Archives for 2010

6 steps to more business

Nothing here is complicated, clever or difficult.  It just needs to be done consistently.  Do these steps consistently and I guarantee you will be successful.

You will see that we have illustrated how we can help with each step.  Yes, this is a sales message, but you can also do each step for yourself without paying us or anyone else.  If you want help, call me, text me or email me – I won’t charge you for my time – promise!

Step 1 – Be visible
You will only get enquiries from people that know you exist!  That may be obvious, but how many times have you had the conversation with someone who said “if only we’d known you were here…”?

So, are you visible to your target audience if they choose to go looking?

  • Ensure that your website looks great.  If it doesn’t, change it or remove it.  No website is better than a bad website.
  • Have a blog that you update weekly, as a shameless example here’s ours
  • Consider other social media such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Friendfeed, etc.

So, follow these steps and you will be visible and credible should your ideal client come looking for you.

Step 2 – Be Credible
If your potential clients do go look at your public presence (website, blog, brochure, etc), will you look credible?  Will they feel like getting in touch?

Here is what we recommend:

  • Have great testimonials on your website, blog etc.  Nothing is more compelling than having others saying nice things about you.
  • Actively solicit testimonials from past clients.  (Hint: tell them what you want them to say.  Write it for them and just ask them to put their name to it.)  Most will happily oblige if you gave them a good experience.   From these testimonials create case studies that you can put on your website and send to prospective clients.
  • Make sure that your phone is always professionally answered by a human being who can answer questions about your business.  Answer phones and calls diverted to mobiles will lose you both business and credibility that you will never recover.  If you want help with this, we’ll happily put you in touch with a great telephone answering service.

So, follow steps 1 & 2 and you will be visible and credible should your ideal client come looking for you.

BUT you cannot rely on potential clients to find you once they have a need for your product or service.  They should know about you first so you come to mind when they have a need.

Step 3  – Be Memorable
It doesn’t matter how great your products or how wonderful your service, if no one knows about you, they are not going to buy from you.  So, step 3 is to make sure that your target audiences always think of you when they have a requirement.

Start with your target audiences: who are they?  Be specific.  For example:  Businesses within 40 miles of you with more than 10 employees; Accountancy practices in Southern England; UK charities; and so on.  It’s fine to have more than one target audience.  Next identify the people in these audiences that are likely to make an enquiry.

Once you know who you want to talk to, you can talk to them in lots of different ways.  My experience is that the most economical and effective method is to email them initially then follow up by phone with the ones that are interested.

Here is what we recommend:

  • Acquire lists of contacts in your target audiences to add your existing contact database. (We can help you find relevant contacts if you are struggling).
  • Email them regularly (each month) with short, simple messages linking to more information. DO NOT SEND THEM A NEWSLETTER this is the sales equivalent of getting a megaphone and shouting in a prospect’s face!
  • Analyse the responses to your emails, tracking who opens and clicks on the links.
  • Target the best responders for follow up in step 4 below.

There are many email marketing packages available but most are quite complicated to use.  We recommend a couple that work well. Contact me if you want to know more or if you want our help with email marketing.  We can do as little or as much of the process as you want.

Step 4 – Be persistent
You must send out these emails every month.  Your potential clients will only take action when they have a requirement, so you need to ensure that you are always in the front of their mind.  This is why you need to keep your emails short, light and chatty – so they don’t offend those who don’t have a requirement right now.  We can help you write these emails.

Step 5 – Be Personal
If you know anything about your potential customers, use this in your communication with them – make the emails as specific and personal as possible.  If you know their name, use it in the salutation and maybe even the subject line.  If you know someone is interested in one aspect of your business, send them content relevant to their interest.

Remember: it’s about them not you!!

The more personal and relevant you make your communications, the more interest you will generate.  But you need a more advanced system to add levels of personalisation to your emails.  And this can add cost.

We’ve developed a specialism that creates targeted and personalised emails to help clients generate more business from their email marketing.  If you want help, just ask.

Step 6  – Be consistent
Through your awareness raising in steps 3 & 4, you will have a list of people expressing interest each month.  Call these and record the outcome of the call.  Most importantly, if you have committed to doing something during the call do it!

