Tell the Truth: Deliver on Your Title’s Promise

This post is a hat-tip to Mallie Hart, Media Barista, who this month is encouraging the use of songs in blog posts to lighten and enliven content.

 

cetified trutyC’mon, tell the truth. Give it to me straight. Don’t waste my time with misleading titles and headlines, untruths and outright falsehoods.

Have you ever started to read an article or blog post only to find the content doesn’t fit at all with what the title suggests? You’re ready to learn something, only to find the information just isn’t there. What a waste of time.

Last week, I downloaded an ebook with a provocative title, promising to teach me how do do something complicated in just seven days!

 

Too Good to be True

The ebook addressed a topic I want to write about, so the “seven days” aspect sounded too good to be true – and it was. Page after page, the author skirted around the edges of the topic and not once – not once – did “seven days” appear anywhere in the 16 chapters of text. False claim. Deception. Bells going off.

I couldn’t help but wonder how many other readers had been disappointed. Often times, such false claims are perpetrated by black hat internet marketers who make their living by practicing bait and switch. My tendency is to give writers the benefit of the doubt — perhaps they aren’t paying enough attention to how their books are marketed. But these transgressions seem too obvious to be a mistake, especially when the untruths are designed into a fancy cover that blatantly hypes the false claims.

 

Eric Clapton: Tell the Truth

 

As Eric Clapton demands:
    Tell the truth. Tell me, who’s been fooling you?
    Tell the truth. Now who’s been fooling who?

Remember the Boy Who Cried Wolf? When you grab the attention of people with certain words, and your readers don’t find what they’re looking for, they’re far less likely to lend you their attention the next time your work enters their sight. Chances are, they’ll never bother to read your work again.

 

Deliver on Your Promise

I like to have fun with headlines and titles as much as the next writer, but there are guidelines for doing so. No matter how outrageous the headline, the copy in your piece must deliver on your initial claim.

A title or headline is a promise. Deliver on what you promise. It’s easier to do this if you:

  • Write your title or headline first.
  • Then create titles for your ebook chapters, or subheads for your article.
  • Next, use the title and subtitles as an structural outline for composing your piece — everything you write should relate back to your title without veering off-track.

Tell the truth. Tell me, who’s been fooling you?

I’m sure you’ve encountered title promises that don’t deliver. Please share in the comments!

Don Your CAPE to Achieve Your Goals

It's Not About the TightsIf you’re like me, you’ve set some mighty big marketing goals for 2013. Ideas for projects are swirling in your mind, yet each day, you can barely make any headway. Your inner critic keeps chattering away, and you worry that you’ll never find the inspiration or dedication to really make things happen.

Are you hoping a superhero will swoop down and rescue you to carry you across the finish line? (Studies show this is unlikely to happen.)

According to Chris Brogan, New York Times best-selling co-author of The Impact Equation and Trust Agents: “You are the superhero you’ve been waiting for all this time.” You rescue you. And it’s not about your costume, it’s about donning your CAPE (an acronym for his bravery system), taking a combination of small and large risks, and building bridges to get to where you want to be.

 

Powerful Message

In It’s Not About the Tights, Brogan’s new personal development guide, he communicates a powerful message of bravery. I’m convinced you can read it in a couple of hours. But then, you will undoubtedly want to go back again and again, filling in your Journal of Bravery (or Bravery Notebook, or whatever you want to call it) while working to improve your confidence and build personal strengths to tackle life’s challenges.

The book is based on Brogan’s eight-week course and online community, Brave New Year, which has become an important part of my life as I tackle new challenges and goals. Embracing bravery is key to my success plan in 2013.

The brilliance of Chris Brogan’s book and program is that he gently reminds you to be courageous in everything you do while recognizing the human factor — why bravery can be difficult. He acknowledges he continues to learn alongside you, all with a twist of humor and personable charm that lends the impression of a one-to-one conversation.

 

Practical Tools

It’s Not About the Tights includes a wealth of practical tools and ideas to build confidence, demolish your inner critic, and grant permission to actually get things done. From apps and systems to games, points and rewards, this little book encompasses big concepts to help you move yourself forward.

Will building courage give you the strength to tackle the many challenges in both your business but and personal life? For me, so far so good, which is why I wanted to share this with you. And others in the Brave community are experiencing huge benefits as well.

