AUSTIN, TEXAS (November 18, 2019) – Directive, a leading enterprise search marketing agency, launched the first database for search marketing,...
Now, Joel was asked to come on the show because he actually is responsible for helping us at Directive with our copy on the new website design that we did, and it really became apparent very quickly that this guy knows what he’s talking about.
He knows what kind of copy converts and speaks to people. He has a simple, yet really elegant, way of connecting with people on a human level that comes through, even on website copy. And it’s really interesting to hear his thoughts about how B2B leaders, how websites in general, can make their copy more engaging, more interesting, and ultimately how you can convert them into better and more qualified and quantified customers.
Blake Emal: So, this episode is effective for people listening out there whose website copy’s not exactly where you want it to be. Maybe you’re using kind of robotic language and you’re not thinking about the user experience in terms of the messaging as much.
This is going to be a beneficial use of your time to listen to this interview because Joel is the best at what he does. That’s why we hired him. He is doing masterful work out there.
Blake Emal: Also, Joel works on Case Study Buddy, building case studies for all kinds of businesses. Case studies are an effective and powerful tool to help with your sales and also just reinforce your clientele on what you’re capable of doing. So, check those things out. Without further adieu, let’s hop into the interview with Joel Klettke.
Blake Emal: Today’s guest, we have Joel Klettke on with us. Hi Joel, how are you doing?
Joel Klettke: Doing good, staying warm. That’s the important thing.
How Joel’s Career Began
Blake Emal: Joel is a copywriter extraordinaire. He is solely responsible basically for our copy on our website we just discussed, and he has been doing some masterful things with copywriting for a long time. He also has a deep background in SEO and digital marketing in general. So, we are really thrilled to have him on today and we’re going to ask him some hard-hitting questions.
Garrett Mehrguth: Yeah. And I’d like to start there Joel because I have a tough one lined up first. This comes from the heart. How did you become the best looking man in the world?
Joel Klettke: Oh, man. Aside from genetics and DNA and just God’s blessing, no … That’s a funny story. I was working at an agency, that’s where I got my start in the industry. I graduated, entrepreneurship degree, no clue about where I wanted to be, just knew the type of place I wanted to be. So, when I got the change to go to SEO, which I’d never heard about before in my life, I didn’t even know it was a thing.
I went in-house to this agency and suddenly SEO was my job. And I found in Canada things kind of lag behind in terms of understanding and people really seeing the opportunity in things or being willing to invest in it. And so, we were doing great work at the agency and I loved my time there, but one of the things that we’d come up against is getting people to see the practical value.
Joel Klettke: So, I came up with this idea. I was kind of on Go Daddy, I was looking around at domain names that were available, and I saw bestlookingmanintheworld.com was available. I thought no way, how can this be available? And so, I scooped it up and I thought here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to see if I can, I’m going to put my SEO skills to the test. It was the dream. I wanted to be the best looking man in the world, according to Google. So, I did the SEO thing and it worked. I stayed, my picture was number one for years.
Garrett Mehrguth: It’s just you and the Dos Equis guy, right?
Joel Klettke: Yeah. I mean, Google, the ultimate source of truth. They highly vetted it, there was symmetry analysis, all of that. But what it turned into, not only did it become a really cool thing and an easy way to show clients the potential, but eventually I got a TEDx talk out of it, which was pretty neat too, pretty neat kind of side opportunity. Yeah, it was just one of those quirky things, one of those knee jerk things you do in an afternoon that became for a while a big part of my story and a big part of my career.
Garrett Mehrguth: So, how did you actually turn that into a TED Talk? You buy this domain, it’s a really cool talking point of this is the power behind search, here’s why it could be valuable to you. I love this because this is something I’ve noticed in successful people. They take a moment of hilariousness, a joke, and they spin it into something that has multiplicative compounding effects for the rest of their career.
So, how were you able to take that domain and turn it into a TED Talk? Walk us through that experience.
“Never Underestimate the Power of a Single Connection”
Joel Klettke: It’s a mix of I did the thing that I did that afternoon and put the effort in and got it ranking, but it became this talking point. And so, one of the philosophies I’ve tried to carry throughout my career is to never underestimate the power of a single connection because you just never know.
All my biggest opportunities, best clients, they’ve all come out of a relationship, somewhere I’ve made a connection with someone. Usually we couldn’t do anything for each other at the time and it turned into something huge years later. You plant seeds and you never know what’s going to grow.
Joel Klettke: And so, I got asked by a friend of mine. He had a sister and she was planning this big trip. She was a social studies teacher here in Canada, taught at a girls’ school, and she was tired of the kids having nothing but bad news to share in their current events part of their class.
So, she decided she was going to do this multi-country tour to go find good news and a friend of mine asked “Hey, would you sit down with her? I know you’re into this SEO stuff, I know you did this best-looking man in the world thing. Could you give her some pointers on getting visibility on it?”
I thought, why not? So, we sat down at this stupid little Irish pub near my house, and I gave her some pointers and we became friends through that. Years later after she’d done that trip, she obviously got some media attention for it, she got to do a TEDx talk, and then when it came time to put names forward for people who might be good to do that she floated my name out there and used that example of the best looking man in the world as this kind of example of the power of the web and the power of perception, and things morphed from there.
Garrett Mehrguth: I love it, and I think the last kind of note on that Joel is you said a lot of the relationships you have earned you some of your largest clients. Now, with that in mind, I recognize that HubSpot and Deputy are two of the largest clients you ever worked with. Did those come from relationships as well?
Joel Klettke: Where that came from is Matt Barby and I had known of each other. We’d kind of floated around SEO circles previously.
Garrett Mehrguth: And for the audience guys, Matt is Director of Growth at HubSpot. Just a little background. He runs a thing called Traffic Think Tank. Sorry, Joel.
Joel Klettke: Yeah. But at the time he wasn’t the director of growth at HubSpot, he was just a consultant doing his own thing.
