Copy and Conversion #2

Growth Marketing Ecosystems
with Sam Woods

Sam Woods is a copywriter and growth marketing strategist with an impressive roster of clients in over 37 different verticals. Sam has worked with companies like HubSpot, Agora Financial, Authority Nutrition, and Predictable Revenue. Join Brad Wages as he and Sam discuss copywriting, marketing, sales funnel design, and more.

“A funnel is not a single thing that you run once, and then it runs forever. There’s no such thing as an evergreen funnel. That’s a myth.” – Sam Woods

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In the Podcast:

  • How Sam got started as a copywriter
  • His big takeaway after 9 years in the copywriting business
  • The shift in ‘mental models’ that led to a career breakthrough
  • The simple sales funnel Sam uses in his own business
  • Why Sam decided to scale back his agency
  • What “Growth Ecosystems” are all about
  • Why there’s no such thing as an evergreen sales funnel
  • Sam’s biggest influences in copywriting and marketing
  • How watching TV can help you write more persuasively
  • The only four funnels you need in any business

Links and Resources:

Sam’s Website




“Breakthrough Advertising” by Eugene M. Schwartz

“The Brilliance Breakthrough” by Eugene M. Schwartz

Full Transcript:

Brad: Okay, today I’m talking with Sam woods. Sam is a copywriter and growth marketing specialist with an impressive roster of clients in over 37 different markets. He’s worked with companies like HubSpot, AWeber, Agora financial authority, nutrition, Predictable Revenue, and a bunch more. So some big names there. Sam is a true expert in copywriting and sales flow optimization. And I’m excited to have him on the show. Today, Sam, how’s it going?

Sam Woods: Good. How are you Brad?

Brad: Doing well, doing well. Just trying to keep cool here in Austin kind of had a heatwave for the past few days. So got the AC cranking on full blast doing modern work. You’re in the Boston area correct?

Sam Woods: Yeah, I just saw the Boston and we’ve had I don’t know if you if a classified as a Texas heat wave but certainly heat wave up here with to about two weeks of just 90 plus degrees every day really humid and so I’m trying to stay cool and drink a lot of iced coffee. And I’m so good. I yeah, it’s really hard to be productive when it’s hot outside and you don’t have AC

Brad: Yeah, I can’t even imagine. Yeah, it’d be pretty much impossible here but I bet So, hey, Sam, I want to jump right in and kind of ask you first of all about your origin story. So I know copywriters usually have a sort of an interesting way that they discovered copywriting and got into the craft. So what is your origin story as far as becoming a copywriter looks like?

Sam Woods: I don’t think you have an origin story. And I say that because there’s

There was no epiphany there was no aha moment there was nothing that spoke to me from the sky and told me to do this, it just, it came out of a mix of necessity and opportunity. And I am a naturally very curious person. So when I came across copywriting what it was or just online marketing is where that started. I just figured, you know, why not? Why not do this so, I think at this point, we’re in 2020 and I got into all this and by all this, I mean online marketing and copywriting I got into it back in 20. And I want to say at the end of 2011 something like that. I just it escapes me I don’t even know anymore. And I was one of those people who thought you know what, I know marketing I know. Or as far as I know how to do stuff online.

I should just learn marketing so that I can help or sell services to local attorneys, look for plumbers and you know, local businesses. So I kind of got started with that and started offering all kinds of online marketing services to random businesses and did that for a bit and built them websites and did all the social media stuff I just wanted to get. I was just curious, right. So I started on that path and through that, eventually I came across copywriting and discovered what it was but there was no there was no turning point there was no moment that some people have it’s just something that I kind of split into and got into and then to make a long story short from there I came across Jenna even copy hackers and that’s how I got my first training or core the first kind of books because a while back then or not right there and then but early on, she started selling ebooks.

She had a series of like four or five ebooks. Mm hmm. That has since been retired. And she brings them out every now and then but that’s when I started with those books and then eventually she released courses and I bought those and learned how to operate them. Way conversion copywriting and start applying that to the work that I did and over the years I’ve built an agency and we moved on from local businesses to working with b2b SaaS companies b2c companies DTC as a call now direct consumer e commerce lead gen companies who need leads for various stuff, you know, financial markets and health so it’s been it’s been a mixed mixed bag with different clients but in terms of origin story, like there’s nothing nothing exciting other than just being curious and coming across something that looked pretty cool and then trying it then and then here I am.

Brad: So kind of a natural progression from more or less jack of all trades online marketing to specializing specializing and focusing like pretty much totally different conversion copywriting

Sam Woods: Yeah. And, and I want to say like it’s um, When I first started off, it was more like I was one eyed man in the kingdom of the blind, whatever the expression is, like I just knew a little bit more than most. And from there just having that small advantage was not really an advantage. It was just a matter of time until someone else knows more than I do. But from starting with just having a basic understanding of marketing and knowing how to do things online, because I’ve been, I think, being born in the 80s. I grew up with the internet, or in my formative teenage years, like the internet was there. So I’ve always used the internet. And so just having that start being just knowing how to navigate online, gives me a head start. We were just having fun looking at it now in 2020. But yeah, there was nothing in particular, it just kind of happened. And I just took opportunities that came to me. And then here we are. Yeah.

Brad: So you have worked with quite a lot of different clients, like you just said in a bunch of different markets. Yeah. So what have you learned from working in so many different niches, so many different verticals? How has that sort of shaped your understanding of copywriting marketing?

