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Marketing With Intelligent Creativity

16-Lesson Audio Tutorial

Build Winning Marketing Strategies

Professional Marketing

What we’ll talk about in marketing:

  • Introduction & Welcome
  • Small Business – the Bedrock of the American Economy
  • The TRUE Definition of Winning Marketing
  • Target and Strategic Marketing
  • STOP Wasting Money
  • Does Your Perception Match Your Reality?
  • 9 Reasons Why Marketing Fails
  • 5 Steps to Greatness and Winning Marketing
  • Are You Ready To Succeed?
  • Differentiate To Win
  • Communicate – Choosing the Correct Approach
  • Communicate – Winning Marketing Interrupts and Engages
  • Communicate – Writing Winning Headlines
  • Educate Your Customers and Prospects
  • Facilitate the Decision to Buy
  • Evaluate Your Results

1. Introduction

First let me say welcome to How To Win The Marketing Game And Stop Wasting Money.  I congratulate you for taking this important first step to understand the reasons behind why your current marketing may be under-producing and how to up your game, attract more customers, and increase profits.

 

Nearly every book or CD on marketing and advertising has, unfortunately, a similar shortcoming. Most of them focus on the strategies and tactics employed by the largest national or multi-national companies that constitute only about 1/2 of 1% of American businesses.  I refer to these behemoths as “mega-marketers”.

 

I cut my copywriting teeth at one of the top five international ad agencies.  But most of my career has been spent working for and with small to mid-size businesses (those having annual sales of $250,000 to $49 Million) mostly in local or regional markets.

 

I’ve created branding strategies and or written copy for scores of companies in many national and regional industries like Datsun, LaddieBoy, Cruise lines, Office Products, Fast Food, Hotels, Commercial Credit Reporting, Banks, Aviation, Software and Franchising.  On the local level, I worked with NARPRO.com, Heliservices/Enstrom Helicopters, Home and Business Repair services, Restaurants, Tourism, B2B, Business Journals and Chambers of Commerce.

 

Working in this latter environment of entrepreneurial companies, I’ve been able to translate the principles I learned at the agency to fit the needs of these smaller, but far more nimble companies. Needs that most marketing writers and consultants do not adequately address.

 

One of the things I most enjoy is conducting “How To” workshops on marketing strategy and copywriting. I have spoken in front of the American Marketing Association, AZ Small Business Association, individual companies, sales trainings, civic and networking groups, as well as numerous Chambers of Commerce and business support groups. Most of the attendees – in fact over 83% – came from entrepreneurial businesses.

 

After one AMA session, a woman – a seasoned marketer herself – paid me a very heady compliment. She said that what she learned in our two-hour session would help her do her job better at work the next day. She asked if my presentation was available as a tape, CD or book. It was not. She then suggested I think about writing one. I laughed. Then I thought about it. Six months later, I started writing and The Seven Deadly Sins Of Marketing (And How To Avoid Them) was born.

 

Now, in this updated and expanded presentation, I have gone from low-tech to – well, if not high-tech, at least higher tech.  I hope you enjoy How To Win The Marketing Game …but even more, I hope you find yourself making improvements in your business strategies immediately.  Changes that help you attract more customers without increasing your budget and keep more of the customers you get.

2. Small Business – the Bedrock of the American Economy

For years, I’ve helped entrepreneurs develop and articulate their Unique Message.  These entrepreneurs who commit themselves to growing great, profitable businesses are almost universally expert business people, who know their companies and products inside out.  What I have found is that their expertise usually does not include marketing and advertising. In this program I hope to impress on you the what’s, why’s, and how’s of successful marketing strategy and communications. But additionally I intend to help you understand when you can “go it alone” and when you need to look to a professional for help and guidance.

Bedrock Businesses

I believe so strongly that entrepreneurial businesses are the heart and soul of American commerce that I refer to them as Bedrock Businesses. Businesses with annual sales between $250,000 and $49,000,000 make up half of all businesses in America.  They employ over 46% of our entire workforce, provide 41% of payroll and generate over 30% of all revenues.  If this isn’t Bedrock, I’m missing something. 

Let me spell out some major differences between Bedrock Businesses and Big and Mega businesses.

  • Bedrock businesses need immediate income from their marketing. National and mega-advertisers have the money, and therefore the luxury, to build their brand over a much longer period of time.
  • Bedrock firms don’t have an ad budget sufficient to attract a top agency to their side. Top agencies fight hard for such accounts as Chevrolet and Gillette or even the local car dealer or supermarket. These are desired accounts because agencies make their money based on the standard 15% commission paid to them by the media they buy for their clients – TV, Radio, Newspapers, Magazines, Billboards, etc.  So the larger your traditional ad budget, the more the agency earns (If you’ve ever talked with an agency account exec, I’ll bet you got asked THE question early on…. “So, what’s your budget?”  Most Bedrock firms, spend a larger portion of their much smaller budgets on brochures, internet marketing, website promotions, networking and other non-commissionable tactics so the agencies aren’t interested.
  • Bedrock firms are far less likely to have an experienced, diverse marketing department than would a large firm for many reasons.
  • The owner prefers to maintain control
  • They can’t afford to hire experienced talent – They don’t budget properly for marketing
  • They’re mystified by the whole process.
  • Bedrock companies are much more likely to be family owned than major corporations. Because of this trait they have a different set of priorities and concerns than national companies.
  • Bedrock businesses often cannot weather bad decisions financially, whereas large corporations have the capital, credit, personnel, and time to rebound from serious blunders – like New Coke (sometimes referred to as “the Edsel from Atlanta”)
  • Bedrock firms are critical to the economy of their local community.
  • Bedrock businesses must be marketed even more wisely and judiciously than the giant mega-corps. Each campaign must either produce or be changed. This means that because their very existence is tied closely to their marketing and advertising communications, they must strive every day to avoid falling into the primordial ooze of lackluster or even self-destructive marketing.

 I set out to accomplish six things with Win The Marketing Game.

  1. Simplify and de-mystify the marketing and advertising process and tailor it to Bedrock businesses by using a common-sense, systematic approach to marketing and advertising called The Five Steps to Greatness.
  2. Illustrate – by way of short explanations, real-world examples, interesting quotations, and a few anecdotes – how to think about, set a strategy for, create, and evaluate your current marketing pieces.
  3. To help you understand when it’s advisable to seek outside help and when you can do-it-yourself. Owners of Bedrock businesses are experts at their business, not at m If you spend a good chunk of your time doing what you’re not expert at, it may be time to consider professional advice.
  4. I’ll suggest some exercises that you can use to focus your thinking and give you a much better chance to create, at the end of the day, an effective marketing strategy and cam
  5. I will try to occasionally make you laugh. Advertising and Marketing should be fun. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be doing it. Trying to find the right words, phrases and images that will instantly make your customers “get it” can be an ongoing challenge for you, a sort of “game” you play seeing how well you can do on the scoreboard of sales.

I intend to be short and to the point. I’m proud that I write ads, brochures, reports and websites that are easily readable and understandable. Like advertising icon David Ogilvy, being accustomed to writing compact copy, I’d have trouble writing a big fat book filled with lots of words, so I won’t. The truth be known, I once started out to write a novel and wound up with 9 short stories.  I was well-trained.

3. The TRUE Definition of Winning Marketing

It seems everyone has their own definition for marketing. Long ones, short ones, flowery ones, pithy ones.  Dictionary.com defines it as “the commercial processes involved in promoting and selling and distributing a product or service”. Accurate, yes.  But complete – I don’t think so.  The definition I get most often from my clients is: “marketing brings in customers and sales”. Again, incomplete!  Both these definitions take a very narrow view of the subject.

I prefer a far more encompassing definition. It comes out of years of experience marketing companies I’ve owned and advising and helping others. My definition is this:

“Marketing is everything you do that touches or impacts your customers or prospects.”

Once again, “Marketing is everything you do that touches or impacts your customers or prospects.”

