Life’s Most Persistent Question

Martin Luther King marketing

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is,
What are you doing for others?”

Here’s a corollary: are you persistently offering your uniquely valuable brand of help to people in your marketing

People visit your website or brick & mortar store looking for something. They sign up for your mailing list because they need your expert insight and help with something they’re dealing with

Your emails are helpful. Your offers are helpful

Are you holding back?

Chances are, you’re not reaching out to your prospects, current or past customers enough. They need your help and you’re not offering it to them.

What would Dr. King say about that?

Here’s what I suggest:

  • Clarify my appreciation of your unique value and your understanding of your audience’s needs and desires
  • Confidence develops as a result
  • Commit to being a leader for your tribe, even when you feel like Moses in the desert…
  • Communicate like a leader, consistently and as compellingly as I can

Get Attention With These Not-So-Average Marketing Ideas

Attention Marketing

“Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing but nobody else does.” ~ Steuart Henderson Britt

Marketing your business using the same methods everyone else is using isn’t much better.

One of the biggest problems any business has these days is getting and keeping the attention of their should-be clients and customers. Another problem that many of entrepreneurs and solo professionals have is that they have no idea what to do to stand out from everyone else who’s trying to get attention (not just the competition).

Many also fear doing something they’ve never done before or something that seems risky.

During times like these, being bold enough to take risks and step outside of your normal comfort zone may be what it takes to make your marketing work. A lack of courage may leave you unnoticed and under-appreciated as the expert you are.

In his constant quest to share practical marketing insights, tactics and strategies, Steve Lahey invited me to share a few “outside-the-box” marketing ideas with his audience. Check out the 30-minute interview, Creative Marketing Ideas for Solo Professionals.

In the half hour, Steve and I spoke about 3 proven tactics that are rare enough to be ridiculously effective:

  1. direct mail
  2. “best buyer”/influencer outreach and
  3. a unique kind of live, in-person event.

If an injection of fresh thinking might rekindle the spark in your promotional efforts, I think this is a pretty good investment of your time. Even if you don’t use the techniques mentioned, the thinking behind them and the reasons they’re effective are sure to be thought-provoking and inspiring.

My personal philosophy of business and marketing comes out pretty strongly here, too.

I’d love to hear your feedback on the interview. I’d also love to hear about your favorite outside-the-box marketing ideas in the comments below.



Your Should-Be Customer Say “No” Because… (Pt. 2)

marketing criteria

[Read Part 1]

When people who should say yes to “you” say “no” instead, there is one overarching cause. Borrowing a few words (and an image) Dr. Harlan Kilstein shared someplace in cyberspace:

“The only reason you hear “no” when you are selling is because you haven’t connected your product to their highest ranking criteria.” Couldn’t’ve put it better myself — so I didn’t even try.

If what you’re offering doesn’t gain a position of ranking priority in your potential customer’s mind, you’re gonna hear a lot of nos. That shows up in a few different ways, one of which we discussed last week. We talked about how sales messages miss the mark if they don’t appeal specifically to the self-interest of the prospect.

Another reason people who should be your customers will reject you is because change is hard. When we’re selling our products and services, we’re asking people to

  • change from inaction to action
  • change from one course of action to another
  • change brands or providers
  • change their thinking
  • change their habits

People generally do not like to change and we usually try to avoid it, even when we know the results will be good.

Please, take 96 seconds to watch this video that illustrates the point wonderfully:

As the saying goes, we usually change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. And this is really the key to overcoming this reason people reject our selling messages.

Many times, we try to persuade tough prospects by piling on benefit after benefit and bonus after bonus. What we don’t realize is that the problem is not a lack of value (although extra value is rarely a bad thing). We oversimplify the persuasion process.

When people make decisions, they have to weigh multiple factors. As marketers, it is easy for us to only address two main categories: payoff of taking action and the cost of not taking action, i.e. the benefits they get from buying and what they miss out on if they don’t.

What we fail to consider is that, in the mind of the potential customer, there are HUGE benefits to inaction.

Changing is hard; your prospects most likely aren’t going to do it just because you offer a better alternative to what they’re doing now (which could be nothing). You’re going to have to paint the picture, taking into consideration the payoff of inaction and the cost of action.

how sales persuasion happens

Recognize that change is difficult for the prospect (just like it is for you). Acknowledge the fact, but put it in its proper perspective. “It feels good to smoke a cigarette when your coworker gets on your nerves, but is it worth shortening your life because he’s a jerk?”

The Cost of Truth

Sometimes we’re stuck in our ways. We like our way of doing things and seeing things. Even when we learn about a better way, we’re not trying to hear it. I was that way with the Dewey Decimal system. The Library of Congress classification traumatized me.

Speaking of books, how many book publishers, newspapers and magazines have gone bankrupt because they didn’t want to change along with the digital revolution?