Sam Woods: I don’t know if I can summarize nine years, so whatever stuff that I’ve learned, but I think what it comes down to, at the end of the day, what I’ve learned is that it all depends. And what I mean by that is you can set up a funnel, optimize a funnel, write, copy, do whatever you do for our client in one market, one type of business with one type of customer, and very little of that translates over to other businesses and markets. Some of the core fundamentals apply, and that’s the backbone of conversion, copywriting and direct response copywriting, so those fundamentals always apply but their fundamentals on psychology and so on and so forth. But the one thing I’ve learned is that the moment I start assuming that what I did for another client, I’m just gonna apply that to the Next slide and hope for the best or see if that works. Or I assume that it works. It doesn’t work. So in that sense, I’m more of a consultant.

Like there are some copywriters who will have their process and their models and the way they know how to do stuff. And they just apply it over and over again. And it works. But those people tend to work within the same general market or type of business. So you can find stuff that works, but very little translates over to other clients or businesses. What I found with optimization, especially, which has been my specialty, my agency has done funnel optimization across acquisition, retention and scale is that experiments that we run for one client will not translate or map directly over to another client, we just had to look for the fundamentals of what we did. And then from there, spawn up new experiments and new ideas. And I would say that there’s virtually no thing over the past nine years that I can say is the number one lesson other than the phrase, it all depends.

And so that’s been the biggest thing. I think, because there’s a tendency for a lot of people to learn copywriting or online marketing, there’s a reason why you are being taught things that they tell you are the same. And this is for most books of course, like they’ll teach us people, whoever they are, they’ll teach you something, and it worked for them, and probably worked really well for them. But unless they only teach you the tactics, then you won’t get very far eventually, like those tactics stopped working, or they stopped being effective. And so as long as what you’re learning is based on core sound fundamentals, then you should be good. But if there’s anything I’ve learned over the past nine years is that most tactics being taught are not going to help you. 

That’s what’s going to help you as you walk into whatever situation whether it’s for your own business with our client walking into that situation and knowing the fundamentals and then finding new ways to apply them. And whatever that looks like. It depends.

Brad: That’s a great point. So as far as the different verticals that you work in, you do a lot of work in SAS, correct?

Sam Woods: Yeah, not so much anymore. But I have. Yeah. has been a big part of our client base for a while. Yep.

Brad: Okay. Do you have any sort of like best practices that you’ve accumulated over the years within verticals? Are you sort of approach every project as you know, blank slate, new experience, new learning process, like for each individual client,

Sam Woods: we developed some sense of things we can try. Right? So agency, we certainly have a bag of tricks or whatever you want to call it with things we know could probably or maybe work. But it doesn’t mean that We’ll apply it in the exact same way to every client. But we know we have a sense of what to try. Like if we’re looking to optimize, let’s just pretend an onboarding funnel or an onboarding process on kind, that we know that certain things we can do that process to encourage adoption and get people to use the software more and eventually turn into paying customers. But I don’t know if I would call them best practices because things change so much. And I think once you’re in the online marketing space for more than a year, you start seeing things come and go. So certain tactics worked for a while and then they stopped working. certain channels are really good for a while and then they stopped being good.

And, you know, for our agency, our processes involve stuff we knew that we could go back to for testing. But the biggest I think breakthrough in my thinking came when I changed my mental model from templates and scripts and best practices to have it To looking at anyone’s marketing and sales or a system for acquiring customers, and keeping those customers, when I changed my perspective on that from whatever the common view is that, you know, it’s like a machine is an engine, and then you turn that into you optimize parts, and then that engine spits into, or spits out customers. Everyone talks about growth engines and this is another thing. Yeah, but it’s, that mental model will only get you so far. Because if you build a machine or an engine that easily breaks, then you’ll spend your, your marketing energy and time fixing an engine.

And engines have limitations, right, they can only be as good as you can make them, which is not the best they can be. So I just when I switched my mental model and my metaphor for it, that was probably the biggest breakthrough. And I’d say that if anything, then informs how we look at a funnel or copy projects and the things we look for or that I look for, and whatever elements that I then try to optimize. So I know that it’s I’m not trying to evade the question, but I just don’t believe in best practices.

Brad: Yeah, no, that that is an excellent insight. And I definitely want to explore the metaphor that you use. Now. I’m pretty sure I know what you’re alluding to. And some I definitely want to dig into a little bit later. Yeah. Sam, as far as particular clients, particular projects that you’ve worked on, are there any that stick out as like kind of memorable milestone wins?

Sam Woods: I don’t know. I thought about that. And so I’m under NDA. So my clients I won’t discuss specific results for any particular client here. But wins. I’m gonna sound jaded or whatever. But it’s, I mean, we’ve been able to get or I’ve been able to, and whatever the size of my team has been, we’ve been able to get results for just about all of our clients one way or another. But it’s also very transient. Because if you have a landing page to optimize and you bump it from 20% to 40%, you know, double the conversion rates. That never stays at 40%. It’s always so dependent on traffic sources, time of year, marketplace, trends, the messaging that hooks people one day will not hook people another day. And so, milestones, yeah, I mean, we’ve been able to double conversions, triple conversions, we’ve been able to make several companies a lot of money. I think.

If I look back at what clients have told us, the funnels we’ve put together and optimized have generated I mean, north of 20 something million, right. So that’s a but that’s it’s a Pyrrhic victory in that, like, if you’re not making money as a copywriter or not helping other clients make money or get leads, if you’re that type of copywriter, then like you shouldn’t be doing it. So my milestone is the fact that I’ve been able to do this for as long as I have, which is not that long compared to a lot of other people. But it’s, it’s beyond five years, I think the average lifespan of a conversion copywriter is probably somewhere close to four years. From what I’ve seen in the market. There are people who were around when I got onto the scene that are not around anymore. And there are people who’ve had their own either freelancing gig or their own business at some time, but they got hired and moved on to larger companies.

