a product and he’s doing really well.”

Great. Good for him. There’s always an exception to the rule. But chances are, the product that he brought to market did already solve a problem for a specific audience, he just lucked out by not identifying the audience and their problem explicitly first.

I found the same thing in my first foray into freelance writing: I still made money; I still had clients. But I struggled (and ultimately failed) because I didn’t solve one audience’s problem. And then the second time I started freelancing, I lucked into an audience that needed my services. Only later did I realize that I should start with the audience and their problem… and as soon as I focused on that, my business shifted dramatically.

I see this happening all the time with entrepreneurs: the ones who start with the product will struggle and may or may not (probably not) succeed; meanwhile, the ones who start with the audience and their problem dramatically increase the likelihood of success.

Summary

If you want to start a new business or grow an existing one, I’m convinced that the fastest, simplest, and most profitable way to do it is to go backwards from the way everyone else is doing it. Start with an audience and their problem, and solve it.

 


Aaron Hoos, writerAaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He’s the author of several books, including The Sales Funnel Bible.

Verbs For Bullets

Aaron Hoos

As a copywriter, I write a lot of bullets in my sales copy. Things like…

  • Discover the 4 mistakes that are holding your business back from doubling in size this year (one of these mistakes can be fixed in under a minute and can bump your income by 15% or more).

… that kind of thing.

Copywriters use a ton of these bullets. I love ’em and would happily write them all day long.

Problem is, even though bullets tend to follow a pattern (or, at least mine do), you have to make each one creative and fresh and compelling. Or else people won’t read them.

And it starts with a verb. I like to start every copywriting bullet with a verb so I’m collecting verbs that I can start my bullets with.

Here are the ones I like…

Verbs For Copywriting Bullets

Discover
Learn
Find out
Unlock
Uncover
Reveal
Expose
Receive
See
Hear
Read
Install (into your brain)
Download
Meet
Network with
Rub shoulders with
Avoid
Create
Build
Grow
Implement
Tap into
Accelerate
Put an end to
Start
Drive
Push
Increase
Decrease
Overcome
Ascend
Climb
Assert
Challenge

Thoughts About Bullets

Not all bullets are going to be perfect every time. Of course you need to consider who your audience is. And some copywriters will look at this list and suggest that some verbs are too boring while others are too weird (which may be true but sometimes a boring verb is useful if only to put more emphasis on the subsequent feature and benefit that the reader will get.

Bookmark this post and check back because I’ll add more as I think of them!

 


Aaron Hoos, writerAaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He’s the author of several books, including The Sales Funnel Bible.

Advanced Copywriting Strategies: Why Do We Do What We Do?

In this series of blog posts I’m exploring Advanced Copywriting Strategies.

Aaron Hoos, Copywriter

A copywriter has one job: to sell the damn thing… whatever it is they need to sell.

That sale could be: get the prospect to call, click, subscribe, buy, whatever… and the copywriter worth his or her salt is the one who can get the most, best prospects to take action.

And the way to get the most, best prospects to take action is to persuade them to do so by figuring out what it will take to get them to take action.

A simple example (and a commonly cited one in the world of copywriting) is that people don’t want drills… they buy drills because they want holes.

Although that’s a funny little example, it points to the task of the copywriting to discover the underlying why and to bring it to the surface. All else being equal, an advertisement for a drill as a drill versus an advertisement for a drill as a device to make holes should result in more purchased due to the latter.

Of course it’s not just about the holes. There’s an underlying motivation for ANY purchase, and figuring out what that underlying motivation is, is primary work of a copywriter to fulfill their one job of selling the damn thing.

So, if that’s the one job of a copywriter then there is one question that every copywriter should ask themselves… a question they should keep in their heads at all times… a question that must drive their research, their writing, their testing.

That question, generally, should be: “Why do people do what they do?” That’s the foundational question that underpins all of copywriting. If you can figure out what motivates your prospect to act then you can use that as a tool to persuade them.

So, let’s answer that question:

Why do people do what they do? Let’s dig into various attempts at understanding motivation. This is not going to be comprehensive since, well, human motivation has been an object of study since the dawn of time. But we’ll look at some talking points that I think are helpful and influential.

Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Need

Abraham Maslow had a lot of good insight to share here, and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need persists today as a go-to resource in the area of motivation. In short, he suggested that people have a series of needs: Physiological needs (thirst, hunger, pain, sex); safety needs (protection from the elements); love and belonging needs (the need to be in a relationship); esteem needs; and self-actualization needs. Maslow went on to say that each person needed to address the lower level needs before they could ascend up the ranks to the higher level needs. In other words, if you are dying of thirst in the desert, your thought is of crawling to water, not of how you can feel fulfilled at work.

A depiction of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs from Wikipedia

But is Maslow’s hierarchy enough? I know it is used as a tool by some copywriters to help them answer the key question of why do people do what they do. It is helpful and I have used it at times too.

