Posts

20 Free Cowbell Principle Excerpts!

final front cover ony outlineThe Cowbell Principle went to #1 bestseller in three categories and #1,209 overall on Kindle! Buy it today for just $2.99 on Kindle. Anyone can read a Kindle on most major smartphones, tablets and computers with their free apps- click to get yours.

We’ve partnered to get 20 key excerpts out there for you to read for free. Take a look and read one!

We’re super grateful to know so many amazing authors, speakers, entrepreneurs and bloggers… those below are both amazing people and generous, too.

10 Critical Rules for Brainstorming – posted on Aweber.com’s blog by Lynette Young
Analytics And The Limits Of Knowledge – on Scott Monty’s blog
How Emergencies & Tragedies Create Innovation – on Adele Cehr’s Epic PR blog
How Playing Your Cowbell Will Make Billions of People Want You – on Joel Comm’s blog
How To Be Uniquely Valuable – on the Internet Marketing Ninjas blog- thanks to Jim Boykin and Ann Smarty!
How To Get More Results Out Of Yourself! – on Alex Harris’s blog
How to Get So Much Career Momentum You’ll Always Have Work – on The Huffington Post
How To Keep Fear From Ruining Your Career – on Maddie Grant’s SocialFish
How To Succeed By Defying Mediocrity – on Thom Singer’s blog
How To Supercharge Your Career & Marketing With The Innovation Mindset – on Garrison Wynn’s website
Is Your Talent A Cowbell or a Bagpipe? – on Christina Dave’s PR For Anyone
The Perfect Team Is Not Perfect – on Social Media Explorer, thanks Jay Kelly and Heather Dopson!
What Google Trends Can Do For Your Career – on Jay Baer’s Convince & Convert, thanks also to Jess Ostroff!
When The Dumbest Idea Is The Best One – on SEOchat, thanks Ann Smarty!
The Secret of How Geniuses Innovate – on Bryan Kramer’s Blog
Why Irrational Optimism Makes So Much Sense – on PrideStaff’s Blog
Why Success Requires Sacrifice – also on PrideStaff’s Blog
Why We Undervalue Our Biggest Talents – on Charlie Poznek’s The Boomer Business Owner
Why You Need To Know “The Why” Of Your Business Or Career – on Kerri Konik’s Brandscape Atelier
Even The Super-Loner Batman Had a Mentor… Why Don’t You? – on Raven Tools’ blog, thanks Jon Henshaw and Nicolette Beard!
Why We Should Thank All The Haters – on Kim Garst’s blog

Enjoy!

 

Robert Rose from Content Marketing Institute [Video Interview, StoryDNA] with Kathy Klotz-Guest

Kathy Klotz-Guest and I interview Robert Rose, the Chief Strategist for the Content Marketing Institute. He has a background in the entertainment biz, then the whole Silicon Valley startup thang… with an emphasis on great storytelling as a competitive advantage. AND… Robert is the author of The Seventh Era of Marketing.

Brian Carter – Essential Reading

Hi! If you’re new to digital marketing or social media or just to Brian Carter, you ought to take a look at this “required reading” list. Things by Brian:
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  • Free ebook: Contagious Content: What People Share on Facebook and Why They Share It – If you want to create Facebook posts that get shared like crazy, execute the takeaways from this research study on your own Facebook posts. Everything in Contagious Content is valid. Read it to get more likes and shares on your posts.
  • Free ebook: The SuperPost Swipe File™ – The best posts we’ve ever run for Facebook clients and how you can adapt them to your own business to massively increase engagement on your Facebook page. Most posts get about 1% engagement rate (percentage of those who see the post and like it, increasing the visibility of that post). These posts received 10% to 16% engagement rates.
  • Free benchmarks: How do you know if you’re getting good enough Facebook results? Or how awesome it could get? Read this.
  • Free marketing guide: Without great copywriting, nothing you do will sell. No one will care. To write persuasively and get more sales, you need marketing molecules.
  • Book: The Like Economy (2nd Edition): How Businesses Make Money With Facebook – If you’re new to Facebook marketing, want to make sure your strategy is sound, or want to get better at the tactics that get the best results, read this first. This is the best book if you want to get the most bang for your buck with Facebook. To take it even further, get into my Facebook Leads and Sales Machine training course.
  • Book: The Cowbell Principle: Career Advice on How to Get Your Dream Job and Make More Money – Just like Will Ferrell’s goofy cowbell player in the Saturday Night Live sketch “More Cowbell,” you already possess a unique value that people have a fever for – your cowbell. For individuals, a cowbell is a talent or gift. For businesses, it’s a durable competitive advantage. The key to happiness and success is knowing who you are and how you can make other people happy. A cowbell gives your value to people and they love you for it.
Other books I recommend. Of hundreds of non-fiction books I’ve read, I believe these are the most important. If you already like my writing and speaking, these will take you even further:

Are You a “Checkbox” Marketer?

CHECKBOXMARKETER-no

  • Are you thinking about your marketing primarily in terms of getting it done?
  • …creating social posts, ads, images, podcasts, blog posts…?
  • …then putting it out there?
  • …then you feel like you’re done?

If so, you might be a checkbox marketer.

Now there’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting things done.

Obviously you’re not going to be very successful if you can’t get things done. So, congratulations for getting things done.

Truly. It’s not easy these days. There are a lot of distractions.

But the marketers who are getting the best results are not thinking in terms of just getting stuff done.

Optimizers, the opposite of checkbox marketers are focused on a process that creates maximum results:

  • They’re measuring the results of every piece of marketing they put out there.
  • They know what metric to look at for every piece of marketing they create.
  • They think ahead about how they’re going to track the results.

Now it makes sense if you’re not an optimizer…

  • If you’ve never created multiple ads like an AdWords or Facebook ads…
  • If you’ve never split-tested landing pages…
  • If you’ve never experimented with blog post titles or email subject lines to see which ones people respond to the most…

…then it’s possible you’ve never experienced one of the most important marketing experiences people can have today.

Once you’ve tested a lot of ads or Facebook posts or email subject lines or blog post titles and look at the results you’ve probably had this experience…

“Oh my gosh- that is not the one I thought would work. I can’t believe that’s the one they like!”

If you haven’t had that experience you probably think you have a lot of awesome ideas. You may think all your ideas are awesome. Or you may think all ideas are equally good.