So your time spent as a conversion copywriter has an expiration date. So to me the milestone is the fact that I’ve been able to do this for nine years and I don’t think you’re able to do for that long unless you’re producing results. So I think, yeah, there’s no particular client story that stands out to me as an amazing win. Because there’s been many, and there’s been a bunch of failures too, right? Like not every single test that you put out is a winner. And not every funnel is a winner. And you just have to have the right mindset for finding what’s going wrong. So that you can fix it or tweak it or optimize and change that so that a dead funnel becomes a winning funnel. But, I mean, there’s been many clients that I work with in different capacities, whether it’s been one off or long term. And they span like my client list is pretty long. And that’s just a partial one. Because one thing I did early on, is that I decided to be the guy behind the scenes.

I even reluctantly agreed to a podcast because I don’t really like doing them. I don’t have anything to sell anyone. I mean, like, it’s just there’s no reason to promote myself. So the few that I do, I think my main point with those is that it’s not so much about what I’ve accomplished. It’s more about what I can say that might help someone see things differently. Right. Like, it’s, it’s weird for me to talk about my client and client success, because I don’t. It doesn’t like I don’t know why we do it. Because I’ve worked by referral only for so long, that the clients that come to us they’ve come by referral. And so I don’t, I don’t talk about what I do very openly for that reason. Yeah, like when we offer a level of confidentiality that I think a lot of clients appreciate.

Brad: Yeah, that’s, you know, that’s something that I find very interesting is the fact that you are kind of behind the scenes. I don’t think you have an email list now. You don’t have to do content marketing. I mean, you post on your blog, but you’re not every now and then. Yeah, yeah. Every now and again, it’s like the fundamentals of marketing. Yeah. You don’t necessarily have like a niche and you definitely don’t have products or funnels. So it’s, you know, from what I’ve seen Sam, you are very much focused on client work. And I’m interested and I think you just touched on it like, what does your client work funnel look like?

Sam Woods: It’s ironic, right? Like I do see work that I’ve been doing and in different capacities, it’s been focused on helping other other companies funnel, but I don’t. We have one or I’ve had one for the longest time, but it’s invisible, if you want to call it that. And it’s more so a process. Then, like any particular person, they don’t click through pages to get to us. You know, there’s no There’s no nothing to buy. There’s nothing to fill out in that regard. But we’ve worked as an invitation only and by referral only for years. And the reason I did that is because I looked at what people were doing to promote their business online or other copywriters or other agencies or whatever. And I realized that well, you can definitely try to do this social media thing you can do the podcast thing you can do whatever you want to do, you can do all kinds of public marketing, and you can get clients that way.

But I made the decision to not pursue that because I will also get a secondary audience that I had nothing to provide for like I had nothing to sell them which is other marketers and the subcategory that being other copywriters. I have nothing to offer other copywriters like I, I think most of the things that I’ve learned other copywriters can learn by doing the work and by taking the correct training for it. There’s nothing that I have that is so unique, that I could offer other options. Writers that would warrant me to have a list for copywriters, other marketers. I never had anything to sell to other marketers, copywriters. The only thing I’ve ever had to sell is a specific skill set and results to clients who are not copywriters. Right? And so I definitely don’t have a list because I would invariably attract other marketers, which is they get on my list, but the stuff I’d write about would have nothing to do with them.

So they just unsubscribe at some point. And so instead of having a list that is half dead in terms of people just unsubscribe because there’s nothing on it for them. And instead of diverting my energy toward creating offers or doing something for other marketers, copywriters. I took that energy and time because it’s finite, right? And I took that energy in that time and focused it on honing a skill. And the real, the real reason why I did the way I did with referral only is that It cuts my client acquisition costs down to zero. So it doesn’t cost me anything to acquire a client. I don’t have to spend the time doing the podcasts, doing the blogging, doing the social media, all of that takes time and it’s caught it’s one, we’re not you paying for it, whether you’re doing it, we have an assistant doing it, the hours you spend are hours that you could have spent on something else, right.

So we don’t spend any time hunting or casting a wide net with all these other marketing tactics, and so for us the funnel is very simple. It’s that we have different strategies that we use with our existing clients to encourage them to give us referrals. And when they do give us a referral, we just make sure that we ask the right questions of that person or company. And we then extend them an invitation to work with us. So even if they get a referral, it’s not even like a done deal that they’re going to work with us. We just if it’s a good fit, if I think that we can help you, client, whoever you are. And if I think that we can actually make an impact, and take your landing page from 10% to 50%. Like if I if I thought that your landing page, the ceiling is from 10 to 15, I wouldn’t work with you because it wouldn’t be worth the money you’d pay us you wouldn’t justify the small bump, but I think your landing page is capable of so I need to see that as a good opportunity for us to help you in a meaningful, impactful way.

And if we’re a good fit on everything else, then we extend or I extend an invitation for that client to work with us. So the way that happens is that we treat our existing clients in a very specific and good way so that they’re encouraged to give us referrals. And when they do on average, if you’re a good fit, you go from the first day of being referred to become a client on average, it takes 34 days. It cost us nothing too. acquiring that lead it doesn’t cost us either in money or time spent doing something else. And it just helps us build that reputation amongst a small clientele but a clientele that also or the kind of work that also is rewarding because we’d also do a lot of commissions and royalties on the stuff we produce.

