Thomas Edison said “We don’t know a millionth of one percent about anything.”
I am the first to admit there are many things in modern marketing that I know I should do. I know how to do them, too. And I do them. But I don’t always understand why they work.
This new idea of transparency is one of them.
Transparency is the notion that your readers don’t just want content about your area of expertise, although they do want it.
They also want personal stories about you and your life, and for you to reveal your personality, beliefs, and philosophy of life to them.
That is why I do not restrict this e-newsletter to pure marketing advice, but also present my ideas on a variety of topics related to success in both business and your personal life.
(In a few months, a collection of the best of these essays will be published as a paperback book by Morgan James.)
From the correspondence I receive from my subscribers, many of you approve of and like this kind of essay.
My primary copywriting mentor, the late Sig Rosenblum, would have scolded me for my transparency. Sig said, “The reader doesn’t care about you. He cares about his needs, wants, fears, and desires.”
Sig was right in the 1980s when I first connected with him, but his advice seems to no longer apply today; readers apparently do care about you.
But I am not sure why: I lead a pretty dull and ordinary life.
I am not a karate master like Dr. Andrew Linick or an amateur Brazilian jiu jitsu fighter like Mark Ford. I don’t collect fine cigars like Ken Roberts or own exotic cars like Joe Vitale.
I am not adventurous. I don’t go on expeditions to Peru like Dr. Al Sears, or bungee jump and skydive like Fran Capo. I don’t even like to travel, although I will do so to give a seminar. I much prefer to stay at home writing, reading, and spending time with my family.
If I had to guess why transparency works, it’s that human beings love stories, and in transparency, writers tell a lot of personal stories. So transparency captures the reader’s interest.
On social media, I may tell just the story, and that can generate many comments.
In my e-newsletter issues, which are lengthier, I usually incorporate a lesson—often about business or human behavior—into transparency stories.
Writers have been integrating lessons into stories since before Aesop, so it’s a well-established writing technique.
A few closing facts about the way I practice transparency:
1) I am not embarrassed about anything. I hold almost nothing back. The exception is when the story would violate someone’s privacy.
2) I always tell the truth. I don’t exaggerate. If I say a mailing generated a 3% response rate, it did. As Christopher Reeve tells Lois in the first Superman movie, “I never lie.”
3) I don’t make an effort to make myself look good. The truth I tell is unvarnished.
These things you can take as the gospel truth.
Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.