But the fact is the data shows us that the best marketing creative can perform 5 – 10 times better then the worst marketing creative.

And when I say “creative” here I mean the image is the words the ideas. It’s a noun. This is agency speak.

Once you understand that some marketing is dramatically more effective than others, you realize:

  • You need more ideas because they’re not all equally good. And
  • You need to test those ideas to see which one performs the best with your ideal customer.

air process

So it’s no longer good enough to check off a box that you created a Facebook post.

You need to create a lot of Facebook posts or ads or blog post title for email subject lines…

And you probably already do create a lot of them as a matter of course over a period of days or weeks or months…

But you may not have been going back and looking at the metrics which ones are really awesome and which ones are not.

You may not have been learning from your data.

Or you may not have set things up to get you actionable data.

If you’ve been marketing for months or years and not getting that kind of data you’ve missed out on an incredibly valuable resource that will provide you guidance about how to perform 5  to 10 times better in the future.

A checkbox marketer will create a landing page to collect emails and say, “Thank goodness we’re done with that… check!”

An optimizer will think ahead using a platform that allows them to split test multiple landing pages and create three versions. Within a few days or weeks they’ll see that one is outperforming the others and they’ll stop running the others and their overall campaign results will increase 3 times 5 times… perhaps 10x.

checkbox marketer can get things done but they can’t increase their value to your company every day the way an optimizer can.

A checkbox marketer can’t get smarter about your customers the way an optimizer can.

Some people will move from checkbox marketing to optimizing as soon as they see the benefits of optimizing. Other people will not.

If you are a checkbox marketer and don’t want to move into optimizing:

  • You will never be a strategist.
  • You will always be a low-level marketer and low paid
  • Someone else will manage you and ask you to do things while they optimize it.

If you have employees who are checkbox marketers who are presented with the benefits of optimizing and do not change their behavior, then you may have an employee who is not capable of modern marketing.

Digital marketing is not simply the completion of tasks. It is a scientific process that includes measurement and data analysis. And its goal is to always improve results and always understand the customer better.

Without this approach your company cannot be competitive.

One more advanced fact for you: no matter how long an optimizer is in the business, they don’t get better at guessing which marketing idea will do the best.

Customers still surprise us. We’re still learning about them. So you have to keep testing.

There are no marketing geniuses out there who always guess right.

It’s the optimizing process that is genius.

RANT + PODCAST: “Do Whatever It Takes”

This is a blog post that began as a podcast- feel free to listen instead, or listen AND read along below.

Today, I want to talk to you about something I think is really important for success for business and something we see all the time with marketing.

You have to be willing to do whatever it takes to get better results, and to avoid your competitors eating your lunch, or your entire industry being disrupted!

Companies run into a lot of different obstacles. Sometimes, companies hire us because they just need help with something they can’t do, like we’ll do Facebook ads for them, and they can’t do it, and we can get them the results. Other times, they just have a problem, and they don’t know what it is.

Sometimes, we have really complicated clients who have a ton of problems.

Sometimes, they have reputation problems. And, sometimes, we can do certain things.

We’ve got a client who has a big reputation problem. We can do certain things for them, but they also have some issues with customer service. The level of customer service is not high enough. They set expectations for customers they can’t possibly meet. They’re not really clear how to describe what they are compared to other companies.

There’s a lot of issues that have, so, when you start trying to market to solve some of these problems you discover, some of them you can solve, and some of them are internal company problems.

You’ve got to give them feedback, and I wonder if they think they think it’s weird…

  • “The marketing guy’s telling us to improve our customer service!”
  • “The marketing guy’s telling us we don’t know what our company is about!”
  • “The marketing guy is saying that it’s not okay that our IT people are telling us that something is impossible!”

…and that last one is the one that gets me the maddest. Because right now, everything is internet-based. Everything is programming-based. Everything is computer-based.

And it’s a gigantic opportunity, it’s been a gigantic shift in our economy and in business, and the world is completely changed. I mean the new thing with Amazon, you’re seeing those buttons where you get a Tide detergent button you put in your kitchen, and, when you’re running out of Tide, you would just push the button, and it orders it through Amazon. It shows up to your house 2 days later.

Very dangerous. You don’t want to have that for candy with you if you’ve got kids in the house, right? 🙂

Technology is everywhere, and so many companies have come out of nowhere, like Uber using smartphones to disrupt the entire transportation industry, not just taxis but they’re going to be competing with FedEx and DHL and UPS.

They’re running the Uber Eats thing in Houston as a test, delivering food. I wouldn’t be surprised if they start delivering groceries and either Amazon or Uber disrupts the whole grocery business.

You always see, anywhere that technology can improve convenience, new companies win and old companies lose. Companies like BlockBuster go out of business because of Netflix. The list is super long. Borders went out of business. Not only did Borders send traffic to Amazon rather than having a web store, which is just idiotic, but they didn’t adapt like Barnes & Noble did. Barnes & Noble copied the Kindle, created the Nook for an e-reader, right? And so Barnes & Noble has survived. They’re profitable. Borders went away.

Now, my point about this is is that, if your company, and we hear this sometimes, has an IT department or programmers who are saying, “This can’t be done,” or, “We can’t do it,” or they’re just slow or they’re just stubborn or they’re just difficult.

I grew up a geek. I’ve programmed some. I’ve hung around programmers. I know programmers. And I understand. They’re different, and they’re great. I love programmers. They’re different, so sometimes they struggle a little bit with some of the social things that other people in your company don’t struggle with, and sometimes they have different priorities, and sometimes they’re hard to deal with. Sometimes they’re difficult.

But the thing is I think you have to be willing to go nuclear on your programmers and say, “Look, you guys are problem solvers. You have to be willing to solve these problems. I’m not interested in you saying you can’t solve this problem. Don’t tell me you can’t do it. I don’t ever want to hear that. Solve the problem or you’re fired.” It needs to be that simple.

If you don’t have a culture of programmers and IT people that will solve problems quickly and see themselves as quick problem solvers… the overall topic I want to talk about today is willing to do whatever it takes, because there’s a lot of disruption, and there’s a lot of change, and there’s a lot of opportunity.

Millennials get it. They’ve grown up in a time where everything has changed frequently.

