Funnels Don't Build Businesses: Here's What Does

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Billy: I'm not as big on customer research as a lot of people are. And the reason why is because it doesn't get used. And so I find, like, these are the people that I work with who tend to be subject matter experts, and, and they typically are their customers or clients, too.
They know their client really well. And the problem isn't that they don't know them. It's that they're not giving voice to these light bulbs. The words aren't on the page. And so what always happens in my experience is that I'm interviewing them, asking them questions, asking them the right questions. And they're saying all this stuff.
They're saying all this amazing stuff, giving me gold. And I, I say to them, the thing that I've said a thousand times, which is, Why aren't you saying this on your website? So what's the point in doing more market research if it's not going to make it onto the website? I'm a believer in doing that, but let's put on the website what you know first.
Louis: Bonjour, bonjour and welcome to another episode of Everyone Hates Marketers. com, the no fluff actionable marketing podcast for people sick of marketing bullshit. I'm your host, Louis Grenier. In today's episode, you will learn how to write a simple yet powerful marketing message. My guest today left a promising career in the energy industry to become a solopreneur and run his beer brewing website, but then he realized he actually had to learn
marketing to sell his stuff. So he did. Then he met Tiago Forte from Building a Second Brain, helped him grow, develop his own framework after that. And now he's authored the book Simple Marketing for Smart People. The One Question You Need to Win Customers Without Gimmicks, Hype or Hard Selling. Billy Bros.
Billy: Thank you. Thank you, Louis. Pumped to be here.
Louis: So we've, I sent you an email months and months ago and it took you months and months to come back to me, but that's okay. I don't take it personally. It was about one of your email that you had sent, which is a story about how you've had a specific entrepreneur setting up his funnel and whatnot.
And I essentially copy pasted it to my list with just a commentary saying, you know, I have nothing else to say, just read this. And it got so many replies. This one really, really hit home. So before we dive in into how to write, come up with a marketing message that says that is simple, even if you're not a marketer by trade.
Let's dive into that story because I think it's a good summary of what we both believe in terms of the state of marketing and industry. So it's a story of a Facebook funnel that was doing 40, 000 and then went to zero. So why don't you explain to me, to us what it was about?
Billy: Yeah, it was so interesting for me because I had seen businesses like this from the outside for so long because I was in that career.
I was in the energy industry and I was trying to sell my own courses, my own beer brewing courses. So I was seeing a lot of these promises and all these gurus showing these charts of their revenue going up and, Hey, you can do it too. And then sure enough, this was a number of years later. I was helping one of these businesses on the marketing side.
And so they brought me in to help out with their Facebook ad copy. I've always been a copy guy. Not, not always. We're actually, we can get into that, but at that time, really into copy messaging. They had some other people actually running the ads and they were trying to find new ad creatives. And so, yeah, they were doing about 40, 000 a month and I won't say the exact niche, but it was like a little biz oppy.
You could say. It had some legitimacy to it, but there's definitely a biz op flair to it. And, and they weren't following up with anyone. So they would, it was, it was essentially a machine. I mean, they would drive them from a Facebook ad to a webinar. They convert or they don't, if they don't convert, they get forgotten.
They're in the email summer, email software somewhere, but completely forgotten now followed up with. And all the attention, all the focus was just on optimizing that funnel.
And so, yeah, doing 40, 000 a month and then something went sideways with the Facebook ads and that whole business, if you want to call it a business, I would just call it a funnel, went bust.
Louis: Let's go into more detail. Not necessarily about the client itself or whatever. That's not the most interesting part, but when you started to say, you know, I was in the energy industry and I, I saw this business from the outside. All those funnels or whatever. So how for people to visualize what you mean here, what type of businesses or online operations are we talking about here?
Billy: Yeah. Well, typical, I mean, if you Google how to sell your online course, I mean, just be prepared for what you're going to find. And you're going to find a lot of hype. You're going to find a lot of numbers, a lot of charts, a lot of Lamborghinis, young dudes standing in front of their Lamborghinis telling you how their online course bottom Lamborghini.
And there's a lot of envy there. I had a lot of envy. I said, cause I was struggling. I was struggling to sell my online courses, which was very humbling because, you know, I'd always done well in school. I succeeded at almost everything that I tried. I had my MBA. So I had this business degree, but it wasn't helping me to sell these 47 beer brewing courses.
So when I would see these businesses. That were posting these big numbers. I'm like, I'm smarter than that guy. And you know, and I got a better product than that guy. And then to have this peek behind the curtain, it was really reassuring for me and validating, cause I was like, Oh man, like, cause I'm a long term thinker.
Like I would never run a business like that. And what I was looking at was just a flash in the pan. They got something to work for a few months. And then they didn't do this, but I know that people do this, where they would take a screenshot of that graph, cut it off, where they started running this funnel, and then where it ended, and then go run Facebook ads to that, to then online course creators, and say, here's how I made 40, 000 a month selling my online course not seeing the big picture.
Louis: You said you were struggling selling those courses, like those online brewing courses. What, what are we talking about here? Was, were you going, were you full time into this endeavor? Were you in debt about it?
Billy: No, it was very much a side hustle. Yeah. And it's, it's not an overnight thing.
You know, people promise that like you can launch an online course and then it'll be a six figure business overnight. I started doing stuff online in 2008. Which is when I graduated college. And then I got my MBA in a year and a half. So 2008, I started at that job. And the day that I sat down at that job, which was a great job, I knew I wouldn't be there forever because I know myself and I knew that it would be stifling for me, but I liked it.
I did like it. And I liked my coworkers. I liked the field. I liked technology. I was in renewable energy. There was cool stuff happening in the industry at the time. So I wasn't feeling pushed to get out immediately. But I started that little fire on the side because I wanted to grow that to be ready to jump ship when the time came.
And the time eventually did come a number of years later.
Louis: So you were quite early on, on surfing that wave, right? Because nowadays almost everyone is talking about this and like side hustle and whatever, passive income, whatever. But 2008, Sorry to say that 16 years ago, so that's a while, um, I don't know if you were, I think you were quite early considering the bigger picture, as you, as you say, right?
I think you were still quite early. So you learned that your MBA intelligence, whatever, didn't matter to sell things. You, you needed to do something different. And, you didn't fall to the pressure of those you're just one funnel away from making a million and those kinds of bullshit, which is great. And you started to work with this guy.
