Selling

3 Copywriting Questions for Business Success

Louis Vuitton Handbag

Do you buy this Louis Vuitton handbag for its functionality (carry things around with you)? photo: Thomas Ogilvie

You don’t need to be a copywriter to run a business.

Actually, you only need to be a copywriter if you run a copywriting business.

But it can teach you three things you must know to run a successful business.

Copywriters can (and usually should) do the actual writing for you. But knowing these basics will give you a better understanding of your business and how to make it successful.

So, here are the core questions of effective copywriting.

And there’s a five-minute “exercise” at the end that puts all of this together and makes a real difference to your success, I promise :)

Top 3 Common Customer Service Mistakes

Customer service is the face of a company. Screw it up, and the entire company will crumble. Everybody knows this. Yet most companies don’t ever train their customer service people beyond basic familiarization, unlike sales people who are bombarded with training.

Not even the best products save a company with poor customer service. Some online companies can survive with poor customer service, but only because most customers don’t ever need it (this applies also to offline companies where customers serve themselves; grocery stores, etc.).

What are the most common customer service mistakes? These all significantly affect what your customers think about you. Make just one of these and they’ll probably leave unsatisfied.

How to Approach Specific People in 3 Simple Steps

As a marketer/blogger you sometimes need to target specific customers, businesses, and medias. That person/business may or may not have been in any contact with you. And it’s very possible they’ve never even heard of you. So, how do you approach them?

There’s a simple three-step approach to this. And the same steps apply whether your prospect is a person, a company, or any other entity (even a blog).

Step 1 – Research

Before you make any contact with the person, do your homework. Google their name for a start, but don’t think that would be nearly enough. Your goal is to find a way to make yourself interesting to them. Ideally, you’ll get them to contact you.

Understand how you can be valuable for them. Answer the question, “Why would they contact me?” If you can’t answer that, think harder.

Step 2 – Groundwork

Once you’ve understood what would make you valuable for them, it’s time to let them see that reason. At this point they shouldn’t think that you’re trying to approach them. But they do need to notice the value you can provide.

Commenting on a blog is a good way to do this. Write a comment where you refer to the value you can provide. But don’t try to sell the idea. The point is just to get the idea out there.

If you have a blog you can write a post that’s interesting to the person you’re approaching. This works especially well if you have a blog since the trackback will take care of notifying the person (if they have a blog as well). A recent post that I wrote titled, “Danny Iny is a Liar – Just Like Me” did just that, though it wasn’t the reason for writing it.

Step 3 – Approach

Finally if they haven’t contacted you, you need to initiate contact. You should still only attempt to make them see how you can be valuable for them.

Find out how they prefer to be contacted. Start with something less personal like an email and move on sending them a Tweet and to calling them directly.

Once you’ve created a situation that benefits them, you can grow your relationship.

What do you think about this approach to approaching? Share your ideas in the comments.

How to Sell More – 3 Simple Steps

Sales people are constantly asked for larger sales, higher conversion rates, and better customer service. What if you could accomplish all that, at the same time?

It’s actually relatively simple. Here’s what you do. And yes, I’m fully aware of the simplicity of these steps. Most sales people just don’t like them, so they don’t use them, even when they understand how effective they are.

Step 1 – Contact your active customers

Active customers are those customers who either have a subscription-like deal with you (they pay you weekly/monthly), or you’re currently negotiating a deal with them. Offer them some additional services, products, or features. If you manage to create a relevant offer, they’re likely to buy it. But only if it truly is relevant for them. Upselling is by far the easiest way to create larger sales.

Step 2 – Contact hot leads

Hot leads are prospects who have recently bought something from you, or have asked for some information. After active customers, hot leads are the best customer group you have. Again, create an offer that’s relevant for them, and price it well. You can convert hot leads into customers more easily than any other ones.

Step 3 – Contact cold leads

Note that I said, “leads”, don’t start cold calling. Cold leads are customers who bought from you in the past, or asked for information a while ago. They’re unlikely to buy anything immediately, but if you can make a relevant offer, they’ll come back sometime. The point is to offer them what they wanted.