A new business can come out of nowhere and they no longer use the old business, whereas people who are over 50 will have stayed loyal to a company or business model for 10 or 20 years or whatever. That may seem weird to them, and, basically, you may take your customers or business model or advantage in the industry for granted. You ignore problems, assuming you can.

Another younger, faster, more agile, more motivated company comes along with programmers who do want to solve the problem you’re ignoring- and suddenly it’s too late for you.

The biggest enemy for companies that are going to get disrupted is an internal culture of laziness and procrastination and just barely good enough instead of ambition.

You really need hungry people, because there are so many start-ups, and many of them fail, but a few of them completely disrupt industries, and that’s the problem, right?

You have to be willing to do whatever it takes.

We see this on other levels too. When we work with clients sometimes, some of our clients are still getting used to the whole fact that we can test a whole bunch of different messages with customers, and we can test a whole bunch of different images. They’re so used to the old marketing paradigm of, “Let’s decide what the ad and the marketing images and all that stuff are before we put it out.” They decided on the basis of personal preference, like, “I just feel like this is good.” They’re accustomed to making these decisions on, very little knowledge about the customer.

Often, they think they know the customer better than they actually do. Often, the data we as their digital marketers come up with about the customer when we run a bunch of different ads is surprising to them. We learn about the customer. And there are some great tools, Facebook Audience Insights, with their data partners and all the information we have from all those retail loyalty programs, gives us net worth and income, and shopping behavior info, and all these things that we can learn about your customers, especially if we upload your email list and we profile those people or we profile the emails of your buyers versus those who don’t buy. That’s gigantic, and we learn a ton about your audience, then we learn more when we run all those different ads.

If your internal culture is not willing to do whatever it takes, they’re not willing to let go of their preferences about messages, they’re not willing to let the customer tell you which ones they prefer. 

Instead of having an internal counsel at your company that decides what messages should go out… Yes, you need legal, yes, you have to have brand parameters, but I’ve seen companies make a lot of arbitrary decisions that are above and beyond those things. Creative decisions that don’t have anything to do with their branding.

The thing is, if you do that, if we’re just doing it with guesses and with, “It’s my opinion,” what the data tells me from having run, 10-15 years now of ad tests and experiments is that, even when you have the data on your customers, EVERYONE’S guesses about what your customers are going to like are often wrong.

Being personally attached to your ideas is a liability in digital marketing. It’s a huge liability. It’s why some companies are losing at marketing.

There are some great books out now, the Freakonomics books, the Daniel Kahneman… books out there about the biases that we experience. We have great science now about basically the ways in which our perception is often wrong. The ways in which we fool ourselves, the ways in which our ego basically screws up our chances of success.

So when we get so attached to our own opinions, or when your company has a system that allows that… The way around it, I love this whole digital marketing laboratory approach, because the older thing was you’d have like a boss who has a great marketing idea, and, if you have a marketing director who isn’t that strong of a personality, then they’re always getting bulldozed by the boss who has a marketing idea, which may be good or bad and often may be bad.

They’re not trained in marketing, and, when you’re a CEO, you’re basically getting told you’re awesome all the time, so anybody that’s in that situation starts to believe it, whether they are awesome or not, right? So you’re putting out these marketing ideas thinking that they’re awesome because you’re awesome, and, if they’re not working and especially if you’re not tracking, you don’t really know if they’re working.

But, in a digital marketing laboratory, where we can see where each ad, “Does this ad get us leads?” “Does this ad get us sales?” Then you can tell, right? The boss can have an idea, the marketing director can have an idea, the marketing assistant, the marketing interns, they can have ad ideas, and we can see which ones work the best. Now, that’s a democratic situation where we get to see what works.

If you’re still attached to your ego there… Then, when your ad doesn’t work, you feel bad, you feel ashamed, you feel like you lost, you feel like you’re a bad person, you feel like something bad is going to happen, but that’s not what we’re doing. We’re not trying to prove we’re good people by having good guesses. That’s not what we’re doing.

We’re trying to put enough ideas out there to let customers choose the best one so that we have a better chance of succeeding.

Because the fact is like there is a research study that showed that, after 10 years or more, marketing experts do not get better at guessing which creative ad marketing message or image is going to work the best. They don’t get better at it.

You don’t get better at it. What you can get better at it is being disciplined about the process of putting out more ideas. And, yeah, you don’t want to put out stupid ideas. I think you get better at finding some best practices, but there’s often things that break the rules. A lot of people I know, including myself, who’ve run conversion optimization on landing pages find that, when you put a video on the landing page, it doesn’t convert as well as when you just have an image, which is counterintuitive, and there’s a lot of counterintuitive stuff in digital marketing. That’s why you have to test.

All the people who are going by their gut are going to fail on the counterintuitive stuff. All the people who are testing are going to find a counterintuitive thing that works awesome and the super-performing outliers, and they’re going to find the things that work super duper well that you wouldn’t have found if you didn’t have an open mind and you didn’t test a lot of stuff.

The companies that aren’t willing to do whatever it takes… They aren’t willing to put aside their ego, they aren’t willing to make their program solve problems, they aren’t willing to test a lot of ideas, they aren’t willing to go with the analytics instead of opinion, those companies are going to lose.

It’s simple as that. They’re not going to get as good of results. They’re not going to have as big a profit margin. Their spend is not going to be as efficient. So they’re not going to do as good.

For a public traded company as well, you can only go so far on all that cash. There are plenty of companies that are huge that fail. And that get bought up. And there are plenty of troubled companies that get acquired, disassembled, et cetera by better companies. Being big is not good enough. You have to be willing to do whatever it takes.

That’s what I wanted to say today. It is kind of a rant.

I’m amazed that people don’t do it, but I think that, for me, it comes from just a insatiable desire to get results for whatever I do.

And I do that in comedy, I want to get laughs, and I do it in business, I want to get clients, leads, and sales, and whatever results they want. But I go with the data, and, when the data tells you what’s working and what’s not, that’s when you have to make the change, right? It just doesn’t make sense to me when you’re not willing to go whatever direction the data, which really is what the customers are telling you through the data, which direction to go.

If you’re not willing to go the direction the customers are telling you to go, well, you’re missing a gigantic component of business. You’re in business to satisfy the customer so they will part with their money, and you’re there to satisfy them to make them happy so they’ll continue to give you their money, and everyone will be happy. The data tells you what to do to do that. You have to be willing to do whatever it takes to create and sustain that relationship.

