I hope you enjoyed the article yesterday about which marketing tactics I recommend you avoid, and which principles to embrace.
If you’re just joining, you can catch up on each email in this series here.
Today, I want to dive a layer deeper and share with you my top 5 personal takeaways from my experience in Billy’s marketing training in the summer of 2019.
These are some truly precious insights geared toward people who really want to make an impact with their businesses. They are the lessons I’d give myself if I could go back in a time machine to 8 years ago when I first started selling online education products.
Here we go!
1. Avoid “hard teaching”
This was one of the earliest and most eye-opening shifts for me.
Nobody likes “hard selling” – being repeatedly and relentlessly told to buy without having your questions and concerns addressed. It’s disrespectful and offensive.
But one of the biggest mistakes I see online creators make is something similar, which Billy calls “hard teaching.”
They create more and more blog posts, tutorials, ultimate guides, walkthroughs, PDF reports, live workshops, etc. and just keep stuffing them down their potential customers’ throats.
They give away more and more of their best content, hoping and praying that if they just give out enough free stuff, people will somehow magically buy their product.
But what people actually need is…your product! They need the structure and the accountability and yes, the skin-in-the-game of truly committing, not yet another 5,000-word blog post.
When you keep sending them free stuff, you actually delay the sale. Worse, you attract freebie seekers and tire kickers. Why would they buy the paid course if they can’t even keep up with the free stuff?
Now, we do believe in providing free content, but we approach it differently. Rather than stacking an encyclopedia of information upon people’s arms, our free content coaches them on making better decisions. The next principle will elaborate.
2. Identify your product’s “Chain of Beliefs”
Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t publish free content. You should. Prospective customers need to know what you have to offer and what you stand for before taking the plunge.
But which content you create makes all the difference.
Doing Billy’s “Chain of Beliefs” exercise showed me exactly which content I should create, and was worth the price of his program by itself. He learned this approach by studying the great copywriters throughout history.
Here’s how it works…
Customer insights are everything in marketing. Using the Chain of Beliefs strategy, you identify each of the beliefs that a prospect must have in order to buy your product.
If they have these beliefs, taking you up on your offer is a no-brainer. If they don’t have these beliefs, then no amount of discounts or promotions will get your prospect across the finish line.
Put yourself in the mind of your customer. What do they need to not only know, but believe in and agree to in order to trust you with their time and money?
Here are some of the beliefs we need from someone before they are ready to buy my Building a Second Brain course:
- My brain is for having ideas, not holding them.
- I am already creative and do creative work.
- My thoughts and ideas are valuable and worth saving and revisiting.
- I am already doing most of the work required.
- I can get and stay organized quickly and easily.
- If I don’t make an intentional effort to preserve my thinking, it will be lost.
Can you see that if these beliefs are missing, there’s no way they’re going to even consider a course like mine?
They could believe my course is the best thing in the world for others, but if they don’t believe that “My brain is for having ideas, not holding them,” then what I’m offering won’t make sense for them.
They can think having a Second Brain is the niftiest idea they’ve ever heard, but it will remain only a “nice to have” unless they agree that “If I don’t make an intentional effort to preserve my thinking, it will be lost.”
Also, can you see how I can now create specific pieces of content that cultivate each belief?
I can systematically obtain these agreements from a large group of people using short, easy-to-consume content, instead of drowning them in endless tutorials.
That is how you know every hour you spend creating content is worth it. How you can be certain that every piece of content they consume moves them decisively towards a purchase.
It also has the wonderful side effect of making hard selling unnecessary, because your prospects are already pre-sold.
3. Focus on building relationships via email
Now that you’ve created this belief-inducing content, what do you do with it?
Most creators will simply drop it on their blog, YouTube channel, or social media page, sit back, cross their arms, and…listen to the crickets.
It’s never been true that “If you build it, they will come.” And today, it’s less true than ever. There’s far too much confusion and noise out there to expect people to beat a path to your door.
You have to deliver your content right to their virtual doorstep. And that takes email.
Email is the only online distribution channel you can truly control. Every other one is controlled by a platform with their own priorities.
Email is cheap. You pay only for your total number of active subscribers, not per email. This gives you the chance to test new ideas and positionings in a low-risk way and then double down on what works.
Emails are personal. They go straight to people’s most private, personal channel: their inbox. The same place they receive emails from their colleagues, boss, or customers. And they are written as if to just one person, like a personal letter, even if sent to thousands.
Emails are completely opt-in. No one’s getting targeted by an algorithm or marketing campaign. They have to actually take an action that strongly signals that they want to know more. Which means you’re never cold-emailing someone trying to drum up interest.
