Ben Settle

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I recently saw an especially amusing meme that went like this:

1. A smiling boomer is posing next to his brand new lamborghini

2. The meme says:

My boss arrived at work in a brand-new lamborghini. I said, “Wow, that’s an amazing car! He replied, “If you work hard, put all your hours in, and strive for excellence, I’ll get another one next year.”

That meme is as funny as it is useful for a lot of reasons. Especially if you are in the business of influence & persuasion using email marketing.

The main reason?

It’s rooted in truth.

Everyone with a boss knows — on some level — they are working to give that boss a lifestyle.

All good jokes, just like all good marketing, is based in truth.

The best comedians have long known this.

Jokes based in nonsense or lies fall flat.

In fact, if I was trying to sell MLM, biz opp, investment info, or any kind of offer directed at blue collar workers who want to quit their jobs I’d be writing emails, ads, and other marketing using that meme all day long.

All right that’s that.

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Ben Settle

Over the last 30 days I’ve gotten two extremely good questions from two different Email Players subscribers regarding Agora Financial.

If you don’t know who Agora is, you truly live in a cave.

And that’s okay, I certainly live in one too.

But, even I come out for some air.

Either way, the following will probably be relevant to you.

But before we dig into their questions, a caveat:

I know and respect several copywriters who work at Agora (one of them partly credited me with helping him rake in $900k per year in commissions), and even more who have worked there but then moved onto their own things. Agora also once flew me in to their Baltimore office to teach about infotainment to their writers and editors. Plus, I have been told by more than a few of them that some of their offices have been known to have Email Players issues laying around to read.

So nothing I say here is meant to be “anti” Agora.

If anything, they have opened doors for me.

And, I am grateful.

So keep that context in mind.

Here goes question #:

(Not sure he wants me naming him so name withheld)

I recently heard some ex-Agora copywriters say that John Carlton and Gary Halbert-style copy doesn’t work anymore. And that to get great at copywriting today you should learn from Agora and only be breaking down their promos etc.  (I think their methodology is really focussed on The Big Idea.)

I also heard them say that bullets aren’t at all that important.

You and many other high-level copywriters teach bullets in great detail and you have your own methodology for writing copy that is different to theirs.

So my question is:

Is there such a thing as a superior copywriting methodology in your opinion? Or is purely based on how well you’ve mastered YOUR OWN game – so it doesn’t matter if you’ve adopted Halbert-style, Bencivenga-style, Agora-style or whatever. So it’s basically down to a person’s level of mastery in that copywriting lineage/school of thought.

I have no experience writing sales letters at all (just email copy) so this is something that I’ll be looking to study in-depth in the future, hopefully.

Thanks Ben 

My response to him:

1. Don’t take anything any copywriter says as gospel for your own business, especially just because they work at Agora — more on this below when I answer the second question

2. These particular ones he’s talking about probably never read Halbert or Carlton all that carefully — Halbert was talking about coming up with the “central selling idea” (i.e., the big idea) decades before these guys were probably even born. Same with Carlton. With but a cursory read of his Kick-Ass Copywriting Secrets course you can’t not walk away with being indoctrinated with his teachings on coming up with a “hook” which basically sounds like the same thing (i.e., “One-Legged Golfer”)

3. I tend to side-eye anyone saying “___ doesn’t work” — According to a lot of ex-spurts half the stuff I do doesn’t “work.” There are people who even blanket say “SEO doesn’t work!!!” or that “article marketing doesn’t work!” yet there are people still using SEO and articles extremely successfully.

4. Bullets still work, never stopped working, and will always work — When written correct everything “comes” from the bullets, including non-bullet copy or ads where there are no bullets.

All right so that was Q&A number one.

Now for the second question about Agora followed by my answer.

