A few years back, I did some work with the great Danny Iny. Danny is one of the smartest guys I know. He’s an amazing entrepreneur with the gift of being a deep, strategic thinker.

And in the sea of people screaming about how they can teach you to start an online course, Danny’s THE guy I always tell people to listen to.

During my time working with Danny, I learned a ton from him… but there’s one lesson in particular that always sticks out.

And that’s the difference between selling information and education.

Back in 2015/2016, Danny was the first person I remember talking about how the “age of $2,000 info-products is coming to a close.”

He quietly (and calmly) pointed out that selling info-products for thousands of dollars was all a big bubble…

And, eventually, it was all going to come crashing down.

Check out this comment from a Conversion Engineering reader… that gets straight to the heart of Danny’s argument:


“Being from the Midwest the idea of “selling” myself and duping people into paying way too much money for something that promises more than it delivers just feels unethical.

One woman claiming to teach you how to do online courses said she made $250,000/year. Except she charges $1,000 for her courses. So she only needs to sell to 250 people a year! Seemed like a ripoff to me.”


This reader isn’t wrong!

Charging $1000 for JUST information IS a total rip off, IMO.

I mean, most books cost less than $20… and usually have just the same info as an online course.

Is delivering that same information via a video portal really worth 100X more?

As Danny explains, information alone isn’t enough to get MOST students the outcome they’re looking for.

Sure, SOME people can take the information in an info-product and make it work.

There are those rare extremely determined students that “figure it all out” by themselves.

And for the course creator, it’s easy to show the testimonials and case studies from those determined students… and watch the sales roll in.

Meanwhile, everyone quietly hides the fact that most programs have a 2% completion rate and an even lower success rate.

Low completion rates = the dark secret of the online courses industry.

Still… no one asks:

“Why are the completion rates so low?”

Well, I have my own theory.

And it has to do with the way that people sell their programs.

It’s nothing but LAUNCH… LAUNCH… LAUNCH!

Fake deadlines!
Countdown timers!
Last Chance!

All this means prospects are nearly ALWAYS buying courses at the WRONG time.

Sales are just a response to FOMO and scarcity.

They’re not buying when the time is right for them to tackle the problem the program solves…

So they BUY… and then…

“Hup-ho… it’s off to the info-product vault you go! Maybe you’ll be useful someday!”

Another flaw in the industry that Danny talks about is how most people aren’t instructed to create courses the right way.

So many people believe the assumption that…

MORE information = MORE value.

“I’ll just give them EVERYTHING… and they’ll have all the answers… and if they don’t get the result… well that’s their fault.”

No one takes that mindset intentionally or maliciously… but it’s the excuse people fall back on to rationalize the price they’re charging for just a bunch of info.

That means a ton of info-products get designed by people who just aim to “download” everything they know about a topic into their program.

40 hours of video training.
89 workbooks.
164 templates.

I mean, it’s worth stopping and asking… how useful is all of that STUFF?

Is it REALLY all necessary to help the student achieve the RESULT they’re looking for?

Let’s say… for example… that your target market is a WICKEDLY time-strapped professional looking to change their career…

The outcome of “changing career to something I love” is easily worth 10-20X more than a $1,000 charge… if you can deliver that outcome!

In some ways… that price is a STEAL!

But, considering the constraints of their life… do they really want a “hands-off” 40-hour online course?

Does it serve them to release ANOTHER 2 hours of training every month?

Maybe not.

Still… it’s worth taking a hard look at those sorts of questions when you’re assembling your offer.

Because if you’re not getting the conversions you’re looking for, it’s probably not because your Conversion System or funnel isn’t working.

It’s probably because your offer isn’t what your target market is looking for.

You might be solving the right problem.

You just may not be solving how they want it solved.

Anyways, if you want help getting to the bottom of that sort of problem, that’s exactly the first thing we get up to inside of Open Every Day…

Step one is all about getting your offer, positioning and value proposition TIGHT.

If you’d like help with that… and getting it to a point where your offer is “singing” for your market… consider joining me for the next round of the Open Every Day Implementation Program.

The next group is starting next Monday, on June 1st.

I’m scheduling everyone’s Welcome Call for that week, so if that works for you… join the party before Sunday.

Get all of the details here…

This is a photo of Ron Lynch.

You’ve probably never heard of him.

Ron’s one of those guys operating in the shadows of the marketing world.

Behind the scenes.
A master strategist, plotting the domination of markets.

A Marketing Mercenary, if you will.

If you already know who Ron is, I don’t need to fluff his credentials.

If you don’t know who he is, you’ve heard of his clients.

Johnson & Johnson.

Ron works with some of the biggest companies on the planet.

He’s a master of the infomercial… and his campaigns have turned unknown products into household names.

Along the way, he’s racked up over $4 billion in sales.

Safe to say, Ron knows a thing or two about how to sell.

The picture I shared is Ron and me at the Swiss Consulate in Austin, November 2017.

It captures the moment Ron initiated me as one of his “Marketing Mercenaries.”

An elite unit of marketers he’d trained in his wily ways.

In the original group, 73 candidates signed up.

Less than 20 were selected.

The selection process was hardcore.

Ron eliminated anyone who didn’t respect his teachings.

If you didn’t show up and do the work, Ron took you out back and put a bullet in your head.

Do not pass Go.
Do not collect $200.

He was RUTHLESS about weeding candidates out.

It’s safe to say I learned a ton during the selection process.

And today, I want to share ONE specific lesson.

It starts with the moment I was introduced to Ron, back in 2015.

At the time, the legendary mixed martial artist Ronda Rousey was getting ready to defend her title against Holly Holm.

The MMA world was on fire for the event. The UFC billed the fight as the largest in the history of the organization.

In the lead up to the promotion, I wrote an article about how the UFC sells the hell out of their fights using Unique Selling Propositions.

Back in 2015, I was just starting to build my authority around USPs, under the guidance (and encouragement) of the amazing Kevin Rogers.

(Kevin has a unique knack for helping emerging copywriters find their strengths and specialties.)

To my surprise, the article blew up.

It got a ton of comments and feedback on social media.

