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How to Craft Crystal Clear Messaging with Steven Lewis

October 23, 2023
The Recognized Authority Podcast Cover

The podcast that helps experts & consultants on the journey to becoming a recognized authority in your field, so you can increase your impact, command premium fees, work less hours, and never have to suffer a bad-fit client again!.

In this power-packed episode, master copywriter Steven Lewis reveals the hidden science behind crafting crystal-clear messaging that compels action. Drawing on decades of experience, Steven dives deep into the psychology of communication, sharing little-known tips for breakthrough marketing.

You’ll learn why most website copy fails to connect, the crucial difference between addressing needs versus wants, and how to frame your expertise so prospects instantly “get” you. Steven also deconstructs the intensification of online platforms, why you should always build your house on owned land, and the key to standing out by simply explaining what you do clearly.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, this masterclass provides profound insights you can immediately apply to make your messaging impossible to ignore.

So tune in now to learn:

  • The science behind crafting persuasive messaging
  • Actionable tactics to compel prospects to act
  • How to explain your expertise simply and powerfully
  • The pitfalls of overly complex communication
  • Why you should focus on addressing wants, not just needs

Don’t miss these game-changing communication insights from copywriting expert Steven Lewis!

Show Notes

Guest Bio

Steven Lewis has been writing for the web since 1994 and writing for money since 1997 as a journalist and copywriter. Today, Steven writes high converting copy for everyone from global law firms to one-person businesses through his agency, Taleist. (Pronounced tale-ist.) And he trains business owners and marketers to do the same.


alastair, people, talking, book, expert, sell, thinking, put, website, write, problem, world, read, copywriting, build, content, clients, platform, buy, give

Steven Lewis, Alastair McDermott


Alastair McDermott  00:01

So today, my guest is Stephen Lewis coming to me all the way from Australia. Steven, welcome to the show.


Steven Lewis  00:06

Great to be here. Thanks, Alysa.


Alastair McDermott  00:08

So we were just having a little bit of a rant about kids these days, because we’re both old enough to have been around since the internet started. Right. So what I want to talk to you, but


Steven Lewis  00:22

sorry, it’s more like that, or, okay, we got the beauty of the internet. Oh,


Alastair McDermott  00:27

we’re gonna get that across. Well, I suppose we are the other side of the world. So in fairness, but um, yeah, so let me ask you, like, one of the things we were talking about was about the fact that because you’ve been around for a long time, and I’m saying you, but I mean, anybody who has been around for a long time, we’ve typically done things the old school way, before all these nice, shiny new tools came along. And so that means that sometimes we have like a deeper insight into the kind of the inner workings, like we were talking about podcasting, and double Enders where we record both sides. Is there anything else that you can think of that, that people in our field, examples of that that might be relevant for them?


Steven Lewis  01:05

In my case, it’s the idea that there’s any such thing as writing for the web, which is total bullshit. Like you know, people make a fortune teaches courses on writing for the web, and you look at a Joe Sugarman ad from the 1980s or go back to a Claude Hopkins ad from the turn of the century, short paragraphs subheadings had to be interested you like the idea that the internet invented anything in terms of communication is like thinking the telephone invented things? And oh, you know, nobody talks to each other before the telephone. And I think that if you’re old enough to predate the internet, you can build yourself confidence by saying, Actually, I might be intimidated by the tool. But I’ve been talking to people for a really long time. I used to write letters, people used to reply, I know how to do this. It’s not that different. But people make a fortune out of telling you, it’s different so that they can sell you their skills.


Alastair McDermott  02:07

Yeah, and I mean, Joe Sugarman, That’s old school. copywriting, I think, did he do the like the blue blocker? sunglasses and those like, like, this is from the era of those, those TV, those TV channels where they just had had ads on all day, and I don’t even remember what they’re called. But this is


Steven Lewis  02:30

ads in proper newspapers, like the Wall Street Journal, advertising a pair of sunglasses, because you could do that, then because you couldn’t just hit Google and say, Okay, well, Joe’s selling these sunglasses for 60 bucks. Let me get on to Amazon and see who’s selling something similar for 12 bucks. You couldn’t do it. But you can still, you know, and again, I mean, you know, I mean, I know, it’s not necessarily what you were asking, but this long copy shortcut, the, oh, nobody reads anymore. You can’t say it to somebody in a bullet point, they won’t buy it What bullshit, right? Some things take a little while for you to unpack your suitcase of information about them. And yeah, he used to write full page ads about a pair of sunglasses, and people read them and bought millions of pairs of sunglasses. And people still read long copy today. But your web designer will tell you, Oh, it’s the whitespace. Baby, it’s the way you know, you’re gonna have a lot of whitespace. And that’s what’s gonna sell things. It’s not true.


Alastair McDermott  03:34

I think that this is fascinating. I think it’s important, because the people who are listening to this show are people who want to position themselves as experts and be seen as experts, because that’s, that’s the typical listening to this show is an expert in what they do. But not many people know that they’re an expert. And so like, the way that I see that we have to, to combat that is we have to actually show our work, we have to demonstrate our knowledge in public, we have to put ourselves out there by, you know, creating content by talking about what you do, be it a podcast, LinkedIn posts, whatever kind of content, we have to create some kind of content that actually shows Hey, I know what the hell I’m talking about here.


