Case study: Communicating through a sensitive topic

In business, it’s easy to communicate the fun stuff. “Great news! We’ve increased the your bandwidth!” or “Great news, that airplane seat actually costs less!”

But there are times when you need to deliver bad news to a client… and that’s when clients call me.

In the recent past, I’ve had 3 separate clients ask me to help them communicate bad news to their clients.

  • One software client was changing how their warranty period was charged and measured, which ultimately resulted in higher costs for customers.
  • An insurance client was asking its vendors to adopt a new and highly complex piece of software.
  • A client that sold online services was increasing their rate structure, even though they had already increased their rate structure earlier that year.

I always start by trying to understand both sides of the relationship. The party delivering the bad news has their reasons for having the bad news in the first place. (In my experience, businesses rarely try to screw with their customers and vendors without having a good reason!). And on the other side of the table, the party receiving the bad news brings their own set of biases and goals.

This is where most businesses fall short. They might want to do what’s right for all parties but their own goals are so embedded in their thinking that it’s hard to consider the other side. Perhaps that’s why they bring me — an outsider — in to help.

After thinking about what both parties want, I try to find something good. Something. Sometimes it’s hard but it’s never impossible.

  • In the case of the software company, there were aspects of the warranty that customers could customize.
  • In the case of the insurance company’s vendors, the software allowed for faster communication between the vendor and the company.
  • Even in the online services client, there was something good — although we had to create it: Rather than simply increasing the company’s rates across the board, we changed the conversation by creating new service tiers. The prices increased but so did the service and the perceived value.

The result? I was able to communicate through the sensitive issue for my clients and they came out the other side with customers and vendors intact and happy.

Case study: Writing to create a brand

When you have a product to sell, you sell it once and the client takes ownership of that product. But with software as a service, you are creating a product that you “sell” over and over again. Every time the payment is due, you need to re-sell why you provide the service that you do. And when there are other competing products in the marketplace, you’d better step up with something different of your own.

I had an opportunity to write for a client who was selling financial software as a service. They were a brand new product competing in a space already dominated by several other names.

With a total blank slate, I set out to create the brand. I knew that we’d never be able to compete on an equal plain with the other established service providers in the category. They had already locked up the ideas/concepts/terms that they stood for. So we found our own idea and I wrote all the content around that one idea. I recommended a mascot to be created and presented frequently on all the pages to give the brand its identity. All content — on every single page, as well as the blog — was designed to support the one idea or key theme we chose as the idea for our brand. We even changed the pricing model to reflect the brand that was built.

I couldn’t have been more pleased with the result: The site looked sharp, attracted subscribers, and became a solid player in the industry with a healthy base of subscribers. I wrapped up my agreement with them when they were acquired by another company.

This project was the project that ultimately “sold” me on the value of the subscription payment model. I’d seen other companies do it, of course, but was never on the inside before, and this company put together an offer that worked really well.

And, this project was thrilling to participate in because it truly was a “from-the-ground-up” project in which I started with an entirely clean slate and could build it almost in any way that I thought best.

Go after your leads BEFORE they become leads: How to convince buyers that they want more than a faster horse

I’ve been writing about sales funnels for a while. And if you’ve ever heard me speak about them, or you’ve read my book The Sales Funnel Bible, you’ll know that one of my favorite sales funnel speaking points is this:

Your sales funnel starts earlier than you think it does.

Unlike how most people view their sales funnel, it doesn’t start with marketing to get leads.

Your sales funnel starts earlier — with your audience.

You should be marketing to them long before they realize they have a problem that you can solve. You should be marketing to your audience to let them know that they have a problem.

A great example here is from Henry Ford. He famously (and apocryphally?) said that if he had asked his customers what they needed, they would have said they needed a faster horse. He needed to find potential car buyers and let them know that they had a problem they didn’t even realize they had!

The same thing is happening in your business. You solve a problem — great! — but there are people who don’t realize that they even have a problem. If you market only to those who already know they have a problem, you miss out on a huge market of people who are only a small decision-point away from discovering they have a problem that you solve.

So build your sales funnel “taller” and “earlier” by educating people who don’t realize they have a problem.