You're just going to go back to that story briefly because it's the point of the story, which is so interesting to me is that, yes, a funnel is not a business, meaning it's just a quick thing. You put traffic, you convert, you basically lie to people. You have to, and then they buy this thing, but they, they feel guilty about it.
And then that's it, right? Let's compare that to a real, let's say business. Let's compare that to yours or mine. What is, do you think is the fundamental difference between a funnel like the one you described on the business like yours?
Billy: Good question. Yeah. Well, the word that pops into my mind is relationships.
I mean, if I think about what I have now, my, my consulting business, and I also have programs and courses as well. It's all about relationships. I mean, I, with that kind of a business, it is a churn and burn model. And they did not know, the person running that business, they did not know who these people were.
And, and now everything that I do I mean, it comes from my relationships from like, yeah, I do the email marketing thing and online marketing thing and all that. But I go to a lot of in person events. I'm always texting people, just pinging people, just keeping in touch saying, Hey, I'm thinking of you. And so to me, the relationship, that word is what distinguishes the two.
Louis: Yeah. I think it's a good way to think about it. The way I would also say the difference is that I think you could have the shittiest funnel or page put together. But if your business is thriving, if you have people recommending you, if people like what you say, what you do, what you've done for them, you will still make a good amount and you'll still thrive.
Well, for those funnel based operations, the minute they stop optimizing, the minute they stop overly optimizing, overly trying to convert people, squeezing people down the funnel, there's nothing that's going to happen because it's like a guilt trip, trip wire. You know, all of those were like vocabulary targets and fucking.
Whatever else, domination and crush and all of those things. So yeah, once, once it's gone, there's nothing right.
Billy: Well, it's the same thing with launch based businesses too. And I've run into this a lot. And this was the problem I had with my beer business. And I took Jeff Walker's product launch formula in 2008, 2009.
I remember asking in his community, Hey, what else do I do? I don't know if your listeners are familiar with Jeff Walker product launch formula, but it's. Teaches you how to do a launch and online product launch. And I was like, okay, is this, you know, cause I came from a very traditional industry. I was working with big power companies, coal plants in Southeast United States, right?
Like these are like real businesses. Now I'm selling this beer brewing course. And it's like, is this, Is this the business? I just, I just launched things. That's the whole thing. And I remember someone replied, even in that community and said, a launch alone is not a business, and I said, well, then where's the rest of it?
Where's in this training, where's the rest of the business? Cause I'm only learning launches here.
Louis: So where is the rest? What have you learned since then?
Billy: That's what you got to figure out, right? That's what you got to figure out. And, uh, and a lot of people only show you, it may be for good reason. You know, maybe if someone just had a course on everything you need to know about building a business that wouldn't do too well, or that would be overwhelming, but, you know, one thing kind of relate to what I said about relationships and that you hit on to, and if we want to be more pragmatic about it and what that other business I worked with could have done, it's this idea of having a back end in the business.
And so this idea of following up of having something after the initial purchase. Purchase, which ties into this idea of relationships because right now my best customers, as the old cliche goes, or my existing customers, uh, people I've already worked with and people who trust me and they know that they can come back to me and they know what they're going to get.
And this was a big mindset shift for me. And a lot of, I find a lot of people today just don't get this. I would say I do a lot of work in the creator crowd too. And a lot of them really don't get it because that type of a business is so public facing. It's all about your social media presence and your YouTube and everything.
Whereas the backend of the business, inherently it's not public. It's behind the scenes. But if you don't understand how the economics work, you're going to really struggle with your business because people who really understand the backend of a business know that that initial purchase, that front end purchase is really just to acquire a customer and then the profit really comes and you can, you know, I think this is self evident.
If you look at profitable businesses, this is how they're, they're set up. There might be an exception, but for the most part, this is the rule. The profit comes from the back end. The profit doesn't come from the front end.
Louis: I like this idea where in today's world where social media is looks, it seems to be like the window into like reality, like to see how other businesses do.
It's easy to think that, oh, this guy has a newsletter, this one has a podcast, this one has Twitter following, and look how much she's making, look how much they're making, I could do the same. It's easy to forget that, yeah, the back end of it, the thing that you don't see, the emails back and forth between, you know, the client and the business owner, the relationship they build, the conference they're going into, or the, the ones that are not very heavily publicized, the relationship they build over the years.
That's actually what makes it makes or break the business. So yeah, that's a good point about it as well. This kind of a lot of people talk about it, but yeah, it's difficult to show, right? It sounds like, Hey, I've just sent an email to my last year's customer. And I said this, obviously you won't share that necessarily publicly, right?
Billy: Well, that's the thing too, is it's shocking how many people have six, seven figure, eight figure businesses and you would never know they exist. And then you have all these other people who are so popular. I mean, I know people, I've worked with people or audited their businesses who have millions of followers and make zero money.
And I'm sure there's some kind of name for this fallacy. I don't know what the name is, but this idea of you think all that exists is what you see. And so because all you see are these people with these huge social media followings, you think, oh, they must be very successful. I'm going to do that. Not seeing behind the scenes or, you know, the bottom half of the iceberg and realizing, oh, there's.
There's nothing there. And at the same time, these other businesses that are crushing it, but have no presence, well, you don't know that exists because they don't have a presence.
Louis: I'm not going to ask you to name names here, but you made me curious. Now you said you audited businesses, creators with like millions of followers and it was just a house of cards.
It's on some sort. So can you give me maybe an example? Again, you don't have to go into specific details or anything, but like of someone else, a business from the outside that look extremely profitable or extremely popular. It was clear that, you know, they were crushing it. And then you looked at the back end of it, realizing that it was just, it was nothing.
Billy: Yeah, I see this. I've seen a couple, especially on Instagram, because that tends to be very, I mean, that's, I think you think of influencer, you think of Instagram, people with big Instagram followings, millions of followers, posting multiple times a day, tons of comments, tons of engagement, and just no money coming in, like really struggling.
To make money. And I think it's also something about Instagram. I, I'm not too familiar with the platform, but it doesn't seem to be as monetizable as something like YouTube, right? Mm-Hmm, . So, so not having that ad revenue come in and Yeah. So there, there's just nothing there. You know, and I've talked about this before.