Everything? Yes, everything. Think about it for a second. If you send out an incorrect invoice, will that not affect your customer’s image of your company?  If your phone answering system is so poorly configured that a prospect is put through hoops for two to three minutes without getting to the right person, will that impact his desire to do business with you? Conversely, if you handle a return promptly, courteously, and without any hint of annoyance, will that customer not be willing to buy from you again because she knows if she must return it, the experience is actually pleasant?

The answers are Yes! Yes! And Hell, Yes!

So I repeat, marketing is anything and everything you do that touches or impacts your customers or prospects. What are those things?

  • Advertising
  • Sales Tools (Brochure, CD, Videos)
  • Website (Your #1 Sales Tool)
  • Educational Materials
  • Elevator Pitches
  • Answering The Phone
  • Referral Programs
  • Invoices
  • Quality Control
  • Loyalty Programs
  • Pro Bono Work
  • Signage
  • Networking (Chambers)
  • Newsletters, etc
  • On-Hold Messaging
  • Public Relations
  • Return Procedures
  • Customer Complaints
  • Charity Sponsorships

Unfortunately, too few marketers really practice the concept of marketing as a “holistic” business function. And when the savvy ones who “get it” bring this concept up to the owner of the company, they’re apt to get that stare which says “Stick to bringing in the customers; leave business operations to us.” Tsk, tsk, tsk. Such a myopic view.

Peter Drucker, one of the most respected and quoted of American business thinkers said “Because of the nature of business it has two functions, and only two. Marketing and Innovation. Marketing and innovation make money. Everything else is a cost.”

The meaning is clear. Business operations that are not charged with innovation or marketing must consider how any proposed action on their part will impact how customers and prospects think of your company So marketing, you see, should really work hand-in-glove with departments such as customer service, shipping, accounting, and even, to some extent, sales.

4. Target and Strategic Marketing

Whenever I speak to groups about marketing, I always ask folks to “tell me something about your marketing”.  Here’s a sample of the responses I get.

 

  • “We do radio spots in drive time on WUFU”
  • “I send postcards to 5000 homes within a 5 mile radius of my business every four months.”
  • “We place brochures at the Chamber of Commerce”
  • “I go to lots of networking events”
  • “We do pay-per-click and e-mail campaigns”

 

I’ve been doing “How To” marketing workshops for about 15 years and I can count on one hand the number of times people told me about their marketing tactics and didn’t tell me a thing about their marketing strategy.

Let’s take a moment to define our terms:

TACTICAL Marketing is HOW & WHERE you market.  TV, Print, On-Line, E-Mail, Social Media, PR, Radio, Outdoor, Transportation, Signage, Trade Shows, Telemarketing, Groupon, Blimps and race car sponsorships.

It is also WHEN you market, seasons, holidays, Events (Back-To-School; National Ice Cream Month [July], Annual or Semi Annual “Sales”, etc.  In other words, tactical marketing is the delivery system for your message.

STRATEGIC Marketing, on the other hand is WHAT you say…Your story, Your Brand, Reasons to buy from you.  In other words, strategic marketing is the Message – Your Unique Message.

To focus ourselves even more…this program focuses on Strategic marketing, Messaging and Branding.

5. STOP Wasting Money

First let Now that we’ve discussed the difference between Tactical Marketing and Strategic Marketing, let’s talk about how understanding the difference will allow you to make your marketing effective, efficient, and unbeatable and above all… STOP!  WASTING!  MONEY!

 

The fact is…when faced with anemic marketing results, the first thought of many a business owner or manager is …”What can I change to bring in more customers?” Good thought!

 

But, here, the disconnect starts.  The “changes” that first come to mind instinctively most often concern Tactics (how you deliver your message) not Strategy (the message itself).

 

Always remember and never forget that Tactical Marketing is vastly more costly than Strategic Marketing.  In my world I advise clients to examine the least costly alternative first…which is exactly the opposite of what most entrepreneurs end up doing.  Most businesses spend upwards of 85% of their budgets on Tactical Marketing over a 5 year period.

 

So, as was the habit with a number of my consulting clients, here’s how they approached the problem.  I wonder if any of these “solutions” ever crossed your mind?

 

  • I have get out and do more networking
  • We should join the Chamber of Commerce
  • Maybe we should increase the frequency of our radio ad campaign
  • We need to mail our postcards to a wider audience
  • We should hire a company to help with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) on our website
  • Maybe we need to increase our sales force
  • Perhaps we should consider TV advertising
  • We should drop off more door hangers
  • We might want to consider doing a vehicle wrap on our service vans
  • Maybe we need to hire a full-time marketing specialist to do social media like Twitter or Facebook

 

Stop!  Wasting!  Money!

 

When I join a company as a consultant, I like to look first at their Unique Messaging, their Branding Statement, their Unique Selling Proposition.  What are they saying?  How are they separating themselves from their competition?  What benefits are they offering their prospects?

 

In other words, I want to make sure their Messaging is clear, concise and compelling before they start spending a lot of money to send it out.  Make sense?

 

Let’s say, for instance, you have carefully chosen just the right radio station on which to advertise.  Their demographics are perfect for your business and their cost per thousand listeners is reasonable.  When committing to purchase airtime you, therefore, have reason to expect great results. More calls, more customers and more revenue.  Great!  A worthy goal.

 

However, what happens to your results if what you’re saying to your audience does not resonate – does not… “hit them where the live”?  It fails to grab their attention, fails to arouse their interest, fails to create a desire in them for your product, and — if they’re still listening after all those failures— fails to move them to action?

 

What happens is: Your returns are feeble.  And You Lose Money! 

 

[ Just as an aside here…if you tell your sales rep at the station about the poor results and how disappointed you are, chances are you’ll be told that you need to up your frequency (that is, spend more money on more ads) and perhaps add another day part (that is, schedule your additional ads for another time during the broadcast day – hitting more and, perhaps different people) ]

 

Stop!  Wasting!  Money!

 

And, by the way, (just a note) it is common for the radio station to make you a great offer.  Wanna hear it?  Here it is.  “We’ll write your ads FREE!”  I advise my clients to run, not walk, away from such offers.  Radio stations no longer have creative departments to do the writing and development of ad campaigns.  Chances are your sales rep will be your “copywriter”.  Well, y’pays your money and y’takes your chances.]

 

But now, let’s reverse the problem.  Say you pick a not-so-perfect radio station to carry your advertising and it turns out you aren’t reaching quite as many ideal prospects as you were with the perfect station…but… your message is right on point – clear, concise and compelling.

 

Your message differentiates you from your competition, it promises benefits customers really want and it has a great offer to boot.  What happens then?

 

What happens is — your results, while not soaring into the stratosphere are, at least doggone good or at least, reasonably OK.

 

Why?  Because Your Unique Message is far more important to the success of your campaign than is the delivery vehicle for that message.

 

The moral of the story is – once again – spend your time creating as picture-perfect a strategy as you can.  An excellent message will interrupt, engage, educate, and move more prospects to act than a mediocre message.

 

And here is where we see the effectiveness and efficiency soar.  If your new message draws double the response of your old message, and you don’t increase your budget one thin dime, you have just cut the cost of your marketing in half.  Let’s put some numbers to this to make it as clear as possible.

 

It was costing you $2500 a month to run your ads.  You got 25 prospects from those ads.  Your cost was, therefore, $100 per lead.  Now you switch to an ad with superior messaging that brings you 50 prospects per month.  Your cost-per-lead is now  (anyone?) $50. Right!  You have, in effect, cut your marketing expenses in half for this campaign.  You haven’t spent one dime more, but have doubled your effective results.

 

And this increase should continue over the ensuing months – bringing you even greater gains and efficiencies over time. 

 

Plus a well-crafted and unique branding message can be the foundation of all your marketing and advertising efforts for a quite a while.  The head of the first agency I worked for developed a campaign for Rolaids way back in the 1940’s (before I was born) based on the unique message “How do you spell relief?  R-O-L-A-I-D-S”.   Sound familiar?  It’s still in use today after 70 years.  Now was that copywriter a terrific investment for Rolaids?  You better believe it!