The trick here is to set aside time each week to make the calls and take the actions.  Schedule it in your diary, turn off email and all other distractions and just get on with it.

Do it. Measure it. Evaluate it. Change it. Do it again.

Why would you send this?

Here is a great example of poor email marketing.  There is so much wrong with it, I don’t know where to start.

Let’s look at the sending email address.  Nice of them to advertise Pure 360 as their email marketing provider!

Subject line is OK, but they’ve missed the opportunity to mention the Open, which finished yesterday…  And how about mentioning the winner, or something else related to Golf?

Then you look at the message, or lack of message in this case!

poor email example

Not very clever eh?  Just push the images to the bottom of the message, if you really must include them and put your text at the top of the screen where it can be read and recipients engage with the text.  Once a recipient has read something from you, they may feel inclined to download your images…

Lucy lost her wedding venue when it went bust. Can you help her find another?

I’ve had a long history  in the events industry, most recently promoting a range of unusual and unique venues.  So when I got this email, I wanted to help.

Lucy has lost her wedding venue when it went bankrupt, so can you help her find another one?  This is what she says:

Hi Simon,   I wonder if you or your team could help a bride in distress, we recently discovered that our wedding venue has gone bankrupt. The date is set for 4th September with 100 guests invited to a country house wedding in Dorset.

We would love to find a venue that can accommodate the same with 40 staying over.   We are looking for a venue anywhere in south England/London that is available on the 4th September.  Ideally we want something special or a bit different.

Do you know of anywhere that may work that is available on 4th September?  If so, please get in touch with Lucy on lucykane@icqmail.com.

Please also forward a link to this blog onto anyone that may be able to help Lucy.

Thanks, Simon

Email marketing just got harder… or easier!

When we talk with clients initially one of the key points they bring up is to ensure that their brand is fully “implemented” into their email marketing programme.  This often involves including multiple images, background colours, etc.

Our view is that this is a waste of time.  Email is designed to communicate a message from individual to individual and the most successful campaigns are those that emulate this personal one to one style.  Branding the email immediately marks it as “promotional” and something to be treated with suspicion.

So, when I received the message below from CommuniGator, I saw it as good news and a vindication of our viewpoint.

From CommuniGator:

When Outlook 2007 was released by Microsoft one of the most significant changes was the switch to using Word as the email authoring tool over IE. In Outlook 2010 Microsoft has affirmed its stance that the users ease of composing professional looking text based emails outweighs the rendering of received email, created using alternative email clients, specifically those written in HTML and containing CSS. Microsoft has stated that it currently plans to continue using Word to render HTML emails and it seems, on initial inspection, that HTML support in the current Word engine has not been improved in any way.

So, what does this mean for the email marketer? The below summarises HTML/CSS functions that are no longer supported;

– Animated Gifs

– Flash or Other Plugins
– CSS Floats/Positioning
– Use of images as bullets in unordered lists
– Background images
– Forms
– Background colours
– Alt tags

In short, you can expect the rendering of all HTML email communications to suffer significantly as a result of the changes.

You may be thinking this is nothing new, as Outlook 2007 has been around for a while, but well over half of MS Office users are still using the 2003 or even earlier versions. It is also worth nothing that over 8.6 million users have tested the beta version of Office 2010, more than 3 times the number of any previous version, suggesting a much faster adoption rate and a large number who are planning on making a jump from 2003, straight to 2010, probably at the same time as upgrading to the new Windows 7 operating system.

Thanks Microsoft 🙂

Writing Great Sales Copy 5 – The Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

Also known as the unique selling position, the USP is often one of the most oft-misunderstood elements of a good sales letter. It’s what separates your product or service from your competitors. Let’s take a quick look at some unique selling propositions for a product itself:

1)   Lowest Price – If you’ve got the lowest prices, shout about it. Asda has made this USP famous lately, but it’s not new to them. In fact, selling for cheaper has been around as long as capitalism itself. Personally, I’m not crazy about price wars, because someone can always come along and sell for cheaper. Then it’s time for a new strategy…

2)   Superior Quality – If it outperforms your competitor’s product or is made with higher quality materials, it’s a good bet that you could use this fact to your advantage.

