Monthly Archives: January 2013

Copywriting 101: How to Get Your Customers to Take Action

If you want people to buy, you gotta ask for the sale.

Truly, it is that simple. Yet I can’t tell you how many ads, Web sites, brochures, sales letters, etc. are floating around out there that aren’t asking.

So, what is a call to action? It’s telling people what action you want them to take. Typical calls to action include:

Hurry in today.
Buy now.
Call now.
Visit now.
Click here now.

Nothing terribly sexy, I agree. However, if you want to see an increase in your customers, leads, income, etc., this is an essential component.

But, you might be thinking, isn’t it obvious? Why else would you be running an ad if you didn’t want people to buy what you’re selling?

Good question. And it’s true, people do know (if they stop to think about it) that you would probably like them to buy from you.

However, the unfortunate truth is your potential customers aren’t going to spend that much time thinking about it. People have too much going on in their lives to spend very much time and energy on your business. If they do read your ad or promotional material and it doesn’t contain a call to action, they’ll likely say, “Oh, that’s nice” and go on to the next thing.

And even if they were interested in purchasing your offerings, they may not know what their next step should be. Do they pick up the phone? Go to a specific Web page? Visit a store? And if they don’t know what they should be doing, chances are they won’t do anything at all.

So you need to tell your potential customers what you want them to do. (Remember, people are busy, and if you don’t make doing business with you easy, they probably won’t do business with you at all.)

So, back to the above call to actions. Did you notice they all had something in common? The word “now” (or, in the case of the first one, “today”).

If people think they can buy from you anytime, they’ll say “oh, I can do this later.” And later rarely comes. You need to give them a reason to buy from you right now, while they’re interested. Adding the “now” or some other urgency or scarcity technique (maybe a limited time offer or few copies left statement) is a great way to push people into doing what you want them to do right now and not later.

While we’re on the topic of calls to action, I want to talk about one other type of advertising campaign where you rarely see calls to action. These are called branding campaigns. Typically they’re shown on national television by big corporations (MacDonald’s, Nike, Starbucks, Target). In those instances, the businesses are building a brand that will cause you think of that business first when you’re interested in purchasing their products. For instance, when you’re hungry, you think MacDonald’s. You need new athletic shoes, you think Nike. You’re dying for that cup of joe, so you think Starbucks, etc.

While there’s nothing wrong with branding campaigns, they are tougher to track than campaigns with a specific call to action (Sale ends Saturday, call before Friday to receive your free gift, etc.) Those campaigns are also called direct response because you’re asking the customer to respond directly. Direct response campaigns can be tested, so you have a good idea what’s working and what’s not (and can tweak the campaign accordingly). And, if the campaign doesn’t require getting a salesperson involved (i.e. if the call to action is for the customer to whip out his wallet right there) the campaign will just run itself (and make money all by itself).

(One note: You do need to do more than add a call to action to have a strong direct response campaign, but that doesn’t negate the power a call to action can bring to your campaigns.)

Branding campaigns are nearly impossible to test, track and tweak. They either appear to work or don’t appear to work. And if they don’t appear to work, it’s very difficult to start tweaking to improve the response rate.

However, branding is still very, very important. As a business owner, you need a good brand and you need to communicate that brand effectively. And sometimes it makes sense to run a branding campaign.

However, my advice for most situations is to combine branding and direct response. Your brand is clearly communicated in your ads and promotional materials, but you also take advantage of some direct response techniques at the same time.

If nothing else, make sure you don’t forget the call to action.

Exercise — Write Your Call to Action

Want to include a call to action in your promotional materials but don’t know where to start? Here’s an easy step-by-step formula:

1. Figure out your purpose for the ad or promotional material. Why are you running this ad, creating this Web site, printing this brochure? (And no, an acceptable answer is NOT because everyone else has one.) Is it to generate leads? Get your name out there? Get people to buy? Or what?

2. Now write it down.

3. That’s it. That’s your call to action. Whatever the end result you want for the campaign is what you should be asking people to do.

Do those long-copy sales letters actually work?

This is one of those questions I get ALL the time.

“I never read those long-copy sales letters. They can’t possibly work, can they?”

