Last week, after returning from the hospital following my wife’s mastectomy, something really cool happened. I was interviewed by Dale King, copywriter and owner of GuruKnowledge.org.
Why cool? Because I was a bit of a nervous wreck, thinking of my beautiful Sylvie and her battle with breast cancer. And being interviewed is somewhat therapeutic. It made me remember the things that are important to me, even though the interview was business-related.
That said, a lot of people said they loved the interview, so I decided to reprint it here, on my blog, for you. It also offers a few tips about how I write copy, how I think and how I view marketing in general. I also reveal what I believe is the single greatest secret to marketing.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed doing it.
Dale King: Today I’m interviewing Master Copywriting guru, Michel Fortin. Good morning Michel, how are you?
Michel Fortin: I’m good, thanks. And thank you for giving me this opportunity.
Dale King: Michel, tell my listeners how and when you got started marketing on the Internet.
Michel Fortin: Well, I started in about 1992 as an employee. I didn’t have a personal website, I was actually a copywriter for a cosmetic surgeon where one of my tasks included creating a website for the firm for this new thing called “the Internet.”
When I left the firm and started freelancing, I was primarily an offline copywriter (since 1995), which is over a decade now, and the Internet was first used purely as an extension of my exposure-seeking activities.
In other words, my website was not a salesletter, a corporate website, an ecommerce storefront, or anything of that sort.
It was merely a simple, 3- to 4-page digital resume (a billboard, in other words). No fluff. No links. No content. No calls to action. Nothing fancy. Just a few pages anouncing “me” to the world. Just another place to hang my shingle.
At first, my web site was (naively, I should add) hosted on a free server using free tools. But having had some exposure offline already, this enabled me to get some traffic. However, it could have been much harder if I were a newbie with no previous marketing experience whatsoever.
That said, I didn’t use some of the techniques that I now use (and teach) — techniques that, if I had implemented them earlier, would have saved me a few years.
For example, in late 1997, I registered “SuccessDoctor.com,” since my company focused primarily on marketing and copywriting for cosmetic surgeons — I helped doctors become successful, hence the name “The Success Doctor.”
(In fact, many of the late night infomercials you see on TV, particularly in hair transplantation, are likely some of my many brainchildren. I’ve noticed that some of them still air late at night, even to this day!)
But my traffic really soared when I started to do two things: 1) I decided to put my free book, “The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning,” online (a lead generator that I’ve been using successfully offline for a while).
And 2) I also started to write articles for ezines in order to promote the book (usually in the author’s byline at the end of each article), which I’ve been doing for some time as well in the offline world.
Both strategies came about almost instinctively. There was no prompting from someone, although I studied many marketers in my early career. In fact, marketing and especially selling (and copywriting, by the way, is just a written form of selling) were fascinating to me.
You see, selling was my first job. When I turned 19, I became the youngest licensed insurance salesperson in a large, multinational insurance company (and I think in its history too).
But in the beginning however, I failed miserably. So when I began to implement many of the techniques that I teach today (such as writing lead generation salesletters rather than the more traditional door-to-door prospecting), one thing led to another until I became the top salesman for most of the companies that employed me. I won awards, contests, you name it.
Today, I own several websites. My wife Sylvie and I now own several online and information products, as well as software, websites and programs. I still write copy for certain clients but have switched the bulk of my copywriting business from writing copy for clients to writing copy for our own products.
Dale King: Michel, tell my listeners what a typical day is like for Michel Fortin.
Michel Fortin: My day is divided into three chunks. Late morning, afternoon and evening. The morning is my admin time. After waking up and sipping on a cup of coffee, I download my email, answer customer queries and manage projects.
In the afternoon, though, I primarily surf the web for research, especially to gather tidbits I can use in my copy. Depending on the salesletter and type of client I’m writing for, I will browse the web for important information about the client, their clients (the market I’m writing to) and the product in question.