That’s when Ron, the shadowy Mercenary that he is, emerged in the comments section and shared this beauty:

“Great read. Insightful. The real magic for the U.S.P. discovery is everything you mention here. I’ve downloaded your product as well and recommend readers do so. I shy away from people calling themselves experts but in this case I feel valid claiming that status. As I read this I was challenged that there were some parts and pieces potentially missing from this dialogue. All of those are clearly answered in your download and extremely accurate. This is a quality complete read even for those who think they are a bit of a know-it-all, which is me pointing in the mirror a bit. Well worth the time, the read and thank you for being so willing and open with your work. You are clearly a Jedi??”

Now, when I first read the comment, I had NO CLUE who Ron was.

I was visiting Kevin at the time. And as we drove around St. Petersburg, Florida, he laid it out for me.

“That comment’s a keeper… remember that one,” he said with a nod and a wink.

That’s when I reached out to Ron first. We had a brief exchange over email, and that was it…

Until 2017.

On my nomadic adventure, I ended up in Austin, Texas.

Funnily enough, that’s where Ron lives.

While I was there, Ron “announced” a new “under the radar” training program he was putting together with a “call to arms” style post on Facebook.

Ron explained that he was sick of how most marketers plied their trade. He wanted to train an elite group of marketers on the methods he’d perfected throughout his career.

One thing you need to know about Ron is that he’s a MASTER of Unique Selling Propositions.

And since USPs were a specialty of mine, I was on board. IMMEDIATELY.

Now, it’s worth me mentioning here that USPs are tricky beasts.

Up to that point, I’d done a lot of work with clients, helping them identify their “Powerful Only Factor”… a combination claims they could make that were both Appealing and Exclusive.

Unfortunately, for most of them, once I’d taken them through my process, there wasn’t a lot they could point at that fit the criteria.

The business owners would get a TON of value and clarity out of the process… but what I noticed was most businesses were NOT that outstanding.

They weren’t bad businesses.

They all did great work for their clients.

They just weren’t DIFFERENT.

The reason for this is that most businesses tend to copy each other… for fear of their competitors sneaking an advantage over them.

Still, these businesses came to me looking for a USP.

In reality, they were searching for a magic combination of words that would transform how the market saw their product or service.

And THAT is where most of them were falling down.

Copywriting and positioning ARE powerful tools.

But they can only amplify what’s already there.

What struck me about Ron’s approach to marketing was how much emphasis he put on the “pre-game.”

Ron spent tons of time pre-screening his clients to make sure they had a UNIQUE innovation.

Ron explained that his main job was to find a product he could apply his skills to.

That was when the lightbulb went off.

For most businesses without a unique advantage already in place, I realized they’d be far better off discovering an INNOVATION they could develop… rather than trying to jazz up their marketing message.

Because once they had an innovation… it would make everything else so much easier.

Now, when I say innovation, I don’t mean you need to develop the next iPhone or GoPro.

And you don’t need to develop some sort of App, or anything like that.

What I’m talking about is creating a new dimension of value for your target market.

Something they can’t find anywhere else.

If that sounds complicated… what you need to realize is that there are cracks and crevices in EVERY market.

You just need to understand what the market is trying to accomplish to see where those cracks are.

Once you understand WHO you want to attract and what their trying to get done… then you can develop a capability to tackle the unique problems they’re facing RIGHT NOW… that they can’t find in any other solutions.

Innovation 101.

THAT is the underlying process that leads to a powerful Unique Selling Proposition.

To share some examples, I wasn’t born with the expert ability to craft Unique Selling Propositions.

And 4 years ago I didn’t know how to make a business Open Every Day.

These are two areas where I saw my clients struggling, where the market underserved them.

So, I innovated.

I developed a capability that I KNEW would make me stand out.

I created a dimension of value that didn’t exist before… for me… or my clients.

Whenever I work with a client, the first step is to understand THEIR customer. Get to the bottom of what THE CUSTOMER is trying to accomplish.

Once we understand that… and paint a clear picture of the obstacles the customer is trying to overcome….

…coming up with an offer to help those people (and position the client) in a unique way becomes way easier.

Because here’s the thing…

For most businesses, you don’t discover a Unique Selling Proposition.


And once you’ve got a USP, that’s when positioning and messaging is a walk in the park.

So, if you’re interested in developing a Unique Selling Proposition for your target market…

…right now, I’m looking for candidates for the next Open Every Day Case Study Group.

If you sell an online program, have over 500 people on your email list, sell your stuff for $500 or more, and want to move away from the launch model… this could be for you…

Here’s the idea… inside the group I’ll work with you to create the systems and processes you need to move away from the launch model and make your business Open Every Day.

And if you don’t double your investment… you don’t pay a dime.

If that sounds interesting check out the Open Every Day Implementation Program:

(Video of the interview is below.)

Today, I’ve got a special surprise for you…

An interview with one of the top “launch copywriters” about how she’s changing the way she sells in HER business.

This conversation has its roots in an off-the-cuff trip to Medellin, Colombia.

See, earlier this year, I got to spend 2 months hanging out in Pablo Escobar’s hometown. While dodging countless locals trying to sling cocaine at me from all angles, I also got to hang with Abbey Woodcock.

If you don’t know Abbey, she’s written for some of the most recognized names in the Internet Marketing world.

Some of her star clients include Ramit Sethi, Jeff Walker, and Ryan Levesque.

Branching out beyond the Internet Marketing world, she’s even written launch copy for Frank Oz (of Muppets and Star Wars fame.)

(Not many copywriters can chalk those names down on their resume!)

Now, Abbey’s expertise is pretty wide-ranging, but she’s carved out a reputation for being one of the go-to “launch copywriters” out there. Not only are her salesmanship and copywriting skills top-notch, but she and her partner, KC, are project management whizzes. 

Meaning they’re able to bring a sense of order and calm to the burning, perpetual state of chaos that is a launch campaign. Needless to say…she’s not short on clients or experience, and she’s very familiar with the launch model.

Anyhoo, as I mentioned, both Abbey and KC came to hang out in Medellin earlier this year.

And that’s when things got interesting…

At the time, Abbey was running a promotion for HER OWN offer. 

Now, considering her skillset, you would expect Abbey to default to a “launch style” promotion, complete with a big, urgency deadline. I mean, that’s what she’s paid the big bucks for!


That’s when a twist emerged in this story…
Abbey had heard whispers of a new method of selling…a method that wasn’t as stressful and intensive as a launch. And she felt like giving it a whirl.