 

So remember…when faced with stagnant or decreasing results from any of your marketing efforts, don’t surrender to the knee-jerk reaction of the ill-informed and throw money at the problem.  Use your brain (and the 5 Steps To Greatness System) to perfect Your Unique Message and boost your returns to WIN The Marketing Game.

6. Does Your Perception Match Your Reality?

Every Business Has Two Distinct Sides or “personalities”.  A company I once was affiliated with referred to them as the Inside Reality and the Outside Perception.

The Inside Reality is the sum total of how good you really are. It is:

  • The Quality of your product or service
  • The Actions and Attitudes of your people
  • Your Systems—Invoicing, Ordering, Shipping, Returns, etc.

In short your Inside Reality is the Value you bring to the marketplace.

We all recall Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous thoughts on the mousetrap. “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.” With all respect to R.W., I think not. If this were indeed the case, people like me would be permanently unemployed. The truth is that no matter how good your product or service, if no one knows about it, no one will buy it and it will fail in the marketplace.

To have any chance of succeeding in the marketplace, you must somehow communicate the excellence of your Inside Reality to people who will benefit from what you have.  Remember always, however, that you must actually BE excellent, not just say you are.  You can’t invent an advantage that does not exist*.  People will find you out and that will cost you dearly.

Whatever form this communication might take, be it within your personal conversations, your website, a letter sent out to your friends and neighbors, a sign on your building, or an advertisement in the local paper. These communications will create a perception of your product or service in the mind of those with whom you’re communicating. Once you do this, you’re creating an Outside Perception of you, your product, and your company.

The Outside Perception then, is how the marketplace perceives your Inside Reality.  The Inside Reality is based on the experiences your customers have with your company and is also  based on your communications your company has with the market, both verbal and non-verbal.  Your Marketing, and Advertising help to create your Outside Perception – remember Your Outside Perception is determined by “everything you do that touches or impacts your customer or prospect.”

This program is concerned with the marketing and advertising components of your market perception. But do not lose sight of the big picture. Marketing communications is far more than advertising. To think it isn’t is to commit the sin of Marketing Myopia.

 

So To Recap:

Marketing is everything you do that touches or impacts your prospects or customers.

  • Your Inside Reality is how good your business actually is.
  • Your Outside Perception is how good your customers and prospects perceive your business to be.
  • Marketing and Advertising are important parts of creating the proper Outside Perception.

* Bill Bernbach

7. 9 Reasons Why Marketing Fails

You’re doing what you can to keep your business moving forward.  You realize how unbelievably important your bedrock business is, not only to you and your family, but to every one of your employees and the local economy as well.

It weighs heavily on you if sales go down – or costs go up.  You are an entrepreneur.  For you it’s personal.  So when you find your marketing isn’t working, the first thing you think is “Let’s fix it!”  But how?  If you don’t know what’s wrong – and you probably don’t, what will you try to fix?

In this section we’re going to deal with Marketing Communications and why so much of it fails.   Marketing communications is the interaction between your business and the outside world.  Whether it’s a print ad, brochure, radio or TV spot, social media, your packaging, display signage, letter, e-mail or website – it’s you talking to your prospects and customers. 

When determining the strengths and weaknesses of your marketing then, we will need to examine and evaluate it piece by piece.  We will consider a number of points …9 of them in fact, before we can determine what needs to be fixed and how, exactly, to fix it.

For the sake of convenience and brevity, I will refer to all your marketing communications with the simple word “piece”  P-I-E-C-E.  An ad or brochure is a marketing piece as is a sign or a website.  Your LinkedIn page or digital pay-per-click ad is similarly a “piece”.  Also, I will refer to the person who hears or sees your piece as the “reader” even though he or she might be listening to a radio spot or audio CD or watching it on television or YouTube.  OK…got it?   Let’s begin.

Here are the 9 most common reasons why marketing pieces fail (in no specific order of importance)

1. The piece does not ATTRACT the right people and may even confuse or anger actual prospects. 

You have only a few seconds to attract your prospect’s attention – generally between three and ten.  Make sure you don’t waste it on irrelevant words or images.  Let me give you an example of bad marketing advice…Grab The Attention of the Reader!!  Now, we’ve all heard this.  Why is this bad advice?  Because it doesn’t tell the whole story…it doesn’t tell you that how you grab the reader’s attention can make or break the effectiveness of the piece.  To explain this vividly, I turn to Bill Bernbach, a Madison Avenue legend who was used loosely as a model for the TV series MadMen.  Bernbach cautioned “I have very often given the example of being able to attract people to an ad by standing a man on his head…. But that is not a good ad unless you’re selling a product that keeps thing from falling out of that man’s pocket.”  In other words – if the attraction is not rooted in relevancy, it can and will backfire on you.

2. The piece does not promise the BENEFITS buyers want – or fails to promise benefits at all.  

You know, every single one of us listens to the same radio station in our head.  You might not remember it, but I do.  WII-FM – what’s in it for me?  If you don’t answer the question “what’s in it for me” quickly and meaningfully, you will not keep the reader’s interest and so, in that instance, you will lose the marketing game.

3. Your piece fails to DIFFERENTIATE you from your competition in any significant way. 

Why on God’s green earth should that prospect walk past the doors of your 5 biggest competitors and buy from you if he perceives no real difference between you and them?  If the prospect doesn’t see a difference, the only measure he has to judge you on is PRICE.  Don’t be forced to compete on price; it is a losing proposition.  A well-crafted differentiating, or branding, statement will lead a prospect to conclude, “I’d have to be a raving lunatic NOT to do business with you – regardless of price”.

4. Your message is not benefit-oriented, short and memorable

In our over-communicated society where people are exposed to hundreds or thousands of marketing communications each and every day, your marketing wages an ongoing battle to claim a tiny sliver of the prospect’s mind so they’ll remember you.  And you stand a much better chance of succeeding with a short but powerful branding statement.  Here’s an example that many of you may remember…”Lite Beer from Miller.  Everything you always wanted in a beer – and less.”  Powerful and short.  Look at the benefits, “Everything you always wanted in a beer – and less.”  What’s “less”?  Well, they tell you – the calories, the carbs – all the bad things so your benefit is great tasting beer. 

Here’s another:  GEICO – 15 Minutes can save you up to 15% on car insurance.  Now they’ve been running that for a long time.  Why?  Because it works.

5. Your branding message is not consistent throughout all your marketing pieces.

Does your website emphasize different benefits than your TV spot?  Are the colors, images and design elements consistent throughout?  Do you use the same logo or at least the same font style in all your written material?  All these items add to the ease with which a reader will be able to recall your business when he has a need for a product or service you provide.  When the reader sees your logo or distinctive style, he or she may not have to read the whole piece in order to know it’s you!  Once you have reached this level, you have reached nirvana.  Truly, very few small businesses do reach this level, but even getting somewhat close can make you a roaring success.

6. The piece uses tired, worn, trite phrases that people do not believe.

“We go the extra mile for you”.  “We’re professionals!”  “We treat you like family”.  “The best customer service in town”.  “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it”…  All of these say nothing!  You wouldn’t believe it if you saw these words in an advertisement – would you?)  So don’t put them in your communications.  The copywriter (that’s me) is trained to use common language in uncommon and memorable ways.  So often just running your piece by an expert copywriter can really make a difference in its performance and in the Return on your Investment.

7. The Piece ignores 94% of your prospects. 

(About 2 out of 3 pieces are guilty of this.) Here’s the reason…studies have shown that only about  6-7% of readers of a marketing piece have made a decision to buy and now only need to decide when they will buy and from whom.  These are “Now Buyers”. 

