Julie Guest Direct Response Copywriter, Marketing Strategist, Best Selling Author

Marketing Mentor

How Not to Send an Email to Prospective Clients

The story that I’m about to share with you is highly embarrassing because it’s the worst example I’ve ever seen for how NOT to send an email and it comes from my home country, New Zealand. The story has made the rounds through many world media outlets including Yahoo, AP, Reuters, BBC, and many blogs (including this one) who continue to retell this story even though it happened a few years back. Here’s what happened: A New Zealand attorney named Paula Brosnahan, age 33, and her fiance Steve Hausman, 36 were looking at wedding venues. After visiting many different options they finally decided on having a cliff top wedding in the small town of Whangaparaoa (it is a breathtaking spot just north of Auckland.) In doing their research, the couple requested a quote to rent a marquee from a company called The Great Marquee Company. They had viewed the company’s website, seen the photos and had made an appointment to inspect the marquee in Auckland where they lived.

After inspecting the marquee, they decided it wasn’t what they were looking for. So they emailed a polite response to the company saying they would continue their search for the right marquee.

Here’s what it said: "Paula and I went and viewed your marquee setup at Devonport ... unfortunately we did not like it ... thanks for your assistance and we are sorry that it turned out this way."

The response that came back from the company’s office manager Katrina Jorgensen was shocking "Your wedding sounded cheap, nasty and tacky anyway, so we only ever considered you time wasters. Our marquees are for upper class clients which unfortunately you are not. Why don't you stay within your class levels and buy something from Payless Plastics instead."

Ouch.

That single email response from the office manager had no doubt been sent when she was having a bad day. It has now been circulated throughout the world and read by hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions. The next day the owner fired the office manager (who happened to be his wife) and virtually overnight his company was out put of business.

What’s the lesson? Thanks to technology, any and every communication you have with a client or prospective client can quickly go viral. It's not just email. Calls can be recorded, letters can be scanned.

What was supposed to be a "private" email has now been spread worldwide, and has destroyed a business, all because an employee got a little snappy with a customer and put it in an email.

Just imagine if this was your employee and your business.

If you say "My office staff would never do that." Reread the above example, and remember...the office manager was THE OWNERS WIFE!

Take Action: If you don't have office rules of engagement for writing communications to clients, do it now. ANY employee you have has the immediate power to create a problem just like the above one. I advise my clients to keep a folder of sample communications for office staff to follow.

Also, realize that email is solid documentation, if you aren't willing to have it broadcast to the world, don't put it in an email. That [forward] button is too close to the send button to risk putting anything out there that could compromise your business.

Even though there is no standard set for email and it is still considered "informal," make sure you and your staff communicate in a professional manner at all times through email, or otherwise, because you never know who is going to see, read, or hear your message.

The Disaster Beauty Spa Experience – 3 Things To NEVER Do In Your Business

bad fashion disaster retro cartoon bubble nightmare black and white

bad fashion disaster retro cartoon bubble nightmare black and white

One chilly October evening, I headed out of town for a bit of pampering (or so I thought). A client had generously sent me a gift certificate to the spa of my choice and after doing a bit of online homework, I settled on a “top medical spa” that was a 30 mile drive from my house and boasted anti-aging treatments with a “celebrity following.” I was skeptical, but the before and after pictures on their website were the best on the web (note the power of proof) and with all the late nights I’ve been working, I could do with a miracle fix for my skin. The problems with this place started even before I hopped in my car. There were a couple of not too favorable reviews which I had not paid that much attention to (I was hooked by their photos) and when I called to book my appointment I was advised by the curt receptionist that all appointments require a mandatory initial consult of $200.

Huh? Nothing on their website mentioned anything about having to first book a consult before a treatment. “The fee is halved if you book your treatment immediately after - the owner is the best skin guru in the state” she reassured me.

Ok, fair enough, but then make sure your website carries a consistent message. Not feeling warm and fuzzy about this place so far, I still went ahead and booked the appointment.

When I arrived, the spa was in a surprising location – not quite the high end location they made out to be on their website. The spa itself felt cramped and over cluttered to me. Another red flag.

I was ushered into a shoebox sized room surrounded by glaring lights and mirrors (make no mistake you could see every mark, line and blemish on my skin.)

In less than 10 seconds (a record for me), one of the hardest and most manipulative upsells I’ve ever witnessed began.

It went something like this:

“Gosh, you have some lines in your forehead, you should really be getting Botox there.”

Huh? I’d never noticed them before but I sure did now.

She then proceeded to put my skin under an even harsher lamp and a magnifier pointing out, inch my inch, everywhere I had issues. The list was so long that by the time the ordeal was over I felt like the only proper thing to do was wear a paper bag over my head anytime I’m in public.

Then, she came in for the kill.

They could custom tailor a specific program to address my clearing lacking skin for a series of weekly treatments that would cost me a mere $10,000.

I excused myself and couldn’t get out of the place fast enough. I don’t care if they are miracle workers, the way they conduct their business is entirely unethical in my view.

As an advertising copywriter, I am well aware of the power that lies in marketing and how the right words can compel someone to take action, or not. Understanding these psychological triggers and what compels people to buy is how I make my living. It’s also the reason why I refuse to accept a private client whose products and services I don’t 100% believe in and know people would be much better off by having. I have said no to casinos, tobacco companies and financial advisors who didn’t dare invest their own money in the funds they bought for their clients.