But sometimes it can get pretty esoteric and when you’re writing a sales letter for a product or service, you might end doing what I’ve done and struggled with knowing which of levels your offer might fulfill, or worrying about whether your best prospects are at that level in the hierarchy, or trying to find words that match the level (since you might use different words at the “safety needs” level versus the “self-actualization” level.

Whitman’s Life Force 8

Drew Eric Whitman, a marketing consultant who wrote the excellent (if awkwardly titled) book Ca$hvertising had a great list in his book that I think is insightful.

He departs from Maslows’ hierarchy slightly and instead suggests that we are hardwired with 8 drivers, what he calls the “Life Force 8”. You can see hints of Maslow’s hierarchy in here, but these 8 are useful and accurate as the key reasons why people do just about anything…

1. Survival, enjoyment of life, life extension
2. Enjoyment of food and beverages
3. Freedom from fear, pain, and danger
4. Sexual companionship
5. Comfortable living conditions
6. To be superior, winning, keeping up with the Joneses
7. Social approval

Whitman’s list is good. It’s true, we are hardwired for those things, although I am curious about whether we are hardwired for the enjoyment of food and beverages or rather just hardwired to eat and drink… and the enjoyment is a bonus that we seek after but will happily give up. Ask me next time I’m stranded in the desert and I’ll let you know.

7 Enemies Of Survival

Whitman’s list reminded me of a list from a totally unrelated source but I think it’s instructive here: the 7 enemies of survival. I first heard about this in, of all places, 12th grade geography. I can’t remember why. But the teacher said the list and it stuck with me. Forever. Here I am nearly 3 decades later and I can rattle off the list no problem. (If only I could do that for stuff that was actually on the exam!)

The 7 enemies of survival are: pain, cold, thirst, hunger, fatigue, boredom, loneliness. And I wonder if these are the things we are hardwired to address.

This list doesn’t account for a human sexual drive or for social approval but I think this list can tell us a lot about the need to survive, since many people will go to great lengths in most cases to avoid any of these things.

Tony Robbins’ Pain/Pleasure Values

Tony Robbins (and others, but Robbins is a big proponent of this concept) simplifies the concept further, suggesting that the underlying driver in people’s lives is to pursue pleasure and avoid pain. That has merit. I like it. It may not always be true (there are scenarios when we choose the more painful approach), and it’s made more challenging by people’s misconceptions (such as the temporary desire of feeling good by eating junk food versus the long-term reality of the price that someone’s health pays for making that lifestyle a habit).

Still, this pleasure/pain motivation can be a mostly-helpful guide to help us understand human motivation. In most cases, people will take action to help them achieve pleasure and avoid pain.

Here’s My Take…

One concept that I’ve been thinking a lot about, which also simplifies many of the ideas above, is to say that people do anything for one of two reasons: for Preservation or for Position.

That is, they will take action to survive and preserve their life, and, they will take action to achieve a certain social position.

(This concept isn’t necessarily my invention; I think it’s culled and synthesized from many of the concepts I’ve discussed earlier in this post.)

It’s so simple and elegant and true. It fits nearly every scenario I can think of, and addresses the very things that Abraham Maslow, Drew Eric Whitman, and the 7 enemies of survival each address.

On its own, this Preservation/Position concept is good but I wouldn’t call it an Advanced Copywriting Strategy. However, I think we can elevate its usefulness and power, and transform it into a more advanced strategy by bringing together this concept with another one discussed earlier…

The 4 Ps of Motivation

We can actually make this far more useful if we combine Tony Robbins’ pleasure/pain concept with this preservation/position concept. If we put them onto a 2×2 chart, we end up with something very interesting, and way to instantly analyze any person’s motivation…

We all do things (EVERYTHING!) for any mix of the following 4 reasons:

We pursue pleasure in our quest for preservation and position, and we avoid pain in our quest preservation and position.

In fact, we rarely do just one but I would suggest that we do some mix–some percentage– of all four in every action we take in the day and every decision we make in the day.

For example, consider procreation: sex itself is the pursuit of pleasure while the avoidance of pain might be the desire to have babies because of a ticking biological clock; meanwhile, children can add pleasure by watching them grow and they can also help avoid pain in positioning by ensuring that someone will take care of you in your old age.

Nowadays, the care-for-elders isn’t as important of a survival strategy as it once was, so that may diminish as a motivational factor, but the other three factors remain significant (to some degree) for most aspiring parents.

This is a powerful tool for copywriters because it forces you to drill down and get an answer from all relevant angles to the most important question, Why do people do what they do?

When you are copywriting, think about why your prospect would buy, and run it through this simple 2×2 matrix to help you identify exactly what hot buttons you can press to convince your prospect to take action.

 


Aaron Hoos, writerAaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He’s the author of several books, including The Sales Funnel Bible.

Advanced Copywriting Strategies: My Journey To Become A World-Class Copywriter

Aaron Hoos, Copywriter

I’ve been a copywriter for a long time.

I’ve honed my skills in the gladiatorial arena of freelancing where I earn a comfortable living by delivering persuasive copy and engaging content to my clients.