Maybe your listeners will find this valuable. It's something that bugged me and I didn't really know why, but I, I think I figured it out. And it's that there's, there's a difference between. There's a difference in business models, and there's the influencer business model. And then there's the sell products and services business model.
Me coming from more of an old school traditional background, I think, okay, well, you create a product or service and then you go sell it. This influencer, you might even say creator business model is very different. It's an advertising based business model. It's a sponsorship based business model. And if you don't know which business model you're in, you're going to get very confused.
And so the people I've traditionally worked with to have been people who are more traditional, more old school who have, there might be a coach or a consultant or have an area of expertise and they have a product they want to sell. But all the advice is targeted towards the influencer business model.
And you can build up a good size business on social media and have a good size influencer business model where you make a lot of ad revenue. But then if you go and then try to sell products, that can be very difficult because you didn't build your business for that.
Louis: Yeah. And the trust is not there necessarily from the people following you.
It's not that deep of a relationship where they're willing to actually put their own money because in that influencer model, the influencer is the product, right? I mean, what they're selling is not. To the audience, they're not selling something directly, but they're selling attention. Like they are capturing three seconds of people's attention a day.
And they trade that in brands sponsoring them, right? Well, the ones selling products or services, they are not the product. They sell the product on against actual money. And so without the advertising being involved. So I think that's the biggest. It's probably the biggest reason why they struggle is that, as you said, it's not the same model.
And you can't be the product and expect them to sell products. It's just, yeah, there's a conflict there, right?
Billy: And think about it this way. Think about it in terms of inside out and outside in. So when you're selling products or services, if you're doing it right, I believe you start inside out and you see this a lot, especially in Silicon Valley, where they talk about customer driven products and finding product and market fit.
Especially because they have investor money on the line. So they have to be very efficient with that money. They can't just, the investors aren't going to, the VCs aren't gonna let them just start a huge YouTube channel and then figure out what product they want to sell. Right? No. So they're working inside out.
They're doing customer interviews. And finally, they find that problem that they want to sell, that they want to solve, that they can solve and people will pay them to solve. And they call that product and market fit. Now they need media. So now they're expanding outwards. And this is where you might see them finally hit social media.
But because they worked inside out, they know that they have that problem that they can solve and people will pay them for it. So they know that they can convert that attention into money. You might call it a funnel. They have their funnel already built, right? They, they built their engine before pouring in the fuel.
That's different than the typical influencer business model where people say, well, just build a big audience. And then find a product to sell them. That's how you wind up with these 2 million follower, Instagram accounts with people who are only following you because they're entertained by you, who don't really have a problem that they need to have solved.
You didn't figure out how to solve a problem or how to charge for it. It's no surprise that you're going to struggle to sell a product to those people.
Louis: Yeah. I mean, it's not surprising when you explain it like this and you explain it very well, I think what is surprising for a lot of people is. The sheer, the number, like the sheer difference between the millions you can see on the Instagram and the almost nothing made on the other side, I think it's really baffling, still baffling to me.
It's just crazy to see how different relationship can be. Right. Like, um, I have what, 30, 000 plus followers on LinkedIn. Right. And I know that I don't have deep relationship with any of them, but when I look at my email lists. I, I can tell you that those people are far more valuable. The relationship I have with them is far more valuable than the millions that some people would have on Instagram.
And I'm fine with that. As long as you understand this, that, you know, a number, a digit, like a, a unit of follower or following is, they're not worth the same, right? Some could be worth thousands, hundreds of dollars. Others could be, could be worth nearly nothing. Right?
Billy: Yeah.
And I'm curious, have you experienced that where you have someone who you just know really well, they've been on your list, maybe bought from you before and you come out with something new and you might just send them a ping and they're like, Oh yeah, here's thousands of dollars for it.
And then you can put all this effort into some brand new marketing campaign. You think it's so good. And then you show it to completely new people and it's just like pulling teeth. It's so hard to get a sale from it.
Louis: Yeah. Yeah. The chasm is difficult to cross. I think it's what really helped me was. to understand how to build something that is in demand and not trying to create demand.
Like it's, I think you can sell products and services to folks who really trust you and frame it the way you want to, they'll still buy it. Even if it's not in a demanded like category, something that is, that exists in, you know, in a grander scheme. But as soon as you talk to people who don't necessarily know you that well, Positioning what you do in the right category that is on demand is going to make or break your thing.
So a quick example, and then we can go into like a step by step for you based on your framework. But when I had my first agency, marketing agency, that's exactly what happened. I managed to sell to people I had deep relationship with. But because I was in a category, which was conversion rate optimization in Ireland, which was no one fucking knew about.
No one therefore demanded it. There was no demand for it. It was exactly like pulling teeth. I mean, in fact, it was like pulling teeth while trying to swim against the currents on, like it was on, on having fucking wind blowing up my face. Like it's just so, it's just like I drowned pretty fast. And I know when I look at what you do, I can see that as you're thinking about it, this way as well, in the way you've positioned your methodology.
Because you're using terms that people understand and I think that are in demand. So you talk about copywriting, messaging, and those are like things that are in demand if you try to like make it too complex or something that people don't understand, you'll be, you'll be fucked. Right. So I think it's a good segue into that, your methodology.
I'm curious to know how you've developed it, but before we go into this, let's describe what is that thing? Because at the start of the episode, I mentioned, we're going to go through, you know, how to develop, how to build a simple yet powerful marketing message. So tell me about, you know, the way you're helping folks do that.
Billy: Sure. So it's called the framework is called the five light bulbs. It's a messaging framework and it's extremely visual. I'm a very big visual thinker. I find a lot of people are. So I hired an illustrator to turn it into this whole, we've got this crazy world where we got a, we got a bear, we got an owl, there's a bridge.
So if you go to the website, you'll see those illustrations at fivelightbulbs. com, but I'll walk you through it. And it's a messaging framework. So you think about this as being upstream of your copywriting. So I think it's because of my engineering background. And I think you have an engineering background as well, right, Louie?
Louis: Yeah.
Billy: Yeah. So, you know, you think about leverage and you think about inputs and outputs. And I was doing all this stuff on Facebook, Facebook ads and tactics and all that. And I said, you know, none of this really matters unless we get the core messaging correct. That's the biggest leverage point. So I went through all these iterations of the framework and came up with this one, which we can get more into how I developed it in a sec, but to go through it.