That’s it. I’m going to go to Las Vegas and talk in the Amazing.com Conference. It’s like 4 days with a thousand customers who have bought courses from Amazing.com, which I call them the Mercedes-Benz of course creation. Udemy I call the Wal-Mart of course creation. Nothing against Udemy instructors, et cetera, Udemy’s got a lot of great stuff, and they’ve been doing great things for a long time, but Amazing.com takes it to another level. They’ve got an instructional design person on staff. They treat instructors like really well. They flew me out to Austin to film parts of the videos.

I’m creating a course called Social Marketing Profit System. It’s got 4 and a half hours of video, 25 videos on the basics of Facebook marketing advertising strategy, how to not choose the wrong strategies, because, again, this is a counter-intuitive thing. A lot of people, the first things they choose to do are actually not the most effective ones, and everybody’s making the same mistakes instead of getting a little bit of training and avoiding that heartache, avoiding losing that money, right? Save some money, save some heartache.

Some people do their own things, and then they conclude that Facebook marketing or advertising doesn’t work. Well, that’s just dumb. You didn’t get any training. It’s a very complicated system. There’s a big learning curve, so, just like anything that’s complicated, you need to get some education before you try, or you’re likely to fail.

And then there’s a whole bunch of stuff on how to get better likes and shares and comments on your Facebook posts and a ton of information about Facebook advertising, how to get better results. We’ve got all kinds of results. I mean one of the big things that’s different about me from other Facebook marketing instructors is I’ve worked with a ton of real companies getting them real results, leads, and sales. I don’t just go out and teach people to be social media consultants. I don’t just run retreats where we talk about personal growth.

I love personal growth, but I work in the real business world helping real companies get profits and leads and sales and stuff, right? And I’ve done that with all sizes of businesses: small business, medium, Fortune 500, all over the world, talked to all kinds of different audiences. I know what works and doesn’t work for real businesses. The first people that got profits from Facebook marketing in 2011 were students of mine, we’ve been succeeding like that for 4 years.

I used to hate to bang my own drum, but, right now, I hate to see people go get training that doesn’t come from that kind of experience. I was talking about data. We’ve got a ton of data from companies showing what does and doesn’t work for business to consumer and business to business marketing on Facebook. It’s the most powerful platform in the world. I think it’s the most powerful marketing platform ever. I could go on and on about it, and often do.

I love Google, and Google’s important, and you’ve got to do Google ads if they’re profitable for you to a degree, but then you’re going to get limited sales volume. So, after that, if you want to expand, reach more people who are potential consumers, convince those people to buy, Facebook’s the most affordable way to do that. And they just put out new stats: 1.55 billion people on Facebook. I’ve spoken in a bunch of different countries, and, in most countries, at least 50 percent of the population is using Facebook.

It’s super viable, and the ads are super affordable. You just need to know how to do it right. If you use the system that I teach, you’re going to cut your ad cost by 50 to 90 percent, and that means your spend is going to go twice as far to ten times as far, okay? So you’re spending maybe 500 bucks a month? Maybe you’re going to end up getting 5,000 bucks worth of advertising out of it. Or, if you’re spending 1,000 bucks, you’re going to get 2,000 to 10,000 dollars of value out of it because you’re probably doing some things wrong right now.

For example, if you’re trying to get people to go to your website by putting a link in a post on a Facebook page and then you’re boosting that post, your cost-per-click for that link is probably a dollar or two or more. That’s ten times higher than it needs to be because you’re using the wrong kind of ad, right? You need to be using a website conversion ad or a website traffic ad from within the Facebook ad manager or Power Editor.

Little mistakes like that, there are a ton of them, and I’m going to share those with the 1,500 people at the Amazing.com Summit. That’s going to be exciting. I’ll be in Las Vegas for 4 days, and I’m going to be doing a lot of webinars to promote this thing, this course. It’s going to be a big push for me. It’s going to be good, because I’ve done a lot of webinars for other companies, some of them had paid me, some I’ve done it for exposure, but I haven’t done it for myself because I never had the right product, and now I’m with a company where we’ve got a great product, and I think it’s the right time. I think it’s time to tell people, “Look, you’ve got to demand results from Facebook. You can do it. This is the system.” So I’m going to promote the heck out of that.

I hope that was all helpful to you guys. If you have any questions, you can always contact me through the contact form on this site. We do a ton of different types of services for people and companies as well, and you can check those out there.

That’s it. I’m running out of steam, and I got to get ready to get on the plane, so I hope you guys are doing well and your business is doing well and your family is well. I wish you guys all the best.

How The Future is Destroying Your Future

This post began as a podcast… feel free to just listen, or both listen AND read along! I’ve added a few more things in the text and there are some cool pictures…

You know what’s funny… funny-weird? Is that when you’re an expert, people are always asking you for your predictions. Especially around the end of the year.

They ask, “What do you predict will happen in 2016?”

I hate predictions.

I understand why people want them. It’s cool to think about predictions. An expert should be able to predict things. I get it.

It’s ridiculous, though. Why?

Because human beings are historically really, really bad at predictions. We’re usually wrong.

  • If you look at how the recession took us by surprise!
  • Just look at sports and how bad scouts are that spend their entire lives trying to predict which player is going to be great next and how many #1 picks don’t do well and how many second round picks become incredibly impactful players.
  • Look at how often meteorologists are wrong. They’re pretty much only right when they’re talking about the next few hours of weather. Even then they often don’t get it right. And by the way, the groundhog is usually wrong…
  • Internet marketing experts said mobile was the next big thing starting 2006. It wasn’t really a big thing until 2012.
  • After Google’s success, almost no one predicted Facebook would be the next digital marketing giant.
  • Over the decades, since the 20th century, we’ve predicted all kinds of things that never happened, like hoverboards, flying cars, hospitals in space and mail delivered by parachute. Any of those might be viable are MUCH further in the future than we thought.

Human beings are really, really bad at predicting the future. So how much value do those predictions have? Not much.

Space Hospital, Imagined in the 1950’s

Focusing on predictions is dumb. Predictions are a waste of your time. The opposite of navel-gazing, they are speculations that- though they may create euphoric feelings of hope or fascination- do nothing to improve your actual circumstances.

