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Neville Medhora

Neville Medhora is best known as a copywriter. But that doesn’t mean he just writes copy. In this episode, we talk with the author and copywriter about why he dropped out of college, his direct approach to helping clients, and why he actively keeps up with marketing trends.

What is copywriting?
What is copywriting?

What is copywriting?

Ep
193
Jun
15
With
Neville Medhora
Or Listen On:

How to write like you speak.

Neville Medhora is best known as a copywriter. But that doesn’t mean he just writes copy. According to Neville, effective copywriting means communicating a message from your brain to millions of other brains using the best technology available.

Hundreds of years ago, a carrier pigeon was the best option. Today, it’s probably a brief email that includes curated animated GIFs.

In this episode, we talk with the author and copywriter about why he dropped out of college, his direct approach to helping clients, and why he actively keeps up with marketing trends.

One universal tip Neville shared that might help you (and your business) is that familiarity ruins your ability to critique something. You can’t relive a first impression, so try introducing fresh eyes to your problem. It will almost always lead to better insights.

If you’re interested in learning how to improve your copywriting, you might like Neville’s copywriting course.

Episode Transcript

Neville:

So a lot of people say, "Elon Musk is a dropout. Bill Gates is a dropout. Mark Zuckerberg is a dropout." Elon Musk was going to pursue a PhD at Stanford. Mark Zuckerberg was at Harvard, killing it. Bill Gates was doing really well. These people weren't dolts that just dropped out and just thought, "Let me try something." They actually started something. And when it got so big, they dropped out. That's the kind of dropout that you want to be, if you're going to drop out. You don't just want to drop out and say, "I'm going to find something." If you can't do it on the side, you probably can't do it full time.

Chris:

I'm going to kick off this conversation by first thanking my friend, Jonathan Courtney, for introducing me to you. While I was visiting him in Berlin, he's like, "Chris, you got to read this book, and you can read it in like 15 minutes or something." "15 minutes, you exaggerate." And sure enough, you can sort of. You can't really read it in 15 minutes, but it is a fast read. And I point this out to our audience who's listening, the book I'm talking about is called This Book Will Teach You to Write Better. And oddly enough, it lives up to its promise. It's super succinct, very clear. The designer inside of me is like, "Ugh, the formatting is a little funky." But it gets the job done.

Neville:

Oh, there might be some spelling errors in it too. There's all sorts of problems with it.

Chris:

My guess for today's podcast is none other than Neville Medhora, and I don't know why I didn't figure out to reach out to you earlier. But some of my friends maybe are mutual fans. Like, "Hey, Neville mentioned you in something." I'm like, "Neville doesn't know who I am. What the heck?" I watched a clip. I'm like, "Oh, okay." Now I have to invite you, because I've been wanting to talk to you for some time. So Neville, for people who don't know who you are, can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit of your story, please?

Neville:

Yeah. Thanks, Chris. Big fan. I've been following you on Instagram. And I am a copywriter, that's what I'm known as. And from a young age, I started a business, never been against jobs, but I don't like bad jobs. And I always thought building a business was fun. So I was publishing online back when we were writing HTML to write blog posts, and then WordPress came out, all that stuff. And over the years, I've watched that transformation happen.
And one of the things I noticed was, if you change the words around on a page, it could often have a dramatic difference. So if a hundred people come to your page and you have bad words on it, maybe one out of 100 will sign up. But if you change them around just a little bit, and say a different message, maybe 10 people or 50 people out of 100 will sign up. And I was like, "Wow, that's a dramatic difference." And when you're talking about these numbers at digital scale, that's very, very dramatic. So that skill is called copywriting. And so, I learned it from other copywriters of the past, who did direct mail before the internet was out, when it used to be very expensive to reach a million people. Now, we could reach a million people no problem, for free, essentially.
So back then they said if I'm going to reach a million people, this is going to cost over a million dollars. We damn well better make sure this message resonates. And I started learning this skill of copywriting and I owned a rave company. I've never been to a rave in my life, owned a rave drop shipping company, and started applying those copywriting skills to my emails that I sent out. And it went from making negative money every month, to becoming primarily an email marketing company, is how I made most of my sales.
And then my buddy Noah Kagan, who was building a company called AppSumo, off my couch at the time, here in Austin, Texas, and his project started catching on. I was like, "You should apply this copywriting stuff." And he was like, "We'll see." And I was like, "Let me try one." So we tried one of the messages and it was absolutely the most highest selling day ever. And we were both like, "Damn." We didn't really expect that to work. And then we did it again and again and again, and that became a big company.
And the writing has kind of continued on into companies like The Hustle. One of my friend, Sam Parr, started reading my writing about copywriting and learned from it, and applied it to his own email newsletter. He was running an events company, and it turned out, events can only hold a few thousand people, but the newsletter to promote the event can hold a few million people. And he quickly realized that's probably the better way. And then, created this giant company called The Hustle, that sold the HubSpot.
And here I am, I teach a course called Copywriting Course, very cleverly named. And we basically take people who have small businesses or are freelancers to some degree, and we optimize their copy so they can get the best results online. That's the story in a nutshell.

Chris:

Neat. I love that. You know what I'm having a hard time connecting is your actual educational background, which I saw in LinkedIn, had something to do with political science, and business, government law, and business marketing, and computers. What? If you knew you were going to be a copywriter and you love copywriting, why did you pursue that?

Neville:

That's a great question. I feel like 20 years ago when I went to college, it was like... I don't even think about that now, what I studied in college. So I entered as a computer science student, because I was interested in computer science. But there were 17,000 people going for 5,000 computer science spots. This was during the tech bubble. So everyone wanted to do computer science, and I was not on the right side of that curve. So I didn't get into the computer science program. So I said, "What else do I do?" Political science, going maybe to law school or something like that, sounded interesting. And during that, I was studying with a business minor and doing political science.
I actually was running a business since high school, called houseofrave.com. I don't even know if it still exists, but I was running that. And it was very unusual for a student to be running a company back then. And I was actually making money with all these different side projects that I was running. And I joined all these entrepreneurship club... And Chris, believe it or not, back then, there was like 200 people in this entrepreneurship club I was in, and maybe two of us had a business. That's not a good ratio. Now, if you go to a college, almost all of them will have some sort of hot side hustle or have sold something on a Shopify or something. So it's really increased. But back then, it was not super common.
And while I was running these companies, I was starting to learn. I was like, "Okay, I can see the near future." I have a lot of family, friends that are older than me, that have exited college, that have gone on to jobs in investment banking and all these different things, law, et cetera. And I would talk to them, and it didn't seem like a lot of them liked their jobs. Not all of them, but some of them were like, "Yeah, being a lawyer is not fun. You're pushing papers for dumb documents all day. It's a little bit soul sucking." I was like, "Wait, this is what I kind of want to become. This sounds bad."
I always thought being an investment banker or something like that sounded really cool. It sounded cool, and you make a lot of money. Then I talked to a lot of friends that were investment bankers and they're like, "Wow, this is kind of like indentured servitude. They promise you $400,000 a year. They actually pay you $60,000 a year with the promise of a gigantic bonus at the end. And if you don't do what they want, when they want, how they want, for even one second, they will pull that bonus." I was like, "Wow, that doesn't sound great either."
And so, as I was running these companies, I was making a pretty competitive what I could make in the workplace salary, as a college student. And I was like, "Well, if I could keep doing this, it seems like the upside is unlimited. The downside is I move back in with my parents, at worst. And even that, it probably won't come to that." And so I always thought, "Man, I'm young. I could just go get a job. I'm pretty confident I could get a job somewhere, doing something." And so, I chose that route and I was already making money in college.
So when I exited, I was like, "Well, why get a job?" It didn't really make sense. And so, I had to kind of explain that to a couple people, like my parents. But when they saw that income was coming in, they were more okay with it. So my college degree didn't necessarily help me, although the college experience did. You kind of make your own path if you want.

Chris:

Yeah. Okay. So you're in a very rare space where you're making money, you have a beginnings of a career, and yet you're still in school, right?

Neville:

Mm-hmm.

Chris:

And is it your parents pushing you to kind of finish school? Because oftentimes, when people are in this situation, they just drop out and like, "I'm going to do my own thing."