So we don’t just get paid a flat rate fee we also get paid commissions and per lead sometimes depending on the kind of funnel that it is right so it just helps to help me build a small small ish small compared to other agencies, whatever the is all relative, right but small tight agency that did good solid work for a select clientele without having to do all the other things that people do. You know, like, I don’t want to spend my time on Twitter. I don’t want to spend my time on Facebook. I don’t want to spend my time on LinkedIn. I just hallelujah. Yeah, right. Like there’s just I didn’t want to do it again. Again. Some people do it and they’re successful and they get clients all the more power to you If that’s you, but I’m just saying there’s another way. And I chose that other way. And I’m fortunate that I’m, I was able to make it work.

Brad: Yeah, I really like that philosophy. Part of the reason I like it, Sam is just the fact that it’s so different from what most people, you know, aspiring, like big name copywriters who like see the stars of, you know, being successful copywriter, they want to get into it, to create courses and to create a brand and this and that, but you have sort of made a conscious decision to avoid that path and purely focus on the work so I see you as somebody who is like honing their craft day in day out in the trenches doing the real work, versus the kind of social media you know, brand building type stuff. So, I think that well, very good choice that you made.

Sam Woods: You know who Ryan Schwartz is, right?

Brad: Yeah, definitely I consider him my buddy.

Sam Woods: Yeah, well, he didn’t do exactly the same but he was in the background for the longest time. Right, staying somewhat anonymous, you know, people had to seek him out to get him to work on his projects. But he was able to do his thing that way which is similar to mine not the exact same way but similar to mine. And I think you know, there’s I’m not gonna name names because this is no reason to but there are a lot of a lot of things that copywriters are being sold today is nothing more than biz op and nothing more than the person who’s selling it to you for them to make money. That’s it. Yeah. As it has no other effect, no other purpose other than to find a way to have you separate yourself from the money that you’ve earned. And like and I’m the biggest conversion sales persuasion guy There is probably like, I love that stuff. I have nothing against it at all.

But you have to understand that the idea of copywriting has been sold as a business for years. And when you sell it as a biz op as a business opportunity, then you attract people, the way you attract people is also how you have to keep them. And people are being fed this idea that I can go from flipping burgers one day to then writing million dollar sales pages the next day and it’s just not true. Right, you can make that jump, but it takes a lot of work. Right. And so I think people are attracted to the story.

Brad: Hmm, like the archetypal story. Yeah. Gary Halbert letters in two weeks later I was making

Sam Woods: Yeah, but that’s an origin and Albert Lasker and the way he essentially sold America on the idea of America. Right. So there’s a lot of psychology behind these archetypal stories that we hear that we tell ourselves that is out in the marketplace. It goes way back. It goes way past the early 1900s. When Mr. Lasker was active, Mr. Lasker essentially popularized the rags to riches story, which has been used by everyone ever since. And so there’s an attractiveness to the idea that you can have a name and have a brand and be known and be you know, whatever have an audience and, and friend, no one is doing that. I don’t begrudge them that I don’t I’m not saying they’re doing something wrong or that they’re doing it wrong. You do whatever you want to do, like, I don’t care. I’m just saying that there’s a lot of things that were being sold in the marketplace that simply doesn’t work.

Or it was it someone telling you the winning lottery ticket numbers because it worked for them once. And so I’m just wary of that stuff, because I see it. And I’m sure you see it and I’m sure anyone who’s half decent at it. brighter you can see the tactics being used. Yeah. And so I just want you to know, I have nothing against it. I don’t mind people selling stuff to other copywriters. I think if you have the gift of teaching and you have something good to teach them, you should do it. But I’m not that guy. I’m not gonna, I’m not gonna have the courses. I’m looking into the ebooks. Eventually, at some point, will I ever put out something? I don’t know, maybe. But I have no, I chose a different path.

Brad: Yeah, yeah, no, I appreciate that. I think that’s super cool in it. It makes a lot of sense. Makes a lot of sense. If you can focus on the work then you can keep getting better and better and better and really perfect the craft rather than selling the dream, you know, over and over again.

Sam Woods: Right? Yeah, I’m living my dream. Probably more so than other maybe more so than other things. People who are selling the dream, but I have no need of selling my dream to me like I, I’m happy with what I’ve got, I’ve I’m satisfied knowing that I’ve been able to help a few clients get really good results, that I’ve been able to employ people so that they have a job and can provide for their families. And I’ve been able to do the same form my life, and I’m good with that, you know? Definitely.

Brad: So Sam, what does your team look like? Is that stimulated? When you say we Is that what you’re talking about at your agency?

Sam Woods: Yeah, which is sold or part in a partial sale. So I don’t, I don’t own or I owned a name and the company structure but I have had a partial sale of my agency so that I’ve, I’ve exited out of it. I’m going to keep the name I’m going to keep that business structure because I had it set up and it has a history and maybe at some point, I do something with it, but a much, much larger competitor of mine, or not direct competitor, but we’re in the same space lead gen space. they’ve acquired most of that business. And so what I have left is my own IP, intellectual property, the name and then a handful of clients that I keep doing work for.

Brad: That’s cool, man. Congrats, congrats on the sale. So what does your current team look like?

Sam Woods: It’s myself and another person. And that’s it. Okay. At the height, there were 12 people plus me. Oh, wow. And but I think over I think on average, I want to, I want to think back on average, at the peak or 12 people then I made some changes because why we had to move into other industries I didn’t want to move into. And so I think on average, we’ve been around five people. Plus me. Yeah, over the years I’ve been able to employ about 41 people. Plus, myself either full time or part time. And I think like I said earlier, everything has an expiration date. My agency as a model had an expiration date. I think from here on out, I’ll just be doing things differently. Right. And we’ll see what that looks like.

