There are certain results that are easier to reach when you burn the goal sheet and create a process instead.
What do I mean?
Depending on your personality, some of the big far-off goals will cripple you in their enormity.
Like writing a book, for example. Even breaking it into smaller goals still smacks of herculean effort.
But what if instead of an enormous goal you were patient enough to commit to a process? What if in due course the thing your process produced could, accumulatively, get you to your goal?
Like, for example, committing to write a 200-500 word article every week. If you committed to that writing process eventually you would have enough words and content to publish a book.
Now, some will say process is just another word for goal. But it’s not. A process has orderly fixed events and systematic procedures put on repeat with no end date. Whether that sounds like paradise or hell to you, it’s still not a goal.
And that’s how you can tell if you have a process or just a mini goal. If you plan on ending your process when it’s produced a certain amount of result then it’s not a process. It’s a goal.
You can’t stick a flag in a process and move on. It’s for the methodical. The consistent.
Is a process better than a goal?
It’s just a different tool for producing results.
Have goals eluded you?
Then build a system of processes and enjoy a steady stream of results.
Thinking long-term is a skill set I’m continually trying to improve.
This effort is necessary because, for a lot of us, our brain naturally bends to the here, now, immediate.
This is why, even though we know every customer and client has a tremendous lifetime value, we tend to focus on what they’ll spend today. And then we make marketing and business decisions based on what we can get today.
And sometimes those decisions sacrifice the potential lifetime value of a customer.
I caught myself doing something this week that is a perfect microcosm of short-term thinking.
You know how you’ll amass a list of companies who, for one reason or another, you gave them your email address and now you’re treated to their marketing emails? They’re not spam. It’s from legitimate companies you either have or would like to do business with.
They email you something anywhere from once a week to several times a day. And while I like these companies, their marketing emails start to build up.
I was elated when I found an email app for my phone that made deleting emails super-fast. One swipe and they’re gone. Because going through the unsubscribe process is such a hassle and takes too long.
So, for a while, I’ve had this daily swipe fest routine and it was great. All the junk sales emails gone fast. I was saving time.
But was I?
I started to calculate my “lifetime value” of time spent deleting these stupid emails. And even though unsubscribing takes way longer than swipe deleting one email, it’s way faster than weeks of deletion.
The food for thought?
What are you currently doing that feels faster or more efficient in the here and now, but under scrutiny fails the long-term test?
If you thought of something, can you do something about it now? I encourage you to take the two extra minutes today to save yourself hours of the future.
Last week I promised to show you some practical examples of how to mine memes for content.
So, this week I’m going to share my favorite thing to steal from memes: Universally Specific content.
It’s content that has broad appeal because it’s relatable while also being oddly specific. This kind of content is powerful because specifics hit harder than generalities. It’s also excruciatingly difficult to create from scratch. Thus, why we’re going to farm the concepts from already popular memes.
What are the benefits of being Universally Specific?
Marketing, at its core, is about getting the public to like you better than your competitor. So, when it comes to messaging it’s ideal to cast as large a net as possible. (Side note: You cannot appeal to everyone. If you attempt to write to everyone, you’ll reach no one. Choose who to lose.)
Ready for some examples?
See how oddly specific this scenario is?
And yet, who doesn’t have at least one or two “good boxes” sitting around because they’d be perfect for an imaginary future use?
Why would we do that?
It’s our nature to hold onto things of perceived value that we’ve gotten for free. It feels like a bonus. Especially when it’s something we’d never make a special trip to the store for, or we don’t even know where to buy one from in the first place. Better hold onto it.
Here’s another one:
Because when we’re really enjoying a meal, or anything else for that matter, we want the last bite to be the best in hopes it’ll prolong the pleasant experience.
How about this one:
At the core, people bond with inanimate objects for ridiculous reasons. Which is why, even if this specific scenario hasn’t happened to you, you can understand and relate to it.
Speaking of forming emotional bonds:
Book. TV show. Movie. Doesn’t matter. It feels like we’ve been wronged when a favorite character gets killed off. So, yes. I do deserve compensation even though I’m the one who chose to read the book of my own free will.