The results were…shocking!

(I can still remember Abbey exclaiming, “Holy s*&t!!” in the apartment when the first numbers started to come in.)

After the ticker tape for the whole campaign rolled in, we both agreed that we needed to get on a call to discuss her experience with being “open every day.”

Check out our conversation here:

Check out Abbey’s company, Business of Copy.

DISCLOSURE: I’m a happy customer of Business of Copy. I’ve earned a lot of money with their product. So, I’m particularly biased.

That link above is NOT an affiliate link. Just a resounding recommendation from me to anyone who is a working, professional copywriter.

However, if you’re just starting out, best to bookmark it and come back when you have some regular client flow.

Purchasing decisions.

They can be incredibly fun, and incredibly frustrating.

Recently I went through a real stinker. This was an experience SO frustrating it spawned forth this article, in the hopes that you won’t subject your own prospects to a similar misadventure.

What was this decision, you ask?

Well, it was deciding to find a suitable replacement for my 6 year old laptop:

And in the end, the worthy successor was this:


Now, you might look at this switch and think that there’s practically NO difference between the two products[footnote]Or if you’re a tech nerd and you DO know the difference, we’ll get into it later[/footnote]. <-(You can click these thingeys for fun notes)

And who could blame you? At first glance, they look practically identical, right?

The only major noticeable difference is that one is silver and the other is black, with a green logo.

But, when you look at their positions in their product category (personal laptop computers), they are drastically different.

Both are designed for very different people.

I know this because the purchasing decision I went through took about 3 weeks of high level research.

This “buying phase” concluded with 48 hours of intensive “detail digging”, which is that strange moment, right in the heat of a purchasing decision, where you’re getting ready to pull the trigger… but you’re still not quite sure if you’re on the right track.

It’s the moment, when your mouse is hovering over the buy button, and you think to yourself, “I know I need to buy SOMETHING to solve this problem, but is *this* right choice?”,

Detail digging is where you’ll spend HOURS, consumed, as you hunt for as much information as possible, hoping to find ANYTHING that’ll shield “future you” from a big, bad dose of buyer’s remorse[footnote]PRO TIP: As a business owner, understanding this moment in your customer’s mind is CRITICAL. This is where your USP goes to war. And this moment is also why long copy nearly always performs better than short copy. More on those later.[/footnote].

The laptop I eventually settled on is called the Blade, manufactured by a company called Razer.

And today we’re going to take a look at how they managed to cut through the noise and win the sale, in the highly competitive marketplace of personal computers.

Naturally we’re going to do this using the USP framework, so we can all be a little more marketing savvy.

Y’all ready for this?

Alright… let’s start by laying out a marketing concept that’s important for you to understand for the purpose of today’s lesson.

The Marketplace Maze – Where Customers Get Lost

Have you ever wondered why, when it comes to buying certain stuff, you can make really informed decisions with almost no mental effort?

Yet, there are those other moments, when a purchasing decision can consume your attention for days, weeks, or even months, because you can’t seem to find the right fit?

For example…

Stick someone in an aisle full of cereal and within minutes they’ll have made an informed decision about which box, out of 50 different products, is best for them… WITHOUT needing to refer to ANY external information.

Yet, ask someone to make a more complicated purchase, like buying their first laptop, HD-TV, car, or house and, all of a sudden, it feels a little bit like this:

Google Maps doesn’t work here, unfortunately…

Why is there such a contrast between these two experiences?

Well, let me tell you…

Whenever you look to make ANY purchase, let’s take buying a car as an example, you actually have to scout your way through what I call The Marketplace Maze.

Meet Sarah. She wants to buy a car.

This is the gauntlet of all the potential purchasing options available to you in any specific market.

Naturally, the more competitive the marketplace, the bigger and more complicated the Maze.

And the more complicated the Maze, the more similar the options can seem. Meaning there’s far more potential for your customers to become confused and doubtful about why one options is better than another.

The Maze is also tricky, and deceitful, with many of the inhabitants looking to swindle you out of your money.

Yet, as confusing and dangerous as moving through the Maze can be, people regularly make great purchasing decisions and find what they’re looking for.

How does that happen?

Let’s talk about how that happens for a moment…

You see, before anyone enters a specific Maze, they know ROUGHLY where they want to end up.

A picture exists in their mind of what their ideal final destination looks like, even if they can’t put their finger on the specifics of what it will be[footnote]HINT: Understanding what this picture is, and how your customer thinks about it is really important. For more, read The Perfection of Marketing by James Connor.[/footnote].

The imagined picture of the ideal product, which your customer has in their mind, helps guide them through the Maze. Kind of like how Hoggle helps Sarah.

Obviously, while they’re searching for this ideal, exploring the ENTIRE Maze isn’t an option, because that would mean a huge amount of wasted energy, evaluating a whole bunch of crap that’s nowhere close to being the right thing.

What people want is to seriously consider a handful of items that have promise, hoping that one of them fits the bill.

So, as they wade into the chaos of choices, they look to eliminate as many non-relevant options as quickly as possible. And they do it by letting the picture in their mind guide them through the Maze.

For example, Sarah is trying to buy a car, so she might start by asking herself a question like:

“Do I want to buy a road car (go left), or an off-roader (go right)?”

David Bowie doesn’t want Sarah to buy anything. If he had his way, we’d all be stuck in the Maze forever.

She decides that road driving is for her, so she takes a left turn and wanders further into that section of the Maze, eliminating all of the mind clutter associated with buying an off-roader.

She keeps going until she faces another junction, with another decision:

“Do I want to buy an sedan (go left) or a badass roadster (go right)?”

This process of exploration repeats until she arrives at a segment of a Maze, with only a handful of choices in front of her, such as…

“Do I want to buy a Ford Focus (go left) or the Toyota Corolla (go right)?”

Treasure Hunting for the Right Purchase

Just like Sarah, as your prospective customer explores, they’re asking themselves these questions because they’re looking for something specific.

This is the ideal product that fits the picture in their mind, which we’ll call the Right Purchase.

You can imagine the Right Purchase as the treasure inside the Castle that lies at the end of Maze.

It’s the Prize that the Hero is searching for, while they’re on this purchasing journey.