So, I saw the work he was doing, he saw the work I was doing, and we both appreciated the value that was coming forward. I was in SEO at the time, so like I said, we had nothing. There’s no way I could’ve helped him and at the time there wasn’t really anything he could’ve done for me, but we just got on well.
And then when he did go in-house with HubSpot, I was the name that came to mind when they needed someone to help them out with conversion stuff and when they’re going through this massive overhaul of their site. So, that’s where that came from.
Joel Klettke: Deputy, I think they’re a big client as well. That came through a referral too. I think I can tie that one back to Barby too. I think he was doing some work alongside them, some consulting with them.
So, you just never know where good people will wind up and it’s a mistake to be so short-sighted to only try to network or make friends with people you think can help you. It’s better to just go out there and make friends and be genuine and be interested and try to be interesting. For me at least that’s paid dividends in my career.
Blake Emal: So, that’s like word of mouth. You’re talking to people, you’re meeting people in real life, they later have an impact on you, but online if you were to recommend to B2B leaders the best place to go to make these meaningful connections online, where would you direct them?
Joel Klettke: That’s a good question because the landscape is shifting like crazy.
In the early days, so much of my network I can tie back to Twitter because in its heyday before it became this nauseating crazy, political landscape of outrage and everything’s horrible, it was a really good place to meet people.
These days I make a lot of great connections in smaller intentional communities. So, two places I would say B2B leaders should look is surprisingly enough, Facebook. There’s a group for everything, every niche, every specialty. Some groups are better than others, but I make great connections there.
Also, we mentioned Traffic Think Tank earlier, but if you look at what they’ve done, Nick Eubanks and Matthew Barby and Ian, they’ve built this really curated a community of people who want to be there and want to have these discussions. It’s kind of focused enough that it’s devoid of other distracting nonsense. So, Slack groups and intentional small communities I’d say are really becoming an important source of networking and communication now as well.
Garrett Mehrguth: Yeah. One of the things Joel you talk about a lot too though is how much you’re always impressed with LinkedIn from the posts. Like, instead of posting on your own blog now, you’ve mentioned there is a lot of power in LinkedIn.
Maybe speak to that too from a sense of people who might be trying to start their own thing, or maybe who are leaders in-house, or at agencies. How do you see the power of LinkedIn from an article publishing perspective? Because I know you’re pretty active on there and you do really well.
Sharing Content on LinkedIn
Joel Klettke: Yeah. That’s a really good point. People often would publish on say Medium, because Medium had the audience and you’re just leeching off of that. And I think LinkedIn, if you look at the trajectory of what they’ve done over the past few years, they’ve gone from this hated red-headed stepchild of a social network to being this incredibly active place.
It’s popular to dump on LinkedIn because yeah, there’s a lot of dumb content on there, but my approach has simply been I don’t really blog on my own site anymore. I don’t really have the time, but I’ll go fire off an update on LinkedIn and my only focus is to communicate something actionable in 3,000 characters or less, I think is their limit there.
My strategy is simply to find a core idea, a fast tip, I’ll communicate it there in its entirety. There’s no link to download, there’s no go to this link, it’s just here’s something useful in this ocean of weird videos and I got fired and then I did this and things, all these dumb stories.
Just be useful. Put something out there that someone goes “Hey, I could take that and apply it.” I’ve gotten some solid traction. I don’t have the share numbers of some of the gurus, but I get a lot of good inquiries just trying to be genuinely helpful, no holds barred, in their character limit or less.
Blake Emal: What’s the key difference between if you’re writing a post or just a comment on LinkedIn versus a Facebook group, or maybe you’re writing an article or preparing a presentation, like a speech? What’s the difference in your copywriting process for those three different things? So, social media, a blog post, or a presentation.
Joel Klettke: I mean, with LinkedIn you have to have some copy chops because you’re competing with a lot of noise. You’ve got to grab, so your first few sentences, they’re incredibly important. You’re interrupting because people aren’t necessarily looking for what you’re sharing until they become a follower. So, in LinkedIn again it’s bite-sized, it’s frequent. At my peak I was posting every day something small, something often. And then when people follow up, just always taking the time to say thanks and try to foster a relationship that way.
Joel Klettke: If you haven’t seen me give a talk at a conference or seen me give a presentation, I’m kind of known for having really dense talks. I try to compress the ocean into a raindrop. But the goal there is I want everyone in the audience, everyone who’s listening in, to be able to take something away regardless of their niche, their company size, their budget. There has to be something actionable in there for them that makes them sit up and go “Hey, I can use that.” So, my talks can be really dense.
Joel Klettke: Then when it comes to some of these communities, I think the big thing is yeah, you’re going to focus on the work and yeah, it’s similar to LinkedIn in that you want to just be genuinely helpful first and not constantly pitching. But there, I think the goal is just be real.
So, have real conversations. If the conversation deviates a bit away from shop talk that’s okay too, but focus just on getting to know the people in the group and being known.
The last thing I’ll say on this is I deliberately seek out groups where I’m the belle of the ball. What I mean by that is there may be a handful of other copywriters in all of Traffic Think Tank. And so, when I open my mouth and share something I own the floor. I’m not competing with 20 other writers all trying to pitch the same group. And I’m not even really pitching, but I stand out because I’m not, I don’t fit the mold of everybody else that’s in there.
Garrett Mehrguth: I think one of the important parts Joel is data has screwed us up so bad. It really has. And what I mean by that is as marketers, we literally decide that we’re like marketing God in that we can put value on anything and it’s only valuable if we can directly correlate it to revenue.
Like I’m only going to talk to my exact target market, and you’re like “No, no, no. You should talk to anybody and love on them, appreciate them, honor them, respect them, help them, educate them, and you’d be amazed what can happen down the road.” How do you fight? Because by the way, working with Joel, he’s freakishly intelligent and uses a ton of fricken’ data to get to his assumptions with his copy. I was very, very impressed with that in just the experience of working with Joel. But as someone who’s that data-driven, how do you simultaneously ignore the data to build relationships? What’s that process like for you?
