Rener Gracie and The Lost Art of Making a Case For Your Product

I’m about to eat a little crow…

I’ve been from one-end-of-the-internet-to-the-other, loudly arguing that too many direct-response marketers are relying on copy to do the heavy lifting of selling their products…

when instead they should be relying on context.

My pet archetype for that is a former client who had a list he only emailed once-a-year, with daily offers for two months, for a product that had never sold at the “retail” price.

He didn’t need better copy; he needed a better relationship with his audience, and better products.

Go one-layer-deeper, and plenty of clients want to revise a sales page or autoresponder for a good product, when what they really need is scarcity, an upsell, or at least one email that links to an offer and only one offer.

So I’ve inveighed pretty heavily lately in favor of context. Recently, though, I’ve been learning the meaning of that old adage “be careful what you wish for”.

Lately, I’ve been seeing exactly the opposite.

Autoresponders that have perfect, textbook scarcity, linking to best-practice-rife sales pages with timers, but never really making a case for the product.

I’ll actually call out a Big Boy I’m generally a fan of: Ryan Levesque.

Losing The Forest For The Trees

I’ve been following the release of Ryan’s new info-product, based on his book Ask, with the googly-eyed raptness of a newborn. And Ryan knows-what-he’s-doing.

He’s got brand-equity-to-burn. Everybody on his list is “warm”: since Ask came out two years ago, Ryan’s been wall-to-wall in the solopreneur media, and done joint-ventures with many of his forefathers.

But I wouldn’t copy one of his launch emails for one of my clients:

Have another look at that copy, and ask yourself:

“Would Ryan have to change one word of this if he was selling blenders?”

The copy’s entirely meta. There’s not one word about the benefit of the masterclass. It’s 100% about the scarcity.

The reason most businesses should beware is that most of us aren’t starting with Ryan’s out-of-the-box brand-recognition:

Ryan’s offer stands out in our inbox because it’s from Ryan.

But there are plenty of other offers – in my inbox at least – that don’t stand out, and get ignored or deleted.


They’re not making a case for why I should care.

So – should those of us without six-figure lists and Frank Kern and Glenn Livingston on speed-dial throw-up-our-hands and resign ourselves to “second-string” status when it comes to sales?

Not necessarily.

We can command attention, too. We just have to use different tools. We can bring a more precise understanding of our customer’s journey to bear. We can make a better case.

Like one internet marketer you’ve probably never heard of. Who likely doesn’t even use the phrase “internet marketer”, much-less apply it to himself.

Like one Mr. Rener Gracie.

The Outsider

You probably haven’t heard-of him if you’re not a fan of MMA or Brazilian jiu jitsu. Gracie’s the heir apparent of the legacy of the creators of both. He’s a BJJ black-belt who runs one of the largest academies in the country – whose roster boasts students like Vince Vaughn – who travels the world teaching jiu jitsu seminars for civilians and law-enforcement, and who has one of the funniest channels on YouTube, with video send-ups of current events like this, or this.

Rener probably doesn’t think of himself as one of the savviest marketers on the internet – much-less as somebody whose videos should be studied and emulated by copywriters – but maybe he should.

For instance, take a look at this Rener video, which I transcribed some of…


What’s up you guys?

Rener Gracie here at the Gracie academy, and we’re going to talk about some guillotine details…

…that are gonna change your life.

But before we do, we have to answer one very common question that’s been coming at me…lately: what’s the difference between regular jiu jitsu seminars…

…and these mastery seminars that we’ve been hyping?

Huuuuuuuuuuuuuge difference, my friends.

I’ve been to hundreds of jiu jitsu seminars with all kinds of amazing instructors over-the-years, and more-often-than-not, the students who come to the seminars leave more confused than when they showed up.

With the Mastery Seminars, they leave enlightened.

What’s the difference?

Regular seminars are based on questions, and made-up techniques on the spot…

Mastery seminars are based on a principle.

Let’s say you were in a house, and you were looking out a window to the back yard, and there was a tree, and you were asked to draw that tree.

If you have one window, you have one perspective on that tree.

If you have eight windows to look at the same tree from, you have a…much more complete understanding of the exact-same tree.

That’s what we try to accomplish in these Mastery Seminars: we choose a topic, and we want you to leave with an understanding of the principle that drives that topic. A 100% understanding of that principle…

…more-so than just a buffet of fun…random techniques.

It’s so crazy how much more you can accomplish when you stick to one topic, and you analyze it from multiple angles.

In fact, we often go-so-far-as-to-say that in one Mastery Seminar…you can actually get one month of technical progress.


I don’t know if Rener’s had marketing coaching, but he’s deploying a handful of copywriting best-practices better than most professional copywriters:

  • The open-loop in the first sentence.
  • The “here’s what’s wrong with most seminars” structure to meet an audience who have likely seen a lot of ads for seminars, where-they-are.
  • The “one group gets bad results; the other gets good ones” dichotomy from such copywriting staples as the Wall Street Journal “two men” ad.

Above-all, though, he’s making a case for his product.

And I’ll bet you’re noticing two things as you read it:

  • You’re building a mental-model of why his seminars are different, and of the layers of value they provide.
  • You’re probably getting emotionally excited, even if you don’t care-a-lick about BJJ.

Compare that to what you feel reading Ryan’s email: something between vague-annoyance-but-intention-to-buy and just-vague-annoyance.

We might need what Ryan’s selling, but we accept it grudgingly.

How to Be More Like Rener

Imagine a product your market’s salivating over…

…with an autoresponder that hits them with an offer at just the right point in the sales-cycle (i.e. just when they trust you most, but before they lose interest)…

…with a scarcity element like limited-enrollment, or a limited-time-only bonus…

…and then this iron-clad case for why they’d be crazy not to invest in it. A case that satisfies
both the intellectual, “checklist-completing” side, and the emotional “man I wish I could have this” one.

That’s a recipe for online success, even if you don’t have a New York Times bestseller and a time-share with Russell Brunson.

I’ve written before about how certain “artifacts” of your market like “how cynical are they”, and  “how much competition do you have” can alter the “recipe” in your marketing…

…but it’s hard to go wrong with a Big Dumb Checklist like this:

  • Have you given people a demonstration that your method works, like a “small dose” in your lead-magnet, or a webinar that gives away a lot of useful tips?

    (Rener has hundreds of videos with jiu jitsu quick-tips.)
  • Have you taken the time to understand why your customers are buying from you, and incorporated that into your copy? (That’s how your specific people will know you solve their specific problem.)
  • Have you answered the question “why should I buy from you instead of from a competitor”, or its variation “why should I believe your solution works if everything else I’ve tried has been a dud”?

(That’s what Rener does so brilliantly with the “here’s the difference between ordinary seminars and mastery seminars. Ramit Sethi is a big fan of side-by-side benefit comparisons between the “ordinary” solutions and his solutions.)

  • Have you proven that your product is worth more to your customer than keeping-the-money and doing-it-him/herself?

(My favorite way is with success stories from people who were running-in-place before your solution, then achieved pretty-quick results afterward.)

Go back through your email sequences, sales-pages, and webinars.

Are you earning the right to ask for a sale, by “ticking” the boxes above, or are you skipping straight to the offer?

If it’s the later, you might not have to re-invent the wheel.

The quickest transformations I’ve seen for clients are when we do one-or-all of 3 things:

  • Make sure the lead magnet/webinar addresses the biggest problem their customers are trying to solve, and that it explicitly borrows content from the “full-strength” solution, the paid version.
  • If the email series goes straight from lead-magnet-to-offer (super common), incorporate an “intermediate week” of 2-3 emails “making the case” for the sale, by addressing the four-items above.
  • Continuing to make the case throughout the “offer” emails, so that instead of just leveraging people by telling them the offer’s going away, you’re also reminding them that they need it/it works/it’s different from everything else they’ve tried/etc.

I continue to hear marketers bemoan how “cynical” the market’s become…

…or how “expensive” attention’s become, as everyone fights for eyeballs in the inbox.

Call me a hipster, but I take the long-view: treating your customers like they’re intelligent, giving them something they truly need, and respecting their decision-making process by making a robust case for a purchase…

…and also an emotional one that gets them excited

…will never go out-of-style.

Speaking of which, if you’d like more deep marketing and sales insights like this article, plus the exact steps I used to 4x my business in one year (controlling for list growth), you’ll want to subscribe to my mailing list

Two Decades-Old Marketing Best Practices Businesses Still Get Wrong

I’ve probably seen at least 10,000 small business websites. Agencies. Medical and dental practices. Rehab centers. Architecture firms.

Many have spent five-figures-and-beyond on their sites.

And most of the expensive ones look so similar I could do a discovery call with an owner without actually looking at the site, and nail it 99% of the time.

-“You’ve got a slider with different copy on each panel, and it changes too fast for a visitor to read any one.”

-“You’ve got at least five calls-to-action above the fold.”

-“Even if we were to pause your best slider panel, the copy isn’t specific about what you do, and doesn’t give the visitor a clear idea what to do next.”

-“You’re either not collecting email at all, or doing way too little – like a ‘subscribe for updates’ box at the very bottom – or way too much, like a pop-up that interrupts the visitor and has nothing to do with your core offer.”

-“And let me guess – you’re paying for traffic, then running it all to said homepage?”

Time to take off the blindfold? Boom:

But the best-in-class businesses we’ve all heard of? They approach things differently, in two key ways. And it turns out neither is revolutionary, “disruptive”, or even new. We’ve known about them for a very long time. Here they are…

Age-Old Marketing Principle Best-in-Class Businesses Are Using to Eat Your Lunch #1: The Attention Ratio

It’s easy to assume the design style 99% of agencies are using is a best-practice – after all, why else would every small-to-medium-sized business be doing it – until you look at the websites of practically every venture-funded startup you’ve heard of, and realize these companies with teams of quants measuring every pixel of their conversion optimization, are also all doing it almost identically.

Their sites look more like this…

…or this…

…or this (lest anyone accuse me of cherry-picking SaaS and leaving out agencies…)

So these quant armies must’ve invented a bold new concept, using their reams of Big Data? Right? A concept that was opaque to most of us. That’s why most small business websites don’t look like theirs. Right?

Turns out it’s based on a decades-old principle of psychology that copywriting-titan Joseph Sugarman describes in The Adweek Copywriting Handbook.


The developers of the Swiss Army watch asked Sugarman to run an ad in the Wall Street Journal. No problem, right?

Turns out, big problem. The Swiss Army folks wanted to feature all nine styles of their new watch line, reasoning that more choices would attract more attention.

Sugarman, knowing the principle we’re about to discuss, recommended showing only one, but was vetoed. The leadership agreed to a compromise, however: Sugarman could test two versions of the ad in the Wall Street Journal.

The result vindicated Sugarman, and the principle he knew deeply: the single-watch ad outsold the multiple-watch ad sixfold.


So what was the principle working in Sugarman’s favor? In modern parlance, it’s called the “attention ratio”.

As Unbounce founder Oli Gardner explains it, the more choices you erect between a potential customer and the goal action you want them to take, the less likely they are to reach it.

Ergo, you’ll have the best result if you decide on just one action you want your visitors to take, and give them only that option on your website.

Most small businesses are getting this wrong in two big ways.

First, they’ve got a choice-jumble on their homepages.

That’s more understandable, because a homepage is like a showcase for what you do, with “about us” text, testimonials, and menu-bar items to navigate.

Still, the best businesses give their visitors one clear next step even on their homepages, relegating everything else to below-the-fold.

Harry’s, for instance, includes a menu-bar, and still manages to leave zero ambiguity about what a visitor is supposed to do…

But what if you’re paying for Google adwords. Or, worse-yet, paying a marketer to run ads for you?

If you don’t have dedicated landing pages, you’ll tossing your money into a barrel, lighting it on fire, and pushing it off a cliff.


Because of a little thing called quality scores.

Know how you’re trying to outbid all your competition for those precious clicks?

Yea – quality score is the way to arbitrage that.


Google computes quality scores based largely on how relevant the landing page is to an ad.

It’s stupid-simple. Just run each ad to a dedicated, relevant, landing page, with just one thing-to-click, as Shopify does here…

How do I know you’ll outrank most of your competition?

Because approximately zero percent of small business websites do this. Instead they take that expensive traffic, and run it to their already-choice-paralyzed homepages.

…where, ten-to-one, they’re wasting 99% of their opportunities to collect email. Which brings us to our second mistake…

Age-Old Marketing Principle Best-in-Class Businesses Are Using to Eat Your Lunch #2: The Sales Cycle

You might have noticed another thing about the “best in class” websites.

They all ask the visitor to take only one action, sure. But a surprising number make that action an email opt-in.


Yup. Even those agencies and SaaS (software as a service, like Zapier or Squarespace) companies whose sites want you to “try it now” will collect your email within 1-2 clicks.

And still more are abandoning free-trials, or “get a quote” for a plain-Jane email opt-in, right out on the homepage.

But wait: Don’t these companies want business?

Don’t they want people to browse all the various services they provide, then call the number conveniently situated at the top-right corner of their page, in tiny print, to get a quote, even though that’s not made clear? 😉

So what do they know about web marketing that most small businesses don’t?

Turns out it’s not some maverick new online marketing technique the kids invented, but something much older, and much more mundane: the sales cycle.

Talk to a xerox salesperson in the ’70s, and he/she would tell you the percentage of B2B customers who buy off the first cold call. Aboooooout…just a sec as I calculate this…carry the one…ZERO percent.

Potential buyers wanted time to decide. And they wanted to get to know the product better. And, with enough data, you could calculate how long after their first exposure most people bought. The sales cycle. MBAs have been calculating sales cycles since we were twinkles in our parents’ eyes. It’s old school.