Neville:

No, I don't agree with that sentiment. So a lot of people say, "Elon Musk is a dropout. Bill Gates is a dropout. Mark Zuckerberg is a dropout." Elon Musk was going to pursue a PhD at Stanford. Mark Zuckerberg was at Harvard, killing it. Bill Gates was doing really well. These people weren't dolts that just dropped out and just thought, "Let me try something." They actually started something. And when it got so big, they dropped out.
So little hometown hero over here is Michael Dell in Austin, Texas. He lived in the same dorm that I did. Not the exact unit, but the same dorm. And he was selling computers and making so much money that he had to drop out. He didn't want to, but he had to drop out, because there was too much going on. That's the kind of dropout that you want to be, if you're going to drop out. You don't just want to drop out and say, "I'm going to find something." If I always say, "If you can't do it on the side, you probably can't do it full time." So people think like, "Only if I had more time, I'll be able to do X, Y, Z." And I think you've seen that many times, that if you can't do it on the side, it's probably not going to work out full time either.
So I actually think it's kind of dangerous for people to drop out full time, have unlimited time on their hands, doing nothing, with no motivation, and just flounder there. So if you're going to start a side business, start a side business, and then if it gets big, then you drop out of your job, your college, whatever.

Chris:

You did the very adult and responsible thing by sending that message out, so that young people listening to this aren't going to just immediately drop out and cause all kinds of heartache for their parents or potential future self there. So I get that. It's like you want to leave for a reason, not because you don't know what you're doing, because that would seem like a recipe for disaster.

Neville:

Can I tell you a quick story about that?

Chris:

Yeah, of course.

Neville:

About how my parents kind of accepted it for the first time?

Chris:

Yeah.

Neville:

So obviously, making money on the internet was a weird thing back then. It's hard to imagine. But back then-

Chris:

What year was this by the way?

Neville:

This is like 2001.

Chris:

Okay.

Neville:

I'm 39 right now. And so, 2001, I'm entering college, making money on the internet. By the way, it's not just my parents. No one knew what the hell I was doing. They were just like, Are you a drug dealer? How are you making money? What is this?" They had no idea. And so, it was a novel thing. It seemed like being a YouTube influence 10 years ago as a career, it was nuts. People are like, "You're going to make weird videos on the internet?" And people still had dial up and weird thing... It was just a different era.
So I was on the precipice of something new, doing this. So people didn't understand it. And I remember my parents said something. They were like, "If you don't make a certain GPA, we're going to make you pay for your college this semester." And I didn't hit that GPA, I missed it. And I wrote them a check for the whole semester. And they were like, "Wait. Whoa. What?" They didn't think that would happen. And I think that's when they finally realized, "Oh, perhaps this is something real," that this is real.
So to someone who's just going to leave college, I would say, if you already have some path to success, you've already got some small success, you could show to your parents like, "Hey, look, I'm not just abandoning college because I'm lazy. I actually think I genuinely have a ton of upside and I have a couple of months of savings or a couple of years. And if something bad goes wrong, I can live for two to three years with no income." So I told that to my parents and I said, "I don't have large expenses right now. I'm young. I'm living cheap. And I can live for about two years before I go broke." So I think that quelled their fears and showed that I was motivated, rather than, "I'm just dropping out, and I want to be X, Y, Z," but have no modicum of success so far.

Chris:

Okay. So you leave school, what's your next move?

Neville:

I'm running a rave company, essentially, and 10 different little side projects. I had a company called... Not even a company, they're all a little side project called fancyblog.com. It is called fancyblog.com. I'd compile all the different blogger and WordPress templates on one site. And I had Google AdSense running on it. So I had a couple Google AdSense sites. At one point, I started a palm reading business, because I thought it would be funny. And that ended up making like 1,000 bucks a month. And I had all these different side projects that ended up being between five and 10 grand a month, which out of college, that ain't bad, especially back then. So I was making more and more money with all these different side projects and then started focusing down on just one or two.
So House of Rave became the main thing. I used to go to California every summer and hang out at the supplier. At first, they were in East Hollywood and then they were in San Carlos. And so, I'd go there and hang out and start learning from other tech people in California. I think that was a big thing I did to expand my network. I would go to where the most amount of smart people on the planet were. And at the time, and maybe still today, it was San Francisco. And I would go and hang out with all these tech nerds. And it was amazing. I think I come from Austin, which now is becoming a little bit of a tech hub, but before, it was a sleepy little city. There was some tech, but it was slower. You go to San Francisco and all these people are talking about changing the world and all sorts of ideas and new, crazy technologies.
And that really helped expand my vision, expand my network. And that was a very valuable thing I did. I think going to a place where you have the most amount of smart people is huge. So that's what I was doing after college, running those companies. And then, just through serendipity of running businesses, I'm sure you see it, you just meet random people through running these businesses. People are like, "Hey, what if you become an advisor for this company? What if you joined this company? What if you do consulting for my company?" And through that, I just started growing and growing and growing.

Chris:

So out of school, people are asking you to be an advisor or consultant to their companies?

Neville:

Well, because I got known for copywriting, people would say, "Well, I read your newsletters all the time and you're trying to sell me something, but I still read them. What's going on there?" And I tell them about copywriting. And they said, "Can you do that for my company?" And so, of course, they're going to pay me a good amount of money to do it. I'll say, "Okay." But then I realized, I can't do this for everyone. So then I created a copywriting course to kind of amplify that message. There's only one Neville, but there's a million digital Nevilles. And so, we started selling that and it did quite well. I actually sold it to the AppSumo platform exclusively first, and it did really well. And in about 2013, that became a real company, and is still a company today.

Chris:

What I'm trying to figure out is, and I know this is the case with many copywriters, is they didn't go to copywriting school, they just figured it out. Is that your case, you just figured this thing out on your own?

Neville:

Absolutely. So when people say copywriting, I think they often think of a person at a typewriter or something like that. And it's only focused on words. I've never thought of copywriting like that.
Let's take a step back of what copywriting is. Whenever I'm trying to copywrite, I'm not trying to type the best words or make the funniest joke or anything like that. What I'm trying to do is communicate a message from my brain to your brain, and preferably from my brain to a million brains, maybe a billion. And I'm going to use the best medium with the best tools I have at the time.
So if we lived in the year 1700, for me to send a message to Chris, I write on a piece of paper, and a guy on a horse brings it over, and crosses the country and sends it to you. And that's very inefficient. But that's all we had back then. So writing letters and writing words was the skill of the day. Fast forward to now, we've got phones, we've got videos, we've got audio, we've got all sorts of different things. Now, we're on the precipice of VR experiences. These are all different ways to instill information in people's heads. And so, to think that only text is the ultimate thing is insane to me. So yes, text is important. Yes, text is a lot of the foundation, but I also think making good images is very important. Like you do, making videos is important. And then, the compression of information happens over time.
It used to be, to learn something, you watch a two hour documentary. Then we got YouTube videos that were five minutes long. And now, you're kind of at the forefront of stuff like Instagram, where in 20 seconds you teach me something. That used to be, you read a whole book to learn about a concept about sales that you're teaching. And now, you're doing it in 20 seconds. We're compressing information as humans, even more and more. And so, I want to know what's the best way to communicate information. Is it words? Is it images? Is it video? Is it all the above? And I'll do that. That's what I think copywriting is.

Chris:

Do you draw a distinction between what you do and how you help companies and people in advertising who are copywriters and working on big campaigns?

Neville:

Yeah. This always gets in the semantics of a creative, versus who can make the funniest commercial for a company, for like the Super Bowl, versus a copywriter. What I'm usually doing is the more boring stuff. And I don't think it's boring, but it's like, okay, you have a piece of software that sells an SEO research software. And you have a page and 1,000 people come to it. I look at the page with fresh eyes and I say, "You know what, that headline doesn't really make any sense. What if we change it to that?" And then I say, "This image doesn't convey any information. What if we make it a gif showing someone typing in how to write on your computer? And it shows the results. And it highlights, 'Write this article.'" And you're like, "Oh, I understand what your software does now." I go through and just try to optimize it like that. That's it. It's not even that hard. I bet a normal person, if you show them a webpage and say, "How could I make this better?," a lot of people could probably do what I do.

