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Friday, 14 January 2011

Elevator talk: a Spanish omelette, advice from Napoleon - and what I know about you

I got three sets of questions sent to me today.

One was from a U.S. professor who is writing a worryingly comprehensive book about writing to sell.

One was from a client in Asia who wanted to know how often to write to prospects, and how they could improve their copy.

One was from a lady in Barbados who was replying to something I foolishly put up saying "if you were stuck in an elevator with me, what five questions would you ask?"

Here is a sort of Spanish omelette made up of my replies:

The professor asked many questions, but one referred to how to adapt your writing to the web, and another was about the sins people commit.

So I went off on those.

The overwhelmingly important thing to say about writing is my variation on something John Caples once said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

He said “Times change, people don’t”.

I say “Media change; customers don’t.”

Apart from a few technical details – like the difference between paper and screens, and the limits imposed by spam filters there is no reason to believe you should change your writing that much for the web.

The common sins apply to online and off. They apply to blogs, sales-letters, speeches, presentations - everything.

To my client I said:

1. The question is not how often do you write, it is what you say when you write.

2. The aim is that people should look forward to getting it, not "more bloody sales stuff from them".

3. I suspect you veer too much to the latter.

4. One reason is that your stuff lacks charm and is cliched.

I get messages most days from someone saying "Thank you, I love this." I got two this morning.

That is because I want to help people - and in so doing I help myself.

It also makes life less of a bore.

I only replied to the last question from
the lady in Barbados, because the others were too hard. It was:

I’m your protégé and you are on your death bed, what
must you tell me before you pass on?

I replied in two parts

1. Study.

He or she who knows more can do more.

2. Don’t spend too much time talking about what you think you should do. Act.

When I look back on my life I regret not what I have done, but what I did not do.

Napoleon said something like, “The important thing is to make a decision. By the time you discover it was wrong you will have made five others which render it irrelevant."

Now, here’s what I know about you:

Thanks to everyone who has replied to my questions in the last 8 days.

From this I have learned that:

Many of you are interested in branding – nearly 130 so far. So I am definitely going to do an event on that.

Enough of you are interested in mentoring or coaching for me to go ahead. But some want it face to face and others at a distance. Been trying to sort that out today. Well, not me but my infinitely more practical colleague Chloe

Hardly any of you are interested in a copywriting seminar. I don’t believe you, so I’m still planning something on that.

None of you want to know how to sell cars, but I don’t care – I was asking the wrong people. I've just located the right one to ask.

Have a good weekend – but don’t imagine that just because you’re relaxing you can escape my cloying attentions.

For some reason I always get ideas on Saturday and Sunday ... and being a motor-mouth I feel compelled to tell people about them.

Happily for you, you don't have to listen.

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