When we sit down to write an article or create an information product, we often have a sinking feeling.
We look around and find that it's “all been done before”.
That we have nothing new to add to the conversation. Why should we keep going despite these odds? More importantly, why is our hesitation driving clients to the competition?
In 1969, when writer Mary Higgins published her first book, she was a widowed mother of five kids.
She was in her forties but woke up early at 5 a.m. to write her novels. When she died at the age of 92, she'd written over fifty best-selling books and sold more than 100 million copies.
Yet, what's the one doubt that could have stopped Mary Higgins Clark in her tracks? That would have to be the doubt we all have, which is that “everything has been done before”.
Whether you're sitting to write a training course on sales, it's been done before. If you go a little niche and call it “sales for people who hate selling”, well, that's been done before too.
At this point, it feels like we're all “late to the party”. Why would anyone be interested in what we have to say when it's all been said before? When we go to Amazon.com and look at all the books on what seems like a very similar topic, it's enough for us to reach for the sixth coffee.
Yet look around you, and you'll notice that yet another cafe has opened in your neighbourhood. That law firm that didn't exist three months ago seems to have popped up from nowhere.
Just when you thought you had enough sushi restaurants, there's yet another one. The “late to the party” concept doesn't seem to apply to many services, but it seems to haunt us when we are creating content for a course, a product or an article.
Yet there are several reasons why you should not be despondent—and let's start with the concept of the party itself.
- You're providing a hallelujah moment.
- People relate to one person over the other—even with the same topic.
- If you don't create it, it's hard to improve it.
1) You're providing a hallelujah moment.
A year ago, a barista at the cafe predicted that I'd be very good at using my new camera.
When I bought a new Leica—that's a German camera—I wasn't feeling so confident about my choice. I'm fascinated with black and white photography, and the Leica m10 monochrom seemed to be the only digital choice.
Yes, there were a lot of film cameras I could have used, but that wasn't my goal. I wanted the images to be digital and the camera to shoot in monochrome.
I wasn't ready to shoot using “manual focus.”
While some of the earliest cameras I played around with did indeed have manual focus, most of the cameras of the last twenty years have gone from automatic to being able to face recognition and even eye-focus.
Yet, this camera was going back in time, where I'd have to focus manually for every single picture. My barista, used to me taking up insane challenges, was confident that my grumble was likely to be temporary. “In a short while”, she said, “you'll be quite competent at taking pictures”.
I wasn't so sure, and I did what many of us would do at this stage.
Yes, I turned to YouTube. Despite watching dozens, possibly hundreds of videos on the simple topic of accurate focus, I was still very reluctant at nailing the shot. Then, one day—and just in passing—a YouTube presenter said something that stopped me in my tracks.
“I'm hopeless at focusing with this camera,” he said while cradling a camera just like mine.
“The way this focus is supposed to work is to put the ring on infinity and then work the positions so that you can get an accurate distance”. If the concept he was describing bounced over your head, don't worry about it too much. For me, however, it was a breathtaking moment.
Despite watching those YouTube videos, the barista's prediction that I'd figure out the focus was still a fantasy for me. Yet, in that one fraction of a second, I got a concept that was so powerful that I was rooted to the spot.
It's similar to what happened to me when I first thought of The Brain Audit.
I'd been to a networking meeting and had been listening to audio in my car. The speaker mentioned how people tend to be focused on the problem and how the brain seems to find the biggest problem.
It might have seemed obvious to everyone else, but it was a revelation to me. Right until that moment, I'd been talking about the “solution”. When I met clients and asked me what I did, I'd always give them my “solution”. It wasn't like the audio went deeper into the “problem” topic and why it mattered.
The moment was brief. He mentioned the concept and moved on, just like the guy on YouTube muttered something under his breath and moved on.
However, that singular moment made all the difference to my thinking and what I did next.
With the video guy, I decided to watch more of his videos. With the “problem” guy on the audio, I started buying his products, joined his marketing group and later became friends with the author.
What do all of these stories prove?
They prove that even though you and I may think that everything has been covered before, we've managed to provide a completely different angle. It may be a single passing comment, or it may be the way we look at things, but it's a hallelujah moment for the client.
For the first time ever, they see things entirely differently
The client's behaviour change may be because of a brief comment. Or it could be because you've worked out a system that looks at the same thing from a different angle. Take, for instance, the example of “writing a sales page”.
Almost any training course, workshop, or book will teach you to start from the very top. “The headline matters”, they will tell you. And the headline is indeed important, but we often get stuck at the start. We can't get going.
I found myself starting somewhere towards the bottom when writing sales pages.
I'd write the features, then the features and benefits, before moving up to the bullets. Notice that these three sales page elements are not usually found at the top of the page.
Yet, when working my way up, I found it easier for me and clients to write their pages. That slight insight caused us to rewrite the entire “Sales Page Course” in a way that we'd not anticipated.
It's also what draws clients to that course rather than other courses, even though there are hundreds, possibly thousands of courses on how to write a sales page.
When we sit down to create information, we think it's all been done before
We don't realise that most of us start up in business because we tend to do something—maybe a tiny ‘something'—differently. It's that something that the client finds very useful and becomes the spark that gets them to go further.
It's one moment—a hallelujah moment. And you're the one that is providing it, sometimes even without realising it. Which is the first and most important reason why you need to write or create your information.