Another Email Players subscriber (name withheld by request) asks:

On Friday, I got hired by Agora out of apparently 100s that apply for the bootcamp I got flown out for & just attended. Me & only 2 other people. Moving to London now to learn from the best and achieve my goal. It hasn’t even been a year since I got started. Thanks for the personal advice and inspiration you’ve given me when I really needed it (like when you told me about when you were just starting out). How do I improve now? If you were training me, what would you have me do? No matter how much work it is

Couple things that spring to mind:

1. “The answer is always found in the market” — whenever you get stuck or stressed for an idea, etc, including when they tell you to whip up a “big idea” that advice can save your hocks.

2. Realize you are going to become part of a very big machine — that does things a very specific way, possibly even some things that contradict the very things and skills you’ve learned that got you there in the first place. An example of this was a much publicized (by the man himself) Gary Halbert sales letter written for Agora many years ago. He very carefully wrote a sales letter selling a financial offer, using a grabber, and the ad is a fascinating read.

But I was told by a copywriter there the ad totally bombed.

Why?

Probably because Agora has a specific kind of list, that responds to a specific kind of formula.

And it’s not that Gary’s ad sucked.

It was great.

And I have personally learned much from studying it. In fact, I even quote a paragraph from it inside the upcoming July Email Players issue as an example, to illustrate one of the ways you can sell that is more valuable than “giving value.”

But bombed the letter did according to the copywriter I talked to.

And it’s like a great movie director being hired to direct a Marvel movie.

Marvel is very formulaic with a methodology that works to a specific market.

But if that director strays from the formula and does their own thing, it would be much different, and probably wouldn’t work all that great to those expecting a “Marvel” movie. Imagine if Christopher Nolan directed a Marvel movie. It’d probably completely bomb due to it not being the same tone, style, and formula Marvel movie fans have come to respond to. Or he’d be fired before it got out of development as soon as Marvel realized he wasn’t going to go along with their formula. Thus, he’d have to go along with the machine or depart from the project.

You may or may not be faced with a similar decision some day.

That’ll do it for today.

More info on the Email Players Newsletter here:

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Ben Settle

Few years back I had a conversation with someone at a seminar and the guy was telling me about how they don’t have a free opt-in list, and the only thing you can do is buy their offer (not a cheap $7 “tripwire” offer, in their case it was a $50 or $60 self liquidating offer) then be put on a list… and asked, “Ben why haven’t you tried the same?”

My answer was long but distinguished…

And basically I broke it down like this:

1. I am a big fan of doing what they are doing and it’s probably the ideal way

2. But I don’t personally do it myself

3. I can flip a lot more free opt-ins into sales than the average bar, and the way I curate my list from the outset eliminates a bunch of the problems having a free opt-in list creates for most marketers

4. I routinely profit from the trolls, idiots, and freebie seeking bums who try to start shyt with me, and don’t necessarily want to entirely sift them out, which making them pony up their cheetos and porno money would likely do

5. The free opt-in-then-sell-a-subscription offer (not easy for the vast majority to pull off) is my game, something I play as well as if not better than anyone else I am aware of, and there is no real reason to change what’s been working for over 10 years and only keeps working better for my business over time

It always comes down to playing your game and not someone else’s.

Does that mean you should do it the way I do it?

Almost certainly not.

You gotta find your way, Chuckles.

And so it goes…

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Ben Settle

 

Why elBenbo must die

Came a question:

Hi Ben

Really enjoy reading your stuff…

Just have a stupid question. What’s elbenbo?

Okay, after searching on Google and then reading this email it’s obvious that you’re elbenbo.

But still. What does it mean? Where did it come from?

Have a nice day,

I talk at length about this in my Brand Barbarian book.

But here’s the tl;dr version:

1. Waaaay back in 1999 I was playing chess with my pal Larry.

2. We were listening to Rush Limbaugh.

3. A commercial came on where Rush called himself “elRushbo.”

4. I said something like, “your move elLarbo,” and he made his move, then countered with “your move elBenbo.”

5. A few years later (2003 or 2004) when creating a new personal email address, I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to use, remembered that day, and used “elBenbo” in the address.

