Edible Monstrosity Part III: Where the Pudding Meets the Malformed Cake

This is the third and final installment of Edible Monstrosity. If you haven’t read Part I or Part II yet, check them out first.

When last we saw The Indoctrinatrix, she had two nearly exploded cakes on her hands and a batch of “frosting” made from pudding in the fridge…


So, I decide to go ahead and assemble the cakes because, even though they weren’t pretty, they were still edible.

At this point, I realized that I don’t own a cake platter. The only thing I can find to put the cake on is an old bar tray with deep, two-inch sides. When I put the first cake on the tray, the sides came right up to the large overhanging muffin top of the cake.

I got out my frosting…

Which I see hasn’t set up at all and is really just chocolate pudding.

I start smearing pudding all over this huge, rounded cake…

But because it’s so thin, I can’t get it to pile up enough to have that really nice layer of frosting in between…

No matter how much pudding I pile on.

After I frost the bottom layer, I placed the top layer on and started frosting that.

But it keeps sliding around on the pudding layer. I can’t get it to hold still, so I search around the kitchen and find some cocktail umbrellas left over from a previous party. I pull the paper off and use the sticks as long toothpicks to hold the top layer to the bottom.

I start frosting the top layer, but by now pudding is just dripping off the sides of cakes that are being held together with deconstructed cocktail umbrellas.

It looks horrible, yet still manages to taste decent. 

I wrap the entire monstrosity in foil and head out the party, where, once we cut into it, discovered that it was super dense, like pound cake but heavier. A 5-pound cake.

Despite the bumps along the way, my first made-from-scratch cake was a success!

So, that’s the story of the edible monstrosity.

What lessons can we take away from this tale?

  • Never give up! Had I kicked in the project at the first sign of trouble (the exploded cakes in the oven), there would have been no end product. Sure, it wasn’t perfect, but it served its purpose and made for a great story.
  • When you’re just starting out, and are building experience, be open to creative solutions. I didn’t have a cake platter, so I used a bar tray. My frosting was too thin, so I stripped cocktail umbrellas and made long toothpicks to hold it in place. Again, it wasn’t perfect but it worked.
  • Be open to feedback. I had told this story a dozen times, but it wasn’t until six months later that someone gave me some useful feedback that I incorporate to this day (to cut the tops of the cake off to make a smooth surface. Doing this had never occurred to me before that moment).
  • Even the stealthiest ninja, the best baker, the highest-converting marketer, starts as a novice. Don’t let early frustrations or disappointments stop you. Practice long enough and you will get better.

I kept practicing and eventually created a Bûche de Noël, a traditional French yule log cake that I made from scratch.

Where you start is not always where you’ll end, if you keep practicing.


Discover the 5 C’s of Indoctrination and start converting your curious prospects today!

Edible Monstrosity, Part II: It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over

This is the second installment of Edible Monstrosity. If you haven’t read Part I: How Old Do You Have To Be To Acquire Common Knowledge? Check it out here first.


When we last saw The Indoctrinatrix, she had made a double batch of yellow cake batter, poured it into two 9-inch round baking pans, put them in the oven, set the timer for 30 minutes and was waiting with satisfaction for her first cake-from-scratch to emerge triumphant… 


While I waited for the cake to bake I turned my attention to making chocolate frosting. Even though Betty Crocker offered a recipe for companion frosting in the yellow cake recipe, I had something else in mind.

I don’t know why, but I did.

I had heard of a tasty cake frosting made from chocolate pudding. So I decided I could that.

Without a recipe.

Even though I’d never done anything like it before.

If I remember correctly, I basically made Jello pudding and added something more to make it frosting…

Maybe flour… I honestly can’t recall at this point. But I do remember expecting it to firm up and become frosting while it sat in the fridge for an hour.

By this time the warm and sweet smell of cake was starting to fill the apartment. This tickled my soul…

But after another 10 minutes or so that sweet cake smell started to take on the undertones of burning…

“Uh oh,” I remember thinking, clearly understanding that something was wrong, but not wanting to face it.

My plan?

Just ignore it. It’s like Shrodinger’s cat. As long as I don’t look in the oven, the cake is doing just fine.

There’s no smoke filling the apartment, but the subtle burning smell doesn’t let up.