So why are so many small businesses ignoring the approximately 96% of their potential customers who aren’t ready to buy on their first visit to their websites?

The best-in-class companies aren’t. That’s why you can’t even sign up for Meet Edgar, a social-sharing automation widget, without giving away your email address.

Or get a free trial of Zapier.

These companies and their phalanxes of quants know exactly how long it takes their most profitable customers to buy. And they know it ain’t instantaneously. While most small businesses attempt to tailor their on-site efforts to the tiny chunk of “red hot” visitors, at the expense of the vast majority of their “luke warm” ones, successful funded startups focus 100% of their efforts on this more profitable chunk.

Let’s review what we’ve learned so far…

Step one: give your visitors just one action to take on your homepage, and especially on landing pages.

Step two: consider making that action an email opt-in, and if you’re not, make sure you collect email within 1-2 clicks no matter what.

Then, email them, and make them an offer at the “sweet spot” of the sales cycle. (More specifics of that here.)

What to Do if You’re Starting From Scratch

If all this seems like a lot-to-digest, just remember: you can take it one-step-at-a-time. Maybe you just spent 50-grand on your website. The good news is you don’t need to redesign anything on spec.

First, stop the bleeding.

If you’re paying for traffic from Adwords or social ads, use a landing-page builder to create dedicated landing pages for each keyword group.

A landing page I like a lot. Because it’s MINE;)

Apps like Clickfunnels, Leadpages, or Unbounce have templates that don’t require a designer or developer (unless you want to customize). They also host your landing pages on their servers, but let you use your own domain name.

End result? Far better quality scores and conversion rates on your paid traffic, so you pay less per click, and can attract more customers for the same ad budget. All with zero changes to your actual website.

Next, decide which action you’d like homepage visitors, and potential clients/customers/patients who find you via google, to take on your homepage.

Not sure what to do?

Survey your best customers and ask them about their customer journey: did they call the first time they arrived at your site, or did they request a quote first? How long after their first exposure to you did they become customers?

Chances are, you’ll notice patterns:

-Most read about you from another source first.

-Most got a quote, but didn’t buy immediately.

-For some agencies I’ve worked with, most of their best customers read their book first.

Whatever the most-correlated precursor activity, consider making that your only call-to-action on your homepage.

Finally, make sure you collect email from everyone who visits your site who’s willing to give it.

I’m going to repeat that:

Collect email from EVERYONE.

If you choose a precursor action like “get our book”, or “get a quote”, make the next page an email collection form, as Zapier does here:

That way, even if not every visitor orders your book, or gets a quote, you can still follow up with them via email.
Speaking of which, if you’d like more deep marketing and sales insights like this article, plus the exact steps I used to 4x my business in one year (controlling for list growth), you’ll want to subscribe to my mailing list

The Bonus Manifesto – Increase sales by 247%…Without More Traffic, Split Testing, or Discounts

Can we agree scarcity is gasoline-on-the-fire to sales?

As describes it increased sales for one agency 226%.

…it produced a graph like this for End of Jobs author Taylor Pearson’s masterclass launch last summer…

(That big peak on the right side is people enrolling before-the-deadline.)

…and it helped me personally double my sales to my primary list without changing anything about product, copy, or price.

Can we also agree trying to beat existing copy sucks? Weeks spent “understanding the market”, then sometimes months split testing before you get enough data, for what’s often a marginal-at-best improvement?

Last fall I spoke about the three big benchmarks to know if you want to improve sales – opt-in rate, list-to-sale rate, and traffic – and I still lean heavily on those numbers to diagnose where an online business is underperforming.

But lately I’ve been working with a lot of businesses with good enough copy.

Sure – there are probably marginal wins from revising a sales page or autoresponder, but what if there was something easier? Something that didn’t require months of split-testing. Something that’s a “zero-to-one”, creating an additional cash-flow where there was none.

And, working with clients, I discovered that “something easier”. It wasn’t one, but usually three primary things:

  1. Improve opt-in rate not by revising copy, but by collecting email in spots where you weren’t collecting it before.
  2. Improve sales not by changing a sales page (yet – there’s plenty of room for that later on), but by implementing an upsell where none existed, and adding scarcity to that upsell.
  3. Add scarcity whenever there’s a buying decision.

But what if told you there’s a “meta-win” – a lead domino that not only makes all of the above possible, it turbo-charges the results.

This isn’t a “secret” or a “deep insight”. It will ring true intuitively as soon as I say it…


Stay with me – here’s why…

Bonuses are often the key to increasing opt-ins, especially for verticals that don’t fit neatly into the “lead magnet” slot, like travel agencies, ecommerce stores, and tour companies.

In such instances, a VIP List or a First Class version of your experience is often a powerful rationale to opt-in: one that doesn’t require D….DDD….Discounts, henceforth “the D-word”.

Bonuses are the key to time-limiting promotions, no matter what vertical you’re in. (Want the VIP-version of the experience? Buy between next Monday and next Friday. Reminder 1, Reminder 2.)

Finally, upsells are fire, but upsells-with-scarcity are Hellfire.

Sure, a one-time-offer of a relevant upsell, introduced after the purchase decision, is free money: increasing lifetime value without the usual blow to acquisition cost that raising prices would entail. But what if the upsell includes a bonus buyers can only get for 48 hours? That gives you an excuse to follow-up (politely) by email.

And I’m betting nobody reading is going “wait – I need to see some data on that”.

That’s the great thing about zero-to-ones. They’re like truffles: everybody agrees they taste great – it just hadn’t occurred to us to sprinkle them on stuff.

But there’s a caveat.

Use bonuses wrong, and you’ll come across like the local carwash. (“Wash your car 19 times, and get the 20th wash free!”)

Yes, this is actually a thing

Or, my perennial low-resolution-marketing punching bag, Retro Fitness. (“Use YOUR bonus points for GREAT Retro Rewards, like a free month of membership!”)

Retro memberships are $19-a-month. It costs me $19 to wash my car. Both of those offers are so low-value it’s barely worth my time to redeem them, and I’m already washing my car and working out.

How to avoid getting caught in the spammy/low value bonus bucket? Follow the following steps:

Step One: Surveys Are Your Friend

Often, your audience will tell you what’s worthwhile to offer as a bonus…

…and what will elicit audible eye-rolls.

How to Send a Survey

Best: if you have a big cohort of existing customers, don’t bother surveying anyone else. In our passion-projects we can cater to everybody. In our businesses, if we want to shortcut the growth-curve, we have to cater to our likely customers.

Decent: if you don’t have enough existing customers to get a good sample, you can control for likely buyers instead of tire-kickers other ways:

  • Ask for email at the end, and make it an optional field. Anyone not interested enough to give you his/her email address gets eliminated immediately.
  • Do as my friend Dom did, and ask directly what respondents’ budgets are, with a multiple choice question like “how much do you plan to spend on [your niche] this year. People will know what you’re doing, so they’ll likely underestimate their budget, which is what you want. (It’s so obvious, but so elegant.)
  • Do as Ryan Levesque recommends and sort by response-length. When I first read Ask I was fired-up about this. In real-life, it’s often the least-useful indicator, as likely buyers sometimes give shorter responses just because they’ve got a clearer idea of the problem (and less spare time).

Good Questions to Ask

Real survey we sent for a client, appropriately redacted;)

If they’re already bought something – “If I had to get rid of everything about [product/service] except one thing, and still charge the same price, which would you most hate-to-lose?”

Whether they’ve bought-or-not – “If I had to double the price of [product/service], but could only offer one more thing, what would make it worth it?”

For businesses that are good fits for the VIP/Insiders List rationale – “If I were creating a ‘first class’ version of this experience that would cost twice-as-much, but could only add one new thing, what would make it worth it?”

For existing customers of products with a “value stack” of existing bonuses – “If I had to get rid of all these bonuses except one, which would you most hate to lose?”

How do you ensure you’re not wasting months on new-product development just to offer a bonus?

If you can, start with existing offers.

If your product or service includes more than one component, you’ve usually got raw-materials that could be broken-out into a bonus. I’ll get into more detail, but for now, take an inventory of offers you already have that could be broken out as bonuses, and, where it makes sense, use those as multiple-choice elements on your survey.

For coaching/service/info businesses, I also like to include this one – “If you could ask me for help one-on-one with anything, but we only had five minutes, what would you ask?”

The above is good for teasing out possibilities you hadn’t considered, even if they’re more “phase two” implementations.

Step Two: Decide Which Bonuses to Offer Where

These British postal employees have it “sorted”

There are three primary spots I tend to deploy bonuses for clients.

  1. As an opt-in offer, where appropriate
  2. As a scarcity justification for a buy/don’t buy decision
  3. As a scarcity justification for an upsell

In some instances, especially businesses with “few SKUs”, a single bonus can be pivoted to handle all 3 instances.

More often, we’ll use one bonus for the first two, and a second for the third.

The Opt-In/Buy-Decision Bonus

This should be a bonus with a low marginal delivery cost, but high perceived-value to your audience.


Since it’s a deal-sweetener before purchase, any delivery-cost increases acquisition cost. (Example: if you have to mail a book to all your prospects, your front-end cost-of-sale went up by customers/total cost of books. If it increases conversions, it may ultimately lower your net cost-of-sale, but you need a lot of data to be sure, and it’s cash-flow negative.)

For info products or SAAS, the front-end bonus is a good place to offer extra features that don’t require any human being’s time.

For services or ecommerce using the “VIP” rationale, I’d just choose the popular feature with the lowest delivery cost.

How to determine?

Usually the surveys will reveal not one, but a few emergent crowd-favorites. I’d just choose the cheapest-to-deliver for the front-end.

The Upsell Bonus

If you’ve got a “Cadillac” feature set your surveys have revealed is super-popular, the upsell is the place to offer that.


Even if it costs to deliver, it’s cashflow positive, since you’re only offering it to people who just made a purchase, and, unlike opt-in offers, you only have to pay to deliver it if people give you money first.

It’s still not my favorite, but this where I’d counsel the entrepreneur who really loves to offer his time to do it.

“Get [upsell] in the next 48 hours, and get a 15-minute one-on-one coaching call with me, usually a $250 value, completely free.”

Better still, if there’s a crowd-favorite that still doesn’t require any of your personal time to deliver.

Best, if it doesn’t require any human being to spend his or her time.

But, with upsells, follow the crowd. Here, if there’s a standout favorite among your survey respondents, you can afford to spend money and time, as long as the margins look good.

Step Three: Deploy The Bonuses Like a Ninja

Turns out Sales Ninja is already a thing

Now that you know which bonuses your audience is ravenous for…

…and you know which are the best fit for your business to deliver…

It’s time to light the fuse.

I usually work in reverse-order, starting with the upsell. Again: free money, quick win.

The Upsell

Deciding exactly what to offer as an upsell is beyond the scope of this post, and depends heavily on the type of business (for SAAS it’s often the next-highest tier, whereas for ecommerce it’s often something complimentary, etc), but the broad-strokes are the same: what’s the “crowd favorite” among your audience that earns you the most margin.

The “if I could keep only one feature” question is a good one for this.

When we implement upsells, it’s two super-simple steps:

  1. Well copywritten post-purchase one-time-offer page. I try to avoid 100% of online marketing cliches. I like it to look as little like – no offense – a Frank Kern funnel, and as much like a helpful suggestion as possible. Trust the context, product-market-fit, and scarcity to do the work for you. Tell them the major benefit. Tell them the bonus. Tell them the time limit. Do NOT use the word “amazing” or the phrase “don’t miss out”.
  2. Follow-up email sequence. Same-as-above. Remind people politely, reiterate the benefits, reiterate the reason to buy now, be fun and funny, but do not patronize. These are your customers. Even if they don’t buy now, they’re worth tons to you down-the-road.

The Offer

Here’s why I love bonuses so much: people will say “my autoresponder’s not converting well-enough. Can you revise it for me?”

“Sure. Eventually.”

But first, is anyone buying your product?

The answer’s usually “yes – I’d just like to increase the sales”.

Great. Before we revise any copy, we’re going to incorporate scarcity.

Product permanently available online, but you’re selling it through your autoresponder? Two steps:

  1. Instead of linking to your offer from every post, announce that you’re doing a time-limited promo. People can buy whenever-they-want, but your promo is the only time they’ll get the free bonus.
  2. “Open the cart”, then send reminders. People like to decide while the cart is “open”, but they often forget to come back before the bonus expires. Hence, reminders.

Couple of varsity moves – probably “phase two” stuff:

Most people buy during the last day of a promotion or launch, but you can reward early decisions by offering a second bonus for buying in the first 24 hours of the promotion.

If your business model allows gradually raising the price of certain offers, use that in your marketing. “Once this offer ends, the price will increase” is the x-factor that will increase conversions still more, because it addresses the objection “maybe I’ll just wait till the next time the promo comes around.”

See what we did there? Not once did I use the D-word.

Quick Refresher: Why Discounts Suck

D-words erode perceived value, since people assume if you could actually sell it for X, that’s what you’d be selling it for.

D-words train people to buy only at the lower price, forcing a gradual lowering of prices, instead of the opposite.

People often use D-words inappropriately, to anchor – put a high price in the buyer’s mind, compared-to-which your price looks lower. Don’t. Read a Chialdini book or hire a marketing pro if you need to price-anchor. It’s not worth the perceived-value erosion.

Ok, last step…

The Opt-In

Not all businesses will use bonuses for opt-ins.

If you’re an info-products entrepreneur, with-or-without coaching or consulting, you’re probably better off going with a lead-magnet that addresses the “if you could have five minutes with me” question.