6. Fast forward another several years (early 2013) and I got into an argument with my girlfriend at that time. And she said something about me having two personalities — Ben and elBenbo. Ben being the fun, kind, all around humble (…) and lovable guy. elBenbo being the prick who’d snap if she even so much as forgot to put a ripe, plump tomato on his sammich.

7. Later that same year when it came time to promote the first Ocean’s 4 Mastermind (that I co-hosted with Ryan Levesque, Andre Chaperon, and Jack Born), I wrote a tongue-in-cheek email telling the above story about that argument, and about how at the mastermind elBenbo would be more likely to come out and play instead of Ben.

8. Suddenly after that people starting replying, asking questions, etc referring to me by that name, including when I spoke at seminars or was referred to by someone somewhere else on the internet

9. And even though it was never intended as anything but a throwaway gag for an email to sell some mastermind tickets… and even though I think it’s a bit dorky, way-too-derivative of Rush Limbaugh, and not something I would have otherwise thought to do intentionally… I just went with it.

10. One day I will kill off — yes, execution style — the elBenbo persona.

11. But that is a story for another day…

More on the Email Players newsletter here:

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Ben Settle

Recently I was sent a tweet written by a guy named Richard Hanania that said:

“Amazing the extent to which modern liberalism has just completely given up on persuasion. Everything has to be truth boards, safety commissions, speech codes, judicial fiat. Complete freak out every time they don’t get their way. And screeching about “democracy” the whole time!”

I would also add:

Or they show their bewbs.

Especially French feminists.

Anytime anything happens in the world, French feminists show their bewbs.

And every time they do it reminds me of the so-called internet marketing community. Just as French feminists can only react by showing their bewbs, IM’ers can only seem to market and promote themselves and get attention by supposedly “giving value!”

Other than “Test!!11” it’s like their answer to everything is “give value!”

I’m not saying that never works or there isn’t a time to show a little something about your expertise from your paid offers, to a small extent. Especially for those with household names who have hundreds of thousands of fanboys fapping to their every offer (which is a brand-building skill in and of itself, and thus I am not mocking it here, I rather admire how a few are able to pull it off). Those boys & ghouls can move free lines, give away their best ideas, etc all day long. Although from the behind-the-scenes operations I’ve seen it ain’t always pretty.

(With 50%+ refunds, angry customers, bristling merchant accounts, small net profits, etc)

My opinion:

Giving value (i.e., giving your best ideas, tips, secrets away free in hopes people will think,, “if that’s the free stuff the paid stuff must be awesome!”) is basically the marketing equivalent of showing bewbs.

Doing so might get attention.

But not as much as you think if everyone else is showing theirs too.

And either way, it’s all fleeting and temporary at best.

With no real relationship built.

No real reason to buy given.

And, no real engagement is created because it was free and thus not valued — attracting nothing but lowly freebie seekers, dopamine fiends, and other low value subscribers and, if they buy at all, customers who need constant hand-holding and are quick to head right on back to the goo-roo casino to spend their money on the pretty lights and loud sounds.Do what you want with this info.

But that’s been my experience during my 20 years up in this business.

Also, if this analogy confuses or offends you that is okay.

That means you’re either new around here or shouldn’t be here at all.

Don’t let the opt-out link below hit you in the arse, Spanky…

All right enough IM breast milk for the soul.

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Ben Settle

True story from my health files:

Over the past 6 weeks I’ve been following a very specific eating plan & taking a very specific regiment of supplements to get rid of something detected by a blood test I had done a couple months ago.

And one of the things I was told to expect is called a:

“Herxheimer reaction”

This is when your body rapidly detoxifies.

And, the result of this rapid detoxification is experiencing flu-like symptoms and/or a flare up of whatever symptoms you are already feeling caused by whatever you are trying to get rid of.

It can be quite hair-raising.

