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

customer retention

Marketing: How to Beat the Pricing Bugaboo

Pricing is a very sticky topic among just about every solo business owner I know. That’s because when we started our businesses, we had no idea what to charge, but we were told that there are market “norms” – amounts that people will, and won’t, pay for things.

So we take a peek at what our competition is charging – we charge the same, or most commonly, we charge less than the competition, to make our prices look competitive.

There are a couple of major flaws with this strategy…

First, if we let the market dictate the prices we charge and how we charge them – then we’re effectively letting other people set our income.

I once did some consulting work for a printing company that told me they couldn’t change their prices because there were industry guidelines that “set” their prices!  Huh?!

You’re the entrepreneur!

You’re the captain of your own ship!

One of the GREATEST things about working for ourselves is that we don’t have to play by anyone else’s rules.  There’s no boss breathing down our necks watching how long our lunch hour is, or deciding if we deserve a pay raise.

Now we get to make the rules including what we think the value of our services are. Lesson 1: don’t let anyone else tell you how you should “price” your services and determine your income.

Here’s the second problem. Most people only know one way to market their business – based on price.  Being the cheapest in your marketplace is a very dangerous, a very stressful and very unstable position for your business to be in.  Here’s why:

1)    Because someone more desperate and more hungry than you can ALWAYS undercut your prices.  Having a value proposition that you’re the cheapest has never worked long term for any business (perhaps with the exception of Wal-Mart, who has become the1000 pound gorilla of “cheapness”).  Cheapness is a recipe for disaster.

If you’ve marketed your business as being the lowest cost and suddenly your competitor gets behind on their mortgage payment, gets desperate and offers even lower prices – you’re in big trouble.  You’ve either got to keep undercutting your prices – working more for less – to maintain the integrity of your value proposition.  Or you have to find a better, different way of marketing your business fast!

2)    Secondly, people who shop at the bottom end of the market are the worst kinds of clients to have anyway.  They’re typically high maintenance, high drama, folk who don’t appreciate you or your value.  And they’re always trying to beat you down on price.  Let other people serve those clients – not you!

I was at Tractor Supply the other day and saw a landscaping truck with this slogan on the side – “We won’t be undersold.  We guarantee to beat anyone’s price.”

It was obvious to me that this guy had seen some big company (probably Wal-Mart) use this kind of marketing strategy.  And he probably thought it made great sense for him to do the same, without realizing the horrible trap he was falling into.  It’s not his fault – no one likely showed him how to market his business any better way.

Now here’s a really big secret.

Not everyone buys on price.

In fact not even the majority of people buy on price.

That’s why you can drive through the ghetto and see some of the biggest TVs you’ve ever laid eyes on.  It’s also why we have so many stores that aren’t the $2 store.

But here’s the rub.

In order to not get caught serving the bottom end of the market, you have to provide compelling reasons why your customers should never buy on price, and why your services are so much better. 

Because if you don’t do this, people will always default to deciding on price.   You need to convince them to do otherwise. We’re all hard wired that way.

This is not easy to do, which is why so many business owners struggle with their marketing.  And it’s why I spent almost a third of my Ultimate Marketing Toolkit on explaining how to create real value for your customers and get them to happily pay you more money, even at prices much higher than your competition.

Your success boils down to these two simple things: Having great marketing and creating real value for your customers.  When you have both these things working for you seamlessly in your business, then truly, the sky is the limit!

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!!!!

 

What to do with your customers who’ve gone MIA

Guess the top 4 reasons customers don’t return to a business (hint: price isn’t one of them). #4 Bad service #3 Bad product #2 They found someone else

And #1 They FORGOT!

That’s right, the number 1 reason people don’t return to your business is because you just weren’t top of mind when it was time for them to purchase again.  Are you shocked that price doesn’t even feature in the top 4 reasons?  Most of us automatically think that if customers don’t return it must have been because we were too expensive, when actually it’s just because we didn’t do a great job with our marketing by reminding them that we’re here.  The great news is that it can be easily fixed!

Here are 2 key questions for you:

In your business how often do you want customers to buy from you again?

When do you consider a customer to be lost?

If you’re a real estate agent, you might want repeat business every 5 years.  If you own a grocery store it might be once every 7 days.  Figure this out and then set up a lost customer sequence to trigger as soon as they don’t return. The most effective is a 3-step sequential direct mail campaign that’s highly personalized. A very distant second is the same via email campaign (but anything is better than nothing).