Focus on Data, But Don’t Get Caught Up
Joel Klettke: A shift that has to happen, and I don’t know if it ever will, is recognizing that data’s just clues. Data’s not the whole story. You cannot compress everything on the planet into data, at least not in a way that we could ever hope to understand it. And I think that one of the things that being specific to copy and conversion has taught me is that there’s always room to be surprised and there’s always room for the human factor.
We want hard answers from data. We want to always know exactly what worked, why it worked and more. When it comes to my role, in particular, we can never know the why. We can ask people, we can try to get them to explain, but for some tests, we’ll just never really understand why one test went the way it did or not.
Joel Klettke: But when it comes to relationships too I think one of the things I’ve especially been learning as I get older and, especially now with a little guy, our son, is I’m starting to see again you can’t underestimate the power of relationships.
When we try to limit ourselves to data and conjecture and we want everything to be predictable, we get stuck. There’s no way I could’ve predicted that I decided to take a Thursday night to go to a bar to teach someone’s sister about SEO, that one day she would be the person that opened up TEDx to me.
There’s just this wonderful “wild card” factor of life where you can’t track potential in data, at least not data alone.
Garrett Mehrguth: You had this presentation three years ago where you presented to a bunch of six and nine-year-olds about the power of saying yes. Is that like a principle you live life by? Because I saw that whole presentation, I went through it all. I was like this is awesome. You’re teaching these kids essentially about life to a certain extent and your career doesn’t have to look like college, job, die. It could be something different.
What are you saying yes to in 2019? As that guy who started your whole career saying yes to stuff, what are you saying yes to this year? What’s your focus going to be?
Saying Yes to Saying No
Joel Klettke: You know what’s funny? Is the big thing that’s happening for me this year is saying yes to saying no. I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve said yes to so much and I’ve been so agreeable, and now I have to learn to turn things away and learn to focus.
And so, I think if I want to rephrase that a bit, this year I’m saying yes to focus and I’m saying yes to letting go of the fear. We talked earlier. You were mentioning the shift in the landscape of the lead volume and the things that are happening in your business. There’s this uncomfortableness that comes when, even when you’re closing deals and you’re getting great work, to go say from this large number of leads to this smaller number of leads, there’s some discomfort there.
And I think for me though, that’s what I’m saying yes to. I’m saying yes to being uncomfortable, I’m saying yes to ruthless focus, I’m saying yes to some shifts in my own mindset. I would put a ceiling on myself. And this year I guess I’m saying yes to being focused and yes to being uncomfortable with being focused and uncomfortable with going into new territory and places I’ve never been before.
Joel Klettke: For example, the things that are happening with Case Study, they present challenges I’ve never had to deal with before. There are mornings where I wake up and go “This is all really exciting and I want to shut it down.” But I have to remind myself that I can do this and I can navigate this. And why not me? Why can’t I be the guy who’s able to do that stuff?
Blake Emal: You’re talking about focus, but then we also know that you’re the kind of person that has a lot of different projects going on at the same time. So, how do you prioritize that? How do you know what’s really going to drive the most value, what’s working on right now as opposed to tomorrow? Because value is going to be an intrinsic thing that’s based upon your principles and your values. So, is value to your revenue? What is that value? It’s okay if it is, right? Or is it something else?
Joel Klettke: You know, it’s a tightrope because no matter how much I want to be free-spirited and just do what makes you happy and all the motivational quotes with hashtags, you have to make money.
There’s freedom that comes with your ability to generate revenue, and it’s hard to say no to. I think that’s part of what I got caught in for years, is I focused explicitly on revenue and what’s going to make me the most in the shortest time. Now, I’d be lying if I said revenue’s not part of it. I think a big part of the reason that I’m trying to take the back half of this year and focus exclusively on Case Study Buddy is that I see a huge revenue opportunity there.
Joel Klettke: But in the same breath, I think for me right now, one of the things that happens, and I’m going to say when you work by yourself or for yourself, but I think it happens to everybody if I’m honest, and you can confirm or deny, but it’s easy to get complacent. And when you’re in school you’re always learning something, you’re always being stretched. When you’re in business, unless you give yourself those opportunities to be stretched or embrace when that happens, it’s really easy to get just kind of in a boring pattern of doing the same thing all the time.
So, part of how I evaluate opportunities is where am I going to grow, and where am I going to be challenged, and where is my next helpful skill going to come from? Because I don’t want to just do the same work I was doing in 2015 today. I want to progress, I want to feel like I’m moving towards something, even if that something is just self-betterment. And so, I think that’s factoring more and more into my decisions today too.
Blake Emal: A lot of us have gone through this where we’ll start something and then we see another opportunity and we want to kind of capitalize on that. We keep seeing new opportunities come up all the time, new things we want to try. How do you know when to draw the line? How do you know when it’s not worth it to keep trying to add onto it and just stick with what you have or to abandon it altogether? I mean, you talked about it’s a fine line, but how do you know what the line is with something like that?
Joel Klettke: To be brutally honest, that’s the hard lesson I’m learning right now. I have been the guy who is like, there’s a shiny object over here, I’ll do some of that and I’ll do some of this and a little bit of everything.
So, at one point, if I was to rattle off at the end of last year all the things I thought I could be actively involved in and not want to sleep for a decade. I was working on Business Casual. I was working on launching an audit service. I was working on launching a revamp of something called the Pit. I was working on Case Study Buddy. It was just too much.
Joel Klettke: And I think that’s one of the things I’ve been historically terrible at in my career, is knowing where the line is. And so, when we talk about “what do you say yes to this year”, that’s why I say ruthless focus.
I’ve taken this big nebulous list of literally six different things I thought I had energy and focus to do, had to learn the hard lesson that no, I’m not superhuman. There’s a lot I can do, there’s a lot I can be really capable of, but I can’t be excellent at anything if I’m just okay at 9,000 different things.