Lightbulb one in the framework represents the customer's status quo. So this is where your customer is now. This is where they're having a problem and you want to give voice to these lightbulbs. These are not meant to remain answers on a worksheet. It really bugs me when I go to a conference and it only takes it that far.
So one thing to do as I'm going through these lightbulbs is to give yourself a mental audit and say, am I giving voice to these lightbulbs in my marketing material? So for lightbulb one, ask yourself, am I displaying empathy? Am I using the word you more than using the word I or we? And this is one of those boxes that you really need to check because if the customer doesn't think that you see them and you understand them and you get their problem, they're not going to listen to everything else you have to say.
So that's lightbulb one, the status quo. Okay. Lightbulb two is and you'll see this in the illustration. We have this bear who's crossing this bridge, crossing this chasm, and then light bulbs are hovering over. And you see all these other bridges on the landscape. It's a row of bridges and those other bridges, not your bridge.
We'll get to that. Those other bridges represent light bulb two. And light bulb two represents the other things that your customer has either tried before. Or is currently being tempted by. And so at its core, the five light bulbs is in argumentation based framework, not like a, like an emotional confrontation, but like a rhetorical argument, like Aristotle kind of an argument.
And I've really studied that. And, and that really plays into light bulb two, because what you want to do is not what a lot of scamming internet marketers do, which is just say, Oh, well, that guy sucks. That guy sucks. That product sucks. That product sucks. You want to lay out a good argument. It goes back to something Ogilvy said, which is treat your reader as if they're intelligent.
Because they are, and like, and like, I just don't buy that when someone's like, Oh, they suck. Like I know a good argument. Like that's not an argument. Right. So lay out a good argument, give, give buying criteria, say why or why not those, those other bridges may work. And then if you do it right, and your, and your targeting is accurate and look, in some cases you should say, Hey, that bridge is better for you than my bridge.
If you're doing this thing, honestly, that should happen from time to time. It should not be the case that your bridge is right for everyone at all times. But in most cases, you, you eliminate those other bridges and you say, this is why they haven't worked for you. And that naturally positions you to present your bridge, which is light bulb three.
And this is the one, and I, like we said earlier, Louie about, you can't create demand, you just want to find where the demand is and channel it. That's something I really learned from Eugene Schwartz in his book, Breakthrough Advertising. And I love that book and I really dissected it and it was the inspiration for Lightbulb 3.
He calls it the mechanism, the unique mechanism. In Lightbulb terms, I made it a little more accessible. I call it your unique approach. So this isn't your product. It's the way you achieve the product. So to get really meta for a sec, the five light bulbs is my light bulb three, right? It's, it's my methodology.
And what we found is that again, going back to argumentation, if we argue for our light bulb three in a marketing campaign and make a good argument back, you know, with, with assertions backed by proof, uh, then it much easier, it does a much better job of selling the light bulb four, which is your product.
It happens a lot more easily. You might think about this lightbulb in terms of that. I think it's a, yeah, it's a Peter Drucker quote. The goal of marketing is to make selling unnecessary. So I see everything up until this point, this lightbulb as marketing, especially lightbulb three, I really see that as marketing.
And if you do your job right with selling your lightbulb three, Well, then it's just a matter of, okay, well, how much, and that's Lightbulb four. Lightbulb four represents your offer. It's your offer, which includes your product, but many transactions take place in the global economy each year, which are not based solely on the product, but also the bonuses, the pricing terms, the guarantee.
So we put that all in this one column of lightbulb four, which is the offer. And, you know, and this was a big relief for me and I find it's a big relief for a lot of people who are turned off by marketing because to put it all in this one column, it's interesting because we tend to think that that's before I've seen the five light bulbs.
We tend to think that that's all that there is. It's it's all merchandising tactics. It's all slashing out the price and writing a new one. It's all about risk reversal and all this. So when people see it, there's four other light bulbs, they're relieved. And they tell me like, Oh my God, now I have other things to talk about.
Uh, and funny enough, when you talk about those other things. You more easily sell the thing you weren't talking about, which is your Lightbulb 4.
Louis: And the last Lightbulb?
Billy: Lightbulb 5, that's the other side of the bridge. That's, uh, that's where the birds are chirping, the sun is shining. And again, you want to give voice to that, what success looks like.
Uh, this answers the question that the customer has, what's in it for me?
Louis: So thanks for going through this. I want to make a point here that I know a lot of folks listening might take for granted or might not really understand how difficult it is what you've just done. Not to repeat the framework, but to have created it in the first place in simple terms, in cohesive, coherent, like five steps, that's it, right?
The very, it might sound obvious when people listen and like, duh, of course, but the simplicity of your approach of your mechanism is what makes it great, right? It's the, it's because you've picked only what matters and nothing else. And. It's too easy. There is a bias here at play, which is when people see complex thing, they think it's more likely to be the right solution.
But actually it's the opposite, the simpler, the better. So yeah, congrats on doing that, by the way, I know how tough it is to create your own thing. Now let's go into details about how to implement it. Because as you say, you do consulting and all of that. So let's picture a scenario where you start working with a subject matter expert, like a public speaker, online course creator, whoever is selling their expertise, right?
Which is kind of your audience. What is the most common scenario when you come in to apply your framework Like what do you tend to see when you audit clients and decide what to do next?
Billy: Yeah. So it's, I'll say, first of all, it's good to have a framework for me. It's been a big benefit to not have to just sell myself, but to have something that I can point to and say, okay, this is the thing now and that people want that thing and not just me now.
I'm just the person who has the most experience implementing it. And so when they come in, it helps that they already know about the five light bulbs and there's already existing demand there for it. Now I've delivered this primarily through one on one consulting and through cohort based courses. And then last year I came out with the DIY course.
So you can go through it on your own. So kind of hitting those three different levels of service. The thing. Going back to what I was saying earlier about leverage, I found that people just jump right into these downstream activities way too quickly. That was a problem that I saw. So when engaging on a project with the five light bulbs, the first thing we do is start upstream and create, essentially create their five light bulbs.
We call it a messaging map. That's what we call it. Typically we create it in Notion, use some sort of Kanban. We can do it in Trello. It can be done anywhere. And we go through and we figure out what their core messaging is. So I'm a, I'm a big believer in having core messaging. And the metaphor I use is that it's similar to a brand manual.