I choose to use my marketing powers for good.

This company chose to use its powers for bad: by employing sales techniques that were blatantly manipulative and highly pressured.

While outwardly this company seems to be successful, it’s only a matter of time before this will catch up with them, regardless of how good the before and after photos on their website are.

Here is the key point from this experience to apply to any business or practice:

Be consistent: Build a Relationship First My entire experience with this medical spa was reminiscent of the early 2000’s -when hard sales pitches were still tolerated. I guess no one had told them that the rules of marketing have changed. It’s about building a relationship FIRST, which this business was colossally terrible at. Now, granted not many businesses really understand how to do this properly, but if you know nothing, the one thing there is no excuse for is to not care. In this economy, the company who can build the strongest relationship with their clients or patients, is the business that wins. They have the most loyal following, the fullest practices, and can charge the highest prices and enjoy the best reputation among their peers.

In your business or practice, don’t ever lose sight of the fact that the real equity in your business is your relationship with the people you serve – which is most effectively built through the marketing you use, and the experience you deliver.

Marketing to Create Raving Fans Out of Your Customers

Here’s an insightful poem about advertising called Why Is It? (author unknown): A man wakes up after sleeping under an advertised blanket, on an advertised mattress, pulls off advertised pajamas, bathes in an advertised shower, shaves with an advertised razor, brushes his teeth with advertised toothpaste, washes with advertised soap, puts on advertised clothes, drinks a cup of advertised coffee, drives to work in an advertised car, and then, refuses to advertise, believing it doesn’t pay. Later when business is poor, he advertises it for sale. Why is it?

The need to advertise your business is clearly a no-brainer. But what kind of advertising, and how on earth do you break through the noise and clutter of everyone else and actually get noticed by the people who matter the most?

While a great multi-media, multi-step ad campaign will do it for you, or a cleverly written viral video – or any other form of meticulously crafted advertising – one of the most powerful ways to achieve this can be summarized in 5 simple words:

Create an extraordinary customer experience.

The good news is that this isn’t nearly as difficult as it sounds – mainly because the bar is set so low by your competitors. People have been let down so many times, they’ve come to expect it.  So when one enlightened business goes out of their way to really get the customer experience right – word travels like wildfire.

Here are a couple of great examples of businesses who have hit it out of the park:

CEO, Chris Hurn and his young family were holidaying at the Ritz Carlton, Amelia Island in Florida.  His son’s beloved stuffed giraffe “Joshie” accidentally didn’t make it into their suitcase for the trip home and got left behind. The young boy was completely distraught and Hurn, attempting to reassure him, told him that Joshie was just taking an “extra long vacation.”

When the Ritz-Carlton called him later to let them know that they’d found Joshie, Hurn asked if they could possibly take a photo of the stuffed giraffe on a lounge chair by the pool to substantiate the story.

The hotel complied – and then some.

Joshie-the-Giraffe

Joshie-the-Giraffe

Not only did they return Joshie along with the photo requested, they sent along a photo album complete with photos of Joshie getting a massage at the spa, taking a ride in the golf cart and making friends with other fellow stuffed animals at the resort. They even made him an honorary staff member and issued Joshie his own Ritz-Carlton staff ID badge!

Next, one of my private clients owns a small wealth management firm in Chicago. In reviewing some of their client demographics we noticed that a significant number of their clients were widows in their 60s and 70s. Each of these ladies now receive a large bunch of flowers every valentine’s day from the firm and a small but thoughtful birthday gift. You would think that some of them had just won the lottery! Such a simple gesture can mean so much.

The bottom line is that any business can make someone’s day better by doing something extraordinary. Extraordinary doesn’t have to mean big (although it can if you’re a go-getter and you’re ready to have your entire customer experience re-choreographed from start to finish.) Small acts of unexpected kindness can amount to the extraordinary.

It's all about making your patients, customers and clients feel important.

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

Is Detroit In The Toilet Or The Biggest Opportunity Of The Decade?

The first time I ventured into the “bowels of Detroit” as some people call it was just a couple of years ago. I had been summoned to appear in the Supreme Court (no, not in that way – but to get sworn in as a US citizen alongside the melting pot of new immigrants who mostly didn’t speak English.) When I drove my car in downtown Detroit it felt like I had left America altogether and was instead in some burnt out husk of an impoverished African nation.

A homeless couple barreled up to my car at the lights, knocking on the window and demanding money.

Vacant buildings outnumbered occupied ones, broken windows and “no trespassing” signs peppered the landscape and there was trash everywhere.

There was no doubt this was a city of “pure grit” as I had once heard it called – it had birthed the hugely talented and controversial rapper Eminem, Cadillac cars, Kellogg’s cornflakes and Carhartt pants to name a few. Clearly the burnt out husk of a city I was experiencing was a far cry from the glory days of the past.”

To make matters worse that same day, Michigan headlined in all the national papers. People were fleeing Detroit and Michigan in a biblical sized mass exodus.

Eek. Not exactly what I wanted to hear as a business owner who had just relocated my marketing agency here from Los Angeles.

