I was recently asked by Ron Phelps to train at an event he was hosting. It didn’t take knowing Ron long to realize how much could be learned from his story. Ron is a decorated veteran who has built one of the largest financial advisory practices in the mid-west and isn’t stopping anytime soon. What was supposed to be a 15 minute interview turned into a half hour covering multiple success principles that can help any professional or entrepreneur.
There is a shortcut to making more money and the chances are you missed it. The good news is your competition probably did too. The shortcut is good copy writing skills…and for b2b professionals this entails writing effective prospecting emails. Grammar is nice, but effective messaging is even better.
Throw out the notion that email is impersonal and that you should call a prospect. Although there are exceptions, ask yourself if you would rather be solicited by email or a phone call. Would you rather take a few seconds to decide whether to respond to a cold email or get caught off guard in the middle of your day by phone? So why are your prospects any different?
“Yeah, but my prospects inbox gets filled with emails.”
This is correct…and that is why the first skill to learn is how to write a subject line that gets your email opened. Have you ever considered how many of your prospects are reading your emails on their mobile device? Do you realize this limits you to subject line real estate of about 35 characters? Do you realize knowing this just put you ahead of your competition?
This post is not designed to be a lesson on how to write emails, but rather to encourage you to learn the skill of writing effective emails. I am not sure why this is such a rarely talked about business skill within companies, but it is by far what my clients and partners thank me for the most. And the crazy thing is you can read a few free online articles and with a little testing you will be better than 95% of your competition!
I love 80/20 leverage and I can’t think of a better investment then taking the time to work on email writing skills including, but not limited to, subject lines, follow up strategies, content, calls to action, tone, psychology, editing techniques, and testing.
If this post hasn’t encouraged you to take action yet, then how about the fact that there are copywriters who get paid almost 6 figures a day (yes a day) to put together effective emails for companies….or that salesforce.com increased sales by over 100 million dollars in their early years through an outbound cold email campaign.
Time to stop sucking….
One of the most common mistakes I see working with people is that despite what the marketplace is telling them, they keep throwing time and money after what they “think” people want. They are so in love with their ideas that despite few results, they keep doing more of the same.
I recently started working with Tina Klideris to help her expand her New York based Artemix business nationally. Below is an excerpt from an interview I did with Tina where she discusses how her original business idea was a flop, but by listening to what her customers actually wanted she was able to generate millions in sales in the world of temporary tattoos.
I know, the title should have said goals, but it didn’t. It won’t be long until people start setting their goals for 2015 and as I am sure you know, most people won’t hit them. Why not? Because it’s easy to change your goals, what you need to change are your standards. Goals are important as they provide direction and help with decision making. But standards are fundamental, internal boundaries of what you will and won’t accept in any area of your life and business.
Yesterday a client of mine signed term sheets for an investment from a very successful direct response tv company. They will be facilitating a tv test for his product with the long term goal of a retail roll out.
When I emailed my contact at the company originally her response was basically “I don’t get it, but if I am missing something please explain”. After rereading my email, I knew I had been a little sloppy and replied with even more clarification. She liked it better the 2nd time, but still didn’t think the investment team would get it quick enough to make it through their review process. She suggested my client just submit a simpler video demonstrating the product. Which is exactly what he did..and he got his term sheet.
Whether the product makes it or not is out of our control at this point and in the hands of the American consumer. But it highlights one of the most important skills an entrepreneur, sales person, activist or politician can ever learn. The ability to clearly articulate your message.
The reason most people never invest in this skill or take the time to refine their message (or unique selling proposition) is because we are biased to believe that if we just keep talking (or writing) then the other person will understand. If you want evidence of how valuable this skill is, just look at what they pay copywriters like Dan Kennedy for a day’s work (as much as many make in a year).
But don’t get caught up in the word copy writing. Your ability to verbally or visually send a clear message is just as valuable. In his last book “Exploiting Chaos”, Jeremy Gutsche challenges companies to get their consistent message down to 7 words or less. (By the way, the book is now free on his website.) But this applies to anyone trying to articulate a message. If you are selling a product, or promoting a cause, you should work with your team on getting the message of “Why Should I Choose You” or “Why Should I Donate” to 7 words or less if possible. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
A real life example. I am part of a team that is a couple of months away from launching a search engine that gives customers the same results as the major search engines, with the bonus that it doesn’t record your search terms, place cookies on your browser or build ad profiles on your IP address. Although I think it is a no-brainer to use this vs the other search engines, people I explain it to don’t “get it” right away. Which means we need to refine our 7 word explanation until they do…or this great product will be a failure.
