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

Marketing Tools

The Best Little Restaurant You'll Never Eat At

This past weekend I ate a restaurant that had a “C health-sanitation rating. A long electrical cord hung from a light bulb in the ceiling. The blinds, half broken, did their best to keep out the sun’s rays. The tables, made of formica looked like something straight out of Granny’s kitchen, the mis-matched wooden chairs had surely been rescued from the Salvation Army’s give-away pile. The floor – large grey linoleum tiles that were cracked and faded - had certainly seen better days. The walls covered with yellowing newspaper cut-outs and old horse posters really made you feel like you were walking back in time 40 years. And the menu (don’t expect any at the table), was scribbled on a white piece of paper in sharpie and scotch-taped on the wall.  

Yet the place was packed, wall to wall on a Sunday morning – the atmosphere electric and excited as horse-people from practically every discipline tucked into freshly cooked bacon, Southern-style grits and a stack of French Toast so high it was difficult to see across the table. The owners, who work 7 days a week, welcome you with a smile that is worth driving three hundred miles to receive as they peek out from amongst their piles of dirty dishes, grease smattered walls and happy chaos of a kitchen.

This place is an institution for horse people. It has been for the last 30 years. In a world that is over-sanitized, over-modernized and over-sensationalized, this little restaurant is a happy antidote. It has succeeded despite the odds, not because it’s the best place to eat breakfast in town (it isn’t). But because they treat people the best. They remember your name. They ask you about family. There’s no air of pretention. But make no mistake – the success of this business is no happy accident.  This family understands perfectly their target market and what they need:  a good, hearty breakfast served fast – with a sense of belonging.  

track kitchen.jpg

That brings us to your business.  How well do you understand your target market and what their needs are? If you stripped away “all the bells and whistles”, would your business still be successful because of the experience you deliver?

Step 7 of the Client Stampede Formula is – deliver an extraordinary experience.  This little track kitchen has this nailed, so much so that if the health authorities tried to shut them down there would probably be a revolt at the licensing authority. 

How can you engender that kind of loyalty and culture in your clients?  

It’s food for thought!

5 Easy Ways To Get Your Prospects Off The Fence

“I like to think of sales as the ability to gracefully persuade, not manipulate, a person or persons into a win-win situation.”-Bo Bennett (author, businessman and motivational speaker)

Umm let me have a think about that and I’ll get back to you,”

How many times has someone told you that? (Of course you never hear back from them again.)

If you’re getting push back from your prospects about your prices, or stalling tactics – then this article is for you. The good news is that it likely has nothing to do with your prices or your abilities but it has everything to do about your actual sales process and how you market your business. It’s likely you either don’t have a good one, or you have gaping holes in the one you’ve got that are making people clamor to safety.

The simple truth is that most people tell you “they’ll think about it” for 2 basic reasons:

1) You haven’t given them enough information to enable them to make an informed decision

2) You haven’t given them a compelling reason to jump off the fence now (as opposed to next week or next month)

Here are 5 easy ways to strength your sales process,improve how you market your business, increase your conversion rate and help more people make better decisions about using your services:

1) Prior to any sales appointment or big in person meeting, send them a “Shock n Awe” kit. This kit contains valuable information about your services, your clients and your accomplishments. In every way it should surprise and delight the prospect – think of including an expert audio CD, a special white paper you’ve written on a topic of interest, a copy of your book. Get creative and make this a fun package for people to receive.

2) Script your sales process. Forget “winging” the call. Every top salesperson in America uses sales scripts (usually memorized). Its because they work. Most people don’t even prep before an important sales call, let alone use a script. If this is you then its time to tighten up your process, get some sales scripts crafted and watch what a difference it makes to your conversion rates.

3) Follow up after the call. Just because they say "no" on the phone, doesn’t actually mean no. It just means "not now."Once someone has raised their hand, keep marketing to them again and again. Use a combination of email marketing (better than nothing) and creative “drip” direct mail campaigns (the most persuasive).

4) Make them an offer they can’t refuse. Give them a reason to jump off the fence today. Otherwise expect them to “stay put” until they feel they’re ready (by which time you might be old and toothless).

5) Take away the fear for them. Everyone is petrified of making a wrong decision, especially in business. No one wants to waste their money on a lemon and sadly because so many businesses are mediocre at best – most people buy expecting to be disappointed. In my copywriting and consulting business, practically every client we work with has horror stories of working with other marketing companies. Big promises, poor delivery. Impotent sales copy that completely missed the mark. Missed deadlines, bad quality, horrid graphic design – the list of battle scars is long in our industry. So we flip this on its head, and instead of expecting our clients to take all the risk by using our services – we take on the risk by guaranteeing our services. Either they love working with us and are thrilled with the results or we’ll refund their money. That’s unheard of in our industry. But you can see how it immediately takes the fear away for a prospect. If you truly believe in the value of what you do then why wouldn’t you offer a bold guarantee?