Have you read this big little book? In the comments, please let me know how the CAPE looks on you.

You can buy It’s Not About the Tights on Amazon for $4.95 (not affiliate) and learn more about Brave New Year here.

 

Start Acting Like the Snowflake You Are

you are a snowflake, you are uniqueYou are a snowflake. You are unique, one of a kind. Did your mother ever tell you this? Probably, but chances are it’s long-forgotten along with other remarks which only a mother would say.

Unless you are one of three handsome, bright, talented young men in the Pacific Northwest with the last name of Sircely, I am not your mother, and yet I am telling you that you, yes YOU, are a snowflake. (Go ahead and laugh if you must – I’m being sincere!)

Your business is a snowflake, too. It has its own unique story and is led by you, the one-of-a-kind snowflake. So why treat it like it’s the same as any other business? Why gravitate toward the flock when you could distinguish your business with a marketing approach uniquely tailored to you?

It’s easy to slide into sameness. Templates and themes are ubiquitous. There are online templates for printing your business card and other marketing materials. There are themes for website design, customizable, but rarely well-customized. Stock art photos and graphics repeat themselves on websites, blog posts and brochures. Copywriting guides and software programs teach fill-in-the-blanks, until everything follows the same blueprint. As a result, marketing materials are becoming increasingly generic — looking, reading and sounding the same.

When you appear to be the same as all the others, how do you convince customers to buy from you? Your potential customers want to know: What makes you different and why should I buy from you? What’s behind the workings of your business? What’s your business story?

 

What Makes You Different?

Your unique story

Your Story: Uncover your unique story – everybody has one. We all have our own personal reasons and passions for doing what we do. Telling your backstory accentuates your individuality and encourages others to connect with you.

Ask yourself:

1. What makes me uniquely qualified to do what I do?

2. How and why did I begin?

3. What have I achieved that helps others trust and want to do business with me?

4. And most important: What do I offer that generates positive responses; what is it that makes me remarkable?

 

your image, your lookYour Look: Design is a vital element that either draws people in, causes a headache or induces drowsiness. As a snowflake is one-of-a-kind, your website and other marketing materials need to reflect your uniqueness in a way that instantly captures the interest of prospective customers and earns their trust as they delve deeper.

Your look is so important, it’s advisable to invest in a trained graphic designer. Create a logo or type treatment in colors that are appropriate for your business and reflect the story you tell. Tweak that website theme so it’s fully customized, or start from scratch and build something special. Keep your look consistent throughout your marketing materials, from website to print and across all social media to platforms.

If possible, take your own photos or hire a photographer to shoot key images. This gives you a distinctive look and makes you stand out from all the others using the same stock images.

 

your unique business styleYour Style: Here’s where your remarkableness can shine through brightly. Everyone interacts differently with customers and prospects. What’s your style? What are your personal qualities?

Look into your products, services and how you work with customers and prospective customers. What is special about what you offer, and the style with which you offer it? What is special about how you work with others? What is special about how you care for your clients and customers? How do you serve them? What do you do that encourages people to say positive things about you?

 

Celebrate Your Uniqueness

Think of yourself as a snowflake, and define what distinguishes you from the rest. Tell your unique story and wrap it into a marketing plan. Tell it everywhere. Have it shine through on your website, in all your print materials, and throughout social media in a consistent, coordinated message that is as unique as the snowflake you are.

Always remember: You are a snowflake. We are all snowflakes. Let’s have the courage to be proud of our differences.

 

Have You Helped a Woman in Small Business Lately?

"There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women."

It was the most frightening experience.

My heart was pounding in my ears.

I gently pushed my chair back and stood, trembling on the inside. I steadied myself and forced the words from my lips—my name, my business name, and a phrase about my writing and design services. As I sat down, a flash of heat swept over me from head to toe. I closed my eyes and took a slow breath. I did not hear the next five people introduce themselves.

This was the scene some 25 years ago at Business Over Breakfast, a monthly meeting for women in business back in my hometown of Bucks County, PA. It was my first introduction. Ever. And over the years, this group of women proved invaluable in shaping my role as a woman business owner and guiding the development of my business. Every woman starting out should have the benefit of such a strong support network.