3)   Superior Service – If you offer superior service over your competitor’s, people will buy from you instead. This is especially true with certain markets that are all about service: long-distance, Internet service providers, cable television, etc.

4)   Exclusive Rights – My favorite! If you can legitimately claim that your product is protected by a patent or copyright, licensing agreement, etc., then you have a winner for exclusive rights. If you have a patent, everyone must buy it from you.

Ok, what if your product or service is no different than your competitor’s? I would disagree, because there are always differences. The trick is to turn them into a positive advantage for you. You want to put your “best foot forward.” So what can we do in this scenario?

One way is to present something that your company has devised internally that no other company does. Look, there’s a reason why computer store “A” offers to beat their competitor’s price for the same product by X%. If you look closely, the two packages are never exactly the same. Company “B” offers a free scanner, while company “A” offers a free printer. Or some other difference. They are comparing apples to oranges. So unless you find a company with the exact same package (you won’t…they’ve seen to that), you won’t be able to cash in.

But what if you truly have the same widget for sale as the guy up the road?

Unless your prospect knows the inner workings of both your and your competitor’s product, including the manufacturing process, customer service, and everything in-between, then you have a little potential creative licensing here. But you must be truthful.

For example, if I tell my readers that my product is bathed in steam to ensure purity and cleanliness (like the cans and bottles in most beer manufacturing processes), it doesn’t matter that Joe’s Beer up the road does the same thing. The fact that Joe doesn’t advertise this fact makes it a USP in your prospect’s eyes.

Want some more USP examples?

  • We are the only car repair shop that will buy your car if you are not 100 percent satisfied with our work.
  • Delivered in 30 minutes or it’s on us!
  • No other furniture company will pay for your shipping.
  • Our recipe is so secret, only three people in the world know it!

As with most ways to boost copy response, research is the key with your USP. Sometimes your USP is obvious, for example if you have a patent. Other times you must do a little legwork to discover it (or shape it to your target market).

Here’s where a little persistence and in-person selling really pays off. Let me give you an example to illustrate what I mean:

Suppose your company sells beanbag chairs for kids. So you, being the wise marketer that you are, decide to sell these beanbags in person to prospects before writing your copy. After completing twenty different pitches for your product, you discover that 75 percent of those you visited asked if the chair would eventually leak. Since the chairs are for kids, it’s only logical that parents would be concerned about their youngster jumping on it, rolling on it, and doing all things possible to break the seam and “spill the beans.”

So when you write your copy, you make sure you address that issue: “You can rest assure that our super-strong beanbag chairs are triple-stitched for guaranteed leak-proof performance. No other company will make this guarantee about their beanbag chairs!”

This article is courtesy of PLR content that by the time it reached me had lost the author’s name.  If anyone knows who originally wrote this, please let me know and I’ll attribute it.

A bad example of email marketing

We regularly collect great examples of what NOT to do with your email marketing.  You may also find it easier to see bad examples and how to avoid them rather than trying to follow good examples.

This email has two of my pet hates in it:

  • Loads of images at the top of the email
  • it talks about the sending and nothing about the recipient.

What do you think:

we don't like this!

If you were to receive this, the first thing you may notice is the from email address “mailings@efx.co.uk”.

Does this sound like a communication that is going to be of value or interest to you?  I don’t think so.

The next thing you may notice on previewing the message are the two large blue boxes at the top of the email.  This is where images should be – but most email programs don’t display them, replacing them with a red cross and warning message.  Not ideal!

Finally, I’ve highlighted “we” & “our” within the email.

This is all about the sender.  The recipient gets one mention at the end “you can search…” but that’s it.

So, what to do differently?

  1. Change the sending email address to something a little more customer friendly
  2. start with text at the top of the email then put the images at the bottom of the email.  At least then recipients will know why they are being asked to download the images and may feel more inclined to do so.
  3. re-write the text to focus on the recipient and the recipient’s issues, not just a recounting of how great the senders’ website is.  Ask “what benefit will the recipient get?” and answer that question in the email.