Is that it?

You can’t expect everyone to buy something, but your odds are still much higher. And you do accomplish the three tasks: higher sales and conversions, and you take care of customer service. Basically these simple steps make you the ideal sales person ;)

If you decide to contact them through email, read the short series on email customer contact first.

Do you have other ideas or more steps you should take to sell more? Share them in the comments below.

Buyer Personas – 9 Steps to Profiling Buyer Personas

What are buyer personas?

Buyer personas are the individual and identifiable groups of people who buy your products. For example a stereo store has at least three important and very distinct buyer personas.

Stereo store example:

1. Those looking for a better stereo system. They’re usually men and they generally don’t mind the appearances of the stereo system. Instead they want the ability to listen to LP’s, radio, and CD’s, and just relax with music. They’re not satisfied with their current stereos, so they’ve decided to pay a little more than what they paid for the previous set. But they do have an understanding about the price range they’re looking into. They’re not the most  patient customers, but they probably don’t need the products immediately. They like the feeling they get when they buy a new gadget.

2. Hi-fi enthusiasts. A group of almost solely men, who will spend a lot of time pondering the purchase. They’ll test every possible product at their home. They’re interested in technical specifics. They enjoy the process of testing more than the purchase. They like to talk about their preferences and hear the sales people’s ideas, but they don’t believe anyone but themselves. Price is very important; the higher the better, they’ll often buy the most expensive option they can afford … and then some.

3. Women (apologies for the generalization, this is just one buyer persona) looking for something that will satisfy their men’s desire for new gizmos, and their own sense of esthetics. They’re very price concerned. Only technical specifics are less important than the actual sound quality.

These buyer personas aren’t extremely specific, but they give you the idea of what a buyer persona means. Different buyer personas are looking for different things, so you should treat them differently. And not only in the sales situation, but in your marketing too.

How to profile buyer personas

Firstly, all the people who visit your store or your website aren’t buyers. Base your assessment of your buyer personas on buying customers, not browsers, yourself, thieves, or friends visiting you. But what should a buyer persona define? And remember: you’re like to have more than one buyer persona for your business; specify as many as you can think of.

1. Gender. I realize this may feel awkward for some people, but you should know the gender of a specific buyer persona. But only if it’s possible. Some buyer personas are not gender specific.

2. Age. The age of a buyer persona is the simplest part of the profile. The age of a person tells you a lot abut them. How you view the world and what you prioritize, depend largely on your age.

3. Profession. In B-to-B business you know the profession of the buyer. But in B-to-C business this may not be so obvious. But if you can find a common profession or a status of a buyer, you can make your buyer persona profile much more accurate. It’s also very important to know how well they understand your product, are they professional users of laymen.

4. Financial situation. This is one of the most important aspects of the profile, so make sure you get it right. Don’t concentrate on your customers’ bank accounts, but make note how much they’re willing to pay. And how easily they make the decision to buy; it tells you how important your products are for them.

5. Purpose. Why do they buy your products? Some products have more applications (like fabrics) than others (nail clippers). The purpose of your product is the core of your marketing. If you don’t know what your customers use your product for, you can’t market or sell it effectively.

6. Education. How well-educated is the buyer persona? The educational background makes the profile deeper. It can help you figure out how they process information. Do they understand graphs, statistics, and study results, or are they more concerned with customer testimonials and simplified features.

7. Free time. How do they spend their time? Common hobbies, interests, TV shows, even eating habits can get you closer to them. You cannot know your buyer persona too well, so even these small details can prove to be valuable.

8. Buying decision. Which factors they take into account when they make the decision to buy? Price, features, ease of use, customer service, and resell value, can all play a part in the decision. If you don’t understand this part of your customers, your marketing can only work if you get lucky.

9. Shopping habits. What else do they buy? This is important when you start creating your business network. What else can you offer to them, and what else are they looking for.

What to do with a buyer persona?

