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Monday, Oct. 5, 2009 at 11:20 am

Great Technique Is a Habit, Not a Happenstance

By John Quarto-vonTivadar
October 5th, 2009

Have you ever wondered why ballet dancers look so elegant when they move? For the longest time, I always assumed it was because they were, well, ballet dancers (I know, that’s circular reasoning) — but really meaning “just born graceful, a natural dancer”.  Do you think so, too?

As a swing dancer, I noticed that whenever someone new showed up at the Gotham Swing Club dances you could spot right away if she had a ballet background. Even though she might not know how to swing and made all sorts of mistakes, damn she’d make even the most common of mistakes look elegant. And it didn’t necessarily mean she picked up swing any quicker than anyone else; she simply looked good while moving through the novice ranks.

After talking with some pro ballet dancers, as well as several (actual) Rockettes, about how their job works, the one common element that I heard was that they spend several hours every day working on their basics. The same basics they learned on Day One when they were, like, 5 years old. They would never consider to not work on their Basic technique every day.

That’s why they look so good when they move. Their core technique is so embedded in their body that they cannot help but make it look great. Their good technique has become a habit. Their good technique doesn’t derive from what they are; it derives from what they do.

Do you to work on your core conversion techniques every day? It’s easy to forget and to fall back into bad habits, as I witnessed recently in a group of conversion professionals ! One member of the group had wanted the rest of us to vote for one or another nominee for some award (the details don’t matter). He didn’t get a great response rate so he used one of the most awful techniques possible: he created a shocking Subject line for his follow-up email, sure to get everyone who read it to open the email: “Microsoft buys Adobe for $24.6 billion” which of course is not only false but also has nothing to do with the nominee award balloting in question.   I knew right away that this is a fellow who doesn’t have his basics locked down far enough. He may be consciously competent in his regular works– he likely does fine  work when he thinks about doing fine work — but there’s no way he’s unconsciously competent, doing great work even when he isn’t trying. He’s not practicing every day.

You may be thinking, “What the heck is wrong with a subject line like that?” Well, to start, companies who use such a technique rarely increase their conversion rate. Oh, you most certainly can increase your Email Opened rate ‘cuz of the catchy subject line; it’s not hard to craft a Subject line that induces “opens”. But the moment people realize they’ve been bamboozled  — that the implicit promise of more info about the fictitious Microsoft-Adobe merger are not forth-coming — your chances of converting drop down to the pre-subject-line levels, or worse.  You haven’t spoken at all to what’s-in-it-for-me to induce incentive to convert to the *actual* call to action (in this case, “vote for a nominee”; in most Grok readers’ cases, “Buy My product”, “Fill Out My Form”, etc).

Or, you may be thinking, “Well, in a group of Pros, it’s ok to slip a bit on the Basics, cuz you all know them”. And that’s just the point. A Pro doesn’t ever “slip a bit” on the Basics because, just like Pro dancers, they cannot do so without intent. Their core technique is so deeply embedded that slipping becomes a matter of conditions beyond their control: and writing the subject line of an email is completely within one’s control . So if you find yourself “slipping a bit”, you should consider that maybe you haven’t been working on your technique regularly enough. Great technique is a habit, not a happenstance.

What have you worked on, today, that better clarifies why your customers ought to buy from you?

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Comments (26)

  1. Great advice. One can apply this to becoming a better marketer, copywriter, delighting customers, etc.

  2. Wow great, I take your advice we should work on our basics to sharpen our skills.

  3. good post :)

  4. Really pretty good post. Thank you for this post .

  5. It is amazing how many people tend to get lost in details whereas the going back to basics do show them a light at the end of the tunnel.

  6. wonderfull article thanks..

  7. Nice advice, it’s all about technique huh :)

  8. Love the dancer/conversion specilist analogy. Good to be reminded to go back to basics.

  9. Excellent article! The best and most talented make something that is actually very difficult, look easy sometimes. I believe it is because they have the “basics” down so well.

  10. Great! I’ll use this technique to improve my site.


  11. Great article,good to see fresh faces at future now blog.I thought that this blog is all about Jeff and Brendan and Bryan.

  12. good insight, these rules apply to anything and everything we do.

  13. Excellent one. You are very right – great technique is something that has to be LEARNT and PERFECTED, it’s certainly NOT happenstance. Thanks for sharing this. I found it incredibly useful!

  14. So true. You get so much further with a plan than by accident.

    But that is also where analytics can help you use the thinking hat instead of the dice.

  15. I can’t agree you more.
    i have to say that everything happens for a reason.
    Just as you mentioned,great technique is a habit rather than a happenstance.

  16. Great technique truly is a habit not a happenstance

  17. That’s true
    I agree

  18. Very Nice article check out my blog, – An informative blog focusing on car shopping,car reviews, automotive information and news of the latest car technology available and to come.

  19. I definitely agree with this post. I have a background in ballet, and marketing. They both require a finesse that is only acquired through extensive training and experience.

  20. Great technique truly is a habit not a happenstance

  21. I love this line :
    “Their good technique doesn’t derive from what they are; it derives from what they do”

  22. [...] Source:Great Technique Is a Habit, Not a Happenstance Share and Enjoy: [...]

  23. I thank you for this informative article. And I thank you for this I follow your vendors. It’s verry good. I wish you continued success.

  24. I agree with you. Great Technique is a habit. There are many other examples to expand this topic, but the conclusion is one have to work on their techniques regularly to make it perfect.

  25. That is very true and when I have been sucked in on a line that has nothing to do with the topic I tend to delete the whole email even if it was something I could have been interested in. Goes by the fool me once thing.

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John is the co-author of the best-selling Always Be Testing and 3 other books. You can friend him on Facebook, though beware his wacky swing dancer friends, or contact him directly at

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