Archive for May, 2009

When Rare Diseases Aren’t So “Rare”…

little-kyleWhen fellow copywriter Melissa Ingold got the news her baby Kyle didn’t have cancer last October, she and her husband Jeff were relieved.

Until they found out that Type III Gaucher Disease is considered terminal, with a 0% survival rate beyond age 10.

Melissa wouldn’t wish illness on any child, of course – but she couldn’t help finding it bittersweet when she read an American Cancer Society article stating that 97% of infant cancer patients achieve complete remission.

She says on Kyle’s blog: “So is it any wonder that I wish Kyle’s diagnosis had of been cancer, that he had of been given a 97% survival rate? And because he would have been diagnosed at 3 ½ months old, they would have caught it so, so early. I mean, by now his treatment could have been done and over with, he could be in remission and living a normal life.”

When the Ingolds were told it was Gaucher’s, there was a brief period of hope while they waited to hear if it was Type I, which usually sees its victims survived to adulthood.

It wasn’t. Kyle had Type III.

What Is Gaucher Disease?

You don’t “catch” Gaucher Disease. It’s genetic. It’s considered so rare very little attention is spared in the medical community and even less in the media.

As a link on the blog Melissa started for Kyle says, “rare diseases aren’t so rare”.

Particularly when it’s your unique and precious child who has one.

Type III Gaucher children lack a vital enzyme preventing fatty acids from building up in bones, liver, lungs, spleen and brain, swelling each cell beyond tolerance levels.

pictures-043 The toll it takes on their tiny bodies, bones and brains is catastrophic.

Gaucher’s symptoms depend on which of the 3 types your child is unfortunate – or fortunate – enough to have. Symptoms range from “minimal” to total disability and death before 3 years of age.

Typical of Type III (the sub-group Kyle was diagnosed with): Swollen stomach (enlarged liver and spleen), fragile bones, eye displacement and later, neurological involvement and death.

Can It Be Treated?

Kyle has already been started on painful and expensive enzyme replacement therapy. There have been many long-distance trips to specialists and hospitals. The family is now gearing up for a 1 ½ to 3 month stay in Toronto, miles away from home, while Kyle undergoes a high-risk bone marrow/cord blood transplant at The Sick Children’s Hospital.

Melissa has put her name on the waiting list to stay at Ronald McDonald house, so she can be with Kyle throughout – but there is a slim chance that will work out, since there are hundreds of families on the waiting list, and not nearly enough room. She and her husband will have to cope with hotel fees, travel expenses, food, laundry, time away from work, and still pay all their regular bills while Kyle undergoes and recovers from this high-risk and grueling procedure.

I too once had to spend time in another city while my 2 children both underwent testing and treatment for a rare genetic disorder, and I know what it’s like to have to cope with staggering medical-crisis expenses that banks don’t give loans for – when all you want to do is be there every minute for your very sick child.

What Can I Do To Help?

So while Melissa is focused on setting up the new charity organization, “Neuronopathic Gaucher Foundation” – dedicated 100% to raising money directly for research – and organizing an online fundraiser for it, I’m breaking with business protocol, and putting a link to Kyle’s blog on my site.

Please visit it, and make sure that Kyle’s is not just a statistic brushed under the invisible rug of “rare” diseases. Please make sure his story is not just a small, still voice, unheard, and silenced far too soon before its time.

There are things that can be done to help children with catastrophic, painful, life-ending diseases like Gaucher’s.

But not if we don’t make it our solution too.

UPDATE: Melissa and Jeff have decided not to go ahead with any radical surgery at the moment. She explains why in a blog post, It’s Official

How To Deliver An eBook Junk Food Surprise

KFC's Original Recipe fried chicken and French...
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If you’ve ever downloaded an eBook (which in the world of internet marketing is kinda like saying “if you’ve ever rode in an automobile”) you have probably come across this strange phenomenon:

•    Making your purchase
•    Opening your eBook
•    Scanning through 26 “introductory” pages telling you all over again why you need that particular e-book, and why the author is the greatest expert ever

That just happened to me – with a PDF from a top internet marketing guru.

Think about how you’d feel if Vince from the “ShamWow®” commercials had personally sold you a Shamwow® at the local farmer’s market – but instead of handing it over, he kept on selling and selling, continuing to tell you why the product was so good, and why you were right to buy from him.

Now picture yourself wanting to smack him and grab that ShamWow®.  The emotion feels pretty realistic, eh? (Even without the smack).

