Drink First, Kiss Later


Imagine you’re a guy in a bar, and you see an amazingly attractive woman.

You go up to her, you tell her your name, and you instantly lean in to plant a big smacker on her lips.

Nobody in the world would take that approach, right?

If you were to try, you’d be more likely to receive a slap in the face than a kiss.

No surprises.

Except, thousands upon thousands of businesses do exactly the same thing with their customers.

Read moreDrink First, Kiss Later

Falling Down, Getting Up, and Why You’ll Never EVER Manage to Embarrass Yourself As Much As I Did

Last year I spent a few months playing in a band. My job was to sing and to play the bass.

Now, I’m not a musician by any stretch of the imagination, but I can carry a tune when I sing, and I have a steady rhythm on the bass.

After a few weeks of rehearsal, we had a few songs under our belt and we decided to give the trio a test drive.

We went to a jamsession, which is simply a stage where random musicians can go up and do their best.

Usually, a lot of fun. You end up playing with people you’ve never met, and quite often it turns into an enjoyable show for the musicians and the audience alike.

Obviously, I was nervous. I had not been on a stage for 15 years or more.

But fear is no use until you confront it, so I went up to the stage and slung a bass around my neck.

Duncan, our guitar player, was already on the stage. But just as I got ready to start our first song, he decided to take a break and a beer.

He put down his guitar and left the scene.

I suddenly found myself on stage, grossly inexperienced and largely untrained, with a bunch of total strangers.

Not too bad – I mean most songs are pretty simple. Three to four chords, a steady rhythm – I would sweat a bit but I thought I could handle it.

And then they said: “Let’s play some Bob Marley!”

My heart sank.

I do like me some reggae, but I’ve never played it, not on guitar nor on bass. And reggae is tricky, it has these intricate punctuated rhythms that you have to get just right.

Which I didn’t.

In fact, I think during the entire song I played probably three notes right. For the rest, I was hopelessly and ridiculously inept. I broke the entire song, all by myself.

It was a thoroughly embarrassing experience.

Obviously, Duncan had done this intentionally: he’s a pro player with over 35 years of stage experience and he wanted to see how well I hold out on a stage.

In at the deep end.

Ridiculously embarrassing. Still makes me shudder when I think of it.

Normally, you’d expect that after the experience I would be too embarrassed to get back on stage.

But as I said: Fear is only useful if you confront it.

So when Duncan came up to me a while later and said we should do one of our own songs, I took a massively deep breath and went back on stage.

This time, I knew the song by heart, and I played and sang it acceptably well. Actually, I sang rather well that night, probably quite to the surprise of the audience, who had seen me fail miserably just half an hour early.

In business, you’ll get the same thing happen to you. Maybe your guest post gets no retweets and no comments, or maybe your product launch bombs dramatically.

Perhaps you write a kickass sales page that no one buys from (in which case you’d do well to have me provide a custom critique report for you – details here: http://martinstellar.com/convert-your-site-into-a-conversion-machine/.  (Sorry, I no longer offer this service)

Maybe you get interviewed and spend 20 minutes rambling like an idiot.

Sure has happened to me, all of those.

What matters is the awareness that such experiences are part of life, the good and the bad ones.

In fact, we need things like these to happen to us.

It makes us stronger, it teaches us where to improve. Failures are a part of life, they are not bad.

A failure is only bad if you let it paralyze you. That guy who fell of his horse? He’ll get back on instantly, or he knows he might never ride again.

Whatever experience you have, no matter how badly it hurts or how much it makes you blush: get back in the saddle, carry on, try again, improve, and never ever back down.

You fell on your face, you got slammed, you lost money or reputation?

You just got that much stronger, wiser, and resilient because of it.

Don't Be a Free Money Idiot

Some clients are absolutely golden, but sometimes you run into people who just don’t get it.

Like this guy last year, who asked me to build an automatic business for him.

Find him an affiliate product, get a website built, set up SEO and traffic strategies, create salescopy, an Adwords campaign… the works.

His idea was to pay me for all the above, and then take ownership of the business. He wanted me to build a thriving business, and then cash in on daily autopilot income.

I told him I could take care of it all, but it would cost him thousands upon thousands of dollars.

He didn’t get it. Why so much? He had been told it should take no more than $1000. (Seriously!)

Read moreDon't Be a Free Money Idiot

So Martin, Where Did You Learn Copywriting?

In a monastery.

When I tell people this, they tend to raise one or more eyebrows.

A monastery? That’s where you go to learn about sales and psychology and persuasion?

I did, yes.

For many years I was tasked with making sure things ran smoothly in the monastery.

When groceries had to be fetched; when a roof needed repairing; when dishes didn’t get done; when people were shouting in the corridors or showing up late for meditations, Martin was the guy to go take care of it.

Since we were all volunteers, you can imagine it was a pretty tough job to get compliance from people.

Read moreSo Martin, Where Did You Learn Copywriting?

How To Stop Bullshitting Yourself and Get the Work Done

Just be glad it’s not Martin Noir writing this piece…

A friend suggested I write about how to get the work done when it’s the last thing you feel like doing.

Here’s what worked for me. And it’s the only thing that ever worked for me. Or for anyone else in the world, I imagine.


“Give yourself no lip. Do the work.”

See, we humans excel at bullshitting ourselves. We can make an excuse for anything, given half a chance.

If you’re on a mission, if you have a goal, or if you simply have to pay the bills or deliver to a customer:

Read moreHow To Stop Bullshitting Yourself and Get the Work Done

How to Not Piss Off Your Customers – And Outsmart the Big Boys

Companies often have systems and policies in place that drive customers up the freaking wall.

For example, your bank will allow you to download only three months of bank statements. Why? What good reason is there?

