Author: Brian Clark

Web Personalization: The Future of Digital Marketing and Sales Is Now

In the beginning, the business website was a mere brochure. Low value, low shareability, low findability. Around 2005, a big shift happened thanks to content. Cutting-edge business websites became educational resources with valuable content that ranked well in search engines and benefited from the sharing functionality of emerging social media. Soon, “cutting edge” became the
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How to Turn Leads into Clients with Modern Email Marketing

When it comes to building an audience that builds your freelance or consulting business, email remains the undisputed heavyweight champion. Email was the original “killer app” — everyone uses it, and that’s why it’s been the absolute best channel for digital marketing and audience building. And yes, that’s still true in 2018. The stats don’t
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Rainmaker Digital is at Your Service

We’ve launched a lot of things over the last decade. Software, SaaS, WordPress hosting, WordPress design frameworks, themes, courses, certification, live training, conferences, and membership communities. And we’ve delivered tons of free content to teach you how to perform digital marketing, design, and copywriting in a way that works. But we’ve never offered to do
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Supercharge Your Benefits with Contrast Storytelling

Your copy has to convey the benefits of buying, period. But have you thought about how to best frame those benefits? The Framing Effect is a psychological response in which people react to a particular choice in different ways depending on how it’s presented. For example, we tend to want to avoid pain more than
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5 Ways to Convert More Prospects by Making Your Case

Your headline draws them in, while your opening copy maintains the magnetic hold. The express benefits give them hope that they may have found the solution they desire. And then you ask for the sale with an explicit call to action. A total win, right? Then why are you still disappointed with your results? You’re
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Capture and Hold Audience Attention with a Bold Proclamation

Quick Copy Tip

If you’ve studied copywriting, you know the purpose of the headline is to get people to click and start reading. And your opening copy needs to continue that momentum all the way to the offer or conclusion.

One way to do that is to make a bold, seemingly unreasonable assertion in your title or headline. A proclamation so jarring that the right person can’t help but keep reading, listening, or watching to see where you’re going with it.

As far as I can tell, copywriter John Forde (whose site tagline is, not coincidently, “Learn to sell or else …”) was the first to define the Proclamation Lead:

A well-constructed Proclamation Lead begins with an emotionally-compelling statement, usually in the form of the headline. And then, in the copy that follows, the reader is given information that demonstrates the validity of the implicit promise made.

This type of lead works for both sales copy and persuasive content. Let me give you a couple of examples.

Forde illustrates the Proclamation Lead with a direct mail report that is ultimately selling an alternative health newsletter. Written by Jim Rutz, the piece immediately startles and tempts the prospect with a bold statement:

Read This Or Die

Today you have a 95% chance of eventually dying from a disease or condition from which there is already a known cure somewhere on the planet. The editor of Alternatives would like to free you from that destiny.

The copy continues not by jumping to the offer, but instead by backing up the proclamation. In the process, the piece systematically removes the objections raised in the reader’s mind about the scientific validity of the bold assertions.

If you feel that example is a little too “direct marketing” for your audience, consider this from respected best-selling author Austin Kleon:

Steal Like an Artist:
10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

It’s the exact same technique for a completely different target market. The intent is to startle people interested in becoming more creative, while concurrently tempting prospects to further explore what Kleon means by “steal.”

The first example is copy designed to make a sale. The second example is content (a book) that is the product itself. But the reason why both “sell” is the same.

The key to these bold headlines and leads is the immediate emotional response provoked by the assertion. More importantly, that emotional trigger leads to immediate motivation to investigate further — and that’s what every copywriter aims to achieve right from the beginning.

That’s because implicit in the proclamation is a promise. In the Rutz and Kleon examples, you’re promised that you’ll learn about hidden cures to common diseases and the way creativity really works, respectively.

How do you come up with these types of bold beginnings? John Forde says they’re found via research, not conjured up out of the ether — and I agree.

For example, people often assume creativity comes from introspection, perhaps during long sessions of gazing out the window.

But if you research how artists throughout history actually work, creativity is much more about starting with something already out in the world — often the work of someone else — and making it into something new.