When you have detailed buyer personas, you can, and you must, use them in your marketing. Here’s a few ways to use buyer personas in marketing.

1. Address specific people. When you know your buyer, you can talk to him/her directly. You don’t have to say, “you” when you can say, “25-year old man, living in the suburbs”.

2. Address specific problems. Talking about a specific problem is more engaging than a general problem. But it only works if you address a problem your buyers have, so you need to know your buyer personas first.

3. Address specific beliefs. You can create a feeling of being talked directly at with beliefs. For example, “This product is healthy.” is less engaging than, “Your children need more vitamins, that the school system doesn’t provide.”

4. Pinpoint accurate placement. Placement is a key to effective marketing. When you understand your buyer personas, you know where they are, and how to reach them at the right time.

5. Showcasing the right price range. If you market a product a buyer cannot afford, they won’t buy it. And they’ll be left with a belief that you’re over priced for them.

There’s one more thing…

Understanding your buyer personas isn’t enough to create effective marketing. First you need to understand your story. Then you need to understand your customers (more than just the buyer personas). And only by framing your story correctly, you can create an effective marketing message.

If you don’t know sure you understand all the steps, I’ve created a free guide to Premeditated Marketing, that describes in more detail these aspects. And a couple more aspects, equally essential for effective marketing.

I can also recommend David Meerman Scott’s book “The New Rules of Marketing & PR” if you’re interested.

I’d like to hear what your buyer personas include. Do you think of something that wasn’t discussed here? Share your ideas in the comments below.

Review: Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki

Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions by Guy Kawasaki

Rating: 5/5

After reading a few pages I knew I’d love this book. My belief turned out to be justified. The book is about enchantment and it is enchanting.

Guy Kawasaki worked at Apple when the first Macintosh was released. He’s job was to be the “chief evangelist”, marketing to put it simply. Later he’s worked for and started a few companies and written several books.

Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions is his latest book. It describes, in wonderful detail, what makes something enchanting. It explains how you can be enchanting, make your product or company enchanting, and how to resist enchantment. And it is all done in an enchanting way.

The structure

There isn’t a plot to the book. Rather it tackles one aspect of enchantment at a time. This works perfectly well, though I usually prefer books written in “story” format.

Guy Kawasaki obviously knows exactly what he writes about, the book is a pleasure to read. Ideas are reinforced with examples, expert opinions, and studies.

Because of the simple one-idea-at-a-time structure, I’ll use the book as a reference book for a long time. Though I think some of the chapters and headings could’ve been a little more descriptive to make finding single ideas easier (fortunately there’s an index at the back that helps with this).

It almost seems as if there’s nothing about enchantment that isn’t described in the book. But still you’d like it to be longer, just to keep reading.

What is enchantment?

Guy Kawasaki describes enchantment: “Enchantment transforms situations and relationships. … It changes skeptics and cynics into believers.”

An enchanting person is someone you instantly trust. Someone who’s example you want to follow.

An enchanting product is one you believe in and tell all your friends about. One you’re willing to defend if others threaten its idea.

Apple is probably the most obvious example of an enchanting company/brand. They have a loyal following of enchanted people. Whenever a new product is released millions read the news.

But what makes Apple enchanting?

How to be enchanting

This is what the book does so well. It gives you an endless list of ways to be more enchanting. All the usual ways to interact and common situations are explained.

Want to enchant customers? Explained. How to create a movement? Explained. Want to score points in the eyes of your boss? Explained. How to use Twitter enchantingly? Explained. And so on and so on.

The risk with this kind of a book, or any business book, is to be too theoretical. Guy Kawasaki manages to mix in just enough theory to be trustworthy, but not too much to be boring.

Throughout the book, it’s clear the author understands and lives what he teaches. He uses examples of his own experiences, but not too many to seem arrogant.

Who benefits from the book

I’d say anyone who is in contact with other humans, will greatly benefit from reading this book. It’s one of the few books I’m sure to read again… and again.

As far as I know, no one has written a more comprehensive book about enchantment. Though many have written about social behavior and other related topics, no one describes what creates that sudden feeling of enchantment.