If I send an email to my bank to request they add a feature like ‘Download Last 12 Months’ Statements’, I doubt it will have an effect.

Being smaller than the big boys may seem like a disadvantage, but I think we should apply some Martial Arts thinking: Your weakness can also be your strength.

You’re smaller than Amazon? Then don’t worry about them. Worry about your customers.

Read moreHow to Not Piss Off Your Customers – And Outsmart the Big Boys

Want a Rocking Business? Try Some Surprise & Delight

It was a cold, dark, rainy night in 1997. Colin Beveridge and a friend were trying to hitchhike their way to Paris, and it wasn’t working out very well. Soaked and cold to the bone, they had little hope to flag a ride.

Suddenly, an icecream van drove up and pulled over. The driver had finished work and was on his way home. And hey, why would you not stop to pick up a hitchhiker?

That event made Colin into a loyal fan of the brand. I don’t know if it’s because Ben & Jerry’s tell their employees to just be really cool people, or if the driver acted on a whim, taking a risk – but it’s not relevant.

What matters is that ‘the brand’ did something that my friend Sandi Amorim told me about last week.

Read moreWant a Rocking Business? Try Some Surprise & Delight

Martin Noir Takes On a Case

Martin Noir, P.I.

Noir stared at the screen. “What the… How can people rank at position four, first page of Google, with such a completely useless site?”

He didn’t get it. The site looked basic and clean; what little content was there was quite good; but that was IT. No call to action. No way to opt in to anything.

No phone number. No picture of the owner. No email address in sight anywhere on the entire website… The thing was a disaster.

He frowned, and hollered: “Stellar! In my office, NOW.

“Look at this crud, would you? This here accountant ranks above major companies with vast marketing budgets. But there is no conversion going on, not in any way. This site is seeing more bounces than a basketball at an NBA tournament.

“How do you rationalize SEO’ing the crap out of a site that doesn’t convert?”

He shot a viciously angry look at Stellar, who flinched just a little.

“I dug up their phone number, and you don’t even want to know how big of a favour I owe to the DA for that.

“Get that lady on the phone, and ask her if she wants us to fix her lead generation. Get to it Stellar, I need a nap.”

With that he sank back in his chair, put his feet on the desk and pulled his pork pie hat over his eyes.


I picked up the note with the number and dialled as I walked back to my desk. “Hello, Mrs. Lopez? It’s Martin Stellar here, do you have a minute?”

We had a very pleasant talk and she agreed fully that her site was doing nothing but waste the traffic she’s getting. In order to start small and first see results (more inbound leads), she decided to start with a Copy Optimisation Report.

I Didn’t Invent This – Every Day I See Sites Like That

You wouldn’t believe how many businesses get nearly everything right, except for one crucial detail. Sometimes the site is awesome and built for conversion, but the traffic they get comes from the wrong sources.

Sometimes traffic is high and hot, the site converts and a list is being built – but there’s no autoresponder (BIG effing mistake, that one).

In other cases, the design rocks, the conversion is built in, everything checks out, except… the actual copy is all ‘me, me, me’. (Pro tip: You don’t matter. Your customers do. Try writing your copy without using the word ‘I’)

If you’re running a business, and your website isn’t getting you more of that business, something is broken.

If you yourself can’t figure out exactly what, then for Pete’s sake, hire someone who can.

There’s no excuse for running an engine on three cylinders, especially since firing up number four often amounts to no more than smart, strategic tweaks.

I gotta go. Noir is shouting from across the hall, demanding to know what came of the call.


Who Are You to Know What’s Best for Others?

As if he’s asking: How do you know what’s best for me?

Let’s do a little thought experiment related to ethics and morality in marketing.

Yes, it’s a mouthful. But don’t worry: I don’t have the answers to this one so I won’t pontificate. Much.

The other day, my cat fell ill, and he rapidly got worse. Feline leukemia can exist in the body for years without causing illness, but once it does the cat won’t survive for very long.

At some point I had to decide: Have him put to sleep, or try to keep him alive a bit longer? If you think I’m cruel for wanting him to live on despite an illness – I’m not cruel.

There was no indication that he was suffering, none at all. He was skinny and he slept a lot, but he still washed, ate, drank… like any healthy cat, just more slowly.

In the end of course, his condition got so bad that there was no other choice, and the vet came round to… well you know.

It makes me wonder: As human beings, we can decide on behalf of animals. We can determine that the suffering has lasted long enough. We’re the ones who ‘know’ that ‘it’s cruel’, or ‘it’s inhumane’, or that ‘he should be put out of his misery’.

To me, it raises a moral question: How well do we really know what’s best for others?

This isn’t just about pets: It also relates to people, and specifically to business. More specifically: Marketing.

Read moreWho Are You to Know What’s Best for Others?

Does Humour Belong in Marketing?

People don’t buy from Clowns.

-Claude C. Hopkins

Some say no, humour does not belong in marketing. We’re supposed to inform and persuade, and we’re not meant to be funny.

Dean Rieck has an excellent piece that explains in full rational justification why humour doesn’t sell.

And yet…

This ad for a television network gets it absolutely spot on.



Because the message and the way it’s formatted (played out, rather) are absolutely, perfectly apt for the audience. People who enjoy drama, fun and entertainment on TV – well that ad gives them precisely that, doesn’t it?

I suppose it comes down to really knowing your customer. Knowing them so well that you know exactly what will and will not work for them. If it’s humour that will work for them? Then you just might want to inject some fun in your marketing.

Just be careful, because you have to get it exactly right. If it’s over the top, or if it’s ‘look how clever I am’, it can backfire.

Humour in marketing works, but not always. Proceed with caution.

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