I Always Listen to My Clients, But…

“I always listen to everything my clients have to tell me. And then I ignore them… I write it the way it’s supposed to be, up to, and including, sometimes changing the offer without their permission.” ~ John Nicksic

So much for permission-based marketing!  …I’m kidding.

Seriously though, there an a few important lessons here. Today, I only want to talk about the most obvious takeaway.

No Disrespect Intended

If you’ve never heard of Mr. Nicksic, let me fill you in. He’s one of the highest-paid old-school direct mail copywriters around. He’s learned a few things about printed persuasion over the years.

When he says he ignores his clients, he’s not being a jerk. He’s simply using his best judgement as an expert in getting stuff sold. He explains it this way:

“I’m a much better direct mail copywriter than they are, so what do I do? I seize control of the message without asking their permission…

“I rely on the power of the copy I hand them for the first draft. I let them read it and see for themselves how much better it is my way than what they had in mind… They quickly see what I’m up to, why it makes more sense, and why it is time for them to readjust their thinking.”

It’s not an issue of hijacking the words that end up on the page. In most cases the copywriter is expected to lead that charge. The thing that needs to be changed is quite often the proposition itself.

Many business owners are sadly mistaken about how boring their offers are. If the product or service you’re selling doesn’t:

  • promise a benefit that gets the ideal prospect’s blood pumping
  • describe a danger hiding just out of sight, waiting to pounce and devour the ideal prospect
  • offer secret knowledge or exclusive access to something the ideal prospect wants to get his hands on

…or some other such exciting result, it will be next to impossible to write sales copy that’ll fix the problem.

Sales copy isn’t designed to make lame products exciting. It’s supposed to

  • extract the interesting and useful elements of a quality product
  • shine a spotlight on them and
  • draw buyers over to take advantage of the newly-exposed value.

A boring offer is a problem that needs to be fixed. Sometimes that means ignoring a client.

I Missed It Bad…

One of my clients had the opportunity to write an email to the subscribers of a well-known personal finance newsletter last week. (I’m excluding names to protect everyone involved, except myself.) The list was 29K strong, all paid subscribers. My client sells a product these subscribers KNOW they need. The tricky part is, a lot of them already own one.

Positioned properly, it could have been a slam dunk.

I spent 3 days writing a 300-word email that would planted doubts about the quality of the product they already owned, insinuated that there is critical information they’ve never been told and gave them access the “hidden truth” in a nonthreatening way.

The marketing director loved it and sent it up the chain for final approval.

The big boss vetoed the free info offer. Instead, he opted to go for the sale immediately with an educational but generic pitch.

The results: 28,987 emails delivered, 14% open rate (which I’m told is over 3 times the average for marketing emails to that list) and 6% click per open.

email marketing client

The number that matters? The email only produced 3 leads. That means only one in about 10,000 people who received the email became leads. When I checked on the results yesterday, none of them purchased the product.

I was bummed out all day.

70% of Copywriting Success Is in the Offer

Denny Hatch estimates that the efficacy of an online marketing promotion depends 70% on the offer, 10% on the list, and 20% on creative (copy and design).

In the case above, I missed it.

I could have taken a more aggressive stance, as Nicksic recommends. I caved without a fight, hoping to keep the client happy. As a result, a pretty massive opportunity slipped through our fingers.

Take note: Even with a great list and a solid product, you have to have an enticing offer.

P.S. I always advise clients and colleagues to make it easy for customers to take the first step. Going directly for the sale isn’t always the best idea.

What are you doing today to make it easy for your “should-be” customers to take the first step toward you?

 

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Writing Copy to Sell Your “Crazy” Offer

Yesterday we talked about turning your prospects into paying customers by making crazy offers. Did this concept haunt you the way it’s been haunting me? I hope you spent a good deal of time coming up with an almost too-good-to-be-true offer you can use to move potential clients from interest into action.

Ideally, you will come up with an offer so crazy, so compelling that you don’t need much sales copy (or pitching if you’re selling in person or over the phone). Start with a winning product or service and create a very valuable offer and you’re already most of the way there. Now the copy has an easy job. (Confidentially, this is one of the big reasons copywriters are picky about which projects they work on.)

But no matter how strong your offer is, you should still…

…Sell the Heck Out of It Anyway

Even though making the right offer to the right prospect is 80% of the battle, persuasively-written sales copy can improve response by 10, 100 or 1000%.

Here are 4 qualities that will add extra oomph to your copy:

Identification

Your message should aim for the heart of who your target customer is and how he sees himself.

Nike could talk about comfort, but their customers are athletes concerned with performance, so that’s what their marketing highlights. Lexus could talk about performance, but Lexus buyers are thinking about status. That’s what they showcase in their ads.

What causes one person’s heart to race may not excite the next person at all. Know your customers. Write copy that appeals to their sense of who they are and who they want to be.