A Clinical Marketing Lesson From a Smoking Doctor and Maya Angelou

Smoking Doctors

Smoking Doctors

Take a look at this great old vintage ad I found on the internet. My how times have changed — and advertising along with it!

But some things haven’t changed in advertising, namely, the same basic human desires need to be fulfilled today just as much as they did 50 or even 150 years ago: better health, improved appearance, praise from others, social advancement…

The great late writer Maya Angelou, who passed away this week, had this great quote to say which applies to your business marketing as much as it does to our lives:

“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.”

Really effective marketing evokes feeling. It’s not just about getting your name out there, but getting your prospective clients or customers to feel something that then propels them to take action — a desire to look better for their daughter’s wedding, a desire NOT to look like their mother did when she was their age.

Would this cigarette ad have evoked feeling back in the 50s when it ran? Absolutely. Actually it was one of Camel’s most successful ad campaigns. It’s a statement about class, about sophistication. It speaks to that innermost desire we all have to win other people’s approval. It evokes feeling.

The worst way to market your business is to use marketing that doesn’t evoke feeling, that’s simply fact-based. People don’t buy based on facts. We buy based on feelings and then justify with facts (if you don’t believe me then just look at all the luxury cars on the road — cars get us from A to B — if we all bought based on facts we’d likely all be driving inexpensive Hondas). People won’t choose your business necessarily because your qualifications are superior to your colleagues. They’ll certainly use your qualifications as a justification once they’ve made a decision, but they’re far more likely to decide based on the softer stuff — how you come across on your website and whether you seem like a nice person who genuinely cares.

The worst kind of marketing you can use in your business is the kind that makes a person feel nothing. It’s boring. It’s dry. It’s…well, easy to ignore.

On your drive home tonight and over the weekend, start paying attention to the ads you see, and think about what kind of emotion they evoke. But most especially, pay attention to the things that you buy and ask yourself, “What really made me buy it?” You might be surprised at the answer.

How a Painted Moose Can Help Your Marketing (Seriously)

Last week I was consulting with a client in Salt Lake City. I love the mountains, and I especially love mountain towns (I spent a lot of time in Squaw Valley, CA, as a student). I’ve never been to Park City, so after the consult day with my client was wrapped up, I grabbed my rental car and took a sunset drive through the winding canyon toward Kimball Junction and Park City. The area of Park City is deceptively big – big enough to have a Wal-Mart, all the major fast food stores and its own shopping mall. But it’s old town Park City that has all the charm (and hosts the Sundance Film Festival every year). Right before I got to Main Street I saw on my right hand side something that absolutely demanded my attention. It refused to be ignored.

Here’s what it was: a statue of a moose. OK, nothing remarkable about that, especially in these parts.

But here’s what made it stand out – it was painted GOLD and had an assortment of hand-painted dogs on it – some wearing bandanas, some not. Right next to a red fire hydrant. Outside a busy store.

Huh? As a dog lover, an art lover and a marketing nut I had to pull over to take a closer look. The store the moose belonged to had won. In an extremely colorful, frenetically busy mountain town with eye candy everywhere, this moose stuck out like a sore thumb. And now, almost a week later I’m writing about it to you in this blog post.

How a Painted Mooose can Help Your Marketing

How a Painted Mooose can Help Your Marketing

Your marketing has to be just like this moose. Different. Eye-catching. Innovative. It’s about taking something familiar and breathing new life into it.

Let’s say you’re a physician who specializes in aesthetic medicine and you’re doing a promotion for non-invasive body contouring, like Venus Freeze or Cool Sculpting. You don’t have to look very far in your own market to see that your competition is running practically the exact same ads as you are. The ones, most likely that the company who invented the technology provided you with. Sure, those stock ads are better than nothing, but the problem is that people have seen them all before. It’s just a plain looking moose sculpture, and it makes you blend perfectly into your surroundings.

Your marketing has to stand out. Don’t look to your competition to copy their ads. Look outside your profession at completely different industries for examples of great marketing. Great marketing is...great marketing, no matter where you see it. What stopped you in your tracks? Who have you bought from recently? How can you use these ideas to market your business?

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.”

Don’t Bother With This Kind Of Marketing

There’s a famous advertising quote that goes something like this “half the money I spend on my advertising is wasted.  The problem is I don’t know which half!” But that’s only part of the problem.  With all the marketing hokem out there, its harder than ever to discern what kind of marketing you should be doing and where to invest your money for the biggest marketing bang.

It’s time for some plain talk marketing.

’m not going to presume I know your business and tell you exactly what you should do.  I can’t.  There’s no such thing as a one size fits all marketing plan.  Every business is unique and requires a very specific marketing prescription to tap into new markets and connect with new customers.