But if you’re a good fit for the VIP/First Class/Insiders List rationale, the same bonus you use to add scarcity to your promos can work preemptively for your opt-in. Here’s the two-step:

  1. Opt-in offer: Get [crowd favorite from your survey] – exclusive to our Insiders List.
  2. Promo: That [crowd favorite] VIP bonus you opted-in for? We’re launching next week, and you can only get it if you buy during the promo.

That’s it.

Adding Up The Wins

Using figures from real-life examples, let’s look at the potential impact on a business the “Bonus Method” (the “Give Method”;) might have…

Scarcity on the primary offer: this 2xed my business without changing the offer, audience, funnel, or price, and it made a 226% impact for SumoMe. Let’s be conservative and say 1.5x.

Scarcity on the upsell: this has shades-of-gray, but I’ve seen an upsell that’s 50% the cost of the primary product convert at 20%. For every $100 spent on the primary product, 20% spend $50 on the upsell. That’s 1.1x.

But it’s quick-to-implement, and it’s risk-free. Plus, you can often add upsells at multiple points in your funnel.

Improving the opt-in offer: many businesses are converting between 1-3% on the opt-in. Nudging that up to the 10% benchmark is potentially a 3-4x win, but let’s be conservative and call it 1.5x.

Aggregate, that’s 2.47x. (See? The title wasn’t just hyperbole;)

Remember: whatever we’ve managed to wring out of this retrofit, it’s all…

  • Without competing with existing copy
  • Without writing (much) new copy, save explaining the rationales and the reminders
  • Without jeopardizing existing cash flows
  • Without split testing


If you’d like more deep marketing and sales insights like this article, plus the exact steps I used to 4x my business in one year (controlling for list growth), you’ll want to subscribe to my mailing list

Four Hacks to 2x Your Online Sales – Without Split Testing

Last fall I gave a talk called So You’ve Got An Email List: Here’s How to Double Your Sales. In it I detailed a formula I certainly didn’t invent, but which would diagnose quickly the parts of a funnel that were underperforming, which the owner could then triage with copywriting, email, and site design.

The talk was well-received, and a number of businesses hired me to execute the formula for them. Along the way something surprising happened: we never got to the formula. At least until after 3 months-or-more.

I’ll explain..

The basis of the formula was look at the KPIs in your business (like opt-in rate, list-to-sale conversion, etc) in a key order, and compare them to benchmarks. But that’s not what I ended up doing with my clients, at least until later-on. Because we found something easier.

Good-as-it-was, the old method involved two things I don’t like to do, at least early on…

  • Trying to “beat” existing copy in split-tests.
  • Large scale design changes.


If you picture an online sales funnel like a plumbing system, that’s like swapping out your copper pipes for gold ones. Sure, that might give you some marginal returns, but what if all you found out was that you had a few big clogs?

Wouldn’t it make sense to clear those up first? And to find all of them, before spending money to upgrade to gold? Then you’d be sure the water would run unobstructed through those beautiful gold pipes. (I don’t know anything about pipes, btw;)

And the businesses I worked with had a lot of “clogs”.

A missed upsell opportunity that was lower hanging fruit than revising a sales page…

A missed opportunity to add scarcity, or better scarcity, to an autoresponder that was lower-hanging fruit than rewriting it from scratch…

Unnecessary segmentation…

The good news was these were what I call zero-to-one wins: adding profit where was none, instead of trying to beat the conversion rates of existing cash flows.

But the existence of “clogs” wasn’t the most surprising part.

I’d assumed most businesses would have a few of these, and I’d diagnose what they were, then we’d execute.

What surprised me was that, business-after-business, I kept seeing the same clogs.

These businesses had all the trappings of a Digital Marketer funnel: landing pages, autoresponders, webinars in-some-cases…

They just weren’t attached right. At least as far as was optimal to wring the most profit out of the traffic they’d paid for so dearly.

So I decided to write a guide about it.

Below, the places most online businesses are losing the most money in their digital marketing, even if their design and copy are decent.

Online Funnel Clog #1: Upsells

I kept seeing two species of wasted-opportunity when it came to upsells:

Either a business wasn’t offering them at all

…or it was offering them weakly, or arbitrarily.

Upsells became fast favorite, because, done right, they entail zero risk to existing cashflows (unlike, say, revising a landing page), and don’t require competing with existing conversion rates, as long as they’re introduced after a purchase decision of a primary product.

Broad-strokes, here’s what I saw:

Decent: there’s an upsell, but it’s either offered at the wrong time during the buy-flow (i.e. before the purchase of the primary product, where it introduces friction and choice-paralysis), or it’s not copy-written at-all (“you might also enjoy”). Forget about scarcity (a bonus that expires), let-alone email follow-ups.

Bad: there are multiple price-tiers, but no upsell from the lower to the higher once a purchase decision was made. (i.e., if customers chose “basic”, no effort was made to offer them the “pro” version.)

Wheels starting to turn?

It’s time to talk about element #2…

Online Funnel Clog #2: Scarcity

I can’t tell you how many times I heard “I’ve got an autoresponder, but people aren’t buying as much as I’d like.”

Ok, we can check out your product and positioning, see which “pillars” of the case for your product you’re not making to your audience, and try revising your autoresponder.

Ooooor, I could ask one simple question:

“What do people get if they buy now instead of waiting?”

Ten-to-one it’s one of these two…

If they’re lucky, they’re offering a discount to buy – one that will ensure nobody will ever pay full-price.

But most-often, they’re just linking to the sales page occasionally. (Sometimes as a “PS” at the end of content emails. I couldn’t make this stuff up.)

But that’s good news. Because it means we don’t have to revise your autoresponder. Yet.

Crash course:

If people are buying your products both directly off your site and also from your autoresponder, we don’t want to cannibalize the direct sales…yet. We’re going to use bonuses as the incentive to buy.

Does your product have existing bonuses as part of your “value stack”?

Great: find out which is most popular with your buyers. (If you don’t know, survey them.) This is what you’re going to offer only to mailing list subscribers, and only during launch weeks.

If you don’t have an existing bonus, you can use the same process to create one, or to break-out a part of your existing product or service.

Remember upsells? Yea – this also works for those. You can only get the best bonus on the one-time-offer page after purchase. You can only get the second-best bonus for 72 hours by clicking through from one of the reminder emails.

(Yes, of course the tenor and frequency of your follow-up will vary with your audience. No, of course you don’t want to overdo it.)

What if you’re introducing a new product from scratch, or only offering it from your list already?

Do open-enrollments. People can only buy when the cart is open. I’ve seen it double sales.

Open-enrollments are a great fit for info-products and consulting, and not such a great fit for ecommerce or SaaS. Use your judgment: is there a rationale for closing the cart?

Online Funnel Clog #3: UX

Two examples from recent memory:

First, a client had a price-table with a basic and premium flavor of his product.

We talked upsells…

We talked scarcity…

Trouble was, he had an even more basic issue: only one “buy now” button. Which defaulted to the basic tier.

Second, a client had a free-plus-shipping offer for their book, but they weren’t satisfied with the order-completion. A bunch of people were clicking “order now”, then abandoning their carts.

It wasn’t the cart-abandonment emails that were the issue…

Nor the book itself…

Nope. It was the 10-page checkout page with the order-completion fields at the bottom, which required people to scroll past reams of copy for a book they’d already agreed to order.

As I detailed in the case-study, we revised the checkout page, and order completion shot up 21%.

Here’s what’s astonishing to me: 20-50% of people’s sales is a non-trivial number, especially if you’re paying for traffic.

But that doesn’t stop site-owners from allowing at least that percentage to slip through their fingers on account of things like…

Opt-in forms that don’t redirect to anywhere, which have too-many fields, or which are buried at the bottom of the page.

Double-opt-in confirmation emails that either aren’t clear about what they are or read like a notice from the DMV.

Binary “choice” buttons on the homepage that don’t make clear which-is-which.

But there’s another clog that’s even more subtle-and-insidious…

Online Funnel Clog #4: Over-Segmentation

Do you know who your most profitable customers are?

Do you know which lead sources they came from?

Do you know which opt-in offer they found most attractive?

If the answer is “no”, a quick survey will give you a “quick-and-dirty” educated guess.

If the answer is “yes”, you’re singular goal is to find as-many-as-possible, and guide them, with as-little-friction-as-possible, to a sale.

But over-and-over, what I see in real life is some version of…

“So everybody who opts in gets an offer for the book, at $29…

…then those who buy the book see an offer for the course, which is $999.”

“What percentage of people who opt-in get the book?” I’ll ask.

“Around 10%.”


Even if it’s converting at 50%, that’s still half your list never seeing an offer for a flagship product.

I understand why businesses do this:

Some very “black belt” marketers like Perry Marshall and James Clear will sometimes only offer their flagship products to existing customers of lower-tier offers.

There’s a super-good reason for that:

When James and Perry do it, it’s a hedge against working too hard to sell to too-cold-a-lead.

Here’s a sales law-of-physics: all-else-being-equal, the higher the price tag, the more personal the sales process needs to be.

Selling a $29 ebook?  You can probably do that on a sales page.

Selling $15,000 consulting engagements? Most people will need to talk to you on the phone.

Say you had a $15,000 offer that was a fit for a market – meaning people in that market wanted it. Great – so how do you find clients?

You wouldn’t just fun facebook ads to a landing page and talk to thousands-of-people on the phone just to make a sale.

But say you asked those people to sign up for a webinar, then after the webinar, you pitched your high-end product and offered to get on a call with people interested, as Chris Evans and Taylor Welch from Traffic and Funnels do.

Then you’d be taking far fewer calls, with much more qualified prospective clients. So your acquisition costs would drop.

The other major reason for segmentation is when you have multiple customer avatars that don’t overlap. Say you offer a weight-loss camp specifically for women, and one for men. It wouldn’t make sense to pitch something to the wrong audience, so you segment.

It works for related-but-non-overlapping offers too. You’ve got a martial arts academy. Some people are interested in Jiujitsu, others in Muay Thai, and some in both. There’s little to be gained sending extra email to someone with no interest in striking, so you segment.

But what I see over-and-over in the real world is unnecessary segmentation.

  • You’ve got an info-product on a sales page (i.e. no extra marginal cost to sell to more people the way a phone-sales process would require), but you’re not offering it to everybody who might be a fit.
  • You’ve got multiple offers, but there might be some overlap, particularly with an upsell or cross-sell, but you’re keeping your subscribers completely siloed.

There’s no faster way to drive up acquisition costs than not offering to all qualified buyers.

Sure, people who buy the book might convert better to the flagship coaching or service, so it makes sense to sell the book hard.

But, so long as your cost-of-sale is fixed (as in with an automated funnel), and non-book-buyers might be a fit, offer it to them as well.

Next Steps

There are, of course, subtleties beyond the scope of this article.

Ok – just one: there’s a Claude-Hopkins-derived expected-value equation to decide how long your funnel should be.

So once I was resolving those four major “clogs” for clients, the real subtle work of copywriting, split testing, defining-and-scaling the most profitable lead-sources, etc could begin.

But hopefully one-or-more of these tips has opened your eyes to the “zero-to-one” wins that could be lurking right under your nose.


If you’d like more deep marketing and sales insights like this article, plus the exact steps I used to 4x my business in one year (controlling for list growth), you’ll want to subscribe to my mailing list

Agency Websites are Leaving Millions On-The-Table: Here Are Two Ways to Fix It

If you’re an agency-owner who’s sure you’ll never need your website to generate closed business, good-for-you.

A number of agencies are happy relying on referrals, analog lead-generation like speaking engagements and networking, and analog direct-response marketing like direct-“snail”-mail, followed up with a call.

Even as I write these words it’s hard not to picture the torrents of lost profit leaking out of your business like baby-oil-through-a sieve – leads you’ve paid to acquire, who might turn into closed business, whom you’re never following-up with, who are then likely ending up in the competition’s funnels.

(I’m not talking about the small percentage who make it to a call. More on this below…)

But if you’re killing it without relying on your website, good-on-you. Then your website can function as a glorified business card, or – like Berhshire Hathaway’s – as a…Craigslist ad?

But heaven-forbid your website is any part of a growth strategy, let alone – be-still-my-beating-heart – if you’re running paid traffic like adwords or facebook ads to it. In that circumstance, the average agency is not only leaving unlocked suitcases of cash on the table, it’s hanging a “free cash” sign on them.

After months of seeing the same mistakes on agency sites, and having the same conversation over-and-over with agency owners, I decided to just write down everything I would do to their businesses starting tomorrow if I won them at auction and needed to double them in 3-6 months.

Instead, you should steal them, and use them to outflank the competition.

Low-Hanging-Fruit Agency Website Move #1: Get Rid of 95% of Your Homepage

Most agency websites I see look something like this, if they’ve at least shelled-out for decent design:

Average Agency page, with at least 6 calls-to-action if you don’t count redundant ones. Note the “pause button” on the slider.

If you’re lucky, you don’t have a slider sliding your copy out of the way before people can read it. Maybe you even have a “get a free assessment” button above-the-fold.

But you’re probably trying to be everything to everybody. I see you. I’ve heard it on enough calls:

“We want to make sure we let people know we offer a full range of services.”

If I won your business at auction, I’d just change that to one offer above the fold and start making money.

But for purposes of this article, I’ll explain why having 3 to…Umpteen different services on your homepage is a bad idea. 2 well-studied principles:

Lyft, a six-billion-dollar funded startup with, let me count them…oh yeah: one primary call-to-action. “But my clients are different!” Yea? Keep reading;)

1) The law of Line-Extension. The book 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing relates a simple principle –  there’s only room in the consumer’s mind for one brand to be the best at one thing – then spools ample cautionary tales of companies who ran afoul of it.

Here’s just one: Budweiser was the number one domestic beer. Then Miller came out with Miller Light: the number one domestic light beer. So Budweiser responded with Bud Light, to corner the light beer market. So, aggregate sales of Bud and Bud light were greater than those of Bud alone before Anheuser Busch introduced Bud Light, right?