Austin Kleon discovered that truth, and then boiled it down to its shocking essence. After all, it was Picasso who famously said, “Good artists copy; great artists steal.”

That said, the proclamation approach is not always the right one for every situation. For example, I could have titled this article:

Read This Unless You Want to Starve

But that would have been lame, so I didn’t. There are plenty of other headline and lead approaches that also work well, so that headline wouldn’t be accurate or appropriate.

If you find a counterintuitive truth that’s relevant to your persuasive aim, however, you might just see if you can turn it into an almost unreasonably bold assertion that works wonders. But remember, don’t steal specific copy approaches (in the artistic sense) unless you’re sure you can perfectly tailor them for your audience or prospect.

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Last Day to Get the Rainmaker Platform

Last Chance to Get the Rainmaker Platform at the Current Pricing

This is it … your absolute last day to invest in the Rainmaker Platform at pricing that will never be seen again. The party’s over today at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time (you can read the original announcement with all the details here).

We hope you’ll join the Rainmaker family before we make the switch. Just head over to the site, check out all the amazing things Rainmaker empowers you to do, and start your free trial today.

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The Rainmaker Platform Goes Off the Market this Friday

Last Chance to Get the Rainmaker Platform at the Current Pricing

The Rainmaker Platform is coming off the market this Friday at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time. To get the current pricing, you must start your free trial before the deadline.

Last month I told you about the Rainmaker Platform’s shift from software-as-a-service to a bundled hybrid of technology and client services, all at much higher prices. Before we do that, we’re offering one last chance for people who just want the Platform at the current lower pricing.

If you’re not familiar, the Rainmaker Platform is a complete digital marketing and sales solution. It combines powerful website features with email, marketing automation, and a ton of other powerful tools that you have to see for yourself. And yes, it’s the very technology that powers Copyblogger and thousands of other sophisticated sites.

When you choose the annual plan, you always enjoy substantial savings. But from now until we take it off the market, you’ll save hundreds of dollars more every single year when you get on board with the Rainmaker Platform.

Start your free trial today.

The go-forward development plan

Given the shift in business and operational models, you may be wondering what our plans are for continued software development on the Platform. It’s a great question, and I’d like to quickly address that.

If you get on board before the deadline, you’ll join thousands of existing Rainmaker customers. And we fully intend to keep all of you happy even as we serve a different market segment with the bundled services model. That’s a no brainer, given that the Platform remains at the center of our strategy.

What does that mean for you? Only good things:

  • We’ve already begun work on Rainmaker 3.0, a major new release that will feature automation, email, and interface workflow improvements. We’ll also be adding Zapier for third-party add-ons, and modularizing key areas of the Platform for easier integrations and quicker addition of new features.
  • The annual or monthly price you sign up for today will never change as long as you keep your site active. You won’t pay more even as the cost-of-entry to Rainmaker goes way up for others. And remember, we’re also giving you a substantial discount on the annual plan if you start your trial before the Friday deadline.
  • You’ll also benefit from the software improvements that come from moving upstream. As we do more expensive custom development work for clients, relevant enhancements will find their way into the general platform, at no additional cost to you.
  • Want to invest in additional Rainmaker sites after the switch? You’ll still be able to do that — at the current discounted customer pricing — all from your Rainmaker Portal. Existing customers will literally have access to Rainmaker sites in a way that no one else will going forward.
  • Finally, the move to full service means you’ll never have to experience frustration looking for help with design, content, SEO, and more. And if you have a specialized Platform development need, our new services team can make it happen for a reasonable fee.

You must act this week:

In a nutshell, if you want the best pricing that will ever be offered on the Rainmaker Platform from here on out, you must start your free trial before 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time, this Friday, June 16, 2017.

We hope you’ll join the Rainmaker family before we make the switch. Just head over to the site, check out all the amazing things Rainmaker empowers you to do, and start your free trial without delay.

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Last Chance to Get the Rainmaker Platform at the Current Pricing

Last Chance to Get the Rainmaker Platform at the Current Pricing

TL;DR version: The Rainmaker Platform is shifting from a pure technology play to software with services included before the end of June, at much higher pricing. That means if you want Rainmaker at its current pricing, you should start your free trial now.
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When we rebranded from Copyblogger Media to Rainmaker Digital in September of 2015, it was a firm statement that put the Rainmaker Platform at the forefront. But it was also a foreshadowing of where we saw things going.

