The shelves are stacked so heavy that they sag in the center from years of strain.
Mostly, in the study, they’re just highschool and university textbooks. Endless references and software manuals. Dictionaries, historical books, calculus, statistics, and every programming language under the sun. A quick glance will leave you confused and baffled.
I don’t think you could tell if I’d studied to be a computer scientist or a philosopher. That’s how vast the selection of books in my study is.
And don’t you dare believe for a moment that’s all.
In the television room is another tremendous library of shelf-sagging fiction. Here the books are layered on top of one another and the paperbacks are two, sometimes three, rows to a shelf.
Every word of every single story…digested.
On those shelves is a chronicle of the reading material that fills my head. From the day I first read a Charles Dickens novel until now.
That’s not all. Shelved in my bedroom closet, strewn in hallway cabinets, and stuffed into boxes in the storage room are enough books to fill a public library. Such is my love of knowledge that some were shipped from country to country and with all the space of my home, there isn’t room to display them all.
At the back of all of these books, I find both incredible and horrible marketing.
Every time I brought a new book into my library, I had turned it over in the shop to read its back cover. I always read the blurb. That back-cover is a mini-sales letter. And what it said there made me either want the book or return it where it came from.
The back cover is the second place most people read after the title. It has a summary of what the book is about, a teaser, and a couple of reviews.
Just like in a sales letter, reviews are testimonials from recognized experts: “Riveting story-line packed with action and suspense”, for example, may be quoted by the New York Times.
If the message on the back cover of the book is written just right–it alone will cause someone to hang on to the book, and walk to the check-out with their Mastercard in hand, ready to buy.
Yesterday, my mother sat by one of my fiction shelves. She was over for a one-on-one PPC coaching session with me. I’m helping her market Make-Up CPA offers. Basically, that means she’s brokering traffic for some well-known cosmetics lines.
Our discussion turned to a training “system” recently launched by one of the King Kongs of wholesale traffic. It was recommended to me by one of my students.
I asked mum to read the sales letter and find out if it would be useful for her to invest in.
“I read the whole 30 pages,” she said. “And, believe it or not, I still can’t tell what the stupid thing is!”
Holy pumpkin pie. Seriously. Marketers sometimes frustrate the shit out of me.
Most of their sales letters are so filled with copyrighting tricks aimed at getting you to buy, but not even the smallest indication of what it is exactly you’re buying.
Oh just keep in mind, if you write sales letters, build squeeze pages, post PPC ads, or even film YouTube videos, you’re still selling something. ÃÂ You might be selling someone on clicking your ad, filling out their email address, or opening your e-mail. Each is a cost people pay in exchange for something they might perceive to be valuable to them.
At the core of marketing is the exchange that’s on offer.
And crucial to selling is being able to properly communicate what it is you’re offering otherwise you sure as hell aren’t getting their click, email, or hard-earned dollars.
Anyway, I wanted to illustrate the point to Mum. So I picked up a random novel from the shelf next to her and I read to her this:
Everything was familiar but everything had changed. The people, his old friend Bobbie even her decrepit, ageing beagle.ÃÂ
Coming back to the little community had been like walking into a nightmare.
It all looked the same, the house, the furniture, Bobbie herself, the woods out at the back.
But it was in the woods that she had stumbled over the odd, nearly buried object, had felt a peculiar tingle as she knelt down and brushed the soft earth away.
And looking back, that had been the start of the terrible, terrifying transformation of a quiet, unremarkable place into something utterly alien and hideous. A place of unrest and insane powers.
I remembered, as I started to read to her, that when I bought this novel, it had taken me a long time to start on it. Yeah, I heard a bunch of positive feedback on it from my friends, but even that wasn’t encouraging enough to embark on the 693 pages of Times Roman size 9 book until I had run out of reading material.
Why would I be in a rush to read it? I had no idea what the book was about. Only that it was a best-selling thriller of some kind, written by a very popular author. The blurb failed to communicate what I would get for the time I would invest in reading it.
From a marketing perspective, this blurb I shared is the equivalent of what are called “blind bullets”. They’re intended to create suspense by conveying a benefit without revealing the information. I’m sure you’ve seen ads with pages and pages of bullets that look like this:
“You’ll discover a secret bidding strategy which will get your ads clicks for mere cents while other advertisers will pay a pound of their flesh for the same keyword.”
It’s so sleazy and hypey. Even though, blind bullets have their place. But if your entire marketing message consists of suspense in this way, you’ll raise the “bullshit alarms” of your readers. There’s no proof or credibility. Especially if the reader already bought 10s of products that made the same claim–how can they be sure that this isn’t a “secret strategy” they already paid for and “discovered”?
Many marketers follow all the techniques to a TEE. They use the right headlines, create mystery and suspense, identify pain, offer solutions, and scatter testimonials throughout–yet, they fail to sell at the most basic level. They just tease.
And teasing just ain’t enough to sell.
On the other hand, an expert communicator will tell you exactly what you’ll get. And give you enough information to decide if this is, in fact, for you or not.
Copy techniques are SPRINKLED in their marketing message. They’re subtle and hard to identify. In an increasingly skeptical marketplace such as internet marketing, being transparent is KING.
I picked up another book from the same shelf. Again, completely at random. And I read to mum this blurb:
When the animals take over the farm, they think it is the start of a better life. Their dream is of a world where all animals are equal and all property is shared.ÃÂ
But soon the pigs take control and one of them, Napoleon, becomes leader of all the animals. One by one the principles of the revolution are abandoned, until the animals have even less freedom than before.
This is a classic of modern English fiction, and is a powerful study of the use and abuse of political power.
Now there’s a winner. I remember becoming engrossed in this novel, when I was 12, on the way home from the bookstore. The blurb communicates the story-line in a few words without giving away the story. It leaves enough suspense in there for its readers to want to unpeel it as they read the novel.
Also, it gives shoppers a chance to decide that this book is NOT for them if a story about an animal revolution with political commentary isn’t their style.
Many marketers take the concept of Ã¢â¬Ëperception is everything’ too far. They think, that if they can make you FEEL LIKE their product is valuable by calling it “system” or “top secret strategy”, then you will pay. Sure, it’ll work on a few people. But as soon as the smoke clears after they buy and waste their time, when they’re disappointed and annoyed, they’ll never trust you again.
As for my mother, she bought the training product based solely on my students’ recommendation. Not by any merit of its marketing. She discovered that the “system” consisted of a pdf file and an expensive monthly membership for a piece of software that does exactly the same thing as one she owns.
She cancelled her subscription within days.
Such is the state of marketing today. Frankly, I find it unethical.