“MY target market doesn’t read those long-copy sales letters, they want shorter letters.”

“I can’t imagine anyone reading that much.”

And so on.

Okay, before I get around to answering the question, let me quickly explain what a long-copy sales letter is. It’s those sales letters that are dotted across the web where you have to scroll down and down and down before you finally find the price.

Yeah. You know the ones.

So do they work? Yes they do — IF they’re done right.

Here’s the thing. The reason they work is NOT because they’re long. Length doesn’t equal sales. What DOES equal sales is if you properly answer all of your ideal client’s questions and objections and demonstrate your product/service/program will solve your ideal client’s problems.

And all that takes words. How many words depends on how expensive an investment your solution is.

Think of a conversation. Let’s say it takes you 30 minutes to have a sales call with a prospect. Well, if you take that call and transcribe it, it’s going to be around 10 pages long depending on how fast you talk. And that’s just one person.

Now you have a call with another person selling the same program. That person asks different questions, but it’s still 30 minutes. Now you have 20 pages worth of transcripts.

Are you starting to see how the long-copy sales letter gets so long?

Granted you’re probably not going to hear completely different questions time after time. But you can see how the pages will start to add up. (The reality is, a sales letter is actually much shorter than any of your one-on-one sales calls.)

Okay, so now you understand how these letters get so long. But what about the whole “you-don’t-read-them-or-your-ideal-clients-don’t-read-them?” Well, I have 2 reasons why that happens:

1. You’re not the ideal client. I don’t care how great or how poor the sales letter is, if you’re not the ideal client, you’re going to have very little interest in reading the letter. (And here’s the kicker — reading is a hypnotic activity, which means you don’t remember when you ARE reading but you DO remember when you don’t finish something. So you’re going to remember all those half-read sales letters much more clearly than the ones you actually finish.)

2. The sales letter is poorly written. This is probably even more common than the first one. Look, you can’t bore anyone into buying anything. And there are a lot of people who don’t understand the long-copy sales letter, so they simply throw a lot of words on the page and hope for the best. That is NOT how to write a sales letter. You need to connect with your ideal client and do it in such a way that they feel compelled to keep reading. A whole bunch of words ain’t going to make the sale (especially a whole bunch of boring words that don’t inspire anyone to do anything).

Bottom line — studies have shown over and over again that long-copy sales letters sell more then shorter sales letter. (Just as long as they’re well written.) So, even if you don’t completely understand it, don’t worry about it. Give your ideal clients what they want to make a decision to invest with you — a well-written, interesting long-copy sales letter.


The Value of Being “Second”

There’s a lot of value around being first in your business. The first person to come up with a hot product or service tends to reap a huge amount of rewards in the process.

However, being first isn’t always all that and a bag of chips. In fact, there are times when being second to the party puts you in a better position than being first. Below are 3 reasons to celebrate being second:

1. You know there is a market for what you’re selling. The one thing no one talks about in the “quest to be first” is the fact that lots of times, the person who is first falls flat on their face. Sure we all want to be Apple with the next iPod. But what about all those businesses who came up with some brand-spanking new gadget and didn’t sell a thing?

Years ago, I read a story about entrepreneurs knowing when it was time to give up. One of the stories was from a guy who created a picture frame that “talked” — I can’t remember if you could create your own audio but I do remember he had these pictures of famous events, like Neil Armstrong on the moon, and you pressed a button and heard a recording of Neil talking about one giant leap for mankind.

Everyone who saw it loved the concept. But no one loved it enough to buy them. He said he stayed in business a good couple years past when he should have quit and lost thousands more because people kept telling him what a cool concept that was even though it apparently wasn’t “cool” enough to actually purchase.

So here we have a story about someone who was first with this cool concept and no one bought it. Because there wasn’t a market for it. And that in a nutshell is why it can be scary to be first, because you have no idea if what you’re selling is something people actually want to buy. (Or at least want to buy at that moment of time — there are also stories of entrepreneurs who had the right idea at the wrong time — 10 years later the idea is big hit but not when they came up with it.)

Now, if you’re second, then you can celebrate because you know there’s a market for what you’re offering. In fact, I would go as far to say if there’s competition for what you want to offer that’s a good thing because then you know for sure there’s a market for it.