And we know that people will pay a lot of money, tens of thousands of dollars to have a brand manual created, but instead of containing the instructions for your visual identity, the fonts and the logos and everything. This contains this five levels core messaging contains the persuasive messaging that you need, the words that you need to distribute downstream to all these marketing assets like Facebook ads and sales pages and emails in order to convert a customer.
So that's where we always start is upstream with creating that messaging map.
Louis: And so how do you do it? Do you use insight from their customer? Do you just rely on their own knowledge and expertise and customer facing experience?
Billy: Yes, exactly. Yeah. And I'm glad you asked that. This is something that I feel passionately about.
So a lot of marketers will get upset when I say this, but I'm not as big on customer research as a lot of people are. And the reason why is because it doesn't get used. And so I find, like, these are the people that I work with who tend to be subject matter experts, and, and they typically are their customers or clients, too.
They know their client really well. And the problem isn't that they don't know them. It's that they're not giving voice to these light bulbs. The words aren't on the page. And so what always happens in my experience is that I'm interviewing them, asking them questions, asking them the right questions. And they're saying all this stuff.
They're saying all this amazing stuff, giving me gold. And I, I say to them, the thing that I've said a thousand times, which is, Why aren't you saying this on your website? So what's the point in doing more market research if it's not going to make it onto the website? I'm a believer in doing that, but let's put on the website what you know first.
Louis: No, I like, it's so funny because it's the exact same thing for me when I consult or coach or whatever. It's, I tend to pause like I make them talk and then they talk, they talk, and then I paused and I asked them, do you realize how powerful this is? What you just said there? And usually they're like, no, I don't know.
Like, yeah. What do you mean? You know, like they, you know, they can't see it, you know, they can't see it, but they need someone from the outside and it's something from the outside to point it out, to say, this is so fucking good. Like, I mean, I, you need to realize how good that is. I'm like, Oh, you sure you think that's interesting?
You know? So it's, we are so close to the fucking thing to the wall. Like we could just can't see anything anymore. Right. And so we need other people to show us the light. See the light. Yeah, I snuck it in there. I like it. I like quite clever like that. So I think the benefit I agree with customer research is kind of why, what I was hoping as an answer for the type of people you work with, because they have a deep one on one relationship with a lot of their customers. And because most times they solve their own problem. Right. By developing this, just like you did with your own framework. They know things pretty well. Then when the company becomes bigger and the distance between customers and the people inside the office tend to be greater, customer research has to be done.
The right one, not what do you think we should do next or what do you think of this product? But you know, they need more data because they have none. They don't know what the fuck, who the fuck they are selling it to. So, but to go back to something, I just want to, I'm going to repeat the five labels briefly.
So one customer service code, two, what they've tried before, three, the bridge, your approach, your mechanism, whatever, four, your product, your offer, five, the new life, right? The new kind of new beginning. And then there could be other bridges, right? Uh, suppose it never really ends. You mentioned something before you said you talk about the good arguments, right?
What is a good argument? And you started to mention it a bit. So tell me about it and let's, let's, uh, nerd it out a bit. 'cause I know you, you're, you're proper nerd about old school things of people who've been dead for centuries. So what is a good argument in your eyes?
Billy: A good way to think about it. And, and this is something that confused me a lot about marketing and, and, uh, you know, and I would see all this, this hype and, and these people who were just not who I was.
Like, who could I, like, I'm an introvert. I'm a quieter person, more of a bookish person, you might say. So when I saw these people like using all this hype and these countdown timers and the Lamborghinis and everything, I thought that that was marketing. But then when I discovered copywriting, that really changed my perspective.
And even copywriting, you got to be careful because there's a lot of that, that crap with copywriting as well. But if you look at the very best copywriters, so if you look at Gary Bensavanga, for example. One of these old school copywriters who was just tops, he could always beat the control. He has this great quote that he says, I always base my client promotions off their strongest proof elements.
Eugene Schwartz was the same way. He says in Breakthrough Advertising, it's not about making big outlandish promises. He says that one claim, like even a subtle claim, a claim is also known as an assertion, can be more powerful than the biggest promise.
Louis: Can you give me an example of this? That's really interesting.
So please give me an example and then I'll try to repeat it in other words.
Billy: Well, what he, the example that he uses in breakthrough advertising, he was selling this manual on how to repair your television back in the 1950s. And he didn't have to make big outlandish promises about that because people knew how much money they could save if they didn't have to hire the TV repair guy to come over and fix it.
Cause these were, these were big complex machines, right? And so the claim that he had to make the main claim that he was making and that he had to prove was that you can repair the TV yourself. And so that's not like a big hype thing, but a lot of people skip right over that kind of a claim, and they just assume it, they take it for granted.
But he put all his weight into proving that claim. You go through the book and you see how much thinking he put into proving that claim within one sales letter, within the way that he structured the sales letter, the way he was intentional about every sentence, and which sentence came first and second and third.
And so when you do it that way, and you get people to buy into that claim, it just, it opens the floodgates.
Louis: Versus a promise that would be in that scenario, if I'm understanding correctly, something like you're going to save 1, 000 a year if you repair the TV yourself.
Billy: Yes, exactly. Yeah. Versus some big outlandish promise.
Save all this money you, what are you gonna do with the money? You're gonna take a vacation with the money, et cetera.
Louis: So, yeah, like o one thing that I always struggle with, that people really like, seem to you to struggle with is the, they struggle to associate what they offer with the right level of benefits.
Right? It's like, just keep it to what you can control or the, the, the thing that you can help them directly do, right? So if in that sales letter it's about. You can repair the CV yourself and this is how you can do it. This is literally what you can let them do directly by giving them the instruction.
But as soon as you go over the step after, which is, well, therefore you're going to save money. And therefore with the money you're going to save, you're going to go on vacation or whatever. This is just things you can't control. You can't fucking do anything about. And this is when I think the trust breaks down and the clarity breaks down.
Just to give you another example, more modern. When I was working for Hotjar, which was a, uh, which is a web analytics company, the big thing that I pushed for was to stick to, we can help you see what people do on your website, which is literally what it does, right? So anonymously you could, you don't know who they are, whatever, but you can see what they actually do instead of going one step further, which is, okay, you can see what they do.
So therefore you can, know what to improve. And therefore, when you make the improvement, you increase conversion rate and therefore increase sales. It would be way too easy to actually make an outlandish promise that says increase conversion rate HR, but then you, you kind of, you break the bond, you break the trust and you make it just fluffy.