Garrett Mehrguth: I think I’ve been lucky enough to not go horribly down that trail. I have one side project I do. The big thing I think, and this is also for the listeners and everyone, I think our human nature incredibly underestimates how difficult something is, not to start, but to maintain, grow or push past, and we devalue the amount of time it actually took to get where we’re at currently and think it was a hell of a lot easier than it actually was.
Joel Klettke: It’s kind of eerie. The sentence I come back to all the time is “Everything is harder than you think it will be, and that’s okay.” You start multiple tasks and then you get in them and you’re like, “This is 1,000 times harder than I thought it would be and none of my assumptions were true.”
I keep that front of mind now. Everything that sounds simple is harder than you think it’ll be, and that’s okay as long as you don’t quit when it gets hard, because it will.
Garrett Mehrguth: Yeah, don’t be shocked. I think Joe that I have another pretty hard-hitting question here. Is it hard being a Calgary Flames fan? What’s that like?
Joel Klettke: This year it’s really easy. I mean, they’re second in the league I think-
Garrett Mehrguth: Is this the year? That’s the question. Flames year?
Joel Klettke: I’ll start by saying this is the best Flames team I think I’ve watched in my lifetime. That being said, I think they’re still a year or two away. I think we’ve got a three-year window. If they make it all the way this year I’ll eat my words, but I think they’re close. I think they’re a couple moves away from being there.
Blake Emal: It’s been 30 years, so … I mean, it’s been a long time coming. We wish you all the best of luck.
Garrett Mehrguth: No jinxing here.
Blake Emal: Yeah. We don’t want to jinx you, but best of luck.
The Necessity of Quality Copy
Garrett Mehrguth: Moving forward, why do marketing teams just devalue copy? Where did this whole BS thing of people don’t read, where did this come from? It just blows my mind that copy is so devalued.
Even myself, I think I accidentally devalue it, yet I’m one of its biggest proponents, and I entirely believe in it.
Joel’s the man, but Joel’s also not the cheap guy in the space. Joel’s worth every buck. Ogilvy, copy, that was his bread and butter. That was what advertising was. It was copywriting. You got into copywriting. And then at some point we just forgot. Maybe walk the audience through what you think happened and where we’re at today and why it’s devalued when it’s such an important part.
Joel Klettke: I think there’s a lot of reasons. This is something I’ve had to think a lot about, and especially in the early days of my career I came up against it more.
I think the first reason is that on some level, whether we admit it or not, everybody thinks that they can write. And why I say “admit it or not” is everybody kind of thinks “I got a keyboard, I got two hands, I wrote an email this morning, how hard can it be?” And people will actively say, the thing that’s hilarious to me and also tragic, is people who will tell you “Oh, I’m just not a writer. Oh, I’m so glad you’re working on this because I’m just not a writer.” They’ll say that in our first meeting and then I’ll send a draft and suddenly-
Garrett Mehrguth: They’re a writer-
Joel Klettke: These people have opinions. Suddenly they’re a grand master of copy because out of nowhere it’s like “Well, I don’t like this word choice,” or “Oh, but what about this headline that I thought up?” I think on some level, even if we say out loud that we are not writers or writing is hard, some part of us still underestimates chronically how difficult it is.
Joel Klettke: Another thing, it’s popular to blame the client. A lot of freelancers, a lot of consultants get all uppity because they just don’t respect the process and blah blah blah. But copywriters have done a terrible job of educating people on what that process actually looks like.
We haven’t done a good job of showing people what goes into that headline or that landing page. Because when you treat your relationship with a customer like okay, pay X bucks get X amount of pages done, well you’re setting yourself up for a bad time because in their mind it’s like well, I paid X amount of money and the only deliverable coming out the other end is a page, or an email, or whatever.
Joel Klettke: That’s why when I go into relationships, and when I talk to clients, and when I’m vetting clients, and when they’re vetting me, I spend more time talking about how we’re going to arrive at the copy, how we’re going to get to the point that we can confidently write something.
I get the whole team involved in “Here’s what we found, here’s what we’re learning, here’s why we’re looking at this” so they can see for themselves and appreciate that it’s not about Don Drapering it and locking yourself in an office and drinking whiskey until inspiration hits-
Garrett Mehrguth: That doesn’t help?
Joel Klettke: There is creativity to this, but it’s an analytical craft too. And so yes, I think people just don’t see that because it’s not something we think about. When we call it research it sounds like nerd work done alone in a basement, not a super valuable part of a process. But copywriters themselves have to work harder to educate and to show people how we do what we do. It comes from both sides, you know what I mean?
Blake Emal: Well, for the audience I think if you can take anything away from Joel and who he is, the thing that sets him apart really is that mindset of copy isn’t just about guesswork, it’s about data also. It’s about making educated guesses. And so, I wonder as the people that are listening to this are likely B2B leaders that are wanting to improve their copy, what are the mediocre B2B companies doing in copywriting right now?
How to Improve B2B Copywriting
Joel Klettke: You know, the first thing, and it ties into what we were just talking about, so many B2B companies are so focused on design. They’ll design an entire website before they have even thought of what the message on that site’s going to be.
We’re attracted to shiny objects and pretty pictures. Even huge companies, one of the worst things you can do, and I still see happening all the time is, “Okay yeah, we got the site designed so can you just plunk the copy in?”
It’s kind of like yep, we’ve designed the covers of the book, so could you just fill in that empty space in between? It’s sort of important. People don’t think about it that way.
So, that is my biggest pet peeve. I still come up against it. I get it. B2B things don’t move quickly until they do. But if you’re not prioritizing copy early on, then you’re making a huge mistake. If you’re treating design like the bones, if you’re waiting until the thing’s designed to bring the copy into it, you’ve really dropped the ball. So, that’s really frustrating.
Joel Klettke: I think the other thing is, especially in B2B, there’s this real hesitation to do anything that doesn’t feel familiar and safe. We see all kinds of recycled copy. I can rattle off lines and I bet you can think of 10 sites you’ve seen this phrase on this week. So, let’s just do that. We take the time-
Garrett Mehrguth: Oh, this is fun-
Joel Klettke: To get to know our customers.