The second reason might be that you're the client's only hope? Really? you think to yourself. How could you be the lifesaver? Let's find out.
2) People relate to one person over the other—even with the very same topic.
How early will a person die if they're chronically lonely?
According to Dr.John Cacioppo, “Chronic loneliness increases the odds of an early death by 20 per cent, “which is about the same effect as obesity, though obesity does not make you as miserable as loneliness.”
“Being alone is different from being lonely”, he said.
“In animals, it's not separating a monkey from any companion; it's separating them from a preferred companion. Being with others doesn't mean you're going to feel connected, and being alone doesn't mean you're going to feel lonely.” In other words, even when there are lots of people around, you can feel extremely cut off.
Which is approximately what a client feels in a world of information
When we sit down to create information, we think we can't add much to what's already there. Yet the way we build our information makes a massive difference. Our tone of voice, our choice of graphics, the way we summarise everything—all of these elements make a huge difference to the client.
I had this experience when I was in school.
I knew I was a good student in almost every subject except maths. It wasn't like I was terrible at it, but I had no particular fondness for it, and my scores were about 60/100. Then, I ran into a teacher called Mr.Sharma.
His version of algebra was precisely what was being taught by a teacher in the next class, but the way he went about teaching was remarkably transformational.
He challenged the class to improve their scores.
He'd give us a hundred equations to do at the end of the day, and by early next morning, we had to submit the working and the answers. At first, it seemed like a grind to work late at night on equations.
However, we were all keen to rise to the challenge. We could look at an equation and know the answer before working on the problem. Going through almost 500 equations a week, we instantly see our scores rise. In time, we'd done so many equations that many of them began to repeat themselves.
We were pretty lonely in our maths world until the teacher came along.
It's a feeling that many of us feel when we're learning a new skill. The skill could be watercolours, Photoshop, needlework or photography, but the results are the same. We never seem to move ahead.
Then along comes someone with the same syllabus and almost identical content, but how they express themselves is different. That tone of voice alone can change the way we move forward.
Clients have usually tried a lot of sources before they run into you
Most of us will buy multiple books courses and go to various teachers. Yet we never seem to move ahead and feel that we're the problem. We feel lonely despite the volume of information at our disposal. Along comes a new way, a new method, or even a new tone—and we're off learning in a way we couldn't have imagined.
It's easy to believe that everything has already been covered before.
Even if it has, it's still valuable for you to go ahead and explain it yet again. For instance, you may have read a version of this article before, yet something about the tone or the examples in this article has caused you to forge ahead. The hesitation is still present but you can feel it erode bit by bit.
Feeling lonely is a killing emotion.
The moment you find someone you can relate to, be it in life or when learning, you are a whole new person. As creators of content, we need to understand that clients are waiting to hear our tone of voice, our method of teaching, or possibly just an example that moves them ahead.
That's the second reason you need to create something, even if it's been done several times before.
3) If you don't create it, it's hard to improve it.
In 2005, we decided to do our first Article Writing Course. However, I wasn't quite ready for the course because of two thoughts running through my head.
The first thought was that there were enough books on writing.
The second one was: who would want to do a course on writing, anyway? Hence, though I put up a sales page and a price on the course, I didn't expect many clients to sign up. Imagine my surprise (and even slight horror) when the class filled up immediately.
I had no notes, no audio, not even an actual syllabus in place. What was I going to do?
Today, the Article Writing Course sells out within an hour, and the home study version helps clients who can't be on a live course. However, none of this would have happened if I'd given in to the initial doubts—or failed to put up that sales page.
The reality is that your work may not be as stellar as you'd like it to be
All of our products started the best they could. The Brain Audit was just a 20-page booklet; many of the courses were built week by week, even as we moved ahead. If we hadn't started at some point, we would not be where we are today, and the same applies to you.
When you put out information, you get feedback in two primary forms:
1- Clients agree with you and find things helpful.
2- Clients are confused with some aspects, and you have to explain things more.
Knowing what a client is finding extremely useful enables you to dig a lot deeper.
You can give more examples, add case studies, and create beneficial information for the client. There are also issues where clients are confused and need more clarification. If you never start your first product or course, you have to rely on guesswork.
However, you need to create information because a client is different from a window shopper. When clients are merely on your list, they aren't likely to hang around forever if you don't offer them an information product.
Think about it for a while. Let's say you're learning French, and you're on someone's free list. Then along comes the competition and offers a course—any course! You know the free information is valuable, but a course is a course, and a book is a book.
What would you do? You'll continue to stay on the free list, but your purchase will be with the competition.
You actively drive clients away when you hesitate to create your product or service.
Clients do NOT subscribe so that they can get stuff free forever. Even when browsing, their mentality is to buy something. If you have nothing to sell, they're not going to park their money in a mutual fund. They're either going to spend it on a holiday or buy some information that will improve their lives.
You have to create a product, even if it's done before, solely so that you can improve it over time. Just as importantly, a client that buys nothing usually leaves.
Look around you. Every book on your topic has been written before.
All the products we sell at Psychotactics are likely to be available somewhere else. We have products on presentations, sales pages, article writing, cartooning, pricing, client psychology. Notice anything new yet? Of course not, yet we've run a business for well over twenty years with a steady, generous income.
If you want to stop thinking about how everything has already been created, do so. But you do so at your peril.