If you stick to see what people actually do on your website. Which is something that traditional web analytics cannot do. Boom, job done.
Billy: Exactly.
Yeah. I've got another one for my beer courses, if that would help. Sure. Because I, I, I learned that and I wanted to apply that to what I was doing. So, I was selling this course.
So, when I was really into homebrewing, I got also really into, of course, tasting the beer and analyzing the beer. And I became a beer judge. That's actually a thing. So, I studied for a year to become a certified beer judge with a few of my buddies. Uh, it was awesome. Are you a beer judge now? No. Yeah, I'm still, I do it about once a year just to stay active so I don't take my little pin away.
So I discovered that in becoming a beer judge that my homebrew improved like crazy, which is no big surprise really. And, and you might think about it if, you know, if, if wine is more your thing, you get better at tasting wine, critiquing wine, and you can pick out the nuances better and the smell and the flavor and everything in the body.
Well, then you can go back when you're making it and you have better insight into what you need to tweak in order to. Make it hit the target that you want so my argument was the best way to improve your homebrew is to become a better beer taster. And I knew that to be true for my own experience and so that became my main because that was the argument that I was making so that was my overarching claim and I could prove it you could look at there's different ways to prove you could use data. You could look at beer judges and and see how many of them win home brewing awards and competitions or the reverse look at who wins the home brewing awards and see that almost all of 'em are also beer judges.
You could use logic like I just did with you, right? It, it, it just makes sense that the better you can taste your beer, the better you can improve it. So again, argumentation, think about it like being a lawyer in the courtroom. It's, it's always the, it's, it's rarely just, it's rarely one thing. It's rarely that smoking gun.
It's, it's usually the, the totality of evidence that sways a judge or a jury. And so it's the same thing you wanna do in your marketing. You wanna figure out what claims you need to make. In my case, the claim that. Improving your palate is the best way to improve your beer and then bring in all sorts of proof points to back up that claim.
And you notice what's not in any of that. There's not some grand promise in that. Like your beer is going to be so fricking good that people are going to throw money at you and want to buy it at the store and all this stuff. Right. So that's doing marketing correctly. And that's how it can be very powerful if you do it this way.
Louis: So how do we spot the right claim? Right. What do you do when you work with a new company, a new business and you're an expert? How do you know if, okay, this is it, this is the claim we need to make. Is there a process there? Is it more of a taste thing to go back to it? What do you do?
Billy: Yeah. Well, you know, it's like you were saying earlier when you interview clients and you see that.
There's so many things that they take for granted and they think, Oh, well, doesn't everyone know this, right? They have, they have so many assumptions and so typically the argument is there. It's just that the person is just assuming it. There's, they're, they think that the person they're speaking to already believes in it.
And so what I have them do is, is question that assumption and go back and make an argument for the thing that they've been assuming. For example, there's a meditation coach that I work with, and she teaches like a very advanced form of meditation. But most of the people she's trying to reach are not that far in the weeds yet, where they're distinguishing between her and the advanced meditation teacher down the street.
I mean, she's competing against taking pills or going on walks, all these things to relieve people's stress, right? Like, that's what she's really competing against. And so the argument that she's making that she just assumed a lot of people also just assume that getting enough sleep is the key. If I just get enough sleep, then I won't have the stress.
I won't have the anxiety. Her thing is no, you need to meditate and then that's how you're going to get the good sleep. But because she was just assuming that the words weren't on the page. So we turn that in into an argument and it became this idea of how to rest. And the argument is that sleep is not enough.
Louis: So I think it goes back a bit to what I was saying earlier about complexity. And how complexity feels more, feels smarter, therefore feels more effective. People obsessing over some, finding something that is a bit more complicated than what you just said, right? Like there must be, there must be something better, right?
Yeah, from my experience, it always goes back to the simple stuff, to trusting your audience. You mentioned earlier, like you mentioned that quote about, you know, they're smart. So it's like, let, let them connect the dots as well. Don't just spoon feed everything. Don't be, because then they just lose the, this rational thinking, this kind of logical thing that you want them to think.
You don't want them to just buy on a whim and regret it. Right. Do you have any, another example? Cause I like when you share. Example like that from like small business owners and experts and whatever. So that meditation example is great. Can you think of any other that you've come across?
Billy: Yeah. Well, you mentioned my client and now coauthor Tiago Forte earlier.
And so with his business, so he teaches productivity and his system, his light bulb three is called building a second brain. And it has to do with taking a certain way of taking notes on things that you either read or you listen to like podcasts right now, he was taking for granted the fact that people just take notes and they're cool with taking notes and they like to take notes and they don't need to be sold on taking notes.
I said, look, you can't just, you can't just assume that like you're kind of an oddball. And I tend to work with people who are like, I like myself, like pretty nerdy. And so when we switched the messaging from, Hey, by the course, or I'll say it this way, when we stopped selling the course and we started selling note taking, the course sold better.
Louis: How, like when we say better, like what was the, the difference? Was it obvious? Was it something that you A, B tested or was it more like a hunch sold better?
Billy: Yeah. Well, it was, it was easier for him because he was running cohorts pretty frequently, so he was doing, I want to say like 20 or 30, 000 and then very quickly hit a hundred thousand dollars.
400, 000. Uh, during COVID, he got over seven figures with his cohorts. Obviously he was, that was due as well to the COVID bump, but there was a noticeable difference in increased revenue when we started dedicating more messaging to his, mainly to his Lightbulb 3, to his way of doing things, to taking notes because people were sold on it.
They're like, Oh, because who's going to take a course on note taking if you're not sold on notes in the first place.
Louis: Yeah. So if I'm going to, to his website now, let's just see. What he says now, the proven method to organize your digital life and unlock your creative potential. Yeah. You can see that he's grown too much now is, uh, is it's easy for me to judge, right?
I mean, it's, uh, like what he's built is absolutely phenomenal. And I love his book. I've applied a few things from him, but I like this example that you said as well. So it sounds like to find a claim, what you first need to do is probably lists all the assumptions that you have about your audience. In a sense, there's this concept called the chain of beliefs.
I don't know if you've come across it, but it's basically like.
Billy: We mentioned that in the book.
Louis: Great. So yeah, to go, I mean, I'll let you explain it then, because I'm going to butcher it since it's in the book, you probably know it's probably fresher in your mind.