The other 94% are in the information-gathering stage.  They range from not having considered buying to having a desire for the product without making a buying commitment as to time or vendor, in their minds.  These are “Future Buyers”.  Thus if your piece is offering $50 off, or a Free gift with a purchase, it may be enough to move some of the now buyers to buy – BUT the vast majority of the readers of your piece are Future Buyers. You will certainly lose the opportunity to connect with them if you do not offer some good, relevant information– a report, a buyer’s guide or other valuable data that will help the prospect make an informed decision when the time come.  These kinds of offers have the added benefit of giving that prospect a positive perception of you.  Additionally, it will supply you with the contact information of the prospects so you can continue to communicate with them in informative, helpful and non-threatening ways.

8. The piece is clumsily written obscuring your message and placing unnecessary obstacles in front of the reader.

Copywriters have a saying:  Bad writing leads to bad results!  This occurs all too often when an otherwise expert businessperson decides to “go it alone”.  They reason that being an expert at their business makes them the perfect person to tell others about their business.   The cost of this over-calculation is measured in lost time, lost money, and lost opportunity.   A good copywriter is a good investment.  They understand how to build a case for your product and create attention, interest, desire and action on the part of the reader.  In my case, I was trained by top people at one of the world’s top agencies and have been developing brand strategies and writing copy for over 30 years.  So before you tackle something out of your expert zone, call me or someone like me.  It could be the start of a beautiful – and profitable – friendship.

9. The layout gets in the way of your message.  

The easier it is for the prospect to read and understand your message, the more will buy.  Anything that inhibits the reading and understanding of your message has no place in any of your marketing communications.  An overly creative, artsy, edgy or just plain confusing layout is a huge obstacle to getting your message read and understood because it diverts the reader’s attention away from the message.  So be very wary of the designer, graphics artist or videographer who is more intent with impressing you and others with their creative talent than in selling your product.

OK, that’s nine.  Now that you know what to look for in your marketing pieces, you will be more able to spot – and fix – those shortcomings and keep your marketing from being as successful as it could be.

8. 5 Steps to Greatness and Winning Marketing

Five Steps To Greatness is my marketing method specifically designed for Bedrock businesses. It is the entrepreneur’s answer to high cost, high glitz, low return advertising. At MoneyWords Marketing, we practice this method almost exclusively with our clients.

Five Steps To Greatness consists of – would you believe – five “steps” designed to turn your marketing into a customer magnet and win the marketing game.

Differentiate – Communicate – Educate – Facilitate -Evaluate. In a moment of punishing merriment, I have come to call these steps “The 5-8s (Five “Ates”). As you go through them you will start to develop successful marketing strategies and communications for your company. Five Steps To Greatness shows you how to create more compelling, effective marketing pieces (ads, brochures, mailers, websites, catalogs, etc) designed to generate more leads, close more sales, and increase bottom line profitability.

Five Steps To Greatness teaches you how to use your marketing and advertising to build a solid case for your business, not just create an image or mere “awareness”.  When your advertisement, brochure, website, or sales flyer follows these five steps – your chances of success skyrocket.

An outline of Five Steps To Greatness

Step 1: Differentiate Your Business From Your Competition

We mentioned this earlier and will dive much deeper into this subject (as we will the for the other four steps) as we progress through this program.

Step 2: Communicate Your Excellence Clearly and Concisely

Step 3: Educate Your Customers and Prospects on how they can best do business in your industry.

Step 4: Facilitate the Buying Decision using Offers and Risk Reducers (make it easy and comfortable to buy from you)

Step 5: Evaluate Every Campaign For Productivity – for return on investment  – how else will you know if your marketing is working or not?  How will you know if you’re making money, or not?

As we progress through all five steps, you will learn both how to do it and why it’s done this way.  Then, as you employ its principals and practices, you too will be able to avoid wasting money and squandering opportunities.

With my five step system you will be able to create a marketing strategy that leads your prospect to the conclusion, “I would have to be an raving idiot to do business with anyone but you – regardless of price.”

9. Are You Ready To Succeed?

Lots of people say they want to be a game changer; not all them follow through.  If you are to succeed, you will have to start by truthfully (and sometimes painfully) assessing your situation.

  • Is your marketing effort holistic? – That is, does it permeate every facet of your company…?  Are all of your employees great ambassadors for your company…on and off the job?  Remember the definition of marketing.
  • Is your marketing underperforming?  That is, is it living up to your expectations…and are your expectations reasonable?  Say you send out one mailing of 5,000 postcards.  Can a reasonable marketer expect 500 responses?  NO!  Averages show that with a one-time contact you can expect, at best, a 1/4% to 1% return (12-50 responses).
  • Do you even know your return on investment of each campaign?  If not you should.  Later on, we’ll talk about that in the EVALUATE section of the Five Steps To Greatness.

Here are three questions I pose to all my personal clients before we start work.  Answer them as honestly as if you were strapped to a lie-detector. 

  1. Are you serious about upping your game?
  2. Are you willing to consider a different path than the one you’re on?
  3. Are you open to hearing the truth?

If you can truly answer “Yes” to all three, then go on to Disk #2.  If not, then go find a quiet spot and think long and hard about what you want for your business and for yourself.  Then try those questions again.

10. Differentiate To Win

Many times throughout our lives we are told that conformity is good. In school, we’re part of a class. On sports teams and in scouting we dress in uniforms and value an “all-for-one” mind-set.  As we grow up we are constantly bombarded with direct or indirect messages that tell us sameness is a desirable trait.

One needs to look no further than the military or American corporations, with their dress codes, their jargon and their admonitions to blend in and be part of the team.

The sameness and conformity that is the strength of these institutions can be the death of products and services in the marketplace. To be the same is a sin. To not stand out in a crowd is failure. To not be different is to leave yourself only one competitive option—price.

Please note that I said option. Price can be an effective strategy (be it low price or high price). But to be forced into competing on price because you have no other way to separate yourself from your competitors in the mind of your customer, will almost certainly lead to the marginalization, if not the outright demise of your business.

Buyers are always faced with choices. If they are not aware of what makes you different they will rightly assume you are the same as everyone else.  Well, what’s the first question an uninformed buyer asks? “How much does it cost?”

One of my idols, Raymond Rubicam, who started the firm Young & Rubicam on Madison Avenue, said this:

“… the beginning of greatness is to be different and the beginning of failure is to be the same.” 

Not only do I run my business by that philosophy, but I run my life the same way.

Many firms that I have worked with, when I asked the question, “Why I should buy from you rather than your competitors?” give me similar answers.  “We’re much better.”  “Our quality is higher.” “Our workers are well-trained.”  “We care about our customers. “ “We have 5-star service.” To which I reply “Balderdash, Sir!”, although sometimes I only used the initials.

If I’m going to buy from you, I want some pretty specific reasons, not fuzzy generalities. I’m funny that way. But I’m also representative of the vast majority of consumers.

Remember Outside Perception? It does not matter how good you are unless and until your clients and prospects believe it.  Marketing is not a battle of products or services; it is a battle of perception*.  And the battle takes place in the mind of your prospects.

How To Differentiate: The Unique Selling Proposition

Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to be influenced by the giants of the business. Those pioneers in marketing and advertising whose writings, teachings and remonstrations I always took to heart, even if sometimes my ego took a kick in the pants at the same time. You may be familiar with names like Claude Hopkins, Rosser Reeves, David Ogilvy, Bill Bernbach, Jack Trout, Jerry Della Femina, George Gallup and Raymond Rubicam. And there are many others of whom you would never have heard. Even if they were not all in agreement on every aspect of this science/art of marketing, their ideas were eerily similar in most cases.  Differentiation is the key to brand strategy.

Rosser Reeves, head of Ted Bates International, and my former boss, developed the formalized concept of the Unique Selling Proposition (USP) around 1960. Here is how he described it…

  • Each ad (marketing piece) must make a proposition to the prospect. Not just words or “puffery” (platitudes, clichés, etc). It must say: “Buy this…and get this specific benefit.”
  • The proposition must be one that the competition can not or does not
  • The proposition must be so strong (compelling) that it can move prospects to act.

By the way, the “does not offer” gives us a very important lesson here.  Often competing products have the same benefit.  The product that first makes the benefit their own, wins this part of the Marketing Game.