And in some cases, for some people, extremely painful.

It also happens with Email Players, too.

Yes, my pet, there are absolutely some short term “Herx” reactions new Email Players of the Horde experience when they start following my wily ways.

Not physical reactions.

But, some unpleasant side effects (usually short term) like:

1. A surge of opt outs

2. Some more spam complaints if you never mailed a lot before

3. Investing more time getting through the learning curve while not seeing some sales right away (sometimes it can take a couple weeks or longer, depending on your list and offer game)

4. A shrinking list from the opt-outs

5. People haunting your inbox complaining about too many emails

6. Sympathy trolling from bum armchair marketers on social media

7. Jealousy from competitors/peers who know they should be doing what you’re doing but are too lazy or too chicken shyt to do so (i.e., crabs in the bucket phenomenon)

8. Insecurity if you don’t see sales right away

9. Or getting a bunch of sales right away and then seeing them suddenly taper off (due to not adding new names to your list)

And the list goes on.

All to be expected before subscribing to Email Players.

The solution to any of the above?

Focus on the process, not the pain.

In fact, I got the email below a few weeks ago from an Email Players subscriber.  And my answer is the exact advice I would give to you should you subscribe to get the same kind of email access to me with questions:

Hey Ben,

I’ve been following your advice on sending daily emails,

I have noticed that some emails make a lot of sales and some emails make 0 sales and most make a little sales.

My question to you is – how to better learn from those that did work? How do you reproduce success?

Any tips? (Besides re-reading several times what did work and what didn’t).

Thanks

My answer:

Focus on doing the work, writing every day, making yourself a little better today than you were the day before (1% better will do the trick — as your skills compound), crafting better offers, curating a higher quality list, etc.

i.e., all the things you can control.

Consistency is key.

Not every email is going to be a huge money maker.

And anyone telling you otherwise if lying through their teeth.

Copy is important. But I’d argue it ain’t nearly as important as list, offer, the strength of your relationship with your list, the status you’ve built (and are building) amongst your market, and timing. I’ve had emails that flopped the first time, reused them months later and killed it the next. Or emails that killed it the first time and flopped the next.

That’s simply how it goes.

The difference between winners and losers is and always has been:

Consistency.

Be more consistent than the other guy and you almost can’t lose.

Lazy bum copywriting fanboys don’t like hearing that.

But nobody cares what they think anyway.

All right enough of this.

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Ben Settle

Been almost 4 years since using any of the big free social media sites.

But I still remember being astounded at the number of reply guy types who behaved as if their only purpose for existing was to publicly grandstand by replying to a post or thought with some nonsense — with zero contribution to anything and just typing to hear themselves write.

But they ain’t just on social.

I get ‘em in my inbox too.

Although not nearly as often, and probably because grandstanding is their game, with attention being their scoreboard. And it’s hard to publicly grandstand via email when nobody else sees how clever and witty they believe they are, and especially since I rarely bother replying back.

Whatever the case, email reply guys come in all shapes and sizes.

Below are a few recents haunting my inbox for your reading displeasure.

First, we got Mr. Tough Guy:

“Where’s the fucking discount ?? It still says 250. Should be 150 with link but it’s not??”

Not too bright that one.

The price he was spazzing about was clearly — next to yellow highlighted text — on the sales page.

Then there’s the well-meaning-but-misguided Mr. Unsolicited Advice Guy:

Hello brother,

This email actually annoyed me…I wanted to know more about Stefania s story..what happened, why was the client such a bitch, how did Stefania resolve the issue? Did that client cunt receive any retribution, at all, for the way he behaved?

Instead, I just got a cliffhanger … aaaah… cliffhangers…the banes of everyone s existence…the shit that keeps on shitting…

Maybe next time..satisfy these questions before making the offer?

Only put the cliffhanger for the solution, brother, not the story?

Just a thought – maybe I m extremely wrong..who knows.

