Friday, July 29, 2005

How Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie Can Help You Connect With Customers

As a communicator (whether that’s in eBay listings, in press releases, in white papers, in emails to prospects, in blog posts), you need to connect with minds. One short-cut way of doing that is to take newspaper headlines and use them to your advantage.

If you can connect popular images, celebrities and events to your company or message, you’ve won half the communication battle. Popular, well-known issues, ideas and people attract attention because they’re popular already. Weather, TV, tragedy and business events, for example, all offer opportunities for discussion in the context of your offering. Even if the connection is thin, people will be pulled in by names and events, especially if you include key words in the headline.

It’s kind of like pretending you’re Nicole Richie or Paris Hilton. They’re famous by association. Their parents did wonderful things for the world, and the girls leveraged their names for personal fame and fortune. Include popular personalities and current events in your communications and you’ve leveraged a bit of popularity that you never could generate on your own. We actually used and abused Paris and Nicole here.

See how I worked them into the story? The headline I saw this morning read “Fox Renews Simple Life with Hilton, Richie.” It was easy to craft my own concept around the two of them. You can do it, too. Piggyback onto celebrity fame, and you can come up with an instructive article or a story about your product or service. It’s easy.

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What Motivates Buyers? Experience or Possession?

“The function of abundance is not to possess things, but to use them and gather experiences.”

-- annonymous

This quote is, in a general sense, superb, but it’s also instructive when thinking about customers.

People buy for all kinds of reasons – reasons that run a bit deeper than most think. They aren't usually hoarding. They buy in order to experience the world, improve their lives, and share with their friends and family.

Think about this quote when you're crafting sales messages. Consider all the dreams, needs and idiosyncrasies of your aucience. You need to understand what it is they’re after in life. Chances are that it’s not “possession.”

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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Quote of the Day

“Doing is better than not doing, and if you do something badly you’ll learn to do it better.”
-- Twyla Tharp, Author of The Creative Habit

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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Branding De-mystified

I receive a newsletter from MarketingProfs that’s consistently good. One of the articles from today’s issue talks about branding, that consistently confusing topic. It’s called How to Talk to Creative People About Branding by Steve McNamara. Check it out if you’d like to read it in its entirety.

Some highlights:

“Like a person, brands have relationships, and these relationships evolve, for better or worse, over time, and need to be constantly nurtured.

“Relationships can be divided into one of three stages. Stage one, you want people to notice and recognize you. It's like, 'Hey, here I am, look at me!'

"Stage two, you want to get acquainted, you want people to know you. 'You're going to like what we can do together.'

"And stage three, you want people to love you. 'This is such an important relationship, let's stay together forever.'

“And like a person, brands have visual characteristics, sounds, personalities, and ways of relating to, or interacting with, the audience.”

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Monday, July 25, 2005

Selling Pressure

This is from my eBay blog, but I think it applies equally to any kind of business...

No news flash here. Selling on eBay is not as easy as it used to be.

You’re getting pressure from large businesses that figured out that this is a great selling channel – that’s creating competition. You’ve got people cleaning out their garages and low-balling everything (new and used). You’ve got folks hooking up with manufacturers in China and sourcing their own products ( – with really tough to beat costs.

I went to eBay Live in June, and all everybody could talk about was sourcing. As if that was some kind of magic bullet. It’s not. Someone will always undersell you. Just like someone’s always going to have a better, bigger house than yours. The key to profits is connecting with dreams, selling benefits, and offering solid promises. When someone searches on eBay, they get hundreds (if not thousands) of search results. There’s going to be someone cheaper there. How are you going to stand out?

Presentation is the key. If you have a two salesmen and a $500,000 airplane – one of those guys is going to sell it based on how he presents the product, and, of course how he listens to his customer.

That's how people are making money on eBay. Sure, they're buying product at low prices (everyone's got their secrets to sourcing). But they make the real dough by using persuasion, connecting with needs, and knowing their market. Read more about how to do this right in The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing.