Chris:

Okay. This is good because my background is I studied graphic design and then my first job out of school was to work at an ad agency. And so, when I think of copywriting, I think of the arts and craft of what they do. And there's a difference. There's a ton of copywriters, but there are fewer advertising copywriters, because there's a whole different art form. It's them spending a lot of time to craft a few words for a very few number of clients. What you're talking about is I get results for my clients, bottom line, through words and images and layout and things like that, right?

Neville:

So I'm assuming you worked in a big agency.

Chris:

It was a medium size agency, mm-hmm.

Neville:

Medium sized... Put yourself in a really, really big advertising agency. Let's say you're in New York, working at a big advertising agency, Chicago, somewhere like that. And think about what the actual incentive is for the person making that ad, what they're trying to do is win like a little award, oftentimes. So David Ogilvy talks about this a lot. This is where I kind of learned it from, and then I experienced it on my own. I didn't think it was real. And then, I worked for some mid-size to large companies and realized it was real. Look where the incentives lay. For me, my incentive lays in, I improved this person's ad campaign by X amount and they were like, "Wow, this guy made us a lot of money. We paid him $10,000, but he made us 100,000." 10 X their ROI. That's my incentive.
If you are employee number 1,200 at a company of 5,000, perhaps you have a manager above you, and they have a manager, and they have a manager. So your incentive is every Friday when you go in for that week report, is to have a chart that goes up and to the right, that shows I did good work, or I want an award for this ad. Not that it made the client sales. So oftentimes, there's this disconnect with those types of things. And so, whenever we're talking about direct response copywriting, it means you come in and have to make more money for that company right away. That's where my incentives lay.
Whereas, sometimes for some of those big ad companies, like a Ford commercial, they're just like, "We want to get a best cinematography award and take the most awesome drone shots of these horses running with the Ford F-150." That's kind of their incentive. Not that that commercial's actually generating any sales. So that's the difference between direct response copywriting and creative advertising generally.

Chris:

Right. So there's some clarity here though for our audience that's listening, because my friends mostly are in the advertising space. They often say, "Advertising doesn't reflect culture. It shapes culture." So they're thinking on a whole different space. It's not necessary tied to results and metrics and things that you can measure.
So getting back to you and how you work, and trying to help people to understand this. Do you set up a baseline of, "Here's how it's performing today. These are the results you'd like to get, and then I'm going to work towards getting you those results?" Or is it a different process?

Neville:

Generally, when I look at someone's site for the first time or whatever it is, maybe a direct mail campaign, we say, "Okay, what's it doing now? And are they coming to me because they're just trying to optimize it a little bit more? Are they coming to me because it's not working?" And those are two very different things. So as you know, sometimes people will come to me with just a bad product and they'll say, "How come my life coach page is not doing bad?" And I'm like, "Well, you're not a very inspirational character, to start with." I-

Chris:

Would you say that by the way?

Neville:

Oh, yeah. All the time. I feel like it's my obligation if they pay me, to tell them the absolute raw truth, whether it hurts or not. And I have said this to people, I'm like, "You do not walk the walk. The reason Tony Robbins is popular is because people want to be like him, because he's rich and tall and awesome, or whatever they think of him. You're not. And this is probably why a lot of people don't want to be coached by you, because they don't really want to be like you at all." And so, sometimes I identify a problem that's not so much the copy. They may have a beautiful webpage and they may have a product that promises all these things, but it's kind of the product behind it, that person is not good.
Whereas, if someone comes to me saying, "We already have a great business, and it brings in a $100 million a year, could you maybe help us bring in $110 million a year?" Well, I look at it and I try to find obvious flaws. And I think the trick is, and you probably see this all the time, too, when you're looking at advertising, is to come in with fresh eyes. People inside the company have seen their landing page, their graphics, their logo. They've talked about it every single day for the past two years. They can't possibly know how someone like me or you, seeing it for the first time sees it. It's like if you've heard a song a trillion times, it never hits the same as the first time. And so, there's something about familiarity that ruins your ability to give critique.
And so, I come in and look at a page for the first time and I can instantly say, "Oh, I don't even know what this section says." Or, "What is this?" Or, "I think this means that you only serve big companies, not small companies." And they go, "Oh, interesting." And we start changing up things, little bits at a time to see if it makes an improvement. And so, I try to come in with fresh eyes every time and look at people's stuff like that. And I try to take on clients that are just trying to improve a little bit, not that are trying to improve a failing product. Because oftentimes behind a failing product, there's some other problem, rather than just the copy.

Chris:

When are you having that kind of conversation with them, to let them know that they suck, their product sucks? Is this in the first meeting?

Neville:

In our course, instead of just talking about it, we actually do these office hours all the time. And I'm not trying to promote the product, just telling you, but we do it every Thursday.
So even yesterday, there was a guy who's trying to be kind of a life coach. And he doesn't have a very impressive background, sorry to say. And he's trying to be a life coach and it just wasn't working. And his offers were good, his page was good. Everything looked cool. He had cool photos. But it wasn't working over time. I was like, "Perhaps this is a deeper problem than just the copy." What it turns out he was good at, he was posting on LinkedIn all the time, and it turns out people were like, "Whoa, how are you growing on LinkedIn so much?" And so, I was like, "Wait, everyone's asking you about this LinkedIn thing. This is possibly something you could probably sell for more money than your life coaching services."
And so, we kind of identified where he's actually doing a good job, rather than a bad job. So the life coaching stuff, coming to me week after week, trying to make this work. He was like, "It's not working that well, perhaps this is just not the right avenue." But he was blindsided that he was growing on LinkedIn so fast. And everyone was asking him, "How are you growing on LinkedIn?" "Can you help them with that instead, rather than life coaching?"
And so, a lot of times I'll try to spot where people are doing a good job, rather than a bad job. In fact, I've actually turned people away from copywriting because you look on YouTube, people are like, "Oh, make $10 million a day with copywriting. It's so easy," da, da, da, which can be a little bit of a lie. And they come to me saying, "I'm a computer programmer and I want to start writing copy." And they show me their copy and it's not good. It's just not good. They don't enjoy writing. They think it's hard. It's not fun. It's not something they want to do. And I'm like, "Wait, wait, wait. You're a programmer?" "Yeah." I'm like, "Can you make more money doing programming consulting, rather than copywriting?" So oftentimes, I'll spot things that they're good at and tell them, "Have you tried exploring that? People have told me that in the past, I'm sure people have told you, 'You're actually better at that than this.'"
And so, that's part of my job, to tell people right away. And I have no qualms about telling them, especially if they're paying me. I feel it's my obligation. I don't feel bad about it at all. You come from an immigrant family and people say stuff, how it is a little bit more.

Chris:

Different cultures speak more directly for sure.

Neville:

Oh, yeah.

Chris:

Okay. So how long does it take for you to figure out this is probably not your jam and maybe it's more this?

Neville:

For someone else, you can usually see. If they're trying a project that's been floundering for a very long time. And especially if they come to me over and over, and I can see that they're trying things, it's not working, sometimes I'm like, "Are we missing the picture here?" Some people think it's just because of their sales page and they never really look back and say, "Maybe it's me. Maybe this is just not the right path."
Another telltale sign, and man, I have been guilty of this so many times, you think, "No one's doing this. So I've got to lock on the market." That often means there is no market. So everyone has an SEO agency and you're like, "Oh, there's just so many of them." It's like, "Well, maybe because every company wants that." So there's a big pie to go around over there.
Whereas people are like, "There's no SEO companies just for people who use MacBook Airs and use white headphones." It's like, "Maybe because there's no demand." So that's a telltale sign if they're doing something...
However, the people you know that have a good business on their hands, they come to you and they're like, "Hey, what's my landing page like?" And you're like, "Wow, this is a horrible landing page. This is terrible. It's awful. How much revenue are you doing?" They're like, "Oh, we sold 300,000 last month." And you're like, "Whoa, with this crappy landing page, you did that much money?" That's when I get excited. That's when I start going, "Okay, they're doing a bad job, and in spite of that, they're doing well." That means they've really hit on the main thing. They got something going, and we can optimize the heck out of that.
So those are the types of people I look for. And it's pretty simple to spot when something's definitely not working. The telltale signs are there, just no sales, they're really banging their head against a wall. So you generally spot it.