If it’s an infoproduct for example, I’ll spend the afternoon going through it, taking a lot of notes, and writing down bullet ideas, headlines, “hooks” and factoids to support my claims.
While most of the research is connected with a particular project, some of it is just browsing for new ideas and topics I can use either in my articles, my product development, my own copy or my websites — such as my blog. It’s “fishing for fuel,” so to speak, where I simply and aimlessly browse around, gathering ideas to feed my creativity.
And in the evening, I write. I write and write and write.
Most of the time, I write copy. But I also respond to posts in my forum, write articles for my blog, add content to my websites, and plan business strategies by writing them down in detail (along with my lovely wife, Sylvie).
I also take some time to write in personal journal. This is one of the most liberating, powerful and educational activities I do. It helps me to deal with challenges, people and events. And it’s also an incredibly creative process, from which many of my new product ideas or copy “hooks” come from, especially after spending an afternoon “fishing for fuel.”
Dale King: How important has goal-setting been to your overall success?
Michel Fortin: Not as important as some people profess. I prefer not to set specific goals because my life is not run by goals but by priorities. Values. Actually, I prefer to call them “guides” rather than “goals,” meaning end-results and not necessarily achievements.
That is, things that mean something to me and the people I love. Things that are important and relevant to my personal set of values.
In fact, I wrote an entire book on the subject. It’s called “Drop Your Goals And Manage Your Life!” (Rather than set your goals and manage your time.) If you don’t mind, Dale, the website they can get it is at: (and it’s free).
To explain why I prefer this method would require more time and energy to explain. They can read the book I mentioned earlier to understand my philosophy. But to sum it up, the process is simply this: goals are limiting and are based on external processes. Guides, or value-based priorities, are internal and based on how you want to feel once any goal is achieved.
To say it differently, let me quote Lao-Tsu who said it best:
“Many people have climbed the ladder only to discover once at the top that the ladder was leaning against the wrong wall.”
Dale King: How important has reading been to your overall success?
Michel Fortin: Immensely important. There’s a French saying (I’m Canadian, and French is my native tongue) that goes: “Lire éclaire l’esprit.” It means, “Reading illuminates the mind.”
And this is not limited to books. I love reading forum posts, articles and blogs because they provide me with a lot of insight. Not only in how other people perceive things, but also, by their questions for example, what they want, what makes them tick, what kind of products to create, what kind of copy “hooks” will work best and what will improve my current business.
That’s why browsing the web and even reading entries in your journal are incredibly productive activities — for me, anyway.
Sure, I read books. But I also listen to audios and teleseminars, watch videos and DVDs, and subscribe to many newsletters and mailing lists — not necessarily to read the content per se but to grab new ideas, watch what goes on “between the lines” or “behind the scenes,” and see how people react to it.
Dale King: What was the last good book you read?
Michel Fortin: “The Dhammapada” (The Sayings of The Buddha) and “Reflections on the Art of Living: A Joseph Campbell Companion” by Dian Osborn.
But if you want me to be more business- or marketing-specific, I love The Robert Collier Letter Book (I’ve read it several times), “Superheroes And Philosophy: Truth, Justice, And The Socratic Way” by Thomas and Matt Morris, and “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking” by Malcolm Gladwell.
Dale King: If you could recommend one book that all Internet marketers should read, what would it be?
Michel Fortin: “Think And Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. Without a doubt.
Dale King: In your opinion, what technology has changed Internet Marketing the most over the last 5 years?
Michel Fortin: Other than blogs and activity-based marketing (i.e., marketing strategies that engage the reader, whether it’s web-based, blog-based or email-based), I also believe video has made a massive penetration into the Internet marketing sphere, and will soon grow even more.
It’s all part of engaging the reader more. As reported by a University study 20 years ago, it stated that “the more senses you engage, the more people are willing and apt to buy from you.” This was referring to sales professionals using multimedia in their sales presentations.
But with the Internet, it’s just as true — and important.
