Rubber boots and sales copy

My wife and I were out with some friends on Saturday night. It was raining pretty heavily and had been raining all week.

When we got home that evening, our basement had flooded: It turns out that there was so much rain, the drainage system around our house was overwhelmed and couldn’t handle it all so it flowed into our basement.

From 9 pm Saturday night to 6 am Sunday morning I ran a pump; I got a few hours of sleep and then I continued to clean. On Monday at 8 in the morning, a cleaning crew came to clean and treat our carpets.

Not a fun experience. My office has been temporarily moved to the living room (it’s normally in the basement) and my wifi and even my landline are temporarily out of commission until I can get back into those rooms to plug them back in. So if you’re trying to get in touch with me, I’m around but not always near a phone. Between writing and the occasional email, I’m bailing and cleaning.

On Saturday night at about 10 pm, we observed that my water pump was not able to keep up with the inflow of water – just too much was coming in. So I grabbed the Yellow Pages and the phone and started calling 24 hour drain companies and plumbers who might be able to bring over a truck with a bigger pump.

Predictably, no one was available because the flooding was basically city-wide and I was the umpteenth caller… if they answered the phone at all. I ended up going to my neighbor’s house (who had an extra pump) and borrowing his.

I was willing to pay anything for someone to come over and solve my problem. Anything. Prior to this watery mishap, I would turn down calls for carpet cleaners pretty regularly. And I never called a plumber because I can usually handle most pipe-related issues pretty quickly myself. But during a flood, it’s different: The cost of having someone come over to my house to keep the flood from happening in the first place is worth, literally, thousands of dollars to me. Since it didn’t happen, I paid a carpet cleaning company plus there was an incredible amount of downtime and furniture moving and clean-up… plus the general annoyance and hassle of living in a house that is insanely humid.

Now here’s what it has to do with sales copy: Your sales copy needs to work someone up to that point in order to convince them to buy. Your sales copy – whether it’s an email, a long-form sales page, direct mail, whatever, needs to identify the problem, focus the prospect’s mind on the challenges of the situation, outline in vivid detail exactly what the consequences and costs of not buying the solution are.

I see a lot of sales copy that offers an attention getting headline, a list of benefits, a justification of the price, and several “buy now” buttons. Those are good elements. But if that “pay anything to solve the problem” need isn’t there, then it doesn’t matter. There won’t be a sale. The first job of a sales page is to capture attention. Most people understand that and try to accomplish that with a headline. The second job – and the one most often missed – is to aggravate the need; highlight the need; exacerbate the need. (I think Dan Kennedy calls it “agitate”, which is an apt word).

So if you’re hiring a copywriter to do some work for you, the most important thing you can do for them is to outline in vivid, graphic detail exactly what the problem is. Help the copywriter create content that has your client standing in rubber boots, ankle-deep in rising water, and willing to pay whatever they need to pay to have the problem solved.

[Photo credit: jronaldlee]

11 ways to repurpose your content

You’ve got a great idea and you’ve written the most kick ass content and published it through a particular channel.

Instead of going back to the drawing board to write something else, why not repurpose that same idea in several different ways so that, with some slight revisions, you can make it available to new readers in different channels:

  1. Package it together with other thematic material from your blog or website as an ebook.
  2. Get together with a colleague and write an article or report with each of you giving your thoughts on the content.
  3. Break it up into something with step-by-step instructions and write it as a guide.
  4. Outline the problem in greater detail and give it a formal spin to make it into a whitepaper.
  5. Create resources and checklists that might assist a reader to follow through on what you’ve written and call it a toolkit.
  6. Break it up into a handful of lessons — perhaps each step is one lesson or run through it in increasingly deeper “passes” — as an ecourse and deliver through a site like Prfessor.
  7. Break it down into 140 character concepts and write a series of tweets about it
  8. Write it as a single blog or as a series of blogs.
  9. Write it as an article or as a series of articles to distribute through an article distribution site.
  10. Record it as a speech and make it available as an MP3 or the first episode of a podcate.
  11. Video yourself reading it or talking about it and post it on YouTube.

Want some reasons to repurpose your content? Here are a few:

  • Turn a great idea into an alternate revenue stream.
  • Focus on an SEO keyword for a month and create several pieces of content around that keyword.
  • Grab some old content that was good but is now collecting dust and breathe new life into it.
  • Position yourself as an expert in a particular area by generating a lot of content on that topic.
  • Outpace a competitor by creating a lot of content on a particular topic that they are trying to develop.

A door to door salesperson was just here and screwed up in 8 different ways

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Image by Aunt Owwee via Flickr

I was working on a project when I heard someone knocking at my front door; I had to run to answer it in order to catch them before they walked away.

Damn. Didn’t recognize him and he was wearing a t-shirt with a logo and holding a clipboard. That could only mean a few things… and since I didn’t see that he was a courier carrying a package with my name on it, the alternatives were not positive.

For the record, I have worked in sales (and I’ve done it all: Phone sales, door-to-door, B2B, you name it) so I’m not about to slam the door in his face. I may not like what he’s selling but I will be respectful.