Madeleine Albright puts it well. I’ll never forget the cheer that exploded from the audience when the former US Secretary of State delivered her famous line a few years ago at the Power of Women in Philanthropy event held by the Philadelphia Foundation:

“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

 

Women Own 30 Percent of Small Businesses

The Small Business Administration reports women-owned businesses comprise about 30 percent of the small business marketplace. Women-owned businesses have become one of the fastest growing segments of the small business community.

And according to the second annual State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, commissioned by American Express OPEN and conducted by Womenable, census statistics show:

“Women-owned firms continue to grow in number and economic stature. They are standing toe-to-toe with competitors in a broad range of industries, including construction and transportation, where women-owned firms are just as likely as all firms in those sectors to generate more than half a million dollars in annual revenue. The growth in the number (up 54%), employment (up 9%) and revenues (up 58%) of women-owned firms over the past 15 years exceeds the growth rates of all but the largest, publicly-traded firms. As of 2012, it is estimated that there are more than 8.3 million women-owned businesses in the United States, generating nearly $1.3 trillion in revenues and employing nearly 7.7 million people.”

In addition, the same study reports that the number of women-owned companies has risen by 200,000 since the beginning of 2012, equivalent to just under 550 new women-owned firms per day.

 

Women Need to Help Women

Recently, as I designed ads for our local newspaper’s special section for National Women’s Small Business Month, I began to consider all the ways we can help one another as women. Here are just a few ideas you might apply:

Start a networking group for women in business. The Business Over Breakfast group was extremely important to me as a young entrepreneur, and the bonds that were forged between members are still strong today. Your networking group could be centered on social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook or Google+, but don’t underestimate the power of face-to-face meetings with other business women in your community.

Hire women. The latest statistic is that a woman only makes 79 cents on the dollar for performing the same work as a man. You can change that by hiring women and paying them an equitable, living wage! In addition, by hiring women as employees or as independent contractors, you can take a leadership role in mentoring them.

Take a woman under your wing. Last summer, the Washington Post reported on a new study by the nonprofit research organization Catalyst, which found women are more likely than men to support talent development within their companies. (This dashes the myth that women tend to sabotage one another in the workplace.) In the Catalyst study, 65 percent of women who received career development support are now helping other women get ahead, compared to 56 percent of men. And 73 percent of these women are mentoring other women. The study also found that “paying it forward pays back” as the women who mentored others saw pay increases of more than $25,000 between 2008 and 2010, mostly because the act of mentoring made them more visible in the organization.

Patronize other women-owned businesses. This is probably the most direct way to help other women in business. A good place to find suppliers is through the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council—better yet, get your business certified so you can be listed there as well.

Work/volunteer for organizations that support women. There are so many ways to be of service. My own success pushed me into positions where I’ve been able to help other women by:

  • Writing and publishing a newspaper called Bucks County Woman and an annual Women’s Resource Directory.
  • Serving on the Bucks County Commissioners’ Advisory Council for Women.
  • Helping to start and nurture Strictly Business: A Management Roundtable, a group of women who joined monthly to discuss thorny business issues over dinner, helping each another solve management problems and chart pathways forward.
  • Serving for six years on the Board of Directors of the Bucks County Women’s Fund, a foundation that supported women and girls through grants to social service organizations.
  • Working with several clients that provide services supporting women, including Planned Parenthood affiliates, the local YWCA, and county agencies.
  • Helping to found the Bucks County Women’s Advocacy Coalition, where individual and organization partners promote gender equity and self-sufficiency, and where I continue to spend many volunteer hours on the Steering Committee and Communications Subcommittee.

Find a method that works for you in supporting women in business. Whether it’s taking a woman under your wing or starting a networking group, offer the help and guidance that others need as they forge new entrepreneurial paths.

And for women new to the business world, seek out mentors and networking groups that can help you learn the ropes. You don’t have to go it alone, and you may be fortunate like me, and find a group that continues to be a strong support network some 25 years later.

October is National Women’s Small Business Month, and while this is a good thing for recognition, remember to support women in business throughout the year! Madeleine Albright would be proud of you. Me too.

 

How to Banish Guilt in One Easy Lesson

guilt that has nothing to do with chocolate cakeI know, the guilt is killing you, and it has nothing to do with decadent chocolate cake. Guilt weighs heavily on your shoulders and even keeps you up at night. When was the last time you published a blog post? How many writing assignments do you owe yourself?

