Effective copywriting makes you stand out in an online universe that is full of content that can easily drown you out. More than that, it can also link your businesses with the people who really need the services you have to offer. In that sense, copywriting is not making content, but using the right words that will make you money. Copywriter and founder of Taleist Agency, Steven Lewis, sits down with Paul Higgins and takes us to the world of copywriting, writing landing pages, online marketing, and communicating with customers effectively. Steven’s mission is to “rid the world of bullshit one sentence at a time.” Whether you’re an entrepreneur who’s interested in really making money from your landing page or a marketer who wants to up your game in the online marketing business, make sure to sit back and have a listen.
Listen to the podcast here:
Making Money With Words: Essentials Of Effective Copywriting With Steven Lewis
Build Live Give. Mentoring With Paul Higgins
If you’re a first-time reader, welcome. If you enjoy it, please subscribe. If you’re a regular, thanks for your support. I’d love to get your feedback at [email protected]. It means the world to me when someone does. My guest is someone who grew up in Hong Kong and started a web development company in 1994. He spent more time educating them building, which led him down a career path of working for corporates when needed and following his passion for writing in his own business in between. He talks about what copywriting is and how you can improve it. This is simply too good to miss. Why read? The value of stopping the leaks in your website bucket through copywriting, the two elements to creating successful online courses and why the LinkedIn posting is not a solo sport. They have kindly given you a copy of Better. Stronger. Faster,, which helps you to win in these uncertain times. Over to Steven Lewis from Taleist.
Welcome, Steven Lewis. Steven is from Taleist. It’s fantastic to have you here.
It’s great to be here. Thanks for having me.
I know we’ve been working together for quite some time, but even doing some research on you, I found a lot of things about you that I didn’t know. What I’d love for you to kick off with is something that your friends or family know about you that we wouldn’t.
I care about what I do. That is something that surprises people. It’s easy to have a job that you do and that you’re good at, but to have one that is the core of your being. My wife, Fleur, and I were in Sydney and I saw an ad for English as a Second Language course and the slogan was, “Learn English better.” I probably spent five minutes thinking, “Do they mean they teach English better than other people or that you’ll learn English better through our method than you would through another? Do they mean that you will speak English better?” I can’t walk past a poster without mentally passing it. A different sense of pass and rewriting it.
I must admit I had that when I worked at Coca-Cola with ads. Most people completely turn off ads. I couldn’t help but study an ad. It’s still something that I have. You’ve been at it for years, so you’ve dedicated the majority of your life to it. From what I can understand, you’ve had multiple efforts of being in your own business and working for others. Give us a little bit of a short history of that and then we’ll dig into how you came to running Taleist.
Both in terms of writing and having my own business, when you look back over your life, sometimes it makes logical sense some of the things you do and you go, “I was always going in this direction.” In my case, I always wanted to have my own business. I left university, worked for somebody else and reached a ceiling there. It was 1994. The internet was becoming a thing. I taught myself how to write web pages, which in those days for people who have been around for a while, you were dialing up and it was slow. There were no web editors where you could see what the webpage looked like. You couldn’t put pictures on a website easily. It was primitive, but I loved it.
It was a hobby that I turned into a business and it was a terrible business because, in 1994, you’d say to somebody, “You need a website.” They would say to you, “What is a website?” You’d spend an hour telling them what a website was. They’d say, “That’s quite interesting. I’ve also heard of this thing called email. What’s email?” You then spend another 30 minutes on that. In the end, they’d say, “We’ve got a Yellow Pages ad. We’re happy with that.” I loved having my own business. I had picked a terrible business to be in. I fell back on writing, which is something that I’d always wanted to do. At school, I’d been a debater. I’d started a school newspaper. I’d written for the newspaper at college. It was in me.
For a lot of writers, it is an impulsion. It’s not something you decide to do. It is who you are. Variously, through working for other people in communications roles and spending some time as a journalist, I was around the edges of copywriting all the time. What happened was I spent a period of time as a journalist. I was a journalist in Hong Kong, which is where I grew up. It’s where I’m from. If you’re an English language journalist in Hong Kong, you will get approached to write for businesses because you’re a native English speaker. You write for a living, they need that skill. I started being asked to write brochures for people, including Coca-Cola. I wrote for companies. I wrote press releases, brochures, and I would have called that copywriting then. I have come to realize through extensive study and dedication to copywriting that a blog post is not copywriting.