Garrett Mehrguth: Oh, yeah-
Joel Klettke: Every site has that-
Garrett Mehrguth: How about this one Joel? How about this one? “10 Ways to Grow Your Business Tomorrow”.
Joel Klettke: We use a proven process. We care about our customers. Companies will play it safe and be so afraid to say anything specific to speak to any one group because if we only talk to these people then we’ll lose everybody else. Or if we’re really specific then what will the other people think?
And the thing is, they wind up talking to nobody at all, and that’s common in small companies, big companies, and mid-sized companies. It’s like there’s this boilerplate we all have in our minds, and we draw lines out of and it feels comfortable, and we leave it there.
And so, the companies that are going to win are the companies that are going to take risks, and listen to their customers, and talk like their customers, and do the unexpected. Because if you only play it safe, then you’re playing it safe along with everybody else in your space.
Blake Emal: Well, let’s talk a little bit about pushing those boundaries then. Maybe some trends that you see going forward in copywriting that might be effective, something that would kind of push the boundaries as it currently stands, that might not be so familiar but that you’d be willing to try for your own site, for example.
What’s Next in B2B Copywriting
Joel Klettke: So, I can’t talk about who the client is, but one of the things that I’m trying right now with a company in the space that you would not expect (They’re in a security space, online securities, that’s what we’ll say) is we’re breaking the fourth wall.
There’s this unspoken relationship between us and a site where it’s like yeah, we’re going to say the business-y things and if you’re signing up for a demo then the headline’s going to be “request a demo”.
But what if that page said something like “Finally a demo that won’t bore you to tears,” or what if we just said the thing everybody wishes somebody would call out, like “You don’t want to talk to sales, so why not talk to this person instead,” or “Hey, US-based support because talking to somebody you can’t understand sucks,” things like that. What if you were so brazen as to just speak the unspoken thing? I’m seeing that more and more. I mean, there are people who are really good at it.
Joel Klettke: One of the people who I admire for her ability to wield humor in this way, to say the unspoken thing, is Leanna Patch. She’s a conversion copywriter. She’s kind of branded herself in the humor space. Not a one-trick pony, but I think her experience in things like improv and her experience in things like humor, there’s a boldness and an ability to utilize lifestyle commentary where she can say the thing and everyone in the audience laughs because they’ve all had that thought before but no one’s ever said it out loud.
So, I’m seeing more and more companies being willing to try that and to break convention, and to kind of surprise people with copy that is so to the point and what nobody else is saying that people will take action because they’re like yeah, these people get me. They’re saying the thing that nobody else is willing to say, but everybody’s thinking.
Garrett Mehrguth: Yeah. And I think Joel too what we found, instead of requesting a demo, we’ll pitch a demo video. So, it’s like “Watch less than five minutes, no need to schedule, only reach out if you’re qualified.”
There’s this psychological nightmare associated with hopping on bad demos. Legitimately, people hate demos. Demos suck. Usually, it’s boilerplate junk that’s not relevant to you, they don’t truly understand your pain points, you have to go 45 minutes to get to the price at the end, which is all you really wanted. It’s just so easy to say “Contact us,” or “Request demo,” and I don’t know where that came from but it’s such a consistent thing. So, it’s cool to see someone like yourself fighting it.
Garrett Mehrguth: Now, I did a little bit of research preparing for this Joel, and you said back in the day that you should save at least three months before freelancing and really going out on your own. Do you still believe that you need to have at least three months of capital saved up, or do you think it’s more or less? What’s your stance on that?
Joel Klettke: I was talking to freelancers and talking to people who are thinking about freelancing, talking to people thinking about going out on their own and starting a business. The reason I said that and where that came from is especially in copy, but I think it’s come to a lot of niches, people just pull the ripcord like I’m doing it, I’m going for it. And sometimes you don’t have a choice. If you get fired from your job or laid off or health circumstances, whatever, and you’re thrust into it you don’t have the novelty. But if you’ve got a day job and if you’ve got steady work, get excited about going out on your own and maybe start picking up projects on the side. But not having financial stability can put you on a hamster wheel that’s incredibly hard to get off. So, when you’re picking up chumpy gig work because you need to eat and if your entire profile is full of this chumpy gig work-
Garrett Mehrguth: And you can’t say no to the wrong clients. You’re just kind of stuck, right? To a certain extent.
Joel Klettke: Yeah. I mean, there’s a very real power struggle. This sounds like it’s us versus them, but it’s not really, but there is a power dynamic between you the consultant and the client. When you look at the really successful people and when you look at the freelancers who are doing really well, and when you look at the consultants who do really well or the agencies who do really well, they found a way to shift that dynamic.
They’ve avoided the employee mindset where the client’s going to come in, tell you what to do, tell you exactly how to do it, and tell you what they’re willing to pay. They shift the conversation away from that to well, here’s the level I’m on and if you want to be on this level here’s what it’s going to take and here’s how we’re going to do it. It’s a subtle difference but it makes all the difference in the world.
Joel Klettke: But it’s hard to do that when you don’t have the financial means to say no when you don’t have the financial means to be confident. And so, do yourself a favor. Have that cushion so that you have the power of no and you have the power to choose because otherwise, you’ll get in this situation where you’re forced to take stuff and that’s really hard to escape once you’re there.
Blake Emal: I noticed that you keep using the word “no” a lot. You’ve mentioned your focus is, or what you’re saying yes to this year was the focus, but also saying no. So, I want to know in terms of copywriting as it were, where does negativity fit in there? Specifically, we talked about pushing the boundaries. Is there any instance where negativity might actually be something that we can use in copywriting or sarcasm, things like that, that are unexpected that we don’t typically see in copywriting? Is there a place for that?
Be Careful With Sarcastic Copywriting
Joel Klettke: The thing I’ll say about sarcasm, international brands, you’ve got to be so, so careful. I can say this because I’m of German heritage. For example, in Germany, sarcasm doesn’t really exist there. It’s not something they know. So, if you put something up there sarcastically, often they’ll take it literally.
