Thoughts About Life And Business On My 41st Birthday

Aaron Hoos

41. Wow.

My “forties” seemed so far away when I was a kid. Looking back from today’s perspective, life has raced by in a flash.

Don’t worry; this isn’t a blog post where I bemoan getting older or I get all introspective or whatever. I’m actually going to talk about something else: growth, evolution, and change.

MY PERSONAL DEFINITION

It starts when I was a kid: For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a writer. Other kids wanted to be astronauts or firefighters, I wanted to write.

Every chance I’d get, I’d write. My family and teachers humored encouraged me with it, which I suspect is probably how most kids develop skills in anything. For example, whenever my family played Scrabble, we’d write down all the words played during the game and then I would go write a story with all of those words in it. And a high school teacher let me skip all of those little English writing assignments if I wrote a book by the end of the year (I did). There are many other examples, too.

As I got older, though, the reality of what I could do to earn a living as a writer started to come into question. Book authoring was (and still can be) a who-you-know industry; and journalism wasn’t for me (I tried it and felt like an ambulance chaser). Copywriting wasn’t even something I realized existed (which is probably my biggest regret — that I didn’t start studying copywriting until well after college).

I pursued a different career in college before realizing that I would die if I didn’t write for a living. So, right after college, I started my first business. (I won’t bore you with the details here… you can read about it in my blog post Aaron Hoos — More Than You Need To Know Plus 8 Random Facts About Me.)

Anyway, my point is, I only ever wanted to be a writer. I worked my ass off and I am proudly living my life-long dream today.

All has been good since I started writing full time. Sure, there were some lean years early on but I’ve built enough skill and reputation that things have been pretty good.

But things have taken an unexpected turn lately, in a way I couldn’t have predicted: business has been REALLY good. Almost too good. So good, actually, that it’s a problem.

THE PROBLEM OF GROWTH

For years, my business grew steadily and predictably. But in 2013, after I made some tweaks to my branding and services and my prices and my target market, BOOM — my business started growing exponentially. This year it hit a point where it was too big.

I should have seen the signs throughout 2015 but by December 2015 I had SO much work, regardless of my higher rates, that I was turning away many people. And it was starting to impact my clients, too. At the beginning of 2016, 3 of my biggest clients each came to me and offered to put me on 100% retainer — essentially “buying” 100% of my time. And when I turned them down, they all suggested I think about expanding my business by hiring junior writers because they had so much work to send me and I couldn’t keep up.

And here’s where the problem lies…

… there is a cluster of mental obstacles that prevented me from hiring other writers to do my work:

  • I’ve hired an occasional writer from time to time and was never truly happy with the results.
  • In a previous business I was a manager in charge of a team and I didn’t love it, and later I was an editor-in-chief of a magazine and didn’t love that experience either.
  • I’m a very fast writer with specialized knowledge of my industry, so in the time it would take me to assign a project and then edit it afterward, I could have written the content myself.
  • Perhaps the biggest challenge: I’ve always defined myself as a writer… the person who sits at a keyboard and creates copy… I was afraid I’d be giving that up to become an editor (and editing other peoples’ work is a task I don’t love doing).

These were hurdles. I could ignore them for a long time (years) because it never really impacted me or my clients.

But starting in December, and growing in intensity in the first quarter of this year, I’ve had to make a change; I was my own bottleneck and it was well beyond the crisis point. I may define myself as a writer but I have clients and they need to be served so I’m rethinking how I run and grow my business.

AM I STILL A WRITER?

I’m building a team. I’ll continue to do what I do (writing, consulting, etc.) but I’ll be rearranging my business to work on some of the higher level stuff (and the higher-end copy and consulting) while the smaller stuff gets handed off to a team member. In fact, as I write this, I’ve hired 2 writers and have a short list of 2 more that I will likely hire shortly.

It’s not going to be easy because I’ve spent nearly 41 years defining myself as a writer and right now it feels like I’m giving that part up. (Okay, I’m sure I’m not fully “giving that part up” but it kind of feels that way right now.)

On the other hand, ever since I made the mental shift to grow my business in this way, and I started reaching out to other writers to hire them, I am thrilled by new opportunities that have presented themselves to grow my business in ways I wasn’t thinking about before. I have a number of new ventures that have come to the forefront in the past couple of days because of this, plus I also see the possibility of maybe being able to take a well-earned vacation (sometimes I probably should do more of but always resisted in the past).

I’m a little scared because last year at this time it certainly wasn’t where I expected to be in a year. On the other hand, we have to keep changing and growing and this could very well be the next step in my evolution.

I don’t fear change; I love it. But I also want to find a way to remain aligned with my goals and vision for my life and I’m embarking on the next step of a venture in which the path is less clear and the risk of misalignment feels very high. But I’m taking the step anyway.

