Be an Ethical Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Business Builder

How to write strong sales copy for your website

If you don’t currently have a sales pitch, or you’re trying to improve it, here’s a quick outline of how to put one together for your website.

The first thing I do when writing is start with an outline and I highly recommend it. Use an outline (or mind map) to just jot-down all your ideas and thoughts on the subject. It doesn’t have to make sense or flow smoothly. Not everything in your outline will make the final draft and a few things that weren’t in your outline will get added. From there, here are the steps to creating great copy.

Like catching this Yellowstone National Park geyser in action, finding quality sales copy is rare.

  1. Define your target customer. How old are they? What do they wear? Where do the shop? What do they drive? What motivates them? What do they absolutely love? What do they absolutely hate?
  2. Define what would you like the customer to do once hearing/seeing/reading your pitch. What’s the goal? Enter their email… Purchase a product… Contact you…
  3. Utilize the 4.5 Points of Marketing. Problem, Solution, Why us?, Why now?, Risk-Free
  4. Consider possible responses and questions. Don’t create a FAQ… With a FAQ you can’t control the dialogue. Step the reader through the 4.5 points of marketing while addressing all of their questions as they go along.
  5. Offer third-party testimonials and reference third-party resources. Those testimonials can be written or video. Include them along the side of your page so they’re viewable the whole time. Also, be careful when referencing third-party web pages. Generally you’re better to site the resource without a direct-link because you don’t really want someone leaving your web page to check out the resource and then never come back. However, in some instances it does make sense to provide the link; so use common sense.
  6. Pretend you’re sitting next to someone talking to them. Once you have that vision, take your outline and start writing sentences in the Conversational Marketing style as if you’re talking face-to-face.
  7. Highlight key points for the readers who will just skim. Also use numbered and bulleted lists as well as paragraph breaks, graphics, charts, and pictures to highlight important details that you don’t want the reader to miss.
  8. Test and Measure to determine which copy is most effective. In other words, have multiple landing pages and track your analytics to determine which page is achieving your goal from step 2 most often per visitor.
  9. Sign your letter, postcard, website, or marketing piece. People don’t buy from businesses. They buy from people. If you’re a small business use that personal touch to highlight how you’re different and therefore BETTER than dealing with a large faceless corporation.
  10. Include your most important part in the P.S. Whether you’re creating a newspaper ad, direct-mail postcard, writing an email, or direct-mail letter, studies have shown that people read the headline first; then they read the sub-heading; next they check out the pictures; and finally they read the P.S. or whatever is at the bottom of your ad.

Don’t forget to tell the truth! Which one are you more likely to believe and therefore respond to?

Everything must go!” OR “Our purchasing department made a mistake and ordered too much inventory so we need to clear out some stock.” Just don’t be that furniture company down the road that’s been having the “Going out of business! Must liquidate everything!” sale for the past 3 years. That’s not honest or ethical.

While we’re on the topic of ethics, your marketing should always be honest and up front. Don’t bait-and-switch… Don’t stretch the truth… Don’t tell little fibs that no one will ever notice… In the short term people will notice it and be put off… In the long run it’s toxic. It’s like a cancer lead by the marketing (or sales) department that keeps getting worse but that no one notices until it’s too late. It will eventually catch up with you and ultimately it’s never the most profitable way to run a business of any size.

To your success in writing sales copy, Bryan

P.S. My last 2 blogs were a bit long so I figured I’d shorten this one for you. My next blog on your Marketing Manual might exceed my 1,000 word limit, so consider yourself warned.

How to fix your business FAST – Part 4 – Improve Marketing and Sales

For most businesses I’ve encountered, the greatest improvement in marketing would simply be to start tracking your ROI. In other words, you need to know your cost/lead and cost/sale for each marketing project. I address this concept in detail in my blog on Scientific Advertising.  Keep in mind that simply asking your customers “how did you hear about us?” can be somewhat futile (though it’s better than nothing). Michael Corbett suggests simply watching your sales to see if they go up with your current marketing or stay flat. To me that seems like a rather unscientific approach since that doesn’t tell you which marketing produced the results and there are  more factors than marketing alone that can affect sales.

There are a handful of marketing books in my Recommended Reading section, in addition to My Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins, so I’m not going to directly address the difference between good and bad marketing. After all, no one knows exactly what will generate the best response until it’s tested and measured.

That being said, here are a few marketing pointers in addition to knowing your numbers:

  1. Have a Unique Selling Proposition that sets you apart from all of your competitors. In other words, create a niche only you can fill.
  2. Know and understand your target audience. You can have the best offer, and the best advertisement in the world, but if it’s directed to the wrong audience you’ll get zero results. Spend the most marketing time on getting your message to the right people!
  3. Keep a detailed customer database so you can cross-market constantly. If someone has bought from you once before, they are MUCH more likely to buy from you again. If you don’t have a database (or your not using the one you have) change that immediately!
  4. Offer a guarantee. If your products are either more expensive than most, or can’t be touched by the consumer prior to purchasing (such as with internet sales) you MUST have an iron-clad guarantee to assuage their fears. This must demonstrate that you’re the best and the customer has nothing to risk.