It’s the thing that will solve their problems and allow them to move forward in life as a better person.

This is how the customer feels about making the Right Purchase. It’s like finding their way to the Secret Castle at the center of the Maze, filled with the Big Prize.

But the Prize is hidden from them, and they need to solve the puzzle of the Maze before they can lay their hands on it.

As with any problem, the customer is always looking for reasons why going one direction in the Maze is better than going another direction.

This means they’re essentially evaluating the USP of each specific direction, by asking themselves various Proposition Questions, such as:

“Why should I buy a family SUV, rather than any other type of car?”

“Why should I buy a badass roadster, rather than any other type of car?”

When it comes to choosing a cereal, these questions are much easier to answer because, according to Youngme Moon, most of us are “category experts” when it comes to cereal [footnote]There’s also another dimension here, which is the commitment level of the purchase, but more on that another time.[/footnote].

What that means is you can enter the cereal Marketplace Maze, armed with only a faint idea of where you want to end up (i.e. what type of cereal you’re looking for – healthy vs sugary snack – for example) and you can go from being faced with 50 options to deciding on a single box, all in a matter of minutes.

You can do this because you’ve already explored entire regions of the cereal Maze throughout your life.

You’ve been in that specific Maze so many times that you know it backwards. And along the way you’ve been spray painting marks and signs onto the walls, so you won’t get lost.

Finding Your Way Out of The Maze

Now, while your traditional maze generally only has one exit, the Marketplace Maze has many.

The difference: each exit is sealed off by a door that you have to pay to unlock.

The catch: only one door leads to the Castle containing the Prize. Behind all the others, certain death!


Sometimes, making a buying decision can feel a little bit like this. Only it’s marketers guarding both doors, so you know they’re BOTH lying

Well, maybe not certain death, but you’ll have missed out on the Right Purchase.

Which means you’re probably in for a fair bit of buyer’s remorse when you eventually find out how awesome that other thing actually is.

“You know I nearly pulled the trigger on that one…”

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions…

It’s important to understand that for each Marketplace Maze, there are always a number of key decisions that determine what part of the the Maze a customer ends up in.

For example, when you’re buying a personal computer these key decisions are:

  1. Which operating system will I use?
  2. Which company will I purchase my computer from?
  3. Which specific computer best suits my needs?

This is where you need to shape your Proposition Question for each option:

If I am your (ideal customer), why should I (buy from you), rather than (any of your competitors)?

Mapping these questions out for my own purchasing decision, the questions I had to ask myself were:

  1. why should I choose this operating system, rather than any other operating system?
  2. why should I buy from this computer manufacturer, rather than any computer manufacturer?
  3. why should I buy this specific computer, rather than any other computer?

In order to find the answers to these questions, we need to start by defining me as the ideal customer…

Who is Ross… as an ideal customer?

Is it weird that I sometimes lie in bed and wonder, “What kind of ideal customer am I?”

Maybe it is… but there’s nothing like a bit of personal introspection to save a marketers soul, right?

Kidding aside, while it’s always hard to simplify the entire complexity of ANY human being down to a single ideal customer statement, it’s also a really useful exercise.

For the purposes of this decision making exercise, there are essentially 3 things you need to know about me:

  1. I’m a professional who works primarily on my laptop (all day)
  2. I’m currently in a state of perpetual travel with only a backpack (more on that in a minute), so transportation space is at a premium
  3. I’m a gamer, who wants to be able to play video games on my laptop

So, let’s plug all of that into our classic ideal customer template:

A (_________) who wants (________) and has already decided that (________)

Which makes me:

“A traveling professional who wants who wants a laptop for both work and play, and has already decided that portability is important.”

That’s a pretty clear definition from just filling in 3 blanks, right?

What’s that…?


Well, let me tell you, I wasn’t ALWAYS defined this way.

Up until 6 months ago, I wasn’t even in the market for a new laptop.

And if I had been (let’s say my last one was stolen) I’d have been a COMPLETELY different ideal customer.


Well, because 2 of the 3 essential things I just told you about weren’t my reality back then:

  1. I wasn’t in a state of perpetual travel, so portability wasn’t a priority
  2. Because I was stationary, I had a gaming console for playing games

In short, when I was living a more stationary lifestyle, I was more than happy to game on my home console system (an Xbox One) and work on my MacBook Pro.

But, when I decided to pack up and live life as a nomad, it meant I either had to ditch my MacBook Pro or ditch video games[footnote]For you non-gaming nerds out there, the reason for this is because Mac computers don’t get the best and latest games released on their system.[/footnote].

Which brings us to a key lesson:

Markets are fluid and a customer’s state as an “ideal” customer can change over time. So, just because someone isn’t an ideal customer right now, doesn’t mean they won’t be an ideal customer in future.

So, at the first major junction in the Maze, where I had to choose a direction to go in, I had to ask myself two Proposition Questions:

“If I am a traveling professional who wants who wants a laptop for both work and play, why should I choose Windows, rather than any other operating system?”


“If I am a traveling professional who wants who wants a laptop for both work and play, why should I choose Mac OSX, rather than any other operating system?”

And, of course, because I wanted the ability to play games, the winning USP Statement was from Windows:

“… because Windows is the only operating system where you can play the latest games and use all of the standard, professional productivity applications.”

Key decision #1 made.

But little did I realize that choosing Windows would start to make things interesting.

And by interesting, I mean really complicated…

Navigating The Maze Should Be Intuitive, Not Intimidating


Apple are always held up as a shining light of great marketing.

Yes, their ads are great. And, yes, their messaging is compelling and clear.

But what people seldom give them enough credit for is how EASY they make the purchasing decision.

More than any other technology company, they remove the natural complexity and friction that comes from navigating your way through the Marketplace Maze.

Whenever you’re considering a technology purchase in a market they’re in, it’s easy to tell where Apple fits into your decision. And this is because they’ve made their corner of the Maze intuitive to navigate, rather than intimidating.

For example, once you’ve decided to pick their operating system, you don’t have to think about what company you’re going to purchase your computer from because you have to buy it from Apple.

All that’s left for you to do is select which of six computers best suits you.

