27 Oct 2008

NaNoWriMo Good for Business

This weekend a couple friends suggested I join them in NaNoWriMo-ing. Once I translated the verbalization into the wonky caps I realized they were talking about National Novel Writing Month . I said I’d be happy to play along and write non-fiction rather than a novel per se. On NaNoWriMo.com they claim "if you believe you’re writing a novel, we believe you’re writing a novel too." I started justifying a belief that non-fiction can be a novel ("a lengthy work of fiction") and then realized that several business books, including the one I am currently reading , have used a fictional track in parallel with the factual lessons.

After more pondering there turns out to be a number of reasons for writing a novel even if the topic of interest is non-fiction.

A powerful technique for focusing your service, whether teaching or marketing, is to create a persona of that ideal client . The more realistic you make that persona in your own mind the more you appeal to your ideal client. Oh, by the way, you’ll also serve them better because you know how they would like to be served.

Dimensionalization is a quick way to make your ideal client persona more realistic. Imagine how well you will understand your ideal client after writing a novel with them as the main character! You can also have them solve problems in their life by using products and services — like yours and ones you can recommend.

While you are busy solving your ideal client’s most painful problems you will also be dimensionalizing your product (or service). You’ll notice all the benefits that occur in the persona’s life because of your product. You’ll see dozens of ways the persona uses your product that you hadn’t thought of yet. You’ll get to hear the persona telling their friends what is important to them about your product. You’ll get to feel the joy, the relief, the satisfaction of that persona around your product. You’ll even get to hear that persona’s inner dialog as they decide to invest in your product to solve their problems.

Which of the dozens of benefits of writing a novel around your product are you most excited about?

Posted by Wayne Buckhanan at 2:05 PM   No Comments Yet »
24 Oct 2008

Interview with a Copywriter (not a Vampire)

[This post has been a draft for about 6-months. Talk about trying to get it "perfect"!
Thanks for your patience Stephen. Without further delay…]

Have you met copywriter Stephen Dean ? I was introduced to him through his collection of questions for one of his mentors and copywriting legends Michel Fortin . As I read the two volumes of "Tapping Michel Fortin’s Brain " I was more and more convinced by his questions that Stephen knows his stuff and is an accessible, go-to guy for copywriting questions.

Now the tables are turned and I get to ask Stephen a few questions!

WB: Please introduce yourself to those of my readers who haven’t met you yet.
SD: I’m a freelance copywriter working out of Washington state in my 4th year. Some of my clients are Jim Edwards, Ryan Deiss and some other big names I can’t mention. And now I share my experiences at StephensBlog.com .

What differences in mindset are you aware of between copywriting and writing for other reasons (to inform, to entertain, etc)?
Frankly I don’t see much difference, but that’s because of my writing style. I’ve always written like a copywriter, meaning short words, short sentences and short paragraphs. The reason copywriters write that way is because it makes their copy more accessible and more readable to a larger number of people…

…well isn’t that always how you should write? I think so, but with selling it’s crucial because you’re asking for action at the end.

Because the end results is so important in copywriting, you learn to modify how you inform and how you entertain when writing. You can’t be too boring while ‘teaching.’ And you can’t be so entertaining that it’s distracting away from the final action. So there’s a balance. And you always focus on the final action.

What rituals do you have to put yourself into the right state to write?
I get a good night’s sleep. I try to write at least something immediately after I wake up because my brain is fresh. I can be stuck on a section at 4pm and work an hour on it… or finish it in 10 minutes if I do it immediately after waking up.

I usually only write for about 10 minutes, then I get ready for the day and sit down to start writing again a couple hours later. And I try to only write for 3-4 hours at a time because after that my brain starts to overheat.

What role do story telling and emotion play in your writing?
Well a good story usually makes for the best copy. Your goal when writing copy is to get them from the top of the copy to the order link so they can purchase… and often a story that needs to be finished is the best way to keep them moving closer to that link. It keeps them engaged.