Take the famous case of Schlitz Beer.  Claude Hopkins, the newly hired advertising consultant, visited the Schlitz brewery in Milwaukee and was overwhelmed by the cleanliness of it all.  As he was give the “nickel tour” he was showed the bottle-washing area (remember…they didn’t recycle in those days)  He remarked on the steaminess of the area and was told that “we wash our bottles with steam because it kills more germs and bacteria than any other method.”  He asked if other brewers did this as well.  “Oh yes – everyone does.  It keeps the customer safe.” 

Within a very short while ads came out with the headline “Schlitz beer bottles – Washed with live steam”.  Schlitz’s market position went from a 5th place tie to #1 in market share.

Developing YOUR Unique Message

How can you determine your product’s USP (or Unique Branding Message)? 

One of the best ways I’ve found is to list all the benefits provided by your product or service (e.g. saves time, nearby, saves money, makes you attractive, makes you healthier, easy-to-use, fixes this or that problem, etc) then ask people to rank them in order of the effect they have on their deciding whether to buy that product.  Finally, pick your strongest benefit (or Hot Button) that isn’t already identified with one of your competitors and that’s your USP.  If you can’t find a good USP for your product or service after all this, then take Peter Drucker’s advice and innovate.

But remember the caution first uttered by the great Bill Bernbach (the copywriter who made the Volkswagen Beetle a success).  “No matter how skillful you are, you can’t invent an advantage that doesn’t exist.”  In other words – don’t lie.  Be ready to prove your Unique Selling Proposition with facts and evidence.

Rosser Reeves was not only a visionary in developing the concept of the USP, he was also one of the foremost practitioners of its teachings.  He created many, many USPs (or Unique Banding Messages) for products.  A number of which have lasted 30, 40, 50 years or more.  Here are a few, all written in the 1940’s and 50’s and see if you recognize them.

  • “M&Ms Melt In Your Mouth, Not In Your Hands”
  • “Wonder Bread Helps Build Strong Bodies In Eight Ways”
  • “Colgate Cleans Your Breath, While It Cleans Your Teeth”

(another example of claiming a benefit first, simply because most toothpastes did “clean your breath as it cleaned your teeth – but Colgate said it first and grabbed the market share.”)

  • “How Do You Spell Relief? R-O-L-A-I-D-S” (70 Years and still going strong)*

By the way, a business can have more than one Unique Selling Proposition…just try not to use them together. 

Or, of course, you could hire an expert copywriter and brand strategist to help you.  (I hope you’ll pardon my lapse into crass commercialism, but marketing IS my business and my passion.)

So Let’s Recap

  • It is critical to differentiate your product or business from your competitors in some meaningful Literally everything can be differentiated.
  • Identify your company’s Unique Selling Proposition. (Your Unique Message). Use it as a consistent foundation for your marketing and advertising.
  • If you can’t identify a differentiator or a USP—Innovate!
  • Make your claims benefit and solution-based, not just feature-based.
  • “If you want to know why John Smith buys what John Smith buys, you have to see the world through John Smith’s eyes.” Do research, even if it’s informal.   All external opinions are helpful.
  • When you have created a good campaign—stick with it. Change the pieces if you must but keep the central core message. Don’t think your customers or prospects will tire of hearing your message. Customers believe it and prospects haven’t yet heard it.
  • Don’t follow the crowd. Be unique.

*Al Ries & Jack Trout, 22 Immutable Laws Of Marketing

*Actually, the year of the Rolaids tagline debuting in the media was 1974.  Our mistake, sorry.

11. Communicate – Choosing the Correct Approach

Now that you’ve successfully identified your differentiators and formulated your Unique Message – or USP – it’s time to begin turning concepts into copy.

The reason you spend time and money on marketing communications is to sell your product. This is true no matter what type of advertising you do or where you do it.

Print, Broadcast or Digital.  Direct Response, where your goal of a sale is immediate, to Corporate Image – or Institutional – advertising where the objective is to engender respect and admiration for the corporation rather than sell a specific product.  Outbound marketing or Inbound marketing.  The ultimate goal is still the same—more clients and increased sales.

It follows, as night follows day that it’s important to us that people pay attention to what we’re saying. The first function of the Communicate step is to get as many prospects as possible to pay attention to what you have to say.

The first decision we must make when planning our communication strategy is to:

Choose the right approach – Emotional or Intellectual.  To do this you have to know what you’re selling and why people are buying.   Remember John Smith’s eyes here, folks.

Roy H Williams said, “Good ads are either Intellectual (information focused) or Emotional (experience focused).

Different products call for different psychological appeals to the buyer.  Usually, though not always, certain product groups gravitate to one or the other approach.

Travel, food, most clothing, entertainment, beauty and health products, wine and spirits, soft drinks, and impulse buys strongly favor an emotional appeal.  The marketer wants readers to imagine themselves in a situation – enjoying a fine meal, having fun dancing or at a party, having others admire the way you look, being in an exotic locale, even having a medical problem or life crisis.

I wrote this once for a cruise ship line:

“Picture yourself cruising the blue Aegean, gliding past history at every turn. Travel back in time to ancient Ephesus on the Turkish coast. Then pause at the island of Santorini, explore pristine beaches and secluded coves via your motor scooter. And when it’s time for lunch and refreshments, take yours in style at one of the many sidewalk cafes in the bustling Agora and sample delicacies just hours removed from the sea.”

This is a fine example, at least in my opinion, of emotional-based, experienced-based messaging.

Business-to-business, home repair and remodeling, financial services, auto repair, high-ticket technology, appliances, professional services, work tools and clothing, and education ads generally employ an intellectual argument.

The intellectual approach is almost always based on “What’s in it for me?”. (Me – the consumer.)  Unlike many emotion-based appeals, don’t pussyfoot around with this approach by going through a long set up.  Give the punch line first! Very few people will sit still for the set-up on an intellectual-based message. Get to the point fast! Check out the following example.

“Color Copies—Better, Faster, Less Expensive.

At 94 color copies per minute and a 9¢ cost per

copy, the XR4 lets you get around any budget

issues and still get the sharpest, most brilliant

color copies available.

It’s a printer both Marketing and Accounting will love.

Remember, whatever approach you use, you need to focus on the BENEFITS the buyer will receive when they purchase your product.  You’re not selling a sweater, you’re selling the benefits of owning it.  You’re not just renting apartments; you’re selling a lifestyle benefit.  It’s not just shampoo; it’s a way to make you look fabulous.

And it stands to reason that in order to pick the right approach and emphasize the right benefits, you need to know why your customers buy from you.

There’s an old saying in our business:  “If you want to know WHY John Smith buys what John Smith buys, you have to see the world through John Smith’s eyes.”

And how do you do that?  It’s not complicated, it’s not expensive – you ASK!  Simple, quick and free!  Ask your friends and acquaintances, the members of your church, even your weird old Uncle Louie.  Ask them about their experiences when buying in your industry.  What do they look for?  What are they afraid will happen?  What’s important to them?

Then ask your best customers.  Ask them a simple question, “I know you have choices, and I’m grateful you have chosen our company.  My goal is to make this business as responsive to you, our customer, as I can and you can help by answering this one simple question, ‘Why do you choose to do business with us?’”

So, To Recap:

Before you write one word or commit to spending any money on any marketing communications, understand why customers buy and then choose the right psychological approach and benefits that reflect their answers.

12. Communicate – Winning Marketing Interrupts and Engages

This lesson focuses on “interrupt and engage”.  The question is what are we interrupting and how are we engaging?

In the last section, we brought up the importance of getting people to pay attention to what we’re saying.  It’s not that easy.  In fact, it’s the number one concern of marketers and advertisers the world over.  Why?  Because we humans live most of our lives in a semi-somnambulistic, quasi-focused state that allows us to do and think of a number of things at the same time.