Therefore, I truly believe that video and its use not only has grown dramatically but will grow exponentially in the near future. New uses, new formats, new marketing approaches, as well as new types of copy (since I’m primarily a copywriter) have already been introduced and will be introduced over time.
Dale King: What new technology do you see changing Internet Marketing over the next 5 years?
Michel Fortin: More and more video. The days of long scrolling copy salesletters are slowing shrinking, and the incorporation of videos, audio and flash animation in web salesletters (not fancy graphics to “wow” and entertain, but to educate, inform and persuade the audience, as well as to grab their attention and retain their interest) are going to be more and more prevalent in the coming years if not months.
Dale King: What person has influenced you the most in your lifetime, and how?
Michel Fortin: Jim Rohn. He’s the mentor that I’ve followed for many years, and whose teachings have deeply influenced my life and my business. Some of my favorite quotes from Jim include:
“Brevity has a lot of power in it.” “Without a sense of urgency, desire loses its value.” “If someone is going down the wrong road, he doesn’t need motivation to speed him up; he needs education to turn him around!”
These teachings (and many more) have deeply influenced my thinking, whether it’s in my copy or in my business. I’m always graviting to his books when I need an extra kick in the anatomy, particularly when I’m confronted with a challenge or when things seem to go downhill.
But here’s my favorite quote from Jim Rohn — and it’s my favorite quote of all time. It’s been hanging on my wall, in front of me (above my desk), for over a decade now (since I’ve been in business). It goes like this:
“There are some things in life that you don’t have to know how it works. The main thing is that it works. While some are studying the roots, others are picking the fruits. Success just depends on which end of this you want to be.”
Dale King: If you could give my listeners one piece of advice, what would it be?
Michel Fortin: If there is something about which I am pretty adamant, it’s the concept of attracting clients that are pre-qualified and willing to do business. And this involves many different things, from niche marketing to target marketing to lead generation.
However, this fundamental “magnetism,” if you will, is not only based on pure marketing practices or strategies. It also involves something at a much deeper level that is far more effective than any other marketing tool or process.
This “thing” to which I am referring is, I believe, the most important marketing secret that I can ever teach — and it’s far from being a secret at all.
It is considered as one to a certain degree simply because it is often neglected or ignored by many businesspeople and marketers.
I’m not referring to marketing or promotional activities, too. If people perceive that doing business with you has an implicit added value, especially when compared to your competitors that are fiercely fighting for your market’s attention, you will often end up with their attention, their confidence, and their repeat and referral business as a result.
Sure, you can apply all the direct response, marketing and copywriting strategies to your business to achieve this. But the most effective way to communicate this added value is through the genuine, sincere, and passionate zest you have for what you do.
People have a tendency to gravitate toward other people who love what they do — their enthusiasm, charisma, and authentic desire to serve others are instantly communicated through their actions and particularly their marketing efforts.
Sadly, however, the marketplace is filled with so many people who jump into business for one sole purpose: Money. They work for a pension instead of a passion. They are so profit-minded that they fail to enjoy the process.
The great anthropologist, Joseph Campbell, said it best when he said that old cliché: “Follow your bliss” a few decades ago.
Actually, that saying is older than you think. Chinese sage Confucius, in 500 B.C., said: “Do what you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” Author Marsha Sinetar wrote a book, entitled: “Do what you love and the money will follow.” Peter McWilliams, author of “Life 101,” claimed: “Do what you love and the necessary resources will follow.”
But to me, it all boils down to this:
“Do what you love and the business will follow.”
That, to me, is the greatest marketing secret of all time. It’s to do what you love or to love what you do. And if you don’t love what you do, then find it. Make *that* your bliss. As Jim Rohn once said, “If you don’t like where you are, then change it! You’re not a tree.”
Ultimately, if you do what you love or love what you do, you will naturally attract more business by the sheer fact that your passion is also communicating to others that you are offering the best solution to their problems. Why? Because you are offering them the best…
Dale King: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview, Michel.
Michel Fortin: My pleasure. Thanks, Dale.