Your email list is the single greatest asset you have, because you can take it with you. It represents not transactions, but long-term relationships with real people you’ve built up trust with.
Billy is radically email-focused, so much so that he recommends ignoring all the other channels until you’ve got email under control. It was a HUGE relief to be able to set aside the noise of social media and focus all my attention on building my greatest long-term asset, my email list.
Once you get this core email machine in place, you can bolt new channels onto it. But without a strong email game at the center of your business, it’s like trying to drive up a mountain road with a flat tire.
Billy had us create a “messaging map” which serves as the guiding light for all content we produce. Today, my team and I use this core messaging document for every piece of marketing material we create.
How would it feel to have your core persuasive messaging all in one place? Any time you wanted to create something new… an email, a Twitter thread, a webinar… you had a single document to reference. It’s like a brand manual, except instead of containing fonts & colors, it contains the words and phrases needed to inspire people to buy.
4. Use “parable-based” marketing
When I joined Billy’s training, I thought my content game was already pretty good. I had 5,000 subscribers accumulated over about 5 years. I collected email addresses on my blog and sent out an announcement whenever I had something new to share.
Little did I know that there was so much low-hanging fruit ready and waiting for me.
Billy introduced me to the idea that I needed to “sell every click.” This was a complete mindset shift for me. I always thought if I just told people what I had made, they would obviously be able to tell what it was and how it could help them, and then they’d check it out and…purchase maybe?
People are already incredibly strapped for time. They’re hurried and frazzled just trying to make ends meet. Unless YOU do the work of explaining how you can help them, they’ll just move on to the next thing.
Billy introduced me to the powerful idea of “parable-based marketing.” Instead of only emailing my subscribers when I had new content to share, or was running a promotion, I would email them consistently, every week.
And these emails wouldn’t be announcements – they’d be stories.
Think about the most successful and best-selling book of all time: the Bible. Does the Bible provide a lot of instructions and checklists to follow? No. It teaches through stories, called parables.
These parables are simple and immediately engaging, connecting the reader to universal aspects of the human experience. Each parable packages up a small insight or “aha” moment, giving the listener both entertainment and a useful life lesson.
Toward the end of each story, after you’ve delivered a little “knowledge bomb” that makes them happy to have opened it, you mention your product. You “back in” to the product from the story you’ve just told, presenting it as a natural next step for anyone who wants more.
This is how you can sell without selling, pitch without pitching. Subscribers will actually be happy to hear what you have to offer.
5. Help people cross the “Bridge of Transformation”
This is a common trap creators fall into. We have a lot of information to offer, so we think information is what people really want. But it’s not.
Beyond the content – the tips, tactics, videos, how-to’s, tutorials, frameworks, step-by-step checklists, etc. – you are offering transformation.
A transformation is a clear, unmistakable change from one state to another. You were one kind of person before, and you are a distinctly different kind of person after. It doesn’t mean all your problems are solved. It means that your identity has made a decisive shift, and there’s no going back.
Every successful educational program includes such a transformation, even if it’s a very utilitarian subject. And even if it’s not explicitly called out.
Transformation is the essence of learning. If there is no transformation, then all you’re doing is giving people a massive data dump,hoping they figure it out for themselves.
Woven through the Keystone Accelerator is this theme of spotlighting the transformation. Identifying it, talking about it, linking back all your testimonials and promises and learning objectives to it.
When you create your Five Lightbulbs Messaging Map, you’ll have your customer’s journey mapped out.
It’s tremendously helpful to know what “Bridge of Transformation” you are leading people across, because then you know what actually needs to be in your product or service (everything needed to get students across), and what you can leave out (anything that’s not absolutely necessary).
It’s also tremendously powerful to explicitly communicate that transformation to your prospects. It is the question they don’t know they need the answer to.
For myself, we identified that “having a Second Brain” was the clear before-and-after shift. Which gave me the clarity to continually ask “How do we help people determine when they’ve crossed the bridge and built their Second Brain?”
That question led to dozens of changes, and new features, and eliminated content that wasn’t truly moving people forward on that journey.
A product is a bridge from who they are now to who they want to be. How much they are willing to invest depends on how quickly, reliably, and painlessly you can help them cross that bridge.
Ask yourself: What will they be able to have, feel, do, or be after using your product? What will be possible? What will be within reach? What will their daily experience of life be like?
I hope you found these lessons valuable. They are just the very tip of the iceberg of what I gained from Billy’s training.
In my next email, I’ll give Billy Broas, the creator and lead instructor of the Keystone Accelerator, a proper introduction.
By now, you’re probably curious about who he is and where he comes from. And it’s essential to know who you’ll be learning from and how he’s come to these realizations.