  • MacBook
  • MacBook Air
  • MacBook Pro
  • iMac
  • Mac Pro
  • Mac mini

In reality though, you don’t even have to consider 6 products, because each of their products has a clearly defined USP, with a distinct ideal customer in mind:

  • MacBook – For someone who wants a personal laptop
  • MacBook Air – For someone who wants a personal laptop, but they’re size/weight conscious
  • MacBook Pro – For someone who wants a professional laptop
  • iMac – For someone who wants a desktop computer
  • Mac Pro – For someone who wants a professional desktop with more computing power
  • Mac mini – For someone who wants a computer, without the need for a display

This is what’s desperately missing from most marketing:

Clearly signposted directions, so customers can find their way through the Maze.

Without those signposts, the customer is left with no other choice but to round up EVERY potential option, and and start to wonder…

This is what Flint McGlaughlin calls unsupervised thinking in the convserion thought process – and it’s what your USP looks to combat

And that’s exactly where I found myself after choosing Windows as an operating system.

I didn’t have just ONE company to chose from. I had potentially DOZENS to filter through.

ACER, Alienware, Asus, Aorus, DELL, HP, MSI, Gigabyte, Origin —

— if most of these names mean nothing to you, don’t worry. I felt exactly the same way.

As I explored each company, I was hard pressed to find anything, from any of them, that explained WHY they should be considered, or HOW they were different from the others.

And, to complicate things further, inside each company I uncovered a spectrum of products, with no discernible way to determine the difference between any of them, outside of their technical specifications.

Is there any difference in these product’s design, apart from the screen size? Who knows… if there is, it’s not easy to tell

Typical marketing materials for a laptop PC. You better be a category expert to know if this product is for you. And they better be competitive on price because they’re competing on features.

And that’s where I found myself.

Lost and frustrated inside the Marketplace Maze.

Credit card in hand, READY to make a purchase, with no one explaining to me why they were worthy of becoming the Right Purchase.

For every computer I looked at, I was left wondering:

  • What is this product? Where does it fit into the marketplace?
  • Why did the product creators create it? What’s the origin story behind it?
  • What’s the problem it’s trying to solve?
  • Who were they trying to solve the problem for? Was it someone like me?
  • What were the important values and beliefs that were considered while designing it?
  • Why should I buy this product rather than any other?

While scouring the web for the answers to these questions, all I could find was a whole bunch of technical information about the features of each product.

There was no clear message why each product existed, or what it was trying to accomplish.

Contrast this to Apple, who, before you’ve even SEEN the product, start rolling out Jony Ive to give you the 411:

“Here’s what we’ve created, here’s what we tried to accomplish, and here’s why we did it…” – says Jony Ive, every time.

“Getting Lost Is The Goal” — Actual copy from Alienware’s laptop homepage. I’ll give it to them, they were reading my mind… just not in the right way.

Cut Through The Noise By Focusing On The Problem

Frustrated, after weeks of research, I reached out to a friend – an IT expert – and asked for some assistance.

“Dude, I’m looking for a portable laptop to play games on, what should I buy?”

This is a common strategy that we all employ to limit the confusion of the Maze and shortcut our way to the Castle.

We go to a category expert and share the picture we have in our minds, describing our roughly intended destination. Then we ask them to share their knowledge of the Maze, hoping they can provide a shortcut.

He sent me a link to the Razer Blade.

It immediately cut through the noise with a single word.

A single word can make all the difference when it’s addressing the right problem.

The key question anyone should ask when selling a gaming laptop is, “Why would someone want to buy a gaming laptop?”

Chance are high that portability is one of the key problems they’re looking to solve for.

And, as you’ll recall from our definition as an ideal customer:

“A traveling professional who wants who wants a laptop for both work and play, and has already decided that portability is important.”

— that was the primary problem I was looking to solve for.

Yet, you wouldn’t have guessed it from the typical messaging I was receiving in the market:


Contrast that with Razer:

  • More Powerful. Insanely Thin.
  • More Power Per Cubic Inch
  • Ultra-thin… Without Bloatware.
  • Big Power. Slim Design.

Do you notice as the difference between the two?

If you said “less focus on features” you’d be right.

But it’s more than just Razer focusing on the benefits of the product. 

It’s how they focus on the benefits that you’ll experience based on their vision for the product, aligned around the key problem it’s trying to solve.

The message and USP were clear:

This is the most portable gaming laptop that packs the most power into the smallest form factor.


Digging for Details – The Role of Reviews

After being sold emotionally on the Blade, I was ALMOST ready to pull the trigger, but I still wasn’t quite ready.

It SEEMED to be the right fit, but was the marketing doing a number on me [footnote]I know that not everyone out there has the same ethics as I the marketers I study and trust.[/footnote]?

Was I ready to dive right in, based JUST on the sales page?

No. I needed more facts.

I now needed to be sold logically, so future me didn’t feel like a fool for dropping a ton of cash on a sub-par product.

In fact, their short copy sales page page left a lot of unanswered questions, such as:

  • What’s it like to use day to day?
  • Are people happy with it?
  • Can I believe the marketing that it’s the most powerful and portable laptop?
  • Is this company reliable? What isn’t the company telling me?
  • I see it’s much more expensive. Is the price difference worth it? Where’s the money going?
  • What are the negatives? What problems do people have with it?
  • What are the alternatives?

These were questions that I’m sure were in the mind of most customers in my position, yet Razer hadn’t taken steps to answer any of them.

So, in an attempt to develop X-Ray Vision and see if this particular door at the end of the Maze actually went to the Castle, I went searching for the product’s real USP in the only place you can find it:

The market’s real world experience with it.

Enter YouTube and Reddit.

There’s no hiding your product’s reality these days

This is where the consistency of your messaging to your product’s reality is CRUCIAL.

You can make all the claims in the world, but if you can’t back them up, your success is going to be short lived.

Anywhere you’ve stretched the truth in your messaging (or straight up lied) will be highlighted by the hyper-responsive people in your market.

People are only too happy to point out where you’re falsifying your claims by sharing their own experiences.

This is why so many products have a short shelf life: they make inflated claims for the sake of short term gains, only to crumble in the long term.

So, don’t lie or make up half truths. Ever.

BUT – if your USP and messaging matches the real world experience of your customers… that’s when your prospects start to get REAL excited.

That’s when they start to believe that YOU are the Right Purchase.

That’s when you start to look like the Prize.