Although there is no official MBA in copywriting, I’ve suggested a curriculum for an imaginary version. And I’ve continually educated myself by reading books, taking courses, studying under the great copywriters, and applying and testing what I learn every single day.

And if you’ve been doing this for as long as I have, you tend to run into the same copywriting tools and ideas and methods over and over again. And there’s nothing wrong with using those tools and ideas and methods. They are good and they work. But why stick with a small toolset when you can have a bigger toolset of advanced tools that help you do even more?

I want more. I need to reach higher in my skills and knowledge and career. And those who know me know how curious I am. I love to study and dig. I want to always learn more and explore ideas at a greater depth.

I don’t want to be just any old copywriter. I want to play a higher game in my own business and for my clients. I want to be a better copywriter… No, not just a better copywriter, an AMAZING copywriter whose work sets the standard and breaks records and drives more business for anyone who uses my copy. I want to be a world-class copywriter and I’m not there yet.

So, I’m starting a new series on my blog to express something I’ve been thinking about and looking for, for a long time: Advanced Copywriting Strategies.

Writing this series will push me to seek out better strategies and ideas. I’ll be looking for strategies that are next level; I’ll be taking well-known (“basic”) tools and ideas and pushing them to make them better; I’ll be seeking to achieve mastery in consumer psychology and related disciplines. And in articulating them to others, it will force me to chew on them and master them in my own business and for my clients. It will expose gaps in my knowledge so I can fill in the missing pieces and build on a stronger foundation.

This series is my journey to become a world-class copywriter. I’m not perfect and neither will my study. But I will learn every day and I hope you join me on my journey.

This tag — Advanced Copywriting Strategies — will bring together everything that I’m writing and thinking about so you can push yourself higher in the world of copywriting too.

Join me on my journey to become even more persuasive.

 


Aaron Hoos, writerAaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He’s the author of several books, including The Sales Funnel Bible.

The Most Interesting Branding Lesson In The World

When I say “The Most Interesting Man In The World,” what do you think of?

Maybe you think of beer.

Maybe you think of Dos Equis beer.

But you probably think of a well-dressed older man surrounded by beautiful women and adventure.

C’mon. I don’t even need to write a caption and this picture evokes all the images and words, right?

The Most Interesting Beer Campaign

Since 2007, actor Jonathan Goldsmith was the spokesperson for Dos Equis beer, playing the role of The Most Interesting Man In The World. (source)

I loved that branding effort (a lot!) and his commercials continue to be some of my favorite commercials ever made. They are charming, funny, memorable, sharable, and re-watchable.

And here’s anecdotal proof that marketing works: I never drank Dos Equis before seeing those commercials but I spent a lot of money on Dos Equis after seeing them! (I don’t always spend money on Dos Equis. But when I do, it’s because I just spent an hour binge-watching a bunch of Dos Equis commercials.) I know I’m not the only one swayed by this marketing campaign.

(Want to read more about branding, marketing, and beer spokespeople? Check out this blog post I did from way back in the day!)

Even Goldsmith’s sign-off tagline — “I don’t always drink beer. But when I do, I prefer Dos Equis” — has become a meme, which I guess is some kind of indicator of how embedded into our culture The Most Interesting Man really is!

Then something changed…

A NEW Most Interesting Man?

In 2016, Goldsmith’s contract with Dos Equis ended and they chose to replace Goldsmith with a younger Most Interesting Man In The World.

The “new” Most Interesting Man In The World continues to represent Dos Equis in commercials that feel very similar to Goldsmith’s commercials. His replacement does similar things and sounds similar…

Looks familiar, right? The commercial has all the same beats/storylines/messages. On the surface, it was the passing of a baton and we should all continue staying thirsty because of this new guy, right?

But does anyone care anymore?

Look, I’m not trying to be an old curmudgeon by saying that I hate change and can’t tolerate a new face on an old campaign. I get that companies have to do that. There are probably many legit business reasons why Dos Equis chose to replace Goldsmith. And maybe Dos Equis is continuing to see success with the new guy. Awesome.

BUT… Goldsmith was the original Most Interesting Man. Dos Equis assumed that the mantle of “The Most Interesting Man In The World” could be moved from one person to the next, simply by creating similar commercials.

Goldsmith proved them wrong. He proved that HE is The Most Interesting Man In The World.

Want to know the true power of the brand? Want a lesson in being a legend and in brand portability?

Fast forward to 14 seconds into this video to watch Goldsmith say less than 10 familiar words and instantly transport the full cache of HIS brand over to Astral Tequila…

Or go over to AstralTequila.com and skip all that fast-forwarding nonsense.

In less than 10 words, Goldsmith shows us the true power of a brand, brand portability, and how HE continues to be The Most Interesting Man In The World.

(Bonus reading: Does anyone remember in The Dukes Of Hazzard when Bo and Luke Duke were gone for a season? They were replaced by weirdly similar cousins… Coy and Vance Duke… The show sucked and the original actors were brought back on.)

 


Aaron Hoos, writerAaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He’s the author of several books, including The Sales Funnel Bible.