I m actually subscribed to your email so I can learn from a cw badass.

Thank you!

Finally…

There’s the Mr. Angry Eyebrows Guy:

You’re way too negative in your emails. 

Sincerely Unsubscribed,

For some reason he reminds me of Bert from the early (non woke horse shyt version) 1970’s Sesame Street episodes Willis likes to watch – reading whatever email he was responding to he thought was too negative with disapproving eyebrows.

Okay enough fun for my soul.

One more thing to think about:

Email reply guys still ultimately serve a useful purpose.

And that purpose is, you know you’re almost certainly doing something right when you hear from them. In fact, if you aren’t getting reply guys haunting your inbox, you probably need to ramp up your email game a few notches.

That’s all I got today.

More here:

www.EmailPlayers.com

Ben Settle

Not that that is saying much.

Not exactly a high bar to clear.

Turns out CNN+ had fewer than 10,000 people using it on a daily basis just two weeks into its existence — meaning more people read my daily musings than were watching CNN+. That means if you have more than 10,000 people in our audience (audience can be email, social media, podcast, etc and all of them combined, wherever your audience is) you are literally more successful than CNN+ was.

Actually, now that I think about it:

If you are in business at all, you are more successful than CNN+ was…

Whatever the case, let’s get down to business.

Anyway, to check out the Email Players Newsletter go here:

www.EmailPlayers.com

Ben Settle

“Rock, let’s put it this way. Now, three years ago you was supernatural. You was hard and you was nasty and you had this cast-iron jaw. But then the worst thing happened to you, that could happen to any fighter. You got civilized.”

— Mickey
Rocky III

A true story from the bad old timely days:

Somewhere in late 2002 or early 2003, I remember reading a newsletter John Carlton wrote explaining the weird phenomenon of freelance copywriters spending years being broke, near homeless, going without food, and worse… to suddenly one day waking up to realize they’ve become so successful they have money stuffed in bank accounts they forgot about. And how at that point, you might have to figure out ways to motivate yourself to get up and have the same work ethic.

I was pretty broke back in them days.

And I remember wondering how true that could be.

Today?

I realize he was spot on.

And I was reminded of this again while reading Robert Greene’s magnificent book:

“The 33 Strategies of War”

He talks about how certain very successful and powerful people have had to go to some pretty extreme lengths to get things done when they technically didn’t “have” to, by purposely forcing themselves into do-or-die situations.

Like, for example, Cortés sinking the boats.

But a more relevant one to the business man:

The story about what happened to Fyodor Dostoyevsky (author of Crime & Punishment) who was supposed to be put to death for wrong think (literal “cancel” culture back then…) Like a lot of writers, he was slow, procrastinated, would spend a whole day on three pages, etc. And while he was hooded and waiting execution he made a promise to God if he got out of this mess, he’d never waste his life or time again.

And as if God was listening… his execution was stayed at the last second.

Instead they slapped a 10 lb iron on him and put him in a forced labor camp.

He labored there for something like 5 or 6 years.

And during that time he was not allowed to write.

Except in his head.

He “wrote” and memorized entire novels and stories during that time.

When he was released, and had to do a year in the military they let him write and he wrote his arse off. When he got out of there, he became obsessed with writing. All the time. Every spare second, of every day and night. Friends would even see him walking around town reciting dialogue and plots to himself, and thought he was a bit nutty.

But he wasn’t nutty.

He was just driven — he was not going to squander his freedom.

Inevitably, all that prolific writing made him immensely successful.

So successful, he felt his passion for writing going away.

Suddenly it was easier to sleep in, take a day off, not write as much, etc.

His solution?

He put himself on what Robert Greene calls “the Death Ground.” In this case… he gambled all his money away and became destitute, which forced him to have to dive back into writing, with a fiery passion, just to eat and have a roof over his head.

It’s an extremely powerful story.

And, I can tell you, I’ve been in two such situations.

The first time happened when Email Players became successful.

