R.I.P. Gilles-Léo Fortin 1943-2015

Gilles Fortin and Michel Fortin

If you’re a friend or follower on Facebook, you probably have learned about my father’s passing.

For those who don’t know my story, I haven’t seen my father since the early 90s when he was institutionalized with Korsakov’s Syndrome, a degenerative mental disease caused by alcoholism.

Its main symptoms are confusion, senility, loss of memory, inability to form new memories, confabulation (making up stories), and hallucinations.

All my life, we’ve had a strained relationship. But after losing my mother a couple of years ago, I knew I wanted to see my father at least one last time.

Gilles Fortin and Michel FortinSo last year, after being estranged for 20+ years, I’ve met him at his group residence. It was arranged by his sister, my wonderful aunt Estelle, who took amazing care of him all these years.

(Estelle, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Words cannot express my gratitude. When I need courage, I simply look at you.)

It’s no secret that my father’s condition wasn’t getting any better. This includes progressive loss of brain function, including what’s required to sustain life. I suspect it was the cause of, if not in large part contributed to, his heart failure.

Yesterday morning, he left this world peacefully during his sleep. From what I’m told, he didn’t suffer.

To my friends and family members who asked, I will know his final arrangements once I meet with the funeral home on Thursday. Thank you everyone for all your thoughts, condolences, and heartwarming wishes.

I don’t have many pictures of my father. But here are some from my childhood, and the most recent one from my visit last year.

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(On the left is my sister and me with my dad, circa 1976. The one on the left is mid-80s, I’m thinking ’83 or ’84, during my teen years.)

To my father…

Dad, in an indirect way, you taught me what it is to be a father.

Despite your illness and addiction, you did the best you knew how. You may not have been the best role model, but you were certainly a reminder of what to do and what not to do.

So I guess I can say, “Thanks, Dad.”

I’m so glad I had one last chance to see you. You didn’t remember me the next day, but at least it was a chance for me to say “goodbye.”

May you now rest in peace.

Your son, Michel.

UPDATED: My father’s funeral service will take place in the presence of his ashes at St. Mark’s Church, 160 rue Principale, Gatineau, Aylmer, Wednesday, January 28, 2015 at 11 am. The family will receive condolences at 10:30. A cold buffet will follow in the church basement.

Are Bottlenecks Clogging Your Sales?

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When a sales page is not performing to your expectations, what’s the worst thing you can possibly do? Nothing.

By making changes, any changes, you can strengthen your copy and improve your sales — provided you track those changes. In most cases, there are relatively simple steps you can take to improve your results immediately.

The key is always be closing testing.

Sadly, the vast majority of marketers don’t even test at all. They put up their sales copy or website, and then they do nothing hoping for the best.

But for those who do, the first thing they think of is to test by adding or changing something in their copy. Or they’re confused as to what to test first.

Is it the headline? The image? The close? The price? The color? Actually, none of these. The first thing to test is actually not adding or changing anything at all. It’s to first remove something instead…

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Give Your Joint-Venture Offer An Extra Punch

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The other day I was asked: “How do I motivate a potential joint venture partner to bite? When you have a great idea and you’ve located the perfect partner, how do you motivate them to do business with you?”

I talked on many occasions about the power of a USP and how to define one. Being unique, or having an interesting twist or hook, will definitely up your chances of getting noticed.

But regardless of how you approach your prospective partner, before you do it is important to craft the offer in a manner that shows the benefits to your joint-venture partner.

Here are a few extra tricks to motivate a potential partner.

More often than not, showing how their clients or prospects will benefit from your offering is a big step forward. Look at all the potential benefits your partnership provides. Don’t stick with the obvious. Dig deep, and list all the advantages they get from doing this venture.

At the very least, and aside from the extra money they earn, if you can show your partner how your offering will benefit their prospects and make your partner look good, you have a headstart.

But don’t stop there.

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Why Some Friction in Sales Copy is Good

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Using italics, bolds, highlights, etc to add emphasis in copy is a powerful tool. But use too much, and you are actually creating the opposite effect — everything looks the same and nothing is emphasized.

So you must emphasize judiciously and strategically.

However, some have suggested that emphasis should be avoided completely. One copywriter suggested that words alone should convey the message. He referred to formatting as “speed bumps,” which reduce usability and readability.