Hope is important, critical even. Confidence, too. But you should have hope because you’re actively improving your situation, not just dreaming about the future.


A 1977 Vision of the Year 2000

So let’s talk about how the future is destroying your future, and what you really need to know abut 2016.

The Consequences of Focusing on the Future = Ignoring the Present

We have this problem: we’re fascinated with what’s new and what’s coming soon.

I understand that’s part of our survival, our drive. We need to know what’s coming down the pike.

  • Is there a saber-tooth tiger coming?
  • Is there a tsunami coming?
  • Is there something we’re not aware of that is going to destroy our business or our lives, hurt us, kill us, whatever?

I understand that.

  • Is there an opportunity we should know about?
  • Should we have the new iPhone?
  • Should we have the new computer or whatever it is because without it we’re missing out… we’re going to lose?

I get it, but I think that it has some really negative consequences for us when we focus on new, shiny objects and when we focus on predicting the future.

We are not taking care of the present.

We are not doing a good job with optimizing and getting the best possible results out of our current business.

How To Create The Most Profitable Future

To me, the most profitable questions are:

  • What works best right now?
  • What website, what marketing strategy, what marketing channel, what business processes?
  • What’s the best practice right now?

Human beings have been doing stuff now for hundreds of years in this modern way. We’ve been doing the internet stuff for a couple decades. We’ve been doing internet marketing for at least 10 years. Everything is constantly evolving.

What’s the state of the art? To me, that’s the most important question.

  • Where can you put your money right now and where could you put your time right now and get the biggest bang for your buck?
  • Where can you get the biggest ROI, the biggest profits?

It’s not going to be from the new thing in the future because new things coming down the pike are always unproven.

What Happens on the Cutting Edge = Bleeding

Let’s go back … If you go back to colonial times, to use a metaphor, go out there … Or even in the military. Send out a scout … The guy in front. He’s the most likely to get killed. He’s the guy most likely to get shot with arrows or shot by a sniper. It’s a dangerous job to be the scout. You’re out there exposed. You don’t know what you’re going to run into. There’s a high chance you’re going to run into something dangerous.

When you’re in business and you’re trying a lot of new things. There’s a very high chance that a lot of things you’re trying are not going to work. They’re going to be a waste of money, a waste of time.

There should be people in our society who are trying those things out and who are finding out for other people what works and what doesn’t. Scouts.

I do a lot of that, myself. I do it on my own business. I take a lot of arrows for you guys.

Some of my clients are risk takers who try things that are relatively new but still somewhat proven. They don’t have to get take all the arrows.

There are a lot of companies who are very, very conservative who will not do some of the things we’ve been doing for the last couple years. They won’t do it for another 5 years. They’re not hunting at all, so they’ll miss out on a lot of the spoils of the hunt.

Find a Proven, Cutting-Edge Competitive Advantage

My point is, that best question is not: what’s going to be new in a year or two?

The best question is: What’s the most cutting edge, state of the art, proven thing that’s working that not everybody else is doing?

Why that’s important is there’s little competition in it. Which means it’s a competitive advantage to adopt that new thing that’s just been proven.

For example, to me, when we proved that Facebook ads were really good for lead generation and for e-commerce … That is something that the really smart companies are going to jump on because they know that all the other companies, especially their competitors who are doing lead gen and e-commerce, not all of them are going to have the guts, the foresight, the awareness to try it. Even though we have some proof that it works, some people are very, very conservative and fear-based and will not do it until it’s clear that you cannot not do it. You get this competitive advantage by adopting the latest, state of the art, proven best practices.

To me, that’s the most important question. What’s the latest effective thing? Not what’s the new thing that may or may not be effective that’s coming doing the pike in a year or 5 years. Those things are fascinating from a “let’s sit down and watch the news” perspective, but they’re not the kind of thing that’s going to help you win or make money.

Futurists are Ridiculous and Never Held Accountable

I think futurists are ridiculous. They get paid money to make up fascinating ideas and they never ever get called to the carpet.

I would love to see a a Saturday Night Live skit that’s a trial of futurists where they go back and they say, “Well, you said in 1995 that we were going to have blah, blah, blah and we don’t have those yet.” They’re never held accountable for the things they predicted because all a futurist has to do is sound really cool right now.

Predicting and futurist stuff is pretty lame if you think about it. They’re really exploiting your brain’s desire to hear this new, shiny object thing.

It’s really not going to help you a lot. You’re going to feel excited about it for a few hours or whatever, but it’s not going to help you in your business and it’s not going to help you make profits. It’s not going to help you win. It’s just going to distract you.

You know they used to say religion is the opiate of the masses? These days the news and futurism is the opiate of business.

Bam.

That’s what I feel.

I wish you guys success. Find out what’s working.

For example, check out my new Facebook course. It’s called Social Marketing Profit System. That’s a good one.

I wish you guys all the best in life and business. It’s holidays, so I hope you guys are enjoying your families and everybody’s healthy and happy and everything. Have a great end of the year!

10 Ways to Avoid Getting Duped By Internet Con-Men

Not all con-men are obvious.

Some of them are quite successful and well-regarded.

But they’re still con-men.

The best con-men… you’d never think of them as one. You’d never consider it. They go by different labels.

Some con-men call themselves authors, teachers, marketers, salespeople and speakers.

I once almost got sucked into a cult.

I’ve wasted thousands of dollars on online courses.

How about you?

Have you ever let someone’s confidence and big promises open your wallet and waste your time and money?

There are a lot of con-men in online marketing

Not surprising, is it?

Marketers love being persuasive and learning more about influence.

Some well-known teachers and authors are actually con-men.

They make big promises, take your money and you don’t end up with much in return.

People who are taken in by con-men feel hopeful and motivated for a while.

Hope can be valuable. Who wants to be depressed?

But the con-man’s promised future never materializes.

His system or tool or strategy doesn’t yield the big changes in your life or business that got you all excited.

Even if the con-man helps you make some progress, it’s not to the degree they promised.

Maybe they said you could become a millionaire but you barely broke even with their plan. In fact, considering what you spent, you’re in the hole!

Maybe they offered you a magical new tool that was supposed to solve all your problems, and then you found out it wasn’t that simple. You needed training, or experience or had to hire someone to help you do it.