Joel Klettke: I think negativity, it can exist. You have to be cautious about questioning if it fits in your brand and if you are using it tactfully. For example, if you look at say, Josh Garofalo, he’s a fellow copywriter, if you look at his landing page he is very clear.
It ties back to something you were saying earlier Garrett. He’s very clear about who’s a fit and who is not. He doesn’t pull punches on who’s not a fit. He doesn’t coddle you. He’s just like either you’re in or you’re not.
Joel Klettke: And when it comes to decision time, let’s say you’re doing a launch, you’re launching a new product or you’re launching a new course, when it comes to the point of decision, being very definitive, being maybe even negative about who’s in, who’s out, who should do this, who should not do this, encouraging people can be beneficial.
Weirdly enough, there was a study done that found that when you told somebody that they were free to refuse an offer, they were more likely to take the offer. When you tell people they’ve got the option to say no when you’re definitive about this might not be for us, that’s when you can really close the deal. So, I think there’s room to be negative when it comes to you have to plant a flag.
Joel Klettke: The other place is when you’re taking a stand against something and in doing so you’re communicating value that with the right people, it’s going to hit home.
A lot of people look at what Nike did with the Kaepernick campaign as a positive thing, some people look at it as a negative. There was a lot of positive and negative feelings surrounding that.
And in SEO that might be taking a stand against the whole mentality that an agency just adds another tab to their menu on their website and now that’s a service that they offer magically and they’ve never done it before but now they’ve got a page for it. When you take a bold stance, that can be polarizing. You can do it in a positive way. It can be perceived negatively. You can take a negative angle. But you can use negativity to kind of attract people who share your negative view on a value, on a subject, on whatever it might be. But you do have to be very confident if you’re going to approach things through a negative lens. You’ve got to be real sure that ideal customers are-
Garrett Mehrguth: They’re going to react to it-
Joel Klettke: Are going to respond positively to that stand. If you’re not sure, there are times where playing it safe does actually make sense.
Garrett Mehrguth: The Copy Hackers I think do that really well. When you want to guest post for Copy Hackers, they tell you exactly what they won’t accept. Essentially scaring people away, but the right person’s like oh I got this. This is a challenge. I could write a piece of content that’s good enough for that blog. I know exactly what they want.
So, I think there is definitely a use case to appeal to your ideal customer persona by, I call it self identification. I’m no copywriting expert. I enjoy and i think it’s an art and a science. But I always believe that clarity and appealing to your ideal customer persona so when they see it they go “Oh my gosh finally, I’ve been looking for that.” I think that’s a powerful place to use your copy. Be so clear to your ideal customer persona and be so confident in your total addressable market and the size of what you’re going after and the economics of what you’re trying to accomplish with your business, with your positioning, with your product line, that’s a position of power. Do you know what I mean?
Joel Klettke: Totally. I mean, if we look at even for Directive, right? If we look at your homepage and the statement that we make there, “You deserve more,” that’s not just something creative we huddled around a boardroom table and thought “this sounds nice”.
In talking to your audience and in looking at the landscape, what we’re quietly doing there is appealing to a frustration. There are companies who know they deserve more. And now, when the right people come in and they see that message, that’s what we’re shooting for, is that finally. It calls back to what we were talking about earlier, trying to say the unspoken thing and put it out there plainly.
Joel Klettke: So, I think one thing too, and this also ties back to something we mentioned earlier, is you can’t do that unless you have a process for getting to know the customer. You can’t be effective like that if you’re not doing the research if you don’t know how to build a research campaign for copy if you’re not pressing into that.
That doesn’t just happen, but that’s what people don’t understand. Because another agency is going to look at your homepage and go oh yeah, we can do a creative line like that. Guys, let’s get together. And their homepage two weeks from now is going to say “You deserve the best.” It’s like where did that come from? Is that going to work for your audience? Is that a claim that is in the back of their mind? No, you just took something, tweaked it up because now it sounds good, it’s comfortable, and put it out there. You have no process-
Garrett Mehguth: And you came up with that too Joel, right? You watched a whole proposal here and you were like okay … I think when you saw you said, Okay, all that’s for free?” I think that’s where you were like okay, that makes sense.
For us, when we drop the ball, because we’re not perfect, it looks really bad. You can’t just say things like that and try to be the best and hold yourself to that standard, drop the ball and people are just cool. When you start saying bold things with your copy, you also have to be ready to back it up and eat the crap when you don’t, because that’s also a very real thing too, right?
Joel Klettke: Totally. Where that comes back to bite companies all the time, you would not believe how many companies I talk to and internally they have this mantra of “We’re a service brand, we really take care of our customers.” And then they go look at their reviews and none of that is reflected.
They don’t even respond to negative reviews. I mean, you can’t put messages, you can’t say “Oh, we’re going to be the Zappos of our industry.” If that’s your goal, then be the Zappos of your industry. But you can’t say you’re that and not be that. You’re going to get eaten alive.
So, you can put attractive messages out there. You can send conversions through the ceiling in the short term, but if you can’t back that up, your revenue numbers are going to look great for a bit and horrible in the months to come.
Blake Emal: I think that speaks to the importance of being genuine in your copywriting. Am I right?
Garrett Mehrguth: You’re spot on, yeah.
Blake Emal: If we just make claims about things that we never even have discussed before, it just doesn’t make sense.
Garrett Mehrguth: Yeah. There are people I always see, they’re kind of these low key snubs. I know people see our website and are like “Well, how do you come up with those stats? How do you even prove that?” We had to build our own data QC platform that looks at every one of our clients, and we can see every one of our clients’ data points in a sequence. You can actually see the numbers. You know across your whole portfolio what your average numbers are. And so, the funny part I think too is you have to be genuine because if you’re not you’re literally just somebody saying this number.
The problem is we have so many people saying numbers. For some of them, using numbers in your copy is actually starting to become, I think, less valuable. I mean, do you find that to be true Joel, where number-based copy is almost losing effect because so many people are just making it up?