I decide it’s time to see what’s really going on here, so I open the oven and…

The sight that greets me is one I had never seen before, or since.

In both cake pans, the batter had risen. But with nowhere to go, it mushroomed up over the edges.

The pan on the right was drip, drip, dripping batter onto the bottom of the oven, thereby baking another, smaller cake on the oven floor. This is where that burning smell was coming from.

Horrified, I slammed the oven door, turned the oven off, ran into the living and flung myself onto the couch.

“I fucked it up! I fucked it up!” I kept repeating, devastated. I had so wanted it to be perfect for my friend’s birthday.

After a few minutes of self-pity, I decided maybe it could be saved. I turned the oven back on and decided to wait out the timer and see what happened.

When the timer went off, I pulled two enormous muffin-looking things out of the oven and set them on the stove to cool.

I poked at them. They seemed to be cooked. Aside from their horrible appearance, it tasted fine when I swiped a nibble.

I decided to move forward with these crazy cakes once they cooled…


What’s the moral of Part II of this story? 

You may not know you’ve messed up until the results roll in.

But don’t give up at the first sign of trouble! If you’re not getting the results you want with your indoctrination strategy, hang in there.

If you have all the correct ingredients (see the 5 C’s of Indoctrination), but biffed the execution, you can usually make adjustments to get better results.

Oh, and it doesn’t do you any favors to ignore problems in your marketing. If you sense something is amiss, address it head-on.


Next week: Part III: Where the pudding meets the malformed cake

Edible Monstrosity, Part I: How old do you have to be to acquire common knowledge?

How to bake an indoctrination strategy

Learn from the mistakes of Betty Crocker and The Indoctrinatrix when crafting your indoctrination strategy

Today I want to tell you a story. But it’s a long story. So I’m going to walk alongside writers like Charles Dickens and Alexander Dumas, and publish it in serial format.

Now, to be sure, I don’t fancy myself a writer like these guys. And my story is true, not narrative fiction. But all the same, I think you’ll enjoy it. Here goes…

Edible Monstrosity

Part I: How old do you have to be to acquire common knowledge?

When I was 24 years old, I decided to take up baking. Not just dumping a mix, eggs, oil and water into a bowl, but actually baking cakes from scratch.

The inaugural occasion was to be my best friend’s 25th birthday. I decided I would bake her a yellow cake with chocolate frosting from a recipe in the Betty Crocker cookbook my mother had given me.

And I decided I wasn’t going to bake some plain old sheet cake.

Oh no.

I was going to make a round cake with frosting in the middle, and I was going to make my own frosting.

Easy peasy.

Well, the day of the party came and I had to go out and buy 9-inch round pans and all the ingredients (I was 24, not very keen on planning ahead and staying organized. I was more of a pantser than a planner.)

I got home from shopping a bit late and so was scrambling to get Betty out of the cupboard, dust her off and find out how to make a yellow cake with chocolate frosting.

I put the batter together without much problem. Flour… eggs… shortening… vanilla… All pretty straightforward…

Then I poured it into one of my 9-inch pans. It came up to about an inch under the rim of the pan.

“I don’t have enough batter to fill both pans,” I said aloud to myself in an empty kitchen.

I looked back to Betty, but she offered no help.

Somehow I missed that tiny (s) in Step 2

Find out what happens because Step 2 isn’t detailed.



So after examining the recipe for a few minutes, I figured it all out in a flash.

“Oh,” I said, “You must need to make a double batch when using two pans… and that must just be common knowledge, which is why it isn’t written in the recipe.”

Satisfied with my logic, I dutifully whipped up a second batch of batter and poured that one into the other pan.

I popped them into the preheated oven, set the timer for 30 minutes and turned to making frosting while waited with the utmost satisfaction for my cake to be done….


To be continued…


Note from The Indoctrinatrix

If you’re a baker, you can see the flaw in my plan from across the room. Cake batter rises. It needs room to rise in the pan, which is why you divide the batter between the two pans, filling them about halfway.

I know that now, but notice how the recipe completely omits that instruction.

Betty made a mistake. She assumed I would know that you divide the batter between two pans, but I didn’t.

She figured I needed to be told not to mix in the frosting recipe with cake (well, duh!), but not to divide the batter.

What’s this got to do with indoctrination? This:

One person’s “common knowledge” may be another person’s brand new information. 

