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This is a true story. It happened around 10 years ago…

I was living in a highly-populated area of Edinburgh. One day, I noticed a Turkish barbers had just opened. I thought to myself, “He’ll do well. He’s got a big market to himself.”

A week later, what did I see?

Another Turkish barbers opened. Literally across the street from the first guy.

I could picture it in my head: Each guy had a dream. He wanted to be his own boss, to open a shop in an untapped location with plenty of footfall, to get lots of customers and make a good living.

So he put together a business plan and took it to the bank. The bank agreed it was a sure thing, and lent him the money…

But, with two of them, they split the market and neither shop was particularly busy. They’re probably scraping by, not earning any more than they would working for someone else … but working longer hours and having debt hanging over them.

Not fun.

OK, so what’s the point?

Whatever idea you have for a business, someone else is going to have the same idea.

They might, like the barbers, have the idea independently. Or they might just see what you’re doing and want a piece of the action.

And this is particularly true online.

So how do you make it hard for them? How do you build a moat around your business so any attempt to seize your territory is likely to lead to failure?

One way is to build what I call “unique assets.”

These could include…

Online reviews and testimonials – these will give you credibility no new competitor can have.

Split-test the hell out of your Adwords ads – The higher your clickrate, the higher your quality score and the cheaper your clicks. Any new competitor would have to massively outbid you to have their ads appear before yours. Which means they’re burning through money…

Split-test the hell out of your web pages – The higher your conversion rate, the more you can spend to get a website visitor. A new site, which hasn’t had the benefit of testing, is likely to have a lower conversion rate. Which means they have a much lower breakeven cost per click.

Free content like reports, white papers, videos, podcasts – all of these can be used to drive traffic. Take time to build.

Media appearances – again, another credibility factor.

Customer and remarketing lists – People who already have a relationship with you. Nurture those relationships and continue to serve and sell to them.

Strategic partnerships and affiliates – people who will recommend your products and services. Again, take time to build.

These are just 7 things you can do to make life harder for your competitors. There are many others.

Start building them now. Believe me, one day, you’ll be glad you did.

Best wishes,

Steve Gibson

You probably heard about last month’s ransomware attack on the NHS. And there was another attack across Europe this week.

I don’t know about you, but this stuff scares the crap out of me.

(Can’t the intelligence services figure out who these people are and send the SAS to visit them? It’s what they deserve.)

Anyway… that got me thinking and I realised that, compared to most website owners, I know a lot about site security. (Much of this was learned the hard way.)

So, to help you protect your sites, here are some tips for WordPress security:

#1: Don’t use Admin

When I set up a new WP site, I create a new user with admin privileges. Then I delete the user called “Admin.”

[click to continue…]

This month, they were filming the next Avengers movie here in Edinburgh.

I’ll admit, I’m not a big superhero fan. The heroes tend to be pretty one-dimensional, and I’ve never understood the villains.

Why do they feel the need to kill people?

Why don’t they just use their abilities to make a load of money?

Take Magneto – the X-men nemesis – why doesn’t he go to Vegas and use his powers to control the roulette ball?

“Black 26. You win again, Mr Magneto!”

(Man, I’m going to get some hate mail for this…)

But, no, instead of getting rich on easy pickings, these villains have another idea: [click to continue…]

You probably saw the story about United Airlines staff dragging a bloodied passenger off a flight.

And, of course, this being 2017, other passengers filmed it on their phones and posted it online. It’s a PR disaster. And, since the story broke, United’s stock market value has dropped $255,000,000.

Of course, now their spin machine has kicked in, and they’ve issued multiple apologies. One of these apologies even talked about how [click to continue…]

In 1923, Claude Hopkins, the father of modern direct advertising, wrote:

“Advertising, once a gamble, has thus become, under able direction, one of the safest business ventures. Certainly no other enterprise with comparable possibilities need involve so little risk.”

Here we are, almost a century later, what do we see? Most ad campaigns fail, and marketing disasters are still commonplace.

So, was Hopkins wrong?

I don’t think so. I believe that most marketing disasters are avoidable – as long as you follow some simple rules.

Here are 7 of those rules:

Rule #1: Play with house money

When I started out as a marketing consultant, I took a unique approach: [click to continue…]

The left-wing media delights in telling us that Donald Trump speaks at a fourth grade (10 year old) level. They see this as evidence that many of his supporters are stupid and poorly-educated.

