“Give me 6 hours to chop down a tree and I’ll spend the first 4 sharpening the axe.” Abe Lincoln
I’ve been thinking about this quote a lot lately.
It all started when I was on the set of an online reality show I’m a part of. The show chronicles the creation of an information product from conception to launch and beyond.
A cadre of experts (myself included) meet on a regular basis to discuss all aspects of the project. Our meetings are videotaped and will be put online for the world to see (I’ll let you know when it goes live).
At a recent taping I made some points about the importance of research and how, especially on the marketing side of things, the project would benefit from doing some (I’m purposely keeping things vague here… can’t reveal too much right now!).
As we were wrapping things up for the evening, one of the other people involved made a comment that if she had a gun to her head and had just 30 days to launch a business, she’d skip the research and just jump in and get started.
I totally understand the thinking here. In fact, you’ll hear a lot of business experts saying that one of the marks of successful entrepreneurs is the ability to execute on their ideas quickly.
But I guess where she(they) and I differ on things is I believe that research is the first, and most important part of executing a successful business/marketing plan.
And that’s why I’ve been thinking about Abe Lincoln’s quote.
Because when it comes to marketing, research is your AXE.
The Secret That Separates The Top Copywriters From the Herd
Here’s a little secret about the great “A” List level copywriters…
Yeah, they’ve got some writing chops. But that’s NOT what makes them truly great.
The thing that separates the truly great ones from the pack is their research skills.
Before they write a WORD of copy, they’re immersing themselves in the product/service they’re selling, the audience they’re marketing to, and the competition.
- They ask the key questions of the business owners, salesman, inventors, etc. to find the golden nuggets that’ll provide the foundation of the copy.
- They interview customers and prospects to understand what their needs are. (And not their superficial needs… their DEEP emotional needs that the product/services fulfills.)
- They keep digging until they’ve got the emotional hook that’ll drive the copy that makes prospects quiver with desire, the bullet points that tease and tantalize their emotions, the offer that leaves prospects with little choice but to pull out their wallets and hand over their hard earned cash.
- They’ll uncover the company’s Unique Selling Proposition that can be used to position them in a way that makes the competition largely irrelevant.
And It’s No Different for PPC…
All the top PPC guys I know are all fanatical about research… Keyword Research… Competitive Research… Market Research.
That’s the heart of getting a successful AdWords campaigns off the ground (as is digging in/researching the data of live campaigns to religiously optimize them).
The cool thing about the Internet (well, other than Amazon Prime and TED Talks) is that it’s now easier than ever to do your research. And you don’t even have to TALK to anyone to do it.
Some of the Most Valuable Stuff on Amazon is FREE
Speaking of Amazon, that’s one of my favorite sources to use for research.
The reviews on Amazon are a treasure trove of information that can be invaluable to the savvy business owner.
These are reviews written by people who have taken their time to express their views (the good, the bad and the ugly) about the products they bought.
The key word being BOUGHT… these are BUYERS writing about products they’ve actually shelled out their hard earned cash for. These are the people you need to be paying attention to.
During one of our recent filming sessions we spent some time on Amazon and got some incredible insights.
What we did was look at reviews people left for books related to the info product we’re tasked with creating and marketing.
Here’s what we were looking for…
- The things they liked about the books and the things they didn’t like about the books. (Or, more accurately, what they liked/didn’t like about the information contained in those books and the impact/lack of impact it had on their lives.)
- The emotional needs of prospects in this market, the problems keeping them up at night, their ultimate goals, etc.
- Colorful quotes that could make great headlines, bullets and copy for our marketing materials.
- The Table of Contents of the most popular books on the subject to see what topics they had in common (which is a GOOD indication we need to include those topics in our product).
At the end of the day, doing this research gave us a much clearer picture of:
- WHO we were creating this product for
- WHY they were looking for this information
- WHAT information they’d value getting from us (and the emotional benefits they were seeking from it)
- HOW the information helped them/didn’t help them achieve the outcomes they’re after
And we got all these insights simply by spending some time on Amazon.
Now you might be thinking you’re a dentist or run a restaurant or own an industrial/manufacturing company and there are no books/products related to what you sell on Amazon.
Fair enough. But Amazon ain’t the only place to find this sort of information. If there are no related products/books on Amazon, you can…
- Check out reviews on Yelp or Google for businesses in your niche.
- Go to message boards and forums where your clients hang out and discuss things.
- Listen to what’s going on in social media. Are there any groups on LinkedIn/Facebook related to your field? Any key industry players/companies active on Twitter? Those are great places to do some research as well.
A BIG Word of Warning
There is a deadly trap you have to be wary of with research. It’s one I’ve been guilty of falling into in the past.
The trap is Analysis Paralysis… it’s when you just keep researching but never take action. That trap’ll kill your marketing efforts because you never leave the starting gate.
As I said at the top, I think research is a PART of executing on a successful marketing plan. But it’s just a part of it. You have to ACT to have any chance of success.
With 6 hours to chop down a tree, Abe Lincoln would take 4 hours to sharpen his axe. And that’s probably a decent rule of thumb. Spend about 2/3 of your time up front doing your research… then create your USP, write your copy, build your campaign, etc.
Most of your competitors have dull axes. Do the research… sharpen your axe… and you’ll be chopping down trees they don’t have a shot at making a dent in.
YOUR HOMEWORK CHALLENGE
I know. Yuck. Homework. So let’s not call it homework, let’s call it a challenge.
What insights does that give you into your market that you didn’t have before?
What ideas for headlines, copy, offers, products, services, etc. did it give you?
What ideas for new products/offerings or tweaks to existing products/offerings did you get?
After you spend that hour, come back here and share what you learned in the comment section below.
I’m betting that 1 hour may be one of the most enlightening hours you’ve spent in a LONG time.
And I say that confidently because, well, I’ve done the research! 😉