Avoid making the same mistake Betty did.

Never assume your prospects, customers and website visitors will know what to do. Provide clear steps, detailed instructions and guidance to help them choose you as the solution to their problem.


Next week: A novice baker (kinda) makes frosting from scratch, without a recipe


Download the recipe for creating your own cold prospect indoctrination strategy here.

A Tale of Two Hot Wings

Flavor First. Heat Second

Your indoctrination strategy should be like good hot sauce…


I don’t know about you, but I love hot wings. I love the endless variety of sauces, flavor combinations and heat levels.

But you can take the spiciness of hot wings too far…

Too many hot sauces focus on the pain, without providing any real flavor….

You can make this same mistake in your indoctrination strategy, and I’ll tell you how…

But first, a story.

A Tale of Two Hot Wings

Hot Wing #1: Too Much, Too Soon

I once ordered a plate of Habanero Hellfire Hot Wings at a restaurant called the Great Dane. Now, I like spicy foods. I usually get 3 or 4 star spicy at Thai restaurants…

I make my own habanero hot sauce and put a little bit on a lot of foods. It has a great flavor and heat, in small doses…

So I thought,”Why not? How bad can it be?”

When the basket of wings arrived they had bits of habanero seeds stuck to them and the waiter, with a wry smile, said, “You ready for this?”

I figured he was being overly dramatic and dug in.

I took one bite and there was no flavor… only pain. Instant, searing pain.

“Why would anyone eat this?” I hollered through my numb mouth. (It sounded more like “Wha woo ayone eee hissss??”

I guzzled my pint of beer and immediately ordered another.

I pushed myself to eat two of these monstrosities, and that was more than enough. I left the rest.

Never again, I swore, would I get burned like that.

Hot Wing #2: The Slow and Lovely Burn 

There’s a place just outside Madison, Wisconsin called Quaker Steak and Lube. It’s got a kind of race car theme and specializes in hot wings.

Back in 2006 or so, to order their hottest hot wing sauce you have to sign a medical release form.

Now that’s hot.

I wasn’t quite that brave, so I ordered the wings in the hot sauce just below that level.

When they arrived I gingerly took my first bites…

After that Habanero hellfire experience, I wasn’t sure what to expect…

But it was delicious! It wasn’t too hot and had amazing flavor… so I hungrily started munching wings…

Starting with the second hot wing I realized the heat was building. By the third wing, my scalp was sweating and it was hot hot hot!

But it was so tasty I couldn’t stop…

Which eventually led to the best food high I’ve ever had, brought on by all that spice. I felt so euphoric and happy, eating those awesome hot wings…

And I ate the whole basket. They were that good.

The Moral of the Story

Now, what’s the difference between these two approaches?

Both were spicy wings.

Both were considered among the “hottest of the hot.”

But one put flavor first, heat second.

The other brought only heat and pain without a shred of flavor.

Remember this in your indoctrination marketing.

Flavor first. Heat second.

Flavor is all the good stuff that creates the feeling of goodwill toward you and your business (content, email follow-up, nurturing, answering questions, providing solutions, etc.). It’s the special sauce that builds trust and encouraged prospects to get to know, like, and trust you.

Think of the heat as your pitch, the offer.

When a prospect visits your website, it’s like they’re taking a shy first bite of a hot wing…

They don’t know what to expect and are proceeding with caution.

If you come out blazing with your offer and omit all the content and indoctrination, you’ll drive your prospects away, never to return.

In short, you’ll burn them out.

But if you offer flavor and an enjoyable experience, they’ll welcome the spice that burns just under the tasty surface.

Apply this slow-burning, tasty metaphor to your indoctrination and marketing strategy and you’ll build loyal customers and a solid tribe.

Skip it, and you’ll drive prospects away, promising themselves, “Never again…”


Get your spice on with this handy 5 C’s of Indoctrination Checklist.

Business Don’t Pay Without that CTA

In my previous post I talked about content marketing and how it creates the cornerstone of your prospect indoctrination strategy.

Content marketing is one side of the coin, but on the other side lives something very important that is NOT to be omitted from a successful strategy.

And that’s a call to action (CTA).

Content is important for drawing cold prospects to the warm light of your solutions, but if there’s no call to action when they get there, no opportunity to buy that which will improve their lives, then what’s the point?