Related Post: 37 Lessons About Business On My 37th Birthday

Social Media Business Hour Podcast: Learn The Secrets Of Profitable Sales Funnels And Copywriting

social-media-business-hour-podcast-aaron-hoos-201512

I was familiar with Nile Nickel’s Social Media Business Hour podcast so I was honored to be invited on as a guest. We covered a lot of ground and the podcast went by so quickly!

We talked about how a sales funnel should be defined (most people define it incorrectly), and the importance of an intentional sales funnel, rather than a sales funnel that grows organically and exists by default. We talk about how I got into sales funnels in the first place and what attracted me to profitable sales funnels as one of the most compelling opportunities for business owners and entrepreneurs. Then, since the podcast is about social media, I connected it back to social media and showed how your sales funnel needs to exist even in your social content. Then I shared (overshared?) my formula for creating amazing headlines — this piece was really valuable for Nile’s audience!

Click here to listen to my interview with Nile Nickel about profitable sales funnels and copywriting

Want to interview me on your podcast? Click here to learn how to book me as a guest.

Secrets Of Business Mastery Podcast: The Future Of Copy

Aaron Hoos

It was my sincere privilege to be on this podcast with a great friend, client, and mentor — Mike Agugliaro.

Mike has an amazing story: he was a New Jersey electrician who struggled in his early business and nearly shut his business down before he made a big change: he started studying what makes other businesses successful and that was the catalyst that skyrocketed him from making less than $1 million a year to well over $28 million a year.

Today he is a force to be reckoned with in the home service industry and he still runs his home service business while also coaching other service business owners (electricians, plumbers, HVAC techs, etc.) to massive growth. He’s like a bad-ass Tony Robbins for the home service industry.

On his podcast, we talk about copywriting and sales funnels, including…

  • Identifying preferred customers
  • Empowering and disempowering words
  • Strategic copy
  • Dealing with objections

… and more.

Click here to listen to my interview with Mike Agugliaro about the future of copy

Want to interview me on your podcast? Click here to learn how to book me as a guest.

MBA in Copywriting: It doesn’t exist (yet) but if it did, this should be the curriculum

As far as I’m aware, there is no actual Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a specialization in copywriting.

But there should be.

So in this blog post, I’m writing a curriculum for what I would recommend if I were in charge of putting a course together in copywriting.

Marketing Management

Topics include:

  • History of advertising, marketing, and sales from early marketplaces to online
  • Types of media and how different types of copy are used in each
  • Direct marketing/direct response versus other types of marketing
  • Developing marketing plans
  • Ethics in marketing

Mandatory reading:

Psychology, Sociology, and the Power of Persuasion

Topics include:

  • Psychological drivers for behaviors and decisions
  • Consumer habits (loyalty/disloyalty, trends, following the crowd)
  • Buying motivations
  • How to build rapport and connect emotionally
  • Persuasion and influence
  • Action, how to call people to it (and why people don’t act)

Mandatory reading:

Sales Funnels

Topics include:

  • Analyzing sales sales funnels for opportunities and troubleshooting
  • Connecting with people where they spend their attention
  • Creating end-to-end funnels (from attention to post-sale)
  • Strategies for growth and profitability

Mandatory reading:

Credibility and Reputation Management

Topics include:

  • What is credibility and authority and how do consumers ascribe it to businesses?
  • USPs — analyzing them and developing them
  • Positive versus negative reputations and what factors influence these
  • Components that contribute to credibility and authority (i.e. testimonials)

Mandatory reading:

Formulas and Structures

Topics include:

  • An overview of classic copy formulas and why they work
  • Attention/Interest/Decision/Action (AIDA)
  • Storytelling in copywriting
  • Components of copy (Headlines, Benefits, Overcoming objections, Calls to action)

Mandatory reading:

Attraction and Attention

Topics include:

  • Attention-getting with headlines and subheadings
  • Powerwords
  • Use of images
  • Basic fundamentals of color/design

Mandatory reading:

Measuring Results

Topics include:

  • The purpose of measuring
  • An overview of metrics, analytics, and statistics
  • Measuring the right things (and avoiding errors/assumptions)
  • How to split test

Mandatory reading:

Project

The student will be assigned a product or service and will create a marketing strategy for that offering. Then, the student will create an end-to-end sales funnel that is to include the following components:

  • Attention-getting marketing in at least 3 different media (and must include at least one broadcast media, one print media, and one online media)
  • Social copy
  • Sales copy for a sales letter (for web or magazine)
  • Website copy
  • Pre-sales relationship-building copy
  • Post-sales follow-up copy that drives additional sales

The student may deploy this copy in any appropriate sales funnel and must also defend each choice of media.