Since we’re looking for quick fixes, I’m going to stop the list there. If you do those things, you’ll notice results almost instantly.

On the sales side, you need to again, learn your numbers. Am I getting that point across fully yet? 🙂 Whether you realize it or not, in your sales cycle, there are many steps. Let’s take a retail clothing store for example. What are the steps a shopper takes?

  1. Window browsing – How do we get them to actually walk into the store? A lot of retailers put up blinds behind the window manequins so people have to actually walk in to see what else is available.
  2. Entering the store – How do we get them to spend time looking around? Depending on your clientelle, music can make a huge difference as to whether they hang around a while or not.
  3. Perusing certain racks or aisles – How do we get them to see the most we have to offer? Most retail stores put the clearance and discounted rack at the back so you have to walk all the way through to find the great deals.
  4. Trying clothes on – How do we get them to go to the dressing room? Keep in mind, people can only try on or buy as much as they can physically carry. Make it easy for customers to carry more with helpful sales associates and people will buy more. Paco Underhill addresses this in magnificent detail in Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping.
  5. Buying – How do we get them to come back? Are we getting their name and email address for our database?

So why do we break that up into so many steps? Because if you don’t, you have no idea which steps you need to improve. I’ve heard of a retail store that learned that around 80% of people who try something on will buy it. So they didn’t work on directing people to the cash register, they worked on getting potential customers to the changing rooms.

Every business has a series of steps in their sales cycle. You need to learn and track each of those steps for your business and then systematically improve the conversion rate for each one.

That was  a retail environment, so let’s consider a service based business. What possible steps do we have for them?

  1. Inquiry – via phone, web, or walk-in
  2. Service Pitch/Presentation – Are you skipping this step? If people call your plumbing business and ask what it costs to unclog a toilet, do you just tell them or do you first tell them why you are their best option with your guaranteed time, flat-rate billing, and professional staff?
  3. Price Quote/Estimate – Are you building value along with this quote (particularly if it’s in writing) to back up your pricing?
  4. Commitment to Purchase – If the commitment isn’t made immediately are you leaving them PLENTY of information to convince them you’re their best option? My business has a 24 page “leave-behind” packet for just such instances.
  5. Delivery of Service – Are you delivering exactly what you said? Particularly if you only get paid once your service is complete.
  6. Payment – Do you have simple payment options and are you asking for payment immediately upon completion so as not to tie up your office staff trying to collect money?
  7. Follow-up – Did you get their name, phone, address, and email for your database? Did you call or visit them again after completion to make sure they were completely satisfied? Did you ask for testimonials or referrals?

As you can see, there are a lot of steps in this process as well and at any step along the way you can lose potential clients. That’s obviously why tracking the number of customers who make it to each step is so important!

A couple of things you can do to help improve each step in the process:

  1. Have excellent training for each person involved in sales including detailed scripts, role-playing, and NLP training.
  2. Incentivize and develop some competition. People like to know someone else notices that they are the best at what they’re doing.
  3. Have an outside company shop your business and report back what they find.
  4. Record phone calls, conversations, and customer interactions (after checking with your lawyer of course) to look for opportunities for improvement.
  5. Provide on-hold and/or in-store marketing over the speaker system. I know the “blue-light” specials weren’t enough to save Kmart, but I’m not claiming that’s all you need to do for your business either. 😉
  6. Create your story portraying your commitment to customer service, quality, community involvement, and excellence. Make it available in your store, restaurant, business, and on your website. People love buying from places where they feel a part of something.
  7. Include testimonials everywhere! Put them in your store, on your website, in your marketing, on your thank you cards… heck, you can even put them on your receipts.

In my experience with over 100 small businesses, I don’t know of anyone, myself included, who is doing all of these things well. In my defense, I do know what I have to do and one-by-one I’m crossing them off of my list.

We’re on Part 4 right now so you should have quite a long To-Do list written down, right? If not, go get a piece of paper and a pen, review my last 4 blogs and start writing. After I post my last blog on this topice (Part 5) you’ll now have a complete list that you can prioritize and start addressing.

To your sales and marketing success, Bryan

How to increase your conversion rate by 10% in the next 30 days…

No matter what business you’re in, if people have to buy something from you, there is a sales process. If that process involves them walking past your store or entering, that’s a step in the process. If it involves them browsing through stock or trying things on, those are steps. The following material was used as a bit of an educational marketing piece for a company I worked for but it applies to every business everywhere. 🙂

 

No matter what you’re selling there is a step-by-step process that takes place from initial contact to completed install. Each step in the process presents an area where you can be losing prospects who are ready and willing to pay you, but unfortunately you haven’t done the best job of helping them learn that!

 

Here’s the idea. There are 3 main areas to improve in your sales process:

  1. The script

  2. The person

  3. The system (i.e. are we following up? are our materials effective?)

 

And each of those areas can potentially be improved for each step in your sales process… So if you’re sales process has 6 steps, then there are possibly 18 different areas you can improve. If that doesn’t make sense, don’t stop reading yet!