Without a CTA you miss opportunities to sell, which is what business is all about, is it not?

So when you write blog posts and emails, when you record videos and podcasts, be sure every piece has a call to action.

It can, and often should be subtle. It’s not a pitch. You’re not standing on the corner, waving your arms shouting “Buy here! Buy now!”

Rather, you’re presenting the opportunity for them to walk through the door. You’ve guided them this far, now all they have to do is take that step to begin the transformation.

Of course, on the other side of the door you better have a great offer, a clean cart page, good guarantees and a “thank you” email in place.

Don’t leave them hanging after you make the sale! Be sure you’re nurturing those new customers with a follow-up email sequence that welcomes your new customers into the fold and makes them feel comfortable.


Click here to get your free 5 C’s of Indoctrination Checklist and start converting the curious today!

Secret Squirrel, The Quark and the Cornerstone of Your Indoctrination Strategy

Secret Squirrel was a crime fighter

Hanna Barbara created the crime fighter Secret Squirrel in 1965.

Have you ever seen that episode of the Hanna Barbara cartoon Secret Squirrel, where he takes down the Quark? The Quark was a villain who removed the bottom atom of the cornerstones of buildings, causing them to come crashing down.

Chances are good you haven’t seen it, unless you used to watch a lot of Cartoon Network…

But anyway, I was thinking of that episode the other day, and about cornerstones.

Aside from the bottom corner brick of a building…

A cornerstone is an immaterial, essential element upon which something greater is built. A necessary part of the foundation of a thing.

For example:

  • The teachings of Jesus Christ are the cornerstone of the Catholic church…
  • Protecting human rights is the cornerstone of Amnesty International…
  • Providing healthy and natural food products at an affordable price is the cornerstone of Thrive Market.

What’s the Cornerstone of Your Indoctrination Strategy?

In broad terms, it’s your content marketing.

Brian Clark’s site, Copyblogger, defines content marketing as…

“The process of creating and sharing valuable free content to attract and convert prospects into customers, and customers into repeat buyers. The type of content you share is closely related to what you sell. In other words, you educate people so that they know, like, and trust you enough to do business with you.” (Bold formatting is mine)

This last part is what we’re concerned with here at Converting the Curious. By educating cold prospects, you indoctrinate them so they know, like and trust you enough to do business with you.

How Do You Educate Cold Prospects?

You indoctrinate cold prospects with website content that answers questions, solves problems and entertains. Let’s take a look at content marketing in the context of the 5 C’s of Indoctrination:

  1. Control the Narrative

Using keywords in your content that answers your prospects’ questions will help you rank higher in organic search, which helps you control the narrative around the kinds of products and services you deal in. It puts you on your prospects’ radar. Many companies don’t do this, so by honing this part of your indoctrination strategy you’re already ahead of the competition.

  1. Confirm Your Claims

Once your prospect is drawn into your website by your first-page search ranking, well-written and researched content that not only lets them get to know you, but that backs up your authority, will quickly move them through the “know, like” part of the process.

  1. Clean Design, Clear Copy

When it’s easy to read and navigate your clearly written and entertaining content, prospects are inclined to stay in your world longer. The longer they hang out, the faster they can know, like and trust you.

  1. Come Out And Say “Hi!”

Give yourself a little leeway to come out and mingle on your site. Write a few posts that talk about your personal experiences that led you to start your business, your opinions on current industry trends, new products you’re coming out with and why… Don’t hold yourself captive on the About page. Come out and mingle!

  1. Capture Contact Information and Continue the Conversation

Extend your personality and soul of your business into your lead magnet and email marketing. Make offers and use language that reflects who you are and what you stand for. Create your own tribe of weirdos or professional or whoever like-minded people you want to do business with.

Creating a cornerstone out of all 5 of these things might be a little much. Consider picking one or two to focus on and sharpen at one time.

Bottom line?

With a content-based indoctrination strategy you can sell to your prospects after you’ve developed a relationship with them, not before. And that’s how you draw people in and create a tribe of raving fans.


To get your own FREE 5 C’s of Indoctrination Checklist, go here.

How the Psychic Readers Network Used Indoctrination to Pull Down $24 Million a Month

Remember Miss Cleo from TV commercials advertising free psychic readings in the late ‘90s/early 2000s?