But the truth is, it’s the journalists that are dumb.

For three reasons …

First, 90% of Americans read at a grade seven level or lower. That’s a lot of votes. (And a lot of people who are below Hillary Clinton’s eighth grade speaking level.)

Second, direct marketers know that high reading levels (above grade 8) reduce response. And that’s true even when writing to highly-educated professionals.

That’s because [click to continue…]

Looking at Betfair right now, the odds for Brexit are 3.2 – which represents a 31% chance of victory.

I’m going to suggest the real odds are under 10%.

And, to back that up, I’m going point out lessons from the Scottish independence referendum, and show how the Vote Leave campaign is repeating many of the same mistakes.

The Obligatory Disclaimer

As much as I’m trying to be objective, I’m sure my own preferences will come through. So, I might as well lay them on the table and say I voted for Scottish independence and will probably vote to leave the EU.

With that out of the way, let’s look back at the independence referendum…

Recapping the Scottish referendum

8 months before the referendum (January 2014), polls showed a 22% lead for the No campaign (61% – 39%).  It should have been over.

But, by September, the gap was so small, David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg rushed to Edinburgh with a rashly cobbled-together bag of promises to bribe Scotland to stay in the Union.

So let’s look at what caused that swing towards independence, why it ultimately failed, and the lessons for the EU campaigns.

The No campaign’s mistakes

The biggest problem the No campaign had was [click to continue…]

The American comedian, Bill Burr, tells the story of a New York comedy club that…

“For some reason, they moved the stage out away from the wall… and they had this little small club… and they moved it away from the wall, so the waitresses could walk behind the stage.

“They took out like five or six tables, and all the other comedy clubs were laughing.

“And they figured out how money they screwed themselves out of over the course of a year… you know, doing show, two three shows a night times six or seven days… like they were screwing themselves out of three quarters of a million dollars a year. So they ended up having to move the wall back…”

OK, so what’s this got to do with marketing? Two things: [click to continue…]

People in all walks of life – from professional persuaders to pick up artists – are using his techniques to influence & manipulate


Imagine you could – without any coercion – make a complete stranger beg you to take his money.

Or have a Playboy centrefold give you her phone number within minutes of meeting you… even though she’s a 10 and you’re only a 5.

Welcome to the new science of modern persuasion.

And the father of this science is Dr Robert Cialdini, Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University.

His book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, has sold over 3 million copies, is a New York Times Bestseller, and has been translated into twenty-seven different languages.

He’s been mentioned in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Harvard Business Review, Scientific American, Financial Times, and the BBC, to name just a few.

And Dr Cialdini is in great demand as a consultant. His clients are a who’s who of international business… Google, Microsoft, Coca Cola, KPMG, Merrill Lynch, Nationwide Insurance, IBM, GlaxoSmithKline… He’s advised governments around the world, and helped President Obama get elected.

So how did Dr Cialdini become the world’s leading expert on influence and persuasion?

A Lifelong Pushover and Patsy

All his life, Dr Cialdini had been a pushover and patsy. Until one day, he asked himself: “What is it about the way that request was presented to me that made me say yes to something I didn’t want?”

To find the answer, he infiltrated sales organisations, ad agencies, PR firms, fundraising organisations… he even hung out with conmen…

And he discovered something interesting… everything they were doing could be boiled down to just 6 principles…

The 6 Master Keys of Influence

These 6 principles are… [click to continue…]

Dear Fellow Copywriter,

When Gary Bencivenga retired a few years ago, he was widely regarded as the world’s greatest living copywriter.

Here are just a few things people said about him…

Best copywriter we’ve ever used. He’s given us more winners, more consistently, than anyone else.” — Phillips Publishing

“His name is the stuff of legend around here….Against other top creative talent, he has never lost a split-run test in selling any of our books.” —Rodale Press

Possibly the most respected copywriter in the direct marketing business.” —Who’s Mailing What

World’s greatest copywriter.” —KCI Communications

You can just about count the creative geniuses who revolutionized direct mail on the fingers of two hands….(They include) Gary Bencivenga.” – Target Marketing

America’s best copywriter” – Brian Kurtz, Boardroom Inc

But, unlike many other top copywriters, Gary [click to continue…]