Steven Lewis  04:17

And you have to do it in a way that the punter can see the value. So it’s different I think a lot because I do a lot of work with lawyers. And engineers, and lawyers and engineers are 99%, frightened of looking stupid in front of the other lawyers and the other engineers. So they want to write in the way that an engineer would go, Oh, yeah, absolutely. The exponential curve of the decibel. Yeah, I completely understand what you’re saying. Whereas other people want words like louder, quieter, you know, you have to dumb it down. So that somebody understands what you’re saying in order for you to sound like an expert, so You know, any of us could watch a medical drama, learn, you know, chem seven, got to get a screening panel got to do their shoved them in the MRI. And we could shout that at people all day. And you’re not going to sound like an expert doctor, an expert doctor is the one who can sit with you and say, Stephen, the problem is this. And it’s a little bit like that. And the reason it creeps is because this is happening, as opposed to talking to you about infarctions and lesions, and contusions and chem, seven blood panels. That’s what you need to be doing finding that balance between saying something that somebody says, I recognize my problem in that. And the fact that you can describe my problems so accurately suggests to me, you know, the solution, which is where humans are flabby minded, right? If somebody can describe your problem with enormous accuracy, your brain assumes they have the solution, whereas experts tend to want to talk about the solution. And I’m like, Well, I don’t understand any of that. But if you say, like, we’ve got a client, for instance, he’s an expert in pain management, and specializes in treating people with arthritis. So his website is all about, have you been to your granddaughter’s wedding and not been able to stand up and dance? Do you no longer go on holiday with your family? Because it’s just too painful? And you can’t keep up with them? And then yes, you I completely, you must have met so many people like me before, and you can help me. He hasn’t even talked about the solution yet. And people have already thought, Oh, my God, you must be an expert because of your deep, deep insight into my problem.


Alastair McDermott  06:41

There’s two parts of this. So first of all, you talked about dumbing it down. I know, some people get really annoyed about that concept. And I think Einstein is credited, but may not have actually said, If he can’t explain it to a five year old, you don’t understand it truly? I don’t know if he actually said that or not. But I know that people say that he said that. And who knows what with quotes these days. ChatGPT probably just made it up. The other thing is that so that’s the that’s the dumbing it down part and and kind of the connection between explaining something simply. And then the other part is this fascinating thing of what you said about when we when we can explain the problem, that instinctively means that we know the solution, like, like, do you even understand why we might think that it that seems like a very strange kind of connection,


Steven Lewis  07:32

I think it tells you that somebody’s been there, right? So if if you say I’d and I’m having a fight with my partner, and you know, she said this, and you go, Oh, my God, when they say that, and then they do that, and then they smash a dish, and then they walk out and they take the children with you. Or whatever it is that I don’t know why I went there. My wife’s downstairs, we’re okay. That the youth, they say that you’re like, Oh, my God, that’s exactly what happened to me. And then the next thing you want to say them, it’s so what do you do when that happens to you? Because I want an answer. Because you think some, as I say, somebody’s been there. So if you’ve got a friend who’s been to France, that’s the friend you say, where should I eat? What Why do you think that person knows where they eat in France? They went, they went there for a weekend. They’ve chose six restaurants over the course of the weekend. What makes them the expert, and yet, you will ask, because they’ve been there, and you think they’ve got a solution? I mean, we did some work for company that states that sells CBD oil. And I won’t bore you with the whole backstory to that. But what we found in the research was in Facebook groups discussing CBD oil, you’d have somebody in there saying, oh, you know, my husband has has this problem. I’m wondering if CBD oil will work. And they will be asking somebody who use CBD oil on their cat for their opinion. So because that person’s use CBD oil, so they’re further down the track than you are trying to use it on your husband for whatever it is I’m, you think I’m making this up? I’m not somebody’s in the group who’s only ever used a product on their cat. And you’re asking for opinions on whether you should be dishing it out to your husband. It’s bonkers when you think about it. But so much of human behavior is bonkers when you think about it.


Alastair McDermott  09:32

So and I know that Dan Ariely may have been debunked a little bit, but his book predictably irrational, there’s still a lot of really good stuff in there. And, like, I think that that phrase really encapsulates it for me. But the question then is like, how should we actually use this so so if we say okay, we should be more problem focused, more explained the pain focused in our marketing and in how we talk to our clients or our potential clients? But this, like, what’s the ratio? Like? What? Where do we put that when I’m putting stuff out, like as a technician, you know, in the in the kind of Michael Gerber definition of visionary manager technician. And I know a lot of people who are experts are in that technician mode. And so we’re solving problems and solving problems is about the solution. And we want to talk about the solution, hey, here’s five ways you can you can approach this solution. Here’s all these ideas, and we want to put that out, like, like, where, what’s the ratio? Where should we be talking about the pain and the problem versus the solution?


Steven Lewis  10:37

People or not, people are not going to believe me. So there’s going to be an enormous amount of resistance to this. Possibly zero, like you’d be better off with zero than where most people are, what people want to hear about is the problem so that they understand that you’re an expert, because you think talking about your solution makes you the expert. But if I knew the solution, I’d been doing it. So I’m not qualified. So if you say, I’m an engineer who can build a bridge, I’m like, Well, I don’t know anything about engineering, I know, I want to get to the other side of the river. And the problem is that I’ve got food that I need to take to sell at market, and I can’t get over the river. And you say, Well, I understand strength and tensile ratios. And I can do this and, you know, I can build a bridge. And I might well, I have no qualifications to know whether you’re talking gibberish, or you have the answer, I want you to talk about the problem, and Paint me a Picture of how great my life will be when I don’t have to go 12 kilometers, you know, up to the narrowest point of the river. And back again, I can just cross where I want to cross that, if you talked about that, you would do better than most people. So I would say that certainly for a lot of experts, here’s their big problem. In a lot of disciplines in which people are an expert, there’s a lot of learning. So they’ve been to lectures, and the tutor or the lecturer or the professor or whomever it might be. Their expertise was in part showcase by the theater in which you saw them, which was a lecture. So you think if I give lectures, I too, will look like an expert, rather than either a crashing bore, or somebody who’s saying the wrong things. Because when you think in a lecture mode, you think you know how to mode. So what you do is go I’m gonna give you seven tips for writing a press release, and people go, thanks. And then they bugger off, and try and write their own press release. And you’re like, oh, no, I thought you’d read that and go, I did a pretty shit job. But okay, I get your point, you know how to do it, and you’d execute these seven things better. And I’ve stuffed up and I’ll come back. But I’ve worked. I’m not kidding you for global law firms, where they’ll give a webinar. That’s I don’t know how to do it, document review about that. And their idea is, look, I’m telling you for an hour, how to remove an appendix. Obviously, it’s not really a how to remove an appendix hour, because after an hour, you would not try to remove somebody’s appendix. But they do. Because you called it how to remove an appendix. And I went, Well, I’ve, I’ve done the hour, I must now have the qualification. So the answer is, the value that you provide in your content should be, I give you a map, and I show you where the dragons are and where the world pools are. I don’t show you how to slay the dragon. And I don’t show you how to get around the world. But I’ve given you value by telling you those things of their what I sell and how I feed my children is teaching you to kill those things. So yes, I’ve given you value, there should be reciprocity, and I have demonstrated expertise. But now cross my palm with silver, if you want me to solve the problem, but because I’ve shown you the map with the dragons and the whirlpools, you’re going to innately think, because it is innate in us to think this, that I have answers.