A brochure that says, “We’re open between 7:00 and 9:00 and we deliver,” can be copywriting, but generally, the way that most people do it, it’s not copywriting. Copywriting is the art of writing something persuasively so that you take somebody from the beginning of what you’re writing, and by the end of it, you’ve got them to take action. Your blog post about warming winter soup recipes is not copywriting, it’s content writing. A lot of what I was doing was content writing. If you start to get drawn into what is copywriting, it is this endlessly fascinating tour of human psychology, which in a way I suppose doesn’t answer your question about all the people that I’ve worked for. In a nutshell, I worked for law firms and banks as an employee, but I’ve only ever worked as an employee when I haven’t been able to be running my own business. There has had to be a reason for it. I needed a visa to migrate to Australia or I needed the cash. It’s never because I’ve been drawn to working for somebody else.
When you read your LinkedIn profile, we may see that as well.
I’m a terrible employee. I used to work for a bank here in Australia and I was working five days a week and I wanted to start my own business again. I asked them to go down to three days a week and I said to them, “Here’s the problem. I’m here five days a week. My value to you as a communicator is that I don’t write like you and I don’t talk like you. If I stay here five days a week, I am going to end up talking about leverage, customer journeys, passion, subject matter experts and all the other nonsense that is talked in corporate. My value to you will be gone because my value is communicating clearly.” They let me go to three days a week.
When I was at the Coke Company that you mentioned before, the Coke Company had a Bible of words that they’d created. We’d often sit in a meeting because, at that stage, I was working for the bottler, another franchise or franchisee relationship if you think of it that way. We used to play our BS bingo. How many words that don’t exist other than the Coke vernacular? I would say it was amazing. Still sometimes I default to that in our own business. I know when you looked at my website, you tore it apart with what does this mean? That is a gift. Unfortunately for you, you can never switch it off. Every sign or everything you read, but for your clients, I know from my experience, it’s worthwhile. On your background, was there a family history of journalism writing?
Not at all. My father was a working-class Englishman who, as he liked to tell us as children, had not eaten in a restaurant until he was in his twenties. He was born in 1935. He did national service. He put himself through university in his late twenties. There was no history. He was a surveyor and my mum ran bars and restaurants. There was nothing there. They created this middle-class, wordy child.
You talk about the art of copywriting, which is a great distinction. Who are some of the people that influenced you? Who were some of the people that you’ve followed through your journey?
If you study copywriting, the same names will come up again and again. You’ve got Gary Halbert who will have written things that you may have heard of. He’s dead now, but his stuff resonates. John Caples, even my father used to quote to me the line, “They laughed when I sat down at the piano and then I began to play.” That’s a John Caples headline, an incredibly famous copywriter. Eugene Schwartz who wrote a book called Breakthrough Advertising defined how you write differently to readers depending on how aware they are of their own problems, your solution and the product. You’ve got John Carlton who wrote a famous headline about a one-legged golfer. The thing about copywriting, this is a little bit like being a stage manager, which I was for a while.
You are behind the scenes. The people who know what you do know what you do. You permeate the culture. To give you a good example, in the run-up to World War I, the Americans considered it a national security problem that many Americans had rotting teeth. They were enlisting servicemen who had rotting teeth and all the problems that are attendant on that. The reason they had rotting teeth was they didn’t brush their teeth. Americans did not brush their teeth every day at the turn of the century. It was a copywriter who wrote about a concept of when you run your tongue over your teeth, if they’re not brushed, you can feel its horrible film. He wrote a copy of that. That was Claude Hopkins. Now we will brush our teeth twice a day. That’s copywriting. Most of you probably haven’t heard of Claude Hopkins, but you do brush your teeth twice a day and he’s why.