Note: I was on the radio this weekend. Let me know if you heard it. It was a show that's syndicated across the country called Business of Success with Alan Rothman. It was my first time, so I think I was a bit overprepared (with too much that I wanted to talk about). The result was a bit scattered. I was trying to go down certain paths but often didn't have enough time to finish certain thoughts. Fun though. I was really pumped up afterwards.

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Friday, July 22, 2005

How to Find Scarce Goods

Excerpt from "The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing."

One way to ensure scarcity is to actually find scarce goods. Of course, you have to communicate the scarcity when you offer these goods. In many instances, however, scarce goods are recognized by their buyers. Look for scarce goods in the following places:
• On eBay
• In flea markets
• At swap meets
• From obscure manufacturers
• From major retailers (combine regular channels with your ability to predict trends and you can buy up inventory before the trend hits, thus making it more valuable and scarce)
• From foreign suppliers
• From distributors

Note: Chapter 7 has more detailed information on sourcing inventory.

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Generate Sales with Buzz Marketing

There’s an excellent new book out by Mark Hughes called BuzzMarketing: get people to talk about your stuff. It describes a variety of different methods for generating buzz around products, with stories from corporate successes (like Apple’s 1984 ad, the Britney Spears buzz machine, and how Miller Lite invented the light beer category). One of the secrets Hughes describes is ‘how to capture media attention.’ To develop media buzz, he suggests that marketers ask 5 key questions about their products and stories.

“ * Is there a David-and-Goliath story here? (Be honest.)
* Is there something unusual or outrageous here? (Be honest.)
* Is there a dramatic story or controversy here? (Be honest.)
* Is there a celebrity angle here? (Be honest.)
* Is this really a story that’s already hot in the news? (Again, be honest.) “

These questions should be asked by big businesses as well as small. One little article in even a small media market can turn up all kinds of business opportunities. You can drive traffic to your Web site or merely develop a contact in the media that’s available for future stories. You may also develop other business relationships (like with suppliers or potential partners) that help you source goods.

Start thinking about uniqueness and drama, and you’ll no doubt discover some excellent selling angles – and maybe some good media generation ideas.

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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Type and Layout Are So Important!

I've posted type and layout discussions before. Some of my information comes from Ogilvy On Advertising, but lately I'm learning quite a bit from another book -- Type & Layout: Are You Communicating or Just Making Pretty Shapes?

Here's a little tid-bit just concerning the research available on headlines:

"Fifty-sever percent said they disliked 'screamer' headlines, such are used on the front pages of some popular tabloid newspapers, and in some large display advertisements, because they had to hold the newspaper or magazine further away than usual from the eyes to be able to read the type. [my note: that's useful if you're not holding the thing -- ie in a supermarket line... something to think about.] The criterion for annoyance was the need to focus twice to read the entire content.

"Multi-deck headlines were generally disliked. Fifty-six percent indicated they found headlines of more than four decks difficult to comprehend.

"Sixty-eight percent said they became bored with long, wordy headlines. The comment was made frequently that there seemed to be nothing left to read after the headline."

My advice is to buy this book if you really want to understand layout, type and design. It's really an essential part of a writer's knowledge. I work with designers all the time on projects, and I like to be able to offer suggestions and steer them clear of hazzards. It makes for better ads, and the customer loves it when you can work as a team.

The book is expensive at $36.95 retail, but it's worth it. There are loads of gems within the covers.

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Monday, July 18, 2005

Giving is Profitable? Counter-intuitive, but true.

There are quite a few spiritual and practical references to giving that are taken for granted by people but not fully understood. "Give and ye shall receive" is one. In the business world, strategists often suggest that you give free information or services first to build prospect relationships.

Dr. Robert Cialdini, the author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion suggests that whenever you enter a room full of people you should ask yourself "What can I do for these people? How can I help?" as opposed to "What can I get out of this situation? What's in it for me?"