Alastair McDermott  14:06

So I think I’ve heard this described as, show the what, but not the how. And I think that that sounds nice, but I think the lines are very blurred as to when something is watered when something is how, but you’re you’re showing people the kind of the general approach to solving the problem without actually getting into the weeds getting into the details of it. So


Steven Lewis  14:33

you’re, you’re showing them you’re mapping the problem for them, and showing them things about their problem that they didn’t know that they had and that is valuable, right? If you if somebody comes to you with I don’t know, a clunking noise in their car and you say to them, yeah, and the thing about that clunking noise is that you’ll be 100 kilometres up the motorway and then what happens with that particular kind of clunk is your tire falls off. That’s enormously valuable. And I haven’t charged you anything for that. But I’m not then saying so what you need to do is get this tire and do this thing and you know, find this solution.


Alastair McDermott  15:11

I’m going to use an example I think both of us are familiar with just to try and put this into a real world context. So I’ve written a book about how to actually it’s called how not to screw up your business podcast 33 ways not to screw up your business podcast, the name of the book. And I kind of wrote that book by accident. And I didn’t really intend to become like a podcast coach, or anything like that. But it’s certainly something I have helped my clients with. So it’s something I know quite a bit about, I think, you know, a lot about podcasting, from your decades of experience. So let’s take podcasting for an example. And, like, if somebody is, is a business owner who wants to start a podcast, can can you kind of map out? Like what that map would look like? What you would tell them what you wouldn’t tell them in your kind of public facing materials?


Steven Lewis  16:04

Okay, if I was demonstrating expertise, I’d be saying, for instance, it’s very difficult to build an audience. And, you know, as well as I do, right, that the world is full of people telling you that if you build it, they will come. You know, they won’t, if you built it, and they would come there would be no marketers, no advertisers, you know, Facebook wouldn’t make any money because no one will be advertising because you built it, and they came. It’s so nonsensical. So for instance, I imagine I haven’t looked at the world of people marketing, the whole idea of a pot, you know, you start a podcast, you become brilliant, everybody listens, things are great. I’m imagining that world still exists, right? So you would be mapping the problem. And you would be saying, listen, obviously, you need distribution. Because if you’re, if you don’t want to be a tree, you know, if you don’t want to be if you don’t want to be the lone guy talking in the forest, while the tree falls down and making a podcast about it, then you’re going to need an audience. So building an audience is is quite difficult. And I’d be saying things like, listen, just putting yourself on iTunes isn’t going to work, you’re going to need a lot of reviews. But I’m not telling you how to get reviews, I’d be hinting that there are easy ways to get reviews, and many podcasters don’t know those ways. But the value that I’m giving you is saying right, okay, before you start a podcast, maybe you need to pre build an audience. I’m not saying that that’s actually how you build a podcast. But that’s what I’m saying is there’s value like, oh, okay, you think you need to get 12 episodes in the can. But if you haven’t actually started building anticipation for your podcast, you’re going to get those 12 episodes in the can and you’re going to be 12 weeks behind, because you should have been doing this for 12 weeks. But I’m not going to tell you what the exact this is, but it’s going to feel valuable. Because I’ve pointed out the building an audience. And anticipation is, you know, whatever. And maybe I’ve got some free tips and tricks on doing that, that you get in return for giving me your email address, for instance. So maybe I do give you a bit of how to, if I get your email address, and I give you a bit more if you pay me. I mean, it’s those sorts of things. So with podcasting, you’d be saying, Listen, I recommend my clients, you know, get a certain bundle of equipment, that’s, you know, it’s only $300. But many people will tell you $800 is too much. And then maybe I tell you what the $800 version was. So Oh, yeah, you can get a condenser microphone. But the problem is, you can hear a pin drop in is Pakistan when you’re trying to record your podcast, so you don’t want to condenser microphone, I speak to someone who got burned by buying bloody condenser microphone, or to


Alastair McDermott  18:47

a desert. We could have a little bit of a rant.


Steven Lewis  18:51

Exactly right. You need a dynamic mic for it. But you don’t tell them necessarily they need a dynamic microphone, you tell them? Oh, yeah, my God, one of my clients, you know, got sucked in by this person who had them spent, you know, 1200 quid. You know, on all of this fancy equipment, there’s value, right? Because you’ve told them, If the number at the bottom of the receipt looks like 1200 quid, you’ve shopped in the wrong shop and bought the wrong things. So that’s what I’m saying you’re giving them you know, you’re mapping the Whirlpool the Whirlpool is you’re gonna get sucked in and spend too much money. And if you’re part of my program, then I give you this wonderful kit list that you can just get online, get onto Amazon, and you’ll have it if you’re a prime member, it’ll be drones to your house by the end of the day. Like, you know, that kind of stuff. Does that make? Does that make sense?


Alastair McDermott  19:42

That makes a lot of sense. And and thank you for kind of playing along with that hypothetical. And so the context here we’re talking about is we’re talking about like how much as experts we should be sharing of the the solution, fixing the problem, as opposed to How much we should be sharing about talking about the problem, and explaining the pain and explaining the problem further. And so like this is this is another like, we see a lot of guys talking about creating a lot of content. I know Alex Hermoza, he talks a lot about putting a lot of content out for free, and there’s a lot of other people doing the same. And it’s very hard as an expert not to want to share that the How to part is so do you espouse the idea of creating a lot of content and putting a lot of content out into the world? And if so, how do we do that? Like, how do we restrain from putting it that that too much of the kind of, here’s how you do it type answers.