It’s funny that World War II, the reason for the tooth decay was more the fact than Coca-Cola. That’s how it became such a global brand. I forget the quantity. Every service person had to have X amount of Coca-Cola and that’s it. That took a global footprint. The biggest supporters of you, there are some branding examples, the people you refer to. A lot of those names I’ve come across. I’ve heard Gary’s son, Bond, on a couple of podcasts as well. Who have been the other supporters as you went through this? It had to be in corporate then run your own business journey.
For me, it’s been family. It’s been saying to your wife, “I want to go down to three days a week at work.” When we met each other, I had this five-day-a-week job and she had worked in corporate since she left university. To her, the norm was you work five days a week and you see how far up the greasy pole you can get. I was a bit of a novelty to her in rejecting all of that and then turning around and saying, “I’d like to slice my income down by 40% and only work three days a week in order to build a business.” That’s a big thing for a partner to say, “You have a go. See how you do.” It took at least a year for that to pay off. That was a year with one of us deciding they only wanted to work for a part-time wage.
I know it’s a question I normally ask a little further, but it’s perfect now. Fleur is going to read this. What would you like to say to her about the support she’s given you?
Writing is usually not something you decide to do. It is who you are. Click To Tweet
Why are you reading instead of working? She now works in the business, so that is the close to that loop. Fleur went from being somebody who had once upon a time had ambitions of writing, who had gone into this five-day-a-week cycle and she came out into the business. I’m glad that I was able to create a business that she could come into and I’m glad that she’s backed me as this business has gone through various stages. In the beginning, I was writing walking tours of Sydney. We’ve come a long way from this business writing walking tours of Sydney and teaching people self-publishing to being some of Australia’s better-known direct response copywriters. It has been quite the journey.
We talked about this prior and I know for me, I’m hoping my wife can help me in my business. Any tips on life and business partners in one?
You have to try to find your own space and you have to try and find your own role in the business. That’s where I see people doing it best where they have a clear division between who’s responsible for what. It would be difficult to be in a business where one of you worked for the other because that would be incorrect. How do you turn that off? Between 9:00 and 5:00, I’m the senior person in the business. After 5:00, I’m your partner again and we’re equal. Personally, I would find that incredibly difficult to switch modes.
That’s why I do run my own business because I’m definitely number two in the household. Fleur might be reading this, but I’m sure Linda won’t be. What we’ll do is go into the build section and you’ve covered it. When someone says, “Steven, how can you help me? What do you do?” How do you best answer that?
It’s a difficult one because we can go big or we can go small. We can write a landing page for somebody. The landing page is a significant project. I don’t mean it’s small in that regard, but it’s contained through to helping somebody to develop a marketing strategy. Generally, I talk about the copywriting side of things because marketing is even harder to explain than copywriting. Many people have been stung by a terrible marketer. If you’ve been stung by a terrible marketer, you are in that once bitten, twice shy area. In terms of explaining the copywriting to people, what I say is we write the words that make you money, we write the words that will make your phone ring or your email bing with incoming inquiries. That’s what we do.
I often know people pine for the service pre-revenue in some cases. Some people have got lovely budgets that I know you deal with, but some people on a landing page. They’ve done all this hard work and then it’s like, “This is the last thing. Can I afford that or make that investment?” I’m sure you come up against that all the time. What’s your best answer when someone says that?
I struggled with it for a long time because it’s unproven. If you’re coming at something pre-revenue, I don’t have a baseline to work from. I can’t tell you, “You’re getting this result from this page. I can tell you that I can do 100%, 200% better in terms of conversions.” What I tend to say to people if they’re in that position and money is an issue, I ask them if they’re going to be spending money on advertising. If you’re going to be dropping $2,000 a month on advertising, that’s $24,000 a year. You’re buying visitors from Google, Facebook or wherever you’re advertising. A good copywriter is going to make sure that as many of those expensive visitors as possible become customers.
