During my recent trip to Rancho Santana, Nicaragua I played bocce ball with three copywriting legends.
A comment said to me while walking off the court has been on my mind since. I’m curious what you think.
My teammate was Mark Ford.
We were playing against Porter Stansberry and Mike Palmer.
Mark and I lost.
Of course, I fully blame him and his weak tossing arm for the defeat. But that’s a story for a different essay.
As we were walking off the court, Porter gave me a little playful shove and said something I’ve now been pondering for weeks.
“See that… copy beats marketing every time.”
Now, it’s important you understand:
I was in Nicaragua as the “marketing guy”. There for the Agora Publishers Roundtable. Brought-in to share the latest marketing campaign strategies working today.
Porter, on the other hand, is a stellar copywriter. And one of the best in the world at developing Big Marketing Ideas.
Copywriting and Big Marketing Ideas — not advanced marketing campaigns — are what has made Agora a billion dollar a year company.
While Agora as a whole has been late to the game on almost every marketing funnel tactic — still not having implemented most — they’ve been able to grow and grow and grow every year.
So there was so much more communicated within Porter’s comment than a simple victory taunt.
“…copy beats marketing every time.”
It got me thinking.
And… finally… one day it hit me.
Porter is absolutely correct.
A whizbang marketing funnel with all the tactical bells and whistles that presents a weak marketing idea and weak marketing argument… will never beat a simple marketing funnel that presents a Big Marketing Idea and solid marketing argument.
The real power lies not in the depth or sophistication of the funnel.
The real power lies in the idea and message (i.e. what Porter was referring to when he said “copy”).
The “perfect funnel” will never make up for a weak idea and weak message. Yet, a Big Marketing Idea and solid marketing argument can generate a tremendous volume of sales even with the most basic delivery.
I realized, not only has this played out for Agora, it’s played out for me as well.
Some of my most successful marketing campaigns of 2017 were delivered via simple video sales letters or simple essay-style web pages.
In each case, while the marketing was basic, the idea and message was spot-on.
And no matter how sophisticated my other campaigns were — with dynamic segmentation, multiple email branches, gorgeous web pages, etc. — when the ideas or messages were weak, sales were weak.
And this is where I feel most marketers have been misled.
There seems to be this unspoken belief today that the most important element behind profitable marketing is simply having a funnel — the right sequence of web pages and offers.
Go to any marketing-related Facebook group or forum and you’ll see swarms of questions, like:
What’s the best type of lead magnet to use?
Which is better a video sales letter or webinar?
Should I offer something low-priced or high-priced first?
How many upsells are best?
How many emails should I send in the follow-up?
All of these are funnel-related questions. Questions about the marketing side.
Even when marketers hear about another successful campaign, they ask these same type of questions (e.g. what was your price point, how many upsells did you have, how was the funnel set-up, etc.)
Again, funnel-related questions.
When was the last time you saw somebody inquire about the marketing idea or the marketing argument behind the success of a campaign?
Outside of our tribe, never.
Yet, none of the answers to funnel-related questions will ever ensure success… without having the idea and messaging side of the equation nailed.
Remember, the money is in the idea and message.
Don’t try to make-up for a mediocre marketing idea or marketing argument by trying to put together a “better funnel”.
Like the saying goes, “You can put lipstick and a dress on a pig, but you’ll still have a pig.”
Instead, focus the bulk of your time and attention on developing Big Marketing Ideas and conveying emotionally-compelling and intellectually-interesting marketing arguments.
With the right Big Marketing Idea and marketing argument, the funnel model and timeline becomes far less important.
That’s why great ideas and messages can be delivered in a variety of formats, via a variety of mediums, and still resonate and move people.
Don’t neglect your copy because you have good marketing. And don’t neglect your marketing because you have good copy.
Strive for both.
But, when in doubt, remember…
“…copy beats marketing every time.”
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