We knew we were headed from software-as-a-service (SaaS), to software and service to create complete solutions. People need sophisticated marketing technology, yes — but they also need done-for-them services such as design, content, and lead generation strategy.

The technology is only getting more sophisticated, and we plan to remain at the forefront of that with Rainmaker. But sophisticated technology calls for equally sophisticated strategy and execution — and not everyone has that kind of expertise in-house.

Our original goal was to create marketing technology for entrepreneurs and small businesses that are doing content marketing themselves or via freelancers. In the meantime, we’ve been turning away businesses happily willing to pay for a more complete solution.

Our go-forward strategy is to follow what the market is telling us. We’re going to offer you the services that we’ve been teaching and doing for ourselves over the last decade.

A complete Rainmaker solution provider

We’ve been doing service work for our Rainmaker Platform customers for over a year, but it’s been very cautious. There are many ways to develop a client services department, but given that we’ve been product-focused for so long, we weren’t arrogant enough to think we could just pull it off effortlessly.

In that last year, we’ve explored several viable ways to do more for our customers and prospects as a hybrid technology and digital marketing service provider. After careful deliberation, we’ve come up with a path that allows us to expertly provide anything that a Rainmaker user needs.

Rainmaker Digital has entered into a letter of intent to partner with an existing digital agency, Nimble Worldwide. We’ve had a long relationship with Nimble, as they were our email marketing provider for years before we developed our own solution, RainMail.

Effectively, the Rainmaker assets of the company (excluding StudioPress, Synthesis, Copyblogger, Authority, and DCI, which are not affected by this move at all) will be combined with Nimble assets into a new entity, with us as the majority owner.

First of all, that means you can rest assured that the company you know today remains the company you’ll be doing business with going forward. Plus, the Rainmaker side of things will be where I’ll be putting much of my personal attention and effort.

That said, this deal provides instant access to an experienced team of digital marketing professionals and a network of talented contractors that ensures our service solutions are expertly crafted and delivered. This grows the Rainmaker team significantly, without the pain and uncertainty of building an agency from scratch.

The change in business model unfortunately left four of our existing employees without positions, along with the loss of some of our own contractors. That was certainly no fun, and our operations leadership preserved every job possible despite the significant reorganization.

On the brighter side, this will open up a lot of work for our Certified Writers and members of the Genesis design community as we get rolling. We’re very excited to provide additional freelance and employment opportunities to the large ecosystem we’ve cultivated over the years.

To sum up, I’m 100 percent certain that this is the smarter move compared with trying to build an internal agency from scratch. And ultimately, the clear winners in the deal are our customers and prospects.

What can we help you with?

The first meaningful impact of this will be that we’ll be able to do just about anything you need related to your digital marketing efforts. That includes:

  • Design
  • Development
  • Strategy
  • Content creation
  • SEO and social
  • Adaptive funnel sequences
  • Digital advertising and media planning
  • Turn-key digital marketing packages

On that last point, we’ll be able to provide clearly defined service bundles that allow you to quit thinking about marketing and focus on the rest of your business. If the ROI is there, why would you say no?

We informed the thousands of existing Rainmaker customers about these new services last week, and the response has been enthusiastic. That means if you decide to get on board with the Platform before the switch, you’ll have the benefit (but not the obligation) of access to these services as well.

We’ll be rolling out access to both project-based and retainer-based solutions in the coming months. Once things are live, we’ll let you know here.

The end of “off the shelf” Rainmaker

All of this restructuring is aimed at offering you more options from a trusted source. Of course, with any major escalation in value, there are changes to the way things have been.

The biggest change is that going forward, we will no longer sell the Rainmaker Platform “a la carte.” In other words, the sales process will become more hands on, and less like a “pull out your credit card and sign up online” SaaS.

All future sales of the Platform will be bundled with services, and at a significantly higher price. We’re anticipating that this change will happen before the end of June, 2017.