In that instance, in my opinion, you can’t afford not to. I was going to write a post on LinkedIn about it. If I said to you, “Paul, I’ve opened a restaurant. I’m advertising in the local paper. I’ve got Facebook. I’ve got Google My Business. I’ve got a Yelp page. Every day, I see people walk up to the front door of my restaurant. I see them look at the menu that I’ve put outside the restaurant and I see them turn around and walk away. I think, ‘I’m going to double my advertising spend so that twice as many people come every day and look at the menu than turn around and walk out.’” You would think that the restaurant owner was nuts, but that is what people do every day with their websites.
“I’ll spend $2,000 a month or $10,000 a month.” I’ve done work for a surgeon who was spending $30,000 a month sending traffic to his website and getting a less than 1% conversion rate because he didn’t want to spend any money on a copywriter. He had written the webpage himself. We wrote the webpage for him. It got him a 433% improvement in conversions. That meant over the six months that he had procrastinated about engaging us, we could have saved him more than $200,000. That was the cost of not doing it. If you’re spending money on advertising, that is where you can’t afford not to have somebody who knows what they’re doing. Take a moment to learn some of the techniques yourself rather than thinking, “My English teacher thought I had a lovely turn of phrase and I work in the business. Why don’t I smash out some copy?”
Most people reading, if they’re like me, copy is not something natural. I’m good at writing corporate emails. I’m getting better at writing for coaches and consultants. Certainly, it’s a big gap. I completely agree with you and you’re going also maybe to offer a do-it-yourself or an online course if you don’t have the budget or investment. Tell us a little bit about that.
It’s called the Landing Page Template. The course is to take you from staring at a blank page and not having any idea what to write or possibly worse, looking at a blank page and then starting to write. You’ve got no idea what to say. You’re just going to type. There is a formula to writing a successful landing page. I suppose the best way to think about it is there is this first day that you can do on yourself and then you go and see a doctor and get it done that much better. There’s a difference in terms of availability and pricing. The purpose of the course is to take somebody who has no idea or thinks they have an idea but don’t.
I guess somebody who thinks they have an idea wouldn’t buy a course, but somebody who was stared at that blank page or who has written their own landing page and has watched Google Ads hoover up all of their money with no result. They take the course and they learn some of the powerful fundamentals of copywriting, including a structure for that page. If you take the course, you will never again look at a blank page and think, “I don’t even know where to start.” You will know where to start. You will know where to finish. You will know where to get the information that you need put in between the top of the page and the bottom of the page to get people to convert. Certainly, you could go and spend $6,000 or $10,000 on a professional copywriter and they would bring even more elements into it and they would improve the conversion rate even further. For an investment of a few hours in improving your own skills, you will get, I am guessing, at least double the conversion rate that you would get on your own.
What is a good conversion rate? I know it’s like a piece of string. You talked before about 1%. What targets do you see your client setting?
It is a piece of string because it depends on what you’re selling. The surgeon, for instance, he was selling a $20,000 procedure. If you had the first procedure, there was every chance that you would need the second procedure. He was selling a product with a lifetime value of $40,000. From his point of view, he could spend $20,000 on marketing a month. If he got four patients, he was ahead of the game. It depends on where you are. Whereas if you’re advertising a lower cost item and it’s costing you $2.50 every time somebody clicks on Google, then you’re going to need a much higher conversion rate. It depends on the nature of the product or the service. It also depends on how much you want that conversion to be.
For instance, if I said to you, “Paul, my Lamborghini’s parked outside. Here are the car keys. Do you want to take it for a drive around the block?” I’m probably going to convert 100% of the men that I make that offer to. If I was to say to you, “Paul, here are the keys to my Lamborghini. I’d like you to buy my Lamborghini.” I’m going to have a much lower conversion rate, but I’m going to make a lot more money. It is about how high the barrier is and what is it you’re trying to do. In a lot of cases, the conversion that you’re looking for is not for somebody to buy. It’s for somebody to get in touch with you, for instance.
For example, with the new online course, what have you set as an internal goal for the conversion of the landing page?