Brad: I’m actually, I’m just now making my first hires. And it’s like, learning marketing, learning copy is one thing that’s its own journey, its own process to get good at it. But then that is like a whole other, you know, side of the business, that it’s got its own unique learning curve for sure. Yeah, onboarding new hires, and know that the delegation process and all that

Sam Woods: and I did that, and I did that for a while. But then I realized that I, you know, I didn’t want to be the dashboard manager. I didn’t want to be like you for your business to grow. At that point. You have to let go of a lot of the things that you used to be doing right. And so you need to step into a different role. You need to seriously step into the CEO role. Or you need to hire a CEO and cmo and everything else and grow the business and you remain involved in another way. So I saw that path, and I realized that I can do the business owner thing, I can do the SEO thing, but I don’t like it. I don’t enjoy it. I can do it. But I don’t like it. So I chose to scale back from 12 people to something smaller so that I could do the things, the kind of work that I enjoy doing. Yeah,

Brad: you’d rather actually be doing the research doing the writing, doing the optimization, is that right?

Sam Woods: Different parts of it? Yeah. There are stuff about each of those areas that I like and other things I don’t like. So I just focus on the things I do like which is ideation and some research and thinking things through. And I think that’s, that’s What I’ve been focused on because I’d rather do that, then look at a dashboard all day and manage those numbers, you know?

Brad: Yeah, no, I hear that hundred percent. Sam, let’s talk about growth marketing ecosystems, which is, I believe that’s a term that you coined. Maybe on your first time I’d seen it, I think it was on your website. And on your website, you say, when you adopt a systems mindset about your marketing, it unlocks endless opportunities, and potential for growth. So let’s dig in a little bit there. As far as those systems, you know, the systems that are in your mind, your approach, your systems or your approach, how do you implement those systems? In client work? What does that look like in terms of what you’re writing and what you’re designing for clients.

Sam Woods: So as a big jump from thinking and systems to then what it looks like on a page, but essentially what it is, I believe The metaphor that I use and have used for a while for myself and for the work we do is to not think of a client’s let’s say they have an acquisition funnel to acquire customers, right? And it consists of whatever is in it pages, emails, ads, something else, all these different elements, it doesn’t really matter, but whatever they are, and most people will look at that as an engine, or they will think as they will think of it of, they will think of it in terms of engineering, terminology and engineering metaphors, which is not a mad flywheel maybe Yeah, whatever. Like it’s just it’s a mechanical view. And there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s there’s a lot of people who prefer to think that way and they are able to get results thinking that way and looking at it through that lens.

But there’s one other thing that I’ve learned over the years is that there’s so much unpredictability in any given funnel, that when you think you have it figured out You haven’t had like, you don’t have it figured out. So there are limitations to thinking of a funnel as an engine with mechanical parts is a good starting point. So you have a grasp of what it even is that you’re looking at. And you know, this input, there’s output in there stuff that happened to create that output page, whatever. But to get to the point where those funnels can actually scale especially but for them to grow and for to improve conversion rates. And so if I have a funnel for acquisition of customers, and every month it gives me 100 customers, I can do things I can optimize the mechanics of, that will take it from 100 to maybe 130 new customers. Some people are very happy with that. But for you to get from 100 to 200 or beyond.

You can’t think of it as an engine anymore because there are too many unpredictable moving parts that you have no control over. You can influence them but you have no control and this is where each system comes into play. And whether it is a growth ecosystem, a growth marketing system, I never really cared about ecosystem is a leading metaphor. And it’s a simple idea that if you look at that acquisition funnel as a field instead of possibilities, and if it helps you to think of something like that as a tree, go ahead, I don’t think of that way. But like you might think of as a tree, there are things you can do, and to prune that tree to help it grow in a certain direction. And you can influence how fast it grows or how slow it grows, and you can kill it right. So the way I looked at it is for me to see to look at this funnel differently and to get it to go from 100 customers per month to 100 customers per month.

No amount of mechanical optimization will make the difference because there are things outside of my control and the funnels control that still influence what happens in the funnel but that I can’t mechanically tweek so if you think of it as a, with a metaphor of a, an ecosystem there are, that ecosystem consists of living organic things that come in and out of that ecosystem. And there are things that grow in that ecosystem. And it has its own ecology. It has its own cycles of life, what you know, whatever. It almost sounds like Lion King, you know, the circle of life, whatever that is, right?

Brad: Oh, yeah.

Sam Woods: But it’s, and it’s kind of like that, in a sense in that everything has a cycle, because like I said to before, if I get a funnel to go from 100 to 130 new customers by doing mechanical tweaks, it doesn’t mean that funnel will stay at 130 new customers every single month from there on out because there are things that affect that number, that a funnel, a limited view, cannot fix. So there are things like market trends right? If your funnel is geared toward converting customers because of a particular market trend, when that trend is over or passing, then no amount of mechanical tweaking to your funnel will save it or make it convert better. Right. But if you think of that funnel as existing within an ecosystem where you know that there are outside forces that influence what happens in that funnel, then you know that, okay, those outside forces will present new opportunities for that funnel to be different and to convert better.

And so you can see trends when they come and you can make adjustments accordingly, if all you had was a mechanical, narrow view, a funnel where you look at, let’s say, an ad to a landing page to an email sequence. And if you’re going, this is what I’m optimizing, and only this and you do all the tests that people tell you, you do all the best practices that people tell you, use all the templates that people give you. Those things have a ceiling to their effectiveness because they existed in a different context years ago. That’s not the same as your context. So this is why I don’t like best practices because a best practice might get you from 100 to 120 new customers, but it won’t get you to 200. For that to happen, you need to have a different perspective of that funnel.