But here’s where my experience of Michigan and Detroit varies widely from all the media. I have lived in several countries around the world, traveled extensively in the USA and called 4 different states home.

I can honestly say I have never been to any place where there has been such a massive pool of exceptional entrepreneurial talent.

No its not what you hear in the media, but its certainly been my experience.

These are the people who ignore the headlines, pay no attention to the news and quietly go about their work building highly successful multi-million and multi-billion dollar businesses (some of whom I am privileged to call my clients). Companies like Moosejaw and Domino's Pizza, La-Z-Boy and Herman Miller, Two Men and a Truck Moving Company and Quicken Loans, Jiffy, Whirlpool, and Gerber Baby Food, to name just a few.

Now the City of Detroit is reeling from having filed the biggest municipal bankruptcy in history.

“Have you been busy packing?” my colleagues across the border ask me gleefully.

Its really no different to my experiences of backpacking through Columbia or South Africa. The media makes these places out to be the worst on earth, but my experience is that reality couldn’t be further from the truth.

Michigan has soul and Detroit sure has heart.

The people from here are fighting to bring this city back tooth and nail. I met one Detroit native who ditched her high paying corporate job with Microsoft to take up a position in corporate philanthropy at one of the leading children’s charities “I was sick of people ragging on my city” she told me, “I’m here to make a difference.”

Seems she’s not only one. Just take a look at this ad that was run front page on across all the national newspapers a few days ago.

Julie Guest TV

Julie Guest TV

Some of the greatest businesses have been forged out of the toughest times – Thomas Edison founded GE in the middle of the panic of 1873 – a 6 year long recession. Hewlett Packard was founded in the middle of the Great depression. Bill Gates started Microsoft in his parent’s garage during the recession of 1973-1975. Revlon, one of the best-known cosmetic companies in the world, was founded in 1932 during the Great Depression. Brothers Charles and Joseph Revlon introduced their opaque nail enamel to the world, which sparked a business that became a multi-million-dollar enterprise in only six years.

I could go on.

Bottom line – one person’s adversity is another’s big opportunity… Whenever the media reports doom and gloom news, there’s a dedicated entrepreneur or group of individuals quietly working away and achieving success anyway.

It all depends on which end of the binoculars you choose to look through.

The Big Mac Belly Flop: Has McDonald's Committed The Cardinal Marketing Sin?

Usually, when I write about McDonald's, it's to uphold them as a shiny example of how a business should be run – systems based, very little is left to chance and everything is scheduled and automated as much as possible (especially the marketing.) But not this time.

Trying to shed its “Super Size” me image of a decade ago, McDonald's shrunk its elephant sized portions and rolled out oatmeal, smoothies, salads and added an apple to all its Happy Meals.

From March to July of this this year McDonald's also added Premium McWraps, Egg White Delight McMuffins, Blueberry Pomegranate Smoothies and new Quarter Pounders to its menu. The result? According to an independent survey McDonald's clocked its slowest average drive through time in its 15 year history at 189.49 seconds.

My take on it?

McDonald's have committed the cardinal marketing mistake of trying to be all things to all people. Seriously, who says “Wow! I feel like a nice healthy salad – let’s go eat at McDonald's." No one! They say, “I’m hungry, I’m hung over, I’m tired - I want a triple quarter pounder with cheese and an extra large fries double quick.”

McDonald's target market is and always has been people who want fast food: with the emphasis on fast.

McDonald's is still king of the restaurant business but its growth has lacked luster and its stock has under-performed in the last year. Unlike their competition, they haven’t had a blockbuster new product since 2003 (McGriddles) and they’ve strayed so far from their core menu that it's barely recognizable and it's slowing operations – from snack wraps for the millennials to raisin oatmeal for health conscious moms.

Here’s some free marketing advice for you McDonald's: you are never ever going to be perceived as healthy. Anyone who is truly health conscious holds their breath even when they drive past. Get back to your core market of die hard fast foodies and find better, faster ways to serve their needs (maybe with a little less fat but don’t tell them that). You serve 69 million people each year – forget trying to add new customers and just focus on getting the ones you already have to come back more often. That will equate to some serious double or triple digit growth.

You’re welcome!

The Best Lesson In Transforming A PR Disaster Into An Absolute Triumph You’ll Ever Read

Maybe you’re already well versed with who Elon Musk is – a South African born entrepreneur, father of five and one of the world’s youngest and most influential billionaires. His passion lies in technology – specifically taking well-established structures and throwing them on their head by achieving what others can barely even conceive of. He was the brains and co-founder behind PayPal, he’s the visionary behind Space X (a space exploration company revolutionizing rockets and outer space travel), and he also happens to be the CEO and CTO of Tesla Motors – who designs, manufactures and sells electric cars. Just about a week ago disaster struck at Tesla as one of their cars, while traveling down the highway struck a metal object and caught on fire – with the driver still inside. Below is a copy of the letter Elon wrote explaining the incident, as well as copies of the letter Tesla sent to the driver after the incident, and the driver’s response. They are the best example of turning a PR nightmare into a major triumph that you’re likely to ever come across. I have highlighted the parts of the letters in bold that are particularly insightful.

Tesla also released their correspondence with the Tesla owner who had the accident (released with the owner’s permission):

The market seems to like Tesla’s explanations with Tesla shares up an average of 4.4%!