After close to 3 weeks of research, I’d found what seemed like a solid product.

But it had a handful of flaws and disadvantages:

  • It gets hot – with so much power packed into the machine, it tends to get hot when you start using features that require a lot of power, like gaming or video rendering
  • The fan is loud – because it gets hot, the fans are big and loud, so it can keep cool
  • Most expensive – it’s a high end laptop with a focus on great design, which adds a premium price over the competitors
  • Build quality issues – word on the street was that people had a lot of problems with the build quality, and they had to return it for a replacement
  • Online hate and warnings – I noticed a lot of people complaining that it was bad value for money and explaining that people were foolish to choose Razer as a company to buy from

Again, none of these objections were addressed, or even alluded to, anywhere in Razer’s marketing.

To me, they didn’t seem like deal breakers, but because I wasn’t having my objections addressed, I couldn’t help but wonder:

“Is this the BEST fit for me?”

This naturally had me searching for what other people, who were thinking of buying a Razer Blade, were considering as alternatives.

Digging for details in the heat of the purchase. All of these are possible routes of further exploration where you want your USP to be found

Now, you might be thinking, “But Ross, my product doesn’t show up in YouTube comparison videos.”

And that’s fine. You don’t need them to.

The point I’m making here is that it’s in this comparative mind space that your product, your messaging, and your USP goes head to head with the competition.

And if you’ve not taken the time to fully understand your product and it’s USP, then you’re going to leave the market to a whole lot of unsupervised thinking about WHY they should choose you over the competition.

The story of your product, what it’s trying to achieve, who it’s for, and why it’s the best choice for them… none of that will come through and your product will be stripped down to it’s features for a comparison chart.

This means that countless people, who WOULD deem you as the Right Purchase, may stay lost in the Marketplace Maze, or worse, choose a door that leads to certain death a shitty purchase.

Key lessons and Action Steps

So, as I’m wrapping this up, remember that your goal isn’t JUST to sell your product to anyone that’s walking by.

Your job is to help your ideal customers make their way through the Marketplace Maze, and find the Right Purchase.

With that in mind, work through these action steps:

  1. Map out the key decisions that lead to your corner of the Marketplace Maze – Every customer that shows up at your door has made a series of decisions that led them to that moment. Your first goal is to map these out, so you can understand where they’re coming from.
  2. Define your ideal customer with the ideal customer template – Understand that markets are fluid and a customer’s state as an “ideal” customer can change over time. Get clear on your definition so you know who you’re going after.
  3. Discover how your customer pictures the “Right Purchase” – Your ideal customer has a picture in their mind of what the Right Purchase looks like. Discuss with your prospects what that is. This is what you’ll need to consider while signposting them to your section of the Maze.
  4. Evaluate your messaging for “feature overloading” – Take a look at your messaging and evaluate it for “feature overloading”. Look to replace with with explanations of why your product exists, who it’s for, and the problem it’s trying to solve. Position yourself separately in a dimension that your customer cares about instead of trying to compete on the details.
  5. Get clear on what your USP is
    You have to know what your USP is, in the mind of the market. It exists, whether you know what it is or not. And if you don’t understand what it is, you won’t know who to signpost, what they’re looking for, or where to point them.

If you’d like to learn more about how to discover your USP, download my book “The Ultimate Reason Why Customers Choose You” below:

In today’s episode of “Customer Clarity”, we’re diving into a sexy topic:

Customer Jobs.

Like I mentioned recently while explaining the concept of about Pains & Gains, Jobs are the things your customers are trying to get done in their life and work. They range from problems to be solved, to needs to be satisfied, to tasks to get duuun.

This might seem like pretty straight forward stuff.

But it’s surprising how little time entrepreneurs spend thinking about the jobs their customers face.

Or — worse yet — how much time they spend imagining the Jobs their customers have. Instead of, ya’know, finding them out from their customer’s perspectives.

Quickly, there are 3 types of Jobs you need to know about:

– Functional Jobs: Where we have to perform or complete a specific task or problem. Like watering the plants, eating healthy, writing an email, or giving a client feedback.

– Social Jobs: Where we want to improve our status, power, or simply want to look good. These are related to how we want to be perceived by others, like being known to have the trendiest gadgets, or being known as a “true professional”.

– Emotional Jobs: Where we seek a specific emotional state, like feeling happy about your family life or having peace of mind about the potential technical issues for your upcoming launch.

All of these are important to your customer.

And they ALL exist in every situation.

Don’t think for a second that just because you’re selling something boring that social and emotional Jobs don’t exist for your market.

(You’re not getting off that lightly!)

Even water treatment equipment and tax accounting software solves some sort of social and emotional Jobs.

Now, what those Jobs are will depend on the situation…

So, let’s talk about your situation for a moment.

Your Job today — should you choose to accept it — is to list out all of the Jobs that your ideal customer has to complete.

(Or at least as many as you can think of.)

Once you have them listed, the next step is to rank them in order of importance.

Your USP should be focusing on the most important jobs your customer has to deal with.

Because not all jobs are equal. And your USP should be focusing on the most important jobs your customer has to deal with.

Lastly, while listing out your jobs, don’t settle for a superficial understanding of your Customers Jobs.

This is a lesson I learned from one of my mentor’s Felicia Spahr.

Your main priority is to figure out the real Job at hand. To do this, ask “Why” a customer wants to perform a certain job, 5 times.

An example: Let’s say a customer wants to learn a new marketing skill, like creating Facebook Ads.

Why might she want to learn this new marketing skill?

Maybe because the real job to be done is stand out as a candidate for the marketing manager position she saw advertised at ABC company.

So, why does she want to want to apply for a job at ABC company?

Maybe because she wants to earn more money.

Why does he want to earn more money?

Maybe because she wants to save up $3,000 in the next 6 months

Why does she want to save $3,000 in the next 6 months?

Maybe because that’s the amount she needs for a trip to Paris, so she can take a holiday with her old high school friends.

Now, I know that was only 4 Whys, for all you counting Nazis out there…

But, as you can see, even with 4 Whys, we’ve gone deeper to the real motivations.

Or as Felicia would say,

“Had a poke around the see what’s under the rug.”

Next week, we’re gonna look at how your list of Jobs can give your USP a shot in the arm.