Billy: That's part of it, but that's at the heart of the book.
That idea is at the heart of the book, which is, we call it belief building in the book. That's our main strategy. And you're asking this question, what does my customer need to believe in order to buy? Okay. So, for example, for Tiago, they need to believe that no ticking is important. And so I would say for your listeners, that's a good, and that's also a tool that we provide in the book.
We call it the ladder of importance. So you might think about it in terms of a ladder and think, okay, what are the, the keys to success? In my topic. So what is important in home beer brewing? It was cleaning and sanitizing all your equipment. That was what was important. Although a lot of them didn't realize that that was important beer tasting.
If you want to improve your beer, beer tasting, being a skilled taster is important, right? So that's the good little hack you can use. Think about what's important for success. That's step one. And then step two would be selling people on what's important. A lot of people, especially when it comes to creating free content online, are teaching their topic and teaching these in the weeds implementation details instead of teaching and arguing for what's important.
Louis: Why are they afraid of this? Is it because, because it's not selling their thing? It's selling the right beliefs or the argumenting for about the right belief. They feel it's, it's not theirs and therefore they're more, they're not as prone to. Talk about it. Like what's,
Billy: I think there's a lot of reasons I think, because when people think of marketing, they don't, they don't think of this, right?
Like this is, this is not what comes to mind when people think of marketing. So they just, they don't know what to do it. And then they wind up putting on like that infomercial hat and it's just all like light pole for kind of language. I think another reason is. It takes courage to make assertions and especially these days to take a stand and to state your opinion strongly, you know, people can throw stones at you.
And so people would much rather these days be more of that influencer, more of a curator, like, Hey, I'm not going to take a stand, but let me curate all this content from other people, other people's opinions and just present them for you. But I'm very safe and protected because I'm not, you know, um, putting my foot down on anything.
And so it, it takes courage and that's a big part of marketing as well. That's not often talked about.
Louis: Yeah, it takes courage, but like, I mean, I'm not going to go into what's happening in the world right now, but there's courage and courage, right? It's like, what is really the worst thing that can happen if you say that you need to clean your beer equipments, right?
It's like, you're not going to have a fucking like group of people in front of your, of your house with pitchfork and wanting to burn, burn you and kill you and whatever. Right. So it's like, I'm curious from your perspective, actually, because I know it's one of your points of view. It's, have you ever gotten virtual stones thrown at you because of a specific point of view, specific beliefs, something that you've argumented for?
Billy: You'd be surprised the comments I would get in my YouTube videos for the beer website. Yeah. Yeah.
Louis: So what are we talking about? What, what type of comments are we talking about?
Billy: Oh, just, I can't remember the exact words, just BS, just some knuckleheads saying that's stupid. It's, what do you know? This is the way to do it instead.
You're just trying to sell something that the typical thing, the kind of thing that you have to get over if you're going to sell stuff, you know, no matter, no matter how you do it, you're going to come across it. And that's what I realized. It's like, no matter what, like there's going to be that guy out there.
So what we do.
Louis: YouTube is a good. It's a good cesspit, people are mostly anonymous there and so they are like watching it at night or whatever, they are wired because they didn't do anything during the day and so they, they're taking on other people, I get that, but that's it, right? I mean, you get just mean comments and you get over it and yeah, but the upside, which is why I'm getting to the upside is just.
It's a completely different ballgame, right? When you start to talk about, as you mentioned, the ladder of importance, try to like mention the important stuff and sell what's important before you sell your product and really like make sure that you visualize those chain of beliefs on what you need people to believe and explain this way.
It's just such a different way to approach marketing. It's much more powerful. And I think it goes back to one thing. One of the thing you believe, which is, you know, those gurus telling people, you need to create, create content and you can make them money out of it. Right. But you believe more in a argument based approach to it.
Right. So does it goes, does it go back to what we are talking about right now, which is like the selling the importance of the thing rather than the thing.
Billy: Totally. Yeah. If you think about that inside out approach where you find something that works on a small scale, and then you start to expand into, into media and posting on social media and all that, it should still just be an extension of your core argument so that every piece of content you put out there, just, I like this metaphor of knocking the golf ball a little bit closer to the hole, right?
It's, you're not trying to hit a hole in one. It's just every piece of content, because it's part of your argument, it's leading them somewhere as opposed to the way that most people do free content, which is just. Posting about their topic. Cause that's what people do. Experts tell you to do just post about your topic and all the subtopics, but there's no real argument in there.
So you're not leading someone somewhere. And so you're not at this point that you want to be at, where you have all the golf balls around the hole. And then when you come out with your light bulb for your offer, you just got to, you know, put it in.
Louis: It's a very powerful analogy. I like it a lot. I talk a lot about points of view and how you need to share it.
And this is it. It's like, how do you protect your segment? How you do help them to go one step further to closer to where you want them to be. You have to take a stand. You have to be courageous enough to just say some stuff that maybe some others would disagree because just like in golf, all right, you pick, you know, what is the wind direction and what's the weather like?
And what's the, the terrain around you? How many trees is there? And other people might say, no, actually you need to hit more to the left. And that is when I'm not to the right. And you're going to have to take a stand and say, no, I'm going to hit it right in the middle or something. Right. Or else You know, you should just say, well, I don't know.
You try whatever. It's just, yeah, it doesn't have the same weight. So going back to your, your framework a bit. So Status Quo, they've tried before your bridge, your method, your approach, your offer, new life. I'm just curious about the chain of beliefs. Again, I go back to this a bit, which is like, so you understand what's important, right?
So for your beer business, it's like cleaning, maintaining the stuff, becoming a good taster of beer in general, like understanding the nuance. Okay. So you have that, then how do you turn that into like, those are all the things I need to say in order to bring people closer to bring the ball closer to the hole.
Billy: The things you need to say. Is that what you asked?
Louis: Yeah. How do you transform what's important, the things that are important into something intelligible that people will understand and bring them closer to the hole.
Billy: Yeah.
I'll give you an example with the beer business. Yeah. So it comes back to, this is a model we put in a book too, uh, The claim proof model, a very simplistic, you know, I'm sure someone has like degree in rhetoric is going to be like, but you know, we need simple though.