Clarity/Specificity

Don’t be the least bit vague about what you’re offering. Tell them exactly what they’ll get, how long it’s available for, how they’ll benefit from their purchase, what to expect next, etc. Clarity creates vision; without vision there is no action. On the other hand, confused people generally don’t buy.

Bold Claims

The idea of under-promising and over-delivering seems to make sense, but it can be suicidal when it comes to marketing. These days, with so many sales messages begging for our attention, you can’t afford to be shy.

Don’t be afraid to make big claims, as long as you can back them up.

People are searching for the best answers to their questions, the best solutions to their problems. Imagine a dentist who marketed his services as getting your teeth “pretty clean.” How long will he be in business? Even if he’s the best dentist in town, marketing like that will ruin him.

Sincerity

Skepticism is at an all-time high. So is the volume of hype-filled sales pitches we see and hear every day. People are looking for providers they can trust. Any hint of dishonesty or shadiness will send most potential buyers running.

Sincerity is like a breath of fresh air. Almost no one is using it.

The less you seem to hype up what you’re doing, the more believable you are. You come across as honest and helpful instead of desperate and opportunistic.

Your Action Steps

1) If you haven’t come up with it yet, keep working on your crazy offer.

2) Write the first draft of your sales copy ASAP.

3) Test out your offer. Don’t be scared.

If I’ve ever shared anything on this blog that I think you should act on right away, this is it. Don’t let another day go by without considering the immediate and long-term effects this “crazy offer” concept can have on your business.

And get moving!

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4 Steps to No-Brainer Status

If your target market had to make an instant decision, without thinking, would they would still pick you?

The mind is always doing something, always focusing on something. We even dream while we’re sleeping. Your brain never really stops working.

My fellow Chicagoan James Ford taught me a very interesting lesson (inadvertently, through the radio). He pointed out that we often look for distractions to give our minds a break. We call that amusement. A-muse-ment is, literally, the act or state of not-thinking.

While I generally discourage the use of funny marketing messages, you should consider being appropriately amusing.

With that in mind, here are some amusing marketing ideas:

1) Make your offer a “no-brainer.” If your offer is just right, the prospect literally doesn’t have to think about it.,
It’s not good enough to have the best product on the market or to be the most logical choice as a service provider. Plenty of outstanding businesses struggle while waiting for the world to beat a path to their door to buy their better “mousetrap.” Marketing is still critically important, and the message it conveys must still engage the motivational drives and desires of the target audience.

There are several factors involved here. No matter how much a prospect wants what you sell, there are obstacles to overcome:

a) You have to be trustworthy. No doubt you’ve heard a lot of talk about getting potential clients to “know, like and trust” you. This is not only because we like to do business with people we like, but because we have a hard time doing business with people we don’t trust.

  • This is part of the reason marketers are enamored with social media, and it’s definitely the driving force behind Facebook Sponsored Stories and Google’s social search. You trust your friends, so when they “like” something, that something inherits some of that trust.

b) Your offer itself has to be credible. I imagine if you got a letter in the mail offering “Buy 1 Mercedes, Get 2 FREE.” It might grab your attention, but you’d dismiss the idea pretty quickly. We instinctively believe the saying, “if it’s too good to be true…” By all means, make the strongest offer possible, but make sure it’s believable.

c) Eliminate as much risk as possible. The plumbing in my house is not great. At one point, we had to call a plumber every few weeks. When we finally found a guy we liked, one of the biggest reasons he got repeat business from us was because his 90-day guarantee. If the toilets clogged up in that time frame, he’d come out and fix it for free.

How strong is your guarantee? Do you provide excellent customer service after the sale? Do you share additional information or resources to ensure customers enjoy every possible benefit from their purchase?

  • Make testimonials prominent. This form of social proof can be effective at communicating the fact that lots of people just like the prospect has had a wonderful experience doing business with you. What more is there to think about?

2) Get to know your audience so well that you can describe their needs better than they can, using words they’d use themselves. When people feel like you know them, trust comes naturally. Add to that a comprehensive understanding of the challenges they’re facing and the dreams they have, there’s no need for them to look to anyone else when they’re ready to buy. Choosing you is a “no-brainer” decision.

3) Find a way to make buying from you habitual, or attach your offering to the habits of your target audience. That which people do habitually, they do unthinkingly. Here are two terrific articles explaining the power of habits and how they apply to marketing and buying decisions:

The Power of Habit
How Companies Learn Your Secrets

4) Your offer must be obviously valuable. The more clearly you describe what the customer will get after he buys, how wonderful his experience will be, the less he has to justify the purchase to himself. The less internal negotiations have to take place.
The longer he argues, the less likely he is to buy. He’s also more likely he is to either ask for a refund or suffer from buyer’s remorse – a serious problem for repeat business and referrals.

