What if we’re asking the wrong questions? (a.k.a. If you can’t beat ‘em, get better at your own game)


business n' branding
Tagged: , , , ,

I’ve got this buddy Rob who used to drive me completely nuts.

(Yes Rob Braddock Jr. – that was not a clever auto-fill. It’s you I’m talking about. You’re welcome.)

While we’re good friends now, and he’s a vocal, enthusiastic supporter of my work — when we first met inside a copywriter Facebook group in 2017, we did NOT, uh, see eye-to-eye.

Sometimes we still don’t.

But we’re comfortable disagreeing with each other, and it might be why we get along so well.

See, Rob and I hail from two entirely different copywriting/marketing universes.

He’s a copywriter of the old school direct response persuasion — you know, the “They Laughed At Me When I Sat Down at the Piano – But Then I Started to Play” type. Sales pages long as a leap year, lots of words, eye-explodingly bad design, the whole nine yards.

Sales pages which, annoyingly enough, make millions for the client/customer base they’re designed for.

Meanwhile, I’m a scrappy student of the new school creative conversion/personal branding marketing world (obvs.)

My audiences expect to be taken on a slickly-designed journey, gotta see value/understand and authentically connect with whoever’s behind the brand before they buy, and get turned off at the slightest hint of “I’ve heard this before…”

And, if I may add, my approach has also helped my clients cross 7 figures+ in revenue but I DIGRESS.

Anyway: for obvious reasons, Rob and I would go toe-to-toe in discussion threads with relative regularity.

I was convinced I was right. He was convinced he was right. In many ways, we both still are.

But here was the problem at the time:

I believed Rob’s approach to writing copy was, in some ways, on its way out.

I’d think to myself as I’d review something he posted, or an example sales letter he touted as a control-beater:

OK direct response is fine, but like, there’s no way this ugly design and old school stuff can still work forever…

People are so tired of this ish. This is as bad as the bro marketers and “work from the beach” gurus. Only a matter of time before the way my people do things takes over – authenticity rules, people need to focus on being of service and and and…

Meanwhile, I suspect he was convinced I was wrong — that brand/visuals/personality were trimmings that didn’t really matter, because what mattered most was knowing how to nail the sale at (almost) any cost, and soon my approach would go the way of the hoverboard.

But here’s the thing.

Rob and I speak to entirely different audiences.

And, as a result, we are/were both right, and both wrong.

And we both keep succeeding.

After almost 10 years in the business, I’m looking around and realizing something:

This “You’re wrong. Your way of doing things is dying. Just wait. You’ll see,” has been the line of thought for as long as I’ve been in this industry.

Seriously, how many times have you seen the diatribes on Facebook and LinkedIn that boil down to: “PEOPLE ARE SICK OF X, IT NO LONGER WORKS. BUY STOCK IN Y?” only to have X quietly keep working for some folks, actually?

The revolution is always promised.

And it never comes.

So everyone just waits around for the other group they don’t agree with to tank.

And, while one or two once-favored gurus in a niche may indeed stumble and fall much to the glee of their detractors, the rest of that corner of the industry continues to truck along and succeed with the people it’s designed for.

We may not like it.

It may make us want to roll our eyeballs so far back into our head we see our brains.

But it’s true.

And it’s why my buddy Rob and I stopped arguing constantly, and started watching each other more closely instead.

Nowadays, we check out each other’s work, make comments, share what we’re impressed by and ask question about what we don’t really get.

And we learn.

And our skill sets expand.

And our work gets better.

Look, I’m not here to tell you to shift into “marketing chaotic neutral”.

I’m not here to say gnarly manipulation tactics in sales are suddenly OK with me – they’ve never been OK with me.

Having a moral, ethical, and quality code for your work and audience is essential to creating with integrity.

But what I’m here to say is that if there’s a tactic you don’t like that feels too gauche, or too old school, or almost too obvious to actually work… petty revenge via social media diatribes and squabbles won’t change that.

There’s this saying among veteran marketers: “Everything works for someone.”

Basically: opinions don’t matter. As long as it’s working, people will keep doing it.

And it’s true.

So here’s what to do instead of praying for doom:

Lean in and look closer.

Start asking different questions.

Instead of “How the eff does this work on anyone!? DUMB,” ask “OK, this seems bleh to me. Why is this raking in millions?”

Instead of “WHO IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WOULD FALL FOR THIS?!” ask “Who is this made for, and what about it is hitting the right notes for them?

Instead of “Surely, this approach will die soon,”, ask “This feels completely foreign to me – why do people continue to use it?”

Then, take what you find valuable. Put it through whatever ethical revamp you wish that will make it feel in line with who you are, and how you do things.

And use it for yourself.

Don’t worry about beating them.

That’s never how the game has worked – and it’s a waste of energy.

Instead – worry about bettering you.

Like what you see?

Sign up and never miss another post (and get a crazy cool freebie)

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.