Here’s the secret to getting them back: unless you specifically invite your lost customers to return to you, most won’t because they’re too embarrassed!  You need to warmly invite them back.  Remember that a customer who’s already done business with you is at least 5 times easier for you to sell to than a new customer.  So make every customer count! Woo the lost sheep back with an irresistible offer and a deadline. Make them feel they’ve been greatly missed and welcome them back to the fold with open arms! If they don’t respond to the first campaign, schedule another in 3 months with a different offer!

Don't Make This 100k Mistake A Small Ann Arbor Business Made

Happy April fools day!  I have 2 brothers (one younger one older) so as a kid I grew up with a big fear of this day every year.  I'd wake up to fake dog poop in my school shoes (thankfully it was fake), salt on my tooth brush, a whoppee cushion under my breakfast chair...phew glad I managed to survive that lot! I wanted to share with you a major mistake that's being made by a hairdressing salon I just started using, so you can learn from it and avoid this giant pothole in your business.

They're a relatively upscale Ann Arbor hair salon, serving mostly professional women and a handful of men from the area (think $70 and up for a haircut and color starting from $130).  Inside is tastefully decorated, modern - has a high end/trendy/warehouse feel to it. All good so far.

And they're doing some things right - they've implemented a successful referral campaign, they've created an actual "sales process" so that when you come on your first visit you get presented with discount coupons for your second and third visits to get clients coming back.  They greet people by name regardless of whether they've met you before or not.  You get an actual "hair consultation" which is of course a sales pitch for the latest and greatest products that will transform your golden locks from drab to fab.  All good stuff and a good start to creating a platform to really grow your business from.

But here's their $100K+ mistake.

Their location absolutely sucks.  They're situated in the outskirts of Ann Arbor in an area I can only call industrial.  But worse than that, they're part of a strip mall that has, as their neighbors, many visibly struggling small businesses, and several vacant store fronts.  All with a very dilapidated feel to it.

When I pulled up to my first consultation, I could hardly believe where this salon was located.  From the outside there was absolutely no street appeal created by the owners to make their salon at least look somewhat inviting despite it's horrid surroundings.  I wondered what kind of place this was and had it not been that a good friend and client had referred me, I would have turned my car around and canceled my appointment on the way out.

No doubt this owner thought he was "saving" money by paying a lot less in rent.

He probably figured that as the interior of the salon was so nice, and they were good at what they did, they could be located nearly anywhere.  Little does he realize the true cost of this giant mistake.  If he moved to downtown Ann Arbor - yes he would pay a lot more in rent but this would be more than offset from the higher prices he could then command (clever positioning), attract and retain better talent, attract far more prospective clients just from visibility...the list goes on and on.

Also, on researching this salon, I found glowing reviews.  Except that 3 mentioned the sinking feeling and intrepidation they felt on driving up and seeing it from the outside.  For every one client who mentions it, at least 100 think it...

You may or may not have a physical location that you operate your business from.  Regardless, learn from this mistake and review objectively the interaction your prospects have with your business before, during and after they do business with you.  It'll make a HUGE difference to your bottom line.  If you need help, call my office and ask about my End-To-End Sales Choreography service - from prospect to close and happily-ever-after after sales.

Have a great weekend! Julie

Direct Mail - Even Google's Doing It & Why You Should Be Too

I recently stumbled upon a blog posting made by HubSpot that made me very angry.  In case you haven't heard of HubSpot,  they're a relatively new comer to the digital marketing game and have carved out a pretty nice niche for themselves as the go-to folks for everything social media. Note their entire business is DIGITAL MARKETING.  Anyhow, this blog posting absolutely slammed direct mail as being a dying media - and they accused anyone of using direct mail in their marketing as being antiquated, not "hip" and very much behind the times. First of all that's total crap.  Way more businesses, small and large, acquire new customers using targeted direct mail than any other form of media.  I write more about the vital importance of using Direct Mail in this month's Marketing Dynamite newsletter - delivered incidentally by direct mail to my clients, future clients and colleagues in the marketing industry. (If you're not currently a subscriber, subscription is currently FREE - which I know is a bit ridiculous given the enormous value it delivers, and won't be for long - go to www.BlazingCopy.com to sign up).

In 2010, the federal government alone spent a total of $41,534,848 on Direct Mail Advertising.  Direct mail is a multi-billion dollar industry and growing.  And if you're not using targeted direct mail in your marketing, you're missing out on a mega-sized opportunity.

So, just in case you haven't figured out why Hub Spot is so anti-direct mail, I'll connect the dots.  It isn't their business.  They're 100% online marketers.  Instead of advising their clients on what actually works in marketing 9and finding a way to offer those services within their own company, even if it means doing (gasp) traditional marketing - they're sending their clients down a rabbit warren, giving them misguided advice, and costing their clients millions in lost revenue.

So - be very careful who you listen to....