Maybe you didn’t take action, plus now you have credit card debt from buying it! You might blame yourself for your inaction. That guilt and fear is why many people don’t ask for refunds. But maybe you didn’t take action because you knew deep down there was something wrong with the training.

So how widespread is the con?

What I discovered

I’m a searcher.

For the last two decades, in order to learn what really works online and what doesn’t, I’ve been…

  • Exploring and trying things
  • Taking courses
  • Reading books
  • Doing experiments, and
  • Analyzing the results.

I always share what I’ve learned with my readers, podcast listeners and keynote audiences.

I naturally love learning and testing things out, and I keep discovering:

There are tons of BS, myths, lies, and things that just simply don’t work.

In fact,

There are more things that don’t work than things that do.

That’s why I keep testing everything to see what really works.

One of the topics that keeps coming up for me is con-men…

I believe that:

Con-men are one of the most destructive forces in the marketing and sales world.

Con-men can be women, too, but what should we call them: “con people?”

Con people? You mean inmates?

They should be inmates!

But more often, many of them continue to steal money from unsuspecting business people without any real consequence.

The con-man can turn their criminal past into a selling point.

Even con-men who’ve been fined by the Federal Trade Commission just get smarter about how to bend the rules. They continue to fool a lot of people.

In fact, your con-man may be totally upfront about their FTC fines and use it to persuade you even more!

People who are aware of a con-man’s shady past make two common mistakes:

Mistake #1: Being too forgiving. “They’ve changed! Let’s give them a chance.”

Mistake #2: Thinking they can get something from the con-man without being the bigger loser. “I’m smart enough to play with fire without getting burned!”

Wrong.

What is a cult of personality?

I know about cons personally, because I almost got sucked into a cult in my early twenties. It was a very disorienting experience.

It led me to study cults and con-men, so that I could understand how I had almost been convinced, and arm myself against that kind of thing repeating in the future.

I thought this experience had totally immunized me against con-men.

I became extremely skeptical about people who have magnetic personalities and are naturally persuasive.

And by the way,  charisma is a gift.

But charisma, likability and influence are powers that can be abused, and often are, by those who have them.

What’s stopping from abusing their power? Everyone is telling them they’re awesome!

A cult of personality is when someone uses things like mass media, propaganda, the big lie, spectacle, and the arts to create an idealized, heroic, and worshipful image of a leader, often through unquestioning flattery and praise.

We have all kinds of heroes. We love heroes.

We want to see people rise. We want to follow great people.

But the “cult” personality and the con-man is a lie.

For me personally, it turned out that the near-cult-experience was not enough to immunize me to con-men.

The online course con.

I ended up buying a couple of those $1,000 online courses when I started my new freelance business in 2010 (what eventually became my agency, BCG).

I was in a vulnerable place, because I had been let go from a great job, and I was afraid I might not make it solo.

I got sucked in by con-man confidence and promises.

It turned out to be a complete waste of money. The teaching wasn’t bad, but the strategies were not nearly as effective as the teachers promised.

Now, don’t get me wrong- there are some super useful courses out there and many teachers with great integrity.

But

Some of the big names in internet marketing courses are con-men who are better at selling the promise of value than actually delivering it.

Still, finding out those two courses were lame was not enough for me to fully learn the lesson.

“I’ll show you how to get what you want- first just compromise your morals a little.”

A year or two later, I bought a course that promised to teach how to get high-paying clients.

Once I got it and started learning, I realized that the guy’s system could plausibly work… if you were ok with lying to people!

I wasn’t comfortable with it at all. I asked for and received a refund.

“Turn your life story into a lie.”

I’ve been in this online marketing world for 18 years now, and I’ve seen a lot of gurus, authors, speakers, marketers and teachers come and go.

And some who should go who, shockingly, continue to stick around.

I’ve actually saw a video where a guy was teaching marketers how to be better liars…

He was a storytelling expert who has great information. I had a ton of respect for his story structure expertise.

But he was recommending that marketers outright LIE about their personal stories to increase the sales impact.

At that point I lost all respect for him.

Why are con-men successful?

I’ve seen con-men

  • Get complained about online,
  • Reported to the Better Business Bureau,
  • Exposed in blog posts…

Yet they keep going, lying and successfully making money because:

Con men leverage our weakness for confidence.

“How could they be so confident if they weren’t genuine?”
They’re super confident and we love confident people.
But the best liars are extremely confident.
Any the mac daddy version of this is the con-man who sells courses to help you become more confident…

There are a lot of gullible rookies.

“There’s a sucker born every minute.”
There are 6 million new small businesses created in the U.S. each year.
These rookie business owners don’t have the experience to avoid getting suckered.

Some people are addicted…

“This time is different.”
Some people just don’t learn from getting suckered over and over again.
Just like gambling addicts, they’re addicted to cults of personality.

The three things are the main reasons con-men keep making money online.

Con-men in the marketing world

I’ve seen con-men get published by the big publishing houses. I’ve seen them get chosen as speakers at big conferences. I’ve seen them claim to make millions.

I had some of my own research and work stolen by a fairly well-respected social media author. He talked about my research in his book without giving me any credit whatsoever. And when I confronted the guy, he had absolutely no remorse. He wasn’t willing to change anything to make it right. And he said that my confronting him about it was “annoying.” I found out later from a friend in the business that this same guy has stolen multiple people’s work. This is his modus operandi. Instead of following the responsible academic method of giving credit where credit is due, he played fast and loose with other people’s work for his own gain. This is a guy that many people respect, and nobody knows his true character. He’s built his reputation up by stealing other people’s work and accomplishments. It’s dishonest and unfair, but he still does well.

Another guy was exposed by multiple bloggers for being a fraud. He said it was a misunderstanding. Of course, they will always say they did nothing wrong. He started several businesses and took their money and never did the work for it. He built his company with workers who were young, insecure, gullible and cheap, if not free. Clearly, he had not changed his stripes. Still, a large conference was charmed by the guy and not only had him speak but recommended him to me as an authority. I felt I couldn’t bad-mouth the guy even though the conference was being suckered by a con-man. It is amazing how our sense of decency keeps us from warning others about bad eggs.

How do you stop a con man?

It’s tough. If you want to be the cranky guy who is calling everybody else out, yeah, try that.

Maybe people won’t dismiss you for just being “negative.”

That might work out. Or you could get sued for libel.

People may not believe you.