I literally had that elusive 10-minute workday.

i.e., get up, write some words, done for the day, with a house paid in full, no debt, daily beach walks with my dog, lots of time golfing, wine tasting with my dad, hanging out, road trips, speaking at events all over hell and gone… no real worries or motivation but to do the bare minimum.

But then I decided to be a grown up.

And I knew my business was on very shaky ground.

(Only one real offer, one merchant account, very stupid)

So I did something very radical that was my own kind of Death Ground. And during that first Death Ground, my business almost (literally) doubled in sales, I wrote/launched/created all the copy and emails for more offers than I can remember in a short 8 or 9 month period.

Then, I got lazy again.

And so I found another Death Ground.

And in that time I did even more in sales, etc than the first time.

The point:

This Death Ground talk ain’t no fluke.

The key is to figure out what your “Death Ground” is and… what it isn’t.

I sure as hades wasn’t going to gamble anything away.

And the second time, Willis was on the way so I couldn’t do anything too nutty.

But my own Death Grounds I did find.

And it can give you an almost supernatural-like sense of motivation.

To learn more about the Email Players Newsletter go here:

www.EmailPlayers.com

Ben Settle

More on how to riiiide out the economic storm brewing on the horizon

Email Players subscriber AS (not sure he wants to be identified) asks the timely question:

Hey there Ben,

I’ve got a quick question. My sales have started to slump lately (despite having a bigger email list than ever with leads culled from a variety of sources) and apart from perhaps making offers that people just aren’t feeling at the moment – something I know I can control and fix relatively easily – I worry that with the economic situation the way it is and inflation going through the roof, people are simply becoming more cautious when it comes to buying. 

In addition to self-publishing books on Amazon, doing more podcast interviews/publicity, etc. to increase my celebrity authority status do you have any other suggestions you could make regarding using this economic uncertainty to my advantage? 

Thank you in advance, and sorry if this email ran a little long.

My reply to him:

“Triple down on what works, up your game, focus on sharpening your skills, and ride out the storm. When it’s over realize a lot of businesses you compete with probably won’t still be standing.”

To that I will add something else.

Something I heard in one of John Carlton’s “Scuttlebutt Tapes”

(Recorded back in 2002, I think)

He was talking to Gary Halbert in the interview.

And Gary talked about how he did road work (running, jogging walking) every day, and how the worse, more nasty, and harsher the weather… the more he enjoyed doing it, simply because he knew nobody else had to the stones to be out there doing it at the same time.

It’s not about obsessing over what you can’t control.

Weather, economy, government & corporate-sanctioned child abuse, etc.

It’s about doing the work.

Day in and day out.

No matter what.

Whether you want to or not, are inspired or not, or “feel” like it or not.

And then, for added motivation:

Pulling a Halbert and realizing you will be one of a very few businesses out there doing the work every day, and taking a perverse glee in it, along with a (I believe healthy) sense of superiority over all those lazy bums who can’t be bothered to show up every day, and spend more time worrying about the storm instead of riding it out and even profiting from it.

How riding it out will look will depend on you.

But, for most of us it means things like:

  • Investing in MORE (not less) education about making more sales, acquiring more business, etc
  • Investing in MORE lead gen (time and/or money if paid lead gen is your thing)
  • Adjusting your offers (switching to digital to offset rising costs in printing and mailing if you have slim profit margins, more upsells, introducing services or coaching, strategic JV’s, etc)
  • Ruthlessly cut out all “jiggle” from your life (social media, cable news, toxic people, time wasters, normies who hold you back, etc)
  • And the list goes on

A few will do this. The vast majority won’t. But if you are one of the few, that should give you comfort. And, not a little more arrogant satisfaction…

If you want to “ride out” the storm with Yours Unruly, check out Email Players.

It’s literally what I am doing, thinking, applying to my own business month after month.

Here’s the link:

www.EmailPlayers.com

Ben Settle

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