Keep Two Thoughts

Personal essays

Popup - Essay from Newsletter 20


The advice

A couple of months ago a friend recommended that I read a book that would help my business and increase my sales.

As you can imagine, that is not the sort of book for me but in the following week two other friends referred to it in posts so I found the audio book on Libby and took it out of the library.

Aside - I love that we can borrow eBooks and audio books from our local library using Libby. I vote for any tax initiative that supports our libraries and am a huge fan of being able to enjoy their offerings safely during this pandemic. (Libby is also so much better than the previous app.)

So anyway, most of the advice in this book was to do things I would never be comfortable doing.

I’m not saying these techniques are bad - I have friends and colleagues that practice these techniques and believe that they are helping people find things that benefit them.

I’m just not comfortable doing them. I’ve always thought that it was my midwest upbringing that makes me uncomfortable talking about my accomplishments. Whatever it is, I have difficulty doing it and the book says that that’s a problem.

There are other problems.

The hard ask

I recently learned what “the hard ask” means during a training for getting more people to vote this year.

I thought “hard” in this context meant “difficult”.

It doesn’t. It means “specific”.

In the context of voting it means giving people a specific next action you’d like them to take. “By next week, it would be great if you could apply for your vote-by-mail ballot.” They ended the session with a great example. By the following week they wanted us to ask five other people to sign up for their adopt a state initiative.

I didn’t mind the hard ask in this situation. I don’t know why I’m so uncomfortable doing it in my own.

The book recommended that every piece of content you offer for free should include a hard ask for something the reader can buy.


All newsletters and posts are about the author, but some to be about things the author has noticed or is engaged in while others are about things the author is selling.

I don’t mind including links to my posts or to my books and videos (although I don’t tend to include them in the newsletter unless there’s something new to announce …. hmmmm, maybe that should change), but I find it annoying when content becomes a sales pitch.

You know what’s worse?

The Popup

The book says-

“Wait,” you interrupt, “why don’t you just tell us the name of the book?”

Because I’m explicitly not recommending it. I don’t want more people to follow its advice.

The book recommends popup ads.

It says people hate them but they’re effective.

I’m sure that’s true.

I’m sure that email that purports to be from Apple or Amazon is effective enough to justify sending it. I have gotten a spate this week saying I’m registered to vote for someone I would never vote for and that I should click on this link to fix it.

I’m not clicking.

And I’m not clicking on popups. Mostly I’m not reading popups, I’m just looking for where I tap to dismiss them (which isn’t always obvious).

But, the book says, enough people will respond to popups that you should include them.


(I don’t know if the book recommended using all-caps. I stopped reading at this point.)

AND the book recommends that you put a time limit on the offer. You have 24 hours to respond to this once in a lifetime offer.

That offer that they run continuously.

When I worked in radio we used to run these P.I. commercials. You know the ones with the “operators are standing by. Call by midnight tonight.”

These were called P.I. because the station got paid “per inquiry”. That’s why you had to use the special code to get the offer.

So these techniques aren’t new and I’m sure they work.

But I’m equally sure they aren’t for me.

And I’m positive they aren’t for you.

I’ve mentioned Austin Kleon here before. He ends each issue of his newsletter with a note that “This newsletter is free, but not cheap. To show your support, forward it to someone who’d like it or buy a book or a t-shirt.”

I think that would be ok.

Maybe starting to do that will be my hard ask for myself this week.

Essay from Dim Sum Thinking Newsletter 20. Read the rest of the Newsletter or subscribe

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