But I can tell you what kinds of marketing you should not be doing.  These are universal, applicable to each and every business because they’re either hopelessly outdated, or were never effective in the first place.

Here’s a quick Marketing black list to avoid at all costs:

1.)     Avoid broadcast marketing messages that are “pushed” out to everyone and anyone.  Generic marketing is well and truly dead.  Welcome to the age of specialized marketing – using tightly targeted messages to reach specific audiences.

2.)     Avoid any marketing that isn’t trackable and measurable.  You need to know to the penny what the effectiveness of your advertising is.  If you don’t know, then you’re going to need to sharpen your psychic powers, because how else will you know if it’s actually working?

3.)     Avoid plain old brand ads.  The world is cluttered enough.  Truly, no one cares about how cool your logo looks, or what your tagline says.  Every ad has to answer the old question for your customer “what’s in it for me?”.

4.)     Avoid any kind of marketing that even remotely looks like what your competitors are doing.  If you can remove your brand from an ad or your website and insert your competitor’s, and no one could tell the difference – that’s a giant fail.  How are your customers supposed to choose you above everyone else if you look the same?  Make it easy for them by making your marketing different.  Truly distinctive.

A Brilliant Laundromat Marketing Strategy You Need To Swipe For Your Business

There are only about 2 or 3 laundries in New York City that specialize in laundering and hand ironing expensive bed linens, from companies like Charlotte Thomas Bespoke, Frette, Pratesi, etc.

Their prices (as you’d imagine) are a lot higher than your average dry cleaner’s – starting at $50 and up per sheet.Of course, if you can afford to spend $300 - $3000 for a single sheet in the first place these prices won’t scare you.

Here’s what one of these high end laundries does to separate themselves from the competition and give their customers an actual ‘experience’ rather than just a service.

Instead of returning the linens in cling wrapped, clear plastic (which is the norm), one savvy company wraps them in thick, colorful tissue paper tied with a wide, multi-striped grosgrain ribbon around them, and a polka dot gift tag with the owner’s name handwritten on it – just like a present.

Not only does this look amazing, but the psychological message it delivers is that this is a gift – triggering the happy response we all get from being handed an unexpected present.

What can you take away from this to do in your business?Think about a service or product you offer and come up with 3 ways you can pleasantly shock and surprise your customer – the more unexpected the better.

You’ll be amazed at how just the smallest things can make a big difference!

A Dave Matthews Band Marketing Lesson

Last week I finally went to my first Dave Matthew’s Band (DMB) concert. I’ve been a big fan of this group for the longest time – in fact, the first time I heard them was about 18 years ago when I was traveling through South Africa and their 2 big hits “Satellite” and “Crash” were getting some serious air time over there.

Its pretty shocking that its taken me 18 years to get my rear in gear and hear them live. Especially since I love going to hear live music.

It was worth the wait. The concert was excellent, but of even greater value to me was the big marketing lesson I saw unfold before me.

To date, The Dave Matthews Band is only the second band in U.S. history to have 5 consecutive #1 songs (Metallica holds the lead position). They sell out the world’s biggest arenas on a regular basis and according to one source grossed more revenue between 2002-2009 than any other band in America.

Not too shabby for a group of musicians who started out in a sweat, smoke and grime filled pub in Charlotte, VA.

But from the very beginning, Dave and his guys set about building their band, their brand and their business their own way.

Instead of trying to chase down a recording contract in the hopes of building a fan base – they built a fan base first. Pretty genius. They toured college campuses and gave away copies of their music for free. Word quickly spread and an extremely loyal fan base sprung from grassroots.

Today DMB fans are some of the most passionate, quirky and fiercely loyal fans on the planet. They regularly crash servers flooding to buy pre-release tickets and campout 24, 48, and 72 hours outside venues the band plays at.

I got to see some of this first hand at the concert.

A couple rows in front of me there was a guy wearing a make shift psychedelic headband and a home made t-shirt that proudly said DMB – My 100th Concert!

I saw a LOT of DMB tattoos on arms, legs and backs (including an extremely impressive almost full body tattoo with a picture of each band member and all their album artwork). And the line up outside the concert merchandise store had at least 100 people waiting to drop $200, $300 even $1000 on limited edition band merchandise.

Developing this kind of rabid and fiercely loyal customer base is the holy grail of marketing for ANY company.

DMB fans will devour anything and everything the band puts out.

Their revenue is only limited by their capacity to produce. They have a guaranteed market for a product even before its created.

How many companies can say the same?

So how have Dave and his guys managed to get to this supreme position?

By ardently following a few criticalmarketing rules which can be replicated by anyone.