Yet internet marketers do this to their customers all the time.

Where did this “I must prove my customer needs my product before I give it to him but after I’ve taken his cash” phenomenon come from?

From the very first burst of “proof”, you can practically see whoever wrote your eBook of the moment – guru or paid copywriter – hunkering down, earnestly ready to persuade you all over again that the thing is worth what you paid for it. Hunched over the keyboards, shrewdly imagining your supposed tirade of scorn as you challenge them to prove you’re actually going to deliver the simple “How To” information you bought the book expecting to read…

So why don’t they just deliver the goods?

I don’t know about you, but this trend of long, rambling “I’ll prove this book was worth it” eBook introductory pages drives me straight up the wall.  By the time I’ve waded through all the “I’m going to tell you about… but first” teaser stuff, I’m mentally exhausted.

When I finally reach the main course, my tiny overloaded copywriter brain is far too stuffed with carcinogenic, fatty, deep-fried, sugar-glazed, donut-’n’-fake-chicken bites to move.

Let alone tackle my dinner.

Ya know, I wouldn’t mind so much if the 26 pages of appetizer actually proved to be high-value, tasty bites of citrus-soaked Pacific salmon and herbs on cedar, or wafer-thin prosciutto wrapped round fresh Honeydew melon.

But they taste more like fried white bread and sugar blobs.  And lots of ‘em.  Bleaugh!

Somewhere, long ago and far, far away, some evil person must have written a Special Report on how to create the perfect eBook.  (I suspect it’s the same one, recycled over and over and over again).  And somewhere in there, someone got it confused with “How To Write The Perfect Sales Letter 101″ (point number 6, “anticipate your customer’s objections, and answer them before he asks!”).

The average reader doesn’t need 26 pages of “proof” before they bite the goodies, once they’ve clicked that “Buy Now!” button.

They’re hungry.  They want the meat.  And they’ve already paid for top filet mignon, thanks.

Any eBook introductory lead-in should deal with what you’re about to deliver. Too many fried white bread and sugar blobs forced down a surprised gullet, and your glutted and irritated reader may never make it to the main course.  They’ll walk away, stuffed but queasy, saying: “That was lousy quality – wasn’t worth the money I paid. I’m not going back there again.”

Which is probably just as well – because far too often, all that hype was there to hide what you were suspecting all along:  The book had nothing new to deliver.

The writer was just desperately trying to trick you into believing it did with a lot of dynamic rhetoric.

But I’m starting to repeat myself. I’d better go before you get 26 pages of…

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Hot Button Havoc

Making eggs in the basket.
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It needed to be said. And Alice Seba said it:

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”.

Alice was referring to the need to diversify internet marketing efforts, which we all agree is a good thing. There is more than one way to do it:

  • multiple clients
  • multiple projects on the go
  • multiple streams of income

But then she went one step further and expertly turned the subject on its head with a warning to beware the pitfalls of “Hyper-Niche Marketing”, a phenomenon where internet marketers rush from one project to another. All feverishly trying to create – and balance – multiple baskets full of eggs, heads spinning in a state of total chaos.

Alice points out: “But seriously, if you’ve got a ton of baskets to carry…how the heck are you going to carry all of them? It’s tough to do THAT many things well”.

She goes on to give 5 reasons why internet entrepreneurs in particular fall into this trap – and then offers 5 excellent counter suggestions on how to avoid it.

The “Get Rich Quick” Bug

This is one of the best internet marketing articles I’ve ever read, and that’s why I’m blogging about it – something I wouldn’t normally do and actually don’t have time for right now, with another copywriting deadline looming. But I think what she says, and the clarity with which she says it, is so significant, I’m pointing people to her post: “Myth or Real? Don’t Put All Your Eggs In One Basket”.

I’d like to add a couple of thoughts to what she says, however: One of the biggest reasons people rush from one project to the next without ever completing and carrying each project through (and that’s probably about 85% of all would-be internet marketers, from what I’ve seen on the forums over the last 2 years)? They are seduced by the “Get Rich Quick” bug.

Being a successful internet marketing entrepreneur just doesn’t happen that way. As Alice points out, her own success was built up over a number of years, and started out with a good solid foundation in a related field – in her case, copywriting. It takes time, consistency and hard work to build a reputation.

On Being Trigger Happy

The other thing I see as a copywriter: we internet marketers are a strange breed, conditioned to rabidly buy at the first sniff of a sales letter. And our inboxes are flooded with them. It’s part of the culture.