Happy emailing…

Writing Great Sales Copy 4 – Incorporating Proof and Believability

When your prospect reads your ad, you want to make sure he believes any claims you make about your product or service. Because if there’s any doubt in his mind, he won’t bite, no matter how sweet the deal. In fact, the “too good to be true” mentality will virtually guarantee a lost sale…even if it is all true.

So what can you do to increase the perception of believability? Because after all, it’s the perception you need to address up front. But of course you also must make sure your copy is accurate and truthful.

Here are some tried and tested methods that will help:

  • If you’re dealing with existing customers who already know you deliver as promised, emphasize that trust. Don’t leave it up to them to figure it out. Make them stop, cock their heads, and say, “Oh, yeah. The ABC Company has never done me wrong before. I can trust them.”
  • Include testimonials of satisfied customers. Be sure to put full names and locations, where possible. Remember, “A.S.” is a lot less believable than “Andy Sherman, London, England” If you can also include a picture of the customer and/or a professional title, that’s even better. It doesn’t matter that your testimonials aren’t from somebody famous or that your prospect does not know these people personally. If you have enough compelling testimonials, and they’re believable, you’re much better off than not including them at all.
  • Pepper your copy with facts and research findings to support your claims. Be sure to credit all sources, even if the fact is common knowledge, because a neutral source goes a long way towards credibility.
  • For a direct mail letter or certain space ads where the copy is in the form of a letter from a specific individual, including a picture of that person helps. But I’d put the picture at the end near your signature, or midway through the copy, rather than at the top where it will detract from your headline. And…if your sales letter is from a specific individual, be sure to include his credentials to establish him as an expert in his field (relating to your product or service, of course).
  • If applicable, cite any awards or third-party reviews the product or service has received.
  • If you’ve sold a lot of widgets, tell them. It’s the old “10 million people can’t be wrong” adage (they can be, but your prospect will likely take your side on the matter).
  • Include a GREAT returns policy and stand by it! This is just good business policy. Many times, offering a double refund guarantee for certain products will result in higher profits. Yes, you’ll dish out more refunds, but if you sell three times as many widgets as before, and only have to refund twice as much as before, it may be worth it, depending on your offer and return on investment. Crunch the numbers and see what makes sense. More importantly, test! Make them think, “Wow, they wouldn’t be so generous with returns if they didn’t stand behind their product!”
  • If you can swing it, adding a celebrity endorsement will always help to establish credibility. Heck, if Alan Sugar recommended your product and backs up your claims, it must be true!
  • When it makes sense, use 3rd party testimonials. What are 3rd party testimonials? Here’s some examples from when there weren’t many customer testimonials available:

“Spyware, without question, is on an exponential rise over the last six months.”

–         Alfred Huger, Senior Director of Engineering, Symantec Security Response (maker of Norton security software)

“Simply clicking on a banner ad can install spyware.”

–         Dave Methvin, Chief Technology Officer, PC Pitstop

A deployment method is to “trick users into consenting to a software download they think they absolutely need”

–         Paul Bryan, Director, Security And Technology Unit, Microsoft

Do you see what I did?

I took quotes from experts in their respective fields and turned them to my side. But…be sure to get their consent or permission from the copyright holder if there’s ever any question about copyrighted materials as your source.

Note that I also pushed an emotional hot button: fear.

It’s been proven that people will generally do more to avoid pain than to obtain pleasure. So why not use that tidbit of info to your advantage?

  • Reveal a flaw about your product. This helps alleviate the “too good to be true” syndrome. You reveal a flaw that isn’t really a flaw. Or reveal a flaw that is minor, just to show that you’re being “up front” about your product’s shortcomings.

Example:

“You’re probably thinking right now that this tennis racket is a miracle worker—and it is. But I must tell you that it has one little…shortcoming.

My racket takes about 2 weeks to get used to. In fact, when you first start using it, your game will actually get worse. But if you can just ride it out, you’ll see a tremendous improvement in your volleys, net play, serves, …” And so on.