So if you think of your funnel as existing within an ecosystem, you can better anticipate changing desires, that you can channel into, into the funnel, you can pay trends, you can anticipate or see or discover, talking points, the way the market changes itself, you can anticipate the kind of offers that people are converting on, like marketers are for the most part, we mimic each other. Like that’s part of the mindset of a marketer thing is that we have preference to mimic and so whenever one is doing webinars, or when one person is doing a webinar, then that format spreads and all of a sudden everyone’s doing a webinar. But those webinars six months later, don’t convert anything right or they might be hard to even run on let’s say Facebook traffic is Facebook all of a sudden, does not like webinars as an exit.

Alright, so that’s what I mean by having a mechanical engine tie view, which is that you’re so focused on the mechanics that you don’t see the bigger picture that will tell you or show you what pivots you need to make. Because a funnel is not a it’s not a single thing that you run once and then it runs forever. There’s no such thing as an evergreen funnel. That’s a myth, because things change and people’s needs change. People’s desires change people, the marketplace changes, conversation changes in the marketplace. For a while everyone’s going, Oh, crap, I need analytics. No one, no one now goes, Oh, crap, I need analytics. Everyone knows that you need analytics. So the conversation is no longer. You know, hey, do you know what analytics is? Here’s how to use it. The conversation now is how do I use the analytics that I have to make better decisions.

So there’s a maturity and a sophistication that happens in any marketplace and so an ecosystem will help you see those Figure things and help you come up with new ideas for how to optimize a funnel and know what messaging needs to change, know how your offer needs to change, know what the marketplace in general is doing. Because if your competitor starts copying your funnel, then your funnel is going to die really quick. And for you to be able to pivot and to offer something that’s unique to your company, whatever you’re selling, the only way to know what to do is to think beyond the mechanics of an engine. And instead look at it as an ecosystem.

Brad: That is an excellent insight. That is awesome. So it’s, it’s like a broader view, more holistic, all encompassing. And considering the context outside just the steps, you know, the steps of a particular customer journey. So it can be either together.

Sam Woods: but it’s more than broader and holistic because you can have a broader view of a bigger engine and it still won’t do you any good. Right? It’s, it’s a different way of thinking about your funnel or website or landing page, like whatever the part is. That is different from an engineering type thinking, or mechanical type thinking. And so yeah, and this is probably where, where the idea of Nico’s ecosystem will never be a popular idea, because it’s not the most intuitive probably idea, right? It’s and it’s something that I’ve developed that works for me, and I have no idea if that idea Warframe no one else. But there’s a reason why it’s an ecosystem and not just a bigger machine, right? It’s an ecosystem. If you think of an ecosystem, it’s easier to see that there’s a ton of unpredictability, there’s a lot of randomness, and things grow on their own without you having any control over it.

And you have animals and other things coming into the ecosystem, using it in different way, and then they leave to another ecosystem. So it’s accounting for a different worldview than just a mechanical worldview. So it in that sense is more than just holistic. It’s just a different way of thinking all together.

Brad: Yeah. Yeah. It’s a totally different paradigm, which I really like. So Sam, they have been some of your biggest influences when it comes to copywriting and marketing. And what did you learn from those folks?

Sam Woods: Jana we and Eugene Schwartz. So Joanna, we because I’ve, we have a long history of working together on several different projects over the years, and I first learned copywriting from her commercial copywriting specifically. And so I owe a lot of a lot of my skill set and whatever I’ve been able to accomplish I owe her a lot and so I’m very appreciative of what she’s taught me. And the thing that I’ve learned I don’t know if there’s one thing or a couple things from her that stand out to me. It’s more so the whole she just doesn’t stop if that makes sense, right so she doesn’t rest on her accomplishments. Like as far as I like I don’t work with a day to day I saw I don’t know what she does day to day but my impression of having talked to her and having done a course with her is that she just doesn’t rest on her laurels and doesn’t coast on whatever she has done like she’s as far as I can tell.

She’s always learning, always trying, always pushing the envelope and so that to me, has been a huge motivation and inspiration in that I could have stayed with one type of customer and one type of market and one type of thing, my niche or niche, whatever you want to say. And eked out my space in that But I think what I picked up from her is that that’s a great way to get off really quickly. So you need that constant pursuit of not necessarily mastery but pursuit of pushing the envelope and seeing what else works. Like I remember way back in the day when I worked with her in the agency she had then like snap copy, I would write something that I thought was pretty good. And she thought it was pretty good. But then she would spend a couple hours and revise it and edit it. And then I would see how she took a decent copy that she thought was good for them to become really good.

And seeing her work that way and seeing her evaluate every sentence in word and the page whatever it was, I learned, I think more from watching her work that way than I did from doing anything else. So I definitely know her a lot and the other guys you just watched are dead. But his book breakthrough advertising is a tremendous influence and helps him. I don’t know where he got this idea because I don’t think he thinks of the idea of awareness and sophistication to two concepts that he at least wrote into a book format. I think those ideas have existed throughout time. But he crystallized and put into words two concepts that have been: I’ve made all the difference in the world in terms of funnels because there’s no one funnel that works for everyone. It really comes down to two things, awareness and sophistication.

And you must have both and most people look at awareness to think that’s it level of awareness are they product were solution aware, problem aware all those stages, but the one other category that I think most copywriters ignore or miss or whatever, his sophistication and market sophistication is you You can have the perfectly written piece of copy as an ad or landing page. And it can be just, it can hit all the things, it can be a textbook example of what a good copy is. But if you put that in front of the wrong, or that market or that message is timed wrong in the overall market, and you put it in front of the wrong people, it won’t convert. And it can be everything it should be, can be the perfect specimen and what copy is. But if you get the sophistication level wrong. It doesn’t matter.