Customers don’t care if you are a consultant, app, strategic partner, platform, interface, source, repository, portal, one stop shop, solutions-based provider, results-oriented firm, cloud-based blah blah…..
They just want to know if you can help them with THEIR priorities, not yours.
I am a huge believer in most people need to be reminded, not taught. I first heard it from the great Chris Widener at a live seminar, but I’m not sure of its origin….in fact, I don’t even care and here is why:
The whole principal is that to move the needle in most areas of our business and life, we already know what to do. However, we get so caught up in the day to day sometimes that a good reminder goes a long way.
I will take it even one step further. Sometimes we just need to hear it put in a different way OR at a time when we are more open to receiving the information. Below is a recent article about focus and moving the needle. There is nothing new in the article that I haven’t heard before, but for some reason it just moved me to do some restructuring of my day to day business. So the best thing I can do is just forward it on and hope it does the same for you.
And whether you read it or not, do a little experiment. Put a note in your calendar to read it in 3 months and see what happens. Click Here to Read It.
As a former research scientist, I appreciate the long process of taking something from a theory to something that objective data validates. Let’s be honest, everyone reading this knows willpower doesn’t work in the long term for anything. And now the science is showing that willpower acts much like a muscle in that you can fatigue it. That is why any real long term change requires developing new habits. So summer reading suggestion number 1 is The Power of Habit.
However there is a big place for willpower especially when developing new habits and that is why summer reading suggestion number 2 is “The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It.” Although I have been following the author’s talks and articles for quite a while, I have not read the book. I assume it is a summary of her philosophies which are not only rooted in science, but effective in the real world. For a short review on psychologist Kelly McGonigal and her teachings click here.
No, not the 3 hour kind where you focus more on whether there is food in your teeth then what the other person is saying. I mean the kind that are stamped above my blog posts. I haven’t been writing much lately…but the reality is there is plenty of good content from the last few years that can be read and even reread. Just because it’s new, doesn’t mean it’s better!
As an entrepreneur, marketing professional or sales rep there is nothing worse than the feeling of expending time and energy and seemingly getting nowhere. To be honest, this is where most people question everything they are doing and eventually quit…been there, done that.
In one particular business, my reps would always compare themselves to more successful reps (not advised) and ask me what they are doing to be successful. I always gave them the same answer: “They are doing the same thing as you, just more of it and for a longer period of time” I would then go on to explain that as they filled their pipeline with potential customers and prospects, not only would they sharpen their skills, but the laws of math would take over.
The analogy I would use is that imagine trying to swat a fly (customer) with your hand in a room with only 3 flies. You would expend a lot of energy, tire out and probably still have 3 flies buzzing around. But what if the room was filled with flies to the point they were bouncing off of you? One swipe and you would probably hit 10 of them while making it look easy. The problem is the newer reps didn’t see the room filing with flies….just a quick swipe and big results.
I felt confident telling them this, because not only did I see results with what I was teaching them, but there were many other successful reps. So if you are in an industry where colleagues or mentors have produced results, you should commit to getting over the initial hump.
But, what if your marketing technique doesn’t attract flies? Or there are no flies? THIS IS THE PART OF THE STORY THEY DON’T TELL YOU. If you are breaking ground with a new product, service or business you don’t always know if there are customers, or what you are doing will attract those customers. So just “swatting away” is an emotionally draining scenario where you question everything and keep changing how you swat and what you swat at.
The trick is, you must budget enough time and resources to test multiple techniques. You must determine BEFORE you start how many trials (calls, emails, marketing pieces, ads) you will commit to. There is nothing worse than starting a prospecting campaign, getting few results and then change it based on emotion rather than facts. Then you truly did waste time because you don’t really know if it was effective. But if you see it through long enough to KNOW that it doesn’t produce results, this is actually a victory.
There are countless books and articles on how to test, split test, etc. and this post is not designed to teach that. But it is important to know the difference between working with established products, services and marketing techniques vs breaking new ground. In the former you want to swat away. In the latter you need to find out if you should be swatting at all.