Chris:

So the lesson there is that you can use marketing to make good products and good services perform even better. But you're really not that interested in marketing poor products and poor services, right?

Neville:

Exactly. I had a consulting page for a long time, and I just stayed away from doing things like pills. A lot of people market supplements and stuff. And to be frank, a less than ethical way, or some vague study that says, "This helps your liver and 12 people saw a 2% improvement." I always listen to a Warren Buffet quote, where he says, "Assume everything that you do is going to be on the front page of the news. Would you feel good about it?" And I like, "Would I feel good about showing my mom that?" And I'm like, "No." And so, I stay away from those kinds of things. It's just ethically, I can't do it. It just makes me feel gross.
And also, it's hard to market those things without just kind of flat out lying. So I like marketing products that are really good. For example, software either works or it doesn't. You can't really lie. Software clients are my favorite. Because oftentimes, you could just show a gif, rather than explaining it. And it either does the job that it's supposed to, or it doesn't. It's just that simple sometimes. So I really like products like that, that are very transparent. You pay this much a month and you get this service and you can even try it out for free. Those are my favorite.

Chris:

Right. Okay. Well, I've been on your site. No lie, you are a fan of the gif. There's gifs everywhere. There's also interesting stick figures doing all kinds of stuff everywhere. And so, you do actually like that too. Okay. Well-

Neville:

You might be referring to my homepage, which has a very old, bad gif. It's not even a good gif. It's all grainy. And the reason I keep that up there is because it converts between 10% to 12%. And every single thing we've tried ever doesn't even do half that. So I leave up the dumb gif.

Chris:

Hey, if it works, it works. You just don't mess around, right?

Neville:

It works, it works.

Chris:

Right. So some other questions for you in that... So I think it's kind of interesting, because you're actually wearing a shirt that says you love copy. But I think what you're describing to me isn't copywriting, it's marketing, it's sales, it's conversion. It's something else. But you like the term copywriter, copywriting?

Neville:

This has been a long standing thing that people bring up. They're like, "Well, what you do is not actually copy." Sometimes I come in to consult with companies or people sign up for us. We're not just typing words. In fact, we're just talking about ideas of how to structure their pricing and things like that. And they're like, "There actually was no copywriting involved." And I was like, "But here's the thing, if I just said 'I do general marketing, what does that mean?'" Or I say, "I'm a dance instructor," it's like, "Okay, that's vague." But if I say, "I'm a ballerina," you know exactly what I'm talking about right away. And so, a lot of times, people come in for the copy stuff, but leave with all the general marketing. So I always found it better to specialize, rather than just say vague marketing.
How do you describe what you do?

Chris:

Basically, I tell them I'm an educator and content creator, and I help creative people who have business problems.

Neville:

Okay. It's pretty good.

Chris:

It's broad.

Neville:

Yeah. But if you were said you were a graphic designer, or that you help people through graphic design, it makes it a little bit more punchy. And I've always found whenever I've tried to move away from the word copy, because I've had this thought before. I used to say, "I just help people with marketing." It's so vague. It's difficult to have those conversations, because they're like, "Well, what do you do?" Whenever I used to say copywriting, they're like, "Oh, he'll improve an email." Right?

Chris:

Right. And then, you could expand on that once they understand the general concept, right?

Neville:

Exactly. And so, I didn't actually just go into copywriting saying that I'm going to start out as a copywriter. I didn't niche down right away. It's actually, the universe kind of told me, people told me, the market told me that everyone wants to hire you for this thing, people pay you the most money for this thing, people can know you for this thing, people want to hear your opinion on this thing. Whereas, if I just talk about general marketing, it seems to not get as much interest. So it's almost like the world told me to do this rather than I picked it.

Chris:

Right. Fair enough. Okay, you talked about something, about making small changes to a landing page or a sales page, until you can optimize it for the results that you want. You're getting into, I think, split testing. Is that what you're doing?

Neville:

Not really. One of the things about split testing... We do split testing to a degree, but these numbers can often lead you astray. So it's split testing for your audience is you test one headline that says, "Chris Do is awesome," versus, "Chris Do can help you with your marketing, if you're a big company," and how many people click that signup button right below it. And so, I'm assuming that second headline, where it's a little bit more specific, would work better. So that's the kind of stuff we're doing. We're just trying to improve each headline, so there's no confusion.
A lot of times, we'll come to these SaaS products and they'll say, "This product is a fusion between technology of AI and human design." And you're like, "What does that mean?" And instead it says, "This is an AI copywriter that will write blog posts for you." Sometimes just being more obvious, and sometimes people will, in a big company, especially if there's a big board room full of people writing copy together, it ends up being this jargon that makes no sense. And so, people will come to us, asking for that kind of thing. And we can immediately tell them if they're doing a good job or not. And we can often just replace their headlines and start going through and just making things clearer. We don't always have to split test everything.
Because think about it, you come to a software company's page. The headline's a little bit different. It's not going to change the page 80% necessarily, but each little incremental improvement will make it better and better and better. So we used to do a lot of split testing, but you have to have very heavy traffic for split testing. Split testing is difficult. And also, just remember, split testing was very popular when? 20 years ago, 10 years ago. And the reason is, you basically got an eyeball on a page and that's it. You couldn't communicate with your customer.
Now, you know this very well, how do people follow you? They follow you on Twitter. They follow you on Instagram. They follow you on your blog. They follow on YouTube. They maybe see you in an ad. They maybe hear about you from someone else's Twitter. It's almost impossible to track all that stuff now. There's some basic ways, but it's almost impossible. So we can hit people up in so many different ways. That to say just the homepage landing page is making that decision for them, no, that's false.
A lot of times, if a good friend of mine recommends a software, no matter how bad the page is, I'm just going to buy it, right?

Chris:

Right.

Neville:

And so, those things matter more and more in today's world. So we want to optimize your page the best we can. But to think that just your sales page is the thing making the difference, I don't think that's the case anymore at all. You have so many different ways hit up your customers and educate them. And they hear about you from other places, all that stuff is very important also. And having a relatively optimized landing page is important.
So we don't do a lot of split tests because it ends up spending a lot of time changing colors of buttons and split testing headlines and things like that. In fact, I would implore you, if you have a business and you don't believe me on this, try something interesting. The best way to split test stuff is through email. If you have an email list. So if you send out an email with one subject line that says Neville Medhora podcast, versus one that says Chris Do podcast, and see which one does better. That might have some influence. But then people really, really stress. Should we say, "This is a podcast by Chris Do versus Chris Do has a podcast?" It's just splitting hairs over here. If you do what I call an AA test, instead of an AB test, test the exact same email subject line on your email list, you'll get different results. Try it. See what happens.

Chris:

Wait a minute.

Neville:

It's hilarious.

Chris:

An AA test. Well, what's the difference then?

Neville:

Nothing. Split test the subject line, hey, here's my latest podcast, versus B subject line, hey, here's my latest podcast. The same subject line will often get different results, just because the natural variations in audiences and things like that.

Chris:

Oh, I see. This is to disprove the fact that split testing even works. It's like you're doing a double placebo.

Neville:

Exactly. So if we use my name in your email subject line, versus yours, your audience knows yours better, it'd probably worked better. So a split test would work there. I'm not saying it doesn't work.
But a lot of people split hairs so much. I'm just saying if you AA test, you'll be like, "Wow, that didn't really make a difference." You know what the best indicator of open rate is? Is the sender field. So imagine that my mom sends me an email and she's not really good at subject lines. I'm still going to open it. It doesn't matter what the subject line is. I want to hear from her. So that's the most important thing, your sender reputation over time, in my opinion, is the most important thing. Subject lines can vary from here to there. Every single company that I see, I get to see all their analytics, they always get almost the same open rate. So The Hustle gets almost the same open rate every time. AppSumo gets the same open rate. My emails get the same open rate every single time, between 28% and 38%. It's always in that variation, no matter what the subject line.

Chris:

Okay, good to know. So when you're writing the copy and your team's working on this stuff, you just go by, "This is what we know it needs to be." And how are you making those decisions?

Neville:

I think it's experience and keeping up with the current trends. So you could see certain things. If you remember in 2012 timeframe, 2013, there was all these links with upworthy.com, that were like "This guy did 12 things. You won't believe what happens next." Or, "An alligator went in this guy's yard. Look what happens." And it's some underwhelming video. At the time, those types of things were king, right?

