So You Want to Be a Real Marketer? Lessons Learned

Clearly there is something wrong with me if I’m writing four posts in a day.

You can read Part 1 of So You Want to Be a Real Marketer. I highly suggest you do so, otherwise this post might not make a lot of sense.

How to Apply These Books to Internet Marketing

Some of these books were written before the internet was popular. Scientific Advertising was written before computers, and Tested Advertising Methods 5th Edition was published in 1998. There are definitely a few lessons that no longer apply. But a large majority of lessons taught in these books still apply today and will for many years to come.

Even though some of these books pre-date the internet, they have fundamental lessons that anyone serious about advertising must learn. Human nature will always work the same way so it doesn’t matter if you advertise online, in the newspaper, or on TV.

If you depend on blogs for all of your advertising knowledge, then you are at a serious disadvantage. Blogs are written in short, easy to read form. They are condensed and paraphrased. You may learn how to do something, and if the blog is any good, they will tell you why it works this way.

But 95% of the time, you won’t learn why. You’re just told what to do and you follow along because hey, he’s a super-affiliate blogger! Most of the time, a lesson applied to one campaign won’t work in another campaign. This is why you should stab yourself in the throat if you think you’re an “expert” on anything just from reading blogs.

On the other hand, many affiliates became successful by trial and error. Trial and error works great, but you need money and time. You will never learn all of the lessons taught in these books without working in advertising for a very long time, nor without spending a lot of money (your own or someone else’s). If the marketplace is competitive with high bids, then forget about it completely if you’re a newbie.

Even experienced advertisers can learn some tricks that can completely change their business. And if you’re an affiliate that’s been dead in the water for a while, then these books can give you a little spark to get you back on the right track. Unless, of course, you’re straight balling and can hire the best copywriters in the game- which is just as good as learning this stuff yourself.

Lessons Learned

Below are some of the more important lessons I’ve learned from this recent reading-binge. If I already knew the “lesson,” then these books just reinforced them or added more insight to what I already knew. If you didn’t know these lessons, then you might gain something from reading these books, m i rite?

Return on Investment – Nothing Else Matters

Obvious, right? Most internet marketers have access to a shit-ton of tools that track return on investment. It is second nature to us. But if you run a brick-and-mortar doing your own advertising, or have your own product you just started, or are new to online advertising, then it may not be ingrained in your brain just yet.

Decades ago, these tools did not exist. Claude Hopkins pioneered “scientific advertising,” which basically states that a campaign must pay for itself. Every ad must be tested against another. The winner must be chosen, and the numbers will tell you why something works and why something else does not.

Being “creative” in advertising is a fallacy. It is what a lot of big media agencies do. They have massive budgets to burn, so they don’t really care. They create ads while stoned out of their minds, then give awards to each other. Advertising award ceremonies are giant circle-jerks.

If awards were given to advertisements that had the best Return on Investment, then 9 out of 10 winners would be ads from affiliate marketers and online advertisers. But no one really wants to give an award to a “Punch the Monkey” banner ad.

Old Spice Man might be the biggest success in viral marketing ever – but is it selling more product? Not necessarily.

Return on Investment is not just about making more from what you’re spending. If you can get your ad spend smaller, then your ROI goes up too. Hopkins goes into this a lot. You want to get as much information as possible with as little money necessary to do so.

This is negotiating terms with the media companies and webmasters you work with, or focusing on a traffic source that has been cheaper than others. It is about dropping campaigns within a traffic source that are not working as well as the others.

It works both ways: make more with better creatives and find out how to spend less.

Headlines are the Most Important Part of a Campaign.

Yes, we all know the headline is important. But do take that for granted, or do you live and breathe headlines? Are you wasting time and money testing colors, buttons, pretty pictures, and other shit before testing your headline?

Caples really brings this point home in Tested Advertising Methods. If you read nothing else in this book, read the first few chapters on headlines.

The headline is the part of the ad (or landing page) that will get you the most readers. It is fact, plain and simple. It has the largest exposure, and it is the primary reason anybody will read the rest of your copy. Many people will take action on your headline alone. Few will read all of your copy to find a reason to buy from you.

Sure, you may think you’re clever and creative with your catchy images and glitter graphics. And maybe 5% of the people that land on your page convert. You split-test some other things on your page and you get some marginal gains. Good for you.

