Can You Be 2% Better?

The Success Margin

Thursday, August 11, 2005


Many business owners and executives erroneously believe that to achieve huge success it’s the big stuff that makes the difference.

They think a great ad, a great product, a great marketing plan will overcome everything and win the day.

But while it’s desirable to have these things going for you, big long-term success is about orchestrating all the small things to work harmoniously together.

I have found the difference between great success/wealth and poverty is extremely tiny. Often being just 1% or 2% better is all the difference you need.

Assuming you have a good product, reasonably good copy and a decent offer, and are sending it to an appropriate market, success (not the devil!) is in the details.

These points must be considered:

  1. Is the offer clear?
  2. Is the guarantee powerful?
  3. Does the copy answer every possible objection?
  4. Do you have at least 3 good headlines to test?
  5. Have you included a powerful P.S.?
  6. Does the letter signature appear bold and confident?
  7. Have you dramatized every product benefit while eliminating any unnecessary words?
  8. Is every word of copy believable?
  9. Have you proven all claims?
  10. Have you treated the reader with dignity and respect?
  11. Instead of telling how great your company or you are, have you talked about the reader and his/her needs throughout the copy (that’s the only thing they want to know about)?
  12. Do you include at least one, but preferably three or more, free gifts in your offer that are so appealing your prospect would want to purchase them?
  13. Have you included a powerful subject line if e-mail, or teaser copy on the envelope?
  14. Is the offer being made to the best possible list of people?The very best list is always either an opt-in list or previous buyers of your product on the Internet. Or people who have inquired of you or bought your product offline.

    If you can honestly answer these questions “yes” (some of which may seem relatively unimportant), you have a great chance of succeeding with any offer you ever make.

** Success lessons from a great athlete **

I think we can all learn many things about success in life or business from Lance Armstrong. I consider him the world’s best athlete. Not only today, but in the history of sports.

Lance is an inspiration to people everywhere, especially to cancer survivors. These include myself and Bethany, my life’s partner.

Imagine winning the most demanding and grueling athletic event, the Tour de France, 7 straight times.

The Tour de France requires you to race on a bicycle for 28 days and cover over 2,000 miles. No other sport challenges you to this extent.Additionally, much of the route is slippery and dangerous and involves going up and down very high mountains.

Most astonishing are the health challenges Lance Armstrong has overcome. Prior to his first victory in 1996 his doctors told him his “incurable” testicular cancer had metastasized to his brain and lungs. They gave him a 50% chance of survival at best. Later they told him they had even exaggerated his chances of survival. He chose to be treated with a high-risk form of chemotherapy. This treatment andlots of prayers miraculously worked wonders for him.

I’ve read his excellent book, “It’s Not About the Bike.” I highly recommend it.

What strikes me most about his amazing athletic career is his overall approach to cycling. And how everyone, especially entrepreneurs and marketers, can learn from his example.

He has demonstrated what can happen to you once you master the small details.

Contrary to what others think about his successes, he attributes all of it not to any big thing. But instead to his careful preparation and attention to the small things.

Here are just a few major differences in training between him and other participants in the Tour de France.

  1. Food. He consumes a fresh, high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet 12 months a year, almost no exception.
  2. Portions. He weighs every single thing he eats and writes it down so he stays within the calorie limits he has established.
  3. Length of training. He starts his training in November, particularly in mountain areas,
    and practices every day without fail, whether it’s raining, snowing or sunny. And in Europe it rains a lot.
  4. He monitors his vital signs every day,including his heart rate, which is 32 beats per minute at rest.
  5. Studies the course itself. He rides over the entire Tour de France course. He literally knows every inch, including where it’s most hazardous so he can pay more attention.

Do you think other competitors do any of these things?

Absolutely not. Remember this truth.

Winners do what losers are unwilling to do.

Let me repeat that.


Here is what Lance Armstrong said recently directed to Jim Ulrich, former winner of the Tour de France and one of his nearest rivals for the last several Tours.

“I truly believe Jim can win the Tour again, not once, but several times. But he has to show up in a little better shape.

“What you see at the end of the race is the guy who can win. But what happens in the first half of the event is where he loses it.

“It’s a question of a kilo and a half, or 3 ½ pounds, at the start. A little better condition, a little better preparation. Just 2% better is all he needs. And I think he wins.

“It’s just the first 10 days. If you change that, he wins.”

What about other sports? Tennis and swimming happen to be my sports passions. I play tennis almost daily and compete in veterans tournaments.

Contrary to popular belief, to win 6-0, 6-0 against another experienced opponent, the experts say you don’t have to be twice as good or even 10% to 20% better. A small margin is the only edge you need.

And in swimming competition, often the winning margin is less than 6 inches.

Apparently the 2% rule applies to tennis and swimming, and I suspect to most other sports as well.

Lance Armstrong’s whole approach to cycling reminds me of the quality necessary to become a successful marketer.

To be a better marketer, you must master those important details. Be just 2% better. This slight difference is what makes Lance Armstrong a champion. And it will make you a winner, too.

And remember. As always, success is in the margin.

Your correspondent,

Ted Nicholas

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