But he didn’t make the sale. He was fairly good at his pitch but it didn’t work. Here’s why:

  1. He disrupted my day with his pitch. Rather than shopping on my own terms, he launched into his pitch. It felt disrespectful that he would just railroad over my time.
  2. He forgot to tell me what he was selling. He referenced his company in a way that made it seem like I should know what they did. I didn’t.
  3. He forgot to qualify me. He was selling house alarms and forgot to ask me if I had one. (Owning one may not necessarily mean that he stopped his pitch, but it should have changed it).
  4. He forgot to get agreement from me that his product was valuable. While I like house alarms, I didn’t like his: I had some privacy concerns over the two-way communication system that would connect me to the monitoring company.
  5. He asked some impertinent questions like “where do you keep your valuables?”, “what floor of your house is your master bedroom on?”, and “when are you not at home?”. These questions aren’t things I would tell someone I’ve never met. He could have been a nicely-dressed thief casing the place.
  6. He continued to ask impertinent questions. Discovering that I was married, and wanting to pitch both of us at the same time (so I couldn’t say “let me talk it over with my wife”), he asked if my wife was home (she wasn’t), where she was, and how long I thought she’d be. He was going to wait around for her!
  7. He insulted my work. In trying to build rapport, he asked me what I did for a living then observed that it sounded boring.
  8. He basically said he was screwing his customers. He “confessed” that he only worked 4 months of the year and made a boatload of money which was enough to take the rest of the year off.

I sent him on his way.

HOW TO FIX DOOR TO DOOR
I can’t believe I’m writing this. Okay, so first, avoid door to door sales. It doesn’t respect your customer’s time. It invades the only place in life that they feel safe and in control. It feels pushy.

The problem is: You’re trying to cram your sales funnel into one meeting. Knock knock. Hello? Bam: Lead, Prospect, Customer. It doesn’t work like that. Ease them through the sales process.

If your product or service is more successfully sold through face to face sales (as some products tend to be), don’t make door to door your one single point of contact. Don’t jam your entire sales funnel into one ten minute meeting on their front step.

Instead…

Create a sales funnel that, if necessary, includes door to door as one part of a larger funnel.

Start by warming up the neighborhood with information. An advertisement in a community newspaper as well as a flier distribution will help to get people thinking about what you’re selling. In your distribution, add the words “One of our service professionals will be in the neighborhood this week. If you have further questions, feel free to ask them.”

Then, send someone with a company logo on the side of a vehicle and a company logo on their clothes. In other words, brand them. Make it seem like they are in the neighborhood anyway. Give them something to give homeowners. While it could be a letter to pop in the mail, it would be more effective if you gave them an attractive package. (Think this sounds expensive? It is… but it also gets more people answering the door and more people opening your literature because people open packages). While at the door, do not sell. Do not pitch. Offer the package, thank them for their time, mention that you were in the neighborhood and only have a brief moment to drop off the information. Of course you should connect who you are with the flier or ad that earlier softened the market. And mention that there is a code inside the package that earns them a free gift.

In the package, make sure that there is a wealth of good information that not only talks about your company but also enables comparison shopping. If you want people to read your stuff in order and not get overwhelmed, put it into a booklet. Give them a website to visit or a phone number to call and a code to find out what their free gift is.

Use the website or phone number to have them set up an appointment.

Follow up your door to door with another advertisement or flier distribution that hits the key points of your pitch.

Here’s why this should work better in most door to door scenarios:

  • People feel more in control and the steps you are laying out for them are small.
  • They don’t feel that you’ve interrupted them or were disrespectful of their time
  • They don’t feel sold — you were a service person who happened to be there versus a salesperson going from one house to the next.
  • You’re empowering them to make a decision.
  • You’re enticing them with something free.
  • You’re tracking them with a code.

Does the cost scare you off? Test it in a single marketplace. Consider the time you pay a door to door salesperson for and what their door-knocks-to-sale ratio is against the cost of a market-softening flier distribution that can result in faster door knocking (less time at each door) and more closes (because the customer is in control).

If you’re doing door to door sales, stop. It’s a lot of effort for a few, resentful purchases. If you have to do door to door, make it part of a larger sales funnel effort.

Mercedes Benz marketing fail

Mercedes Benz makes good, higher-end German cars… but their latest marketing effort is either lost in translation or was hacked together on a budget and without a lot of review. I’ve taken screenshots of the short ad (which I saw on Yahoo).

So we start off with an airplane. Nice G5 or something like that.

Then something weird starts to happen. At first, you’re not sure what…

Oh. Is the plane is disintegrating?

Yes, it is. That’s weird, isn’t it?

What kind of ad would have a plane coming apart while it’s flying?

And here it is. Completely gone. Disturbing. What happened to the pilot, co-pilot, and passengers?

Ta-da, it’s a car with gull-wing doors.

Huh?

So what’s the message? Beware of planes because they could disintegrate while flying. Instead, drive around in our car, which looks like a cross between a Jaguar and a DeLorean?

Hey, Mercedes Benz… this is not an effective ad. In fact, it’s weird and unconvincing and even a little alarming.