There’s a tendency to think, with all of the ads that we are bombarded with today that every advertiser is always putting his best foot forward, so to speak. And I think that line of reasoning is accurate, to a point.

But isn’t it refreshing when someone stands out from the crowd and is honest? In other words, your reader will start to subconsciously believe that you are revealing all of the flaws, even though your best foot still stands forward.

  • Use “lift notes.” These are a brief note or letter from a person of authority. Not necessary a celebrity, although that can add credibility, too. A person of authority is someone well recognized in their field (which is related to your product) that they are qualified to talk about. Lift notes may be distributed as inserts, a separate page altogether, or even as part of the copy itself. As always, test!
  • If you are limiting the offer with a deadline “order by” date, be sure the deadline is real and does not change. Deadline dates that change every day are sure to reduce credibility. The prospect will suspect, “if his deadline date keeps changing, he’s not telling the truth about it…I wonder what else he’s not telling the truth about.”
  • Avoid baseless “hype.” I discussed that in my previous tip. Enough said.

This article is courtesy of PLR content that by the time it reached me had lost the author’s name.  If anyone knows who originally wrote this, please let me know and I’ll attribute it.

Writing great sales copy 3 – Push Their Emotional Hot Buttons

This is where research really pays off. Because in order to push those buttons, you need to first know what they are.

First, here is a story from an American friend of mine to set the scene:

Once upon a time a young man walked into a Chevrolet dealer’s showroom to check out a Chevy Camaro. He had the money, and he was ready to make a buying decision. But he couldn’t decide if he wanted to buy the Camaro or the Ford Mustang up the road at the Ford dealer.

A salesman approached him and soon discovered the man’s dilemma.

“Tell me what you like best about the Camaro,” said the salesman.

“It’s a fast car. I like it for its speed.”

After some more discussion, the salesman learned the man had just started dating a cute college cheerleader. So what did the salesman do?

Simple. He changed his pitch accordingly, to push the hot buttons he knew would help advance the sale. He told the man about how impressed his new girlfriend would be when he came home with this car! He placed the mental image in the man’s mind of he and his girlfriend cruising to the beach in the Camaro. How all of his friends will be envious when they see him riding around with a beautiful girl in a beautiful car.

And suddenly the man saw it. He got it. And the salesman recognized this and piled it on even more. Before you know it, the man wrote a nice fat check to the Chevy dealership, because he was sold!

The salesman found those hot buttons and pushed them like never before until the man realized he wanted the Camaro more than he wanted his money.

I know what you’re thinking…the man said he liked the car because it was fast, didn’t he?

Yes, he did. But subconsciously, what he really desired was a car that would impress his girlfriend, his friends, and in his mind make them love him more! In his mind he equated speed with thrill. Not because he wanted an endless supply of speeding tickets, but because he thought that thrill would make him more attractive, more likeable.

Perhaps the man didn’t even realize this fact himself. But the salesman sure did. And he knew which emotional hot buttons to press to get the sale.

So, the moral of this story is that the buyer often does not even know why he is buying and how he is being influenced. And if you can understand your buyers in the way that the car salesman did here, then you have all the content you need to influence them.

So, a good salesman knows how to ask the kinds of questions that will tell him which buttons to press on the fly. When you’re writing copy, you don’t have that luxury. It’s therefore very important to know upfront the wants, needs, and desires of your prospects for that reason. If you haven’t done your homework, your prospect is going to decide that he’d rather keep his money than buy your product. Remember, copywriting is salesmanship in print!

It’s been said many times: People don’t like to be sold to.

But they do like to buy.

And they buy based on emotion first and foremost. Then they justify their decision with logic, even after they are already sold emotionally. So be sure to back up your emotional pitch with logic to nurture that justification at the end.

And while we’re on the subject, let’s talk a moment about perceived “hype” in a sales letter. A lot of more “conservative” advertisers have decided that they don’t like hype, because they consider hype to be old news, been-there-and-done-that, my customers won’t fall for hype, it’s not believable anymore.