From my point of view, I have a target number of people that I would like to take the course every month. A big part of our situation is the world has been turned upside down and had its pocket shaken out. We’ve been wanting for a long time to start doing courses because that is another side of what I enjoy is teaching. I’m passionate about what I do, which is getting the right information in front of the right people in a persuasive way. Copywriting isn’t about convincing Eskimos to buy ice. Copywriting is about saying, “Paul, you’ve got a good service. You are an excellent coach. You are perfect for this group of people.” How do we persuade that group of people that you are the right choice so that you’re happy and they’re happy? It’s a phenomenally enjoyable thing to teach. What I want to do is I want to take people who are good at what they do and put them in front of the people who would benefit from that. Show them how to persuade those people that they’re making the right choice.
Teaching is exciting to me and as you can tell, it’s something I’m hugely enthusiastic about. We want to make more courses. I have a goal of how many people I want to be teaching every month in the first year. That’s how I’ll be measuring it and what I’m conscious of. Earlier in my business career, I would have been looking at this and saying, “If I can’t get 1,000 people into this course in the first two weeks, what’s the point of doing the course?” As you get a bit older and wiser, you realize that your conversion rate today will be less than your conversion rate tomorrow. This is a brand-new course. I have testimonials from people who’ve taken other courses. I have testimonials from clients I’ve written for. I have no word of mouth on the course because only one person has taken it because I did it as a one-on-one prototype with somebody. The conversion rate will increase over time as well. Sometimes you have to take a longer view of your conversion rate because it will mature.
Speaking of online courses, that prototype, and I know you’re very involved in doing research when you did my landing pages. Your research was excellent and it certainly helped shape the result. What are some other tips for people reading, like myself, that are heavily relying upon memberships and would love to add more value and teach more people through courses? What are some learnings you’ve had even in the last round that you could share?
I started online courses for the first time. I was early that if you’re familiar with Udemy, which is a big marketplace for courses, they got in touch with me to ask me to go into Udemy to sell my courses. For reference, these days it’s a little bit like the Apple App Store phoning you up and saying, “You look like you’ve got an app. Would you like to come in our store?” These days, Apple does not pick up the phone to you to invite you. You beg Apple to put you in the App Store. It was a long time ago and courses, in a way, suit me because writers tend to be introverted.
The reason you brush your teeth twice a day si because some chap name Claude Hopkins wrote a copy about it. Click To Tweet
We like sitting in our rooms by ourselves writing. Creating an online course is incredibly appealing for that reason because you get to sit in your ivory tower, create the course and then put it out. You don’t have to deal with people. I was attracted to it. I spent a long time making a course. The problem with doing that is you’ve committed it to video, you’ve committed it to writing before any human being has taken the course, asked you questions and said, “I’m not quite getting that bit.” If you do it live and you see that somebody is not getting quite that bit, when you get around to committing it to a pre-recorded course, you will answer that in the way that you’ve seen working with real people rather than going, “That lesson and that course isn’t working. I’ve got to rerecord that 10 or 25-minute video or four videos,” or whatever it might be.
With the landing page template, for instance, my course on writing a landing page, as I say, I’ve done it once through with one test subject one-on-one. He’s a guy I didn’t know. I didn’t do it with a friend. It was genuinely with a new business. He asked questions that I hadn’t anticipated. I’ve been able to adapt the course based on his feedback on what worked for him. I had done what I intend to do, which is over-egg the pudding. I love teaching. I am going to squeeze as much material into a course as possible. Sometimes to the point of overwhelming somebody. Maybe it should have been two courses, a 101 and then a 201 or whatever the next step up is in American education. What I would suggest is try and run it. Try to run it with at least one group of people live. It doesn’t have to be in person. The guy that I’m talking about, he’s in London and I’m in Sydney. We ran it perfectly successfully over Zoom.
I have not committed anything to pre-recording before I run it at least a few times first. That is the biggest thing that I’ve learned. The second thing I would say is if you can possibly avoid it. Don’t try to teach people technology because I’ve done it. I am teaching copywriting and the principles of copywriting are timeless. You might read about something on Facebook today and some other amazing hologram platform tomorrow. The psychology that you employ to make your buying decision hasn’t changed since we were cavemen. My principles are timeless. If you try to teach somebody Facebook, God helps you because Facebook will change its look, feel and rules every fifteen minutes without notice. You will be going back to your course saying, “That entire section is now redundant because that feature doesn’t exist anymore.”