Face it, another day has passed. True, you’ve been busy, but you still haven’t tackled the hard work you need to do to move your business forward. How can it be possible to ever catch up?

For entrepreneurs and small businesses, client deadlines often drive your time management. You land a new project with an aggressive due date, or receive emails from clients with high expectations for quick delivery of services. A number of clients may be competing for your attention. On top of that, you need to manage your business, including employees and contracted partners. Plus, if you have a small business like mine and rely on service-based work for income, detailed timekeeping is a must and invoices need to go out regularly to maintain a reliable cash flow. When do you find time to work on your business?

 

No more guilt.

I’ve started on a new program to write 1,000 words a day for 20 days, which began with a commitment to a group of like-minded professionals. One member needed to buckle down to finish a book, and many of us knew we had to address similar backlogged items to move our businesses forward – blog posts, ebooks, website material, landing pages, presentations, morning pages – so several of us took on the challenge.

My goal is to get enough of my everyday writing out of the way so that I can afford to allocate time towards something new. In addition to Sircely Marketing, which always commands my attention as my bread and butter ad agency for 25 years, I have another idea for a new initiative in a completely different direction. Even though I’m passionate about this new project, I cannot seem to find time to write the cornerstone content. (I promise to clue you in on the project as I begin to actually develop the program. Note: I said “actually develop” because now I believe I can actually make it happen.)

Writing 1,000 words a day may sound daunting, but once you sit down to write with no distractions, the word count ticks along steadily, and before you know it, you’re a third of the way there.

Each day we check in with the group and describe our progress. It’s amazing how many people all around the world in different types of businesses have similar situations. We all learn from one another and drive everyone forward. The affirmations and kind words from others are encouraging.

Yesterday I noticed that as I disgorge more and more thoughts onto the typewritten page, it’s freeing up more space for creative thinking. Who knew that would happen?!

 

The One Easy Lesson

Find your time of day and get started.

I’m a morning writer. I wake up with ideas floating around in my brain that beg to be recorded somewhere. Often, I immediately start logging notes, but I can’t just launch into writing, as I need to check my email and quickly respond to urgent messages. Usually there are just one or two, which I can quickly dispatch. Then, I’m determined not to be distracted by email or social media, at least for 60-90 minutes.

Try downloading OmmWriter, a useful writing tool with minimal functions that help you focus. To write in Pages, I’ve learned to click the Full Screen function that brings up a single blank page with no distractions (except the handy numbers below that tick off the word count). Microsoft Word has a similar function.

So far, I’m amazed at my own progress, which makes me hopeful for my new project, and for all the documents I need to create for my business and to lay the groundwork for new endeavors.

 

Are you ready to banish guilt?

Here are a few ideas to help you reach your 1,000-word per day goal:

  • Find your best time to write. You may be a morning person like me, who needs to do a brain dump before other tasks sweep me away. When my children were young, I would get up at 4 a.m. to write before they woke up. Others have better focus in late afternoon or at night. Find your most productive writing time and regularly carve out 60-90 minutes.
  • Outline tomorrow’s writing project today. At the end of your writing session, decide what comes next and jot down a few words that will get yourself rolling – if it’s a blog post for example, start with a working title and compose your main subheads.
  • If you cannot sit and write for a time, set a timer for 25 minutes. You’ll be amazed how this can help you focus. When the timer goes off, get up and take a five minute break, then set the timer again.
  • Take the advice of Daphne Gray-Grant, writing coach, who encourages writers to write, write, write with no revising. If you are dithering about word choices, or rewriting as you write, the flow of ideas will be impeded. If this is a difficult habit for you to break, she suggests putting a dishtowel over your computer screen so you cannot see what you are typing, you just concentrate on typing the ideas on a page.
  • Find a source of accountability. If you can check in and get support from a colleague or a group of like-minded individuals, it will help keep you on track.

Before you know it, you will be cranking out all kinds of material to move your business forward. I promise to let you know when my awesome new project begins!

It’s a fact that whatever we plan for our business – a new product, revised webpages, marketing initiatives, ads, presentations – all of it requires writing to facilitate the planning, development and launch of new ideas.