The psychological/social concept at the root of these approaches is reciprocation. When you give, the receiver enters a contract that says she'll offer something in return at a future date. This receiver of help, information, gifts, services, freebies, advice, etc. will give back. She's obligated to, because she accepted what you gave. This is where the term "much obliged" comes from.

The "contract" has to be understood, however. If someone doesn't accept or request your offers, then they aren't obligated to anything. This is why we struggle so often when offered free things. We know that there are strings attached, and oftentimes we turn down the freebie, because we don't want to be bound by the social contract of reciprocation.

So, not only is giving an internally satisfying activity -- it's productive... eventually. Cialdini talks about how the government of Mexico received a multi-million-dollar earthquake relief gift from the government of Ethiopia when Ethiopia was in a state of chaos, despair and brutal poverty. Why? Mexico had given Ethiopia wartime assistance 50 years prior.

How can you use the concept of reciprocation in your own business dealings?...

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Friday, July 15, 2005

Beyond Newsletter Marketing – RSS

In my new book, “The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing,” we talk a lot about customer retention and customer loyalty. Like we mentioned in other posts on my eBay blog, one of the best ways to do this is via newsletters.

There are several services that integrate with eBay and allow you to easily develop, automate and maintain newsletters. However, there’s a new trend going on – RSS marketing.

This is similar to a newsletter, however the content shows up in a newsreader or an aggregator site like NewsGator or MyYahoo. This is pretty much like a newsletter, because people opt-in by setting their aggregator to the feed, and then they see new content every time it’s available in their custom pages (right along side their favorite news stories from the Wall Street Journal or San Francisco Chronicle, for example).

Whether or not you're selling on eBay, this is something to consider adding to your Web marketing mix.

If you are selling on eBay, check out one service in particular – AuctionContact. It allows you to create both traditional eBay newsletters and RSS feeds all in one place. For newsletters, you can automatically send emails to your opt-in list based on your current listings. Newer items and their images are inserted at the top of the gallery. Newsletter subscribers enter keywords, and the newsletter they receive shows only the items that match those keywords.

Just like with an HTML email newsletter, the RSS feeds contain gallery views of all your products. Whichever method you choose (you should do both, really, to cover all bases), you’re developing customer loyalty and retention while advertising your products to new prospects as well. Remember, emails and links are viral, too.

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, , , , and have the lowest prices for "The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing" (McGraw-Hill, 2005)

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Key Psychology for Memorable Headlines and Lists

The human brain reacts to a phenomenon psychologists call primacy and recency. That's fancy-speak for how we remember what we were told first (primacy) and what we heard last (recency).

This is an important concept to remember when building bullet lists, writing headlines or constructing titles for eBay listings or a Web page you expect to appear in Google search return results.

For example, let's say you have some charm bracelets to sell on eBay and on Froogle (Google's commerce search engine). First of all, you know that your description title (or the name of your Web page for the particular item) is going to come up next to a bunch of other search results on both eBay and Froogle. Second, you know that if you stand out, you'll stand to gain more bids or sales. So, how do you stand out and connect with customer desires using primacy and recency?

Let's look at a couple of title examples from eBay. One says, "Silver Bracelet Charm Wishbone Shape Low Price." Another says, "Toggle Charm Bracelet w/ Blue Flower Charm." Which is better? Let me tell you the problems I have with the 2nd one. They used the word 'charm' twice, wasting some character space. But it also wasted the recency factor by placing 'charm' in the final spot. The searchers knew they were looking for charms, because they put that term in the search field. As shoppers scan results they'll see a lot of items that end in charm. Those items tend to blur together.

Listings like the first one stand out. And they stand out with a benefit -- Low Price! The first one also takes advantage of primacy by listing a feature or descriptive term first -- "Silver." Again the item is set apart from the other listings this way. Silver connotes an added benefit, as well.

These two titles aren't perfect. They both could have used the word 'jewelry' to gather more shoppers via search. But the first one is by far the better title when it comes to primacy and recency.

This is an important concept to remember when developing any kind of list, too (in a brochure, a white paper, presentation, etc.). Put things you want the person remember in the first and last positions. If you survey your audience you'll notice that those get remembered the most.

