Moving your prospects to the next step

BabyStepsWhen you’re creating any sort of communication aimed at a potential buyer, you want them to do what?

When I ask this question, I typically hear a range of answers like:

• Know more about our business
• Understand how we’re better than our competitors
• Wonder if we’re the right fit for them

And of course….

• Buy what we sell!

All of that is probably true. But it’s too complicated. No matter how or where we’re communicating with a prospect, what we should want them to do is… take the next step.

Your job is simply moving your prospect to the next step.

That next step might be downloading an ebook, filling out the bounce back postcard to get a no obligation quote, emailing us with questions, signing up for a workshop, clicking on the buy now button or picking up the phone to schedule a meeting.

The answer is…we want them to take the next step in the sales cycle, whatever that may be. You want the reader (or listener or viewer) to do something to escalate the conversation. At that moment – you are talking to them. You want them to talk back somehow. And your copy should tell them exactly what to do.

I can hear you now… “I don’t have to tell them to call me. They’re not stupid. They know it’s an ad.” Very true. They’re not stupid. But they are incredibly busy, fragmented and they’re probably doing three other things while they flip through that magazine that houses your ad or click to the page on your website that has your workshops on it.

A call to action isn’t a remedy for stupid; it’s a remedy for their attention deficit. Its purpose is to get them to step out of a passive role and take a more active one. Because you have about 2 seconds before they change the channel, turn the page or click on the clapping monkey animated GIF that will take them away from your offer.

How do you write copy that captures their attention for that millisecond so they’ll take action?

Be very specific and direct: You need to spell it out for them and it needs to be simple. Click here to sign up or call XXX-XXXX to schedule an appointment. This isn’t the place to be cute or vague. You don’t even have to be polite and add a “please: or “thank you.” Just give them simple instructions that leave no room for doubt.

Focus on the benefit: Remember, you are trying to stop a moving train. They’re halfway to that next click or page turn. To get them to stop that momentum and move in a different direction will take something pretty compelling. Remember that we’re all motivated by the “what’s in it for me” equation so don’t be shy about telling them how they will benefit.

Keep it simple: If what you ask them to do is complicated, requires multiple steps, has complex directions or asks for too much information, — they will just move on. How many times have you started to fill out a form and then looked at how many questions it asked and said, “forget it” as you stopped?

Make it immediate: Sometimes this isn’t possible but whenever you can, make the call to action something they can complete right now in the moment. Remember, they might discover your ad or marketing piece at 2 am or while they’re standing in line at an airport.

For most organizations, a sale is a multi-step, complicated process. So keep that in mind as you create your calls to action. You’ll have a lot more success getting people to take one baby step at a time. Just give them the steps.

Hey media rep… do it like this (please)

listentomeI totally get that you are trying to make a living and that someone at your radio station, newspaper, TV station, magazine etc. says that my client should be advertising with you.  And maybe they should.

And I know you’re just trying to do your job.  But you need to understand that sometimes you trying to do your job is keeping me from doing mine.

Which does not make me love you.

So here’s my top ten suggestions for media reps trying to get an agency’s attention:

Reach out and introduce yourself when you aren’t trying to sell something.  Just let me know you’re there, you’ve been assigned to my client’s account and that you know we are the agency.

Acknowledge and honor the relationship I have with my client.  That means you don’t write or call my client.  Even if you’re having trouble getting through to me.  Ever.

Understand there’s one of me and a ton of you. I’d love to have coffee or a beer with all of you.  I’d like to get to know you. I’d be happy to hear about every new idea you have.  But, I can’t.  I simply don’t have enough time.  It’s not you.  It’s that there are a lot of you.

Find out how I prefer to communicate.  Phone, text, email, carrier pigeon.  And talk to me that way.  It’s not that I am ignoring your efforts to reach me.  It may just be that the demands on my day make it impossible for me to return a call or email, but I could text you back etc.

Trust that I know what I’m doing. I know about your media’s offerings and when the time and budget are right — I will reach out to you.  I’m not dodging you or your products.  It’s just not the right choice right now.

Stay in touch but do it gently.  Don’t send me every sales flier.  And don’t only contact me when you have something to sell.  You say you understand my client?  Prove it.  Send me (and only me) an article you think is insightful and that my client and I might value.  Be helpful and I will remember that.

Know that there’s a lot you can’t know.  Clients come with their own baggage.  It might be a budget issue we’re not allowed to talk about.  Or a leadership change or board edict that means there’s something big coming that is impacting our choices.  I won’t ever violate my client’s trust so I’d rather you think I am obtuse or stupid than say something out of school.

Don’t make me the enemy.  If you mess up, tell me fast.  If you gave me bad information, fess up.  Missed a deadline or forgot to follow up — just say so.  I get it, we’re all human. I’ll forgive almost anything. But, if you do an end run around me to the client – I’m going to find out. And that’s not going to end well.