Steven Lewis  20:43

I used to advocate putting out a lot more content because I drank some Kool Aid in 2005. But if you build it, you know, they will come and you know, all of that they were great store back in the day. You know, people think blogging was invented in, you know, the early 2000s. And you know, the word was invented, then I had a an online magazine in the mid 90s, which back in the day, as you may recall, we called a zine or an E zine. It was a blog, right. But we didn’t have we didn’t have the word blog. But when when blogging came to be in the early 2000s, people like oh, yeah, you know, if you just blog, and people will come and read it, and they’ll subscribe, and then they’ll think you’re amazing. And then they’ll buy your stuff. So there was real pressure to put out a lot of content and give away a lot of content. And I learned, I would say the hard way, what Dan Kennedy preaches, which is, you’re just training people to get stuff from you for free. If you give away too much stuff for free, then they just think, where’s your free stuff. So I mean, I’ll give you an example. I used to have a blog on self publishing. So back in the day, I taught people how to publish their books on on Amazon. And I had, I think I can safely say, one of the biggest blogs in the world on self publishing, which is not the same as having one of the biggest blogs in the world, you’re talking about quite a little niche there in 2005 ish, you know, six, so I’m not claiming celebrity. But in that niche, I was known around the world, I had a very large, very useful blog. And I remember somebody emailed me once and said, Hey, Steven, I’m looking for some information about this. I can’t find it on your blog. If you have any information about that, could you send it to me? And I thought, Wow, so you’ve come to this website, absolutely packed with free information. But that’s not quite enough. You would like me now to act as the Librarian of that information for you on a personal basis. Well, of course, Aleister, let me just take some more time out of my day for you, and actually put a bundle together and send that to you. Thanks very much. People will not necessarily reward you for giving away a lot of free content. They’ll think that’s what you do. Look at the problem that newspapers have, right? They all went online, they all thought they could support the model with advertising. They couldn’t. But they trained us to expect our news to be free. And speaking as a former journalist, what a batshit mental idea, right? You think the BBC can send somebody to the Gaza Strip? And go, oh, yeah, sure. Well, we sold some ads for thick shakes on that. So absolutely. We can pay for the flak jacket, the body guards the camera guy. Yeah, it’s nuts. But it’s what people have been trained to believe. So I would advocate make good content, make good hero content that you can splinter into smaller pieces of content. So you know, this podcast, it’s a great, you know, because I’m just dropping gold nuggets all the time, Alastair, you’ll just be able to chop this up into 700 You know, chicken nuggets of value. But you make a big piece, you split it into little pieces, you recycle it so you make it evergreen, for God’s sake, don’t spend a lot of time writing something that’s called the 2023 guide to whatever because unless you can just cross it out right? 2024 next year, you’ve wasted your time. Pick your channels, you know, God’s sake, don’t believe that everybody’s on TikTok like just because somebody’s made a hero of themselves on TikTok and now they’re telling you that every financial planner in the world should be on TikTok Do you have time to be on TikTok and the 8020 of your life and your marketing is TikTok where you should be all of those sorts of things you know pick at least a couple of channels do it well, for God’s sake, make one of those channels by email you lunatic. You know, just again, people building their you know their houses on other people’s land is a recurring Bring it again. To your point earlier, Alastair, we’re old enough to have seen it right? You’re old enough to have seen people make a Facebook group and have it taken away from them do something on Instagram, do something on MySpace and just have it taken away. You’re nuts if you’re not building an email list, and I’ll shut up now, Alastair, that was a very long answer. This is my pocket. That was


Alastair McDermott  25:20

a great answer, just to give some more examples of things that have gone away, or are going away right now. So Twitter is being Elon at the moment. And it like that is just a shitshow. Like, whatever your politics, that platform is, just, it’s a burning bag of dog turds. It’s just horrible what’s happening on that platform, people sharing videos in order to get revenue streams of horrific things that should not be shared. And Brett then bragging about their revenue share that they’re getting an Elon retweeting it like that, for me is is the line and it’s been crossed. So I think I’m gone. But that’s that’s my little rant by Twitter, there was an amazing platform that I really loved that came around a few years ago called Blab. And I think it was actually bought by the guy who sold MySpace, actually. But it was where you could get on and have these live chats with people where you’d have like a four seats. So what people would typically do is they do a live stream interview. And then they would invite people from the audience to come in and have chats, that was a really cool platform. And, and I really enjoyed it actually, as a consumer as well as as a creator. And that went away, they sold out to somebody and just gone. And we saw what happened with Facebook early on, I think, is Dr. Rowe, who has written about the intiative occation of platforms. And I’ll link to that in the show notes. Because it’s a really interesting concept about how platforms grow. They give away really great stuff to consumers at the start, they give a really great stuff to businesses, they get everybody on board, then they start charging the businesses. And then they start taking features away from the users. And that’s the intensification of the platform says,


Steven Lewis  27:13

again, and again and again. And yeah, I mean, and what I’ve seen again, and again and again, is that people, you know, like Gary Vaynerchuk, will be telling you, oh, Google circles is the next big thing. You’re absolutely nuts. If you don’t jump on it, in sound again, insanity. And people do it. And people feel under pressure, oh, my God, I’m not making periscopes you know, I’m not making vines, I’m not these things that what doesn’t go away are the principles that you and I are talking about. And that is, you know, I find I mean, these days, you read an online marketing book, and if you have studied copywriting, you will look at it and you’ll go, oh, that’s Claude Hopkins, you know, who was writing in 1916 or 20? You know, he worked through the Depression. You know, so for those of you who don’t know, Claude Hopkins was an ancient direct response advertising guy. But he’s writing in his book, which, as I say, escapes me when it was published. But he sold things by direct response through the Great Recession, and depression. Using AP testing, right? Direct Mail, people have always seen a B tests, right half the people got, you know, this headline, half the people got that heaven, and they had to measure it by what coupons got clipped, and sent back in the post. But you listen to some Facebook ads, Twitter in his book now. And he’s talking as if Facebook invented a B testing you like, this stuff has been around for a very long time. There are fundamental principles of how to persuade humans to do something. And this idea that you’ve only got four seconds to do it because TikTok says so is absolute bullshit. Can’t remember if there was even there, Alastair? Now there wasn’t we were talking about