The Pink Paint Story and The Home Depot

Pink Paint and Home Depot
Pink Paint and Home Depot

A couple of weekends ago I drove to my local Home Depot store in search of the perfect paint color for my 3 year old’s room (she wants pink!).  Now maybe you’ve never had to shop for pink paint before but let me tell you that the selection of different shades is enough to make your head spin.  There’s everything from a sickly looking Pepto‑Bismol shade all the way to an electric neon shade which surely someone was suffering from a nasty hangover when they gave it the rubber stamp of approval.  In all, there were over 40 different shades of pink to choose from.  But the decision‑making process was just getting started.  Once you pick your shade then you have to decide what quality of paint you want – primer, non‑primer, brand, non‑brand. The guy behind the counter wasn’t exactly helpful (he was going on break in 5 minutes and was counting down the seconds) and then I happened to spy the marketing materials  – a big fold‑out brochure which I grabbed.

What The Home Depot has done with their marketing is a kind of genius.  In less than 5 seconds their marketing told me which paint was the paint for me – using just 3 simple words:

“Good.” “Better.” “Best.”

Incredulous, I looked over at the rows and rows of paint brushes, rollers, paint trays. They had conveniently labeled everything in just the same way (and helpfully in Spanish).

“Good (bueno).” “Better (muy bueno).” “Best (mejor).”

Aside from the label given, there was no other explanation as to why this paint brush was labeled “best” versus the one to the right of it that was a few bucks cheaper and only listed as “good”.

Could such a simple marketing strategy work?

Are people really that trusting or that naive to spend more on a product just because of the “label” it’s assigned.

The answer is emphatically ‘yes’ backed up by some pretty impressive financial results for the company – last month they outpaced published forecasts nearly across the board,  its per-share earnings climbing more than 22% with U.S. store sales surging 11.4% from this time last year.  Now clearly it takes more than a clever marketing strategy in one area of business to post those kinds of results.

But The Home Depot is far more connected to the needs of its customers than any of its competition.

In a world where people are suffering from time crunch, information overload and huge amounts of stress, the company that can simplify the decision‑making process, wins.

So how can you do this in your business?

It’s simple:

1)     Build trust in everything that you do.

2)     Take away the complexity. While your competitors are thinking they look like the experts by overwhelming customers with pages and pages of unhelpful information, using complex and confusing language - you can be the hero by cutting through the clutter using simple, crisp language by showing customers a clear path in which to take action.

As Leonardo da Vinci said “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” ~

A Marketing Secret From Warren Buffet

The Oracle of Omaha has become famous for many things – he’s worth $39 billion dollars but chooses to live in a humble bungalow in Omaha where his property tax bill is just $13,859. In an industry filled with false promises and hot air, Buffet’s no nonsense approach to living simply has equally been applied to his approach in investing. In studying the businesses that Buffet buys, one of the biggest commonalities shared by over 80% of his investments is the way these businesses have approached their marketing. Given that Buffet is one of the world’s most successful investors, its amazing that more people haven’t delved into the marketing secrets of his investment choices. I have and here’s what I discovered:

Warren Buffet loves investing in companies that involve a high component of trust – either in the way they’ve built their brand, or by building a personal relationship with their customers (as Buffet has with his Berkshire Hathaway stock holders), taking a personality driven approach to their marketing.

In other words, Buffet loves investing in companies that really take care of their customers. He buys trusted companies. Not the kind that just churn and burn through customers – ignoring the ones they have in pursuit of new targets.

Here’s a powerful question for you to ponder in your business: what would your relationship have to look like for your customers to choose to stay with you, for life?

Inevitably a big part of that answer is going to be trust. Its all in how you approach your marketing. Trust is the overlay that has to govern every decision you make in your business, never compromised or sacrificed for any other objective. While such an important topic is worthy of far more than just a brief article – here are 3 top strategies to incorporate trust into your marketing:

1) Keep your promises. Sounds ridiculously obvious but its alarming how few businesses do what they say they will. If you do, your business will stand out immediately. 2) Be prolific with your marketing. Familiarity and regularity builds trust. Create a marketing plan that breaks down your marketing activities into weekly, monthly and quarterly events. Just like clockwork. Don’t take a shotgun approach to your marketing (ie; frantic periods of activity followed by …silence). 3) Use high trust media, not low trust media. It takes absolutely no effort to hit send on an email broadcast that’s sent to thousands. It takes a great deal more effort, thought and commitment to send a direct mail piece that makes the recipient feel like they’re “the only girl in the room.” Traditional media like direct mail STILL out pulls digital advertising for ROI. Don’t abandon it and run the risk of making your business look and sound just the same as everyone else.

The Ultimate Marketing Secret

fisherman
fisherman

I once heard this great story about a little commercial fisherman who fishes off a well known peninsula in New York.  This man has become legendary in fishing circles and I even heard it rumored that he was the guy who captured the great white shark which inspired the movie Jaws. Every morning Captain Jack heads out bright and early to go fishing. But that’s pretty much where the similarity between him and every other commercial fisherman ends.  Instead of hiring a big crew to help get his Catch, Captain Jack just has one lone deck hand.