Stick around.  Remember when I said there were a ton of you?  Well, there are.  So be sure you reach out every so often, so I don’t forget about you.  (by the way…every so often is probably once a quarter at the most.)

Care about what I care about. There are media reps that I do stay in touch with, grab a beer or coffee with etc.   They’re the ones who have sent me a new business lead, served on a board with me, suggested me as a source to a reporter who was doing a story, connected with me (genuinely) on Facebook or other social networks, or found some other way to actually create a relationship with me that isn’t just about selling me something.

I know it’s a fine balance and there are probably days that you’d like to wring my neck, but we both need to make it work.  After all — ultimately, we’re both committed to helping our clients.

And although I’m sure you’d rather it was someone else — I’m yours.

 

 

Stock photo courtesy of www.BigStockPhoto.com

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Selling shouldn’t equal annoying

hand putting a penny in a money jar - charity donationThere’s a Walgreens a few blocks from my house. It’s a convenient place to get just about everything, so I’m there a few times a week.  It seems like every week they are collecting money for some charity.

They have the cause of the week prominently displayed.  I can buy a paper boot, heart, ribbon or balloon. And when I go to check out, there’s a jug there — inviting cash donations.  When I run my credit card through — as I approve the charge, I am given the opportunity to donate.

So — I have ample opportunity to give.  But then, if all those efforts have failed to get me to donate — the clerk asks me — do you want to make a donation to XYZ?

Now I’m feeling cornered.  The people in the line are listening. The clerk is looking at me like I’m a cheap jerk and while I should not care about what these strangers think — I sort of do.

That’s not a comfortable position and we shouldn’t be putting that sort of squeeze on our prospects or clients.

There’s a fine line in marketing and sales.  We’ve talked about it before.  You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. If someone is not ready to part with their money, you can’t force or humiliate them into doing so.  And if you keep pushing — all you do is alienate them.

Sometimes this over the line behavior is overt, like my Walgreens friends.  Other times, it’s more subtle – like the passive aggressive voice mail messages or constant up selling or incessant follow up even when you’ve been told no.

Subtle or not — it’s not effective. It makes us question your motives (I am pretty sure Walgreens has some sort of contest among their stores…to see who can raise the most money) and it feels a little desperate.

I know this flies into the face of the sales motto — always be closing.  But the hard sell doesn’t work anymore (Did it ever?).

Instead — you have to find a way to know who your real audience is, capture their attention, market consistently and have something of value to share/teach often enough that you stay on their radar screen until they’re ready to buy.

If it was easy — everyone could do it.  Do you have the stamina to sell?

 

Photo courtesy of www.BigStockPhotos.com

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Touching my heart doesn’t necessarily touch my wallet

Two of the best Superbowl commercials from yesterday were by Budweiser (no shock) and Jeep (a little more surprising).  Lots of tweets and FB updates mentioned “tearing up” as they watched them.  I reacted the same way.

The Budweiser spot:

 

The Jeep spot:

 

Both spots were really well done and very heart tugging.  I will admit, I got a little teary-eyed during both of them too. But neither spot had me reaching for my wallet.  I really, really do not like Bud beer.  I love their brand, their Clydesdales and their lore.  But nothing they do could get me to become a regular Bud drinker.

I don’t have those same kind of feelings about a Jeep.  I like them and I’ve even test driven them in the past.  But, I’m not in the market for a new truck, so Jeep’s spot didn’t have me changing my shopping plans either.

The spot made me appreciate that they invested that kind of money to honor our country’s troops but even if I was in the market, that wouldn’t be the tipping point.

Both spots are a good reminder that playing the emotion card alone usually isn’t enough to earn a new customer. We buy based on emotion, that is true.  But we also need something more.  Features, facts and need.

Brand building ads like Bud’s and Jeep’s earn brand respect and affinity. The spots probably had more of an effect on their current customers (who now have their buying decision reinforced) than prospects.  But for some people who might not be in the market today — these spots certainly didn’t discourage interest.

For those of us who can’t afford a Super Bowl commercial the lesson is even more important.  On a more finite budget — we need to be sure we find a balance between emotion and facts. Either alone just won’t get the job done.

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Five trade show mistakes to avoid

Mistake #1: Not having a pre-game plan.

Trade shows are one of those things that sneak up on you. You’re going to have to be out of the office for a few days, you need everything shipped in advance and you’re juggling your regular work. But the prep work should be done months in advance, which you can still take action on the ideas you think will give you the bang for your buck.

You should have an action plan for pre show, the show itself and post show. Most people put some thought into the actual event but rarely do anything in advance to get attendees to their booth. You can do something traditional like an attendee bag insert or you could get creative and do something in the lobby of the hotel most attendees will be staying at. But do something.

Mistake #2: Pretty pictures are a dime a dozen

Yes, a spectacular booth is eye-catching and can sometimes draw a crowd. But these days, those are table stakes. Most companies have a visually appealing booth filled with pretty pictures. You want the attendees to know, at a glance, what you do and why they should care.