Alastair McDermott  29:07

I don’t know if there was but what it was, I mean, we’re talking I mean, like the reason we’re talking like this isn’t just to have a rant, but this is I think this is a really crucial point. Now right now, LinkedIn is a pretty good platform, all things considered it it, it has not yet been properly and edified. It isn’t great. Like there’s a lot of things that are kind of clunky, like search features, whatever the hell they’re doing with groups. There’s a lot of issues with it, but it’s still one of the best platforms out there for for business, networking, for business notes, social kind of connections, social networking, I guess I should probably say, but it’s still not something that you own yourself, and what we were talking about and the point you made about building on rented ground, like ultimately what we should be doing is driving people back have to opt into our email list so that they have put their hands up and said, Here’s my email address, I am willing to accept you coming into my inbox, and I will read your emails every so often. And having those email address that can’t be taken away from you. And there’s no, there’s no platform out there who can stop you. I mean, hopefully, the email, the email providers, you know, Google putting things into other tabs on Gmail and things like that, like that aside, people are putting their hands up, and you own the relationship directly. And that’s the really crucial part of having an email list. And that’s why I think everybody should should do that. That’s, that’s the point I wanted to make.


Steven Lewis  30:41

I couldn’t agree with you more. Absolutely. Email should be everything you do. So I mean, there was somebody I was reading the other day who might regard everything he does is to put you on to his email list first, because there is a much better chance and most people who come to me as a client now have been on my email list for a while certainly most people who buy one of my courses have been on my email list for a while. And by a while, up to two years, these freeloading visitors will be on my list for two years before they’ll buy a masterclass for $49. I mean, the hatred is real. No, but seriously, like they people want to get to know you and trust you and think, like, I’ve read a lot of his stuff, and he delivers in this in this free stuff. And so you might if you know, anyone who’s stayed with us long enough to have listened to my rant earlier about giving away too much free stuff, I don’t give away how to stuff particularly I mean, of course, sometimes there’s a how to write I write three or four emails a week. But mostly I’m encouraging people to think differently, to open their minds to the fact that everything is marketing. Because my, I mean, if I think about myself as an expert, which I do, Alastair, from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to swipe, I think of myself as an expert constantly, and how can I burnish those credentials, but every expert has a bridge they need to build for their audience. So right now your audience thinks feels and believes this, you need to get them to think feel and believe that and all of your content needs to be a plank, in that bridge, to get to your building. So in my case, people think a copywriter tappity taps at his keyboard, you say I’m a mortgage broker, and I say, one second there, Alastair, I’ll just tippity tap at my keyboard, all right, something that will make your mother very proud that she invested in sending you to university, and you’ll have a website, they think that’s what we do. So the whole purpose of my website is to show people the level of thinking, that should go into your marketing and positioning and my email list. So people might not read every email, but the overarching thought that I want them to have is when I want somebody to write something for me. I want someone who thinks about it as much as this lunatic who’s dedicated his life to thinking about this shit. So that’s the kind of quality that I want on my staff also, just as at a personal level, my mission, if I can call it that, is to rid the world of bullshit one sentence at a time. And I think that the job of copywriting people think it’s sales, but it’s, it’s not sales, it’s clarity. It’s, you are good at what you do. She needs what you do. But if you write gibberish, she won’t understand what you do. And if she doesn’t understand what you do, she won’t buy from you. That is a loss for you. Because you’ve lost that money. That is a loss for her because you were the right person for her. So everybody loses. If you buy into this need to spout gibberish and to spout it in the wrong places. And I think people are being sold as you say, a bag of steaming dog turd all the time by people who don’t know they’re asked from their elbow who take an expert in one thing, baffle them and make them feel stupid. And oh, you know, you’re gonna need me to do this for you because you’re too stupid. But you’re not it’s bloody basic. Explain what you do clearly, in a way that makes it sound good. It’s as simple it’s as simple as that. And it’s only difficult because people are baffled you was bullshit. For years, you’re like, Well, I couldn’t possibly do that. But you can because you do it when you’re at a barbecue. Why? Why can’t you do it on LinkedIn?


Alastair McDermott  34:57

This is gold. I love it. Thanks. Guess even if I was to summarize some of what you were talking about there, about what you’re putting on your website, and the content that people can put out, is, what we’re going for is for people to see, a this is hard to do. And be this guy knows how to do it. Is that ultimately what we’re trying to get across in that content?


Steven Lewis  35:22

And it’s valuable for them to solve it? Yeah, that’s right. This is hard to do. You can’t, you can’t do this. And if you you know, and the way to think about it, is, you know, as you’ve said, to people, you know, people listening to this are experts. So they know what to do, they can solve a problem. So why is the person on your website, not just buying from you. And that’s called an objection, you know, they have objections to buying from you. And we all have objections to buying everything. And what what a salesperson does, is get you over those objections, what your content needs to do, whether that’s an email or LinkedIn post or your website, is be viewing those objections. It’s like the combination lock on a big safe, and you turn it this way, and you turn it that way. So what’s the biggest objection? So if you’re a physiotherapist, what is the big objection that somebody has to choosing you over somebody else, and maybe it’s they don’t think the problem is serious enough, it will go away. So if they’re Googling their tennis elbow, you need to warn them of the dangers that an untreated tennis elbow could become chronic, and you may never play tennis again, you know, that’s what you need to be saying. And building that kind of rapport with them, you’re not going to be teaching them how to solve their tennis elbow. Or if their objection is price, then you need to be doing something to object on price. And the analogy that I always come back to as a gym, right, because we’ve all thought at one time or another about joining a gym, and given ourselves 1000 excuses not to too far away, the people in there will be too hot, I’ll be embarrassed, you know, because they’re all going to be young, hard bodied people. And I’m going to feel like a fool. I don’t know how to use all the machines, and no one will teach me nobody, what all of those are reasons we give ourselves not to do something. So even if you think about all of your content and your website, just in that frame, what are all the excuses people have given you for not buying from you? What is your argument for that not being a valid reason not to do it? And what are you doing to counter that thinking in your content, that would give you a great roadmap to the things that you should be saying. And


Alastair McDermott  37:54

I love it. And so you just I was thinking of a couple of different things. So first off, my hand is in a splint. Good example.