Do you have trouble finding time to write? Give some of these techniques a try. Write every day. Aim for 1,000 words. Once you get rolling, you’ll find you can easily surpass that goal, and you will have lots to show for your efforts.

Please leave a comment to let me know if you’re inspired to banish your guilt around writing – or not!

 

Social Media Marketing Explained: Don’t Be Afraid to Take the Plunge

No Lifeguard - Swim at Your Own Risk

Credit: Harry Sircely Photography

It seems everyone is on social media these days, but actually, that is not true. While user levels are increasing on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and YouTube, a lot of small businesses continue to hold back.

How do I know this? Business owners regularly ask me why they should consider social media marketing and how to get started. Clearly, they ask because they are not yet in the social media picture. Just last week, at a social media workshop sponsored by my local chamber of commerce, most attendees were still wondering what they need to do, where and when. Some expressed confusion, others are afraid of wasting large amounts of time, and most just don’t have a clue where to begin.

Don’t be afraid — it’s easy to wade into the pool. Come on in, the water’s fine. Once you get your feet wet, you’ll begin to understand how this crazy hodgepodge of social media sites can actually move your business forward.

 

The Social Media Process, Explained

Social media marketing is just one tool in your versatile marketing toolkit. Your integrated marketing mix should harmonize online and traditional offline components to drive customers and prospects to your website, convincing them to either buy directly or contact you via email or telephone.

When asked about social media marketing, here’s how I explain it:

Social media marketing (not just networking, but marketing) is most effective when you use it to support content you are creating. It works something like this:

1.  You have a well-crafted website in place as the hub of your online presence.

2.  You create content on that website – articles, reports, blog posts, things of value to readers – that establishes you as an authority in your field.

3.  Google indexes your content and online searches drive people to your site.

4.  You capture their names and email addresses and build a list.

5.  Once you determine where your target audience spends time in social media, you set up profile pages and get started. Usually concentrate on two social media outlets, otherwise it’s too much. But eventually, you will want to maintain profiles on all the main social media platforms, and these profiles should be branded consistently with the same look and feel. Denise Wakeman, online marketing advisor and founder of The Blog Squad, recommends setting up a Word document containing your business profile, your contact information, and links to all your social media sites. Then, when you need to set up a new profile somewhere, you don’t need to search for the right words or links. In addition, for indexing purposes, Google likes it when your profile is consistent from site to site.

6.  LinkedIn is a no-brainer – you should have a profile page there for professional purposes. A complete profile with recommendations establishes your credibility and authority in your industry. Join logical groups and reach out to share your expertise.

7.  On Facebook, you want to establish a business page where people “Like” you and you can share your own information and other people’s information, publicize events and workshops, comment on things interesting to you and be the expert in your area. This page is separate from a personal profile – the “Likes” are not the same as “Friends” in a personal account, although you can always share posts from your business page on your personal page. Information you post links back to your website, where you capture people’s names and email addresses as they visit.

8.  On Twitter, you post links to your articles, mentioning events and seminars, share articles by others and ideas related to your business and your prospects’ interests. Again, links go back to your own website to draw traffic to your hub.

9.  On Google+, you create circles of interest and again share your articles, your company information and interesting content posted by others. In my experience, the dynamics here promote conversations at a higher level of discourse. A huge benefit is that Google indexes your posts immediately; often articles you share jump to page one of your keyword search, which is fabulous for driving visitors to your website.

10.  Pinterest, the image-driven social media site which exploded onto the scene this year, and YouTube, owned by Google, are two more highly useful platforms for posting content and attracting visitors to your site.

11.  As a rule of thumb, share at least 20 non-soliciting posts of tremendous value for every one that presents a sales offer.

12.  The point of bringing everyone back to your website for name/email capture is that your email list is the most important marketing tool you have – these are people who opt-in and want to hear from you, and whom you can contact whenever it’s important to do so.

 

Educate, Demonstrate, Build Relationships

Through social networks, you educate and showcase your expertise in a likeable manner that invites people to work with and trust you. Social media is for building relationships, offering valuable free content, showing how you can help others by contributing to the greater good, and demonstrating your passion for your business and industry.

A few tips: Post when you have something to say or share. Don’t force it. Tailor your posts for the different platforms – folksy for Facebook, short 140 characters for Twitter, thoughtful for Google+, pictorial for Pinterest. Sprinkle your posts around, posting an item on one network one day, and somewhere else the next day. Be sure to track your website analytics to see which social media sites are working best for you.