Have Proof Of Your Copywriting Numbers
Joel Klettke: The challenge is that, what companies do so poorly, is justify the numbers. If you’re going to throw a big number out there, throw a big number out there. But you better have some proof for it, right? With case studies, people look for the metrics, but once they see the metrics then they want to know how. And if you can’t fill them in on the how then you’re really going to struggle to some degree.
The lizard part of our brains, it’s always going to respond. There are levers that from today until 100 years from now we’re always going to be able to pull. The way that we pull them might be different, and we’ll develop skepticisms and heuristics. There’s always going to be some new way to tap into that. So, when it comes to numbers I think numbers is one thing. I think there’s still a lot of leverage in those as long as you support them.
Joel Klettke: But one of the things that’s really getting written off fast is if you go through 10 different plumbers’ websites and they all say “Best plumber in town,” based on what? Where does that come from? We’re skeptical and we have more access to information. We can inform our own choices in different and better ways.
So again, that comes back to being genuine. Whatever you’re going to claim, whatever you’re going to write, whatever you’re going to put out there. That’s why people ask me sometimes because I’ve written lots of agency sites. All these agencies, they all do SEO, they all do PPC, whatever it might be. How do you find unique messaging for each of them? Because it’s all the same thing, same service, yadda yadda. There’s something unique though. My job is to get into the veins of the people in that company and find what separates them, find their message, find the way that they do things that no one else does them.
Joel Klettke: And if you’re just hiring a generic copywriter off the street, yeah they’re going to give you headlines like the boilerplate that you see on every other site because they’re not really taking the time to understand, to look to your audience, to get to your process. That’s why we wanted to and insisted on, we wanted to listen to how you actually pitch and propose because no one else is going to do that like you. I knew there’d be something in there we could pull out.
Garrett Mehrguth: No, I love that. I have my last question here Joel. This is actually going to be a recurring segment. I did a little research and I found your first tweet. Do you know what your first tweet was? Do you remember it, Joel?
Joel Klettke: Oh, gosh.
Garrett Mehrguth: Be prepared.
Joel Klettke: It’s probably something embarrassing.
Garrett Mehrguth: Okay, so I went back to March of 2010. I found you tweeted out a tiny URL. The tiny URL still exists by the way. It redirected to YouTube to the social media guru video. Do you remember that?
Joel Klettke: No.
Garrett Mehrguth: This is literally … Yeah, this is like nine years ago. It was this whole video about how anybody can kind of claim to be a guru. I thought it was such an enlightening thing because I feel like you take such a hard stance against claiming to know something without actually having the authority, expertise, process to back it up. And so, it was really kind of cool seeing how that tweet from your very first time is still such a part of your character to today. Do you know what I mean?
Joel Klettke: Yeah. I’m glad I didn’t tweet about my lunch. On that point though, and I do, this is something I am passionate about and I do want to talk about real quick. One of the things that I’m seeing in my own industry, but it’s not unique to my industry, but there are people who, they take [Joanna Weep’s 00:49:37] course, or mastermind or whatever. They take what they learn there and do they go apply it, do they earn their stripes, do they actually win battles in the field, do they come up against adversity, do they get client wins? No, they repackage it, add in some woo woo crap, and now they’re an expert and they sell these courses for 3,000, 4,000, 5,000.
Joel Klettke: I think the thing that really bothers me, we have such a culture right now that everyone can be an expert and you should be teaching what you know. I agree you should be teaching what you know, you should be sharing. There’s a reason I go on LinkedIn and I share things. But when I’m sharing things, it’s the stuff that I’ve actually used.
So many people want to play the role of a thought leader, they want to play the role of the guru. There’s this attractiveness to having a following and a big list, and there’s money to be made in selling knowledge. But so much knowledge is not earned now. It’s not the stuff they’ve actually used and I hear horror stories. There are people in the copywriting world, and I don’t mean to be crass, but literally there’s someone in the copy world who held a session on sales calls and her advice to her listeners was to breathe through their vagina on a sales call because that was going to make them more powerful as they went through. That is just patently bad advice. There’s nothing of substance there-
Garrett Mehrguth: It’s not even physically possible.
Joel Klettke: I mean, for me especially.
Garrett Mehrguth: That is wild.
Joel Klettke: There are just these people coming into it where it’s all hype and all packaging and all bluster, and they’ve never had to apply it or earn it or do anything with it, and it drives me crazy. I’m cautious about the way I talk about this because I don’t want people to think that I’m the gatekeeper, that only Joel can decide if you’re worthy to teach or not. But I’d encourage anyone in any field, business owners, B2B leaders, listen.
There are a lot of people, they want to sell you on stuff, they want to sign your team up, they want to come in and teach. Okay, great. But look at their history and look at the work they’ve done. How long have they been at it? What have they failed at? What have they tried that hasn’t worked? When they talk about their process, can they tie it into anything they’ve actually done? Not enough people ask questions. They get hit with the hype. They get sucked in by the bright lights and the nice wording. Have they done the work? That’s what it comes down to, is have they done the work? Find out and hire and talk to and take counsel from the people who have.
Joel Klettke: I know it sounds so mundane and so simple, but I do need to reiterate that point because we’re just in this weird space in time where there are so many people that want to be experts and project like experts and have the social proof that makes them look like experts. However, when you dig down into what they’ve actually done, they’ve never done anything other than making money teaching other people to make money, which is ridiculous.
Blake Emal: I think it’s safe to say for the audience that Joel you are the kind of person who has actually earned his stripes, has put in the work, and that’s why you are where you are today, not just by claiming. I mean, clearly, by talking to you about these really in-depth things about copywriting, it’s very evident that you understand it from a deep perspective because you’ve actually put in the work. So, we are very thankful we were able to talk to you. This has been-
Garrett Mehrguth: And can I give him a shout out?
Blake Emal: I would love to. And we’ll also give you a chance to talk about what you’re working on too.