Steven Lewis  38:06

Elbow relief gel.


Alastair McDermott  38:09

So that so there you go. There’s the two middle aged, complaining about there. There is sports injuries, yes. Okay, so but what you reminded me of there was that our biggest competitor is not actually our competitors, our biggest competitor, or competition or danger of not making a sale is actually inaction. That’s the That’s the crucial thing I think a lot of people don’t get is, is it’s it’s getting to take any action at all to solve this problem is the problem. Yeah. And I think that’s why focusing on the kind of the importance of the issue, and explaining the value of the outcome, the and explaining that pain more. And I think, by the way, this is like this also goes back because you were talking about the we’re talking about the marketing content, like in your website, and, and your LinkedIn posts, and even in your podcasts and things like that. But this also reminds me of, you know, when you’re actually in a sales call, and I have made this mistake so many times because I’ve been in business 17 years, I’ve had so many times that I have failed to close the sale. Like I could not count them, because I over delivered in the initial meeting. I tried to help too much. And it’s a mistake that I still make to this day sometimes. Can you explain a bit more about why that is? Why does that happen?


Steven Lewis  39:35

I think it’s possible to overwhelm people for instance, like so I know. I mean, you know, I know I do it for example. I be quite often people come to you for the wrong solution, and I have shot myself in the foot previously, you know that someone will phoned me up and say, Stephen, I want an ebook. And then I will make the absolute 101 stupid mistake of asking why. Why do you want an ebook And then they tell you, and then I say to them, because I’m a moron. Well, and Ebert won’t do that for you, but you, you know, we could do this or this or this. And I think I’m being helpful, right? Because the book would be a complete waste of time. And at the end of the process, all that would have happened would be that some of their money would be my money. And they’d be unhappy. And I don’t like that, right. I don’t like the phone call three months later, when somebody says, This ebook isn’t working, and you’re like, Yeah, no shit share, like, that was never, that was never gonna work. You’ve got a great ebook, but nobody wanted it. So it can be that you’re overwhelming to people that they have, you know, they need to go step by step. I mean, to the specifics of it, to be honest, I don’t really know I think the problem is people are scared a lot. And then sometimes, if you give them too much, they’re like, Oh, this is gonna be scary. And I’m not going to be able to do it. And


Alastair McDermott  41:02

yeah, I think the other thing is sometimes, sometimes if, if what you’re offering is expensive, people will feel oh, but you’ve already given me a head start here in this in this meeting, I can probably take this and have a good go at it, like you talked about earlier. And so I think that that is possibly one of the other issues. But there is something else that you just reminded me with your ebook example. Like, I know that ultimately, behind all of the kind of the sarcasm and humor, I know that you genuinely care about helping people otherwise you wouldn’t write the way that you do. And I know that people like you and me, like we feel a fiduciary responsibility. I don’t mean that in the legal sense. But just in the in the sense of, we want to do something that’s in the best interest of the client. And so you asking them, like, why do you want to write an e book? Like surely that’s, that’s that coming to four, right?


Steven Lewis  41:55

Oh, yeah, absolutely. You just people get this idea. Yeah. I mean, I had a client, a global law firm that wanted to be on TikTok. Glow. I mean, global law firm. You’ve heard of them, right? They’re one of the top five biggest law firms in the world. They want to be on TikTok. I said to them, Why do you want to be on TikTok? They’re like, Oh, you know, to recruit die young people. And I said, Are you sure do young people want to see your massive brand on TikTok? Are that oh, well, young people are all on TikTok. Okay, well, they’re not all on TikTok. And let’s ask. So I interviewed some of their youngest staff, their grads, and said, What would you feel? You know, how would you have like when you were at university, you were at university six months ago? What would you have thought if you’d seen this brand? On TikTok? And Madigan all? Like that’s like grandad dancing at a wedding? Like, oh, no, I wouldn’t have liked that. And unsurprisingly, they thought that the firm wouldn’t have been able to carry it off in a TikTok authentic way. But the thing that I hadn’t anticipated and this is why you need to ask the open questions and and not be confident that you’re gonna get the answer, you’re just genuinely answer an answer, you’re genuinely asking a question. These young people felt that they had achieved the brass ring, right? They had worked hard at school to go to a good university, they’d worked hard at university to go to an amazing or they were at the Olympics, right. And this firm was now shitting the bed, or would shit the bed if it went into TikTok. And that was their view that I’ve worked my whole life so far to get into this amazing place. And you’re going to intensify it by putting it on TikTok and making it a laughingstock. So you, not only do I just not would I not have been impressed at university to see you on TikTok. I now feel as an employee that you’d have taken something from me, You’ve made my job just a little bit shittier because you’ve made the brand just a little bit dumber. It’s that sort of thing where people aren’t asking the right question, and you need somebody sometimes on the outside to say it. So I could have just said, Yeah, sure. I’ll write your subscripts. Let’s get you on TikTok that I want them whether it’s, you know, I work for one person businesses, and I work for global firms, right? It’s the same principles. It’s why What are you trying to achieve? Who is the audience? How is you doing this thing going to get them from there to there? I don’t just want your money. I want you to have a result. At the end of it. You know, the best possible result, like the best day at work for me, is when somebody puts up their new website and says, Do you know what somebody just phoned me and for the first time ever, they quoted my website to me on the phone and they said I’d like a bit of that, please. And you wouldn’t believe Alastair If they know what I do, like they get it like nobody’s ever known what I do before and they know what I do. Because, you know, I mean, I am not comparing. But here in Australia, we have a, he’s now dead. But he was a famous doctor who started a charity where he would go to countries and perform eyes surgery so that the blind could see again, I’m not comparing myself to that, Alastair, but I’m drawing a parallel between that moment when somebody takes the patch off their eyes and sees for the first time, and an expert gets to talk to somebody and think you understand what I do. And you see that it’s valuable. And we’re now having a real proper conversation about what I do instead of me thinking, how do I, how do I get you that? How do I get you to even understand that you need me. And I’ve seen it, I mean, I’ll give you another example, I had a friend who’s an engineer who went on a show in Australia called New Inventors. So you go on with the product that you’ve invented, he won. I won’t bore you with all the details, but his was an acoustic product. And this is how I know Decibels are on an exponential curve. I don’t know what that means. But I know they’re on an exponential curve. Because I said, Chris, you’re gonna go on the radio, that guy is going to say, How much does this product reduce the noise in somebody’s house? And you keep saying to me, well, decibel is on an exponential curve, and it depends on the source of the noise and the direction of the wind and the air pressure. And, Chris, you’re gonna be the radio, they want you to say 10%. What’s the number? Oh, decibels exponential curve, I can’t tell you that. I said, Chris. Give me a number. You’re not talking to engineers. Now you’re talking to people on a national radio show. So he gave me the number. I’m listening to the show. I heard him say the number. And I could hear in his voice that he was really sort of tentative, because the other engineers would laugh at him when he gave this number. And the host understood him and proceeded with, you know, the follow up question, and I could hear, even listen to the radio in Chris’s voice. Somebody understood me. A non engineer understood me, this is incredible. And that’s what I liked doing. And writing an ebook for somebody that nobody will ever read is not going to do that. So that’s, you know, that’s what’s exciting to me, is the right people presenting themselves to the right clients, and both of them realizing like Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, that they found each other. And it’s going to be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.