Your Action Steps

1) Get to know what you really sell. Builders don’t sell structures; they provide safety, security, a feeling of family, the American dream, etc. Authors don’t sell ink on paper, but wild adventures and escapes from reality in packages that fit in the palm of your hand.

2) Get to know your prospects better than ever. Always remember, marketing is not about you – it’s about your would-be customers.

3) Speak to the soul. Go beyond having rebuttals for objections and answers for questions.

4) Work on ways to clearly communicate that the solution to your prospects innermost drives and desires is within their grasp – if they enter the door you show them. Help them see it.

5) Find effective ways to deliver that message.

This will take some work, but I can guarantee it will pay off in big ways.

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Create Hard-to-Resist “Packaging” for Your Product or Service

Presentation is everything.

Do you remember the episode of the Cosby Show where Vanessa introduces her fiancé Dabnis to Cliff and Claire? (This is one of my favorite episodes on one of my favorite shows.)

In the final scene, the newly-engaged couple is sitting at the dinner table with rest of the family. Cliff tells Dabnis, in very graphic terms, that they would never like him because of the way Vanessa “presented” him. Watch the scene, starting at about the 1:00 mark.

You can have the most amazing product or service on the face of the earth, but if you “package” it wrong, if you present it to potential clients on a garbage can lid (to use Cliff’s illustration), you’ll never be as persuasive and successful as you should be.

I had the opportunity to talk with the brilliant marketing consultant Steve Gordon about this very subject. When creating irresistible offers for your product or service, packaging makes all the difference in the world.

Invest half an hour and listen to my interview with Steve at http://stevegordonmarketing.com/how-to-sell-your-product-or-service-with-an-irresistible-offer/. It could mark a real turning point for your business.

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My Talk with Mark Fox

Yesterday, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Mark Fox, CEO of Sly as a Fox, LLC and author of Da Vinci and the 40 Answers. He’s one of the world’s leading experts on the subject of purposeful creativity. Oh, and he is former Chief Engineer on the Space Shuttle.

He enlightened me for 35 minutes and let me record the conversation.

Here’s why it matters to you.

We’ve talked about how improving your offer will improve the response you get from your marketing and sales propositions. Mark gives two of the best examples I’ve ever heard of “better than money back” guarantees. One involves a million dollar payout.

You can definitely learn something from these ideas.

The broader context of our discussion was how to become creative on purpose instead of having to wait for your muse to show up. We’re all well-accustomed to accidental creativity. But what if you could reproduce those times of inspiration predictably, on demand?

You’d start to see problems and obstacles dissolve right before your eyes.

On top of all that, I make a total anus out of myself in the first 5 minutes of the recording. I was so embarrassed I almost canceled the rest of the talk. I’m getting over my pride, because there is some really great content that I think you’ll benefit greatly from hearing. It’s worth the shame.

Check out the audio here.

You don’t want to miss this.

P.S. While you’re at it, you should go to Mark’s site. His is one of the only newsletters I haven’t unsubscribed from. He’s also offering the full text of Da Vinci and the 40 Answers in PDF form for free. No opt-in required.

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The One Change that Changes Your Response the Most

While I was still in school, I always enjoyed math class. I’m feeling a little mathematically inspired right now.

Remember word problems? Let’s work through one together. We’re going to combine two direct marketing axioms to see what we come up with.

#1. “If you want to dramatically increase your response, dramatically improve your offer.” – Axel Andersson

#2. Ed Mayer’s 40-40-20 Rule. Mayer gives us a breakdown of what determines the success or failure of a direct mail package which I’ve found applies to pretty much any marketing message. Simply stated, 40% of the effectiveness of the message depends on the quality of your list. One thing I talk about all the time is understanding your target market so that you can communicate with them in the most compelling way. 40% of the effectiveness comes from the quality of your offer, and 20% from the creative (copy, design) itself.

(Side note: Denny Hatch estimates that the ratio is 70% offer, 10% list, 20% creative for internet direct marketing.)

We see that Andersson and Mayer are really agreed on the point. If you want to get the biggest bang for your buck in response to your marketing efforts, you must improve your offer. Pretend you’re the Godfather and make your customers an offer they can’t refuse. Claude Hopkins said that “The right offer should be so attractive that only a lunatic would say ‘No’.”

Using the same logic and math, you’d get identical or very similar results by improving your list. But taking that approach is less controllable. Once you know your customers really well, there’s not much you can do to improve your list. You can almost always improve your offer. You can nearly always give more.

Don’t tell any of my copywriting colleagues that I’m letting the 40-40-20 Rule out of the bag. According to Mayer, the creative part of your marketing has less effect on response than the other elements. So rather than running out to hire one of us, or trying to rewrite your message yourself, give your offer priority. Then focus on your list of potential buyers. Make sure you’re giving as much as you can profitably offer to an audience whose desires, fears and problems you are increasingly familiar with.

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