Brad: Yeah. It’s such a fundamental concept and breakthrough advertising. Actually, I got a copy from Joanna when I went viral. The mastermind she did a couple years ago. Yeah, every time I read through it, I pick up something new every single time. It’s just so dense with incredible, you know, concepts and takeaways. It’s amazing But I’m curious you’re, you’re a fan of Eugene Schwartz. Have you read his other book? I don’t know how to break through. brilliance breakthrough if you haven’t read that.

Sam Woods: Yeah, I actually the first time I read it, I got a PDF from a friend of mine seven years ago. And I think Brian Kurtz only put it on a book format a couple years ago. So I had a crappy scanned PDF version of it on my iPad when I first went through it yeah yeah, not for me getting the physical book a couple Yeah, I think he published it like two years ago or something like that. That was really helpful. So I’ve gone through it again and is another one that I come back to because that’s it’s not necessarily copy specific skill development, but his writing development Yeah, and I think a lot of copywriters Miss like before you do all the fancy corrosion, copywriting stuff like you should have have a sense of how to write. And this is going to sound probably heretical, but you should understand how to write an essay.

Because if you can’t present your arguments in a simple essay as to why someone should buy something, your sales page will be crap. Like, you need to first understand why someone should buy something. And the easiest way to outline that for yourself is in an essay, I’m not talking about the, you know, the classical five part essay, whatever the teacher in high school, college, whatever it is, but like a simple essay, where you make you state your claims, your promises, and then you back it up. And if you don’t have a crystal clear understanding of what your sales argument is, your sales page won’t like it just won’t be as good as it can be. So I think a lot of people discount just the simple fundamentals, the simple things if you know, they just don’t know. Ignore it or whatever. But those things can make a huge difference. Huge. Yeah,

Brad:  yeah, totally. I’ve had a copy of that for a while, and I actually have not read it. So it’s worth going through and reading. Definitely, yeah. Glad I’ve just got so many copy and marketing books like, you know, dozens and dozens that I’m still getting to.

Sam Woods: So don’t don’t read too much, start watching TV series and start watching TV series for the sake of scenes. And I don’t really have any particular TV series that there are really some really good ones out there. But there are some TV series better than others at setting a scene where there’s something happening and the one key question that I’ve started asking myself the past couple years when I write something is I asked myself, What scene is this and what movie? Mm hmm. And when I asked myself that question, it’s easier to bring a difference. sense of vitality to copy in a different sense of purpose to it, where all you’re doing is giving people mental scenes anyway, right?

When you write about a feature for a SaaS company, you’re, you’re you’re like a director in the you’re directing a scene where your software exists and the person who you want buying it exists, and they need to step into an alternate reality in their own mind where they picture what it’s like to use your product. and sell. What I’m doing now more than anything is that I’m watching TV shows, especially sometimes movies, but TV shows especially to see how they set up scenes, and what scenes are really good. A lot of them are crap, but like there are some scenes that can be really good in terms of helping you bring the dramatic back into the copy and by dramatic enemy like drama like teenage drama, I’m talking about the Character theater characteristic of drama, where there’s opposing forces and there’s tension and there’s pulling and there’s, you know, there’s movement.

Right. So it sounds really esoteric, but I think that’s more than anything the past few years that has helped me really, really, really well. To write a better copy.

Brad: Yeah. Yeah, I actually don’t watch a lot of TV. But as far as, you know, sort of cinematic writing. Yeah, really something I focused on for a while, I think my first sort of aha moment around the power that’s there came from learning from rye and his, his courses with copy hackers, and he has a very sort of cinematic screenwriter type approach. started implementing some of that in like sales letters, and recently I’ve been doing mostly advertorials for cold traffic funnels that are, the entire thing is like it’s a store Right. It’s like, you know, a transformation story. So the sales argument is totally embedded. Yeah. Like a scene? Yeah. Yeah. It’s when you can kind of learn the, the fundamentals and the frameworks that go into storytelling. Yeah, like actual storytelling. It can be such a powerful vehicle for copywriting conversion.

Sam Woods: Yeah. And I think I don’t have much time left. But I think one reason why I found that powerful is that time and time again, when I’ve done customer interviews, voice of customer research and so on. The people who have been the best customers can always point to one specific thing they read, or they had a thought that essentially converted them to the product or to buy it. And it always comes down to one simple thing, a sentence somewhere that made it click for them, or away. Something was described That they went Yes. And like the funny thing is, once that happens for someone, they don’t need to read the rest to convince themselves they’re already convinced. And so they will. And this happens to all humans, they will justify what they’re feeling by looking for confirmation of your copy. And what I like.

What I love is when I know something that I wrote and I don’t tell people that I write some things that I write it exists in the world I didn’t know that I wrote it, but I love it when I’m doing interviews with customers and I know that they read something that I wrote and one thing and what I wrote me them convert and me knowing that makes it worth it because I knew that like for a brief moment anyway, something I wrote affected someone else’s behavior in a good way like they they’re buying cuz they’re getting value out of it, but like in a good way. their thought process turned things into one sentence, right, I think, and that’s what scenes do, right? one scene can change a whole movie or a whole TV series. One way of saying something can change your perspective completely on the whole thing. And so, I look for when I write, I look for that, to get to that point, and that night, you know, eight out of 10, it doesn’t happen, but the two times that it does happen.

Sam Woods:  That’s how you go from 100 new customers to 200.