Here’s an example.  After you’ve driven to work, do you remember the cars you saw on the way, their make, model and color? No? Join the club. We are, as human beings, multi-tasking machines. I have, more than once, found myself eating breakfast, reading the paper, and listening to the news on radio all while carrying on a reasonably lucid conversation.  We do so many things at the same time, both in and out of our heads, that we really do need a scorecard to keep track.  While we’re doing all these things however, we can’t focus sharply on any one thing.

But what happens, for instance, if on that routine daily drive a kid on a bicycle suddenly appears in front of your car from between parked cars?  Your brain recognizes the situation in a nano-second and focuses like a laser on the task of taking action to avoid hitting the poor – and unfocused – child.  For the few seconds that it takes to deal with that situation you see nothing else, hear nothing else, and think of nothing else. But when it’s over, after you regain your composure, you return to your “normal” – and unfocused – state.

Some doctors and other learned folks refer to this focused/unfocused condition as Alpha state and Beta state.

We exist mainly in the un-focused Beta state as we go about the large portion of our lives that is routine. It is only when we are interrupted sufficiently that we move, however briefly, into Alpha state – the state of heightened awareness.

It is this jump into Alpha that copywriters attempt to trigger.

Advertisers understand that it is critical to their success to get you to focus on their advertisement, website, letter, billboard, blog post, etc. If they cannot capture your attention (and interrupt your thoughts) they stand almost no chance of you reading, hearing, or remembering their message.

For this reason many large national brands have made it their purpose to bombard you with words and visuals geared to interrupt.  Whether they simply interrupt or the interrupt and engage is another story entirely.

Interrupt & Engage

Since we now know that people exist in an unfocused state, it is of paramount importance that we find some way to grab their attention and make them focus long enough to say to themselves “Hmmm, this could bring me some benefi’. [Interrupt] Let me read/listen further and learn more.” [Engage]

You only have about one and one-half to three and one-half seconds to interrupt your readers. If you don’t, they’re on to other things. They’ll turn the page, change the station, mute the sound, throw your mailer away or just plain ignore you. And once you successfully interrupted them, you must still give need something that will pique their interest so they’ll want to read more, hear more, or see more. 

The Interrupt is accomplished by a headline that can consist of words, images, sounds or visuals – or a combination of all of those.  The importance of the headline cannot be overstated. It is the ad for the ad. If your headline doesn’t have good interrupt value, all your brilliant copy will go unread.

Illustrations can be combined with your headline to provide a great interrupt.  However, please make sure your headline and your picture match and support each other and that both are relevant to the product.  Otherwise you risk alienating the reader with what I term a “False Alarm”.

In some rare instances, photos or illustrations may alone serve as the headline, but the image must be immensely strong and the copy had better be very compelling.

Our next section focuses on Headlines.

Let’s Recap

  • Your ad must have good Interrupt Value. It needs to get a prospect out of the normal Beta state into a focused Alpha state so we can communicate with him or her. 
  • Your Headline is the most important part of the ad—the key interrupter. Five times more people read headlines than read body copy. So work harder on the headline than on any other part of the ad.
  • An Interrupt lasts only seconds. You must then engage their minds or they will tune you out. Sub-headings and the first sentence or two of the piece will determine if we keep their interest so they read or listen to the rest of what we have to say.  Think about the importance placed on the opening sentence of a novel.  It should draw you in, play to your curiosity or startle you.  Remember these classic opening lines:
  • “Call me Ishmael.” (Moby Dick)
  • “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” (1984)
  • It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Don’t these draw you in?

13. Communicate – Writing Winning Headlines

Give your headlines good interrupt value—but keep them relevant to what you’re selling. Headlines should be simple and benefit oriented. What benefits should you highlight? Ask your customers; they’ll tell you what they most desire.

Headlines can be long or short. There is no hard and fast rule about the length of a headline. Many have been as short as one word. I’ve seen excellent headlines that were 20 or more words long. A good technique, especially with a short headline such as “FREE GOLF”, is to use a one or two line sub-headline to engage the reader and draw them into the body copy such as “Play just ten rounds at Hidden Pines Golf Club and we’ll give you a free round including cart.”

Most folks look at the headline and illustration first, then they gravitate to the caption of pictures – if any.  Next, they scan the sub-heads, look to see who’s running the ad—and only after all of that, do they decide whether to read the copy.  The process takes scant seconds.

Each part of your piece, whether website, print ad, radio or TV serves a purpose.  The purpose is to take you to the next part of the piece.  Done well, it’s really quite a smooth progression. (You remember the old song, “The Head Bone’s connected to…”?)  I’ve got my own little ditty on that one.  I don’t know if you’ll think it’s silly, but it’s gotten me through a lot of years.

The headline gets you to the sub-head The sub-head gets you to the lead graph The lead graph gets you to the body copy And that’s how your ads get read.

When you are creating headlines for a home page, ad campaign, brochure, or what have you, don’t depend on divine inspiration to provide you with the perfect headline right out of the box.

Write at least 20-30 headlines for each piece. I just start writing and keep writing until I exhaust every possible idea. Then I put the headlines away for 24 hours and come back to them again, re-read them and start writing all over again.

Once you get into it, the thoughts just seem to flow. I don’t think I’ve ever used any of my initial thoughts in a final product. So my advice is: Keep writing! Keep writing even after you think that you’ve just created the best darn headline ever written.

Then pare down the list to your favorite 5 or so. Ask friends and co-workers to pick their three favorites and the one they like the least. Use their answers to pare your list even more.

Keep at this process until you’re down to two and then you can test the different headlines against each other in a small test run, if possible.  That is, perhaps you’re planning on mailing 5000 postcards but can’t decide between the two winning headings…so print 500 of each heading and send them out (make sure you put in a code or a different phone numbers) then see if one gives you significantly more returns than the other. 

If it’s not possible to do a test, try a split run where every other copy of a newspaper or magazine, or every other postcard sent comes out with headline A or headline B. On radio this is very easy to do as well. Just record a different opening and split your spots. I like to run one for one week, then try the other the following week. Track your results though, or your testing won’t mean a thing.

Types of Headlines

I’ve seen all kinds of headlines. Those I can classify and those I really can’t. For now we’ll stick to the ones we can identify. (Remember the admonition making your headline relevant to your product.  No False Alarms.)

I refer you to your Support Documents entitled my “7 Most Powerful Types of Headlines” and “The Headline Sampler”.  The Sampler shows you actual headlines from ads, postcards, websites, etc.  I think you’ll find it quite helpful.

For more help refer to “28 Proven Formulas For Writing Headlines”,  “10 Fascinating Facts About Headlines” and “The Headline Starter Bank” –also included in your WIN The Marketing Game package.

By the way…The Headline Starter Bank is a great tool. It gives you 127 of the top money-making headlines of all time. When you find one that will adapt well to your product, just “steal” it.  Honestly…it’s okay.

To Recap:

  • The headline is the most important part of any marketing piece
  • If you use an image as part of your headline make sure it ties directly to your product – otherwise you send a False Alarm
  • Headlines can be short or long and still be effective. But either way, they must rouse the readers out of their unfocused state

Write numerous headlines and survey friends and relatives to help you find the most effective one

14. Educate Your Customers and Prospects

The third step of the 5 Steps To Greatness system is Educate.  Communicate and Educate are the meat of your marketing communications for website, print, broadcast, brochures, sales letters, etc.

Educate involves building a case for your product or service – much like a lawyer in a courtroom – using specific evidence that proves your claims and gives the prospects useful information so they can make an intelligent, informed decision.

[Don’t miss checking out “25 Types Of Evidence” included in your package]

Unlike the mega-marketers, Bedrock businesses can’t wait for an awareness campaign to take hold through countless repetitions.  You don’t have the time and you don’t have the money.  You need your campaign to bring in sales now. So you must give your customers more than mere lip service. You must give them the information they crave.

If you’re like me, you often make your buying decisions based on what you already know. “I know I like Coke better than I like Pepsi”. “I know that Feta cheese has only half the fat of swiss or cheddar.” “I know La-Z-Boy has a great reputation for quality because I own two of their chairs.”

But when you’re faced with a purchase about which you have no personal experience or recommendations from those you trust –what then?