Chris:

Right.

Neville:

And so, If you're stuck in that era, you'd be writing these spam articles that social media kind of bans now. You don't see those headlines, because they're actively demoted on social media. And so, you have to keep up with trends.
And so, what I always do, I have a whole separate email account and we have a tool that collects all the email marketing stuff. And we try to see which companies are growing. What are they doing, what are they sending out, what kind of format are they using, what kind of content are they sending out. So try to keep up with current trends.
And then also, we get to see behind the scenes of so many people's businesses in our community area, that we can kind of see what's working. So for example, it used to be, you write these incredibly long, the longer, the better, 5,000, 10,000 word articles for SEO. What you're actually seeing is Google is like, "You know what? People don't want 10,000 words. They just want you to summarize the thing." And so, what you're seeing is a lot of the first page results on Google are actually pretty short to medium articles. They're not that long. And so, if I was stuck in a couple years ago, I'd say, "You should write this super long article with everything under the sun about this topic." Now I'd say, "Actually, you should write just a summary of it." We keep up with trends like that, to see what's working, what's not working, what the current trends are. That's how we kind of keep a pulse on what's working.
And also, you know what? Sometimes we're wrong. Sometimes we get it wrong. But usually I can say, I've seen a trend that no one doing this thing that you're doing is doing well anymore. So I can say that I'm confident.
For example, B2B emails, people used to write these really long ones. And I can almost assuredly tell you that the longer it is, the worse it's going to do. Because that's what I see every single time, almost without exception. I'm not saying it's a general rule, but at the time, if you send a really long email pitch as a cold email, it's not going to do as well as if you send a super short, maybe one to two sentence one.

Chris:

Well, that kind of parallels an observation you made earlier, where it used to take a lot of information, or a long time to communicate an idea. And whether it's our shrinking attention spans or we're just getting better at communicating, because we've had 1,000 tries at it, versus writing a newspaper article once a month, we just have more tries and we have quicker feedback cycles, and now we can communicate quicker. And it's quite interesting to me, because I don't follow any of this stuff. And so, this will probably be useful for our audience listening, in that there was a period of time when content marketers would tell you, "Create 10,000, 20,000 word essays. And the more, the better for Google." But what we're learning is, it's now figured out utility to user. So if they send you a link that you don't actually get through, what's the point? And so, we have to be better at communicating more efficiently with fewer words. And those are the articles that I generally read too. So as the consumer, I'm echoing what your observations are.

Neville:

So here's how I think about that. So it's not that Google made this change, that things should be shorter. It's actually, why were long form things more popular 20 years ago, during the beginning of the internet? And the reason was, it was hard to log onto the internet. You often had to log on. Things were super slow. Right now, we could of course click a million tabs and it's fine. It just happened so fast. Imagine it was 100 times slower, because that's what the world was like. It was so slow and difficult to load up a webpage, to start your computer, to log on. It was hard to find the internet in the first place. It was hard to get fast internet. Your browsers were slow. It didn't have as much capability. You could barely even watch videos a couple years ago.
And so, at that time, it was very rare to be able to pull up a webpage. In a web surfing session, you would go through maybe five to 15 webpages. Now, we're probably going like a bazillion. Your computer is hitting up APIs of thousands of companies at the same time. So it used to be much harder. So whenever you pulled up a piece of information, I wanted it all in one place.
But now, if I want to look up how to fix my door because it's squeaking, I go on TikTok and type it in, and I get the quick and dirty. Because TikTok videos are going to be 20 seconds. Like, "Here's how to do your door. Get some WD-40," da, da, da. And I'm like, "Perfect. I got the high level overview." But then, if I really want to get down into it, I could go to YouTube, because I got some extra time and I really want to know how to do this correctly. And then if I want, I guess, I can read an article about it. So I have different modalities that I can pick and choose. Do I want the quick and dirty?
I remember a few years ago, I was cooking an egg and I was like, "I don't know how to make a sunny side up egg." And so, I typed it in YouTube and there's 14 minute videos popping up. And I was like, "The egg's on the thing. I need to learn right now." And so, I just went to Instagram and typed it in. There's like a 10 second video showing how to cook an egg. And I was like, "That's all I needed." That's all I needed at the time. And then later, when I had time, I can go watch Gordon Ramsay cook the perfect egg. But that takes 25 minutes.
So I think there's different modes nowadays that we can view. So do you read 10,000 word articles on how to cook an egg anymore? No, but you might watch two YouTube videos or two TikTok videos very quickly. So there's just different modalities and things change as technology improves.

Chris:

Time for a quick break, but we'll be right back.

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Chris:

Welcome back to our conversation.
I wanted to ask you a question about your entrepreneurial journey from high school, college, and up until now. Has it been smooth selling for you this entire time, or have you had some setbacks? And if you did, what did you learn?

Neville:

Fortunately, for me, it was relatively smooth. It was never really that bad. I never thought I was going to go broke. I always thought I had enough savings. So there'd be months where I didn't make as much money, but I always had backup savings. And I think there's always times when you wake up in the middle of the night and you're like, Man, I suck at this. I'm not doing as well as my friends." Of course, you have that. But I think that's normal.
This is my personal thing, I think you should be between 10% and 30% discontented. And I actually think the number should be higher if you're younger. So if you're 20 and don't have a lot of money and kind of relying on your parents still, can't pay for your way in the world, you should be relatively discontent with, "I need to work harder. This can't be my life, my whole life. I need to work harder." And then, as you grow older and you buy a house, you have more stability, I think you should have more and more contentness. So you actually notice this with humans. Young people are always like, "We got to break the system, change everything," and they're rebelling. And then, older people are like, "Let's just go with the flow and ride this out." That's just a normal ebb and flow of how life goes.
So I think you should always be happy for what you have, but partially discontent. You shouldn't be fully content, I think. A little bit of discontent is good. You're always trying to improve. You're always trying to keep up with the times.
And so, I always think it's been like that, where I was doing good. And there's times when I was like, "Whoa, I'm noticing revenue slipping. That's not good. Is this the way I'm going, down to zero?" And so, then you feel bad about yourself and you think, "Crap, I got to get my stuff in order and I got to do something better." And so you have to harness that energy. That's that's the world telling you, "You're not going in a good direction. You got to change this up."
And I had that a couple times in my life, like with House of Rave. I was a drop shipper. And so, back in the day, that was a brand new idea. Whoa, I sell things online, but then someone else fulfills the orders. That was a new idea. But then, people started catching on, and there was more and more middle men, just like me. And then, Amazon, big, bad wolf, started coming up and selling stuff way cheaper than I ever could. And you got to admit to the world, like "This company going up faster and faster is going to really hurt me. There's more sellers just like me. There's more competition. Our profit margins are going to go down to zero. Where am I going to be in five years? I'm going to be working way harder, making the same level of money, or even less." And you have to like analyze at that point, "Is this going to be a viable business anymore? In five years, it's going to be really hard to compete like this."
So I needed to start either changing the way I do things or looking for something else. And so, there are points in time like that. I've had a couple like that, but I've never been in dire straits or anything, fortunately. I've always had like enough savings and things like that.

Chris:

I think there's the Jim Rowan quote on this, where he says something like, "Be happy with what you have, while you work for all that you want." And so, I think that's your formula. We don't want to be displeased, because otherwise we're going to enter into a state of depression and never content with anything that we have. But be happy with what you have, and then work for all the little bits and pieces that you want to have.

Neville:

I also think if you're working on something fun, it makes it interesting. Sometimes, I tell people, "I didn't do anything today." But then in reality, I did this interview. I did all this work. I wrote something. And I'm like, "Oh, I don't think it's hard, because it's something I naturally like to do." So I think, kind of like what you do, I kind of see it in your content, you kind of enjoy what you do. It sounds like you think you're just messing around all day. But people are like, "Wow, that's a lot of work." And you're like, "Well, it didn't really feel like work. I was just talking to a camera for a little while." It's probably fun for you, you know?

Chris:

Yeah.