Did you notice the common theme?
Oddly specific scenarios that are universally relatable.
Universal: It doesn’t matter what sex, religion, ethnicity, or political party you are. Because these hit on the human side of things.
Specific: Because these are highly specific scenarios, it feels like finding your tribe when you relate to one of the examples. Unlike something more general, like breathing air. (You like breathing air? Oh, that’s nice and now I still know nothing about you.)
It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in or who your customers are. Memes may have a copywrite, but no one owns the concepts. So, mine memes for content ideas. The human side of things that your customers can relate to.
And when they relate to something you’ve shared, then in a small way they’ll feel not alone.
And making people feel not alone makes you inherently likable.
One, they often contain delightfully groan worthy dad humor. (A favorite brand of mine.)
Two, as an ad writer they’re an endless source of content inspiration for me.
Two and a half, they’re a research resource for how to talk to a tribe about what matters to a tribe using the tribe’s language and inside jokes.
Three, as a kernel of truth wrapped in relatable humor, they deliver BIG emotional impact and connection fast.
Why does that last point especially matter?
Well, what are the most effective kinds of ads?
Ads that speak to emotions first, and then justify with logic.
That’s why we reverse engineer popular memes.
I say reverse engineer because outright copying or sharing a meme, especially in a for-profit endeavor, can technically be copyright infringement. However, no one owns basic truths or concepts, and herein lies the wealth.
That’s it for this week. Next week we’ll dive into practical breakdown and meme use strategies. (A.K.A. how to steal like an artist.)
You can prevent a lot of future problems by anticipating and getting in front of them. Before they happen.
Like I said, not a new concept.
But what if we took an old idea and applied it in a new specific way? For example, what if you’re an advertising creative?
As an advertising creative, have you ever had a client get upset or pull your ad because they heard some negative comments about it?
Would you like to prevent that response?
So, how do you get in front of it?
One technique for doing so is the Upfront Agreement.
The upfront agreement can be any conversation you have with your client before you present your work for their review. Especially if there are any elements of your work you anticipate to be new or unexpected.
This is your opportunity to explain all the reasons you made the creative choices you did and what you hope to accomplish by them. (You can explain the reasons behind your thought process, right?) Because if you wait to explain your reasons until after there’s a problem, then you’ll just end up looking defensive and fumbling.
After thoroughly walking your client through your decision points, you’ll have demonstrated your expertise and all the work that went into producing the ad. This shows how much you care about them and the work they hired you to do.
Now is when you look them in the eye and say, “Because I believe this ad has the power to drive traffic, I also believe it has the power to spark criticism. Can we agree not to change or pull the ad until the 10th negative complaint? At which point we can have a conversation about the effectiveness of the ad and what we want to do with it.”
Every business owner says they want to get people’s attention. The problem is, any creative advertising that actually gets attention, won’t get 100% positive attention. Because if your ad is powerful enough to move people, not everyone will move in the direction you were hoping.
By having this upfront agreement you’ll have emotionally prepared your client for what effective advertising looks like.
And by explaining your reasons before you show them the ad, you’ll have demonstrated competence and defended it without looking defensive.
Last night I spent the evening hunting down a snack craving.
My body was telling me I wanted something, but I didn’t know what it was. Like an itch I couldn’t scratch, I didn’t have the words or mental picture of what it was I was after.
So, I started trying things.
Popcorn with extra butter.
That wasn’t it.
Buffalo Ranch potato chips.
That wasn’t it.
Cap’n Crunch in cold milk.
Not it either so I tried some more stuff.
Finally, I had tried so many things that I wasn’t hungry anymore. My craving remained at large. A frustrating endeavor, though with minimally adverse side effects.
A craving with far more consequences when unsatisfied are the snack cravings of your soul.
Not soul with a capital ”S.” Lowercase soul. The soul of your nonverbal right hemisphere. The fully half of your brain that can’t tell you what it needs, but needs it none the less.