Start out reading the familiar long copy format, throw in a few bullet points with intros so common they’re practically cliches – “3 sure-fire ways to”… “10 Top Tips for”…. “The Single Most Important”… – and we’re all salivating like Pavlov’s famous dogs (yes, that includes me). We’re hitting the “buy” button before we’ve even bounced our eyes over the subheads, let alone read the fine print.

And yes – it might genuinely be the most fabulous offer in the world you’ve seen for a whole 24 hours. But if it doesn’t fit in with your marketing plan and the step you’re scheduled to take now, chances are 99/1 it’s going to distract and sabotage your efforts.

Alice is right. Do one thing at a time, and do it well, before you race on to the next.

But she actually says it far better than I could. Find out why she’s one my my personal Top 5 Internet Marketing Heroes by clicking here.

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Life’s Too Short To Dance With Ugly Women

If you’re a female reader, you’re probably finding the title’s enough to make you grit your teeth.

That’s exactly the effect my brother-in-law Vince intended back in the 1980’s, when he bought a baseball cap with this chauvinistic slogan, and wore it to work.

You see, Vince taught commercial diving at Seneca College. Back then, women students were rare, and there was tension, conflict and a lot of uneasiness in the course when they were first “allowed” in. So Vince wore the infamous “Life’s Too Short To Dance With Ugly Women” cap just to stir things up and get the female students to speak up for themselves.

My sister was disgusted and annoyed.

Vinnie was unrepentant. (Though he did later admit – with a big grin – it was “too effective”.)

But then I got thinking about the principle behind the words, and over the years as life grew harder and more challenging, it’s actually become one of my core personal mottos (and got me more than a few Funny Looks in the process).

But when I think of “ugly”, I’m not speaking physically, of course.

The point is, life is precious. Don’t waste it on negative people or no-win situations that make you utterly miserable. Things that don’t advance you towards your life goals and potential.

It’s your life. Make it what you want.

That means discarding people who constantly drain your energy: The ones who don’t understand the principle of reciprocity – giving back. (These are the people who do the most damage. People in genuine need recover, then turn round to be supportive to you. There’s a balance.)

But if you’re always finding that you’re constantly giving, giving, giving – or a situation has nothing in it for you and you feel like you’re endlessly spinning your wheels and heading straight towards a big fat nowhere, stop and take a long, hard, look.

You may have encountered an “Ugly Woman”.

Walk away.

As for my brother-in-law Vinnie, he ended up marrying his most offended, vocal and assertive student – my sister.

How’s that for a suitable fate?

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Bridging The Gap

Icefall of Khumbu glacier
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On Mount Everest, climbers have to cross the Khumbu icefall, a tumble of monstrously tall ice seracs punctuated by deep crevasses. The only way across these deadly glacial chasms is by walking across flimsy metal ladders used as bridges. The icefall is so treacherous, climbers usually tackle it before the morning sun gets up. Even in sub-zero temperatures, the slight warmth from the sun is often just enough to make seracs topple, split apart, shift – and swallow even experienced climbers whole.

Most seasoned climbers agree, the best way to get across these precarious makeshift bridges is as quickly as possible, without stopping to over-analyze each step. The longer you take to cross a ladder, the more likely you are to freeze up, take a misstep, and fall.

Writing is like that. If you think too much, you freeze. You think some more. You look down at what you’ve just written, and your stomach starts to knot up. You try to write a few more words, and think “I can’t do it, this is crap.” You go back, and edit the piece to death.

Literally. You’ve killed every bit of emotion you originally put in it.

Writing is a tool, not a religion. Oh, there are times it feels like one, but it’s not the writing that makes it feel that way – it’s the communication. That’s what makes it sing.

No matter what sort of writing you’re doing, you’re still communicating. You’re telling a story.

When you tell a story to your 6-year-old at bedtime, you don’t backtrack. You don’t stop yourself and say, “That’s not quite the word I wanted.” You don’t try out 13 different words to see if you can find a better one – if you did, your 6-year-old would rapidly grow cranky and bored.

You just tell the darned thing, warts and all.

That’s why it’s best, when you’re trying to write sales copy, to get through it in one go before you start revising and editing. (The same goes for any other type of writing too.)

You’re likely to put the most emotion into that first run through – and passion and excitement are what sells a product. Not perfect grammar.

After all, it’s not like Everest, where if you make a misstep, you can die.

And fast copy doesn’t necessarily have to mean sloppy or poor copy – it just has to work.

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