Keep these tips in mind. Show me before and after shots. One or two huge visuals are more effective than a montage or lots of smaller shots. If you can do a live demo – all the better. Capture my attention from across the room and invite me to get closer.

Mistake #3: I don’t care about you, I care about me

This is a marketing maxim we should all know by now. They don’t want to know about you. They want to know about you in relation to them.

Don’t tell me that your product is a polynomial formula of XYZ. Tell me that you can put more money in my pocket by helping me grow heartier plants. Don’t tell me that your software specs, tell me that you can save me half a day.

Remember, as they walk by you they’re asking, “what’s in it for me?” If they can’t spot the answer, they’ll keep on walking.

Mistake #4: Give me something to talk about

I have never attended a trade show where someone hasn’t said “you’ve got to check out booth XYZ.” Your goal – be that booth. It might be a killer giveaway, a interactive experience that has people coming back for more, a product that is going to change the way I do business or an industry celebrity signing autographs and charming the socks off people.

It’s usually not the cool booth itself. It’s something that’s happening in the booth. Create that buzz on the floor

Mistake #5: Actually follow up

This is the one I find most staggering. More than 90% of companies who exhibit at a trade show do nothing to follow up with attendees. Why bother going?

The problem is – this should be part of the pre-show prep. If it’s not, you’ll come back to the office, things will be crazy, you’ll have to create something to send out, that will take longer than it should and pretty soon, you’ll think it’s been too long so forget it.

That is a seriously expensive decision. Know before you leave for the show what will happen when you get home from the show. Or don’t waste your time going.

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Why isn’t marketing’s version of storytelling working?

Storytelling, storytelling, and more storytelling.

Seems like every marketing book, blog (including mine if you’ve been reading this week’s posts) and study is talking about how we should be using storytelling as a marketing technique.

I couldn’t agree more.  Unfortunately, I think most attempts fall short.

Earlier this week — I made the point that A) It seems that despite all the hype — we’re doing less real storytelling today and B) storytelling is hardly a new tactic.

Marketers clearly believe that storytelling is a critical component of their marketing efforts.  As you can see (click here to see a larger version of the chart above) by the chart above, according to a 2012 B2B Content Marketing Trends survey conducted for Holger Schulze for Optify, 81% of respondents listed engaging and compelling storytelling as one of the three most important aspects of content marketing.

So — no argument that marketing’s version of storytelling is critical to a business’ communications success. The question is — why are so many companies doing it badly and not experiencing the results they want?

The stories don’t evoke an emotion: There’s not a memorable story around that isn’t seeded in emotions.  For some businesses, especially those in the B2B sector, it’s hard to imagine what emotions their products or services might trigger.  That’s because the marketers are staying at the features level of sales, not delving into the benefits that lie beneath.

It might be as simple as your prospect is afraid if they make a bad decision, it will cost them their job.  Or it could be that what you sell is helping your clients fulfill their reason for existing — which to them is very emotionally motivated.  If you dig deep enough, you’ll find the emotions behind your stories.  Be sure you expose those in your storytelling so that your audience can relate to and empathize with the people in the tale.

The stories don’t use data to lend credibility: As we discussed in my post about the Revolutionary War book — what made those stories so dramatic and grabbing was he facts that were dotted throughout.

As the folks at the Content Marketing Institute points out in this blog post — data can be used in a variety of ways to tell your story.  Think visual data like an infographic or let the data suggest a new angle or insight for both you and your audience.

The story doesn’t take us on a journey: In marketing’s version of storytelling, we often take shortcuts to get to the big reveal.  But in doing that, we rob the audience of the arc of the story. Every story is, in essence, a journey that chronicles the the problem, the fight to solve the problem and how things are better once the challenge is resolved.

But a great story lets the journey also help the audience see the motivations, frustrations and worries of the characters while they try to face the problem. The outcomes are also wrapped in more than just the tangible results.  When the story is rich with details – we also learn more about the intangible results and ultimate value of delivering the right solution.

The story doesn’t include a next step/call to action: Here’s where most marketers really miss the boat.  A well crafted story draws the audience in, helps them connect with the main character and feel their common pain.  As the story evolves, the prospect is pulling for the character — because in reality, the character bears a striking resemblance to them.  They experience the ups and downs within the story and as the story delivers the happy ending — the prospective customer is thinking and feeling relief and a desire to share in that sort of outcome.

So marketing’s version of storytelling is all too often, a big tease.  You led them right to the edge — get them hungry for what you’re selling but don’t give them a clear and defined next step.  Ask yourself — what do I want them to do next and be sure you make it easy and quick to take that next action.

If you don’t include this as a part of your storytelling — the whole point of telling the story in the first place is wasted.  You aren’t a court jester earning your supper.  You’re trying to help someone decide whether or not you hold the answer to their problem. Once you demonstrate that you are the right choice — be sure you give them a chance to tell you so.

What do you think? Can you tweak the way you’re telling your company’s story so that it drives leads and sales?

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