Overall sales went down. Controlling for market factors. I see what you did;)

In order to extend their line, Bud forfeited their spot in consumers’ minds as the number one domestic beer.

Even if you don’t think this is happening to you, just register that it can happen, and to very smart people with billion-dollar corporations.

2) Opportunity Cost. Whether you know it or not, your business has a most profitable activity, and a most profitable customer.

And according to Perry Marshall, author of 80/20 Sales and Marketing, the fastest way to grow is to identify your most profitable clients, and find more of them.

Why not continue to cater to everybody? Opportunity cost.

In the real world, customers cost money and time to acquire, and any energy not spent on acquiring the most profitable clients is energy wasted.

Think of it this way: say you’ve got a row of change machines. Put in a $5 bill, you get 5 ones. But say one is broken, and instead of 5 ones, it gives you six.

It make sense to dump all your $5-bills into the $6 machine, unless you discovered another machine that gives you $10 for every $5. Then, any $5 you dumped into the $6 machine would be like taking $4 and lighting it on fire.

In the real world, there are two reasons agencies don’t lean into catering their offer to only their most profitable customers: clarity, and fear.

If you don’t know who your most profitable clients are that’s one thing. But you should find out. The quick-and-dirty way is to survey all your clients, then look for commonalities among those with the highest lifetime value (LTV):

  • Which services do they tend to purchase?
  • Which lead sources do they tend to come from?
  • What other things do they have in common?

Then, tailor your entire website to attract more of them. It’s what I would do if I won your site at auction, and had to turn a profit on it.

“But wait,” I can hear some agency owners saying. “Our clients depend on us for a range of services.”

Great. Which services do your highest-LTV clients tend to value most, and purchase together?

Next, which services do your highest-LTV clients utilize hardly at all.

You know where I’m going with this…

Generally, as Perry Marshall has found, the distribution will follow a power law, Pareto Distribution, or 80/20 distribution. (All the same thing.) (And yes, that’s what my site’s named after.)

20%-or-fewer of your clients will be responsible for 80%-or-more of your earnings. And 20%-or-fewer of your services will be those most-attractive to 80%-or-more of your high-LTV clients.

“Ok,” you might be saying, “but what if our best clients all purchase SEO, web-design, Facebook ads, and Adwords? Shouldn’t we have a blurb about each one on the homepage?”

Yes. But below the fold. Above-the-fold, here’s what you do. Sell the benefit of those services.’s making payroll and keeping the lights on, last-I-checked. Be like them.

Which do you think a new website visitor will care more about? That you increased your clients’ new leads by an average of 55%, or that you do SEO and Facebook ads?

Lead with the primary benefit to your most profitable clients, give them one CTA – whichever’s most predictive of your best clients (you can survey them to find that out), and get out.

Then, below the fold, you can list all the services you provide as long as they’re the 20% your most profitable clients find valuable. And make sure you supply ample client results.

Low-Hanging-Fruit Agency Website Move #2: Collect Email, Then Utilize It

It’s well-documented that 96% of your organic website traffic isn’t ready to spend money on you on their first visit. Takeaway? Unless you’re collecting email, you’re relying on serendipity that the far-and-away-vast-majority of your site visitors will find their way back to you when it’s time to make a purchasing decision.

Between first-impression-and-sale, it’s an average of 6-7 “touch points”, whether that’s seeing you onstage, hearing you on a podcast, seeing a “remarket” facebook ad, hearing about you from a friend, etc. If you capture an email address, you’re now in charge of that game.

Instead of hoping somebody hears you on a podcast, you can email them a podcast interview.

Instead of hoping somebody hears about you from a colleague, you can email them a case-study.

I can’t emphasize enough how big a game-changer this is for agencies. Nobody’s doing it.

“Ok,” you say, “but what if I already have an autoresponder?”

Great. What’s your opt-in rate?

Open up Google Analytics, look up your “sessions” (same as unique visitors) in the last month. Open up your email provider, and count the new subscribers. Divide the latter by the former. Less than 10%? It shouldn’t be.

If your opt-in rate is less than 10%, here’s a crash course on why.

Here’s the good news: if you’re already following the advice of step 1 and understanding your most-profitable clients, your opt-in rate will likely nose-up automatically. Another quick-and-dirty tip? Give proof. Like “Client X increased his leads by 75% in 3 months.” Nobody does that in the agency world. You’ll stand out.

My friends at Ginsburg Expeditions: proof works

“But wait,” you’re saying. “I want my visitors to get a free assessment, not just subscribe to a newsletter.”

Cue missed-low-hanging-fruit-opportunity #3: Collect email first, as a part of the assessment process.

98% of agencies I’ve come across have a contact page that looks like this:

Any guess how many of your prospective clients are abandoning the page before completing the form?

Would you complete the form?

Fantastic if you explain a benefit of getting the assessment, and lose the extraneous fields like “what would like information on”. (I’m on your site, and I have to tell you what you’re going to do for me?)

Even-lower-hanging-fruit-than-that, just collect email on step 1.

Rationale: “So we can send you your personalized result”. Boom.’s intake form. And they need more info to get started than you do.

Then, after they enter the email address, redirect to the rest of the intake form.

Now that you’ve got their email address, guess what?

  • If they do complete the form, you can follow up. (But you were doing this already.)
  • If they don’t complete the form, you can follow up;) First, with a reminder to complete the form, then with helpful content and proof elements.
  • Not-to-mention, you can go nuts and incorporate scarcity. “For the next four days, get a free SEO audit with all assessments”. (Or whatever bonus your high-LTV clients told you was most valuable in your survey.) Reminder 1. Reminder 2. You don’t think that will make an impact on your sales?

The Good News

There’s a silver lining to the ultra-low bar for agency websites. The agencies that do the bare minimum are going to win.

All this is just 101 stuff. There are dimensions-within-dimensions of moneymaking opportunities once you have a list. Upsells. Limited-time-offers. Referral programs. Money Typhoon. (Ok – I made that last one up;)

Your website is out there, representing you, whether it’s good-or-bad. Why not utilize it to make some cash money?

If you’d like more deep marketing and sales insights like this article, plus the exact steps I used to 4x my business in one year (controlling for list growth), you’ll want to subscribe to my mailing list

Autoresponder Sanity- Cut Through The Bunk, and Focus on What Really Sells

Remember autoresponders? That thing most of us have? You know – between an opt-in and a sale?

And let me guess: we’ve mostly either copied our autoresponders from a book, like Jeff Walker’s Launch, or Ryan Deiss’ Invisible Selling Machine, or maybe a course like Ramit Sethi’s Call to Action or Andre Chaperon’s Autoresponder Madness.

And maybe we’re pretty sure they’re working “well enough” for us.

But what if we want to scale? Could we say for-certain whether our email campaigns are over-performing or underperforming?

Let alone if our entire funnel is under-performing – as I’ve written, 2% is a decent offer-to-sale conversion benchmark: what if your funnel is converting at 0.5%?

How would you know what to change in your autoresponder?

In fact, if you had to get rid of 80% of the stuff in your email campaigns and keep just the essential 20% that’s really doing the selling for you, would you know what to keep?

If you wouldn’t, I wouldn’t blame you: with the exception of Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing, marketing literature has been woefully short on first-principles theories to explain exactly what’s working, and why.

But two unlikely sources might provide a clue…

The first is one I’ve written about before: Eugene Schwartz’ Breakthrough Advertising – I truly believe it’s the be-all-end-all meta-resource (the “matrix” that knits together all the other successful strategies and explains why some work sometimes and others work other times) of modern sales writing.

And of course Schwartz predated email. But that’s not the primary reason I needed to look to another source to plug the holes in my autorespoder matrix. The reason is that Breakthrough Advertising, for all its staying power, mostly concerned one-and-done sales: print-ads that had 30 seconds to capture attention and make the sale.

The ’60s equivalent of a landing page or short sales page.

So where are we supposed to turn for advice on a multi-touch-point sale? To another unlikely source: Nail Rackham’s SPIN Selling.

“Wait a minute. Isn’t that a sales book? As in sales CALLS?”

It is, and that’s exactly why more direct-response marketers don’t talk about SPIN Selling. But buried amongst the chapters on closes and need-payoff questions is a powerful premise: the value scale.

Simply put, the higher the price of the sale, the more expensive the buyer needs to believe not buying is.

Mildly annoyed with doing your invoices by hand? A $20/month SAAS product is a no-brainer.

But what if it was $2000/month?

Then you’d need dollars-and-cents illustration that not taking action was costing you at least that.

The value scale becomes extremely important in autoresponders as the price of the product rises. In fact, as I’ll explain below, most marketers are making the same big mistake when it comes to their email funnels.

First, though, let’s talk about first principles:

The 80/20 Autoresponder

To understand why we have autoresponders, picture replacing your homepage with nothing more than an offer for your flagship product, and a “buy now” button.

If your product costs more than a trivial amount, let alone if the buyer doesn’t already understand exactly what you do and trust you, your offer probably won’t convert very well.

But if you leave your offer up for long enough, you will start making a few sales, at least if it’s a good product that works, and that people actually want.

“Wait a second. What?”

I know: It seems counterintuitive. Nothing about your offer’s changed. But all-of-a-sudden, a few people start buying.

Did the market change overnight? Unless Oprah shouted you out, then probably not.

But if you surveyed those buyers, you’d probably find something surprising…

Most of them didn’t buy on their first visit to your site.

In fact, according to industry averages, you’d probably find that most of your buyers had had six-to-seven “touch points” with you – a visit to your site, hearing you on a podcast, seeing a facebook ad, going back to your site, hearing from a friend who’s using your product – before they bought.

Now – imagine if, instead of relying on serendipity to guide those few lucky buyers repeatedly back to your offer, you could make those “touch points” deliberate and repeatable. That’s the “why” of email marketing.

And the above thought experiment illustrates perfectly the 80/20 of an autoresponder. It’s literally just staying in front of people while they take their time to make a decision.

That’s why my friend Christopher, a marketing ninja with an info-products empire, says this…

It’s also why, if I don’t have time to create an ultra-elaborate autoresponder in my own funnels, I’ll often just use popular content that’s congruent with the product I’m eventually going to sell.

But as long as you’re going to be emailing people to stay top-of-mind, you might as well be helping inch yourself toward a sale.

And that’s where Schwartz and Rackham can help. From their materials, I’ve devised a 3-question “decision tree” to help guide any online business toward higher sales from an email autoresponder.

Autoresponder Sanity Question 1: “How Big Does The Reader Think His Problem Is?”

Once he’s on your email list, your reader is going to receive periodic emails from you that keep you on his radar while he takes his time to decide if he’s going to invest in your product.

But one way you can increase the likelihood that he’ll buy is by understanding how painful he believes the problem you’re solving is. You can get fancy with surveys, but often the most effective way to get started is just asking yourself:

“If I were in this guy’s shoes, with no prior knowledge of me or my product, would I consider my price a lot to pay for this product?”

Are you selling in a market (like cooking or fitness) with lots of free or low-priced solutions?

Are you selling to people who haven’t thought a lot about this problem, even though you know it’s costing them money?

If the answer is “yes”, the first thing your autoresponder should be doing, besides making you familiar and likeable to the reader, is educating him about the severity of the problem. Here are a few examples…

If you’re selling a cooking course that costs $499, you could start with a story about how you didn’t realize how much money you were wasting at the supermarket and on takeout until you discovered a simple solution that helped you plan your meals.

For a B2B SAAS product that costs $150-a-month, you could prove how costly the problem is by supplying real-world numbers about how much companies similar to your reader’s are wasting without your solution.

In this later scenario, there’s one thing that cuts through the noise like nothing else: stats.

“Did you know 82% of marketing emails are NEVER READ?”

Ever wonder why you hear ads like “did you know that every year Americans leave over a billion of unclaimed tax refunds on the table” around tax season? It’s likely because the commercial accounting firms have determined that their market sees doing taxes as a minor irritant, not as a potential-four-figure-windfall they’re missing out on.

Which do you think is a more expensive problem? 😉

But what if you’re not extinguishing a burning pain, but selling a dream or aspiration?

The same principles work in reverse: you’d just educate about the size of the upside.

For the type of consulting I do – i.e. growing someone’s business with funnels – the reader often doesn’t know how much he’s missing out on by having a leaky funnel. Any story about how you overcame a problem similar to your reader’s, and how much extra you made, will work. Case studies about success stories are a no-brainer (and also help with question 2, as I’ll discuss below), but often just educating your reader about how funnels work, and taking him through some of the conversion math is sufficient for this step.

Finally, there’s a reason hotels, restaurants, and airlines splash glossy photos of their first-class experiences all over their websites: is amplifies desire. If you’re selling a premium product your reader has a background-desire-for, anything you can do to get him to visualize the experience more vividly will turn up that desire.

Autoresponder Sanity Question 2: “Does The Reader Think The Problem is Solvable

In some markets, the customer won’t need much proof that solutions to his problem work. If you’re selling an iphone app that makes funny dog sound effects, or one that helps you mark up your photos with cool out-of-the-box filters, you don’t need to burn many calories just convincing people that’s possible. You just need to show why your version of the solution is the best. (See question 3;)

But what if you’re teaching people to do a muscle-up, as a friend’s product does?

Or helping them use credit card signup-bonuses to fly business class all over the world, as another’s does?

Or showing them how to make more progress in their businesses and relax-without-guilt every weekend, as a former client’s product does?

In all of those cases, you’d be dealing with a market skeptical a solution to their problem even exists.