Joel’s Real Results for Directive
Garrett Mehrguth: Yeah. So, we got Case Study Buddy. Joel runs it. It’s an awesome service where he’ll actually go out there and build case studies for you. If you’re wondering if you need them, yes you need them. They help like crazy. It’s been huge as Directive’s growth. Joel does an awesome job there. He also runs Business Casual Copywriting, a world-class copywriting service. We’ve actually paid and used them at Directive. It completely helped change our pipeline. We’re generating larger average order values that are more qualified. It’s been a huge part. Is there anything I’m missing here Joel?
Joel Klettke: No. You know, I would just kind of dovetail on that to say Case Study Buddy is … We’ve got a great team and we’ve got capacity. We’ve handled all the stuff you’re thinking, all the objections you have. Like “Oh, we’re under NDA, or our clients will never sign off.” Or “This’ll take forever” or “Nobody’s willing.” We’ve dealt with it.
That is where I’ve been ruthlessly focused on helping us get better. Other than that, no. I think you nailed it. I really appreciate the kind words and I’m so happy to hear that you guys are seeing results with the work we did together. It’s really exciting to me when a project goes so well and when great people get great results on the back of relationships like that, so that’s really encouraging.
Garrett Mehrguth: Well hey Joel, thanks so much for being on the show. We’re glad to have you and have a great rest of the day.
Joel Klettke: Cheers, you guys too.
P2P Interview with Byron Ramos
Blake Emal: And now it’s time to switch from a B2B mindset to P2P, that is peer-to-peer. I’m going to be interviewing people here at Directive, my peers, my colleagues, to try to find out what makes them tick, to see where they come from, what their goals are professionally, and give you an idea of what the culture is like here at Directive.
It’s going to be a really interesting opportunity and maybe you’ll even find people that have your exact same job title, your same position, or your same goals, or maybe they just like the same music as you.
Blake Emal: So, today I’m going to be talking to my desk buddy, Byron. Hey Bryon.
Byron Ramos: Hey guys. What’s up?
Blake Emal: How you doing?
Byron: I’m good. I am good.
Blake Emal: He genuinely looks good. He’s happy.
Byron Ramos: I am happy.
Blake Emal: Just got done playing a game of pool.
Byron Ramos: That’s right.
Blake Emal: Awesome.
Byron Ramos: I lost, but it’s okay.
Blake Emal: That’s the least shocking thing.
Byron Ramos: Yeah. No, I suck at pool so it’s not shocking.
Blake Emal: Cool. Well, I’ve got some good questions for you Byron.
Byron Ramos: All right, I’m ready.
Blake Emal: I want to hear your entire career story. You have 30 seconds, go.
Byron Ramos: 30 seconds? Okay, so I studied and majored in marketing, got a job right out of college working as a marketing coordinator for a construction company. Not as fun as you’d think. You think it’s going to be fun, but it’s not. It is … something else.
Next, I did some freelancing after that job ended … Social media definitely was my strong suit and something I focused on. But post freelance, I took a job at a digital marketing agency, a very creative spot. Creative first, aesthetics first over data. It was cool. It’s definitely that agency life of coming in sweats, do your thing, get out of there. Worked with a lot of cool brands, a lot of main brands, mainly the world street market stuff. So, a lot of sneakerheads and a lot of brands like that. And then did that while also doing some freelancing. I still do some freelancing from time to time, just whenever I feel like it and whenever I see a cool opportunity.
After that, I am now here at Directive.
Blake Emal: How many years in marketing?
Byron Ramos: How many years? Well, I started off … I did my freelancing social media stuff mid-college, and that was about 2015 give or take. I don’t really remember the year because you know …
Blake Emal: It was so long ago.
Byron Ramos: It was so … I’m frigging old.
Blake Emal: You’re so old.
Byron Ramos: I’m so old. But yeah, that started I think around 2015. From that point I had a social media account that kind of grew pretty big, before the algorithms. I just want to point that out. So, it was definitely cool organic stuff. But it was definitely a weird time … Context. That social media account was focusing on goats. It ranked up to 30K, got featured in the New York Times. It was pretty cool. Don’t do it anymore. Kind of just got over goats and social media.
Blake Emal: So, ultimately though your dream is to have a goat farm?
Byron Ramos: Actually, no.
Blake Emal: No?
Byron Ramos: No.
Blake Emal: Oh.
Byron Ramos: I know, it sounds a little-
Blake Emal: So, long term what are we thinking?
Byron Ramos: Long term? Okay, so here’s where I’m at. Move to France, Southern France particularly. Spent some time there and loved it. It’s definitely my vibe, so basically I just want to live there and wine and cheese all day … do my thing, you know? I don’t know what that is-
Blake Emal: So, no career?
Byron Ramos: Oh, yeah. No, hopefully, no career. Somehow I come into some good money. Basically, I think that’s what everyone wants. Just-
Blake Emal: You could sell plasma, a lot of plasma-
Byron Ramos: That’s the … You know what? I heard there’s good money in that. Currently, I’m doing bone marrow, but yeah.
Blake Emal: Some big goals with this guy.
Byron Ramos: Yeah.
Blake Emal: No, Byron is a super cool guy. It’s a pleasure to work with him at Directive. Hopefully, we’ll have you back on again for another little spotlight, but this was good. Just a tiny little itty bitty-
Byron Ramos: Hey, I am glad to be here-
Blake Emal: Supporting the company and supporting the show-
Byron Ramos: I am just honored to be on this podcast and to work alongside Blake, and I’m having fun.
Blake Emal: Thank you for listening to Yours in Marketing. I’m Blake Emal. If you would please do us the favor of subscribing to the podcast if you found value in this and tell your friends. Tell other B2B leaders, tell people that need to hear about this. If you have a website, if you are in marketing or out of marketing, if you just want to learn how to build your website, how to build your business online, or if you just want to learn more about interesting people in general in the B2B space, please subscribe to this podcast. You definitely will get your money’s worth because it’s free.