I don’t necessarily agree with this premise. After all, if that was the case (that words alone should communicate a message), we wouldn’t have punctuation.

But I digress.

First, understand that formatting helps to drive important points home. It also boosts recall, and gives additional meaning to a message the written word lacks that nuances and verbal cues otherwise provide.

Plus, emphasis communicates a meta-message. The message beyond the message. Emotional subtext, deeper meaning, greater impact, and more.

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Multiply Your Marketing Like a Virus

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People talk. They talk about products. They talk about businesses. And they certainly talk about their experiences with both.

With the proliferation of social media, the Internet provides incredible leverage to help spread that word-of-mouth, or as Dr. Ralph wilson coined over a decade ago as “word-of-mouse marketing“.

Today, “viral marketing” has become so ubiquitous that the term has been added to our dictionaries and university’s business class curricula.

But the question is, can viral marketing really help your business? I’m not talking about simply driving traffic. I’m talking creating systems to leverage, manage, and profit from the buzz a viral campaign creates.

First, understand why word-of-mouth works so well.

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My Name is Michael, I Got a Nickel…

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OK, this post has been a long time coming.

For over a decade, people keep asking me, “So, what is it: Michel? Michael? Mike? Or what?” (I prefer “Master Overlord,” but I digress.)

My name is “Michel,” formally pronounced “Mee-shal.” My wonderful wife calls me “Mish.” In turn, I call her “Rish,” which is short for “Licorice.” The story behind it is, when we first met, a friend told us we were lovebirds, always together, inseparable. Like licorice.

(We still are! In fact, we even merged our businesses and created a new umbrella company, called “The Licorice Group, LLC.” Now there’s a twist!)

Anyway, I don’t pronounce it “Mee-shal” for several reasons.

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It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It

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Copywriting is often labelled as “wordsmithing.” A wordsmith is someone who uses words to sell a product, a service, or an idea.

But, is copy only about words?

Copywriting comes down to two fundamental tasks: knowing what to say and then how to say it. The first part is the most crucial. After all, the success of your copy hinges greatly on coming up with the right message — i.e., the right angle or story — that moves your readers and makes them move.

To do this, you need to choose the right words to communicate your message, express your story, and connect with your audience.

The second part is just as important. Choosing the best words to not only say what you mean but also add meaning to what you’re saying is a wordsmith’s most prized weapon in making copy significantly more potent.

Sometimes, the right message isn’t enough. It needs to jump out at the reader, grab them by the eyeballs, and shake them into action if not reading further.

So knowing how to say it is communicating the right message in the right way.

But what about formatting, aids, graphics, and cosmetics? What about the “design of the copy”? Are words alone enough, especially in today’s visually driven world?

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Lowball Puts You Behind The Eight Ball

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If you’re a new or aspiring copywriter, here’s one important tip: don’t be cheap.

Too many beginning copywriters believe that offering cheap rates will get them more business. I’m not saying that it doesn’t. Of course, offering low rates and discounts is one way to increase your portfolio. But there are other ways around this while offering competitive rates or even higher.

Of course, focusing on a specialty or a niche is one way to differentiate yourself, and it gives you some leverage to price your services higher. If you’re a copywriter who specializes in, say, flooring and carpeting companies, you will be able to command higher fees within that market — and get paid them, too.

But if you lowball your rates, you will not get as much business as you think you’ll get. Sure, you will probably get some. But it’s the kind of business you don’t want.

Instead, remember this important rule…

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If Long Copy Stinks, Think Soap

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I often talk about the need for long copy often depends on your market. Borrowed from Eugene Schwartz’ magnum opus Breakthrough Advertising, it’s based on the market’s stage of sophistication for the product.

The newer the product is, the less sophisticated the market will be. The less sophisticated the market is, the more copy is required to persuade.

I, however, prefer to base it on the the market’s level of awareness of the problem and not so much the product. I call it my O.A.T.H. formula, which stands for oblivious, apathetic, thinking, and hurting.

The more oblivious the market is about the problem, the more education is required. Consequently, you will need more copy in order to convince them that:

  1. they actually do have a problem,
  2. the problem is important and needs to be solved,
  3. the solution offered is the better one for them, and
  4. the solution is needed urgently (or else).

Sophistication about the product or awareness of the problem aside, there’s also an extra factor to look at when considering how long your copy should be.

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