“Everyone—yes, everyone—has an emotional attachment to their view, no matter how trivial. Some attachments are more easily severed than others. But they are still there.” ~ Abdu Murray

We have to realize that there’s more behind the “nos” we hear than a lack of value on our part. We have to explore ways to facilitate change.

Can that be done through marketing? Absolutely. We’ll get deeper into that in the future.

[Check out Part 3 now!]


You Should-Be Customers Say “No” Because… (Pt. 1)

marketing message

Who is the hero of your marketing message?

It is a common mistake for businesses to promote themselves by…promoting themselves:

“Quality Service and Affordable Prices”
“Over 40 Years of Excellence”
“Nobody Does XYZ Better Than Us”

Each of these statements has some degree of meaning. They’re fairly generic, though, and almost completely focused on the leadership’s opinion about the business itself (or how they hope to be seen by potential customers).

Marketing claims like these are not very persuasive, are they? Why not? Because consumers do not care about businesses; they care about themselves. They care about fixing their problems and getting the various things they want in life.

That is the key to connecting with customers. When a business is the main character in its marketing messages, it sacrifices a large part of its persuasive power.

The Reality: People are Self-Interested

The late David Wallace Foster, a renowned writer and professor, made the following remark in his commencement speech to Kenyon College in 2005:

“…everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe; the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centeredness because it’s so socially repulsive. But it’s pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth.”

I’m not saying it’s right. It’s just true.

Customers owe no loyalty to a business that doesn’t make their life better in some way. If that life-improving potential isn’t communicated in customer-centric ways, the business will probably be ignored.

People are self-interested. Businesses are self-interested, too.

Something wonderful happens when a potential customer hears exactly how buying a product will make his life better — in clear, specific, compelling language. He buys! That kind of message can penetrate the inward focus that dominates the customer’s worldview.

Emphasizing a prospect’s self-interest is in the business’ best interest.

how sales persuasion happens

“Results — Nothing Less.” Drayton Bird tells potential clients that they’re not paying for marketing or consulting (which they don’t care about). They’re buying the results they want.

“Income On Demand: The Simple Secret to Unlimited Stock Market Payouts.” Who doesn’t want income on demand? Rather than saying “Great Stock Market Tips,” Agora Financial adds emotional punch and begins telling you how easy it is to reach your objective: making lots of money on the stock market.

“Is Cancer a Fungus? Can It Be Prevented? Learn How To Help Your Body Destroy the Candida Fungus, Get Your Energy and Your Life Back” Specific, surprising and all about the reader.

Now, who is the hero of your marketing message? Remember, your should-be customers are not thinking about you. They’re looking out for their own best interest, not yours. (And rightly so!) They care about you only insofar as they can benefit from doing business with you.

It is in your best interest to show potential customers that you’re looking out for them and you’re uniquely equipped to help them achieve the results they want.

Check out Part 2!


When Business Gets Bloody

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

Writing was Hemingway’s profession. All he had to do to reach legendary status as a writer was bleed.

I don’t know what success looks like for you. I assume (which is usually a dumb thing to do) that you want to build a solid, profitable business, provide for your loved ones, gain the respect of your peers and attain some level of freedom. Maybe you hope to reach legendary status in your profession.

Take heed to Hemingway’s advice. All you have to do is approach your business or career with a willingness to bleed.

Pouring Out You

As a small business owner or solo professional, you probably know exactly what Hemingway means in the quote above. Your business is an extension of yourself. Day after day, you pour yourself into it. You’re committed to its protection and growth.

In many ways, identifying yourself so closely with your business makes you vulnerable. At the same time, that vulnerability also makes your business appealing:

Your values shine forth. The things that are important to you are the driving force behind the decisions you make. You’re willing to take a courageous stand for what you believe in, even when it doesn’t conform to the industry standards. This can have a polarizing effect; some people will love you and some will hate you. People who share your values and beliefs are more likely to become loyal customers and enthusiastic supporters than they would be if you “played it safe.”

Your “brand” is authentic. What the public sees is what it gets. And what they see is the real you — in the form of a product- or service-providing business. More than ever, consumers are looking for transparent brands to buy from. More than ever, inauthentic brands are shown for what they really are: hucksters more concerned with turning a profit than serving their customers.

It’s hard to connect emotionally (remember: emotion is critical to every purchasing decision) with brands that don’t seem authentic.

Your message has personality. Generic marketing stinks. Personality and uniqueness of voice will make it easier for your business to stand out from the robotic sounds of the boring majority. Your distinct voice will be more attractive to the customers you want to do business with most; your personality demonstrates that you’re one of them! You “get” them! The bond you form can be deeper, i.e., more personal, than anything that can be achieved with pricing or even product specs. I always refer to Apple because they’re a great example of this principle.

Your hard work pays off. If success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, how can you win without a willingness to bleed?

Not everyone who bleeds succeeds. But blood-letting usually precedes success.