So, if you’ve been contemplating the Platform, but don’t feel like you need additional service components, you should start your free trial before the switch happens. We’ll naturally send out reminders before the point of no return.

Exciting stuff to come … stay tuned! Feel free to ask questions in the comments, and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

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The ‘Pulp Fiction’ Technique for Engaging and Persuasive Content

"Pulp Fiction expertly uses a common writing technique that grabs attention right from the beginning, and magnetically holds it." – Brian Clark

You’ve seen Pulp Fiction, right? It’s the classic 1994 black comedy crime film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino.

The film is highly stylized, presented out of chronological order, and filled with eclectic dialogue that reveals each character’s perspectives on various subjects. And yes, it’s profane and violent.

Pulp Fiction was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture. Tarantino and his co-writer Roger Avary won for Best Original Screenplay, which is truly the foundation of an exceptional film.

Despite the groundbreaking inventiveness, Pulp Fiction also expertly uses a common writing technique that grabs attention right from the beginning, and magnetically holds that attention through a form of psychological tension generated by our short-term memories.

This simple strategy is something you can use in your marketing content, your sales copy, and your live presentations. You’ll not only increase engagement, but also add enhanced credibility to the persuasive point you’re trying to make.

Opening the loop

Back during the aftermath of the tragic effects of Hurricane Katrina, I came across an interesting article about some less-than-inspiring aspects of the devastating storm. It began with this:

“An Illinois woman mourns her two young daughters, swept to their deaths in Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters. It’s a tragic and terrifying story. It’s also a lie.”

Now, any article that details accounts of fraud in the aftermath of Katrina would contain compelling information. But that opening had me riveted, and it got me reading what ended up being a detailed and lengthy piece that I might have otherwise skipped.

The article went on for 1,136 words before explaining that opening statement. It finally came as the initial bullet point in a list of false claims for relief after Katrina.

This type of opening with a delayed resolution is called an open loop, and it works for just about any type of content or copy. No matter the medium, you always want to grab attention quickly and hold it while you provide the surrounding facts, lessons, or supporting evidence.

The information is the same, but the level of attention and even fascination on the reader’s part is greatly heightened by the structure, leading to better retention and potential for persuasion.

Bond … James Bond

Open loops are used all the time in the movies. Think about James Bond, dangling over a vat of sharks.

While the villain monologues, Bond saves himself by cutting away the ropes with the buzzsaw hidden in his Rolex Submariner watch. Why do we accept, much less embrace, this ridiculous resolution?

It’s because the buzzsaw feature of the watch was introduced to us earlier thanks to the new technology presentation from Q that happens in every Bond movie. The implausible becomes credible thanks to the setup earlier in the film.

These setups create open loops that will keep your audience itching to find out what happens in the end — a need-to-know phenomenon called the Zeigarnik Effect by psychologists.

In a nutshell, the Zeigarnik Effect means that we hold things in our short-term memories that lack closure. For example, waiters can easily remember the orders of each of the tables they’re serving — until the food comes out that is, at which point retention and recall diminishes greatly.

So, when you use the setup and payoff structure of the open loop, your audience is driven to keep going with you. And that’s what you want, right?

Think about cliffhanger endings, where a loop is opened without being closed. Not only do you want to know what happens, you remember to tune in next time.

The setup and subsequent payoff of an open loop is incredibly satisfying. And that’s why open loops are also powerful persuasion vehicles, because we embrace the payoff in a way we wouldn’t without the setup and time-lapse in between.

Think back to the James Bond example; the open loop made an implausible escape perfectly acceptable. As we’ll see in the next example, it can also make a commercial claim more credible, and even prompt the holy grail of direct response copywritingaction.

Loops that move people to act

So, how can you use an open loop in your copy to not only persuade, but also prompt action? Take a look at the copy for this radio ad written by Roy Williams for a diamond merchant called Justice Jewelers:

“Antwerp, Belgium, is no longer the diamond capital of the world.

Thirty-four hours on an airplane. One way. Thirty. Four. Hours. That’s how long it took me to get to where 80 percent of the world’s diamonds are now being cut. After 34 hours, I looked bad. I smelled bad. I wanted to go to sleep. But then I saw the diamonds.