If you want a more theoretical view to enchantment or to just understand it better, there’s a list of books Guy Kawasaki recommends. But reading “Enchantment” will be enough for most people.

The end

As I wrote this post, I realized just how enchanted I was by this book. I could’ve gone on and on about what I liked about it.

To be honest the book isn’t perfect. But the flaws are small:

  • I would’ve liked colored pictures for example. I think colors would’ve made the book more enchanting ;)
  • And I hoped for a short checklist of the most important ideas. After reading the book, I have too many ideas and a short “where to start” checklist would make taking action easier.

Buy the book

Buy hardcover from Amazon

Buy audiobook from Audible (click here for a free trial = one audiobook free)

3 Mistakes You Probably Make When You Read Business Books

Business books and blogs are the best way to get ideas and insights for developing your business. But many don’t read them.

There are two common reasons why many professionals don’t read more business books:

  • You think you don’t have the time for it.
  • Business books haven’t created real changes for you in the past.

Fortunately there’s a solution to both issues. You can listen to audiobooks while driving, walking, etc. This way reading won’t take up your time.

I recommend Audible.com as a source for audiobooks. It has the largest library of books and it’s owned by Amazon. You can download one audiobook free here.

The other reason many don’t read business books is their perceived ineffectiveness. There are three reasons for that.

These three reasons are actually mistakes made by the reader, not the writer. So, how can you get more out of business books?

1. Research which business books you’ll read

Rather than just reading any business book, pick the ones you invest your time in. There are two good ways to choose the ones you read:

  1. Trusted recommendations. If someone you trust (friend, critic, etc.) recommends a book, the chances are it’ll be worth your time.
  2. Interests and needs. If you’re interested in a topic or you need answers to specific questions, a proper book can be the perfect choice.

When you know (meaning you have faith) that a book will help you, you’re more likely to find ways to use the ideas in it. This is why a book by your favorite author will usually seem better, than a book by someone you know nothing about.

If you’re looking for answers to questions, you’ll use the answers you find. The ideas turn into actions.

2. Study the book

You should think of reading a business book as if you’re studying for an exam. But not a traditional exam that tests your ability to memorize things. Rather one where you’re understanding of a topic is measured.

When you read a business book, take notes, underline important parts, and write down your own ideas. It’s easy to just read without memorizing anything. Process the ideas, don’t just rush to the end of a book.

Repeat is the greatest teacher. If you got good ideas from a book, then odds are you missed some of them. I’m not saying you should read twice all books you read, but the ones that are good are worth re-reading.

3. Apply the ideas to your business

It may be fun to read a good business book. But not even the best book can make any difference for you. It can only give you ideas and tools for how to change something.

The best books give practical ideas and encourage action. But still it’s up to you, to change the way you do business.

If the book you’re reading doesn’t tell you what to do, then you need to figure it out yourself. You should do that while reading the book. Take notes of the actions you need to take after finishing the book (or before that).

Unless you act on the ideas, you’ve wasted the time you spent reading.

What the book should do?

The best business books give specific instructions about actions you need to take. They explain a topic, and then explain how to use the ideas presented. The same goes for E-books, email courses, and all other forms of informational products.

Take a look at the books I recommend (in the sidebar). They’re all excellent, but none of them will create change without you.

Check out my guide to Premeditated Marketing for an example of how I believe a business book (or a free course) should be written. The question you should answer is asked first. Then the topic is explained. And finally all the questions are compiled to a short list at the end.

 

What do you think about business books? Do you read a lot of them? Share your experiences in the comments below.

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Know What You Promise and Deliver That – A Poor Example By GoDaddy

I had an unfortunate experience with some customer service people yesterday. I needed help with switching the way Affect Selling is hosted.

It was previously on a “shared” server and therefor it was really slow at times. Now it’s using a “Virtual Dedicated Server” from GoDaddy.com.

But that’s not the point here. The point is that GoDaddy advertises their customer service on their website. But they don’t deliver what you’d expect.

