An Unconventional Approach To Writing Better Ad Copy

I write every day. You wouldn’t know by reading my blog, though.

This is because 99% of my writing never makes it online. I delete it or file it away, often never reading it again.

This used to bother me because content is a valuable asset. My unwillingness to hit “publish” means wasted effort. That was my old thought-process.

Not anymore. Something changed. A story I read years ago starting making more sense than ever before.

Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, writes about meeting his hero, Peter Drucker.

Sometimes after toiling in a quagmire for dozens (or hundreds) of hours I throw the whole effort into the wastebasket and start with a blank page.

When I sheepishly shared this wastebasket strategy with the great management writer Peter Drucker, he made me feel much better when he exclaimed, “Ah, that is immense progress!” (Jim Collins on the Writing Process)

At the start of this post, I mentioned how 99% of my words go unseen. The other 1% reach millions of people each day.

You can read them alongside status updates on Facebook and new photos on Instagram. And on the App Store and Google Play.

The reach alone isn’t what matters. That’s a vanity metric.

What matters most is that my words resonate with audiences, and they have the power to make ads go viral, conversion rates double, and online sales triple.

Had it not been for my own “wastebasket strategy,” my writing might not be a weapon in my growth arsenal.

Immense progress, indeed.

How To Make An App People Love

The foundation of any marketing strategy should be a deep understanding of your customers. If you don’t like people, you will probably have a tough time coming up with a great app that people will love.

Amazon began with a mission to be the most customer-centric company on the planet. Customer centric companies identify their most valuable customers, develop a deep understanding of their wants and needs, and develop products and services for them.

How does a company like Amazon, that releases hundreds of new products every year, stay customer centric?

A couple months ago I read an article offered insight into Amazon’s product development process. What struck me was what Austin Carr (@AustinCarr) revealed about Amazon’s internal approach to product development. I thought that was really, really cool.

Bezos requires employees to write these pretend press releases before work begins on a new initiative. The point is to help them refine their ideas and distill their goals with the customer in mind.

Yesterday, Jillian D’Onfro (@jillianiles) published an article that confirmed this detail about Amazon development process via Amazon Web Services SVP Andy Jassy. Amazon Web Services (AWS) produced over 500 products in 2014 alone:

Before Amazon developers write a single line of code, they have to write the hypothetical product’s press release and FAQ announcement. Amazon uses this “working backwards” approach because it forces the team to get the most difficult discussions out of the way early […] They need to fully understand what the product’s value proposition will be and how it will be pitched to customers. If the team can’t come up with a compelling press release, the product probably isn’t worth making.

The working-backwards approach helps Amazon stay true to their mission of being customer-centric. But there are other reasons to take a backwards approach. Backwards thinking is a mental model that dates back to Carl Gustav Jacob Jacobi:

Carl Gustav Jacob Jacobi, the German mathematician said, “invert, always invert” recommending that “many hard problems are best solved when they are addressed backward.” This model is one of the most powerful thinking habits we can adopt. “Indeed,” says Charlie Munger, “many problems can’t be solved forward.”

Thinking backwards helps you avoid stupidity. Putting customers first is smart.

Share It or Chuck It

When I was in high school, I had an entire hard drive worth of files erased. The only thing I wish I could have back is the photos. Other than those photos, I didn’t miss any of it. I didn’t need it.

Today my photos are in the cloud. I still have countless bookmarks, notes, and files that I will likely never look at again. They had value to me at one point, but instead of sharing them with others, I saved them.

Share It or Chuck It.

I am going to share as much as I possible can here on my blog. I am giving this 365 days. I want to see what comes from it. Stay tuned.

50,000 people shop for clothes on Miner

A couple weeks ago, our app Miner reached a big milestone: 50,000 shoppers.

When Miner debuted on the App Store at the end of May, we were up against competitors with tens-of-millions more dollars to spend on things like marketing. Today we get more downloads each day than all of them. It’s not a reason to get cocky or complacent, but considering how hard everyone on our team works, I want to be sure we take a quick second to celebrate this mini-victory.

Miner 50000