Brad: So what you’re talking about, there is the aha moment, right? Something that you focus on and really emphasize in the 10 x funnels course you copy that.

Sam Woods: I yeah, I think and I’m using the as basically, yes. I, I’m using the terminology a ha moment because it exists in the marketplace and people know what that is. But if I was to use an internal word that I use for myself, when I sit and write, I think of it as the volta in A sonnet. And that’s where it ‘s the turning point for us. Right? So if you don’t want to go into now, because it’s not, we’re not here to talk about my poetry. But But if you look up how a sonnet is structured, at least English ones, there’s a volta in their, toward the end of it, where the whole, there’s a new perspective that comes in and either reframes the whole sonnet or it just, it’s like a 90 degree turn. And so I think of it as writing to get to the volta internally with myself, and I’ve never said this to anyone else before.

You’re the first one that I’m saying this to but for the past four or five years, I’ve thought of it as writing for the volta as opposed to the aha moment. But I’m using the aha moment just because that’s common terminology. If I start talking about volta, very few lenders stellar talk, but yeah, in in any given funnel, and especially in the course that I partner with, generally because bx with 10 x funnels, no matter if it’s for acquiring the lead or getting the first customer or getting those customers to come back and buy again. If they don’t get to the volta, or the aha moment, or that moment when things make sense, then you’re gonna have a hard time converting them. Right. So there’s, and it sounds esoteric, it sounds big it sounds you know, I call it a revelation that they need to have a revelation of how this is now how everything changes.

So the feeling you want them to have is to look at your stuff, read your stuff, and at some point, you want it to go. Wow, this changes everything. So they feel New Hope. And some call that aha moment, I call that a revelation. But in the 10 x funnel course which is really for small courses in one bigger thing and it covers the four areas of a funnel or As a business, I should say that moves the needle. So it’s acquiring new customers, it’s acquiring leads, is getting those customers to buy again, and it’s re engaging with leads or customers that have gone cold. So those four areas, so there are four funnels for those four areas. And those are the only four funnels that you need in any business. Anything else is just a purpose. And you can build on the funnels if you’d like. But those are the four core functionalities of those funnels.

And in those funnels, I talked about the revelation or the aha moment. And they are intentionally making them the way they are because if I just taught you how to do a webinar, then you would have a three and 10 chances of getting that webinar to convert because the reality is that most webinars don’t convert in most markets. But if I taught you how to create a lead generation funnel that has the funnel The mentals in place of people experiencing that aha moment, then the format can be anything you want. It can be an advertorial and often it can be a short video, it can be a webinar, you can structure like the format I give you in that course, you can just turn into any, I say the structure I give you, you can turn into any format you want. The format that I give in all these funnels, it follows a particular persuasion structure. And that, in turn can be used as an article, video webinar, or anything.

Because I know that over the course of the past 10 years, a webinar will come and go as a useful way of converting people. In most markets, it just never works. So I want to give people something that I knew is time tested, it’s proven, and it’ll convert today, it’ll convert five years from now 10 years from now because those simple fundamentals are there. And it gives you the maximum number of possibilities. If I tell you just how to do a webinar, you couldn’t turn that into an advertorial and landing page like it just doesn’t, not the same structure or format. So that’s why I did it the way I did it. And I think you have been through it?

Brad: I’ve done the first module. I guess I would classify it as like a cold traffic funnel.

Sam Woods: Yeah, more or less?

Brad: Yeah. Yeah, I’ve gone through that. I’m not probably 75% of the way through it. But yeah, what you’re describing, sort of format agnostic, has been really, really cool because it’s clear that it’s not the structure that sells it’s the messaging. It just happens to be, you know, the structure is the vehicle but the messaging is the thing that converts people. Yeah,

Sam Woods: some audiences all they want to consume our videos. So if all like gave you was how to write a landing page? And how would you turn that into a video, right? Like, if I’m format, if I’m limited to the format of it, then it does you a disservice. And the thing that I hope that people get in those courses too, is that getting it long, if you’re going from scratch, getting it launched is the hardest thing. And that’s why I included the optimization lessons too. Because no funnel ever survives first contact with reality.

So that’s why the optimization part is, in my opinion, the most valuable part of those modules because that’ll teach you how to take a funnel that’s sort of converting to really converting and something that’s converting okay to get from that 100 new customers to 200 or 100, new leads 200 new leads, and I think that’s going to be the key for anyone who goes through it, which is how do you optimize it by giving people essentially a decision tree where if your funnel is converting an X percent, then you do this, it was converting at y percent, then you do And on and on it goes.

Brad: Yeah. And that’s the kind of thing that very few people are out there teaching. Like there’s people who teach the format, you know, landing page sales letter, whatever it is. There’s very few people with experience and understanding now that automated optimization works that are sharing the formula for how to do that. So very cool. Very cool course. Sam, I think we’re probably right at a stopping point here. I’ve got a bunch more I’d love to talk with you about. I’ve really enjoyed this so far, but based on you know, what you shared about yourself and your business. I don’t think you are probably so worried about giving people a place to come check out your work. You don’t necessarily have to like a real history thing. So

Sam Woods: I mean, I mean, if you google me, you could probably find me. Like, I’d say like if you want to if anyone cares enough to get a look at what I’m doing or who I am then it’s either Samuel j was calm or you can find me on Facebook Samuel j woods. That’s it. I got no no list to pitch you I got no product to pitch you occasionally I say worthwhile things that are useful for people but you know I’m not into the game of doing the chasing

Brad: man I’ve gotten a ton of insights and a ton of value from this. So I appreciate you taking some time to come on share and talk about your approach to marketing.

Sam Woods: Sure. Any time.

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