Let me ask, when was the last time you fed Righty?
Have you had an emotional, mental itch you can’t quite put your finger on? Has it led to low grade frustration or angst?
Like my snack craving last night, you might have to try a few things. Unlike last night, you can’t give up before you find the cure.
Here are some places to start.
When was the last time you read poetry aloud? When last did you dance like a fool or finger-paint the night sky? How long since you sang at the top of your lungs or splashed in mud puddles? Have you traveled lately to faraway places via great fiction? Or made yourself dizzy on a tree swing?
I can guarantee you these activities will produce nothing productive.
But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? When you feed the snack scratches of your soul.
What if I told you you’re wrong and that’s not actually your favorite food?
You might think, “This guy has got some nerve.” And you’d be right to think that. After all, you’re fully qualified to know what your favorite food is.
You know what else you’re qualified for?
To make observations about the world and then to see if they’re true.
Many years ago in central Texas, on an overcast day spattered with grey rain, I walked the mud trails and limestone shelves that wound through juniper cedars. Trails that someday would become the paved paths of Wizard Academy.
That day I met a Wizard, and he told me something special.
Without disparaging education, he said you don’t need a college degree or to wait for anyone’s permission to become a student of the world. You can start right now. As you observe the things around you, seek to understand what makes them that way, and then try to connect those observations to the other things you’ve seen.
And then make a hypothesis as to why you think things work the way they do. And then, most important, find where you were wrong. Because that adds weight to when you’re right.
The Wizard told me that if I made a habit of doing this, I would see things no one else saw. I would know things no one else knew. And I could use my secret knowledge to be successful.
The true value the Wizard gave me that day was not a process. For there is no secret in the process of making observations. Rather, the value came because he empowered me to give myself permission to do these things.
What I’m about to tell you may or may not be true.
I think it’s true, but I respect that I could be alone on this. So, let’s make a deal.
If you’re willing to set aside any skepticism for just a moment, I promise to not try and change your mind.
Ok, here it is:
You’ve never changed anyone’s mind on anything.
It’s not because of any failing on your part. It’s just that it’s not possible to change someone else’s mind. You may have said or done something that gave the cause-and-effect appearance of changing someone’s mind. But you didn’t actually change their mind; they did.
This isn’t simply conceptual semantics for the sake of argument. It’s a powerful shift in view that I’ve found to be valuable.
It takes the pressure off you.
Consider, in traditional sales it’s put upon the salesperson to try and overcome objections then convince and win the customer into a sale.
That’s a lot of stress. If the sale falls through then it’s a failure on the part of the salesperson. Ouch.
Knowing that you can’t change someone’s mind, what if your job is to only provide as much information and guidance as possible to furnish the customer with what they need to decide? If the customer doesn’t buy, then no sweat. You didn’t fail. They simply chose not to buy from you.
Now, don’t mishear me. I’m not saying you can take a blasé attitude towards sales. Every salesperson has a responsibility to do their best to be helpful and informative. Falling short of that is not acceptable.
But you can’t change people’s minds. And so sometimes there’s nothing you could have said or done differently. That person was never going to be your customer.
There’s something I’ve noticed about the best ad writers in the world.
They write neither fiction or nonfiction.
Instead, they weave both in a twilight realm that is the truth told more powerful than reality.
It’s like this. You know how there are fictional works based on real events?
Well, good ads are like that but they’re reality based on fiction.
Pure facts can be informative, but not moving. Pure fiction can be moving, but not informative.
The average ad writer will pick one side and hunker in.
The great ad writers know they must marry both together in seamless copy.
In practice, ads must be based on truth. It’s the only place to start. But once your foundation is laid you must paint a fictional reality that does not yet exist, in which your customer can see themselves experiencing the benefits of your product or service.
This is not smoke-and-mirrors and it’s not dishonest because the fictional part is what will come to pass. Just as soon as they become your customer.
So, what’s your strength?
Are you better at laying out the facts or painting fiction?
Whichever way you lean, the path to leveling up your ad writing lays in embracing the other side.