Alastair McDermott  47:37

Love the example. Yeah, there’s, there’s your there’s your clarity, right. Okay, I have to start to wrap this up, I have a few questions I like to ask people. First is what is the number one tip that you would give to somebody who wants to build their authority?


Steven Lewis  48:00

Make sure that people understand you like that. It really is as simple. It really is as simple as that. Like today, I’ve got a friend who’s got a marketing agency who sent me her new website and I said, I’m sorry, to be honest with you. I’ve read the entire site. I don’t understand what you do. So she’s lovely person who’s really good at what she does. But she’s missed the mark. By just it seems to be you think it’s simple. It is not? Simple. So you’ve asked me one tip, it’s supposed to be short question. So let me say that. Write yourself something down, speak to a friend who’s not in your industry, ask them to read it, and then ask them to tell you what it means honestly, what they think it means and then see if they think it means what you thought it meant.


Alastair McDermott  48:52

Love it. Yeah, very simple. Is there a business mistake or failure that you’ve personally experienced? That you could tell us about what you learned from?


Steven Lewis  49:01

Oh, my God? Well, let me pick one out, because you know, I can go on forever. This is one I produce things that I know that people need, but that they don’t want. And lots of experts would do the same thing. You’d be like, Oh, my God, I get so many people come into the office who you know, I don’t know, smoke. And you know, they should give up smoking. So I’m going to write a book on giving up smoking and nobody buys it because they don’t want they didn’t want to give up smoking. I’ve written books on you know how I well, I read I had a course on how to do your own PR for instance. It would it be a brilliant course for every small business person. But people don’t wake up in the morning wanting to do their own PR so the course was a complete flop you So you absolutely have to find that overlap. So try to sell it before you build it. And if nobody wants it, don’t waste your time building it so you can pre sell every thing that’s, that’s, that’s my mistake and something I try not to do now.


Alastair McDermott  50:06

Are you okay for another five minutes? Because I know we’ve we’ve gone over top of the hour, okay for two, that’s fine. Okay, because I want to dive into this just a little bit more, because I think that this is a really crucial point, the want versus need. And we often try and sell people what they need, because we know that that will solve the problem for them. But if they don’t want it, it doesn’t matter what the hell it does. Can you just dig into that a little bit more for me? Because, like, it’s such a fascinating point. And I mean, it was in particular, you know, we’re trying to solve the problem.


Steven Lewis  50:37

Oh, sorry. Oh, yeah.


Alastair McDermott  50:41

Yeah, just that, like, particularly engineers and experts and people like that we’re problem solvers. So we’re naturally trying to solve that problem. And, you know, like, I like, that’s the, that’s the kind of the contrasting point like, like, how do we how do we make how do we square that circle?