Imagine my delight when I saw that Moz (formerly SEOmoz, whose content I find so damn interesting) wrote about this exact topic on a recent Whiteboard Friday post. That’s validating because Rand Fishkin is smarter and more popular than I am… so maybe I’m kind of on the right track. :)

Check it out here:

Targeting your audience earlier in the buying process

This is such a huge opportunity for business owners. If you’re not paying attention to your audience, start today!

Case study: Ghostwriting a best-selling book

A book is more than just a couple hundred pages that you might sell for twenty bucks on Amazon. Writing a book SHOULD BE on your list of things to do to grow your business. It’s a document that helps to position you as an expert in your field. It has the potential to provide ongoing income for you — just sweat through the hard work of writing it once and then you’ll earn ongoing income from it for as long as you sell it. A book is also a marketing tool; it constantly promotes you even when you’re sleeping. Books open doors — to new business opportunities, new marketing opportunities, speaking engagements, clients, and more.

As a former ghostwriter (I really don’t do ghostwriting at all anymore) I had the privilege of working with a few clients on their books. They’d tell me what they wanted to write about, I’d put together a table of contents and a project plan (to keep the project moving forward because it’s SO easy to let your book falter) and then I’d write the content for them. Unlike some ghostwriters who write almost all the content exclusively, I tried to adopt a more collaborative approach with my clients because I felt that it better captured their brand and “voice”, and it ensured that I didn’t too long on a rabbit-trail digression that wasn’t helping the client.

Some books I wrote for some clients turned out okay. We were both happy with the end result but the books didn’t deliver all that was hoped. But for one client, with whom I wrote nearly half a dozen books, they all became Amazon best-sellers, achieving #1 seller status in different Amazon categories.

So what was the difference between some of my clients whose books were okay and my one client whose books all became best-sellers?

Here are a few things that helped my best-selling-book client do so well:

  • We wrote good-sized print books (250+ pages) of high quality, high value information
  • We created a website to help promote the book
  • We cross-sold the book on my client’s other channels (his site plus in the backs of other books)
  • We wrote sales letters and autoresponders to help generate sales

These all helped; they all played a part… and I would love to point entirely to myself as the most significant reason that these books did so well. However, what really made a huge difference was that my client had a HUGE audience with whom he had nurtured a very deep and trusting relationship.

Whenever we wrote something, he put it on Amazon and his readers would rush out and buy it. (That might sound bad but don’t worry, I made sure we wrote GREAT content!).

Although I played a part, it was really my client’s relationship with his list that made all the difference, turning a great product into an in-demand product.

So what should you do if you’re a business owner who aspires to write a book and use it as a tool for your business? I think your first priority should be to build an audience and nurture a relationship with them.

4 reasons why you might want to use fewer marketing channels

You have a lot of marketing channels to promote your business. The list is ever-growing and ever-evolving. And the default action of many entrepreneurs is to use as many of those marketing channels as possible to get the word out about your business.

Unfortunately, no entrepreneur has unlimited time, money, and effort to promote their business in all available marketing channels (or even a bunch of them). Instead, you need to choose just a few.

Here’s why:

  1. Focus: By working with only a few marketing channels, you can pour more of your attention into the people you connect with there. You can invest more into those few channels to achieve a meaningful impact.
  2. Effectiveness: You can build better relationships because have the time and attention to pay to the people in that channel. You’ll have the time to listen and respond.
  3. Easier to measure: Measuring the effectiveness of your marketing channels helps you to know which marketing channels are having the biggest impact on your sales funnel so you know where to invest even more time and money and effort. Too many channels makes it too difficult to measure. A few channels is much easier to pay attention to the numbers.
  4. Consistency: Consistent results from marketing efforts are preferable to inconsistent results. (Check out this blog post about the entrepreneur’s dilemma of consistent sales versus frequent sales. The same principle holds true here.

With just a few marketing channels, you can create a more focused, effective, measurable, and consistent return for your marketing efforts.

What’s the right number of marketing channels? How many is too many? That’s not easy to tell — it depends on a lot of factors. But with the overload of marketing channels available today, there’s a good chance that you need to think carefully about the number of channels you’re using.