  • People don’t generally see others doing muscle-ups, and attempting to do one can induce unpleasant sensations, so many might assume they’re un-trainable, or that learning to do a muscle-up is too big-a-hassle.
  • You don’t hear much about “travel hacking” outside small circles, and many people don’t understand that the sky-high customer acquisition costs credit card companies face make it smart business to offer tons of award points for signing up (especially given that the vast majority will redeem those points on stupid handbags instead of free travel), so you’re bound to raise skepticism with a service that helps people travel the world, on business class, for nearly-free.
  • In the productivity space, convincing people that mindset, and having a system – and not just luck and privilege – are predictors of success, can be a steep mountain to climb.

How should you determine if your market needs “proof-of-concept”? Just ask yourself: “If I had zero knowledge this was possible, would it seem FISHY to me?”

If the answer is “yes”, you should probably devote a decent portion of your autoresponder to proving a solution is possible. Here are my 3 favorite solutions, which can be used in-combination:


Tell a personal story about how you overcame the challenge. Be truthful, but if you had a disadvantage that made success less likely, lean into that.

“From Picked-Last-For-Every-Sport to doing muscle-ups, in just two weeks”

“How a broke kid from West Newton flew around the world on business class”

“In High school I was voted ‘least organized’. Now I run a seven figure business from my living room, and work fewer than 20 hours-a-week”

The goal isn’t to aim for outrageous – your market’s already skeptical so it will read as “too-good-to-be-true” – but to illustrate that you started worse-off than your typical reader, and nonetheless achieved the goal.


Personal anecdotes always raise the objection “what if you were just lucky”, or “what if you were born with it”.

That’s why even better than your personal story is stories of people you’ve helped.

A recent client built 3 8-figure consulting agencies, and wouldn’t have to work more than 8-hours-a-week if he didn’t want to. His story is compelling enough – and necessary, as we’ll discuss below in question 3 – but it’s still easy-to-dismiss:

“Sure YOU can do it – you’ve been doing it for 27 years.”

“You did it, but things were different back when YOU were getting started.”

“Sure, YOU did it, but what if I don’t have the SELLING GENE.”

Not so when he includes stories of his students’ success – five, six, and even seven-figure success only months after implementing the system.

Recent success, so they’re more difficult to dismiss as dated.

And there are a lot of success stories, so it’s difficult to dismiss any one of them as a fluke.

If you’re selling a solution your market is skeptical of, do you have any student or client success stories you could point to as proof-of-concept?


But there’s an even better way – one that almost end-runs the need for success stories. And that’s giving your subscriber a micro-win. A bite-sized bit of advice she can implement today, which will succeed, and the success-of-which will put a crack in the facade of skepticism.

Here are some examples:

For my friend who teaches muscle-ups, a micro-win might be showing them, in just minutes, how to perform an intermediate movement they didn’t think they could do.

For the travel hacking guys, maybe it’s showing their readers how to redeem some of the award points many-of-us have just lying around, after so many years of using credit cards, to book a short weekend flight for free.

Finally, my friend and former client who sells the productivity system gives potent chunks of it away – letting readers see the results in their everyday lives – then follows up with them to make sure they’re using them, and to tell them how to “upgrade” (to his paid product).

What could you offer, as part of an autoresponder, to let your readers feel their own “results in advance”?

Autoresponder Sanity Question 3: “Does The Reader Think You’re a Commodity?

There’s a little-discussed Catch-22 in some markets: prove the problem’s easy to solve too well, and people won’t think they need you to do it. Go overboard proving how dire the problem is, and they won’t believe anybody can solve it.

This is more of a problem with some markets than others.

Take my friend who helps ecommerce founders get their products on Amazon. Turns out, negotiating the twists-and-turns of Amazon is a huge problem for time-poor founders. They were crying out for a solution. My friend was among the first to gallop-to-the-rescue, and at a reasonable price.

Did she need to do what the sales literature calls “demonstrate capability”? Of course. But a few case studies were more than enough to do that.

But say you’re solving a well-understood problem in a market with a lot of competition. Let alone for a higher-than-average fee.

Here are few examples:

Selling marketing strategy (as I do) to a market that’s used to paying $80-an-email for bargain-basement copywriting firms.

Selling a high-3-figure info product to a market saturated with $29 books that purport to solve the same problem.

Selling a high-priced SAAS product that does a better job solving a problem than the low-priced alternatives, but the market isn’t educated to that fact.

In those situations, simply focussing on the size of the problem isn’t going to be sufficient: your market will just opt for one of the many lower-priced alternatives.

Neither will only focussing on proving that a solution’s possible: your customers will either bypass you for lower-cost alternatives, or try to do it themselves.

In those situations, you need a different kind of proof: differentiation. You have to prove that everybody else’s solution doesn’t work, but yours does.

Here are 2 ways to do it:

Lead with your differentiator

If customers have a well-trodden gripe with the competition, you can build what you do differently into every facet of your marketing, from homepage to sale.

“Finally: ecommerce marketing services with GUARANTEED ROI”

“Call Them Out”

To show how other solutions are inferior, you can use a tack I like to call “let me guess”. It’s a way of demonstrating your understanding of the reader’s situation, and simultaneously calling attention to how you’re different.

Say  you were selling a system to get new clients via webinar. The “let me guess” might be:

“Let me guess: you can’t get enough clients through referrals.

Let me guess: you’ve tried SEO for a year and it hasn’t been worth it.

Let me guess: you’ve tried cold email and been called ‘spammer’, but you haven’t gotten any good clients from it.”

As long as the reader considers you credible, you’ll have the effect of subtlely deflating her assumptions that she’s got multiple options, and if you’re priced too high she’ll just go with something else, because, you’ve just planted the seed that nothing else works as well.

In reality, I don’t usually write “let me guess” unless I’m trying to be provocative. It sounds holier-than-thou, and you’ll come off as a douche instead of a knight-in-shining-armor.

Instead, deploy the “let me guess” with subtlety:

  • If you’re already telling a personal anecdote that’s a “failure to success”, mention that you “tried everything”, then list why all the alternatives the reader’s sure-to-be-trying didn’t work for you.
  • Even more powerful, talk about a student/client success story, in which he/she had tried the alternative solutions and failed, then tried your solution and succeeded.


Remember Don Draper describing Lucky Strike’s competitive advantage in Mad Men? 

Everybody else’s tobacco is poisonous. Lucky Strike’s is toasted.”

Mechanization, from Breakthrough Advertising, is perhaps the most potent way to differentiate, especially for a jaded market.

Picture it: you’ve seen a million-and-one products in this category, and they’ve all been garbage. To even be motivated to read a sales letter or watch an ad, you need to know why this will be different with a quickness.

And it’s hard to find a better modern example of mechanization-as-differentiation than Dyson ads.

Most vacuums are garbage.

Here’s exactly why: [shows outdated technology]

So I invented a new way. Here’s exactly what makes Dyson different.

If you’re selling to a jaded and/or competitive market, how could you mechanize your offer?




For me, it’s simple: most people want to sell you a template, and don’t understand why it works. Here are the exact persuasion principles that make other-people’s-funnels work. Steal them and get your own results. Or, hire me to do it.

For a high-priced SAAS product that improves your Amazon rankings (as a former client’s did), what’s wrong about the way the competition does it? Do they upgharge for obsolete, open-source code? What’s different about how your software works? Is it the only platform to draw data directly from Amazon’s Xyz Matrix (not a real thing;), so it’s been shown to be 2x as reliable in tests?

How to Use The Questions

You may be wondering what “shape” the container into which you’re pouring your 100ccs of “twist the knife” and your 50ccs of “quick win” should take. I’ve only got two basic rules.

  1. Dovetail with the “sales cycle”. How long does your market naturally take to reach a decision. If you can time your email campaigns to be just shorter than that natural cycle, you’ll sell the most. The sales cycle is easy-to-determine: just survey your existing customers and ask how long after they first heard of you they purchased the product.
  2. Use scarcity: equally important as answering the questions above is giving your subscribers a reason to buy now. A good rule-of-thumb is, all-other-things-being-equal, scarcity will roughly double your sales. The best rationales are bonuses and open enrollment. If you’ve got a product that’s permanently available on your site, and it’s selling at least some to “drive-by” traffic, offer a bonus to only your list – survey them if you need ideas – then put a time limit on the bonus, so subscribers can only get during a “launch”. If nobody’s buying your product except from your list, you can simply keep it “closed” to everybody except subscribers, and at all times save during “open enrollments”. Finally, if you can raise the price slowly, that gives people a final incentive to buy during this open-enrollment/launch, instead of waiting for “next time”.

It’s time to demystify the autoresponder.

Don’t worry about open-loops…

Don’t worry about Frank Kern cliches…

…and don’t worry about Digital Marketer.

Start from the principles in this article, be yourself, and watch your earnings rise.

If you’d like more deep marketing and sales insights like this article, plus the exact steps I used to 4x my business in one year (controlling for list growth), you’ll want to subscribe to my mailing list

See you next time.

3 Stupid-Obvious Marketing Moves Ecommerce is Missing Out On

If you run an ecommerce business and you’re either not utilizing your email list or – be-still-my-beating-heart – not capturing email at all, go and implement the bare minimum today. (I’ll explain how below.)

And prepare to experience a 15-30% boost in your total sales.


According to Kissmetrics, only about 4% of website visitors buy immediately upon landing on your site, while 46% typically buy later on.

Are you really ready to let 92% of your potential customers walk away just because they’re not ready to buy immediately? With email marketing, you don’t have to hope they’ll remember you and come back. You can build that relationship with them.

And as long as you’re going to implement an email list, you might as well do it right from scratch, and this post will show you how.

But what if you’re one of the 70% of businesses already using email marketing?

You may be doing the boilerplate Digital Marketer email sequences, like onboarding, nurture, and re-engagement. You might even be doing some “ecommerce specials” like cart-abandonment.

And it’s to you, dear “I just passed marketing 101” ecommerce entrepreneur that I address the bulk of this article. Because it’s time to raise the bar.

Know how you wouldn’t want to be the unsuspecting bar patron who challenged a former inmate to a fistfight?

In online business, digital products/SAAS/services marketers are those street-hardened veterans.

I cut my teeth in info-products. Then I worked with consulting agencies. Web agencies. SAAS companies. All contexts where email is the primary revenue channel. Where subscribers are used to being marketed to, and they’ve seen all the “tricks”. Where simply having an email sequence hasn’t been good enough since 2003.

Why are digital products, SAAS, and services so much harder to sell? To paraphrase Selling The Invisible author Harry Beckwith,

“many purchasers of services aren’t even sure what it is that they are buying, since it hasn’t typically been delivered yet. Clients typically cannot evaluate expertise (which is what service marketers are selling), since they lack the technical skills with which to evaluate the expert.”

But what if you could steal some of the same flame-hardened tactics that work to move digital products, services, and SAAS, and transplant them to the physical realm, where customers mostly know what they’re getting, and value is inferred?

Then, friends, you’d be doing a little something I like to call “bringing a Howitzer to a knife-fight”.

Here are the top 3 things marketers from the “mean streets” of digital/SAAS/services wish ecommerce founders knew…

“From-The-Streets” Marketing Trick 1: Scarcity

67% of online carts are abandoned. That means only 33% of people interested enough in your products to add them to the cart actually complete their purchase.

That’s why cart-abandonment sequences have been boilerplate in ecommerce for years. And those series typically enjoy between 3 and 12% retention rates. But ecommerce has been ignoring a tactic street-hardened digital marketers sleep with under our pillows: scarcity.


Here’s how a typical ecommerce cart-abandonment sequence goes, according to Shopify:

Email 1 is a reminder…

Tell them that they left something in their cart. Show them a picture of it. Add some benefits (people love free shipping) and include a simple link to complete their checkout. Done.

Email 2 is an objection handling email.

What’s the main reason people aren’t buying? If you don’t know, you’ll need to ask them. Add a question to email one that says something like “Why didn’t you buy? Please hit reply and let us know”.

Email 3 is a discount email.

If people haven’t bought by now, they’re in the slow lane and we need to kick them into the fast lane. Give them a discount. 5%. 10%. Whatever works for your margins (and you’ve found works best with your customers).

What’s the problem? Customers could theoretically open email 3 six months from now and still receive your discount. There’s no urgency to buy.

What to Do Instead

Want to know how SumoMe increased sales of one of their offers 226% without changing anything else about the offer? Scarcity. They gave it an expiration date.

Here’s how I rewrote the cart-abandonment series for one client who had only a 3% retention rate:

Email 1: You left something in your cart. We want to give you a bonus for completing your purchase. But that bonus expires in 48 hours.

Email 2: Only 24 hours left to complete your order and get the bonus. [More about the benefits of the bonus]

Email 3: Last 6 hours to complete your order and get the bonus.

“Wait-a-second!” you may be saying. “I’ve read you should NEVER give discounts in the first email, because customers will intentionally abandon their carts just to get one.”

I’m dubious of this argument for a few reasons:

First, in my experience, as much as 83% of the sale-retention comes from the first email. What’s more, the open rates are almost twice as high as those of the second email.

Why waste your strongest retention rationale for an email nobody’s going to read?

Second, add up the profits at the end.

You’ve either increased the lifetime value of a customer or you haven’t.

Whether that 67% + abandoning the cart includes deal-hunters who know you’ll offer a discount or not, if you’ve made more sales, you’ve made more sales.

Besides, I have deep suspicions that customers who abandon the cart just for discounts were ever going to buy, much-less become your most valuable customers.

Finally, you’ll notice I don’t offer discounts. I offer bonuses. Bonuses don’t erode perceived value and train people only to buy at the discounted price the way discounts do.