Once someone is “big” and respected by a lot of people, we tend to give them the benefit of the doubt. Politicians exploit this all the time. If they are confident and deny all accusations, then the people that want to believe in them will defend them.

It’s he-said-she-said, and you have to choose who to trust, and typically, we trust people who have authority and confidence.

However…

  • Their confidence may come from narcissism. They may be a sociopath. Many sociopaths are charming.
  • Their authority may be a house of lies. Is anyone checking it? And again, we get into a he-said-she-said, and people take sides.

Why do we fall for it?

  • If they’re attractive
  • If they’re rich
  • If they’re successful
  • If they’re tall
  • If they’re likable
  • If we think they will help us reach our dreams
  • If we’ve invested money in them and we’re embarrassed to admit we made a mistake…

…then we stand by our favorite con-men. We’re complicit in their lying and stealing.

That’s why this is such a sticky problem.

Cons work, we get sucked in, and con-men aren’t being stopped.

That’s why I made this list…

10 Ways to Avoid Getting Duped By Internet Con-Men

#1 Google them.

Do your due diligence.

If you’re accepting a teacher or mentor, you’re making a huge decision. Is this person really worthy of your trust and money, or are they just a slick lie?

  • Do they have any criminal history?
  • FTC judgments?
  • Complaints from people in the blogosphere? Look for any review sites you can and read up on them.
  • Use a tool like Moz’s link explorer to see if their main website has any links and authority- or is it totally new?

#2 If they’re an author, read their Amazon book reviews.

Check their reviews of their books on Amazon.

Even if they have 100’s of 5 star reviews, that can be faked.

There are sites like Fiverr where authors can pay people to post book reviews they themselves have written. Do the reviews seem authentic? Would a real person write that? Or do the reviews sound like marketing material?

Read the 1, 2 and 3 star reviews. Do any of these people find the 5-star reviews suspicious?

If previous readers think the 5-star book reviews are a lie, then I would pass on that book and author.

Here’s more about how to spot fake reviews.

#3 Beware the millionaire bait.

Copywriters know that people get more excited by a “millionaire method” than by a system that helps you break 6-figures.

Think big, right?

Wrong.

Most millionaire methods are BS. Most people have a much better chance of making 6-figures in business than becoming a millionaire.

And food for thought: the research says

People don’t get happier after they make more than $105k. In many cases, they get unhappier.

So it might not be smart to strive to be a millionaire anyway.

That’s not a popular sentiment, and that’s why con-men can make so much money promising you millions.

We all want an easy way out of work and into a life where we get everything we want. That’s how con-men hook you.

Becoming a millionaire is not reality for most people, but people don’t want reality.

They want to live their dream. They want positive inspiration.

Odds are, this person has not actually discovered a system that will make everyone a millionaire.

What’s the catch?

What aren’t they telling you?

Where are all these millionaires they’ve created? Can you talk to them?

What percentage of people achieved that?

What percentage failed?

Is the only millionaire the one who made money selling everybody the idea of becoming a millionaire?

#4 Check their case studies and testimonials.

Have they helped any students achieve the things they’re promising you?

Do they have testimonials? Could those testimonials have been faked? Is there any way to verify these people?

Try doing a Google image search of any testimonials from “regular” people. You might find something like this:

Google the people in the testimonials and see if you find real people who’ve achieved things.

If you do find real people, contact them and ask them about the guru, author or teacher you’re considering.

Did these real success story people struggle at all?

Is this testimonial person in their affiliate program and make money on the guru’s stuff? If so, they are incentivized to lie about the guru. Or at least stretch the truth, and gloss over the challenges.

In fact, even though affiliate marketing is a valid strategy, many of the con-men I’ve seen use affiliates, so having an affiliate program may be a red flag.

I know, this is work!

But it will save you a lot of money, time and heartache in the long run.

Please do it.

#5 Check their academic references.

Do they have anything to back up their claims? Research? Studies? Surveys? Click on their references and find out if they’re real.

#6 Do they have the endorsement of trustworthy people?

Almost anybody can put up a landing page with fake testimonials from people you’ve never heard of.

What’s harder is to get positive quotes from real authorities.

Keep in mind, before you decide that a quote from so-and-so is a big deal, some of these con-men go in groups. They all endorse each other, so they all seem to have a lot of authority together. But all of them are lying and cheating to some degree. There are groups of con-men helping each other look more credible so they can all fleece people.

#7 Have they published with a traditional publisher?

Anyone can self-publish. What’s harder to do is to get published by a big, traditional publisher (examples include McGraw-Hill, Pearson and Wiley).

These publishers vet authors pretty thoroughly to make sure they’re for real.

Still, some of the minor con-men slip through- or an author may get traditionally published before they try to con anybody online.

So this one alone is not enough.

#8 Do they teach at an accredited college or university?

Anyone can create their own course.

Few people teach for real universities or colleges where they live.

Again, these institutions will vet their prospective professors.

#9 Do they have mentions or interviews with the big name press and media?

Anyone can blog.

Fewer people are able to get on TV and into the big-name magazines and newspapers.

Editors and producers are skeptical and know that their own credibility can be permanently damaged by trusting the wrong source.

If someone has been in big-name press and media multiple times, there’s a good chance they’ve been checked out by multiple skeptical editors.

#10 Watch your emotions.

There’s really no 100% foolproof way to be sure. But you can watch your own emotions, if you trust them.

If you:

  • Start believing this person and their system or tool is the key to your future.
  • Think, “this is the only way.”
  • Are afraid there’s a limited amount of time, or the seller is using false urgency to get you to act.
  • Are afraid, “If I miss out on this, I’m screwed.”
  • Are afraid they might be lying…

…then take a breath and sleep on it. A lot of these guys motivate through fear and urgency.

If you’re feeling adrenalized and stressed, you won’t make the right decision.

Talk to some people about it. Be careful: con-men isolate you from other influences. They tell you that your friends and family won’t understand because they’re not winners or don’t want you to succeed. This keeps you from hearing any second-opinions on the con-man’s ideas.

You need to be patient, take your time, talk to people and make the right decision.

Ask the seller to give you more time. If they won’t, ask why not. These guys are really good at coming up with plausible reasons. Ask them to make an exception. If they won’t, then they probably aren’t a good partner for you.