And they don’t use nets to catch their fish.  Call him old school but he still prefers to use just fishing poles and lines.

But here’s the thing.

Every day, for the past 20 years, without exception, Captain Jack catches not hundreds of fish, but thousands of fish.

In fact he out fishes every single commercial fishing operation in the area, usually by multiple times.

It doesn’t matter what the tides are doing, what time of year it is, or even if the fish are “running.” Captain Jack seems to have the “midas touch.”

Over the years he has been interviewed many, many times about the secret of his success.

His “fishing secret” also happens to be the single most powerful marketing secret I have ever heard.

And its surprisingly simple.

Here’s the secret to Captain Jack’s success.  Think like the fish, NOT the fisherman.” And that is precisely the reason why so much money is wasted on ineffective marketing.

Its not tightly tailored to your target audience.  It doesn’t resonate with the way they think. It’s written with the way YOU think.

Don’t ever make the mistake that you are your customer or your patient.  You’re not.  You have far more knowledge, more experience about your product or service than the people you serve. You’ve forgotten what its like to be in their shoes – how nerve wracking it is to visit a specialist physician or to sign a listing agreement!

That’s why before I begin ANY marketing project, I invest at least 50% of my time researching my client’s target market before I ever start putting pen to paper to craft the right message.  Here are some examples of how I go about researching: Who are they?  Where do they live?  How much money do they earn?  Who do they work for? Do they go to church?  How old are their kids?  What publications do they read?  What TV shows do they watch? Where do they like to vacation? What’s the burning issue that keeps them awake at 2 a.m. in the morning?  Who else are they buying from? How do they like to buy? Who are they mad at?

I don’t even dare pick up a pen until I have a very firm grasp of who I’m writing for and how they think.  You write copy very differently for business owners versus employees.  You speak to a 30 year old man very differently than you’d speak to a 40 year old man.  Married women very differently than single women.  Moms very differently from “empty nesters."  Knowing and understanding these nuances makes all the difference to how effective your marketing is.

I recently took an ad campaign one of my private clients had been running consistently for the last 12 months.  As a prominent plastic surgeon he works in a fiercely competitive and price driven market.  This one particular campaign had worked ok for him, but he had noticed a steady decline in response rate.  I rewrote the campaign to specifically target boomer age women looking to refresh their image.  We changed the message, and the media he advertised in but most importantly I rewrote the ad in language that would specifically appeal to boomer age women.  Even I was surprised at the results. His overall campaign spend decreased by 30% but his ROI tripled.

Little hinges open big doors!

Think like the fish, not the fisherman.

Stupid Hot Air Balloons and Why Marketing Is NOT Art

About 10 years ago, I remember sitting in the room of a huge ad agency listening in on a “pitch” meeting. This ad agency was a big one. Their offices were sprinkled with crazy hairstyles, wild tattoos and uber-hip means of self expression everywhere you looked.

They charged top dollar to their clients and prided themselves on recruiting some of the “most creative minds in the business”.

I could hardly wait to hear what their genius minds had cooked up to promote my client – a huge company in the insurance industry, who had a new executive team in place looking to shake their market up.

My client had invited me to attend because there was a great deal of money at stake, and they were worried that their big agency wasn’t “getting them.”

Turns out they were right to be worried.

The ideas that were put forward were absolutely ridiculous. For example “Let’s float 100 hot air balloons with your brand on them above the city and have people dressed like spies (like Mission Impossible) belay down ropes into the city and give away free vouchers.”

Seriously?

You have a very generous 7 figure budget to work with and this is the best your team have come up with?

“It’ll be fantastic” gushed the account manager, his platinum cufflinks gleaming in the halogen lights. “The Media will go nuts over it, and we’ve never ever done anything like this before...”

Whoa Bessie. Back up the bus.

First of all “free press coverage” does not necessarily mean sales. You hope it leads to sales, but there are a lot of “if’s” in there –”IF it gets picked up by the press, IF it gets the right media coverage, IF the segment gets in front of the right target audience, and IF that target audience then decides to pick up the phone and call. Hope is not a marketing strategy.

Sure the concept was a cool, novel idea that no one had done before, but as Tom Cruise said in the movie Jerry McGuire “Show me the money!”

Despite what the vast majority of marketers and advertising agencies would like you to believe, marketing is not art. It’s not about being cool and creative. It’s not about winning awards.

It’s about getting you sales, immediately, today, and putting money in your pocket. Period.

I can’t even tell you how many private clients have come to us with a superb looking websites which didn’t actually sell.

While it looked great, there was no marketing message that socked you between the eyeballs within the first nano second, the copy was fluffy and vague, there was no sales funnel set up, no enticing opt in magnet, no personality infused ad copy and possibly worst of all – it looked practically identical to all of their competition.

None of this was their fault. The vast majority of web designers are just that – web designers. They know how to design a great looking website, but they know nothing about selling.

The entire premise for advertising can be summed up by the cranky but profoundly talented advertising mogul David Ogilvy, who said:

“If it doesn’t sell, its not creative.”

The Worst Marketing Mistake You Can Make In Your Business

When I made the switch from escaping my corporate job to becoming a freelance copywriter, one of the things I was most excited about was building my brand. I’d had come up with a snappy name for my business (Blazing Copy), created a cool tagline and I’d hired someone to create a logo.  Actually I agonized over the logo because I wanted it to be just perfect... it was after all going to be my brand which was what was going to attract clients to me.