Neville:

And so, I think that's the greatest blessing in life, to be able to have something that you like doing. So what I found early on is I liked writing online, even when it was hard to do and no one made money doing it. I thought I would just do this forever for free, and it would be cool. And then later on, it turns out you can make money at it. So I was like, "Oh, even bonus. This is what I get to do." So there's a lot of times, you're just writing a blog post and people are like, "What'd you do today?" "Nothing, just wrote a blog post." They're like, "That's work." I'm like, "Doesn't feel like it though."

Chris:

Let's talk a little bit about the future. Five years from now, with the way that AI and machine learning is doing its thing, I understand there's some services, that there's AI based copywriting. Are you concerned about that? Do you see that potentially being a problem?

Neville:

Concerned? I love them. I'm invested in them. I've invested in one called Copy.ai, and there's another competitor run by one of our friends here in Austin, called Jarvis. Although I think they rebranded as something else. There's a lot of these great ones. And then DALL·E 2 just came out from OpenAI, which is an image generator. So graphics designers, they get a little bit scared about this, because you can just describe something and it creates it. And then you can iterate from there.
What this is, like I've talked about, the person that's living the year 1700, if they're transported to now, all they have is the technology of writing. So they're behind the times, because people like you and me can make images and videos and transmit our ideas in different modalities. So similarly, it's going to change. It's going to get better.
The reason I make money right now is because it's hard for people to sit down and write good copy that's succinct, but computers will replicate that. And they're getting better and better and better at doing that. So what that means is the average business owner, instead of having to pay Neville a bunch of money, will say, "You know what? Let me just push this button, and it'll just kind of give me a bunch of ideas, and I select which ones I like." That's kind of going to be a new way of writing.
So a lot of copywriters, this is a big debate in the copywriting community. It's like, "Oh, these computers are going to take our jobs." It's like, "Yeah, if you're a sucky copywriter that just sits there and doesn't adapt with the times, it will take your job. And it well should, because it's doing a better job than you can. And it does it a million times faster." However, someone like me, who's like, "Whoa, I got to harness this," what that tells me is I can actually do my job, instead of for 10,000 people, I could do it for a million people with the help of these machine tools.
So it's similar to people in journalism in the '70s or '80s, that were like, "Oh, stuff on the internet, that's insane. Newspapers are always going to be king." And then, the people that were like, "Well, newspapers are good right now, but you could distribute an article to everyone on Earth with digital. Maybe we should at least try that," those people flourished and the other ones floundered. So the people that embrace the technology, do well, the people that are scared of it, go down.
So I think if you actually use these AI copywriter things, you understand their limitations, what they can do, what they're good for. So for example, little AdSense ads, where it's like two headlines, they're fantastic for that. Because it could generate so many, and you could be like, "Oh, my God, I never would've thought of that. Let me click that one." Writing long form blog posts, they still are horrible. They're not good. They can make kind of spammy blog posts for sure. But they can't write really good ones. So I know where this limit is, of technology and what I should spend my human time on.
And then, when the image generation stuff comes out. So it already has, like with DALL·E 2 from OpenAI, I can start saying, "I love using images. I love using gifs. What if instead of drawing out each gif and it takes a long time to edit it in Photoshop, frame by frame, what if I use DALL·E to make that image?" That saves me so much more time and I can come up with fun and interesting, creative ideas and output articles and videos and stuff much faster than I could before. So I can output way more using these tools, rather than being afraid and thinking, "Oh, it's going to take my job."
Whatever you're doing right now, in 20 years, it is probably not going to exist. Especially, if you're in the digital world. The way that you're making videos right now with Instagram and stuff is going to seem like grandpa's old stuff in 20 years. This is going to be completely outdated and that's just something you have to accept. So I plan on hopefully adapting with these tools and growing better because of them, not saying, "Oh, it's going to take my job." I think that's kind of a loser-ish way of thinking.

Chris:

All right. So if you feel threatened by AI, you're a loser and if you're a-

Neville:

Well, I just think, you just scare. What if you say, "This tool is available for me, how can I use it to amplify my skills?"

Chris:

I hear you.

Neville:

That's a better approach.

Chris:

Right. So AI can empower you to do what you do even better, so embrace it. It's not going to go the opposite direction. It's only going to be more and more intelligent and dare I say, even more artistic in how it does its job. So you have to stay on top of the food chain.
Okay, I'm mindful of time here. I know I want to ask you this question because I saw it on the top of your Twitter feed and also on your blog post, S.T.U.P.I.D. email, explain that to me.

Neville:

The S.T.U.P.I.D. email means Swipe, Thought, Uplifting, Picture, Interesting and Drawing. I know that off the top of my head, because I have to explain it so many times. And every Friday, I would post on social media, all these short form things. And I thought, "It's kind of a waste, that I find all these cool things," I'll make images, I'll make drawings. I'll take time to write a thought, which as you know, it takes time. And then, it just goes nowhere. And so, what I did was, I started compiling all those things I was sharing on social media, into a newsletter. Turns out, this is my most widely well received newsletter I send out, and we send out quite a bit of email. But from copywriting course, this is our most anticipated newsletter. And every Friday, roughly at 7:00 AM, I send out a thing called the S.T.U.P.I.D. email.
And it's an acronym that means Swipe, Thought, Uplifting, Picture, Interesting and Drawing.
So it's a Swipe. So I like all these old ads. You can't see it right now, but from this angle, you can. I have all these old Ogilvy ads. They're top performing ads, up on my wall. I love old ads like that. It's like old music. There's a lot of crappy ads, but we just focus on the good ones from back then. It's inspiring to look at them. I like them.
A thought is just some interesting thought I have. Something interesting. And then a picture, I like picture. I share pictures of myself on social media and stuff like that every once in a while, much like you do. And I'll share a picture, something personal. I'm at a conference or something like that. So you just shared a bunch of pictures of you in, I forget which European country.

Chris:

[inaudible 00:52:24].

Neville:

Yeah. And you had this awesome round table speech that you gave. That would be the picture. And then a drawing, I do a lot of drawings. So I'll share a drawing, a gif, something like that. And what I tell people is, "If you want to create your own newsletter, that's like this, what you do is you look at like the last 10, 20 things you share on social media and you say, 'What's that called?' So maybe it's like business advice and then maybe share a couple uplifting quotes, and then maybe share silly things all the time." So I would say, "Make the B.U.S. email. The Business, Uplifting, Silly email, something like that. It's called a backronym, where you back into an acronym.
And so, that's what I did with the S.T.U.P.I.D. email. And it's a horrible name. I don't think I'm very good at naming things, but I thought, "You know what? It's stupid. It's funny. I like being stupid and funny and I'm just going to do that." So could it have a better name? Like the S.L.I.C.K. email, the S.W.I.P.E. email, I'm sure it could create a better name for it, but I just like S.T.U.P.I.D., and it's just funny. People will be like, "Yo, I love your S.T.U.P.I.D. email." They just get a kick out of it. And so, I think it's a bad name, but it's a fun name.

Chris:

So the S.T.U.P.I.D. is an acronym for prompts for you to send out a weekly newsletter?

Neville:

Yes, it helps a lot, because if you had to create five things every single week, it's not easy to come up with five unique things like that, in addition to our normal workloads. And so, I just have a Swipe. So I know where to find Swipes. I go to Reddit/vintage ads. I have a couple different places that I keep them. And on my desktop, I take screenshots of stuff. And then, on my phone, especially, I browse a lot on social media, I take screenshots of stuff.
And so, at the end of the week or on Thursday, I'll go through my phone and my desktop and say, "Okay, I like this ad." On my desktop right now, I have a Citroën ad, old Citroën ad from the '70s, that I'm going to post next week. And then, I have a bunch of social media quotes and stuff that I found that I thought were interesting. And on Thursday I go, "That's interesting. That's not interesting." And kind of create it from there.
But having kind of a format to send out makes it so much easier. Whereas, if I had to create a completely new newsletter every Friday, oh my, that'd be a lot of work. So it's very helpful to have a format for the newsletter.

Chris:

Is there a narrative thread that's going through these different letters, like Swipe and Thought, are they related, or are they totally unrelated?