“From-The-Streets” Marketing Trick 2: Upsells

If you’re looking for a way to 1.5x your profit overnight, it’s hard to beat upsells. Professional marketers love them, for two reasons:

  1. Introduced properly*, they’re “non-split-testable”, meaning even if they fail, there’s zero danger of cannibalizing existing cash flows. (Unlike, say, revising an email sequence that’s already converting at a certain rate.)
  2. They’re one of the only cash-grabs that doesn’t carry an associated spike in acquisition cost. Raising your prices, another “grow-your-business-fast” mainstay, might lower your conversions, which increases your acquisition cost because you now have to attract more leads to make the same number of sales. Upsells, as long as you introduce them after a purchase decision*, don’t decrease conversions.

“But wait!” you might be saying, “I’ve got upsells everywhere!”

Let me guess – like this?

…or this?

Ok – thumbs-up for effort. But by “from-the-streets” digital marketing standards, these measures are weak sauce.

Remember the little asterisk when I said “introduced properly”? That’s because most ecommerce merchants are making at least one of the two above mistakes when offering upsells:

The first is added friction. Forget that many shoppers have pop-up blockers, and are habituated to shout “ack – AWAY!” whenever they see a pop-up. You’re introducing a choice just prior to the sale, a decision that cuts against a well-understood axiom of sales psychology – one we’ll revisit later on – choice paralysis.


As this SumoMe article describes, when you give people too many choices, they’re more likely to make no choice.

“Sheena Iyengar, a professor at Columbia Business School, spoke about the art of choosing in a TED talk she gave in 2010. She said, ‘Too many choices can overwhelm us and cause us to not choose at all. For businesses, this means that if they offer us too many choices, we may not buy anything.’”

In practice, that means you added your sweater for $19.95, then oh wait here’s this offer – wow do I need these 3 items? Are they worth it? Ok, maybe I’ll decide later. And you’ve lost the sale.

Choice paralysis is at work in the second example, as well (“which of these 4 options should I consider” instead of “how do I complete my purchase”), but not as much as simple attention starvation. The human brain is astonishingly bad a multi-tasking, and you’re relegating an offer designed to increase your profit to the periphery, where the best-case scenario is that it distracts the buyer from her purchase.

(Never mind that the offer isn’t relevant – I’m assuming yours are if you’re reading this;)

What to do instead

Pro marketers don’t piddle with upsells that decrease conversions on the primary sale. Look at any of Frank Kern’s, Ramit Sethi’s, Neil Patel’s, or Bryan Harris’ properties, and you’ll notice something that might surprise you…

A total lack of decisions.

Every page gives you just one choice to make: subscribe, buy, etc, or not, but you’re never offered more than one choice-at-a-time.

Here’s Neil Patel’s homepage:

That’s why you won’t see any upsell offers until you’ve decided “thumbs up” on a purchase decision.

Introduced after a purchase decision, deciding whether or not to upgrade can become your primary focus.

And good marketers don’t waste that focus. Instead they make a strong case for how the upgrade will benefit you. Here’s Ramit Sethi, making the case for a digital upsell that costs $2000.

Check out the rationale:

You’ve already made a purchase that will solve your problem.

But if you want to solve the same problem faster/better/more permanently, you can upgrade your solution.

Remember, Ramit’s selling a two-thousand-dollar-product here, and all the buyer gets is access to a website. If it works for Ramit, don’t you think it will work for a (usually) much-lower-priced physical product?

Here’s an upsell page I recently wrote for a client:

You don’t have to go nuts: just tell your customer why they should care about your offer.

If you’re savvy, you probably spotted something else: the “pay no additional shipping”.

Remember scarcity?

What could you offer your customers to entice them to make a decision now, instead of waiting till later? For this client, no-additional-shipping was a fit because his supplier can put the upsell item in the same package for little marginal shipping cost for about one hour after the initial order is placed, after which it becomes inconvenient.

The Result

One recent client converted at 20% order-to-upgrade. That means that 20% of people who purchased the primary product said “yes” to the upsell. Multiply that by the margin on your upsell product to get an idea how that would benefit your business…

But it doesn’t stop there…

Because we can use the same email framework that works so well for cart-abandonment for upsells.

If customers don’t take your upsell on the Thankyou page, send this 3-email series:

Email 1: The upsell’s available at a 15% discount, but only for 48 more hours

Email 2: Only 24 hours left to get the 15% discount on the upsell. Here’s why you should care…

Email 3: Only 6 hours left to get the upsell for 15% off.

I’ve just said I don’t like discounts, but that applies mainly to primary products. Remember, because an upsell is free extra money, the danger that you’ll anchor somebody at a discounted price-point is less than with primary products.

What’s more, if you offer no-additional shipping charges on the Thankyou page, you’ll reduce the risk the customer will “roll the math dice” and wait to see which is more; the 15% discount or the shipping costs he would-have-saved.

“From-The-Streets” Marketing Trick 3: Opt-In Conversion Rate

Our third trick concerns the single-most-neglected metric for most online businesses: opt-in conversions – the percentage of website visitors who give you their email address.

Here’s why that’s important: you’ve heard me say an email list can increase your sales by 15-30%. But you can only sell to people whose addresses you collect.

If you’re a total nube, you might only be collecting addresses in two places:

On the actual purchase page…

…and at the bottom of the website template, with some 1994 copy like “subscribe for updates” if you’re really going-for-broke…

“HANG ON” you’re probably saying. “I’ve got pop-ups!”

Aaaaaaaw do you have the “10% off” pop-up?

Maybe you’ve even got a countdown timer that gives visitors only an hour to redeem their discount code.

Congrats. You’ve passed marketing 101. Here’s your sticker. (I jest, but I love you guys;)

Here are two reasons I wouldn’t use that rationale if we were starting from scratch:

  1. Forget all the Chialdini* sales psychology that says if you lead with price, your buyers will be focussed on price as your primary differentiator, and you’ll cut your own legs from under you if you want to compete on – say – quality. There are more immediate dollars-and-cents reasons to be wary: if discounts in cart-abandonment emails train shoppers to “wait for the discount” instead of buying at the regular price, what do you think a pop-up within the first 15 seconds on the site does?
  2. It’s also classic choice-paralysis. You pay a developer to create an enticing above-the-fold “shop now” call-to-action, then you interrupt your own sales pitch with a pop-up that asks the visitor to take a different action.

* In his book Pre-suasion, Robert Chialdini (summary here) describes a split-test a furniture company ran: when they changed the background of their homepage to clouds, shoppers were more focussed on comfort, and tended to buy more comfortable sofas, even if they were higher-priced. When they changed it to pennies, shoppers were more focussed on economy, and tended to buy cheaper sofas, even if they were less comfortable. This wasn’t “noisy” data – the effect was strong even after controlling for other variables.

What to Do Instead

First, decide what you want your visitors to do: subscribe, or buy immediately. Even if most of your site visitors buy-without-subscribing (an assumption we’d have reason to doubt, since only 3% are usually ready to buy right-away), I’d take a page from best-in-class marketers, and make subscribe the primary action you promote above-the-fold, as Videofruit’s Bryan Harris does here…

(Note: he doesn’t say “subscribe” once. Marketers haven’t used that word since about 2001. Instead he sells the benefit of subscribing. More on that below.)

There are two primary reasons we’d lead with the email collection if I were setting up your store from scratch:

  1. According to Shopfy, the lifetime value (LTV) of customers acquired through email is 12% higher than average. That’s strong evidence you should be getting them on your list first.
  2. Just because you lead with the subscription ask doesn’t mean you can’t redirect people to a “shop now” page immediately after they subscribe. (You can also include a small “nope – I want to start shopping NOW” link under the subscribe button that skips to the same page. Don’t worry – if they really are buyers, you’ll still get their email on the checkout page. Otherwise, they’re worthless to you anyway.)

Sidebar: It’s not like many ecommerce shops aren’t underutilizing calls-to-action astonishingly anyway. Note the utter lack of any clarity about what you’re supposed to do on this webpage

Takeaway? They might as well have a big opt-in offer above-the-fold.

Next, decide on a rationale to subscribe. For the reasons I discussed above, it’s best if it’s not a discount. What to use instead? Here are a few alternatives that have worked for clients:


If your product has high perceived value, use an Insiders List or VIP List. Subscribers will be the first to hear about new products, and the only ones allowed access to members-only promotions.

Know what the smart brands use as the clincher? Scarcity.

Supplies of Madewell’s limited-run jeans are often limited. How do people get advance-notice when they’re about-to-be-released? You guessed it: the list.


If using a VIP rationale makes you ansty, but you’re on-board with the “don’t focus people on the price” argument, you can take one step back from the precipice and offer bonuses.

One client had great results with a “free-plus-shipping” offer…

Important: if you’re using a pop-up, I’d recommend using only an exit pop (to avoid choice-paralyzing people trying to shop), and only on desktop (otherwise, google will likely penalize you.)

Even better, though: instead of offering the bonus up-front, see if you can make it it the rationale for the VIP list:

Yes! I want to receive EXCLUSIVE BONUSES!

You may-or-may-not want to make your above-the-fold content an opt-in. Even though I’ve seen the numbers to indicate it’s moneymaking fire, there are pros and cons, and it wouldn’t be the first thing I would change with a client who had a good enough homepage.

But the next tip is an unequivocal “zero-to-one” – something with zero opportunity cost, and hardly anybody is doing it in ecommerce.

I’m talking about collecting email addresses the first time a shopper clicks “add to cart”:

Here are two reasons why not doing this is categorically insane:

  1. You already have to collect the address before purchase, so you’re not introducing any additional friction collecting it earlier.
  2. But according to Xipix Global, 68% of your site visitors abandon the site without ever visiting their carts, even after adding items to them. That means potential buyers who never even see your email collection field.

What to Do if You’re Just Getting Started

Finally, I promised newbies just getting into email marketing some time-saving shortcuts to start capitalizing on email marketing immediately. Here goes:

  1. Decide on your VIP-rationale – what you’ll offer subscribers in exchange for subscribing to your VIP list – right away, and devote your above-the-fold real-estate to it exclusively.
  2. Install a plugin like CartMail, that collects emails as soon as people add the first item to their carts – provided they haven’t already supplied them – immediately, so you don’t miss out on the opportunity to email market to a fresh stream of qualified buyers.
  3. Decide on a good candidate for your upsells right away (by surveying your audience, if necessary, with a question like “what $20-or-less item would you pay twice as much for – don’t worry, we’re not going to raise the price! ;)” ). Then, install a plugin like Thankyou page customizer to start offering post purchase upsells to your customers.
  4. Next, write your cart-abandonment and upsell email sequences, copying the template I’ve supplied.
  5. Once you’ve got all that done, take everybody else’ advice. There is value in those onboarding, re-engagement, and repeat-customer sequences. I do them for clients all-the-time.


3 “Unknowns” that Could Doom Your Product Launch

Helping clients with a product launch strategy, I used to offer two options:

The buck stops with me, or the buck stops with you.

In the former scenario, I’d vouch for typical results.

I’d be there on the other end of the call to “talk down” my client if things didn’t seem to be going well, and I’d also sleep fine at night taking credit for an outstanding result.

But I’d need end to end control, and I’d need to know a lot of things going in.

In the latter, I’d integrate myself into the client’s existing launch-flow, write “best guess” copy, and advise him broadly about best-practices that had worked in the past. But I couldn’t take responsibility for the results. If things went well, I’d be humble about how much credit to take (“it probably didn’t hurt”), but if they went badly I’d be honest that it could be any of 300 factors, and we’d never know for-sure.

Live by the sword, die by the sword.

Increasingly, especially with new clients, I’m moving away from scenario 2, and toward either the “zero-to-one” interventions I describe in this article, or a well-researched, end-to-end product launch.

What, you may be wondering, makes the difference between my being able to vouch, at least 85%, that a launch will be a success, and the “you got this, right?” scenario? It’s 3 things…

Product Launch Strategy Essential 1 – Product Market Fit

To vouch for results, I need strong evidence that people want your product. Is it Viagra, or is it dog deodorant.

In the latter scenario, no amount of copywriting genius can overcome a product noone wants. As I’ve said onstage, “You could hire Frank Kern to copywrite this, and you still wouldn’t sell anything.”

At the risk of repeating myself, here’s what I look for:

  • When you launched this initially, did more than 2% of your entire list buy?
  • If you asked people to opt-in for the launch/participate in a “focus group”, or otherwise curated the launch cohort, did more than 10% buy.

If so, great! That means you’re probably solving the right problem for the right people at the right price, and they know it.

If not, it voids the warranty. In some scenarios I’d still work with you, but I’d need you to acknowledge the possibility of the dog deodorant trap. And let’s be honest – failed launches are no fun, even if the client assumes ultimate responsibility.

[For more info on the exact strategy I use to validate and launch products, read this.]

Product Launch Strategy Essential 2 – Subtle Positioning

There’s a Ramit Sethi interview (page 25) from Smart Passive Income in which Ramit describes launching a product after spending months writing the copy, then watching it flatline the first 24 hours. He pulled it off the market, and his team went back to research what went wrong.

In Ramit’s-words, We started back and looked at the research and it took us about two weeks and we discovered that we had missed a couple of really, really subtle things in the development and the marketing of the product. We fixed up the product. Our conversion rate jumped to I believe 26% – the same slide deck, did not change one word, and the product was better. “

Eugene Schwartz agrees: there’s only one deepest pain or desire of your market. Get it wrong, and won’t sell a thing.

Which sets up scenario 2 in which the world’s greatest copywriter, working with “faulty readings”, could fail to convert. For a real life example, say you were selling designer strollers, and you theorized that your target market was new moms who wanted to “look cool” when at the park with the other moms.

But say that deeper research revealed that those moms found the outright assertion of a deep-down desire – status – odious, and that their nominal reason for purchasing a designer stroller was the safety of their baby. The difference between a campaign that leads with safety and earns the status element (by planting seeds, then providing proof, as Ramit did in the sales page I analyzed last week) and one that hits them over the head with status from the jump, could spell the difference between a wildly successful launch and one that barely moves the needle.