When you first take the plunge, you may have no idea where social media marketing will lead. It’s difficult to start with a focused plan or set marketing goals when you’re not certain how things will play out. But following the main guidelines will set you in the right direction. With a little practice, things will start to make sense and you’ll find your own voice.

If this post was valuable for you, please let me know in the comments! And I encourage you to subscribe to my email list so you receive related updates and notices when new articles are published, usually never more than once a week. To receive free updates, click here.

Tap into the power of anti-selling.

marketing baked into rhubarb pie

Bake the marketing into your offer.

Wouldn’t you love to tap into the strength of powerful marketing materials so you never, ever need to make a cold sales call again?

If you own a solopreneurship or work for a small business or nonprofit, chances are that you don’t have a salesforce working to break down buyer resistance before closing sales. Most likely, you bear a large part of the responsibility of driving revenue by attracting customers, soliciting donations or selling products.

Personally, I am not—and never will be a salesperson. To me, sales is simply gut wrenching. You will never catch me making a cold call, using highlighted or red-lined text in a marketing letter, or chatting up prospects who seem to wish they were somewhere else. It’s antithetical to my personal chemistry.

Selling is difficult. Some people thrive on sales, and that’s great for them—it’s just not for me. But hey, marketing—for me that’s a breeze.

So how do you win over customers without a hard sell?

 

Modern selling and anti-selling

Although I came around to appreciating science and math later in life, I avoided these classes like the plague while in school. To fulfill the science requirement in college, I enrolled in a course designed for non-scientists entitled “Modern Physics and Anti-Physics.” The term “anti-physics” sounded intriguing, and the title has stuck with me. While I am no longer anti-physics, I remain anti-selling.

When your sales process is anti-selling, your offer needs to be so irresistible that it sells itself. When your offer and your well-crafted marketing materials do all the work, or at least most of the work, all you have to do is deliver a light, soft, honest sell to close the deal.

The fact is, audiences are generally wary of salespeople. The archetypical used car salesman comes to mind — the plaid suit, wide grin and calculated pressure tactics trigger a natural consumer instinct to run the other way. Even polite people have learned to hang up the phone on a telemarketer. Most people no longer have the time or desire to sit through a sales pitch unless they already are convinced they want to buy a particular product or service, often because they have a problem.

Your job is to convince them ahead of time that they need what your product or service, and that your offering trumps others available on the market.

 

You don’t have to sell.

For years I’ve been telling clients who share my reluctance to sell that, when properly written, designed and implemented, their marketing materials will do 99%-100% of the selling for them. When your marketing plan is functioning correctly, calls will be inbound; no outbound cold calls required. The remaining 1% of the marketing calls are to warm prospects who come via referrals, or are otherwise predisposed to hearing your pitch.

First, don’t think about the sale at all. Consider how your product or service can help others and change the world for the better. Listen to your prospective buyer’s needs and concerns, and embed your marketing strategy into the creation, packaging and delivery of your products or services. Seth Godin calls this “baking” your marketing into the product. Offer solutions with your own unique perspective, twist or passion. Apple Inc. is a perfect example.

Attract prospects with marketing materials that carry a clear, concise message through a well-designed presentation. Your materials should be attractive at first glance, even from afar. They should put forth a theme and style consistent with your branding, and they should have enough content to draw in prospects, without being overwhelming.

Educate your prospective customers. Focus on the end result for customers, and in the most honest and transparent way, teach prospects how they will benefit from your product or services, or perhaps by supporting your nonprofit. Tell stories and share examples, drawing on the colorful and emotional content of personal experience.

Be informative. Provide step-by-step information on how to purchase your offerings and give clear instructions. Online, you want your prospect to know exactly what to type and where to click on your well-organized landing page. Offline, people need to know where you are located, your hours of operation, and how to reach you by phone. Provide a variety of contact methods so your each individual prospect can choose which option is most convenient, including social media interfaces.

Load your offer with extra value. Figure out what you can comfortably add to the offer that does not greatly impact your bottom line, yet could hold tremendous perceived value to your customer. Maybe it’s a complimentary consulting session or a free sample to get them started. Perhaps it’s an app or add-on to a product, or even an invitation to a special event.