Neville:

This might be a loose thought, but I remember hearing why Joe Rogan was so popular back in the day. He was this weird amalgamation of a guy that liked psychedelics and then monkeys and MMA. And then he was a TV guy. It was just a really weird combination of things that was very uniquely him.
And I thought, "These are the kinds of things I post." I post a lot of old swipes. I like this kind of stuff. I like stupid drawings. So I thought, "This is kind of uniquely me." And if it's uniquely me, then I just naturally do this. So I thought I would just send it out and see what happens. And it turns out, people like that. I wasn't sure that people would like that format, but I knew that whenever I share individual things like that, a Swipe, a thought, something interesting, a picture of me, people like that stuff.
So I thought, "What if I smashed it all together? That'd be a nice format." And so, a lot of people have taken note from that. I made a post called How to Make a Newsletter, because I was part of The Hustle and AppSumo, and all these companies that have a million plus, two million plus email newsletters. And so, I know a little something about it, and having a format to follow each time is very important. And you could also find a format that's uniquely you. You don't have to copy mine. Yours could be completely different. So for yours, it would be like a graphic, or a business thought, or an Instagram carousel each time, something like that.

Chris:

Right. If I wrote a newsletter every week, but yes.

Neville:

If you did. I think you put out enough information on social media, that you could totally compile that into a newsletter. You're doing all these little small things here and there, why not put that into a big newsletter that people don't follow you all the time, or are a little overwhelmed with their own social media, don't see? So you could just follow my Twitter and see all the same information in the S.T.U.P.I.D. email almost. But not everyone follows everyone on Twitter all the time, right?

Chris:

Right.

Neville:

So they get this weekly newsletter and they're like, "Oh, I missed all this. This is great."

Chris:

What I find interesting about your process is that it's so personal and it's quite eclectic, that you get a sense of, like I'm crawling into your mind a little bit in this email. And if you like that and you enjoy that, of course, you're going to look forward to these emails every single week. And it is so uniquely you. And I think in this kind of cookie cutter marketing and newsletter that everybody does, we can get tired of it pretty quickly. So-

Neville:

Well, let me tell you a quick antidote about that. So the D in S.T.U.P.I.D. means drawing, because I do a lot of drawings. I have a whole history of doing drawings. So I have tons of them in my media folders. So I changed that. I was like, "You know, drawings is not as educational. I'm going to do do-overs." So I changed it to do-over. And what I did was, I was going to do-over people's Twitter profiles. I was going to do-over people's emails. And we started doing that for a while. And people were like, "Eh." They didn't care. I'd post that stuff on Twitter, and they were kind of like, "Yeah, it's okay." So I'd just kind of redo someone's Twitter profile, and they were like, "Yeah." I'd get five likes. And I was like, "You know what? This is..." People just didn't like it. I didn't like doing it. I found it very difficult actually to find relevant profiles.
So I was like, "You know, I'm going back to the drawing. That's me. That's what I do." It's easy for me to create drawings. If you tell me to make some stupid little stick figure drawing, I'd crank one out in five seconds over here. But to do-over a Twitter profile, it takes a lot of brain power. I have to find someone who's letting me redo their profile. I have to tell them to test it, to see if it does better. And honestly, the audience was like, "Yeah, we're tired of seeing you redo random people's profiles. It just doesn't resonate." So I thought, "You know what? Screw it, I'm going to go back to whatever's uniquely me." And that, thankfully, did better.

Chris:

Well, I've been guilty of the same. You think this is going to really resonate, it's a lot of work, and then it just falls really flat, and you go back to what works.

Neville:

Totally true. I'm sure you get that feedback loop very quick on Instagram too.

Chris:

Yeah. Okay, I have two questions for you. One semi-serious, one totally goofy. We'll probably end on the goofy one. So the semi-serious question is this, you strike me as a guy who likes to tinker and to mess around with things, to kind of hack your way through stuff and make your own rules as you go. I saw this video that you put out on YouTube, about how to get your Tweet to go viral. And you broke it down very thoroughly from beginning to end, about this one Tweet about Elon Musk in a 21 second pause. And you got so much engagement and impressions on this. I'm curious, if you've applied that to other social platforms where you've kind of hacked your way through it to get explosive growth, I'm curious.

Neville:

Well, no. Here's the thing, if someone knew the exact secret to going viral every single time, I think that they would just be the top of the world. So there's people that are probably far better than I am at it. I just said how I did that specific one, and the elements, that when you look back on it, even when I show it to people, they're like, "I could see why this went viral." They could totally see it. The way I put the captions, the way I put that timer there. And here's the other little trick of that one, it was a pause where Lex Fridman, a great podcaster, interviewed Elon Musk, a great interviewee. And he asked him a question about, "When are we going to get to Mars?" And Elon Musk paused for a full 21 seconds. Now, think about that. If we just went radio silent for 21 seconds on an audio podcast, everyone thinks that the video and the audio froze. So people were watching this timer and they're like, "Wait, is my phone broken? What is this?"
And so, I think it tapped into all these different things that made it go viral. And I thought I would just break it down to show what I did. And you know what's funny? I copied that exact same process on a couple other things, didn't work as well. I think that what goes viral constantly changes, right?

Chris:

Yeah.

Neville:

It constantly changes. So someone says those Upworthy style headlines do really well. Like, 12 Things You Won't Believe, you got to click the article. Those do well for a while. Then people start distrusting them and then they don't do well for a while. So there's this constant cycle of what goes viral and what doesn't. I think you put out a carousel about hashtags. And you're like, "They used to work really well. Then they didn't work. Now they work again." It was something like that. So things change all the time.
And so, I broke that down. I thought it'd be a fun piece of content. It was interesting to go viral and see what does Elon Musk's Twitter feed look like. And it felt like every time I clicked my notifications, you just get like 100 more. And you're like, "Oh, my God. This is like living in a different world." And so, I thought it'd be fun to just share some of that stuff, but can you constantly hack your way to the top? I think there's actually a different way and it's more boring. So someone like Mr. Beast, I think, goes viral all the time, but he has a whole network of friends and people that he hits up for every video and says, "Hey, can you re-share this? Can you re-share this? Can you re-share this?" And he actually manufactures the virality by his network. And then also, they spend a lot of time on their content, et cetera. But it's very difficult to consistently do it, and even he has flops.
So I don't know if there's an answer to that, how to do it every single time. You seem better at social media than I am. So you probably are the person to ask, not me.

Chris:

So this is quite fascinating. The stats on your Twitter, your Tweet should have gotten you, like in most social apps, a ton of followers. And you said it told that you got like 29, but you calculated maybe 600 or so. And it's quite fascinating to me, because on most social platforms, when you go viral, your subscriber follower count follows suit, to some degree. Twitter's one of these weird black holes where you can see someone that have two million likes and have 1,000 followers, because it's not a culture one, where we like one Tweet and we're going to instantly follow that person. It's tough.

Neville:

Exactly. Well, also, if you think about it, the Tweet was more about Lex Fridman and Elon Musk and not Neville. So they're like, "Why am I going to follow Neville? I'd rather follow..." Now, if they kept seeing good interview clips like that and liked me, maybe they would follow. But yeah, you're right.
Also, I did get a lot of subscribers from it, but it was a little bit indirect. So from that Tweet alone, this is the Twitter stats set, I made 29 followers. But the engagement was millions, 3 million plus at the time, maybe more now. But what happened was, I definitely did get 600 plus followers that day or two. And so, what happens is people would click my profile, go to other Tweets and then subscribe. So I'm not exactly privy to exactly how they calculate that. But I'm suspecting it's something where if you don't subscribe directly from that Tweet, it doesn't count.

Chris:

The not so serious question though, I think it's appropriate for us to end the podcast on is this, you're a little bit of a scoundrel, crashing parties, and you describe the whole process in bloody gory detail. I'm going through it like, "Oh, my God. This is everything in there." Are you still crashing parties, Neville?

Neville:

I can afford to go to parties now. So I don't generally crash.

Chris:

That's a good answer. So you're going legitimately now?