Right?

Maybe you’ve thought the same thing in your business.  All you need to do to get more clients is to get your brand “out there” more.  Build a stronger, better brand than your competition so that way, anytime anyone thinks of needing what you sell – they think of you.

Sounds perfect in theory.  This is, after all, what big businesses all do to get big.  They advertise and build their brand.

Unfortunately as a marketing strategy for Solopreneurs, this brand-driven marketing strategy is fatally flawed, and is responsible for more business failures than any other one thing.

I’m about to shave about 10 years off your marketing learning curve and teach you something that I never learned getting a degree in marketing….

Using brand advertising or “position type” advertising is the single worst way for Solopreneurs to market their business.  It's ridiculously costly, inefficient and most importantly – IT DOESN’T WORK.

Why? Many reasons actually.  Here are the main ones:

1)    Building brand recognition is a marketing strategy used by big BIG companies who have hundreds of millions of dollars to spend on their advertising.  It's taken companies like Apple, Coca Cola, Louis Vuitton billions of dollars to build brand recognition and 30 - 100 years to get any kind of brand recognition.  You don’t have the luxury of having either millions of dollars or 30 years to start making real sales.

2)    Brand advertising is an extremely inefficient way to market a business which doesn’t necessarily result in an increase in sales.  It doesn’t even work for a lot of the BIG companies who do it (Ford was spending more than 20 million advertising on American Idol, meantime it was hemorrhaging red ink; Circuit City had a recognizable brand, so did Borders and Linens n’ Things).

3)    Brand advertising is NOT trackable.  If you’re putting brand ads out there, you have NO idea if they’re actually driving people to your business.  If they are working you don’t know, so how can you replicate the ads and get more out there?  And if they’re not working, then you’ve no idea either.  You might as well be flushing your hard earned marketing dollars down the toilet.  (Side note: this is why ad agencies are such BIG fans of brand advertising – as it's not trackable they can’t be held accountable for results either!  They’ll take the credit if sales go up (even though this is may very well be caused by something else, and they’ll point the finger elsewhere when their brand campaigns bomb).

4)    Brand advertising puts you at the mercy of your target market.  THEY get to decide when they’ll buy from you, which might be a month from now.  It might be a year from now.  This doesn’t help you any – you’ve got bills to pay, a family to feed and a business to run now.  You need sales NOW.  Today.

So let’s recap why doing brand based marketing for your business is a really bad idea.

Using your brand to try and market you business is a bad idea because it takes millions of dollars to make any impact in your market, it’s an extremely slow way to build a business (brand building takes decades), it's like playing blind archery with your marketing money because you’ve no idea if those ads are even working, and it doesn’t necessarily result in an increase in sales.  It also gives all the power to your target market, they get to decide when they’ll buy from you, instead of you being able to call the shots and compel them to take action, immediately.

So how then should you market your business?

Simply with one objective: to market in a way that enables you to make sales TODAY.  Right now.  Use marketing that is trackable so you can immediately measure ROI and know if it's a smart use of your marketing budget, AND market in such a way that compels your prospects to take immediate action.

This is what’s known as Direct Response Marketing.  It’s the ugly sister of advertising because it’s ridiculously effective, 100% trackable and it's only measure of effectiveness is how much money it brings in. Not how pretty, cool or creative the ad was.

Imagine that.  Marketing that really works to attract new clients and gets them to take action when you want them to act (and not when they feel like it).

Next week I’ll share with you inside secrets as to how you can quickly and easily start transforming all your marketing into Direct Response marketing.

Stay tuned!

How to Turn Mud Into Chocolate Mud Pies ...

"When written in Chinese the word "crisis" is composed of two characters - one represents danger and the other represents opportunity"  ~John F. Kennedy, address, 12 April 1959 Nearly a month ago a small tornado ripped through the sleepy town of Dexter, MI.  As with most tornados, it arrived with little warning and plowed a path of destruction that stretched over 10 miles, upending trees, houses and the lives of the people who live and work there.

Dexter also happens to be the city just north west of where I live.

And its where I keep my horse.

By nothing short of a miracle, the tornado missed the barn by less than ¼ of a mile.  The night the tornado unleashed its fury I got a text from the barn manager to say that despite the 135 mph winds, all people, animals and property were safe.

I happen to believe in miracles, and that was certainly one of them!

The next morning I yanked on my boots, hopped in my car and headed out there to double check on my horse.

As I approached the little town, the first sight of damage I saw was that it looked like someone had emptied 100 dumpsters worth of trash onto the branches of trees.  The damage got worse as I drove on.  It looked like a war zone and I felt like as if I was part of some kind of horror movie set on a Hollywood backlot.

King Kong had stepped on a car wash building and squashed it flat as a pancake.

A restaurant had its whole top floor ripped off.

Cars were overturned or wedged into the side of buildings.  Homes destroyed beyond recognition.

A somber parade of more than 30 huge landscaping trucks shuddered past me to begin the mammoth clean up task.