When you’re ready to get your ROI up there, you will not rest until you find the best headline possible for your creative. Until you have exhausted every idea for a headline, you’re just building a house on an unstable foundation. If your headline sucks, then there is little left on your landing page to salvage the user’s interest. Quickly, they leave forever.

The importance of testing a headline is especially vital for people with small budgets. Each new variation you test essentially multiplies your ad spend.

Let’s say you have a rule of thumb where 1,000 views on your landing page gives you confidence in your data. “If 1,000 people see this page, then I am confident this variation is working or not working.” Those views cost you $20 per 1,000.

Now you want to test 2 headlines (Long headline versus a Shorter variation), 4 graphics (Man Smiling, Man with Baby, Women Smiling, Woman with Baby), 4 layout colors, and 3 different buttons (Click Here vs Order Here vs Free Trial!)

If you are doing multivariate testing (testing them all at once, instead of one-by-one), that’s 96 tests you are doing. To get 1,000 views on each variation would cost you $1,920. (96 x $20.00)

You can spend $100 on just 5 different headlines (all else being equal), and it will tell you much more about your creative than testing 2 headlines and a bunch of other pointless shit. Nothing matters past the headline.

Words Are Very Powerful

Have you ever read a blog post like “How one simple change increased conversion rate by 124%”?

Generally speaking, these small changes are because of words. Specifically words in a headline and sub-headlines. More so in tiny Adwords / Adcenter advertisements. The most successful PPC advertisers are people that continuously test their ads. They may go through 50, 100, or more variations before they find their winner. If you’ve done serious PPC spending, you can see the power of words in near-real time.

The power of words is simply incredible. The difference between “Get a X” and “Get X,” “Order My X” and “Order Your X,” and million other variations of the same thought can and will be huge. Without testing, you won’t know.

Yes, people still read. We may avoid books, but we still read short, quick sentences on the internet. You want your words to sell, not pictures, graphics, and Flash.

There is no hard and fast lesson here really. It’s just amazing to me how some words sell and other words do not, and how the slightest change can give new meaning to a campaign.

Short, Easy Sentences

Think you can write copy because you’re an English major? Well, you’d be wrong. In fact, you’d probably sell less than a 9th grader. No one is impressed with big words and deep thought within your sentences except other English majors.

If you want to sell, you need to get big words and long sentences out of your head. This lesson is thought throughout all of the books I recommended.

The “common man” (or woman) is a simple person. That’s not to be offensive or anything, just the way it is. When you write copy, you have to write for the lowest common denominator. Start getting crafty and poetic and your sales will drop.

People buying shit from you don’t care about creativity. You’ll lose readers with each long sentence, big word, and huge paragraph. If you write copy, and a 5th grader has a hard time reading it, then it probably won’t work in the real world.

This lesson ties straight to brain function. Remember I mentioned that when writing first came about, spaces between words did not exist. It was just a long string of words because everything was narrated (information was transferred through storytelling, not books.)

Since people speak without breaks between words, that it how it was written. And to read it back to an audience was a difficult chore for the narrator. Obviously, language has developed since then. We have spaces between words now, and even paragraphs!

But it remains fact that reading something on a college level requires more brain-power than reading something on a 5th grade level. If you make someone think, even for a split-second – you can lose them.

Your writing must be as easy to read as humanly possible. Use short words over long words. Avoid words with double-meaning. Avoid words that are territorial (does anyone call a sandwich a hoagie outside of the east coast?). Use words that are territorial (Wait what? If you’re marketing to a specific region…) Avoid long sentences and long paragraphs. One thought per sentence. Write in the 2nd person, present-tense. These lessons and many others are detailed in Tested Advertising Methods.

Keep in mind that’s not how I write on this blog. I write the way I want here, and using long sentences and big words is just how I do it. But when it comes to sales copy, you best believe I dumb that motherfucker down.

You Have to Sell Free

Think people will flock to your product just because it’s free? That direct-linking campaign to a free-trial offer not working out for you? Well, no shit, numb nuts.

Even if what you have is free, you still have to sell it. So it doesn’t matter if you’re giving away a product or trying to get someone to buy a $1,000 product – you should write sales copy the same way.