Writing my book, I don’t think I took that advice myself well enough because I always put the category and then the recommended knowing that was the case. It’s true. You think of the tools and technology that we’re using now, especially in the pandemic we’re in, a lot has changed. The last question in the build section I want to ask you is around LinkedIn. I know that we’ve been working together for a while on LinkedIn, but give us a quick snapshot of where you were before we started working together. What have been some of the outcomes as you’ve gone through that journey?
I was an early adopter of LinkedIn. One of the reasons I didn’t want to talk to you with my business history was because there’s been so much. The common thread has always been communication. Back in 2005, I had a social media agency teaching people how to use social media. To put that in perspective, Twitter didn’t start until 2006. In 2005, you couldn’t get a Facebook membership if you weren’t at a university in the US. I had a social media agency. Once again, way too early to be in that business. LinkedIn, I was an early adopter of it because I was in a social media agency and LinkedIn was a place where you dumped your CV. If you don’t want to work for anybody, why do you want to dump your CV anywhere?
I didn’t want to be an employee and LinkedIn was a site for employees and wanted the employees to dump their CVs for recruiters to find them. I missed a lot of the evolution of LinkedIn after that because I ignored it. When I kept hearing that LinkedIn was big, it had changed and it was a vibrant community where business was done. I didn’t know anything about it, so I got in. I’d occasionally put up a post, the post would sink like a weighted body. I couldn’t get it at all. It wasn’t until you and I started working together that I realized not only do you need a system, a plan, and support. You need somebody who’s on top of where LinkedIn is flowing, where LinkedIn is changing, what it’s doing.
LinkedIn is not different from Facebook and the others in that it will change its mind overnight about what it’s going to do. It won’t tell you. LinkedIn is not going to send you a message saying, “Paul, we’ve decided to wait for the algorithm differently.” You need that support. It’s one of the biggest mistakes that I see people make is the mistake that I made, which is thinking, “If I put a post up on LinkedIn, everyone who follows me will see it. I’ve got 750 connections. That’s 750 people following me.” As you know, that isn’t how it works at all. You’re better off not posting, in my opinion, because it takes time than posting and hoping. You need a plan. You need support.
If the benefit is about getting that team and it’s not posting at this stage the way that our rhythm works. It’s not a team sport. I do also love the community aspect. I know we had a call with some people around the world and how we can help each other because we have similar objectives of helping others. It works well. Before we go into the live section, I’d like to tell you a little bit more about our community, which is a nice foray into what Steven’s talking about. It’s called the Authority Machine and you can watch a free pre-recorded masterclass at BLGClick.com. What it’s going to give you is the real behind the scenes secrets with Steven and a couple of other people around the world.
Let’s say there’s a big community, about 100 have learned. It will teach them how to trigger the formula to get ten times your views. We’ll also show you the seven killer steps to turn views into likes and comments by your ideal clients. We’ll also show you how to convert those into relationships. I don’t think there’s ever been a more important time to be adding value. We talked about it where there are three key elements to LinkedIn. There’s your profile. Most people go to that even before your website. The second is giving value-added content. The third thing is building those relationships. Steven and I both spoke about it where people are referring people these days based on the quality of content you’re doing. If you want to see some of the best quality written content, which probably won’t surprise you, go and read some of Steven’s posts. I have to have a box of tissues with me most times when I read them. The next section is the live section, Steven. What are some daily habits that help you be successful?
I love to plan out. Not planning out the day, but write out the goals for the day. This is an evolving process because I enjoy it. I was using something called a Panda Planner, which is a silly name. There’s probably some story behind it, but it sounds like a Hello Kitty planner. It’s not. It’s all about how you enforce habits through consistency and thinking about the right things. It has elements like gratitude. You would start the day. God knows if some of my friends could read this now talking about the fact that I write three things I’m grateful for down in the morning, I would laugh at them, they would laugh at me. It’s phenomenal. It’s incredible, particularly now, to think about the good things and then at the end of the day to write down the things that you’ve accomplished.