A real-life example is Todd Herman’s 90 Day Year productivity product, whose headline is “Make more progress in your business in the next 90 days than you did in the last year”. What if, instead of ambition/the desire to build something, Todd had led with leisure: “What if you could work just two hours-per-day after just 90 days?”

I’ve got direct experience in this market, and I’ll spoil the end: the people with money to spend on productivity info products for their businesses don’t think of themselves as idle, and they resent the implication that they don’t like a hard day’s work. Just like the stroller-moms, Todd’s buyers need copy that answers their nominal desires, and fulfills their latent ones (working fewer hours, or even the peace-of-mind of knowing that the hours they do work are taking them somewhere) with subtlety.

That’s why, if I own the result, I insist on seeing recent customer survey data, and if I don’t like the way the questions were asked, I’ll ask my own. (In some cases I’ll take the client’s “word for it”, but that’s only when I know somebody well, or have deep familiarity with their brand/market.)

Product Launch Strategy Essential 2 – Context

Some time ago I participated in a product launch, did a lot of strategy, and wrote a lot of copy, then thought I could “rest easy”.

Fortunately, I had subscribed to the client’s email list. That’s how I know they were sending as many as 3 totally unrelated emails every week, many of them with offers.

Just as multiple/conflicting offers on a webpage (usually as the result of a lack of clarity about what’s really driving growth) often lower conversions, firehosing people in their inbox can dilute the potency of the best “on paper” launch strategy.

The second scenario that can doom an otherwise great launch is list fatigue. Have you launched this product to the entire list before? How recently?

I could nail the product-market-fit, and we could nail the messaging and positioning, but if you’ve launched to the same cohort too recently, or if your launch emails are drowned in a sea of unimportant emails, many of them with conflicting offers, the subscriber has the “JFK cab-tout” experience, and we lose her attention.

The third-and-final launch-dooming scenario is an audience that’s anchored at low prices, or trained to buy only during “sales”. As above, we could do all the positioning perfectly, but if I didn’t remember to ask: “do you typically do discounts or sales for this product”, we could launch to crickets.

Here are some questions to ask:

  • Have you launched this product to the current cohort before?
  • Did you offer a discount?
  • If so, what do they believe it’s worth? [hint: the discounted price]

If the answer to the first 2 is “yes”, that’s not necessarily damning, but it will change the approach. We’ll need to build the perceived value, say truthfully that even the sale price will be higher the next time the product “opens”, and continue to use the discount. Either that, or rebrand, or launch to a brand-new cohort.


If there’s anything I’ve learned from participating in many launches – both my own and clients’ – over the years, it’s humility.

Human beings are complex and unpredictable one-by-one, let alone in groups. That’s why there’s Optimizely. That’s why there’s WVO. That’s why trial-and-error underpins everything we do in direct marketing (distinct from mass-marketing in that it typically seeks a measurable ROI).

Skilled marketers are skilled at knowing what we don’t know, and at building trial-and-error into our launch strategies.

  1. Starting with existing product-market fit: that means the “error” is already out of the way, and we’re working with the one-in-ten iteration of the product that worked.
  2. Using both qualitative and quantitative survey results to, as Ryan Levesque puts it, Ask what’s valuable about a product to our audiences, rather than trying to guess.
  3. Being extremely care to track everything we change after a successful launch. Cohort? Copy? Price? That way we control both for our own unintentional consequences and randomness. (e.g. the same launch, repeated verbatim to a new cohort with the exact same selection criteria, that converts 75%-as-well can be ascribed to randomness/regression-to-the-mean)

If the downside is that we can’t be 100% assured of great things when there are too many “unknowns”, the silver lining is that great rewards await he/she who is humble about his/her ability to “predict” what the market will do, who changes only one thing-at-a-time, and who works within a small-but-growing framework of things it’s possible to know.

Want the exact launch choreography I road-tested with clients? Just Click here!

Deconstructing Ramit Sethi’s Flagship Sales Page

How do you sell a $10,000 product with only the written word?

Depending on whom you speak to, opinions differ…

Michael Masterson, author of Ready, Fire, Aim talks about a “four legged stool”, consisting of 4 elements that need to be in place in order to make a sale.

I’ve written and spoken in the past about the 3 “big picture” things I believe a sales page needs to get right in order to cross from “neutral” to “helping”, and the fourth that will accelerate sales like gangbusters.

And Eugene Schwartz, author of Breakthrough Advertising, introduces us to “gradualization”, the idea that the superstructure tying an ad or sales page together consists of a “yes ladder” of Goal Conclusions that the reader must accept.

And the elements are fun to debate in the abstract, but without testing them in the real world they’re just that: abstractions.

That’s why I believe the single most powerful learning tool for copywriting is to start with a page or ad you know is converting, and work backwards, trying to explain why every single element is there. Sure, you’ll never know for sure which elements are doing the “heavy lifting” and which are window dressing/icing-on-the-cake, but do it enough, and you’ll notice the common elements among the most successful pages/ads.

Which brings us to my guided tour of Ramit Sethi’s (at the time of the writing of this article) $9588 course, Six Figure Consulting.

Most of the juicy stuff is on the page itself (follow the instructions to make your own copy), but this article will tie things together.

The Big Idea

The first of Michael Masterson’s “four legs” is “A Big Idea”. (The other 3 – irresistible benefits, proof of every claim, and tons of authority – overlap with concepts I’m already touching-upon, so I’ll leave further elaboration for another article.)

Translated to 8020-marketingguy-ese, I’d say this means “what’s doing the heavy lifting on this page?”

I’ve written elsewhere about how Frank Kern and Tony Robbins can lead with their authority, whereas others reap greater returns by leading with direct benefits, or uniqueness.

Ramit’s, famous for mixing all 3, leaves no ambiguity about his Big Idea…

He knows exactly what you want, and he’s done it.

But it’s one thing to have a “big picture”, but quite another to write 58 coherent pages, all leading to a sale. Luckily, there’s broad agreement about the big structural elements of a sales page or ad.

The Five Elements of a Sales Page

In broad strokes, most of the most successful sales pages I’ve seen have some version of the following elements: headline, “hook”, offer, risk-reversal, and close.

Let’s look at how Ramit uses each of them.


Eugene Schwartz and Joseph Sugarman, author of Advertising Secrets: The Power of The Written Word agree: the headline is make-or-break. Nail it, and your reader will continue into the ad. Get it wrong, and she’ll turn the page, or close the tab.

The crucial tapdance? Besides being intriguing enough to encourage further reading, the headline needs to meet the reader where she is, starting with an already-accepted premise. For a product she’s already aware of and already knows she wants, that can be as simple as…

Now – Get Ramit’s Six Figure Consulting System, just $9588

If, however, the reader knows she has the problem and wants the solution, but doesn’t yet accept the conclusions necessary to make a purchasing decision (conclusions we’ll cover below), a direct statement of benefit is more appropriate:

Finally: Ramit shares the proven system he used to go from nickel-and-diming to six-figures-in-a-single-day


We meet the reader at “this is what I want”, and introduce the Big Idea – Ramit’s done this successfully. Ready for the real headline?

Next, the hook…


The hook is the portion of a sales page or ad, usually between the headline and the offer, that draws the reader into the story. Structurally, it usually leads the reader up the ladder of goal conclusions, and we’ll cover that later on.

Some copywriting materials taxonomize the different types of hooks: “Paint the dream”, “twist the knife”, etc. I feel that’s a less useful filter than the goal conclusions and the big picture elements, the first of which is “this ad is for you specifically”. (More on big picture elements below.)

Still, hardly anyone disputes Sugarman’s adage: “The purpose of the first sentence is to get the reader to read the second sentence.” It’s mighty hard to get somebody to accept either a “big picture” or “goal conclusions” unless he reads the copy.

You can see on the page where I’ve bookmarked Ramit’s hook.

Here’s how it begins…

Ramit starts with an “am I right?” – “we’ve come a long way, and gone from broke to getting paid.”

If you fall into this group, you immediately picture the feeling, and he’s got you.


The offer is the part of an ad or sales page where the merchant makes the “reveal”, and offers you the product.

For simple sales, as in the above example of a prospective buyer who already knows he has the problem and that he wants and trusts this solution, the offer can be the entire ad:

Now – Get the Dyson Vacuum for Only $399

For higher-ticket items and what Eugene Schwartz calls “higher sophistication buyers”, some persuasion needs to happen before the reveal, hence the need for a “hook”.

Once the advertiser has made her case, however, it’s time to offer the solution…

The offer is where copywriters lean heavily on 2 of my “big picture” elements – that this product solves your specific problem, and that the cost is less than the value.

Most of the features and benefits in the offer, if they’re well copywritten, will be aimed at accomplishing the above 2 goals. In fact, here are a few from Ramit’s page:

“This course is unique” underpins the perceived value, and buttresses Big Picture Argument 4 – the price is less than the value.

“Too many low-value clients? Have your rates plateaued?” is meeting the reader where she is, and deploying Big Picture Argument 3: this specific product solves your specific problem. (To understand why, just think of the converse: “no issues with low-value clients? Do your rates continue to skyrocket? Look elsewhere!”)

(Content Upgrade: If you’ve made it this far, kudos. The truth is, most of the biggest wins in your business don’t require being able to write 58-page sales letters like Ramit. If you’d like to learn the 3-step blueprint I used to 4x my sales – without getting more traffic, split testing, or using discounts, just click here to steal it.)

The Risk Reversal

“Risk reversal” is interchangeable with “guarantee”. Unlike some of the other elements, there’s no fancy logic required here: just copy-and-paste…

Why do marketers include guarantees? The data is unequivocal: a 60 or 90-day guarantee that might require a small handful of refunds can as much as double conversions. The better your product (and, counterintuitively, the longer your guarantee), the fewer refunds you’ll have to give.

The Close

The close is where you’ll make the final case for purchase, and, in many cases, it’s the last element in a sales page or ad.

What goes in a close? We’ll examine that more deeply when we look at goal conclusions. For now, here’s Ramit’s:

One of the most recognizable “Ramit” features of a sales letter is the “binary close”. Ramit didn’t invent it, just like Roy Haynes didn’t invent the triplet, but he owes it some royalties.

Put simply, the binary is “imagine your life without this solution; now imagine your life with it”. You can copy-and-paste that into a sales email for anything with good product-market-fit and proof, and you will likely improve conversions…

…but you’ll see when we discuss goal conclusions exactly how this is so potent.

Now that we’ve covered the structural elements, let’s talk about what you actually write for each.

Nate’s “Big Picture” Elements

To do that, I want to start with my 4 “big picture elements” – within the above structure, a sales page or ad can get everything else wrong as long as it proves the following four things, which roughly overlap with the remaining 3 “legs” of Masterson’s “four-legged stool”.

1 – This ad is about your specific problem

“If you can define the problem better than the customer,” says Dane Maxwell, “he’ll assume you have the solution.”

Before pricing, before guarantees, and before proof, the reader is asking him/herself a simple question: “is this for me?” That’s why Big Picture element One is a good focus for your hook.

Forget “twist the knife” or “paint the dream”.

Can you keep your reader reading to the next Goal Conclusion, and assure him that you’re talking to him specifically? Here’s another example from Six Figure Consulting:

This is so effective precisely because it’s risky. When you’re this specific, you might miss the mark, causing the reader to say: “nope – he got that wrong: it’s not for me.”

That’s why, according to Eugene Schwartz, exclusion is one of the best ways to earn credibility.

“This offer is not for 99 men out of 100.”

“Did you purchase your TV after 1941?”

The fact that your ad is not aimed at everybody will amplify its effect for its target audience.

The second thing Big Picture element accomplishes is it causes the reader to picture the problem, which will cause him, provided your other elements are present, to seek the solution.

2 – Doing nothing is more expensive than investing in the solution

Damian Thompson is fond of saying “your biggest competition is not your competitors; it’s doing nothing.” Product more than a few dollars? “Maybe I’ll muddle through,” thinks the reader.

Neil Rackham, author of Spin Selling, calls this the Value Scale: all-else-being-equal, someone will invest in your solution when you’ve proven that it’s cheaper than doing nothing.

Selling a $50,000 enterprise copy-machine?

“That’s damn expensive,” the buyer thinks. “I think we’re good.”

What if your existing machines were costing you $15,000-a-week in lost productivity? Now we’re having a conversation.

Same thing for a $10,000 consulting course. How much is not having Ramit’s system costing you every day in lost potential revenue, not to mention time?

Another name for this is “dollars-at-a-discount”.

You’ll find it throughout the Six Figure Consulting page, but primarily in the offer (before the price reveal) and the close.

3 – This specific product solves your specific problem

Imagine a sales call with the aforementioned company losing $15k-a-week on lost productivity because their copy machines were garbage.


Now, imagine that your particular copy-machine doesn’t have the specific feature that solves the problem. That’s Big Picture element 3, which also encapsulates the differences features and benefits. It’s not enough to have a product:

  • It needs to solve the buyer’s specific problem
  • You need to prove it

That’s the primary purpose of your offer. Since we’ve already covered the ways in which Ramit’s offer does it, let’s continue to Big Picture element 4…

4 – The cost is less than the value

Four is a subtle one, and it’s distinct from 2 – The solution is cheaper than the problem. Four is about price anchoring, and it’s how you can charge five figures for a product instead of 3. Put simply, it’s how you convince your reader your product costs more than it really does, so that the real price, no-matter-how-expensive, appears discounted by comparison. (It still has to be cheaper than doing nothing, though – 4 is like “icing on the top” of 2.)