Use a P.S. in your copywriting: Why you need it, 18 ideas to create your own, and how to rock it

Whether you write copy for a living like I do, or whether you’re a business owner who creates your own copy for your marketing and sales efforts, here’s one way you can bump up the effectiveness of your copy efforts: A P.S.

Traditionally, the P.S., or post script, was used after the signature as a way to add more content — perhaps to clarify something you’d written earlier or as a brief update between when you wrote the letter and when you mail the letter.

No one writes by hand anymore, except my grandma (and her letters are always written on those impossibly thin shopping list notepads that real estate agents send out for free. My grandma is awesome). But everyone else in the world writes on a computer and doesn’t really need to add a PS because they can just go back and edit what they wrote or send a second email.

In copywriting, the P.S. persists and is a useful tool. When possible and appropriate, I try to include a P.S. in my copy (yes for sales letters and autoresponders, sometimes for blog posts, no for reports).

WHY YOU NEED A P.S.

It’s been said by someone (attributed to a couple of different people, most frequently to copywriting master Gary Halbert) that the P.S. is the second headline.

Less succinctly, my copywriting studies frequently urged that copywriters need to write a great headline and a great P.S. and just about everything was secondary… because it was usually skimmed (or even overlooked completely) by readers.

In practice, it seems that people tend to read the headline and, if the document is short, they’ll scan to the bottom and read the P.S. and then they’ll read the body copy. If the document is longer, this practice doesn’t happen as often (because of the work required to scroll down to the bottom) but the P.S. is almost always read, even if nothing else is read.

Since a headline and a P.S. are the two pieces in marketing copy that are almost always read, you need a P.S. as often as possible because it’s a second way to get your message to your audience.

Copyblogger gives another good reason to use the P.S.: In a list of things (and your marketing or sales piece IS a list of things), people tend to remember only the first and last thing. So your headline and P.S. are going to be remembered when everything else is forgotten.

Want some numbers to back up my pro-P.S. position? Here’s a compelling statistic from The Toppled Bollard, a British site about direct mail. They report on a split test between a sales letter without a P.S. and with a P.S.: The letter without the P.S. resulted in zero sales while the letter with the P.S. resulted in a 2% response and ultimately over 20,000 pounds in profit. Nice.

18 IDEAS TO CREATE YOUR P.S.

There are many ways to create a P.S. I’ll gather what others have said and I’ve added my thoughts in parentheses beside each one.

Michel Fortin says: The P.S. is a place to…
1. State or restate your call to action (this one’s my favorite)
2. Disclose a new piece of information (save a great piece of info to really hit home)
3. Summarize the main points of your letter (good but can make for a longer P.S.)
4. Recap your offer (similar to above but shorter)
5. Strengthen or sweeten the deal (especially good for a reluctant prospect)
6. Add a proof element (statistics work well here)
7. Overcome an objection (I recommend the most common objection)

Procopy tips advises to use the P.S. to…
8. Increase urgency (one of my favorites)

Ryan Healey adds these ways to use the P.S…
9. Reinforce the guarantee (make sure your guarantee has teeth!)
10. Restate the big idea (I haven’t seen this done very well)
11. Add social proof (especially your strongest testimonial)

Mike Kim lists these ways to use the P.S…
12. Restate the terms of the offer (be careful! This can sometimes be long or boring)
13. Add a bonus (similar to sweetening the deal, above)

HubSpot adds these great ways to use the P.S…
14. Provide a hook (including a link for the person to take action)
15. Give a final plea (similar to call to action but I like the sense of “plea”)
16. Personalize the offer (great to use if your offer has a corporate feel to it)

Copyblogger has this nice simple way to use a P.S.
17. Reiterate what the customer stands to lose (Love it! I’m going to try this one).

The Toppled Bollard gave this really interested idea…
18. Add a non-sensical P.S. (it creates interest, response, and drives people back into the letter)

HOW TO ROCK YOUR P.S.

Here are some tips I’ve developed over the years when writing P.S.s:

  • Use it! When possible, use the P.S. Don’t waste the opportunity.
  • Use it with purpose. A P.S. isn’t a throwaway piece of your marketing. I like to spend a large portion of my time working on my headline and P.S. If I nail that, there’s a lot of room for error in the body copy and I still get a good response. The skill-set I use to write a headline is the same one I rely on to write my P.S.
  • Use only one P.S. Although some people practice using more than one P.S., and I have done multiple P.S.s in my sales letters, I prefer to use just one. I tend to think that multiple P.S.s clutter things up and you lose the edge you gained with one.
  • Be succinct. I like shorter P.S.s. Yes, you might be able to argue for longer ones but I tend to think of a P.S. as a headline and headlines should be succinct.
  • Test and measure. Key the links in your body copy separate from the link in your P.S. and see which one pulls better.