As I sat in the traffic jam, I felt sick to my stomach thinking about the local business owners.  Dexter has a thriving small business community, but how many would have planned  for this kind of catastrophic event?  Very few was my guess.  Most would have woken up that day thinking it was just going to be a regular, old Thursday.   Now, in one foul swoop their incomes had been severed, their homes damaged, and they had no idea when they’d next receive another paycheck ….

Except for one little business, that is.….

Which just so happens to be my favorite little coffee hut out there.

As I approached the lot where the coffee hut was located,  I noticed that unlike the rest of Dexter (which understandably was in a total state of shock and mourning), the place was a hive of activity.  The vibe, very upbeat.   Everywhere I looked there were people – in cars, out of cars, directing traffic, talking to each other…there was laughter even - police officers, landscaping crews, rescue crews, locals, volunteers…

In fact, you could say the place was rocking.

I also noticed that everyone seemed to be drinking coffee!

Turns out the little hut had survived the tornado but had no power or water.

That would have been enough to keep most businesses shut.

Not this little business.

The owner had brought in a mobile truck complete with generator, a portable espresso machine and a cash register. And someone had been up baking carrot cake muffins that were being handed out left, right and center.  Extra staff had been called in to help, and they were taking, and making coffee orders like crazy.

Never mind that the parking lot was strewn with debris, or had huge potholes which a mini could get lost in.  The staff were running around, taking orders, bringing coffees, boosting morale.

Talk about making lemonade out of lemons!

On one day I’m sure that little business made more money in a 24 hour period then it did the whole month prior.

That takes some “hootzpah, and some fierce bulldog determination to succeed no matter what.  I don’t know that owner, he isn’t part of any of my coaching groups at the Client Stampede, but I’m going to seek him out to hopefully interview him on how to thrive despite mountain sized obstacles

Reminds me of another favorite quote of mine…

"Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of equal or greater opportunity" - Napolean Hill

16 examples of irresistible offers to light your prospects pants on fire

The strength of a great sales letter really boils down to how irresistible your offer is.  Matching the right offer with your target market is often the one little hinge that can open BIG doors.  In my Client Stampede Ultimate Marketing Home Study Tool Kit I provide my exact magic formulas for how to craft an irresistible offer - here's 16  irresistible offers  out of my list of 47 in my Ultimate Marketing Toolkit you can easily "swipe and deploy" for use in your own business:

  1. Free information report, starter kit, demo, sample etc
  2. FREE with absolutely no strings attached
  3. Free trial converts to monthly billing or payment of product after X days – (Pay nothing now)
  4. Free Shipping
  5. Hold your check
  6. Time deadline
  7. Limited number of units available
  8. Bonus overload – stacked bonuses
  9. Early bird bonus tied to a specific response date
  10. Silly premium – mousepad, cartoon, t-shirt, coffee mug
  11. Mystery gift
  12. Basic/deluxe or good/better/best
  13. Accept payment on multiple credit cards
  14. Easy pay options (monthly payments)
  15. The more you buy the more you save – tiered discount based on amount purchased
  16. Different pricing based on customers promise of action (e.g. for testimonial or referral)

7 Easy Steps To Writing A Darn Good Sales Letter

You've gotta love the power of a great sales letter.  It's THE best leverage of your time and is like having your very own army-sized sales force, pounding the pavements for you, perfectly delivering your marketing message every time for less than a cup of coffee.  They never call in sick, never go on vacation, never ask for a pay raise and they'll work tirelessly around the clock for you 24/7, 365 days of the year. So here are 7 expert secrets to writing an extremely effective sales letter.

Secret #1  Create an attention driven headline that specifically speaks to your target market, arouses curiosity and answers the question in your prospects mind "what's in this for me?".  For example: "Using a Lawyer May Be Dangerous To Your Wealth" "For the Woman Who Looks Older Than She Is" "Former Hairdresser Earns $8000 a Month As A Real Estate Specialist" "How To Double Your Income in 60 Days Or Less"

Secret #2 Open your letter with a personalized salutation (the more PERSONAL you make your letter look and sound, the higher your response rate will be).  If you can't address it to the person directly (eg Dear John, or Dear Mrs McDonald), try using one of these salutations: Dear Friend Dear Neighbor Dear Fellow _______er <i.e. Golfer> Dear Colleague, Dear Reader Dear Frustrated Tax Payer Dear Valued Customer

Secret #3 Use a powerful "letter opener".  The first couple of sentences of your sales letter have to be really compelling to "hook" your prospects and get them to read the rest of the letter.  Consider these: Here’s you chance to... In looking over our records I noticed that you... Will do me a favor? Will you try this experiment? Here’s an amazing opportunity! I’m writing to.. Congratulations! Could you use an extra $500 a week? Frankly,I’m puzzled... I couldn’t wait to write to you.

Secret #4: Talk about Benefits, NOT just features in your sales copy.  Understanding the difference between benefits and features is critical for the success of your sales letter.  A feature is fact driven, a benefit is more of an emotional connection.  This difference is extremely important because people BUY ON EMOTION, THEN JUSTIFY WITH LOGIC!!!  For example a feature is this drill has 27 different drill speeds.  The benefit is that you can get your work done in half the time which means you get to spend more time relaxing on the couch, watching your favorite sport.