What they should realize is that hype itself does not sell well. Some less experienced copywriters often try to compensate for their lack of research or not fully understanding their target market or the product itself by adding tons of adjectives and adverbs and exclamation points and big bold type.

If you do your job right, it’s just not needed.

That’s not to say some adverbs or adjectives don’t have their place…only if they’re used sparingly, and only if they advance the sale.

But I think you’d agree that backing up your copy with proof and believability will go a lot farther in convincing your prospects than “power words” alone. I say power words, because there are certain adverbs and adjectives that have been proven to make a difference when they’re included. This by itself is not hype. But repeated too often, they become less effective, and they take away (at least in your prospect’s mind) from the proof.

This article is courtesy of PLR content that by the time it reached me had lost the author’s name. If anyone knows who originally wrote this, please let me know and I’ll attribute it.

I wonder if Apple know… or care

Just how their emails are dispayed to the majority of Outlook users.

Here is what the new iPad email looked like to me in preview:

What do you think?  Is Apple missing a trick by constructing it’s whole message from images? This is what it should look like, once images have been downloaded.

But, how many people will download the images?  As it’s Apple, probably a lot, but are you doing the same with your email marketing?

And will your recipients also be willing to download your images in order to read your message?

Writing great sales copy 2 – Emphasize Benefits, Not Features

What are features? They are descriptions of what qualities a product possesses.

• The XYZ car delivers 55 miles per gallon in the city.
• Our ladder’s frame is made from a lightweight durable steel alloy.
• Our glue is protected by a patent.
• This database has a built-in data-mining system.

And what are benefits? They are what those features mean to your prospects.

• You’ll save money on petrol and cut down on environmental pollutants when you use our energy saving high-performance hybrid car. Plus, you’ll feel the extra oomph when you’re passing cars, courtesy of the efficient electric motor, which they don’t have!
• Lightweight durable steel-alloy frame means you’ll be able to take it with you with ease, and use it in places most other ladders can’t go, while still supporting up to 800 pounds. No more backaches lugging around that heavy ladder. And it’ll last for 150 years, so you’ll never need to buy another ladder again!
• Patent-protected glue ensures you can use it on wood, plastic, metal, ceramic, glass, and tile…without messy cleanup and without ever having to re-glue it again—guaranteed!
• You can instantly see the “big picture” hidden in your data, and pull the most arcane statistics on demand. Watch your business turn around in no time flat! It’s all done with our built-in data-mining system that’s so easy to use, my twelve year-old son used it successfully right out of the box.

These are made up those examples, but I think you understand my point.

By the way, did you notice in the list of features where I wrote “steel alloy?” But in the benefits I wrote “steel-alloy” (with a hyphen). Not sure off-hand which one is correct, but I know which one I’d use.

Here’s why: you are not writing to impress your English teacher or win any awards. The only award you’re after is sales, so take some liberty in grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. You want it to be read and acted upon, not read and admired!

But—back to benefits…

If you were selling an expensive watch, you wouldn’t tell your reader that the face is 2 inches in diameter and the band is made of leather.

You show him how the extra-large face will tell him the time at a glance. He won’t have to squint and look foolish to everyone around him trying to read this magnificent timepiece. And how about the way he’ll project success and charisma when he wears the beautiful gold watch with its handcrafted custom leather band? How his lover will find him irresistible when he’s all dressed up to go out, wearing the watch. Or how the watch’s status and beauty will attract the ladies.

Incidentally, did you notice how I brought up not squinting as a benefit? Does that sound like a silly benefit? Not if you are selling to affluent 50-somethings suffering from degrading vision. They probably hate it when someone they’re trying to impress sees them squint in order to read something. It’s all part of their inner desire, which you need to discover. And which even they may not know about. That is, until you show them a better way.

The point is to address the benefits of the product, not its features. And when you do that, you’re focusing on your reader and his interests, his desires. The trick is to highlight those specific benefits (and word them correctly) that push your reader’s emotional hot buttons.

This article is courtesy of PLR content that by the time it reached me had lost the author’s name. If anyone knows who originally wrote this, please let me know and I’ll attribute it.