Miss Cleo was a black woman dressed in Afro-Caribbean clothing who spoke in a thick Jamaican accent. With an inviting smile she would implore viewers to “Call me now for your free reading.”

On these commercials she would give “real callers” tarot readings over the phone. She usually advised callers about their love lives with a kind of tough love approach.

The callers would be shocked and delighted at her accuracy, proving Miss Cleo could indeed use the power of the tarot to show people the way.

Who was Miss Cleo?

The truth is, “Miss Cleo” was a fabricated spokeswoman for the Psychic Readers Network (PRN), a pay-per-call service.

Her given name was Youree Dell Harris (she passed away in 2016 from colon cancer). She was born in Los Angeles, spoke perfect English and came from a family with money. Just prior to becoming the PRN spokeswoman, she was part owner of theatre company in Seattle that produced plays she wrote.

In a 2014 interview with Vice, Ms. Harris claimed the company pulled in $24 million a month for two years straight using her as a spokeswoman.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) eventually cracked down on the Psychic Readers Network, charging the founders with deceptive advertising, billing and collection practices. The founders settled out of court for $500 million. Ms. Harris was not named in the suit.

What’s Miss Cleo got to do with indoctrination?

Before Miss Cleo, nobody knew about Psychic Readers Network. Only a few fringe believers called psychic hotlines. But with Miss Cleo, whose commercials were in constant rotation in the 1990s, PRN made insane amounts of money.


Because “Miss Cleo” looked the part. The accent, the Afrocentric clothing, the setting of the commercials all worked together to create an air of believability.

People made a connection in their minds between Miss Cleo’s appearance and supposed background and the mystical, unknown nature of tarot cards and psychic readings. They figured she must be legit. That’s the power of stereotypes and imagery.

For better or worse, humans take mental shortcuts and tend to believe what we see.

The Miss Cleo Takeaway 

Cold prospects are taking the same kinds of mental shortcuts and striving to make connections when they visit your website.

To indoctrinate new customers your website has to “look the part,” as it were. If there’s a disconnect between who you say you are and what prospects think you are, your sales will suffer considerably.

PRN wouldn’t have made all that money with a white, bald spokesman in coveralls named “Joe Smith.”

Take a look at your website and determine if the imagery, design, copy and narrative are all in line with the essential soul of your business.

Are you projecting professionalism? Whimsy? No-nonsense sophistication? Cluttered confusion? Apathy?

And how can you ethically and effectively create your own “Miss Cleo” that represents who you are, what you do and what you stand for?


Get your very own 5 C’s of Indoctrination checklist here.

The Indoctrination of Love

The repercussions of the white nationalist rally and counter-protest in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday August 12 are everywhere…

Permeating our collective consciousness…

Which puts indoctrination on everyone’s minds, even though they may not realize it.

You see, this kind of hate-group indoctrination is what the word is known for…

Drawing vulnerable people into a group, filling their minds with ideas that make them feel powerful, releasing them onto the world with an agenda…

But where vulnerable people can be drawn into hate groups, they can also be guided to love…

Now, more than ever, we need to use the same indoctrination tactics to lead people to love.

Indoctrination is simply education.

Hate is learned…

And so is love.

You have power in your business, and your personal life, to teach…

To ethically and bravely indoctrinate cold prospects and existing customers alike to the values you believe in.

Now is not the time for timid, corporate-speak copy…

Now is not the time to try to blend in…

Your prospects, customers and, indeed, the world, needs to know who you are, what you’re doing and why.

Be bold. Be love. Be you. Truly.


Begin building your Cold Prospect Indoctrination Strategy with your free 5 C’s of Indoctrination Checklist.

How Game of Thrones Indoctrinates Die-hard Fans and Newbies Alike, Every Week

You’d have to be living under a rock to not know about HBO’s mega-hit series Game of Thrones. Even if you’ve never seen an episode or read a word of A Song of Ice and Fire, the series of books the show is based on, you’ve probably absorbed some knowledge about it through cultural osmosis.

In a nutshell: A lot of people are fighting to sit on the Iron Throne and rule the Seven Kingdoms as the one-and-only, all-powerful monarch of the land. Heads have been rolling for seven season now.