In the morning, writing down what are the big things that I have to do. Before I write those down, I have a look at what is at least my monthly goal and then my weekly goal because I’ve had to learn. You can write a to-do list that says, “Write these four landing pages between Monday and Friday.” That won’t happen. What is a realistic amount of work to do? What am I trying to achieve overall? Bringing all of those things together in one day so that I’m certain I’m moving the ball forward in the way that I had planned to move the ball or towards the goal that I had set.
I know that you posted a couple of new team members that you’ve put on, which are your delightful two daughters. What are some of the learnings or some of the lifestyle changes you think you’re going to keep post this pandemic? What are some of the things that you will make as new habits?
I kick off on LinkedIn at 7:00 in the morning, but after that, I went for a run. It wasn’t a pretty sight. In the past when I’ve been running, I have driven away from my neighborhood in order to spare my neighbors the sight of me wobbling around the streets. I thought, “Screw it.” I have been running. I have been cycling. I’ve got a seat on the back so I can take one of the girls at a time. I’m keen to keep that going. We’ve been doing a little bit more cooking, which has been nice. The changes are unsettling for the girls who are 4 and 6, we’ve been making more of an effort to have dinner together and those sorts of things. Zoey, who’s six, hasn’t been going to school and Charlotte, who’s four, only started back at preschool. We’ve had them around a lot more. We’ve been going for walks and scooter rides. I would like to think that I’m going to keep those things up.
The only word that my dear mother, who passed away, said there should be no such word as, think, in the English language. I’d love to keep you accountable for doing that. It’s wonderful. Mine is a bit older, but it’s the same thing. Beating my son in chess at the moment is a joy I never want to end. The next is the give section, which might be relevant for what you’re doing at the moment. What’s a charity or a community that you’d love to support and why?
The local community here where I am, it’s always been a great community. I’m from Hong Kong, which is a difficult thing to say when you’re a white man because people look at you like you’re bizarre. I lived half of my life in Hong Kong. I grew up there. I went to school there. My first jobs, my first businesses were all there. I have never known many of my neighbors. In childhood, I did but here when I moved to my neighborhood in Sydney, which is Rozelle, the lady who delivers our post introduced herself. I have never lived somewhere where the postwoman would have introduced herself. We’ve got multiple local Facebook groups about who’s doing it tough, who needs help.
There was a post up that said Linda, the postwoman, couldn’t get any toilet paper. Literally, some of my neighbors pursued Linda around her route to give her two rolls of toilet paper. Linda has since started feeding some of her neighbors who can’t get government assistance and don’t have any food. The neighbors on my street have clubbed together and are buying food for Linda to give to her neighbors. I’ve never lived anywhere where that would have happened before. I would name another suburb in Sydney in which I lived, but that would be rude. I can tell you it would not have happened there. If your neighbor’s house were on fire, you’d be complaining about the smoke. That is what would have happened in that neighborhood.
I was fortunate to be brought up in the country until I was five and then spent a lot of my childhood back there for holidays. At the moment, I love the fact that you can walk past someone and they do wave, smile and say hello. For years I’ve always been the odd guy in the city doing it because that was standard in the country. You don’t walk past anyone without talking to them. That’s why I don’t do a lot because I might talk to them for 3 or 4 hours. It’s great to see that in the community. The last section is the action section. What I’ll do is ask some questions and get some rapid-fire responses from you. The first is what your top three personal effectiveness tips are?
You’ve got to have a system. If you’re doing repeatable things, then have a process to make them as repeatable as possible. Set your agenda in the morning, and in my case, start as early as humanly possible because I accomplish matters in the morning and it’s all downhill from there.
The next is what tech is essential to running your business?
We use Harvest for time tracking. We don’t charge for time. However, it’s an important internal measurement of how long things take. When you track your time, you can no longer have any delusions that things took 1 hour or 10 minutes. If there are services that you sell, then you can be much more realistic about how you charge for them. It’s much easier to turn to a client and name a figure that you’re potentially slightly uncomfortable with when you know something took you fifteen hours. When they’re clients, they go, “That’s easy. How hard could that be?” You’re like, “It takes fifteen hours for me. I know what I’m doing. It would take 100 hours for you or more and you’d get a lesser result. I’m comfortable with the number that I’m naming.” I find it useful. We use Pipedrive as our CRM. I used to put Post-it notes of inquiries on a whiteboard and then because I didn’t like following people up because I don’t like selling, eventually, the glue would rot on the Post-it note and it would fall off the whiteboard. It was inefficient. Pipedrive is great for forcing you to continue to look at the inquiries that you’ve got and that you’re making and to pursue the next action, which is brilliant.