As always, if you want to get your USP supercharged, check out my Microbook below:

Recently I explained the fascinating way Netflix defines their “markets”.

And it seems the idea of defining a market as a collection of people sharing the same problem resonated with people. This pleases me. I love it when folks jump on board the Conversion Engineering bandwagon!

Anyways, what I noticed is that a few folks wanted to learn more about the concept of “Jobs, Pains & Gains”.

So, today we’re going to do exactly that, for 2 reasons:

  1. You can’t nail a compelling Unique Selling Proposition unless you’ve a clear understanding of your market
  2. To get that clarity, you have to get clear about the Jobs, Pains & Gains they experience.

Today is special, because I’ve included some rare tactical homework if you’re looking to make a difference in your business.

Tomorrow I’m going to talk about Jobs in more detail, but this email today will focus on Pains & Gains.

All you need to know about Jobs right now is that they’re the tasks your customer needs to perform.

They’re work your ideal customer needs to get done. The things in their life that need to be changed so they can move away from Pain and towards a Gain.

Now, Pains & Gains are special because they share something in common.

They both deal with the outcomes that are front and centre in your ideal customer’s mind.

Understanding those outcomes is important. More important, though, is being able to separate the outcome from the task at hand.

Remember: No one wants to buy a drill — or drill a hole (two tasks).

They want a hole in the wall (a positive outcome) so they can finally fun a cable and setup that TV (a positive outcome), so they’re not be bored out of their mind for another night (negative outcome).

Pains are the concrete negative outcomes they want to avoid.

Gains are the concrete positive outcomes they want to achieve.

Notice how I’ve included the word concrete in both explanations.

I include it because most entrepreneurs THINK they know the pains and gains their market wants.

Reality: they haven’t gone deep enough.

Example: Let’s take the Job of “earning more money”.

Someone might say the Gain their ideal customer wants for this job is to “get a salary increase”.

And the Pain might be “getting a salary decrease”.

With this example, it’s easy to see how Pains & Gains are the opposite of each other.

And it’s true. No Pain. No Gain.

They have to exist side by side. Someone only wants a Gain because they’ve identified a Pain in their life.

“I might not be able to take that trip home during the holidays to see my family if I don’t earn more money”

But, to shoot some nitrous into your USP, you need to go a level deeper in your understanding.

Here’s how you should actually thinking about Pains & Gains:

  1. Precisely, how much more money do they want so it feels like a Gain? $5k? $10k? $20k?
  2. Precisely, what size of a salary decrease would feel like a pain? $5? $200? $5k?
  3. What are the barriers that prevent them from getting the Job done? How are these realized as Pains?
  4. What are the risks of not getting the job done? Are these considered Pains?

An example for that last questions related to risks would be,

“I might not be able to take that trip home during the holidays to see my family if I don’t earn more money”

By diving just a couple of layers deeper, you’ll find much richer insights into who your ideal customer is. And what they really want.


  1. List out your ideal customer’s top 5 Pains
  2. List out your ideal customer’s top 5 Gains
  3. Rank them in order of importance
  4. Then send them to me if you’d like some feedback.

And as always, if you’d like get more customer clarity into your USP, check out my Microbook below:

Quick challenge for you today:

Think of your ideal customers, right now. Imagine the group of people who are most likely to buy from you. Picture them standing in front of you, forming a line out your door — as far as the eye can see.

Got a clear picture of them?

Ok, great.

Now, in today’s imaginary world, your company has blown up to the point of needing new staff!

The reason? Unexplained market forces, which you’re determined to get to the bottom of.

So, you’ve hired a new marketing director at your company.

She’s just walked in the door, on the first day of the job.

Your task is to describe your ideal customer to her in a way that gets her off to a flying start.


So, what words and phrases did you use?

If you’re like most folks out there, the first words that spring to mind are something like:

“Male, aged 35-55, lives in Eastern US, works as a bookkeeper, earns $35-45k per year.”

That’s how most of us think about our “ideal customers”.

We try to nail them down using broad generalities that we hear marketers use.


Well, that’s what marketers do, right?!

A market is a collection of people sharing the same problem, which they want solved.

Here’s the truth though. Markets are not defined by demographics.

“What!? That’s nonsense, Ross! WTF are you talking about?!”

Hang on a second, hear me out…

We first need to understand what a market actually is.

A market is a collection of people sharing the same problem, which they want solved.

That’s it.

People get tripped up thinking that similar “groups of people” have the same problems. But that’s not always the case. Humans are complex individuals and you’re probably not experiencing the same problems as everyone else in your demographic “bracket”.

Now, I’m not saying demographics are useless. Some markets DO share demographic similarities. But they’re not defined by them.

Case in point: Netflix recently discovered that traditional demographic data has zero correlation to movie taste.

Earlier this year, Netflix rolled out to an additional 130 new countries. You might think that for each of these countries, they’d be serving programs up based on the cultural differences in each, right?

Or — at the very least — that tastes would vary based on the person’s gender and age?


As Netflix’s VP of product so eloquently put it,

“Geography, age, and gender? We put that in the garbage heap”

Here’s what they do instead:

Netflix figures out what market you’re in by determining the entertainment “problems” you need to have solved.

In other words, “What you want to watch”.

Then it puts you in what they call, “a customer cluster”, – aka, an entertainment market.

Once they’ve figured that out, they’re able to give you exactly what you want to watch, based on what other people in your “market” are responding to.

So, lesson for today:

Markets are defined by the shared problems in each member’s life — the Jobs, Pains, & Gains they want solved.

And without clearly knowing what they are, you’re going to be hard pressed to come up with a compelling USP.

Good news, though, is that you can solve that problem by snagging yourself a copy of my Microbook, “The Ultimate Reason Why Your Customer Choose You” right here:

It’s hard to beat a good cautionary tale.

And today is one close to home. Because it’s one I saw unfold firsthand, in my hometown of Fermoy, Ireland.

Fermoy is a quaint little town, of around 7,500 people. Life there rotates around the beautiful bridge that crosses the River Blackwater, which flows lazily through the valley. Crossing the bridge is a staple daily act for the locals.


Ireland ain’t half bad when it’s not raining, I tell ya…

And right off that bridge are some of the town’s most successful businesses. Businesses that have lasted for decades and generations. And which will last for many more.