Steven Lewis  50:58

Well, what I’ve started saying there was I went to my GP, right, and I went to see him about something. And I said, Oh, you know, George, I don’t know, let’s say that I got up the other day, my knee creeped or whatever it was, I said, like, you know, I’d had a bottle of wine the night before, and I got up and you know, blah, blah, blah. And he said all, he said, we’re going to come back to that bottle of wine. I said, Why are we going to come back to that bottle of wine, George? He said, Well, you drank a bottle of wine the night before. I said, we’re not going to come back to that, George, because I’m not I’m not here to talk to you about my drinking. I’m here to talk to you about money or whatever it might have. Might have been. So you’re George the GP and you’re thinking how often it’s Steven having and I would like to say for the purpose of this record. Stephen does not have a bottle of wine to himself every night, Alastair, but your thinking is the GP might have been a small bottle. But yeah, small bottle I was in a hotel, it was a teeny tiny bottle. You’re thinking as the GP, right? How many? How often does he do that? Let’s get into that. Let’s talk about that, you know, blah, blah, blah, and I am, it’s the patient thinking, I don’t have a drinking problem. I am not here to discuss my drinking. I’ve now made myself so this is not one of the nuggets don’t extract this bit about my drinking. But you know, it’s it’s that kind of thing. He’s seen a problem. And he and I’m just not open to it. So if he had wanted to, to actually really solve that problem for me, he would have had to find a way to frame it to get to what it’s not about drinks, but overall health or you’ve previously said to me that you want to lose weight or you want to do whatever Did you did you know this and and so in that sentence, I don’t know why I told that story. Because I’ve now made myself sound like an alcoholic, which is ridiculous. Although all alcoholic say that right, Alastair? And you live in Ireland, so you hear it on a daily basis, I tend to have a drinking problem. So for for any kind of expert, you see the problem, and you can’t help yourself talking about it. And I think I think that was my point about George and you, you’re trying to sell a service, there is no point like sometimes the client might have a gaping need that you can see, but it’s too much effort for you to see it for the for the reward. So you’re just never going to be able to push that car up the hill for it to do a hill start on the other on the other side. So commercially, it just isn’t going to make sense, you’re not going to you just you’ve got to let that go. And that may be where your business, for instance, is suffering is that you’ve identified some problem that people have, and you think you can sell the solution. And I’ve been when I started, you know, I started you and I talked to the beginning to bring this around full circle. Before recording, though, that we both started building websites in the early 90s. And I like the gigantic fooled that I was started a business trying to sell people websites in 1995. And to put that in context. It wasn’t until 2010 That 50% of businesses had a website. So I was trying in 1995 to sell websites idiot. So I’d have these meetings where I’d sit with people and they go, Well, what is the internet? So I’d explain the world wide web to them. And then they say, oh, that’s quite interesting. Also, we’ve heard of it. We’ve heard of email, tell me what is email, they’d say to me, someone explained email to them. And at the end, they’d say, Well, that was all really interesting. But we’ve got an ad in the Yellow Pages. So we’re set. And I could see that they needed a website. I could see what a website would do for them. I could not sell it because they didn’t want it. And if you can’t sell to a want, there is zero point so the watch can be specific to what you’re selling like, you know, in George’s case, if I had wanted to drink less then we could have talked about drinking less, or the want can be what you do. Schwartz, who is you know, one of the world’s greatest copywriters wrote one of the world’s seminal texts on copywriting said, there are mass desires. So there are rivers of want flowing through everybody, like, I want to be a good provider to my children, I want to be a good friend, I want to be healthy, I want to live a long life. So even if nobody has ever asked for your seaweed supplement, you can tap into their wants to live a good life, for instance. But if you can’t say, Steven, I have this product, it taps into this want that people have then then you will be wasting your time. If you can’t pin it to a want. The want is the horse and you are the jockey. Need is is the horse that will never leave the gate.


Alastair McDermott  56:10

I love it. So thank you so much for following me that down that digression path. I just think that it’s such an important topic that that we have to go there. And so yeah, that the other the other questions I usually ask at the end, is there a business book or other kind of resource that’s been important for you are that you recommend to people?


Steven Lewis  56:32

Well, breakthrough advertising, which is the book that I was just talking about, it’s been phenomenal. It’s quite it’s quite advanced from a copywriting point of view. But if you were interested in that there’s there are. I’ve got 12 books on my website that you know, if you Google tailless and 12 books, but influenced by Robert Cialdini is an incredibly approachable book published in 1982. That’s about the sixth mental shortcut, like if you can just master the six mental shortcuts that all of your clients take when making a decision, social proof, scarcity, etc. You will be a much more persuasive speaker. Because on the business level, there would be those two and on a personal level quiet the hidden power of introverts if you’re an introverted person I think you might be. Can’t recommend that book highly enough. I know you’re probably looking for business books, but I’d like to give Susan Cain a plug that’s out there founder.


Alastair McDermott  57:25

And actually, I’m gonna ask you about non business. Do you do you read fiction and all this or anything that you live in recommend? Yes.


Steven Lewis  57:31

On the Well, I am reading at the moment, Robert Galbraith latest book, which is JK Rowling’s, you know, detective series. It’s now the seventh book, I just, those are phenomenal books. She’s incredibly talented. And well worth starting at the beginning, not jumping in a book number seven. And if you’re into audiobooks, it’s Robert Glenister, who reads them. And it’s an absolute treat.


Alastair McDermott  58:01

Awesome. And I will link to everything that you mentioned in the show notes for this episode. Steven, can you tell people where they can find you if they’re interested in following up finding more following you on LinkedIn, as well, one place I’d recommend they look for you.


Steven Lewis  58:15

Well, the agency is called tailless, t a l e i s t. So it’s a tale as in telling tales ist. If you go to the website, you’ll be asked to join the mailing list at every possible opportunity because I’m practicing what I preach. But actually, if listeners to this one, something of value, they go to tailless dot agency slash TRA, I’ve got a guide on sort of seven things you know anybody can do to improve the conversion rate on their website without, you know, it’s not a technical thing. It’s not you don’t have to rebuild your website. There are things that I have seen people commonly do wrong on their website that they could easily fix. So that’s tailless dot agency slash TRA, and there’ll be a link in your show notes. I haven’t said that. It


Alastair McDermott  59:08

will be a link in the show notes. And you know, like, I tell people, I tend to tell people sometimes like you can just say a URL, and we’ll we’ll make it work after after the fact. But you actually have that live already. I’m really impressed.


Steven Lewis  59:22

I’m an old school guy.


Alastair McDermott  59:26

He really is. Yes, Steven, you’ve you’ve been a great guest thank you for coming on swearing so much. It was fun to do another one of these last last time I swear this much was with Louie granny. So yeah, I always enjoy having to put the explicit tag on the the episodes. So thanks for dialing in from Australia. And sorry about you guys in the Rugby World Cup. That’s that’s something I’m gonna be glued to this weekend with a bottle of wine probably.


Steven Lewis  59:55

Well, I get George to give you a call.


Alastair McDermott  1:00:00

It’s so so even thanks thanks very much and if you’ve listened to all the way to the end thank you and see you in the next one thanks guys

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