In John Reese's Marketing Secrets Forum, a forum in which I am the senior moderator, member John Jarowski posted a really important question. He asked, and I'm paraphrasing John for the sake of brevity:
“When a new strategy is taught by some ‘guru', everybody seems to copy it without tweaking it. This dilutes their effectiveness and puts me off tremendously. I would think that using any ‘new' marketing strategy is a lot less effective once it gets diluted by lazy marketers who want to do cookie cutter style marketing.”
I agree. And let me tell you why this is true, and share with you important tips on how to avoid this.
First, a case in point. When I wrote John Reese's famous million-dollar Traffic Secrets copy, and formatted it using copy, colors and tested conversion strategies, I started teaching these techniques (some openly, some to my coaching clients only).
The problem is, either you started seeing Reese-like salesletters popping up all over the place, or a ton of people would be asking me to redo their salesletter asking for the same thing. “I want a John Reese letter,” they'd exclaim. They did so, partly because they (erroneously) believed it would bring them the same amount of sales, and partly because they knew that this style has been tested and proven to sell.
(Keep in mind that the sales copy, on the day of the launch, had very little to do with the success of Traffic Secrets. It had more to do with John Reese's brilliance, and John's application of Jeff Walker's product launch formula, which was still unknown at the time.)
The unfortunate consequence is, everyone started to copy the style, the colors, the headline, etc with their sales copy. And this led to another problem: people start getting desensitized. That style used to be the highest converting salesletter format online. Now, it's gone down a lot. Why? Because everyone sees the same thing. They hit a website with a blue background and red headline, and immediately think “Salesletter!”
And then they leave.
I think there's a lot of power in learning from what marketing experts teach. But when they teach it, doing so supposes that the techniques work like gangbusters because the author is teaching from experience. This then becomes the springboard for their proliferation — and eventual dilution — as people tend to copy the techniques.
However, since what “gurus” teach is mostly from their own success and their own experience, shouldn't that tell you something? You bet.
I'm not against experts and gurus and successful marketers teaching what helped them in their success. That's the basis of pretty much the entire information marketing industry. But why do people have to wait until the techniques are taught to start applying them?
My best tip on this is this: don't wait until “the course comes out,” and everyone buys it and starts to copy it. Follow what my friend Armand Morin teaches as the better marketing strategy…
When John launched Traffic Secrets, a few jealous people were whining and complaining about John's success. Whether it was the price, the strategy, the salesletter or the launch itself, they were not happy — and, among others, resorted to the idea that it would never work for them, and that it would only work with John because “he's a guru,” with a lot of money, a lot of partners, a lot of affiliates, a lot of whatever.
But instead of bitching about it, why couldn't they simply stop, pause and observe how John did it? If they only paid attention to how John Reese created one of the most successful product launches on the Internet, they could have learned a thing or two about how to make money — rather than complained about it.
So be observant. Watch people around you. Check out other marketers and how they sell, even with non-marketing products. See how they successfully roll out campaigns, launch products, advertise, write copy, etc. Don't wait until they come out with a course on “how they did it.” If you can (and you can if you open your eyes a bit more), you can observe and learn before everyone else does the same thing after the marketer sells a course on how she did it.
For example, when John came out with Traffic Secrets, even before Jeff Walker launched his Product Launch Formula, people should have watched John, observed what he did, taken a ton of notes, and tried it themselves before everyone else and their neighbor did. (But you, on the other hand, shouldn't stop there. You should do one extra thing, and I'll come back to this shortly.)
Armand told me (and many of his audiences when he speaks) that his best product ideas and marketing tactics come from simply observing what kind of questions people ask, especially at seminars. He'd listen to what kind of problems they had and what kind of solutions they wished for. Even when someone asked a speaker at a seminar, “How do you do this?” Armand would think to himself, “Ah, there's a potential product idea right there.”
You should do the same.
(Armand wasn't the only one, by the way. When I worked with Corey Rudl, I learned that he taught this technique as well. In the early pre-Car-Secrets days, Corey used to go on the car and automotive forums a lot… not to post necessarily, but to surf the forums to see what was being asked and what people were looking for. His first kit car products, then Car Secrets Revealed book and then Marketing Tips course, became the eventual result.)
Sure, the rule is to learn what other people want, and then give it to them. And this applies to all marketing, all marketing strategies and all industries — not just Internet marketing. Simply observe and see what other people are doing as well. If they're successful, then take notes. And then try them out yourself.
My own forum (and now my blog) was created for this reason (among many others). It's a fertile ground for getting ideas for my own copywriting products and marketing strategies. Blogs are just as helpful, too. People read, comment, ask, etc.
But don't just stick to forums and blogs. While mailing lists are fantastic sources for market research (and you should definitely have your own), you should join other people's lists, too. Watch what they're doing. Read what they're saying. See what they're selling. And learn how they're selling it.
In fact, buy other people products (not just their “how to” products but other products that have nothing to do with marketing or information). And watch how they work. See how they follow up and upsell you. “Read between the lines,” so to speak.
In short, be a sponge.
Now here's the extra step I mentioned earlier. Secondly, if you're going to “copy success” (rather than “create mediocrity,” as the adage goes), then try to be a little more creative. This is where you shouldn't be lazy. Apply what you learn in a unique way. You don't have to be entirely unique. Perhaps just do it a bit differently. Rather than becoming a cookie-cutter marketer yourself, add a unique twist. Or apply it in a different way.
Granted, people are lazy. That's not the problem. What happens is that, while people learn from other experts because they are lazy, they become even lazier. They want to learn new successful strategies, not so much to do what is successful but to stop them from (you guessed it) working hard.
Duplicating success should stop you from guessing. (And to me, guessing is working harder.) But it shouldn't stop you from working smarter. In other words, sure you can save yourself a lot of hassle by copying the gurus. But that doesn't mean no work. It's the false sense of security people get when they buy such courses, thinking that, if they copy others' successes, they don't have to do any work.
And therein lies the problem: people tend to wimp out or become too lazy. They expect overnight riches. That, in itself, is not the problem. The problem is that they expect overnight riches without any work.
I believe you can work less by copying success because you save the guesswork and gain a solid base to work from. But it doesn't mean you stop working altogether. It does requires a bit of effort, a bit of brain power, a bit of creativity, a bit of differentiation.
And that's my biggest qualm.
People should work smarter, not harder. But because any ounce of work seems hard to them, they tend to resort to buying courses with the sole aim of duplicating proven strategies to the letter. When too many people do this, it causes the eventual dilution of the strategy.
Being lazy will never change. But if you want a leg up on your competition, if you want to increase your chances of success with an already skeptical, cynical marketplace (such as Internet marketing), then observe what's going on around you instead. Learn from other people's success before they teach about their success. And then, whether you apply what you observe or what you learn from their “how to” courses, try to make it unique.
Don't duplicate. Differentiate.
Michel Fortin is a senior marketing specialist, renowned copywriter, and digital marketing expert. For the better part of 30 years, he's produced countless successful marketing communications and profitable campaigns that generated in excess of $300 million in sales. He's broken many industry sales records, including being instrumental behind the first ever “million-dollar day” online marketing campaign in 2004. He's worked with thousands of businesses and entrepreneurs around the world in a wide variety of industries on building their businesses, improving their marketing, and increasing their profits. He's a published author and often speaks at industry events. To connect with him, visit his LinkedIn profile where he is most active.