Local businesses, by local people, for local people.

It’s no secret that when the global recession hit, Ireland was battered.

Many businesses shuttered up their doors.

Yet the businesses closest to the bridge avoided that fate, weathering the storm.

Growing up in Fermoy during the 1990s and 2000s, one of the most successful businesses, just off the bridge, was a pub named Charlie Browne’s.

(A pub, successful in Ireland?! Shocker — I know!)

Like many locals, I’ve many fond memories of Charlie Browne’s.

The majority of those memories are tied to one thing…

Eating steak & chips with my family and friends.

“Steaks, chips and mushrooms washed down with a creamy pint of Guinness. Heaven.”

I remember to this day how the pub over-flowed with an authentic, humble atmosphere — where you could enjoy the simple, delicious food they had on offer.

Charlie Browne’s was widely regarded as having the best steak in the Province of Munster. Folks would travel for miles around to eat there.

As my father often said:

“Steaks, chips and mushrooms washed down with a creamy pint of Guinness. Heaven.”


Charlie Browne’s was a huge social hub during the golden years.

Applying “The Breakfast Potatoes Theory” to Charlie Browne’s, it was obvious that the “pub grub” steak dinner is what drove the majority of it’s customer base.

“Where will we go for a feed and a few pints tonight?”
“Ah sure, wouldn’t mind an ol’ shteak out of Charlie Browne’s!”

Not all of the business done at Charlie Browne’s was selling steaks. But the highest quality steaks, cooked in an honest, simple way was Charlie Browne’s Unique Selling Proposition (USP).

Or, at least, that much was obvious to the customers…

After many successful years, the owners — a local family — decided to leave the pub business in the early 2000s.

Charlie Browne’s was sold to a man from Ireland’s “Big City” – Dublin.

He purchased the pub during the Celtic Tiger — the boom years in Ireland — where folks were making money, hand over fist.

He came in with a new vision for Charlie Browne’s. He envisioned it as a fancier establishment. More of a bistro. Up-market food, classier decor, smaller portions, a more expansive menu, higher prices.

All of which may have worked…

But sadly, the biggest change, was that he sourced different steaks.

It wasn’t long until business started to drop off. Folks went there less often. Numbers dwindled. Cash flow started to dry up. And then the doors were eventually closed due to “fire damage” — never to reopen.


A vision for success in the future is nothing without understanding the success you currently have.

There’s many a lesson to be learned from the fall of Charlie Browne’s.

Close to top of the list is that the business owner THOUGHT he knew what people wanted.

He THOUGHT he knew the secret to a more successful Charlie Browne’s.

But the #1 lesson is that the business owner didn’t know the pub’s USP — the reasoning why people chose to go there.

Without that knowledge, he inadvertently removed the core appeal that brought folks in. And then refused to change back, either by avoiding or ignoring feedback.

Remember: It’s not enough to have a great USP.

You need to know it, understand it, live it and guard it for continued success.

Because if you don’t know what your USP is, you can unknowingly change it (even with good intentions), with disastrous consequences.

It all starts with discovering what your USP is.

To take your first steps crossing that bridge, download my Microbook below:

Shower time…

Those sacred 10-15 minutes in the morning where your mind freely wanders, collecting all sorts of crazy reminders, to-dos, calendar events — and even marketing ideas! Today’s email is straight from that source.

Funny thing about being a copywriter… once start looking at life through a professional copywriter’s lens, you see copy EVERYWHERE.

Which is both a good and a bad thing.

Bad for your personal relationships, as you annoyingly point out copy your friends and family have absolutely no interest in.

“Uh-huh… that’s great, Ross. Can we just pick a pack of chips and get out of here?”

On the flip though, it’s good for the ol’ copy & marketing skills.

When you’re constantly analyzing copy, relevant stuff pops out at the perfect time.

Quick story:

This past week I’ve been helping a client develop their USP. At the end of our USP Discovery Session they asked 2 questions. For whatever reason, I felt like I didn’t nail it with the examples I provided to illustrate my point.

So, this was bothering me.

Which meant my brain was chewing it over in the shower the next day.

So, I reach for the soap and then…


Out of the blue, I found the answer to my problem:


DISCLAIMER: Picture not taken in actual location of marketing problem revelation.

Alright, alright – let me explain…

The 2 questions I was asked were:

  1. “Where/how do you I use my USP once it’s done?”
  2. “Ross, what did you mean when you said I should ‘collect the Facts to support my Claims of Value?'”

Before I go into how to use your USP, let’s clear up what that second question is all about.

Quickly, “Claims of Value” are the statements you make that explain the value of your offer.

  • “Made with 100% natural organic ingredients”
  • “Access to 90,000 songs from over 2,000 bands”
  • “Provides a 200% service satisfaction guarantee”
  • “Shows you how to write a best selling book in less than 6-weeks”

These claims are all great.

But — at the end of the day — they’re just claims. EVERYONE makes claims. And they’re easy to disregard.

But — at the end of the day — they’re just claims.

EVERYONE makes claims. And they’re easy to disregard.

Facts — on the other hands — are different story.

If you present someone with the facts, their only option is to draw their own conclusion.

And a conclusion the prospect arrived at by themselves is 100X more powerful than a claim you shoved down their throat.

But, what is a “Fact” exactly?

Well, facts are the small, specific and quantitative statements that support your claims.

They’re critical to lending Clarity & Credibility to your marketing message.

So, how exactly did the box for a bar of Dove solve my problem with answering the question?

Well, on the back I noticed the following.


Now imagine me pointing out to strangers in the supermarket that David Ogily’s USP for Dove has lasted decades. Don’t judge!! It’s a great way to make friends.

There’s a lot of messaging work crammed into that a space.

Which is why it was such a great example for my client. It illustrates perfectly how your USP should go to work in your copy.

The USP is communicated in the headline.

There’s some supporting copy to clarify the offer.

And then facts, facts, facts to let the reader draw their own conclusion.

You could say this copy is… clean-ly… written.

(I’m guessing that pun probably cost me a few readers — but I regret nothing…)

To get some specialized marketing insight into your USP — along with a healthy dose of more terrible puns — slip on over to the form below to get my free Microbook.

It’s a 5-minute read and will show you how companies are getting on the fast track to success right now…