Use soft reminders and cut-off dates. People are busy and they forget, so use casual, low pressure reminders in your communications. It also can be useful to attach a time-sensitive component to your reminder, such as “the price will be going up on Friday.”

Stand behind your offer. Build trust and remove a barrier to the sale by offering a 100% money-back guarantee with no questions asked. This is especially important when selling online. Rarely do people ask for their money back, and if they do, it’s a sale you never would have made anyway. The offer of a guarantee can gently push a prospect over the line to become a buyer, and it drives you to ensure what you’re offering is the best it can be.

To truly embrace anti-selling, take a new look at what you are offering and how your marketing materials are constructed—make them work harder for you and assume most of the selling process. You will be amazed how marketing characteristics of generosity and clarity will convince people to buy. Then rejoice that you don’t need to make a cold call!

Warning: Your Lip-Smacking Marketing Message Might Ruin Someone’s Appetite

Blackened shrimp served by BP

Blackened shrimp, anyone?

Show of hands. Would you like some blackened shrimp? Yum. Shrimp is delicious and even the thought of blackened shrimp can stimulate the taste buds.

Now what if this heapin’ helping of blackened Gulf Coast shrimp was being served up by BP? Hold on a minute — that’s a different story.

But that’s precisely what flashes across the screen in BP’s new television ad on Gulf of Mexico restoration which also appears on their website. It’s a slick promotional ad to improve BP’s image and paint a happy face on the disastrous effects of the massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill that began with an explosion two years ago, on April 20, 2010.

Restoration of the Gulf of Mexico has a long way to go. Phase III of the response activities — containment, countermeasures, cleanup and disposal — was only recently approved on May 9. Locals complain of strange health ailments, contamination, depleted fish stocks, and a crushed local economy. Critics say that BP is dragging its feet on cleanup and restoration. All of this creates a need for the best marketing campaign that money can buy.

 

So why would BP promote blackened shrimp?

Probably not on purpose. It’s a matter of perception. The company wants to convince visitors that “the seafood is delicious” and everything is getting back to normal along the Gulf Coast. The deck is stacked against BP. Many of us can’t purge the horrific thought of oil gushing from the sea floor, making it difficult to buy into this promotional line.

For the record, the FDA recently reported that Gulf seafood is safe to eat. At the same time, the Associated Press released photos of fish with lesions, sores and other deformities which scientists point to as potential evidence of lingering effects of the oil spill.

Regardless of whether or not seafood is safe to eat, the reference to blackened shrimp in an ad designed to whitewash an oil spill is a careless marketing move. Rather than encourage viewers to move on from the issue, which is the goal of the campaign, the off-message moment only reminds the viewer of the original problem.

 

How did this happen?

Good question.

Perhaps the marketing department was not paying attention. Perhaps those producing and approving the film are so close to the issue that they do not understand the implications of pairing the dark subliminal message with images of people smacking their lips on Gulf seafood. Could there even be a chance that someone on the video production team was having a little fun and slipped this image in?

The implications are damaging, and it implies that the BP ad department doesn’t understand their target audience.  Do they think people have forgotten? Do they think people will not notice? Is this yet another high-handed attempt by BP to brag about how much they are doing to fix the disaster while ignoring facts that happen to get in the way?

 

Your messaging needs to be carefully controlled.

Your brand can be damaged very, very easily. Every message you release needs to be carefully considered and viewed through a number of lenses.

Remember how a single mention of blackened shrimp can deep-six the effectiveness of a costly ad. Be careful what you say and how you say it because someone else might hear something completely different.

Most of all, remember that the best way to generate a positive image of your brand is to back up your messaging with integrity and honesty in everything you do.

 

 

How the lowly business card can seriously boost your authority.

professional business cardsHave you heard that “Print is Dead”? I heartily disagree.

In content marketing, where you freely share relevant information to attract and convert prospects into customers and hopefully repeat buyers, print materials can be a crucial part of the mix.

There is plenty of room for printed materials in permission marketing as well, where you honor the privilege of delivering pertinent messages to people who anticipate them, rather than carpet-bombing the masses with ads, television commercials or junk mail.

Sometimes your customers are not online.