2. You can improve upon what the “first” already did. Google wasn’t the first search engine out there. Zappos wasn’t the first to sell shoes online. But now both of them are the two-ton gorilla in the room. They looked at what the other “firsts” were doing — both right and wrong, and improved upon it.

And not only does this mean improving on the product or service it also means improving on the marketing.

If you are second you’re in a fabulous position to analyze what the “first” did and see how you can improve it to solidify your position in the marketplace. And if you do this right, you may have your own opportunity to be “first” — and reap the benefits without taking as much of the risks, which I cover in the next reason.

3. You have the opportunity to put your unique spin on whatever is “first” — which could make it “first.” Let’s take coaches. Coaches have been around, well, probably for as long as there were people. I suspect when we were all cavemen we had coaches teaching us better ways to run away from saber tooth tigers and selecting the right berry to gather. But coaches as an entrepreneur industry is a relatively new thing. And the new twists on coaching also can make it feel first, even though the field of coaching is not new.

How this could work in your own business: See what you offer in your business that’s a “second” — is there a way you can put your own stamp on it (maybe combine with something else or approach it with a fresh angle) that could give you the security of knowing there’s a market while also letting you be “first” with your own twist? This is the secret to standing out in a crowded marketplace so don’t rush into this. Play around with some ideas and test them out to see what you come up with.

3 Tips to Increase Your Biz Right Now

It happens. Business slows or stalls for any number of reasons.

Occasionally it can be a good thing, for instance letting you catch your breath after a huge growth spurt. But most of the time it’s simply a time of great stress. So what do you do to kick-start the growth? Here are 3 tips to get you started.

1. Dance with the one who brought you. In other words, just because you’ve hit a slow spot in your business does NOT mean it’s time to abandon the marketing strategies and tactics that got you here. A lot of business owners will be tempted to cut back, especially their marketing. This is a mistake. If anything, you should increase your marketing now.

However, by increasing your marketing I don’t necessarily mean increasing how much you spend. It’s perfectly acceptable to find low-cost or no-cost marketing methods to still keep the momentum going. One word of warning — there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Chances are you’re going to pay somewhere, and that payment could very well be your time. Before you rush into doing something you end up regretting, take a hard look at the real cost. Would you be better off doing something that might cost more but doesn’t suck up time you could be using to make money?

Here are some tactics you can do right now to increase your exposure without necessarily costing you much (if anything):
a. Start an email newsletter, or if you already publish one, increase the frequency you send it out. (Weekly is best. The more often your list hears from you, the more responsive they’ll become.)
b. Hold a free teleclass. Make sure you come up with a really great special offer to turn your listeners into customers.
c. Go buy a new dress and hang out on the social networking scene. Okay, I’m kidding about the dress. But if you aren’t making the social networking rounds, you’re missing major business opportunities. No it’s not a waste of time (unless you let it become one). Make sure you’re focusing on connecting and creating more visibility.

2. Do a little marketing each day. I know. Marketing isn’t your “thing.” Why would you want to do something each day? But the reality is successful businesses are built upon small marketing steps consistently done, not necessarily the big launch.

So what can you do today? Write your article for your newsletter? Contact a potential joint venture partner? Write a thank you note to someone who sent you a referral? Do something, even if it’s only a 15-minute task, and you’ll probably be amazed at how fast you’ll start seeing results.

3. Systemize your marketing tasks. If you’re like a lot of service professionals, when business is slow, you jump in feet first and do a whole bunch of marketing. Things pick up, you get busy, and the marketing stops. Eventually the work also stops because you stopped the marketing and you’re sucked into the feast-famine vortex.

So, rather then repeat that cycle, why not do something a little different this time around? This time, while you’re frantically marketing and looking under every stone for work, why don’t you also systemize your marketing? Write down everything you do, so when you’re busy, you can hand that list off to a virtual assistant who can keep your marketing going for you? Now maybe you won’t eliminate that feast-or-famine cycle but you’ll definitely soften it.

To sum it up, if business is slow right now and you’re nervous about it, I want you to take a deep breath and STOP IT. Use this time to transform how you handle your marketing in your business, which will transform your business.