What then is you seek out information. You go to websites, pick up brochures, consult Consumer Reports, and ask your friends.  People in the internet age thirst for information.  Most, when faced with a serious purchase line a car, refrigerator, computer or smart phone, check out several websites, blogs and review sites.  As marketers, we need to understand this quest for knowledge. We also need to help people gather the information they need to be able to make an informed decision.  “Remember this adage… the more you tell, the more you sell.”  Just do it in the right way.

Wait a minute!  What heresy is this? Advertising is not there to inform; it’s there to persuade.

That’s the attitude of which bankruptcy is fashioned.  Talk to your customers like you’d talk to your friend over the kitchen table.  Give them what they need…and what they need is good, decision-able information.

Now that we’ve identified the Goal – educate your prospects – let’s move on to HOW to do that.

Once your headline has interrupted the prospect and your subheads or first paragraph has engaged them to want to learn more, it is your responsibility to provide readers with specific information that aids them in the buying process – more benefits and, if possible, more differentiators. Give them the information, that will, as Rich Harshaw put it, “lead them to the conclusion that ‘I would have to be an absolute fool to do business with anyone but you – regardless of price.”

To do this you have to change your mind set from thatof an advertising copywriter (a noble calling) to that of a lawyer. Your product is your client.  The prospects and customers are the jury. How will you build your case?

Will you rely on hyperbole, generalities, clichés, and platitudes?  Or will you follow the example of the great trial lawyers and great marketers and build a case for your product fact by fact, citing real evidence, in a way that’s relevant to the jury – your prospects and customers. 

(Here I’ll take a sec to mention a particularly useful part of this program –  “21 Meaningless Clichés, Platitudes and Generalities That Will Put Your Prospects To Sleep And Kill Your Results”.  It’s included in the Support section of your package.  Don’t write copy without it!)

Now…let’s take a little quiz. Which of the next two ad samples builds a more effective – and persuasive – case for this store?  Ready?  Here goes.

[Sample A] “Our company has been serving the area since 1995. We really care for our customers because to us, service is more than a word – it’s an obsession. We always go the extra mile for you because we treat you like one of the family. We handle both residential and commercial, and foreign and domestic products. There’s a huge selection and we’ve got the best prices in town. So come on in – we’ll be waitin’ for ya.”

OK…got it?  Good.  Now let’s go on to Sample B – remember, both samples are for the SAME store.

[Sample B] “Our company has been in business for 11 years. In that time we’ve won 7 Top Service awards for the tri-county area. Come in and browse – you’ll find the largest selection for 400 miles around. We showcase over 1840 items in our new 25,000 square foot building. Our average competitor stocks only about 750.  And don’t forget our 100% satisfaction guarantee applies to everything in stock. So come on in – the parking’s free and plentiful – and like always, the coffee’s on the house.”

Okay, pencils down.  Let me say I hope like heck you chose B. Otherwise I’ve been wasting my breath. Seriously though, these fictitious ‘ads’ illustrate the differences between copy loaded up with meaningless generalities and platitudes that no one believes anyway, and copy containing specific facts that will help your prospects and customers make a decision. Top service award winner, largest selection (note the specific numbers), big new building, free parking, a money-back guarantee AND that little unexpected extra—the free cup of coffee.

OK, so now, when you need to create that brochure, flyer, postcard, or radio ad, or re-write your website, you’ll know that evidence written in a friendly, conversational (not salesy) tone is one of your best weapons in the Marketing Game. 

Do this…take a look at your competitors ads, website, promotions, etc and see how they’re positioning themselves in the market.  Are they highlighting benefits and evidence to make their case, or are the more in the realm of meaningless clichés and boasting about their “features” with no or little mention of how those features result in benefits to the customer.

When you’re done researching, go back to the Feature-Benefit-Solution Chart we mentioned earlier.  Would your answers be any different now that we’re that much deeper into the 5 Steps?

Let’s Recap

  • Build a case for your product using evidence
  • Avoid meaningless clichés, platitudes and generalities
  • Compare what you say to what your competitors are saying. If they sound similar – you’re not being unique.  Differentiate to win!

Next, we’ll tackle how to drive more business your way by employing motivating offers and calming the buyer’s anxiety with Risk Reducers.  We’ll also give you insights into determining whether you’re ignoring 94% of your prospective customers…don’t miss it.

See you then.

15. Facilitate the Decision to Buy

We are now entering the fourth phase of The 5 Steps To Greatness system – Facilitate.

Now that we have attracted potential buyers with benefits they truly desire, differentiated ourselves from our competitors with a USP and educated our prospects and customers by building a case for our product with the use of factual evidence and communicated it well, we are ready for the prospects to take action.

Our internal surveys find the ads of 7 out of 10 Bedrock businesses to be woefully lacking in the elements we’ll cover in the Facilitation step. Your goal is to make the prospect’s decision to pull the buying trigger as easy as possible.

I have spoken with many salesmen who tell me that they were doing a splendid job explaining the benefits of their wares, correctly handling all the voiced objections from the prospect, yet when it came to getting the sale, they struck out.

If that’s the case, something is missing. There is something that is grinding the decision-making process to a halt.  Something that makes the risk of buying much higher than the benefits of buying.  The prospect still has doubts.  Doubts about the value of what is proposed and/or doubts about the company proposing it.

If you are to get that sale, your salesperson will have to help the buyer get over his doubts and concerns and have confidence in his decision.

Marketing and advertising do for a large audience essentially what a salesperson does for a small audience. So it is no wonder that many marketers run into the same trouble salespeople do.

It is essential, therefore, for both the salesperson and the marketer to find ways to grease the skids of the decision-making process. To accomplish this we use offers and risk reducers.

Let’s start off with Offers, shall we?

(Before continuing, please have your Support Document “Educational Spectrum” in front of you.)

“10% Off!” “Free Shipping!” “Free Gift With Purchase!”

When most people think of “Offers”, these are the kind of things that come to mind – incentives for buying now.

These are all well and good. Unfortunately, the vast majority of your audience is not ready to buy at the very moment they hear your ad, read your postcard, or check out your catalog. These people—94% or more of your prospects—are someplace in the decision making process, but not yet at the place where they write the check.

So if your offers are, as are most, centered on the idea of “Buy Now and You Will Get…” you are ignoring the vast majority of your prospects. Prospects that may well be ready to buy sometime in the future—just not now.

So then, what kinds of offers will these “Future” buyers respond to? Which ones will help you attract 100% of your prospects, not just the 6% that are ready to buy now?

Which offers will help you identify names, addresses, and e-mails of your prospects so you can market to them individually? To get the answers to these and other questions we must first understand the concept of the Educational Spectrum.

The split between “Now Buyers” and “Future Buyers” has been around in some shape or form for a long time.  But in 2002 two marketers from Dallas, Rich Harshaw and Edward Earle introduced me to a concept called the Educational Spectrum.

The Spectrum places all prospects on a continuum. Their position on this line is relative to how close they are to deciding to buy. We start with the fact that there are three types of prospects “Now Buyers” (on the extreme right of the Spectrum) “Future Buyers” (on the left) and a third group (who do not even have your product or service in their consciousness yet). These “Pre-Investigators” do not even appear on the Spectrum.

According to Harshaw and Earle, there is a “Buying Zone” (from ‘S’ to ‘Z’ on the Spectrum) comprised of those who have made a decision to buy something soon.  This zone represents up to 6% of your prospects. These are the ones who will respond to “Now Offers” like “Buy Two, Get The Third Free” or “We Pay The Sales Tax”.

Now Offers that provide incentives for quick purchase have little or no effect on those outside the buying zone. About 94% of your prospects, the “Future Buyers”, are at different places in the “investigation zone” (from ’A’ to ’S’). Wherever they are along that line, they need and want more information to help them move their decision-making process along the spectrum until they enter the “Buying Zone”.