Sometimes your potential customer is standing in front of you, and you are having an honest-to-goodness face-to-face human conversation. In a fleeting moment, you are asked for contact information. You don’t hesitate. You don’t grapple with pen and paper. You don’t fumble your phone. You instantly produce a professionally-designed business card.

Yes, the lowly business card can still fill an important role.

There was a lengthy discussion last year in a LinkedIn group of communications professionals about business cards: Are they dead? Who needs them? Just bump your phone with someone to exchange contact information.

But your business card goes above and beyond the communication of basic contact information. It carries your business identity and branding elements. It makes a critical first impression with prospects, and can immediately boost your authority. Your card also can augment your sense of confidence when you are meeting and interacting with new people.

Do you have a business card? What does it look like?

Is your card a do-it-yourself number, printed slightly crooked and popped out of a perforated page? Or is it professionally designed and printed, impeccably branded?

If it falls face down on a desk, is there some sort of message or supplementary information on the back about your offerings, like a mini brochure?

The importance of having a professional business card played out right here just the other day.

Harry Sircely, in search of fertilizer inputs to improve our new vegetable garden, walked up to one of our neighbors who was cleaning up after her alpacas. They introduced themselves and had a long, neighborly conversation about chickens and alpacas and gardens and the usual topic, “How did you end up here on Orcas Island?” She offered him copious amounts of manure and wondered what he might offer in exchange.

“I’m a photographer,” he said. They talked some more. He produced his business card and she was drawn to the stunning images printed on each side. “Oh, you ARE a photographer!” she exclaimed. Apparently these days, ‘everybody’s a photographer,’  and his business card served as evidence, proof of his talent. Professional image conveyed. Contact information delivered. Cost of full color, two-sided card: 3 cents.

Take a few minutes to analyze your current business card.

  • Does it really tell someone what you do?
  • Is the presentation professional?
  • Are the images and typestyle in tune with your branding, and do they convey the image you want to project?
  • Is all the contact information up to date?
  • Are you using both sides, or a fold-over card with four panels?
  • Do you include a QR code to direct prospects to a relevant page on your website?

If you want to bump phones to exchange information with someone, that’s fine. You still need a business card for occasions when the human conversation and the tactile offering of a printed card builds your authority and helps to seal a new business relationship.

One quick fix can clarify your marketing message.

strive for clarityWhether you’re designing for print or for online publication, you want your message to come through loud and clear.

Your marketing materials should immediately grab a viewer’s attention when they visit your website or pick up a brochure. If your digital or printed pages are cluttered and busy, what happens? Your reader becomes distracted and clicks away or turns the page. An opportunity is wasted.

Here is one quick and easy change you can make to tame a busy layout: Narrow your type choices to no more than two, three at the most.

You’ve seen those websites—the ones with a gazillion different typefaces that set your mind reeling, your teeth on edge and your eyes searching for a calm area with lots of open space. You’ve seen crazy product sheets, brochures and advertisements with six or eight fonts on the same printed page. All could benefit from serious spring cleaning to sweep away the clutter and straighten out important content that’s been lost in the confusion.

Comprehensive books can guide you through the art of typography—the entire subject cannot be covered here. But if you adhere to this simple rule of thumb for graphic design—limiting your font use—your marketing materials will communicate more clearly and persuasively.

It’s difficult to look at the font menu with all the available typefaces and narrow your selection to two. But really, only a select few will work best with your subject and project the image you are striving to convey. The use of multiple fonts obscures the message.

To be safe, choose one serif font and one sans serif font. Serif typefaces have little ornaments at the ends of the letter strokes; sans serif fonts do not have this feature (“sans” means “without”). Traditionally, serifs are used for the main body copy and sans serifs are used for headings. Within each family of fonts, you can use bold and italic typefaces, but use them sparingly for maximum impact.

Always print your draft layout if the final version is intended to be published in print. Many times, the same design that looks beautiful on your screen will look clunky and awkward on the printed page.

Don’t miss out on a single opportunity to attract a prospective customer, make a sale or grow your business. Pare down the number of fonts on your pages to allow your concise and consistent message to shine with clarity.

For more detailed information on typography, try these sources (no affiliates):
•   The Elements of Typographical Style by Robert Bringhurst
•   Thinking With Type by Ellen Lutpon
•   I Love Typography by John Boardley
•   Helvetica, a documentary film by Gary Hustwit