So you make a claim, you back it up with proof and the thing about the proof as your content, the proof is what becomes the email or the podcast episode, or just a section on your sales page. So the claim I was making was that. And look, there is, if you study argumentation, there's always a chain of claims, not chain of beliefs, but there's a chain of claims, multiple claims, and then you arrive at a conclusion, right?
So you pick that high level claim, and there's going to be claims below that as well. So my claim was that beer tasting is the best way to improve your beer. Now, along with that, there's going to be the natural objection, similar to, what was the other one that we were talking about? Oh, the TV repair.
There's going to be the objection. Well, I can't improve my palate though. I wasn't born with a good palate. That's a natural objection to my claim that you have to improve your palate. Okay. And I have to be aware of that. So then I have another claim, a sub claim. The sub claim is that it's possible to improve your palate.
So notice, you know, usually when I say claims, people think it's a claim. Like my product is better than all the other products. This kind of claim is nothing like that. This claim is. It's possible to improve your palate. Okay. So now following the claim proof model, that's the claim. What's the proof? Well, I had a bunch of different forms and one of the ones that I use that worked really well was this podcast interview.
So I brought, or just an interview. I brought in a guy, found this guy who is a professional perfumer. So not beer, but it makes perfumes, fragrances. And he's called the nose isn't that was the nickname, the nose, which is just, but it's ironic because as he says in the interview, he was born with a normal nose.
Like he couldn't smell things better than the average person. And he talks about the training that he went through and people in his industry went through in order to develop, because I don't know if people know, but you're, what you taste is largely through your nose. Like try holding your nose and, and like drinking a beer or wine, you won't taste anything.
So it's large and. My people largely knew that too, that it's largely about your nose. And so that's why I brought in the nose, right? And so he talks about that. So that was the proof point, him doing that interview. And because of that, I had all these people now who listened to that in my audience who believed, Oh man, like maybe it is possible to get better at this.
This guy just told me how he did it. The nose did it. And that made him more likely to accept my offer. For the beer tasting course, which I sold, which was my level four. It was a great piece of content as well. You know, it was interesting. Hey, interview with the
Louis: In French, they call it le nez, like the nose.
The people with this profession who develop perfumes and stuff, they call it like literally the nose. Like I'm a nose. That's what they would say in French, obviously. It's fine. Is your partner sick? Are you using the light bulb framework with your partner when you argument with her about stuff? Are you saying like you need to work on your light bulb too a bit more?
How many times do you get slapped?
Billy: Yeah, no, it's helps my relationship. That's going to be an upcoming book, the five light bulbs for couples. For sure. Yeah. Well, no, seriously, use it. Use it. I use lightbulb one all the time. Seriously, she walks in the door and I'm thinking lightbulb one because I'm a consultant, right?
So I'm trying to solve her problem. So she comes in and she's all upset about something and I want to jump into, okay, well, have you tried this? Have you tried this? How you tried this? But She doesn't want that. Right. She just wants me to go, ah, it sucks, babe.
Louis: Yeah. Uh, I would ask her, I was like, okay, do you want me to help you?
Or do you want me to listen? Right. Night, night, I'm sort of thermal. I need, I need to listen. Sometimes she, she does ask for my opinion and then discards it anyway. So to go back to it, what you just briefly said, which is very powerful in my opinion is like, you have the main claim, but then you basically, it's having a dialogue with someone without them replying back.
It's like you are. You say something, then they come back with a question and objection, something that when they question it, you answer that, and then until nothing is left, right? And that's it. Then you know you're ready for the offer, like to show the offer label for, right?
Billy: You got it.
Louis: I got it. Cool.
That's good. Okay. So let me just briefly summarize our conversation because I'm taking notes. Your friend Tiago would be very happy with it. So yeah, you started marketing around 2008. You believe that the difference between funnel thing and a business is actually the relationship and the depth of relationship.
We talk about the two differences, the difference between an influencer business model and more service based business model where the influencer is more the outside in type of approach, which is why it's a struggle because they are the product. That's what I said. Anyway, service business is more like a product like startups.
It's more like inside out where you optimize that. And then it's much easier then to reach more people. You talk about copy message being upstream compared to copy, right? So it comes first and to create something that is simple, simple message, you have your five label stuff. So one last time, number one is customer service code.
Number two is what they've tried before or what they consider now. Number three is your bridge, your approach, your mechanism. Number four is your offer. Number five is new life. And then we talked about claim, how you need to kind of pick an overarching claim. Something that most people, most business owners will take for granted, but they shouldn't, because that's what people need to believe in order to kind of go closer to your solution.
And then the last thing we talked about is just kind of this ladder of importance, figuring out what is important. And then saying that, uh, understanding the subclaim, the objection, it's like a cascading thing, right? And as they go down the ladder or up or whatever, you can then sell what you want to sell.
Billy: You nailed it. Yeah. Good summary.
Louis: All right. What do you, you recommend? What are the top three resources you'd recommend listeners today? Could be anything, any channel, any platform. Medium.
Billy: Top three. There's a great book and a friend of mine who sadly just passed away a couple months ago. His name is Mark Goldstein.
His book is called Just Listen, and it's one of the greatest marketing books out there, even though it's not advertised as a marketing book, but I would say like that was a big inspiration for Lightbulb1. What's his book? Just listen and Mark's work in general. He's an incredible guy. And another one would be this idea of argumentation.
Yeah. I mean, just study, study any of anything really on argumentation, on rhetoric. The book, the trivium is very good. It covers rhetoric and logic and grammar. And what would be another one? Yeah. Study the old copywriters. You know, we mentioned Eugene Schwartz and Gary Bentz Avenga. Another one is Gary Halbert.
Claude Hopkins, David Ogilvie, they had this constraint where they couldn't just blast off an email for free like we can today, right? They'd actually type it up and put a stamp on it and mail it in, in an envelope. And so because of that constraint, they put a lot more focus into their words than we do today, which means that they're better people to study when it comes to finding the best words.
So those are my three.
Louis: Great. And that's a good way to put it. Billy, you've been a pleasure. Learned a lot, actually. I like how simple your approach is and how you describe it, which makes it very powerful. So once again, thanks so much.
Billy: Thank you, Louis. Take care.

Creators and Guests

Louis Grenier
Louis Grenier
The French guy behind Everyone Hates Marketers
Billy Broas
Billy Broas
Solopreneur and author of "Simple Marketing for Smart People"
Funnels Don't Build Businesses: Here's What Does
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