Sometimes they say, “I only want to work with decisive people.”

Why is that?

“Because they take action.”

Well, that’s pretty convenient for the seller, since that action is you giving them money.

Don’t let them manipulate you.

Business Building Video Interview with Michael Stelzner of Social Media Examiner

You’ve heard of Social Media Examiner and the Social Media Marketing World conference?

Michael Stelzner launched Social Media Examiner in October of 2009 and it has exploded. Last year more than 7.5 million visited the site, and they email tips daily to more than 230,000 people. Mike is also the author of two books (Launch & Writing White Papers) and is host of the Social Media Marketing Podcast. He also founded the parenting blog My Kids’ Adventures.

I interviewed him on the topic of Business Building: starting from scratch or how to grow an existing business, specifically in the digital age. Great answers. If you run a business or are thinking about starting one, watch this now!

Why Books Can Be One of the Worst Products to Sell Online

I had an interchange recently with a fan, and first, it’s really awesome to have fans 🙂 I’ve said this same kind of thing about books to a bunch of people over the last few years, but I’ve never blogged or ebooked about it. And the math part of it is something everybody looking to do ecommerce online should look at, so here it is.

And by the way, I know there are exceptions- Jay Baer has a great slideshare about how he drove Youtility to bestseller status. But that’s an outlier- an exception (and required a big investment that he hopes will pay off in the next three years, you’ll find if you read the slideshare). If you want a product to sell that typically is successful, books aren’t it.

THE FAN: I want to promote my books on facebook. If the sales hit a million or a minimum thousand, I will share 40% of revenue with you. Here are my books on Amazon: REDACTED
Mar 14, 01:13PM

ME: Thanks for reaching out! Books are a very tough product to sell because the author usually has a really low margin. I am happy to work with you on a services basis- if you’re interested, I can send our services and fees info.
Thanks! Brian
Mar 14, 07:23PM

THE FAN: Thank you Brian for your input. I would love to coordinate with you on other projects. I’m into self publishing at this time and promoting my business books. Will let you know about other businesses………
Mar 15, 10:01AM

ME: Cool, please do. With self published books it’s a bit easier, because you can choose to have a bigger profit margin- but Amazon doesn’t have granular tracking to allow for optimization- you could optimize it if you’re selling it in a way that does allow for advertising conversion code.
Brian
Mar 15, 10:04AM

THE FAN: But I’m a great fan of yours would like to work with you on some joint venture. I’ve written some 4 to 5 books. At this time the book sales is rather slow. And I’m hopeful that it will boost up with time. If you can play some magic with these kindle published books then I can share half of my royalties with you for a considerable time as you like. I’m making my presence on G+, Pinterest, and other channels. However, It will be nice if some sound marketing strategy is in place. I’m also working as a freelance writer and editor on oDesk and Elance and I’ve a proven track record of successful projects. Anyway its nice talking to you.
Mar 15, 10:15AM

ME: It’s a math thing. Figure out your possible cost-per-sale range and see if your profit margin can tolerate that.

  1. What percent buys? Say 5% of the visitors buy, and that would be an amazing conversion rate (CR).
  2. What’s the lowest possible cost per click (CPC) on Facebook (the cheapest targetable mass traffic ad solution)? Maybe if you’re amazing it’s $0.20
  3. Cost per sale is CPC/ CR… $0.20 / 5% = $4.00 as spend per sale; Your books would have to be at least $15-20 to have some wiggle room on those numbers, because it could be as bad as 1% conversion, $0.50 CPC = $50 per sale.

That’s why it’s so hard to sell really low price products at scale.
Brian

That’s why you see the infoproducts guys selling things for anywhere from $97 to $2,000 – not that I support that; a lot of these are people using hype and manipulation techniques to take advantage of buyers (who often are trying to buy their way around laziness)- read my blog post about Internet Training Ethics.

It’s just the ROI math of ad spend and profit margin.

You at least need to make enough to break even on your ad spend- and that’s fine to do if you’re investing in your long term career. For me, the reason I write ebooks and give them away and advertise them, is that they’re a loss leader. If I spend say $500 to promote an ebook but it brings in a few clients that yield me thousands in revenue, that’s a good investment.

Non-Fiction Authors: Should You Self-Publish Or Go Traditional?

If you’re an expert, as some point, if you haven’t already, you may write a book, and one of the first questions people ask at this point is whether to self-pub or go with a traditional publisher.

Each option has pros and cons, and ultimately I would recommend you do both in your career, but here’s how to figure out whether your next book should be self-published or not.

The Pros of Traditional Publishing

  • It gives you credibility, because people know you’ve been vetted. People believe you’re credible and your idea is good. They’re willing to risk their time and money on you.
  • It forces you to go through the book proposal process which asks important questions about your audience and competing books.
  • They put you through a rigorous editing process.
  • They may give you an advance on royalties.
  • They may help you with getting more publicity and/or speaking gigs.

The Cons of Traditional Publishing

  • The process from start to finish may take at least 6 months. Even after editing is done, the book launch may be delayed for calendar reasons.
  • You still will have to do a lot of the promotion to sell the book.
  • You have to sell enough to “earn out” your advance.
  • Your ebook may be much more expensive than competing self-published works.
  • You probably can’t control the amazon description or keywords.
  • They may require right of first refusal on your next book idea.

The Pros of Self-Publishing

  • You can control the price, even make it free for a while for promotional practices.
  • You can sell paperbacks at a lower cost than traditional publishers.
  • You can control the amazon description and keywords. You can do keyword research and make sure they’re optimal.

The Cons of Self-Publishing

  • You may not get much feedback, unless you ask for itso your book may not be received as well by as many people.
  • You may decide not to pay for editing, end up with errors in your book, and get bad reviews because of it.
  • You may not be as rigorous about checking the market and competition to make sure you have the best chances of success.
  • It’s much harder to end up in traditional bookstores.

Overall Advice

  • If you’ve never published before, try a traditional publisher first. You’ll learn a ton about the process. You may find out that no publisher wants your book concept- and that may be because they don’t get it, or it might be you need a better book idea. You’ll get more credibility and build a firm foundation for the future.
  • If you decide to self-publish, put yourself through the book proposal process to think the whole thing through, and pay for editing. Ask peers to review your book when your first draft is done, then improve it based on feedback, then hire a professional line editor for the final draft.