B-to-B Insights: Don’t Be a Fool

Avoid the worst marketing mistake in the world

Recently, I sent an email to my online subscribers driving them to a video selling an information product produced by Mary Ellen, one of my joint venture partners.

In return, I received an email from a subscriber—who shall be known as MH—taking me to school not for recommending the product, but for sending him to this particular video sales letter.

“The video style is outdated,” began his lecture on what works in online video. “It’s too long and boring,” he stated. (The run time of the video is about 30 minutes.) “We’re at a point in marketing, thanks to YouTube and Facebook, where we are competing for attention. This video didn’t grab my attention, but bored me.”

Nowhere, you will notice, does MH say “in my opinion.” So we have to assume he believes what he is stating is irrefutable fact, and not merely what he thinks is the case.

Then my lesson began in earnest: “We’re looking to get three things answered within three seconds. Yes, three seconds, Bob. In those few seconds, you must answer three questions: What is it, who’s it about, and what do I get?”

“Really?” I thought. “Not, ‘What are the benefits?’ or ‘Why should I buy and read it?'”

Teacher MH continued to lecture me as one would talk to a marketing newbie, even though I probably have been in marketing since he was in diapers.

“The reader MUST be put into an instant spotlight,” he explained. “If this isn’t clear, the prospect will bounce or start opening other sites and tabs on their computers. People are being trained involuntarily how to scan for the quick three answers above. Don’t forget over 60 percent of these emails are opened on mobile phones also and rising this year.

“Mary Ellen completely failed to answer ‘What do I get.’ I need screenshots of the software, system, etc. I feel like I can do what she is doing without the program. Probably NOT, but where is the proof?”

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  • Guest

    Wow…I am astounded at the arrogance of this guy. Instead of asking this potential customer what might motivate him to buy the product, he just dismisses him and calls him an ignorant fool. With his "I’ve been around for 30 years and I know it all" attitude, he thinks he has nothing to learn from anyone else. Yes, research is important and if evidence shows that something works, by all means do it — but that doesn’t mean it’s going to work for everybody. If someone says to you, "This particular form of marketing doesn’t work for me," why isn’t that valid? Why wouldn’t you say, "Well, what can I tell you that would help you to consider buying this?" instead of saying, "You’re wrong and I’m right?" Do you prefer to be "right" than to listen to your customer? I happen to be one of those people he denigrates; I won’t watch a 30-minute video telling me why I should buy something. I don’t have the time or the desire to sit through it. I’d like to see the studies that say longer videos are always better. Younger people in particular have short attention spans, and everyone is pressed for time. By responding to his subscribers in an obnoxious manner rather than trying to engage them, Mr. Bly has no doubt alienated them for good. I expect he’ll insult me in the same manner.

  • GHG

    Great article….thank you. Every firm I support wants everything shorter, shorter shorter…. complex services and value propositions distilled down to

  • LEH

    Well, this is my experience (I’m in Mar/Comm). Honestly, I am sick of videos that merely "talk" – more and more these days talking videos are taking the place of reading. And then they have the nerve to talk for 30 minutes before they get to the gist of why they’re really making the video. They even hide the length of the video so that you’re trapped thinking surely the next slide will get to the point… inevitably, the build up is so drastic, and the information so lacking….using this bait… and then you find out they abused your time.

    Yes, a video properly done and using it as the right media to convey your message needs to be measured against "everyone needs a video even if it’s the worst method to convey that information". C’mon, most of us can still read (if we’re interested), but to dumb it down with a video that has no visual content – what’s going on?

    Also, I clicked on a link that was a news article; and, when you’re in a place where you don’t want audio, it was the only way to get the information. That is annoying to the point that I am no longer interested in the information. Videos are overdone and I believe most are doing it to score SEO points. If a video doesn’t show something, describe something, provide instructions – why have a video? I dont’ need anyone reading to me.

  • Guest

    This article is absolutely ridiculous to read and discredits this entire site for even publishing it and sending it out in an email blast as the main topic. This writer may have been in the business and around for 30 years but it is just that attitude and arrogance that gets you in to trouble in the marketing industry. Marketing, more importantly digital marketing, changes almost every day let alone what has been researched and shown for 30 years. I am not a "newbie" marketer but I certainly understand that no one is going to watch a 30 minute sales video. We are in an era of instant gratification and if companies/marketers do not see that, then that is the biggest mistake they will continue to make.

  • Heather Sloan

    I don’t like long videos either, but I do wholeheartedly agree with Bob’s statement that fact trumps opinion. Love the quote about the moose being "a cow designed by a committee." I know we’ve all been in that situation before!

  • Roy Furr

    Bob — loved the article! You can tell who the direct marketers are in the bunch.

    What you say is based on very recent testing — I remember when you shared the study. It’s not about length. It’s about how boring or interesting you are.

    Perhaps the folks who insist on short sales messages should spend more time making themselves interesting to their prospects (and cultivating a group of prospects interested in what they have to say), and less on simply trying to reduce the length of their communication.

    A ha! I know what sells best in this age of shortened attention spans — silence! After all, if a prospect has no patience, why even speak at all?! :)

  • Alan Steacy

    Spot on Bob, but I’m wondering if I’m an anomaly.

    Recently I watched two live online video presentations by GKIC/Dan Kennedy that were FOUR HOURS in length (selling two different products – one in which I eagerly invested). Thirty-minutes…piece of cake IF AND ONLY IF it grabs my attention, quickly confirms it’s for me, and then delivers on that promise by sliding me down the slippery slope. If not, I’m gone…but isn’t that the idea of the VSL? Not for you…thanks for stopping by….click away by all means, no harm done. Right message to the right audience…time fades as a factor (in my opinion!)

  • Maximilian Hart

    All I can say is ouch! :) Maybe I’m an anomaly too, but I happen to like the no-nonsense bluntness.

    To all critics: it doesn’t matter if you wouldn’t watch a half-hour video. What matters is if that half-hour video works. If it does… then what are you complaining about?

    Marketing isn’t about doing what you’d like to see or read. It’s about doing what works. The phrase "kill your darlings" is more true here than anywhere else. People say advertising is a blend of art and science and it is. But ultimately it comes down to pure, blunt numbers.