Neville:

Yes. Also, I get invited to more cool stuff. When I was 20 and not getting invited to anything because I was a nobody, not saying I'm a somebody now, but I have a little bit more clout. But back then, I wanted to meet rich people in their natural environment. I would go to every conference I could and there'd be some that I couldn't afford. $2,000 for conference, I could do it now. But back then, it was inconceivable to spend $2,000 when I was 20. That was maybe part of my net worth, or maybe more at the time. And so, there was no way to go, but I was like, "I want to go." And so, I would find ways to go. I remember I would say, "Can I get a press pass?" And then I remember I had a mentor named Robert, and he would go to all these fancy parties that I'd never even heard about them.
There's this whole circuit probably in... If you live in a reasonably sized city, there's probably this whole fundraiser circuit of rich people that get together. It's probably between 200 and 500 people that come to most of these things. And they're getting together all the time. Every week, there's these events going on, for fundraisers. And they only invite rich people, because they're the only ones that can shell out $20,000 for things. And these things exist.
And I remember, there was this charity foundation, the first one I crashed had Elton John as a private concert for 200 people. I show up, everyone knows each other. Me, this little brown kid who had shitty clothes. I didn't even own a real suit. I looked more like a waiter than anything actually. And I remember thinking, "I got to get into this. This seems awesome." And I had to learn on the fly. I was pretty nervous to talk to people, had to learn on the fly, just under pressure, to make friends. And I would crash these parties and be forced to talk to people.
So my trick was, I would go to the bar line and they would always have open bars at these things, and there'd be a little bit of a line, and I'd be like, "Hey, I'm Neville. How's it going? Man, these lines are long." That was my opening line. And then, I would chat to this guy and his name would be Bob or whatever. And then, he would know other people, and he'd be chatting with me. And then, Bob would say, "Oh, hey. Meet Phil. And this is Neville." And so, this Phil guy thinks I belong at this place. And I would keep working the room like that and meeting people and asking them questions about what they do, and all sorts of stuff, and just kind of networking that way.
Now, I would hate doing something like that. But at the bottom, I was so curious about people's lives, that this was a way to interact with them directly. And also at the time, we didn't have the same level of podcasts and YouTube and stuff we do now. But there is nothing like meeting people in person and having private conversations that aren't recorded, things like that. And it was a fantastic way. And I met a lot of these people and I was like, "Could I buy you a coffee at some point? I'd just love to learn more about your story." And a lot of people would be so happy to do it.
The richest guy I met owned a chain of carpet stores. I thought technology was my whole world and I was like, "This guy's way richer than everyone I know." He runs carpet stores. He sells carpet. That's it. Wholesale Carpet, it's a big company. Things like that, I learned.
And I thought the crashing party thing was very valuable, and it got me inside rooms that I never would've got into. I met the prime minister of Malaysia, and there was all these security background checks you had to do. I don't know if I actually ever published exactly what I did, but we did some scoundrelly really stuff to get in. And I got this picture with the prime minister of Malaysia, with the security around, and people are like, "What the hell is this?" And then, I sat next to Michael Dell. I hung out with Lance Armstrong while watching Elton John.
These are crazy experiences I had by crashing parties, which is kind of a weird thing to do. And I haven't done it in a while, but I probably could. If you read my posts, you'd know exactly what I used to do. And it still totally works, by the way. Any parties you can't get in, let me know, I'll tell you how to get in. It's usually pretty simple.

Chris:

It's pretty wild for an introverted kid like myself, even thinking about that, because I'm super square, and follow the rules, and all that kind of stuff. I could not even do that, but I admire that someone can, and has written a whole blog post about it so that-

Neville:

Well, here was the rationale, because I used to post this online and people give me flack about it, they're like, "You're crashing a charity fundraiser. This is supposed to go to kids," da, da, da. And I get it. I understand that point of the argument. But here's the thing, I also thought, "I want to learn how to become wealthy and better off. So one day, I could also give back to people."
And so, okay, fine, let's say you consider it stealing. I stole $2,000 or something from this charity, something to that effect. Let's just say that's true. I think overall, I've given 100 times X back already, and plan to a lot more in the future. And so, that was kind of my justification for it. So whichever way you see it, I saw it as crashing a party and it's silly. Some people saw it as stealing. I'm not really sure which way to look at it. But overall, I thought I was a-

Chris:

Both can be true.

Neville:

Yeah. I thought I was a value add to those parties. I met people. And later on, I actually gave back to a lot of those charities too. So gray area, sure.

Chris:

Grayish.

Neville:

Gray area, for sure.

Chris:

Probably more Black than gray, but I think you saw it as a challenge. Like, "I want to challenge myself and who do I need to become and how do I get way, way out of my comfort zone?" And if people have issues about this, you just read the blog posts and you're like, "Oh, my God." It takes a lot for a person to be able to just walk in there like you own the place, and you get to meet people. I can't even talk to people who I know. So this is a huge challenge, right?

Neville:

Well, you know what I found out? I would crash parties with friends sometimes, a few times some people would do it with me. And then what happens is, it's kind of awkward when you don't know anyone, right?

Chris:

Yeah.

Neville:

And so, we would just end up talking to each other the whole time. And that's why I would go alone because I'm like, "I'm here to meet other people. I have an objective. I'm crashing this party. I need to meet other people. I can't just chat with my friend the whole time and drink free booze." I do view that as a little bit kind of like stealing, you're just going in and kind of drinking booze and eating their food and leaving. To me, that didn't justify it. Whereas, if I met a lot of people, I'm like, "I feel like there's some greater good here." Definitely, gray area. But that's what you do when you're young, you push these boundaries.

Chris:

Absolutely. We just accidentally walked into the talented Mr. Neville Medhora here. How you've gotten your way through everything in life, but that's... No, it was game. That was your past. You've given back. You've righted a potential gray, wrong. Maybe, who knows? It's all good now, right?

Neville:

Yeah, it is.

Chris:

It's all good.

Neville:

You sneak into a party every once in a while-

Chris:

Every once in a while. Make sure you're still alive.

Neville:

We'll see what kind of comments we get on this part.

Chris:

Okay. I've had a wonderful time chatting with you. I think our audience has learned a bunch of things about copywriting, not over complicating things, learning how to communicate. And for people who want to find out more about you, Neville, where do they go?

Neville:

You just type in copywritingcourse.com. You'll be greeted by a funny gif, that converts that 10% to 12% all the time. Sign up for my email list, that's the best way. You could also follow me on twitter, @nevmed. And then, at copywritingcourse.com, we have this community where we actually just rewrite people's stuff. So if you have a business or you're a freelancer, you come in, show us your stuff, and then we rewrite. We have a whole team of writers. And every Thursday I actually get on a video call and we just actually live redo it, and chat about stuff.
And like you said, Chris, we don't just do copy. It's a lot of other stuff. It's overall marketing. And maybe if your product sucks, I'll probably tell you to your face. I'll try to be nice about it, but I'll be direct. So we have a whole community over there, that I'm pretty proud of, and it's pretty active and fun. So you could actually check out a live feed of it on copywritingcourse.com.
And I also have a book. This Book Will Teach You to Write Better. And You're Gonna Die, I don't really talk about that one that much. That's part of probably my life philosophy. That was just a fun one I did. But you can check those out on Amazon. I tried to make them free, but I have to charge, obviously, because Amazon has to ship them out. So I think they're both like 4.99, or five bucks, whatever the cheapest price.

Chris:

Yeah, it's super inexpensive. And I have to say, if you need help with copywriting, if you want to sharpen your copy, if you want to have a more intelligent conversation with your copywriter, pick up this book, This Book Will Teach You to Write Better. And if you want to learn about Neville's life philosophy, You're Gonna Die, it's pretty straightforward, you will die. And it's a pretty simple, straightforward, slightly dark, but funny way of looking at life, to help you kind of find the motivation you need to do what you need to do today. Because you do have finite time on this Earth.

Neville:

You're going to write better is 95% of people like, You're Gonna Die, 50% of people like. So be warned.

Chris:

Keeping it real. Neville, it was a real pleasure. Thank you very much.

Neville:

You too. It was fantastic meeting, Chris. Thank you so much.
Hey, this is Neville Medhora and you are listening to the future.

Greg Gunn:

Thanks for joining us this time. If you haven't already, subscribe to our show on your favorite podcasting app, and get a new, insightful episode from us every week. The Futur podcast is hosted by Chris Do and produced by me, Greg Gunn. Thank you to Anthony Barrow for editing and mixing this episode, and thank you to Adam Sandborn for our intro music.

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Thanks again, for listening, and we'll see you next time.

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