Disclaimer: Pouring yourself into your business is no guarantee that you’ll succeed financially. It doesn’t even mean you’ll be fulfilled emotionally. All it guarantees is that you’re more likely to connect with the people you want to serve, partner with those closely aligned with where you are, and that if you do succeed, it will be on your terms, not someone else’s.

Good stuff from around the Web
Brand Your Business with Genesis Storytelling: Great 6-minute video from Tom Wanek on telling the “genesis story” behind your business

What Your Client Really Means by Price Objecting: “Your client just told you that they’re not interested in dealing with you, at least not on this subject. That’s not a price problem, that’s a relationship problem. And that’s a big deal.” Charlie Green tells us what’s really going on when a customer says “It costs too much.”

The Truth About Recycled Ads and Pickup Lines: What happens when you try to pour someone else’s blood into your marketing. Or dating. Great illustration from Chuck McKay.


Quote of the Week 63

“I think that some of the direct mail I get is spoiled by the old-fashioned sin of pride…it’s all too easy for us to start to feel superior to the great multitude of readers out there. And sometimes, without really meaning to, we write down to them. I think that this shows through in the finished product and turns readers off. So when I’m working on my stuff, I try to keep in mind two things from the Good Book of Direct Response. One: Write unto others as you would have them write unto you. Two: Pride goeth before a flop. – Martin Conroy


Quote of the Week 58

“You cannot perform in a manner inconsistent with the way you see yourself.” – Zig Ziglar

This quote by the master salesman and motivator also applies to how your potential customers make purchasing decisions.

They cannot buy brands, products or services that are inconsistent with their self-perception. This lesson will benefit anyone involved with selling or promoting their businesses or ideas, and everyone interested in communicating effectively and persuasively.

I discussed this concept in the Ophiuchus Effect and 5 Judo Moves Every Copywriter Should Know over at on Dean Rieck’s ProCopyTips blog. Here’s an excerpt from the latter:

“…how many millions of dollars does Nike make selling equipment to people who are athletes? How many more millions do they earn from those who dream of being athletes?

“Find out how your customers identify themselves. Use the insights you gain from that research to make your business and your offers more relevant to customers.”



Quote of the Week 57

It is not the critic who counts…The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena…who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt


Another Judo Move

There has been some great feedback on my post “5 Judo Moves Every Copywriter Should Know.” If you haven’t read it, please do so. I’m more than 99% sure you’ll be able to get at least one benefit from it.

So, how ’bout a sixth move to add to your judo repertoire?

Ancient Roman poet Ovid said that “Nothing is stronger than habit.” George Santayana is quoted as saying “Habit is stronger than reason.

So, if you can attach your product or service to a habit that exists in your marketing, you have a tremendous advantage: there’s a force of nature working on your behalf!

For example, you don’t see most cigarette lighter manufacturers do much advertising. They don’t really need to. They’ve attached their product to a habit/addiction. Smokers are going to smoke, and they need matches or lighter to make that happen. All a company has to do is put lighters where smokers can see them, and they’ll sell.

On the other hand, there are companies that create habits around their products or services. What percentage of people buy the same toothpaste every time, without even thinking about it? I bet it’s a pretty high number.

A researcher at Duke University published a paper in 2006 which found that over 40% of the activities we perform every day are habits, not conscious decisions. We’re not nearly as analytical and rational as we like to think we are!

Can you think of any ways you can use the force of habit as one of your best salesmen?

  • Become associated with something your target market already uses habitually.
  • Help your market engage in those habitual behaviors instead of trying to get them to change those habits (which is what a lot of marketing attempts to do)
  • Make it easy to form a habit buying from you.

Quote of the Week 26

Have ever started a new project or activity full of excitement, only to find your enthusiasm shrinking over the coming days and weeks?

I think everyone who has lived a few years has probably had this experience. It’s a pretty common occurrence amongst us humans, record-setting track athlete Jim Ryun has some advice for us.

“Motivation gets you started; habit keeps you going.”

Achieving the things you really desire in life will usually take hard work. We don’t always feel inspired to keep at it, though.

Most people you and I know mess up at this point. When the emotional charge that accompanies the early stages of a new venture dies down, we give up. We lack the willpower to push through.

The old proverb that says anything worth having is worth working for is 100% true. If you want to reach your goals in life, you’ll have to put in real effort.

Jim Ryun knows quite a bit about hard work. He set world records, after all!

His recipe involves forming habits to keep moving forward after the motivation wears off.

Roman poet Ovid is quoted as saying “Nothing is stronger than habit.” Even motivation.

What’s all this boil down to? You have some challenging goals to accomplish, right? You know you’ve either already felt that initial excitement or you soon will. Begin immediately to form habits that will continue to propel you toward the finish line when the feelings cool down. Be purposeful about it.

You will find yourself to be more successful than you’ve been at any point in the past when you’ve allowed emotion (or the lack of them) to dictate your actions. And you’ll probably outperform most of your peers that are working on the same goals.

Sounds like a good plan to me.