If you are not stating the benefit of your product, then no one will want it. Price is irrelevant. (Hello, anyone failing at lead-gen)

Many Advertisers Still Suck – Why It’s Wrong to Copy

The real reason I wrote these posts was to help people become better advertisers and affiliates. The sad fact is that 90% of affiliates don’t know shit about advertising. They know how to copy ads and landing pages, but when left to their own devices they are dead in the water. Hell, some are so stupid they leave in the original tracking codes.

An advertiser (or affiliate) who knows what he is doing may be testing 100 variations of an ad. Let’s say you come across an ad and copy it. Little do you know, this ad was one of the worst performing ads. You launch your campaign and lose your shirt. You split-test, but all you are split-testing is variations of a bad message. No amount of wordplay or pretty pictures is going to fix an ad that doesn’t touch the demographic in some way.

Keying an ad is a term used many times throughout the books I recommended. This is the science of starting somewhere with a campaign, and continuing to work on it until you’ve struck a chord with your demographic. You could test 5, 50, or 500 different things before you get it turns a profit. Once an ad is keyed though, it’s smooth sailing.

There are no blueprints for making money online. Each offer, product, or service is going to work differently with each type of traffic and demographic, all of which depends on how you are promoting it. Any blueprint made public (via gurus or bloggers) is not going to work in the long-run. Competition will come in and ruin your ROI.

Learning these lessons expands your worldview. An affiliate can stop fucking around with low margins and learn how to build their own product, service, or list. A scared SEO can learn how to advertise properly, so he can stop being a bitch and finally buy some traffic. An advertiser might learn how to sell his product better and finally get into the black.

These books teach you how to be a better advertiser (or better affiliate.) If you understand the fundamentals of advertising: how to speak to the “common man,” how to get an emotional response, and understand that advertising is nothing more than salesmanship, then success is just matter of time.

What About Cheap Clicks and Cool Tricks?

Getting cheap clicks and finding untapped traffic sources is not what this post is about. These two posts are about salesmanship, which means learning to sell to people with what you have. Salesmanship is truth. Advertising is the same. Many of the authors and people they talk about, would go door-to-door (to hundreds of doors) before they ran an advertising campaign.

When you can sell to someone in person, and you can repeat it over and over, its clear that you found what people want. Now that you know what they want, you can apply it to mass media. Obviously I’m not asking anyone to sell shit door to door. I’m trying to point out that selling in person and selling anywhere else is the exact same thing.

If your game is to find the cheapest clicks and highest EPCs, then you are doing arbitrage. There’s nothing wrong with that, but its not exactly a long-term strategy. Bids will always go up, and EPCs will continue to go up and down like a roller-coaster.

When you learn how to really sell – better than all of your competitors, then you can milk a campaign for all its worth. You can make far more money off a less competitive traffic source if you know how to sell. Even when some bloggers and gurus blow the lid on it, you’ll still be profitable while most are in the red. That means you’ll still be making money until the final nail in the coffin (which is when shoemoney blogs about it).

  • Swoon.

  • This is dumb as shit.

  • Also, TL;DR.

  • Kenna

    Gold Jerry, Gold!

  • cliffs notes anyone?

  • Strictly Gangster.

  • I think I missed the punch line or something…

    Seriously though this post was unexpectedly helpful. The last paragraph makes sense. If you don’t know how to sell it doesn’t matter how cheap the traffic is.

  • groineg

    Words ARE powerful. Get genetify.
    It’s free.
    You can self host.
    Multivariate with auto decision making FTW

  • wiredniko

    This is the best blog post I have read this entire year.

  • lolwut


    download Flesch and run your copy through it..

    wait wut? you don’t know Flesch…go back fucknuts and buy the book.




    oh hallo there gay anus

  • Ed

    nice one! your headline was a good one too.

  • Pingback: Marketing insight from Barman at | Marketing Lessons()

  • Barman you are fucking BRINGING IT SON!

    much love

  • Dumb it down eh? Good thing I ain’t no English major. Great post.

  • Epic post. I would have sold it on Clickbank if I were you though! That was an ebook if I ever saw one.

  • This is great info on PPC campaigns. Its true though a few word changes can be the difference between success and failure

  • Nav

    Someones trying to sell this on digital point

  • Great depth. Love it. :)

    There is alot of hype and miss information in the market place. Its great to see something of value being written.