Unbelievable. They told me I was the first retailer from North America ever to be in that office.
Only the biggest wholesalers are allowed through those doors. Fortunately, I had one of ’em with me, a lifelong friend who was doing me a favor.

Now pay attention, because what I’m about to say is really important: As of this moment, Justice Jewelers has the lowest diamond prices in America, and I’m including all the online diamond sellers in that statement.

Now you and I both know that talk is cheap. So put it to the test. Go online. Find your best deal. Not only will Justice Jewelers give you a better diamond, we’ll give you a better price, as well.

I’m Woody Justice, and I’m working really, really hard to be your jeweler. Thirty-four hours of hard travel, one way. I think you’ll be glad I did it.”

Okay, so the ad starts off by setting up an open loop. If Antwerp is no longer the diamond cutting capital of the world, which city is the new one?

But here’s the thing … we’re never told the city, or even exactly how low the prices are. To do that, you need to take action by heading over to the Justice Jewelers website, combined with a challenge to find lower prices anywhere else online.

Less artful ads would lead with the claim of the lowest prices thanks to an exclusive source of diamonds. Skepticism would naturally abound.

Here, the storytelling setup is incredibly engaging, even if you’re not in the market for diamonds. If you are in the market, the lingering open loop means the listener is more likely to retain, recall, and act on the information.

Can you see how this might work on a landing page aimed at getting an email opt-in? You open the loop, and the only way the visitor can close it is to sign up for the lead magnet.

That’s just one example of the many uses of open loops. As I mentioned earlier, you can incorporate open loops in your marketing content, your sales copy, and your live presentations, all making you inherently more engaging and persuasive.

And speaking of earlier, what about Pulp Fiction?

Pumpkin and Honey Bunny

So I saw Pulp Fiction on opening night back in 1994, and oh man … that first scene. I’ve never before or since experienced a theater full of people bursting into applause after the opening of a film.

As a refresher, Pulp Fiction begins with a man and a woman sitting together in a diner. The two are known only by the pet names they call each other — Pumpkin and Honey Bunny.

They’re discussing the relative dangers of robbing various places, revealing that the two are criminals. They’ve been holding up liquor stores, which Pumpkin thinks is too dangerous and will eventually result in them or someone else getting killed.

After sharing a story about a man who robs a bank with a telephone, Pumpkin proposes that they start robbing diners. In fact, he suggests that they rob the diner they’re in, right now.

Up to this point, Honey Bunny has been nothing but sweetness and light. She suddenly jumps up with a gun and shouts some particularly shocking threats to the patrons. Cut to Dick Dale’s iconic rendition of “Misirlou” and the opening credits.

Now, the rest of the film proceeds. Some of what follows actually occurs before the opening scene, and some occurs after, but don’t worry about that right now.

The point is, much of the rest of the film plays out without returning to Pumpkin and Honey Bunny. Even though the film is riveting, in the back of your mind you’re thinking … what the hell was that about?

What happened to Pumpkin and Honey Bunny?

Finally, we arrive at the last scene of the film. It’s the same diner from the opening.

Turns out, this is where gangsters Jules and Vincent have decided to have breakfast after escaping The Bonnie Situation and disposing of a headless guy at Monster Joe’s Truck and Tow.

Cut to Pumpkin and Honey Bunny, just as Honey Bunny leaps up with the gun and makes her threat. Ironically, in their bid for safer crime options, these two fools have picked the exact wrong diner to rob.

The scene plays out and the film ends, which closes the open loop. Incredibly satisfying.

So, in case there was any doubt, you can also use open loops when crafting tutorial content as well — because I just demonstrated one for you. The headline and opening of this article promise you an example from Pulp Fiction, but I didn’t actually close that loop until the very end.

  • Maybe you were wondering when I would get to it.
  • Maybe you knew I was demonstrating an open loop in my usual meta way.
  • Maybe (hopefully!) you got so caught up in the article that it was only nagging you somewhere in the back of your mind.

Anyway, do you use open loops in your content and copy? Let me know in the comments.

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