There are two elements of the show that use a powerful indoctrination strategy: The opening credits and the “Previously On…” sections that appear before every episode.

The Game of Thrones Opening Credits and Theme Song

The opening credits sequence shows a map of Westeros, the country where most of the show’s action takes place. A bird’s-eye-view takes us from King’s Landing, the capital, around the map to places like Winterfell, The Wall and Pyke.

Observant viewers will notice that this sequence is not the same, static map opening every time. The opening sequence varies, highlighting each castle or region that’s featured in that week’s episode. These small changes tell viewers, dedicated and brand-new alike, where they’ll be visiting in that episode.

In such a sweeping story that covers so many characters and places, this attention to detail helps viewers orient themselves and prepare for the next installment of the story.

Not only do the places change, but the details of the castles themselves change as well. Normally the Direwolf banner of House Stark flies over Winterfell, the seat of the North.

But when the Bolton family ousted the Starks and held the castle, the opening credits showed their banner, the Flayed Man (which in itself is a form of indoctrination—any family with a sigil of a man with the skin cut from his body is not one you want to cross.)

Another element of the Game of Thrones opening credits is the clean design and clear copy. They don’t get overly fancy or clever. They show each element clearly and linger on it long enough for viewers to absorb what they’re being shown.

You can see how different the opening credits of Season 1, Episode 1 varies from Season 7, Episode 1. Not only have the places featured on the map changed, but so have the actors’ names as their characters shift in prominence (or die).

“Previously on Game of Thrones

To catch up viewers on what they might have missed, each episode features a highlight reel of previous episodes, shaped to give viewers context of how what happened before will play into the plot now.

When a particular scene is highlighted from previous episodes, you can expect to see that character again in this week’s episode. This not only serves as a refresher, if the scene had happened a long while back, but prepares viewers’ context for what to expect in the upcoming episode.

So, between the “Previously On…” and the opening credits map, viewers are given a framework in which to put their expectations of the episode. And the showrunners never let us down. Every detail is precise, every set-up knocked down smoothly and without distraction.

How can you use these ideas to improve your indoctrination strategy?

If your business were Game of Thrones, how do you keep your loyal fans engaged, while simultaneously welcoming in new people?

Grab your free 5 C’s of Indoctrination Checklist and start building your very own indoctrination strategy.

What the Northwoods Knows about Guiding First-Timers

My husband and I just got back from a four-day trip to Bayfield, WI and Madeline Island in Lake Superior. It was splendid! Every meal we ate was delicious, the weather sunny and beautiful, and the people were all friendly.

I had never been to Bayfield or Madeline Island before. I realized that part of what made the trip so good was the various indoctrination strategies I encountered.

These parts of northern Wisconsin, also called the Northwoods, are tourist destinations. Over the years, businesses have grown used to guiding the experience of first-timers. And it makes for better experiences for the guests as well as the business owners

The Bed & Breakfast

In Bayfield, we stayed at a place called The Pilot House Inn. Jack, the owner, sent me an email when I made the reservation that instructed me to print out and bring with an attached page of instructions.

It included clear directions to the place, where to park, an access code to get in the door and where to go to get to our room. And it included pictures.

This way, Jack knew if he wasn’t available when we arrived we would be able to figure out how to get started on our own.

We got into our room with no problems and felt comfortable and secure having used the guide he created.

If he hadn’t explicitly told me to print these instructions and bring them, I may not have. This would have defeated the purpose of setting up the indoctrination strategy in the first place.

Alternately, had we been left to figure it out on our own, I would have been anxious and agitated by the time we arrived, which would not have been a great start to our trip!

How You Can Do The Same For Your First-Timers

Have 3-5 people who don’t know anything about your website or company go through an average first-time experience with your business.

You can ask them if they can tell if the 5 C’s of Indoctrination are present…

Or you could give them a list of tasks or steps you want your first-time customers to take.

Have your “guinea pigs” go through these steps, then let you know how easy or difficult it was.

Doing this helps break the “curse of knowledge.” Sometimes, as business owners, we’re too close to the problem. What seems logical and obvious to us can be a mess of confusion and anxiety for newbies.

Use the feedback you get from the simulated first-time experience to craft your own indoctrination strategy that naturally draws people to you and makes them feel comfortable and happy enough to want to do business with you.