Copywriting is the art of writing words that will make you money. Click To Tweet
Other than staring at posters and looking at everyone’s copy, what are other sources for you to get great ideas?
Great writers. I’m not saying I am a great writer. I’m saying all writers who want to be good, let alone great, read. The why do you read, the better. I wrote a post that was inspired by a biography I was reading of Kim Jong Un in North Korea and I’ve drafted another post for LinkedIn that is based on a New York Times article interview I was reading with Jerry Seinfeld. The why do you read, the more you know, and the amazing places that your ideas come from. You don’t know where an idea is going to come from. If you keep your reading and research narrow, you’re limiting the possibilities.
The last question is always the biggest, and I save it to the end. What impact do you want to leave on the world?
We went through a branding exercise. The branding agency said to me, “What’s your purpose?” I said to them, “My purpose is ridding the world of BS one sentence at a time.” That to me is a good day. It’s a day where I’ve rid the world of a little bit of BS. If I can persuade people that you don’t build something out, you build it, you don’t on forward things, you forward them. You don’t self-isolate, you isolate. You don’t self-feed, you feed. That is a great day for me. If my legacy was persuading fewer people to say leverage, passion, customer journey, subject matter experts, utilize. I’ve got small ambitions, Paul. That would be enough for me. Ten fewer people in the world who say utilize instead of use, I’m a happy man.
I can see you’d have a field day in the Coke company, that’s for sure. It’s great having you on. I thoroughly enjoy reading your posts every day. They bring a tear of joy to my eyes, but also give me some valuable content. Definitely check out Steven Lewis on LinkedIn. He’s also kindly given us a little gift of a great course. You’ll explain it.
When the world got turned upside down, I thought to myself we spent a lot of time thinking about things that would work for our clients in a changing climate and things that would work for us. I took all the ideas that we had which are researched and proven to be working. I put them together in a downloadable PDF called Better. Stronger. Faster., which for those of you who are old enough to remember is what they said of The Six Million Dollar Man. “We can rebuild him better, stronger, faster.” If you want to retain your existing clients or gain new clients even in a difficult time, it’s full of ideas that as I say, “Read widely, you don’t know what might inspire you.” It’s a quick read. There might be something in there and you can get it from Taleist, which is the name of my company, Taleist.agency/blg.
I couldn’t have said it any better myself. As a side note there, I did have a Six Million Dollar Man when I was six. I threw him up in the air and he smashed. I can tell you, they cannot be rebuilt. It was a sad day and my dad said, “Son, there’s a lesson. Do not throw your Six Million Dollar Man up in front of the concrete.” There we go.
They were wise, your parents.
They were, and I won’t say what that forced me to go then and do because I did have neighbors with dolls, but let’s say that I didn’t take one of those to school. It’s awesome having you on, Steven. It’s an absolute pleasure knowing you and listening or reading every word that you put to paper. Well done. Thanks for coming on.
I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did. If you believe someone you know would benefit from this, and I’m sure there are many, please share it. Steven would love to get your feedback and appreciation on LinkedIn. His LinkedIn posts are sublime. It’s worth listening to. You can learn The Three Secrets to Build Your Authority on LinkedIn in our free pre-recorded masterclass. Go to BLGClick.com. Find out how Steven’s been successful by learning the secrets yourself. Please take action to build your business and lifestyle. Stay well.
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About Steven Lewis
Steven has been writing professionally as a journalist and copywriter since 1994.
He has lectured in PR and journalism, and his book on persuasive storytelling has been taught at Sydney University and translated for international distribution.
Steven’s journalistic, research-based approach to copywriting informs our unique process.
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