Secret #5 Use Subheadings, bold font, itallics, and underlining to create a "double readership path" Everyone reads sales letters differently.  Some people will read every word, others will skim read every paragraph, and still others will just read the headline, the opening paragraph and then maybe the PS at the end of the letter.  That's why you need to make sure the most persuasive and important messages in your sales letter are made to jump out at the reader and create a "double readership path"..

Secret #6 Make sure your sales letter contains an irresistible offer and a deadline to respond by (remember this offer should be bold, it should be different to anything your competition offers, and compelling enough to light your prospects' pants on fire).  Here are some examples of irresistible offers:

  1. FREE with absolutely no strings attached
  2. Free trial converts to monthly billing or payment of product after X days – (Pay nothing now)
  3. Free Shipping
  4. Hold your check
  5. Bonus overload – stacked bonuses
  6. Early bird bonus tied to a specific response date
  7. Silly premium – mousepad, cartoon, t-shirt, coffee mug
  8. Mystery gift
  9. Easy pay options (monthly payments)
  10. The more you buy the more you save – tiered discount based on amount purchased

Secret # 6 Include a bold reverse risk guarantee.  This is a very powerful copywriting technique to make it easier for your prospects to say YES than no.  Here's an example:

"You’re fully protected by our iron-clad money-back guarantee: If you decide that your <name> membership and <publication> aren’t for you, just let us know at any time during your membership period. We’ll send you a prompt 100% refund – every penny you paid. That’s a full refund, not partial or pro-rated. All the issues and the bonuses are yours to keep – even if you cancel. Could any offer be fairer than that?"

Secret #7  Use a powerful close to make your prospects whip out their credit cards

The way you close your sales letter is very important - it will determine whether your prospect puts your sales letter down to "think about it" or is moved to tale immediate action.  Here are some great examples:

"The next move is up to you. I’ve shown you that the <name of your product> is as risk-free as an offer can come. You and I both know that if you’ve read this far in the letter, you’re seriously interested in improving your business and personal income. All that’s left to do now is take action and call the number below to place your order".

"You really can’t afford not to invest in this course! Don’t you think you owe it to yourself to move on this incredible opportunity?  So what are you waiting for? Drop the enclosed card in the mail today."

That's it!  Follow these 7 simple steps and your sales letter will be MILES ahead of anything your competition is using!!!!

 

Got QR Code Fever Or Wondering How You Can Use QR Codes In Your Marketing?

QR Codes have lovers and haters.  The haters say its just another fad.  The lovers are using QR codes and laughing all the way to the bank. You be the judge.

Here's my view - it's new technology, it's a fast-growing technology, and if your target market has smart phones and are somewhat tech savvy then I think its great to find another media to connect with them that's low or no cost. Plus QR codes are a great customer involvement device and provide another call to action you can use in your marketing to get prospects to buy.

Here’s my favorite QR Code creator (some elements are free, others cost a bit): http://www.QRStuff.com

Here's a list of QR Code readers / decoders / scanning apps for iPhones, Androids and more: http://www.qrstuff.com/qr_phone_software.html

And most importantly, here are some examples of how you can use QR codes in your marketing to make more sales

  1. Business Cards Put a code on your business card containing all of your contact information and give them an irresistible offer
  2. Put a QR code On A T-Shirt Send them to a great landing page with a free introductory offer or low cost offer with big savings
  3. Use a QR Code as a "get more info" option If you have a physical store, put a QR code on products which when they scan it gives them additional info.  If you don't then you can use QR codes in your service menu or product menu to keep it uncluttered.  List just the main points of each product and service offering in your menu and then give them a QR code they can scan to get more info
  4. Put It On Your Website's "Contact Us Page" People take a picture of your page on the screen, put you in their contact list
  5. Put It On Your Instruction Sheet People scan it to get step-by-step instructions on how to use a product or service, or get directed to a video where you give them step by step instructions
  6. Use QR codes In Print Ads People scan to be taken to a specific landing page on your website
  7. Put It On A Campaign Sign, or a Poster Take people directly to your website - preferably a squeeze page so you can incentivize them to "opt in" and give you their info
  8. Put It On A For-Sale Sign Take them to a website with video and information about the item being sold - for example a house, a car, a boat.  You could even post this on a bulletin board.
  9. Use a QR code to Put It On Your Luggage Ok so it won't get you customers but it'll save you a lot of grief if your luggage ever gets lost…
  10. Send a Tweet Scanning it sends out a tweet
  11. Do A Location Login Put on every table and the walls of your restaurant, does a foursquare login or a Facebook location login
  12. Add To Your LinkedIn Page Passes your contact information or website
  13. Call Us To Place Your Order Scan dials their phone
  14. Send a Teaser Postcard Send a QR code to a potential client, which takes them to your website
  15. Put It On Your Conference NameTag Contact information or website
  16. Put A Backsell On Your Invoice Taking them to a landing page making a special offer to upsell them
  17. Paypal Buy Link Scanning takes them to Paypal to buy your item
  18. Promote An Event Scanning the QR code puts it on their calendar
  19. Announce Your Free Wifi Scanning logs them into your wifi account
  20. Put It In Your Powerpoint Presentation Build your list by sending them to a special bonus offer if they sign up!

What other ideas do you have for using QR codes?  Share them by posting a comment...