And all good stories will have emotion.

What do you do, personally, to grok* your audience when writing copy?
It’s important to become the reader’s ally in the copy. That’s why you’ll often see subheads that say, "It’s Not Your Fault!" It’s because you’re reaching out to them just like you would a friend who has a problem. You’ll explain why the cards are stacked against them, that it’s not their fault, and then offer a solution.

How much educating of your audience happens in your sales copy? (As opposed to when you are educating your customers about sales copy in your online courses.)
Only enough to make the case for buying. Some readers might respond to giving away free lessons in the copy, but often it can just cause procrastination. Giving away free info is great, but I don’t like it on the sales page because we want to get to that order link.

Sometimes you have to teach the reader why your product is important. For example I had to stress why scarcity was so important when selling "Digital Scarcity." If I hadn’t, they may have seen no reason to buy.

But you’re more likely to have a hit product if you don’t have to do any teaching in the sales copy.

How do you find the balance between the information products and services you offer? Does one lead into the other or is there not so much overlap between the "teach me how" and "do it for me" copywriting crowds?
Well that’s interesting because it’s something I’ve been trying to discover by trial and error. I get more work from copywriting critiques than I do from selling copywriting products. The copywriting products do help to show my expertise, so that’s good. But critiques are more personal so they work much better.

There’s some crossover, but not much. Most of the top entrepreneurs that hire me know how to write copy, but they see the value in hiring a professional. So it’s not like my products do much competing with my services.

…And to end on a fun note, what is the story behind calling your sister (copywriter Rebecca Dean ) Chong?
Well it’d probably be easier for Rebecca to explain. She’s lived in Japan quite a bit and I’d heard her call people by their names, with "Chon" at the end. I’m not sure if it’s spelled c-h-o-n or not. [All the fan subbed anime I’ve seen has spelled it "c-h-a-n". —WLB ] But it’s Japanese and is similar to Mr. Miyagi calling Daniel Laruso, Daniel-San.

I grew up always calling her Becky. I’ve never called her Rebecca except when I started calling her Rebecca-Chon. Which evolved into just Chon, and then finally, Chong.

Thank you Stephen!
If you’d like to find out more visit Stephen’s Blog or pick up a copy of TMFB .

* Grok – v. to understand intuitively or by empathy; to establish rapport with
(Special thanks to Clay Cotton for explicitly connecting Heinlein’s concept with teaching and marketing!)

Posted by Wayne Buckhanan at 6:15 PM   No Comments Yet »
16 Oct 2008

Too Secure?!

After my last post I was feeling a bit paranoid for whatever reason and decided it was time to implement one of the security mods on WordPress to deter automated attacks based on the version.

WP includes a statement about what version of the software generated each page. I decided the easy way to nix them all was to go straight to the WP code that does that on every page. Once I dug through the code I found the offending code: “get_bloginfo( ‘version’ )”.

The only place that gave me any trouble was in wp-includes/general-template.php and most of that was related to my ISP’s web cache and my web host’s web based editor. I ftp’ed the file over, edited out the offending get_bloginfo() calls, ftp’ed it back, and I was all set. I thought.

Sometime since then I noticed that I was having trouble accessing my admin pages. I could go to the login page and everything was fine, but my dashboard pages were coming up blank. I thought it was a fluke and that my hosting company would sort it out in a day or two. Well, it has been a week and I finally started digging through the error logs to find the problem.

With the flow of this post you probably figured out more quickly than I that my issue was with the general-template.php file I modified. Yep, it was front and center in the error logs. So I ftp a copy over and open it up in an editor¬†only to find that the line with the error is the last line in the file. “Odd” I thought as my ‘leet programming skills kicked in and I caught on that I had a blank line at the end. Checked against the original file (always keep a backup!) and sure enough, the one blank line was the culprit.