Old-school magazine ads, and QVC infomercials show us the least subtle approach to price anchoring…

Similar products retail for over $200!

The “modern” copywriter assumes her reader has seen half-a-gazillion QVC ads, so she has to be a little more sophisticated. As I’ve written elsewhere, there are subtle ways to introduce a price anchor into the reader’s mind. Let’s see how Ramit does it…

Before we ever learn the price of the course, we know Ramit charges $3000-an-hour. (Probably more now, as this was written in 2012.) We can’t help ourselves: we’re doing the math already.

Here’s a more subtle example from earlier on the page:

You can argue this is a better example of #2: doing nothing is more expensive than investing in the solution. But I read it as price anchoring, precisely because I understand marketing, as a likely reader will as well. I went “oh – he’s justifying the price”.

And if he’s using $18k/month to justify, it ain’t gonna be cheap.

In other instances, Ramit has spoken about paying Jay Abraham four-figures for an hour of Abraham’s time, and flying across the country at his own expense.

That’s price anchoring. If the price is lower than you thought it would be, even if it’s expensive, anchoring has done its job.

By now, hopefully you have an idea what structural elements a successful sales page needs to include, and the “do-or-die” elements you have to prove, or else people won’t buy.

(And, if you’ve read this far, you’re obviously interested in improving your conversions. You should join my mailing list, so I can show you how.)

All the same, the page is 58 pages long. Why?

The answer is Goal Conclusions.

Goal Conclusions

Unless your item is the no-brainer – “I’ve got my credit card out; just confirm this is what I’m looking for feature-wise and show me where to pay” – you need to prove a series of conclusions to your reader.

Sidebar: notice how many places in this article I’m using the word prove. That’s because, per Michael Masterson’s “four legged stool”, people aren’t going to buy a non-trivially-priced product without “proof of every claim”.

Anyway, the goal conclusions dictate the order and content of what you’re proving to the reader. Put simply, a goal conclusion is anything a reader needs to accept in order to buy, that he doesn’t already accept deeply and intuitively. (In other words, anything that needs to be proven.)

(More on goal conclusions, including how I’d use them to structure sales pitches for real life companies, here.)

For Six Figure Consulting, recall that Ramit meets the reader at a shared assumption: “I want to learn a system that will allow me to make $25,000 in a single day.” That’s pretty uncontroversial, at least for a qualified reader.

To make the sale, however, he needs to prove the following:

  1. Your business is not thriving; it’s stuck
  2. Systems are the solution
  3. But you can barely get there without Ramit’s help, and only then at the expense of tons of wasted time/money


These are a variation on the goal conclusions for practically any product:

  • If the problem isn’t deep enough, you won’t feel an urgency to buy (especially at a non-trivial price): Big Picture element 2.
  • If you can’t imagine that a solution or a “way out” exists, you won’t be looking for one.
  • Even if you accept that the problem is deep and that the solution exists, you’re likely looking for the cheapest version of that solution, so if $10,000 is the least you’ll spend solving this problem, the seller needs to make that case to you.

But goal conclusions are the thousand-pound-gorilla of copywriting. Seemingly nobody talks about them. So amateur copywriters are left “filling in the blanks” – just assuming that their page “has to be long”, but not knowing why, so they end up grafting other people’s copy onto their product.

That aside, let’s look at how Ramit proves those goal conclusions.

The first is your business isn’t thriving; it’s stuck.

The second is systems are the solution.

The third is but you can’t get there without Ramit’s help.

Importantly, Ramit doesn’t come out of the gate with any of these. Instead, he seeds them, as in this instance, early on in “the hook”.

He won’t come out and state flatly that systems will solve your problem for at least another five pages.

Here’s another sly example of seeding – this time for goal conclusion 3, that you need Ramit’s system to get there.


He’s just told us that systems are the solution, and we’re ready to accept it, but now he plants a seed: the best way to learn systems is studying what successful players do. We’re not ready just yet to read that Ramit’s the guy to show us – in fact he won’t hit us over the head with that for another 40 pages – but the seed is planted.
I’ve diagrammed the serpentine workflow of the goal conclusions on the page, but you don’t have to be that slick on your own page. In fact, it’s better to be a little obvious and pedantic than to miss the opportunity to prove a goal conclusion because you were too-clever-by-half, and 75% of your readers abandoned the page before getting to the crux of your argument.


Besides the obvious – results and testimonials – Ramit uses two more subtle forms of proof: “if you look deep inside yourself you know this is true”, and “this is what A players do.”

Let’s look at examples of each, beginning with an instance of the first.

Sometimes goal conclusions are uncomfortable to your reader.

“If you don’t stop smoking you’re going to die.”

Or, an example from a client:

“If you don’t do work to realize your own value and discover what you want, you’re going to keep meeting the wrong men.”

In those instances, preaching to people can backfire. (As any clinical psychotherapist will tell you.) Instead, however, you can elicit an insight by asking a question. You still have to earn it – deploy it too early in the copy and your reader will balk, but if you use it carefully it can be fire:

“If you look deep inside, can you really say your next relationship will be any better than your last?”

Ramit has a unique strategy for getting us to swallow “bitter pills”: framing it as something “high performers do”. Here are a few instances…


Here, “what the very best consultants do” is offered in the service of proving that systems are the solution. It might be a hard pill to swallow – “fuuuuck I have to learn SYSTEMS” – but it’s what high performers do.

Below, another instance…

Here, the high-performer/low-performer dichotomy shoulders what’s arguably the most important element on the page: teeing up the nearly-five-figure pricetag.

Takeaway: if you’re going to patronize your reader, lean into it. “You should do this, because most of the idiots out there don’t, but a few high performers do”. That’s classic Ramit, and it works because his personality is brash, and he attracts readers who like him that way. Use at your own risk!

Otherwise, and unless you’re Ramit, Gary Vee, or Tucker Max, be gentle.


Of course, I don’t claim to encapsulate a 58-page sales page in 3,000-some words.

That’s why the main exhibit is the page itself.

But hopefully we’ve lifted the fog a little, and shown how even a 58-page behemoth, responsible for millions in sales, uses the same basic principles you can deploy today on your very own sales page. (Or hire me to do it for you.)

If you’d like more deep marketing and sales insights like this article, plus the exact steps I used to 4x my business in one year (controlling for list growth), you’ll want to subscribe to my mailing list

See you next time.

A Simple Framework to Waste as Little as Possible on Advertising

I was at Retro Fitness yesterday when a public address announcement interrupted the Justin Timberlake. (Don’t judge: it’s $20-a-month.)

“Be sure to rack your weights after your set, and be courteous to your fellow members,” it intoned.

“Also, be sure and stop by the smoothie bar.”

“There is was,” I thought: “the upsell.”

It reminded me briefly of a conversation I’d had with a client the previous week: “I want to get you the zero-to-one win.”

“Zero-to-one” is a concept I use to make sure I’m not spending resources fixing something that’s already working adequately. All-else-being-equal, it’s easier to be sure of return-on-investment when you’re building a cashflow where none existed than when you’re replacing something already earning with something else.

“Retro’s doing it half-right,” I thought. “They’re using a zero-to-one…But they’re also getting it half wrong: in all likelihood they have no idea whether this is profitable.” 


I thought of John Wanamaker, originator of the saying “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is I don’t know which half”. Actually, to be perfectly accurate, I thought of the saying, then googled its originator shortly before publishing this article. I’m crafty like that.

Why you should care about ROI

There’s a heuristic I’m fond of using to tease out the lowest-hanging-fruit marketing solutions: If you had only 30 days to double your business, what would you focus on?


Traffic? You’ve only got 30 days, and if it’s not a proven paid-traffic campaign, it’s either a Hail-Mary (low chance of success) a long shot (read: more than 30 days), or both.

Rewriting a sales page or email sequence? That’s better, but also time consuming to implement and test, and there’s always a small chance the new version will be worse. (More likely, in real life, where marketing principles do work, and copywriters can make educated guesses, the new version will account for a smaller amplitude change than you hoped.)

Raising your prices? Warmer-still, but the possibility that your sales will go down still exists, however minute.

So how are you supposed to know what to fix first, especially if you’ve got a complicated funnel and/or multiple products?



Two Questions to make the best use of your marketing dollars

I’ve written at-length in other places about using benchmarks to assess the best places to intervene, but there’s an even-simpler framework: a matrix based on two simple questions…

  1. Is this a Zero-to-One?
  2. How legible is the return-on-investment? (i.e. How sure can we be that it worked/didn’t work)

To illustrate, let’s map the entire thing on a two-dimensional axis:


On the “y” axis is the binary: “Is this a zero to one”?

Is this replacing an existing cashflow, or is it creating one from scratch?

Examples of non-zero-to-one interventions include…

Rewriting a sales page, email sequence, or landing page that’s already converting.

Changing the price of a product-or-service that’s already selling at the old price.

Introducing anything new or different to an existing funnel before visitors enter their payment information.

What do all of the above examples have in common? They need to be split tested.

You need to split test a new sales page to know if it’s making things better-or-worse.

You need to compare the baseline click rates or list-to-sale rates of an email sequence to the rate after you make revisions to make sure those revisions moved the needle.

But there’s another category of interventions that require no split-tests, because they’re not replacing or improving incrementally on something that was already there.

Examples of zero-to-one interventions include…

An upsell  in an existing funnel after customers enter payment details and authorize the purchase.


A email sequence after a purchase – when there was none before – that upsells or cross-sells different offers to existing customers.

And the holy grail: an email funnel from scratch, for a high-traffic site that’s already converting cold traffic.

Instead of a split-test or consecutive-test, the above examples require only one simple question: “is it more than zero?”

On the “x” axis is a continuum: “how accurately can we test the return-on-investment?”

At the far right end are high-legibility-ROI things like search engine marketing or facebook ads, for which tools to track acquisition cost and conversion rate are built-in.


At the far left end are low-legibility-ROI things like  billboards, print ads, or TV commercials not using a special promo code or dedicated 800 number. Think super bowl ads. Pepsi’s not giving you a discount code they only show during the Super Bowl because attribution tracking isn’t the highest priority.


Toward the center of the ROI-legibility axis would be measures like radio, podcast, and TV spots with dedicated landing pages, 800 numbers, or coupon codes: they’re still sloppy because people can find them from other sources than those the advertiser paid for directly, and not all customers who see the ad will even convert to customers immediately (some may need 6 more touch points over 3 more months, even though the ad was the first), much less remember to use the special code or URL. Still, it’s not a total crapshoot like, say, the Old Spice ads.

Why is attribution important? (Put another way “if attribution matters, why does Budweiser spend millions on broadcast advertising every year?”)


First, because for anyone other than a multimillion dollar corporation with a dedicated advertising department, ad dollars are likely precious, especially in the scenario of our 30-day experiment, in which we’d need to know what was working so we could double down on it.

Second, according to thinkers like Seth Godin, broadcast advertising is overvalued, and, hence, doesn’t have to justify its existence/expense by the same parameters that direct response marketing does.

Plotting real life examples on the matrix


Now let’s look at some examples of real-life advertising, and where they fall on the two-dimensional scale…

In quadrant two (top left) – zero-to-one, low-ROI-legibility – we’d find things like creating a brand-new mass-market ad campaign where none existed before. You’d know with reasonable certainty you weren’t cannibalizing existing cashflows, and an uptick in sales would give you strong indications of success, but you’d never be able to prove causation 100%. (It could be a coincidence, etc.) Retro’s smoothie-upsell would into quadrant 2.

In quadrant 4 (bottom-right) are high-ROI-legibility, non-zero-to-one activities, like the aforementioned sales page rewrites, or changing the location or color of a “buy now” button. There’s no guarantee it won’t make things worse, but at least you’ll know with a high degree of certainty whether it worked or not. There’s money to be made here – especially for companies that split test constantly, like Amazon and Facebook – but it’s not the 2x-in-one-month win I like to look for.

Quadrant 3 (bottom left) is the worst-of-both-worlds: low-ROI-legibility, non-zero-to-one, like replacing an existing broadcast advertising campaign with another or, worse, changing a funnel element like a sales page without a “control” like a split test. If it goes wrong, you’ll never know for sure what-was-to-blame, or why.


How to use it in real life

We want to look for wins in quadrant one: high-ROI-legibility, zero-to-one, and my two favorites are adding an appropriate/congruent upsell to an existing funnel after a purchase, and adding email marketing where there was none.

Raising prices has the potential to double your business overnight, and you’ll know with high certainty whether it’s causal, but it could also hurt sales if you unwittingly cross a “price cliff” (say, between $199 and $201). Instead, why not offer a higher-priced version to customers after they’ve entered their payment details? Because they’ve already authorized the purchase, there’s no danger you’ll cannibalize the initial sale, so anything extra you earn is truly extra.

Rewriting email funnels can increase conversions dramatically, and if you’re tracking it correctly you’ll know what made the difference, but it also has the potential to make them worse. Why not add an email funnel where none existed?


For businesses with existing email lists, this could mean an upsell or cross-sell funnel after a purchase of an existing product, or something like a re-engagement sequence to entice low-engagement (read: nothing to lose) subscribers back to your site.

For businesses with no email lists, it’s dead simple: build an email list! (I’m jealous of you guys 😉


So, need to double your business in 30 days? Make a list of all the potential revenue-generating activities you could do. Gabriel Weinberg’s book Traction is a great resource on the traffic/volume side, and Perry Marshall’s 3-pointed star (more traffic, more conversions, higher prices) is a great framework to apply to multiple points in your funnel.

Once you’ve made the list, try using the zero-to-one/ROI legibility matrix to group potential solutions into quadrants. Got anything in quadrant 1? Figure out which has the highest expected value (likelihood of success multiplied by what you’d earn if it succeeded), and hit it.

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