 

Unfortunately,

the ONLY way to determine your weak areas AND make an educated decision on how to improve them is through detailed tracking for at least 2-4 weeks.

 

Ultimately you should be tracking every lead with this level of detail FOREVER to make sure no weak-links pop-up down the road.

 

So here’s my 8 step process for plugging those holes and increasing your closing ratios to the best they’ve ever been in the next 30 days.

  1. Write out the steps in your sales process. From the initial phone call, email, or trade show contact to the post-install request for referrals write down every single step. Your steps may look something like this:

    1. Initial Contact: Telemarketing, Call-in, incoming email, fair/trade show sign-up

    2. Call-back: Phone call to set appointment, Email response to inquiry

    3. Confirm: Call to confirm.

    4. Appointment: In-home presentation

    5. Follow-up:

    6. Schedule Install

    7. Install:

  2. Write down the possible results for each step. “Cancel” is NOT a specific enough result. It’s better than nothing, but the goal is to determine “Why did they Cancel?” and address that issue. For instance:

    1. Initial Contact: We’ll call you back, Too expensive, Just gathering information, Appointment Set

    2. Call-back: Call me back later, I’ll call you once I check with my spouse/mom/dog, Too expensive, Appointment Set

    3. Confirm: X was here yesterday and we’re going to go with them, Too expensive, An emergency came up, We’ll be home and waiting!

    4. Appointment: Too expensive, Have to ask my spouse/mom/dog, Think we’re just going to go with X instead, I don’t think we need that right now, Sounds great sign me up.

    5. Follow-up: Credit was turned down, Sign us up!, Check Bounced, Credit Card denied, We changed our mind.

    6. Schedule Install: If you are losing leads at this step, look at the time from the previous step to the install date. You may need to look at working non-standard hours to get installs taken care of right away.

    7. Install: Looks and works great!, Emergency came up and we can’t be home, We changed our mind

  3. Make a flowchart of the steps. The flowchart is very helpful for showing everyone each step and to help you to setup your software for tracking. Notice that all of the items above in italics are reasons a step becomes a dead lead. All of the other results from above are what leads to the next step. Reference the Sales Flowchart example below:

    1. They sign up and you have to get “Credit Approval”
    2. They sign up and pay with cash, a check, or credit card so you “Schedule the Install”

    3. You have to “Follow-up” with them

    4. They’re not interested and it becomes a “Dead Lead”

  4. Example Sales Flowchart

    Notice how it can get a bit tricky. If you look at the “Appointment” step you have 4 options:

  5. Make a list of all of your lead sources. If you’re going to put all this effort into tracking your leads you might as well track the lead source to answer 3 questions:

    1. Did that lead source pay for itself with after sale profits?

    2. What is the acquisition cost of that lead/customer? (maybe it paid for itself but other sources have a lower acquisition cost and therefore generate better profits)

    3. Are there any steps in our sales process where we’re losing a lot of people from this source?

  6. Track every lead. If you have to, funnel every lead through a specific “Sales Coordinator” in your office or be sure to train everyone. Just make sure your tracking everything – Including those referrals that are going directly to your sales representatives. At a minimum, you NEED to track the following information for each lead:

    1. Name

    2. Phone or email (you need to be able to contact them somehow)

    3. Person in your office who spoke with the prospect (this is the only way to determine if your weak link is a person)

    4. How they heard about you (i.e. lead source)

    5. If they’re no longer interested, WHY NOT? If you believe you have a great product that you KNOW will help them you should be shocked that they’re no longer interested and ask.

  7. Make sure EVERY lead gets input into a spreadsheet or database so you can get quick/accurate results on each lead. This is where simple to use database can make huge improvements in your business! Let’s face it, the first 4 steps are relatively easy. You’re a responsible and effective owner or sales manager and you can put the steps, results, and flow chart together. However the people in your office who are tracking lead information may not be quite as dedicated as you… Therefore the process MUST be simple to track and input. Moreover, since you’re already wearing 10 hats, its very important that managing this process is simple for you. 🙂

  8. Analyze the data. Determine the weak step (i.e. from step #1). You determine the weak step by looking at the step prior to it becoming a “Dead Lead.” For instance, if after the initial “Call-back” they say they’re not interested, your weak step was the “Initial Contact” and/or the “Call back”. Now to determine the weak link (script, person, system) you have to look at the REASON they became a dead lead. Not Interested will never tell you the weak link! Too expensive, husband says our water is fine, we already bought from X competitor, are reasons that allow you to start addressing the weak link. Obviously, you also need to record which person handled the “Initial Contact” and which person handled the “Call-back” to determine if it’s a people-problem.

  9. Plug the hole. Improve the weak link. How do you do that? Simple. You make a change, test it for the next few weeks and measure the results. Be careful to only make ONE CHANGE AT A TIME PER STEP or else you won’t know which change made the difference. Your change may be additional training for the person, improvements to the script, or a better method for tracking follow-up within your sales process.

  10.  

    Rinse and Repeat. Once you stop tracking each lead your closing ratio starts to go down immediately.

To your success, Bryan