I’m now back into my admin pages and have no foreseeable reason not to post something relevant tomorrow!

The take-away for you is this: how secure is too secure? I certainly removed that potential guided attack. Was it worth it to also lock myself out? 

How have you “over shot” your desired level of security? What did you do about it in the end?

Posted by Wayne Buckhanan at 1:19 AM   No Comments Yet »
02 Oct 2008

Don’t get it perfect — just get moving!

Watching my six month old son learning to sit and spending most of his time falling over really reinforced that perfection is a myth — especially the idea of doing things “right” the first time. The whole point of learning is in growing and expanding your capabilities. (Really makes me think about homework in school and the expectation of getting everything “right” the first time you work the problems…)

The irony is that I’ve been agonizing over how best to share about perfection. (I want to get it “right” don’t you know!)

Yesterday I pondered in-depth posts and wrote nothing…
(FYI: Long posts and perfectionism lead to major delays.)
Today I chose to be efficient and (re)gain momentum.
Tomorrow I’ll dimensionalize myself into gear and share that trick.

I’d like to hear your own personal “secret method” for getting moving.
[The challenge is getting you to slow down just long enough to post them below!]

Posted by Wayne Buckhanan at 11:26 PM   2 Comments »
30 Sep 2008

Back in the saddle again

The rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated (even though it has been a long, long summer).

I made it through two cross-country moves, a near-death experience, computer crashes, Internet access oddities, changing hosting, and a plethora of other not-so-fun stuff. However, there have been plenty of things to celebrate (like births and birthdays) over the last six-months.

Basically this is just to let you know I’m back.

Upcoming posts: perfection, copy, tribes, and boats ships.
Get ready for the ride!

Update: I must have jinxed myself — the hosting transfer was not quite done and I’m still fighting through those issues… The joys and the perils of being a tech weenie.

Posted by Wayne Buckhanan at 5:29 PM   No Comments Yet »
04 Jun 2008

Haiku: Catching My Breath

Alive, still moving
The blog-o-sphere keeps turning
Just not on my phone

(Keep an eye out, I’ve got an interview that should have been posted before we moved for the summer and my world exploded. Be back soon.)

Posted by Wayne Buckhanan at 1:52 AM   No Comments Yet »
12 May 2008

Familiarity Breeds Content

It never ceases to amaze me how many often we assume that others know what we know — quite often incorrectly!

The best method I’ve discovered for revealing that unconscious competency is to teach something about a topic. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to expose your knowledge by getting it out of your head. Because people learn in different ways here are several options:

  • Record yourself as you talk your way through a topic. This is stream of consciousness or a brain dump not anything prepared. Remember, this is getting the info out of your head — we can clean it up and package it later! If you want your content into text form you can transcribe the audio — or better yet have someone else do the tedious part of transcribing while you record more of your expertise! If you don’t have a microphone for your computer there are free teleconference services that will record digitally and all you need is a telephone.
  • Mark Joyner reminded me recently about a stream of consciousness style done in writing, I call it blind writing, where you explicitly separate typing and editing. This involves brain dumping by typing into a word processor with the monitor off (after testing to make sure it is capturing your keystrokes!). There is no way to edit so it is much easier to let the ideas flow past the inner critic or censor.
  • Similarly Richard Lee posted a good action plan for writing a report. Again, notice the emphasis on writing as an action completely separate from editing.
  • To riff off of Richard’s plan I suggest using Google Docs rather than downloading another application. You can just as easily save it to PDF and as a bonus you can share or “publish” the file so that people can access the latest version. You could even type into Google Docs with your monitor off and record your voice at the same time!
  • Big picture people can create a stack of index cards with topics or points of interest by recording any and every idea that comes to mind. Then you can just pick one at random to start talking/writing about. The nice thing about this method is that you can organize the index cards as a distinct activity from recording the details of what you know — just be sure that you take a break from sorting index cards and spend some time recording those details!