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, , , , and have the lowest prices for "The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing" (McGraw-Hill, 2005)

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

5 Steps to Remember When Selling With Words

Here are five quick tips that keep you focused on the prize when writing copy for ads, brochures, mailers.. anything that seeks to sell a prospect. They come from Bob Bly's "The Copywriter's Handbook," which is one of the bibles of the industry.

1. Get Attention

2. Show a Need

3. Satisfy the Need

4. Prove Your Superiority -- and Your Reliability

5. Ask for the Order

These are from Chapter 4 (Writing to Sell). Anyone interested in what actually works in sales copy -- whether it's online, in a post card, or in an email message -- should review this chapter.


Tuesday, July 12, 2005

*The* Best Article I've Read This Week

The following article is about athletic performance and how it relates to work productivity/creativity. It's by far the best article I've read this week, and I think everyone -- sales people, marketers, promoters, marketing gurus, and just plain old working folk -- can get something out of it.

Give it a read and let me know if you think this concept is on target.

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Monday, July 11, 2005

How to Work Better + Why Fonts Are Important

Poynter Online is a great resource for all things print/online/writing. It's billed as a resource for journalists, but it's chock full of gems on everything from fonts to productivity discipline.

Here are a couple of good ones:

Writing Sprints: Winning the Race
Inspiration & practical advice from Chip Scanlan, other writing coaches & fellow journalists

Study Shows Newspapers' Front Page Fonts
A recent study found that a small collection of fonts are used on America's front pages.

If you study typefaces at all, this shouldn't be a surprise. If you don't study them, you might want to. There's a complete science to it.

I think I posted something earlier about fonts from Poynter... ah yes, here it is. Both good articles to consider when choosing fonts online and in print.


The Power of Reciprocation - Post #58

If you give, you will receive. This not just a religious homily; it’s a psychological fact that operates in every culture on the planet. The phenomenon is discussed at length in Robert B. Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (1998), with statistical studies to back it up. If you’re interested in the psychology involved, pick up a copy and delve deeper.

Reciprocation is built into our societal code of ethics, our culture, and our collective behavioral systems. People reciprocate when they are given a gift. It doesn’t matter whether they like or don’t like the gift or the giver; they feel an obligation to reciprocate.

You may say, “Hey, that’s not me. I don’t feel obligated to reciprocate.” You may eat the cheese at the supermarket freebie station and pass on purchasing. You may receive personalized address labels from the American Heart Association, actually use them, and toss the donation card into the garbage. It’s probably because you recognize and analyze the marketing concepts at work and second-guess your impulses.

Most people do reciprocate, though. On impulse, we’re trained to reciprocate and feel guilt and shame when we don’t live up to that contract. Giving back provides closure when we’ve been given a gift.

You can really see the power of the contract in action when you try to return or refuse a gift. Have you ever been given a gift and then decided to give it back after accepting it? You usually don’t give it back because you don’t want it or you can’t use it; you give it back because you don’t want to be bound by the reciprocation contract. You don’t want to be obligated to the exchange relationship. When you accept gifts, you accept the reciprocation obligation. This is where the phrase “much obliged” comes from.

eBay does have some restrictions about selling gifts as part of a listing (see “eBay’s Rules Concerning Advertising Gifts” for an explanation). However, you can certainly slip a gift into the package you ship. When you do this, make sure that you give a reason for the gift that indicates your expectation from the customer. This could be anything from “remember me the next time you purchase” to “please e-mail your friends and tell them what a great deal you got.”

Here’s a real-life eBay example. A ticket broker who specialized in concerts slipped a free six-pack of Coronas and limes into each of his Jimmy Buffet ticket shipments. How did he do it? He included a $10 gift certificate to a local supermarket chain in each envelope.

Tip: Consider investing in promotional gifts that are custom printed with your business name, contact information, and eBay Store URL. Items such as printed pens, key rings, magnets, notepads, and other novelties are inexpensive when ordered in bulk and deliver the message of returning to your store to shop more.