1.) They refused to hide behind their brand and kept their personalities at the forefront of their marketing and communication with their fans. This is known as Personality Infused Marketing™ - one of the most powerful ways to build both a memorable brand and a base of raving fans in record time (covered in more detail in my Client Stampede Ultimate Marketing Toolkit).

2.) They haven’t reduced their marketing. After enjoying 15 years of sold out arenas and chart topping success, many people in their shoes would be tempted to pull back on their marketing, the number of concerts performed, the number of public appearances given because they’d “made it”. Not DMB. Despite being one of the most successful bands of all time they have never taken the foot off their “marketing gas”. If anything, they’ve actually increased it.

3.) They constantly innovate – they’re experimenting with different “looks”, different sounds, different marketing methods to reach their fans. DMB was one of the first bands to start using social media. They were also one of the first bands to introduce a customer “loyalty program” and today are one of the few bands smart enough to use direct mail to reach their most ardent fans.

Building a customer base of raving fans is the holy grail for your business – and is much easier to achieve that you might think. But it does require you going against the grain and doing those things that your competitors aren’t prepared to do!

The 5 Helpful Marketing Tips to Write Better Ad Copy

Tucker the American Bulldog (my other partner in crime) has been hurling his guts out for the last couple of days.  Must have eaten something iffy.  So I have to make this week’s article short – I’ve got one eye on him now to make sure he doesn’t chuck up on Bella, (my favorite bean bag) while I’m talking to you. Short n’ Sweet, here it is: 5 Copywriting Tips to Write Better Sales Copy.

  1. Fall in love with your product or service.  If you don’t love it, you can’t sell it.  Ask my Mom about that one (she refuses to work with any client who doesn’t wholeheartedly believe in what they’re selling).
  2. Know your target market.  Study ‘em, sniff ‘em, scout ‘em out.  If you don’t really understand them you can’t sell to them
  3. Don’t ever be boring.  If your first paragraph doesn’t get you all hot and heavy and lathered up into a frenzy, then don’t expect your prospects to feel any differently.
  4. Don’t try and impress with big fancy words. Using big words don’t make you look like a Top Dawg, they make you look like a douche.  Talk so people can understand you.
  5. Be very clear what action you want someone to take.  Should they go fetch a stick?  Bark at the neighbor’s dog next door?  You decide what that is, but whatever it is, spell-it-out.  People aren’t as smart as you think.

That’s it from me!  Adios-ruff!

Bear

How To Make Selling To Your Prospects Effortless (Without Feeling Like An Icky Used Car Salesman)

Do you love owning your own business but when it comes time to actually getting people to buy from you – you feel about as comfortable as a Rich Arab Sheikh riding the subway? Maybe you have lots of people who “like” you.

You’ve got stacks of business cards from people you’ve met at networking events.

You’ve even got a pretty large number of people who’ve told you they’re interested in what you’ve got to offer.

But here’s where you come a bit unplugged.

You hate selling.

You don’t want to be seen as someone pushy.

You think to yourself…”well, I don’t need to sell to them because they’ll buy when they’re good and ready to…

Actually they won’t.

Most people won’t buy from you if you leave them to their own timeframes, no matter how much they like you.

Why?  Because we all procrastinate.

I agree that selling the traditional way is icky, sticky work.

In fact it’s revolting.

Who wants to feel like they’re pushing products on people, who likely are backing away just as fast as we’re moving towards them. If any part of my work involved this kind of selling I would likely be off living on a ranch somewhere shoveling horse poop for a living.

The good news is that with this new economy we’re in – the old way of selling is OUT, OUT, OUT (though many are still teaching it).

And the new way of selling?  It isn’t actually “selling” at all.  It’s SERVING and it’s got a whole different emphasis and a brand new set of rules to follow which are essential for survival in these unprecedented times.

Here are 3 easy steps to doing it:

1.    Start off by asking yourself?  Is the world a better place because of the work that you do?  If the answer is yes (as it must be or you need to do something else), then you’re making people’s lives better.  So it follows that if you don’t offer your products and services to people you’re actually doing them a disservice.  They NEED YOU.  Great businesses are hard to find.  People need to know about what you do and how you can help them solve their problem.  This isn’t selling, it’s serving.  Make the mindset shift on this one and you’ll never ever “sell” another day in your life. 2.    Always begin a new relationship by offering VALUE first.  Educate your prospects about your services.  Develop a rapport with them and give them such an incredible experience that the next logical step will be for them to ask YOU “what’s next?  How do I buy from you?” 3.    Listen first, then speak.  The old way of selling is about speaking first – pushing your products to prospects.  There’s no two way conversation.  There’s no listening to  what their needs are and then offering a solution.  Always start with their needs first – not yours.

Follow these 3 easy steps the next time you find yourself in a “sales” situation and you’ll be amazed at how effortless and easy the whole process becomes!

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!