That should get you started — which is the hardest part!
What other methods do you use for getting info out of your head? Please share in the comments.

Posted by Wayne Buckhanan at 8:37 PM   No Comments Yet »
23 Apr 2008

Summer Means Roadtrip!

Complex equivalence is great!

I believe the best coverage I’ve run across of complex equivalence is from Jonathan Altfeld in his Knowledge Engineering program. Altfeld is a master which means he spends a lot of time working with complex equivalence patterns in the form of “A is B” or “A means B”. (Did you notice I’ve already sprinkled each in this post?!)

A few poor examples: Learning means passing the test. Math is hard.
More useful examples: Flexibility means winning. Teaching is really learning.

Once you’ve become aware of a complex equivalence in someone’s world view you can work with (and around) that meaning. You have options such as directly challenging the complex equivalence, reframing the meaning, or any of the other Sleight of Mouth or Mind-lines patterns.

And what prompted this simple lesson about complex equivalence? Besides our own migration to NM for the summer I’ve found out that Patrick Curl and his wife are planning to visit and/or interview 50+ writers from each of the 50 US states. I love the idea and that means showing my support!

Posted by Wayne Buckhanan at 12:22 AM   No Comments Yet »
22 Apr 2008

Don’t “Try” to Teach

Here is what happened with last post’s teaching exercise.

My colleague made some notes and cheerfully said “I’ll try this tonight.” Since he has been open to my language pattern lessons in the past I chastised him with “Do or do not. There is no try.” After acknowledging the source (Yoda) we began debating whether “try” is a useful word or not. He argued his use was in the sense of “let’s try that restaurant tonight.” I pointed out that you either eat at the restaurant or you don’t, there isn’t really the half way option implied by “try”.

My biggest issue with “try” is the presupposition of failure. If you expect someone to show up at a given time you say “Please be there at 8:00.” If you expect them not to show up on time you say “Please try to be there at 8:00.” Expecting success: “Please bring me that box.” Expecting failure: “Please try bringing me that box.” The difference is subtle, yet profound.

After “running the experiment” (no “try” involved!) I heard back. My colleague had asked his son to “do something fun and figure out 90×3 but [you] should imagine that [you are] asking [Dad] to tell [you] the answer.” 270 and other correct answers flowed easily. Later that evening he found out that his son had actually followed the original exercise and was in fact asking Albert Einstein “because he’s smarter than you Dad.”

What do you need to stop “trying” to do and just get done today?
Who might you stop saddling with expectations of “trying”?

Posted by Wayne Buckhanan at 1:47 PM   No Comments Yet »
20 Apr 2008

“Fix” Weaknesses or Leverage Strengths?

As it so often does the subject turned to kids. My colleague shared how he sat one of his sons down and ran him through the algorithm for multiplying a single digit number by a multiple of ten. This involved the father asking questions and having the son sit still “like stone” to extract answers. From other conversation I knew that the son was quite social and enjoyed video games. It then came up that the son was almost in pain sitting still and come up with the answers expected of him.

My first observation was that rather than focusing on the son’s strengths in relationships they were “overcoming his weakness” and causing quite a bit of trauma in the process. I suggested an alternate exercise. Introduce a new game with the question “Who would know how to answer this?” Then rather than answer the math question directly go inside your head and ask your “expert” the answer. (Had the son been more interested in machines and computers than people I would have had him imagine a calculator in his head and just punch in the numbers.)

This alternate exercise does a number of things such as focusing on the son’s relational strength, reframing the previously painful inquisition as a game, and allowing the son to access those resources in a way that can be generalized to the rest of life. When kids get in the habit of thinking “who do I know that can help with this” they are more likely to leverage real world relationships (once out of school and allowed — even encouraged — to do so!).

What “weakness” has you stuck today?
What strength can you leverage to make the “weakness” moot?

Posted by Wayne Buckhanan at 11:02 PM   1 Comment »