What do you advertise?

Though I believe great customer service is the best way for a business to succeed, not everybody has to offer that. You can offer lower prices if there aren’t so many customer service people waiting for someone to need their help.

Whatever it is you advertise about your product/service, is what people expect you to be good at.

If you advertise customer service, the promise is that you’ll do everything you can to help customers. That you’ll offer the best service possible.

With that expectation they’ll be disappointed if the service isn’t wonderful. This is true also if you advertise cheap prices, fast delivery, ease of use, or anything else. People expect to get the best of what you talk about.

Poor example

The GoDaddy email customer service doesn’t live up to any sort of hype. They reply quickly, but that’s it. I guess they should read my series of posts about email customer service.

The answers were too technological for me to understand (and I did tell them I’m not that tech-savvy). And they did their best to avoid doing more than the bare minimum.

For example when I asked them about the PHP version on the server (I had no idea what that meant), they told me I can read an article about it. Or they could do the necessary updating for $49.99.

I decided to read the article. I didn’t understand it so I read another and another and another article to explain what the first one meant. Finally after a few hours I managed to update the PHP version on my server.

Now that I know how it’s done, I could do it in a minute. So, they would’ve charged me $49.99 for that one minute. Instead of just doing it, they replied to my email, and another email, and a third email about the process. They spent more time answering my emails than it would’ve taken them to do the update.

When the installation of WordPress didn’t go smoothly, they told me to find answers elsewhere since it’s a third-party application. Again when I finally found the reason for the problems, I could see it would’ve taken them a minute or two to fix it. (I have to thank the people at WordPress forums for help.)

I do understand and appreciate the low prices GoDaddy offers. But I cannot understand why their email customer service isn’t better. The people there obviously have the technical know-how. They just don’t seem to understand what their job is.

What should you advertise?

What are you good at? Really good at? When you advertise your customer service, people expect it to be great. But you should still exceed that expectation.

Exceeding expectations is the best way to create loyal customers and referrals.

You need to surprise people regardless of their expectations. If you advertise cheap prices, then either be surprisingly cheap, or offer additional free services for your customers.

“Good enough” isn’t good enough. If you’re not confident you can exceed expectations with something, then you shouldn’t talk about that at all. Or if your customers are likely to expect more from you than you’re able to offer, than warn them in advance. Don’t let people build up anticipation, and then prove them wrong.

Avoid and/or explain

I was disappointed with the GoDaddy customer service because I expected more. I’d be fine with doing all the server configuration by myself, but since they “advertised” their customer service, I expected to get help.

They could just add a “warning” to their sales page for the server that said, “You’ll need to understand how to configure your server on your own. Optionally you can hire us to do it for you.”

If I would’ve read that before making the purchase, I wouldn’t be so frustrated with them now.

You cannot always cater to your customers’ every need and desire. But when you can’t, you need to try, and then explain why you can’t do it.

Don’t please everyone

Many businesses fall into the trap of trying to please everyone. It’s not going to happen. You can only ever hope to please a small portion of people.

You should deliver what those people want. And do it well. When you attempt to please everyone, you will probably become mediocre at everything. And you’ll end up pleasing no one.

All marketing should target someone, not “the general public” or “the masses”. It’s possible you’ll end up selling to “the masses”, but there’s a squirrel’s chance on an eight-lane highway you’ll get “the masses” to embrace your product immediately after launch.

This is what GoDaddy has done. They’ve become so big, they can profitably “target” everyone. They offer the lowest prices and a variety of services. But they do nothing particularly well (except pricing).

Then there’s Synthesis, a high-end web host. They offer hosting options for WordPress users. And they do this one thing exceptionally well.

If you’re just starting a blog, you’ll run away from their site when you see the prices. But if you’re serious about creating a blog and you want the best solution for it, then they offer just the right thing. (They don’t even offer email because “it’s not their thing”.)

What’s your thing?

What is it that customers buy from you? Is it quality? Is it cheap prices? Is it the experience? Figuring this out might be the most important thing you can do for your business.