The kind of offers that appeal to Future Buyers/Investigators are not the same ones that appeal to Now Buyers. Obviously, if I’m just starting my search for a new fishing boat, a 10% Off This Weekend Only Sale will not make me get up off the couch, abandon the rest of my investigation, and run out and plunk down eight grand to save a few dollars.

The Future Buyer needs to be wooed with information and pressure-free contacts. I would be much more apt to respond to an offer for a “Free Guide To Bass Fishing In The Rocky Mountains” than I would to an offer for a “Free Depth Finder With Each Boat Sold”, if I’m not yet ready to buy, I’m not ready to take your offer.

(Also: If you write it correctly, your ad will get some readership from Pre-Investigators (those who haven’t even thought of buying what you’re selling). The ad can put your product into their consciousness and hopefully move some of them onto the Educational Spectrum as Future Buyers.)

Your job is to construct your website, ad or brochure and be sure your copy includes appeals to all types of buyers including future buyers, and even pre-investigators.

I like to try to include at least two offers in every piece.  One pointed at motivating Now Buyers, and the other for educating and capturing the rest.  If, as in the example above, I request the Fishing Guide, I will also receive information on the fishing boats this company sells. Perhaps they will even include it in the Guide, making for a nice package I probably will not throw away. That information is there whenever I am ready to read it.  The company no longer has to worry whether their ads will catch me at the right time. The Guide just sits there waiting for me, and when I pick it up I’m thinking fishing, so I’m more receptive to reading about or looking at fishing boats.

Does it pay to go to the trouble of creating content for Future Buyers?  Only if you want to make more sales.

Your Support Documents include:

  • Five NOW Offers That Fall Flat And Five That Work Like A Charm” and
  • 10 Compelling Future Offers

I’m sure these will help you plan for more sales.

My firm, MoneyWords Marketing spent over a dozen years marketing a free-to-the consumer Independent Auto Repair Referral website.  It advertised that all recommended shops honor certain guarantees and warranties.  One is an unconditional 24 month/24,000 mile parts and labor warranty on all repairs. Another is a free rental if your car is not ready on the day promised.

One shop that applied for membership told us they only gave a 90-day warranty. The shop owner felt that a longer warranty would cost him money.  Naturally, he was turned down for membership. But when comparing his shop to another that offered the 24/24 warranty, in whom would you be more likely to have the confidence you need to make that buying decision.

I suggest it might come down to the reduction of risk.

One job of the marketer is to supply that confidence to the buyer. We have, so far in this book, discussed quite a few of them. Educate with specific evidence, make an offer that helps the Future Buyer compile the information he needs to make his decision, and find ways of reducing the risk so the buying decision is easy.

Call To Action

Once you’ve got your website, brochure, ad or other marketing communication together, check to see that it has all the elements we’ve talked about so far and don’t forget a call to action.

So many advertisements fail to direct the consumer how to respond.

  • “Call for your free Buyers Guide.”
  • “Present this coupon at our shop at 4th and Main.” “Go to our website and sign up for your Free Discount Card.” 
  • “Call NOW to reserve your seat for the July 8th seminar.”

Don’t leave the buyer guessing.  Spell it out.  Do all these things and you’re bound to wind up on what I call the Slippery Slide to Success.

Let’s Recap.

  • To make sure you don’t Ignore 94% of your target market make sure your ad or brochure or website contains an attractive offer aimed at Future Buyers.
  • Make your offers ones that motivate. Steer clear of the old saws that have been proven to get feeble results.
  • Use Risk Reducers to make the decision to buy an easy one.
  • Remember the famous radio station WIIFM? (What’s In It For Me?) Nothing motivates your customers more than their own self-interest.

16. Evaluate Your Results

“I don’t know and I don’t care.”

This is certainly not my favorite line.  Nor do I think it’s yours.  Unfortunately, it’s often the skeleton under the bed in a lot of entrepreneurial companies – especially the non-dot coms.

Folks, ignorance is not bliss. Taking the time and effort to create a marketing campaign and then not having a way to tell if it’s working, is like playing roulette.  A pure gamble with the odds stacked against you.

But what’s a small company to do?  We don’t have unlimited funds so we can hire a high-powered marketing research firm. We don’t advertise on four

Radio or TV stations at one time so we can’t “test” one against the other. Our goal isn’t simple Awareness; we’re trying like hell to make sales.

Evaluating your marketing is something even the smallest company can do.  There are some easy and inexpensive ways to test the results from your ads, claims, concepts, differentiators, etc. both before and after the ad runs. The pre-release methods were mentioned in previous chapters. Now let’s discuss some of the ways you can track your results post-release (once you’ve put your advertising into play).

I am talking now to those of you who do not sell product through an e-commerce website.  Webstores are different animals because, fortunately, there is cheap and easy access to Google Analytics or other measurement programs. 

So, if you will allow, we’ll concentrate on those of you who sell most directly across the counter, over the phone or in-person.  Those of you who go to networking events, buy radio or TV time, send postcards and sales letters, distribute brochures, and maybe even sponsor a little league team. 

You need to know if the money you’re spending is doing the job.  John Wannamaker, founder of one of America’s retail giants once said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, and the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”

Today, thankfully, it is possible for even a small business to make a real solid attempt to track which of their marketing and advertising dollars are being spent most effectively…and you can do so without excessive cost.

One good way to track calls generated by ads, postcards, letters, flyers etc is to set up one or more “Marketing Extension Lines”.  These MELs are what we’d call “virtual” phones, that is regardless of the number dialed, the call is routed seamlessly to your main phone line.  But when you get your phone bill it down the calls so you can easily see the activity on any of your MELs.

You can use a different phone number in each ad, brochure, or mailer. They all ring through to your main number, but reports will tell you which number the buyer called and where that call came from.  Thus you’ll know exactly which marketing piece prompted the call.

Then you can judge marketing piece to marketing piece.

With this knowledge, you’ll be able to make some informed decisions as you go ahead. The marketing extension line works equally as well tracking different ad copy in a newspaper, postcard, letter, etc.  This way you can do an A-B test on a mailer, or as a way to see which radio station pulls the best.  In an A-B test you send, say, 5000 postcards.  They are similar but have something different about them…different headline, different image, different offer, etc.  Each also has a different phone number.  So, when you get the phone bill you’ll know precisely which version pulled the most inquiries, and how many of those inquiries turned into customers.

Let me caution you here, only make ONE difference between the pieces.  If you make more than one you will not know which of those things, whether it was the offer, the headline, the image, or whatever the people responded to.

One A/B test compared the offer of a free audio in one ad, vs. a free set of articles written by my partners and me in the other. When one ad out-pulled the other 5 to

1, we knew we had a winner.

Marketing Extension Lines are available from your local phone company and are fairly inexpensive – last time I bought some they were $32 per month.

You can, alternatively, include a code on your order form or website which will identify the particular mailer or advertisement the prospect saw.  These are basic methods and involve little, if any, additional cost. And there are many more tracking procedures you could use.

I have purposefully made this the shortest lesson in our program – a very good reason.

There are already scores of excellent books on this subject from folks with lots more knowledge than me. You can find them in your local library or online.

So the best advice I can give here to warn against inaction.  Don’t forget that this is the final step in the process, and that you must – in one form or another – take that step.

After all, if you don’t care, who will?

Now, I’d like to take a moment to thank each and every one of you who have gone through this entire program.

I’m confident that you can now build your marketing strategy to focus on the 5 Steps To Greatness

  • Differentiate
  • Communicate
  • Educate
  • Facilitate
  • Evaluate

Here’s a bit of advice I’ll pass on.  I comes from a number of people who, like you, have gone through the WIN The Marketing Game And Stop Wasting Money program.

Here’s what they said:

Don’t just go through the program once and set it aside.  Keep using it.  I can be a great resource for a long time. The more you use it, the more ingrained the system will become.  Eventually, the system will become second nature and then everything you do, every decision you make, and every piece you develop will have a much, much better chance of – not only of success – but of roaring success.

So good luck.  Happy marketing.  And here’s to reaching all your goals. Learn more at this link.

Alan Tarr Signature