Don’t waste your resources advertising something you won’t deliver. Instead focus intently on your core idea; what you’re the best at.

To survive you need to be the best at what you are about. But that’s not enough. You also need to understand how to make people believe you’re the best.

Check out the Premeditated Marketing Guide for ideas on how to get your message heard and believed.

 

And finally tell what is your thing. What is your business about, really. Do you compete on price or quality or something else? Share your story in the comments below.

How to Sell During the Sale Season

Almost every store has a sale going on now. And every customer knows to expect sale prices.

This is the time of the year when all the old products are dumped on people looking for bargains. Quality seems to be irrelevant to many, as is the necessity of the product they buy.

You find what you’re looking for” is one of my favorite sayings. And it’s clearly demonstrated by millions of people during the few weeks after Christmas.

You look for “something”, so you find “something”. When you don’t have any particular need you’re trying to fill when shopping, you’re likely to buy just to have fun.

There’s nothing wrong with buying just for the fun of it. So, why should you as a sales person think so? This is the easiest time of the year to sell any consumer goods.

More than ever concentrate on the time constraint in your sales pitches. Talk about the sale price. And most importantly induce emotions.

All purchases are emotional, but some more than others. When you’re looking for a bargain, you’re looking for something that will make you feel good.

So, sell the good feeling more than anything else. How do you do that? Here are a couple of ideas.

  • Talk about all the fun/joy your product can create. The primary reason for shopping for bargains is that they’re fun (it’s fun to get something cheaply).
  • People value convenience a lot when they’re looking for a bargain. So, if your product can make their life easier, emphasize that. And make the purchase really easy; don’t try to sell complicated service subscriptions or anything like that.

Since everyone’s wallpapering their store’s with sale posters, you should do something else as well. You may get customers in with those posters, but many will walk by because they’re not special.

Use your imagination with store windows to make everyone stop at your store. Offer something people don’t normally get. A stand-up comedian could be a great way to attract customers in. If that’s not appropriate for your business, then do something else. Just make the sale season about something more than bargains.

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Email Customer Contact: What to do With Your Last Email

This is the fifth and last post in the five-part series on email customer contact.

Yesterday’s post was about getting the customers looking for answers to buy your products. Today it’s about leaving a good impression. And to be remembered when they need your services next.

The point of your last email is leaving a good memory. Say just, “Thanks” (or something else equally non-memorable) and it’s okay, but you can do better than “okay”.

One current example is the holiday wishes. “Merry Christmas” is what almost everyone says in their last email now. But just because of that, you shouldn’t.

I’m sure you’ve heard, “Merry Christmas” a hundred times already this year. And every year before. People don’t pay attention to something that happens hundreds of times.

I’m not saying it wouldn’t be nice to wish a merry Christmas. It’s just not memorable. ”Happy Christmas” on the other hand sounds weird enough for you to notice it.

You can say, “merry” if there’s something else interesting in the email. A discount offer, some helpful resources, or even just a recommendation for another product.

Say something the prospect will remember for a while, either “weird” or valuable. I’d rather leave our relationship to where something is expected to happen. Rather than at a point where all business is done.

Customer service people often have an email signature saying something like, “If you have more questions, I’ll be happy to answer them.” That’s again “okay”.

It’s a pretty generic line. It does convey the message, but nothing more. Tweaking it a little would make it more memorable. “I hope I’ve been helpful, but if that’s not the case, I’d be happy to give it another try. So, before you send blood hounds after me, reply to this email and tell me how could I assist you further.”

That’s too much for some people, but please note: people look for genuine human contact when they contact you. Providing that is the single most important goal of all customer service. If a funny signature is what it takes, then do that.

There’s one more important thing about customer service. You should be the last to speak. This is especially true with email. It tells the customer you received their last email and that you took the time to read it and reply. In short: it tells the customer you care about them.

This post concludes the series on email customer service. You can read all the posts here. And please leave a comment. I’d like to know if there’s something missing from this series. Or what you thought about it in general.

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