Remember, gifts don’t have to be anything fancy. People just like getting free stuff—period. You can even throw in overstock inventory items that aren’t selling well. Anything you add to the package will increase the perceived value of your transaction. It will leave your customer feeling positive and make her enthusiastic about returning to shop with you again.


Friday, July 08, 2005

Bob Bly's Article on Why English Teachers Shouldn't Edit Ad Copy

Bob Bly -- the famous copywriter -- put up a nifty article on how writing for grammar and writing for sales is significantly different. Take a look.

I would go further with the English teacher analogy and suggest that many other academic approaches to persuasive writing fall short when it comes to selling goods and services.

You should not, for example, head for the thesaurus every time you can't think of the right word. If you're looking for a word that you can't easily use off-the-cuff, then it might be a word that's unfamiliar to much of your audience. Or it could be misunderstood.

Man-on-the-street language is best for most situations (unless you're selling to academics). People want to get the message quickly. Most don't have the time or (strike:gumption) enthusiasm necessary for research. How's that for an example? -- I wrote gumption at first but replaced it with a more accessible term. Gumption may have even been the wrong term. I settled for enthusiasm because that's what I meant.

In short, save the big words for politics and literature discussions at cigar smokers and cognac gatherings. If you want to communicate with potential customers, use simple, straight-forward language.


Thursday, July 07, 2005

Ogilvy on Boredom

I can never get enough Ogilvy.. so here's another:

"You can't bore somebody into buying something."

-- David Ogilvy

Wisdom? Maybe.. Truth..fer sure. Generally, marketers of all kinds should not encite boredom with their words.

Stay away from marketing exercises that are heavy on dry jargon. Make sure you place technical specs *after* the benefits. Once prospects get excited about how their life's going to change, the specs will get them even more excited.


Why Aren't My Headlines Getting Read?

We've talked a lot about headlines in this blog. My book, The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing, hammers home the headline (and subhead) topic in more depth. There are some other interesting angles, however.

I've included an article from Sean D'Souza's Psychotactics newsletter below. It's about email headlines, but many of the concepts apply to general marketing.

Getting Email Headlines Read
There's a reason for putting the brand name as well as the headline in the subject line. It's called getting your attention.

See, customers subscribe and then they forget you. And yes, a great headline can catch their attention, provided you write a great headline. Most of us fall in love with our headlines, but believe me, headline writing is the hardest thing ever.

So your reader is not seeing your email in isolation. They're seeing a headline with 200 other headlines. If the headline doesn't do the job, you've got a back up--your brand name.The recognition of your brand name and the association with you, will get your reader to notice your email. And yes, there's another reason. It's called Sp*am. Every single day, readers go through the act of deleting it. Your email is sitting smack bang in the middle of all those emails.

If I don't recognise your name (as in John Doe) then I've deleted the email without reading.It's not a path you want to take.

The brand name + headline is effective as it gives a complete messsage and eliminates sp*am mistakes. The other option is to put the brand name in the name side of things.
For example: Sean D'Souza:PsychotacticsSubject: How to Write Psychological Headlines (And Why They Work)

That way, your brand name will always be to the left and your headline will always be to the right. And it's just as effective.

©2001-2005 Psychotactics Ltd. All Rights Reserved.Wouldn't you love to stumble upon a sec*ret library of small business ideas? Find simple, yet electrifying ideas, on copywriting, public speaking, marketing strategies, sa*les conversion, psychological tactics and branding. Head down to today and judge for yourself.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Ogilvy on Web Sites

This from John Forde's great newsletter -- Copywriter's Roundtable.

"To paraphrase a David Ogilvy example, if your customers look at your home page and say 'Wow, what a website!' then you're doing something wrong. But if they look and say, 'Wow, what a product'... you're on the right track."

Friday, July 01, 2005

New eBay Book Reveals Marketing Strategies that Build Repeat Sales, Loyal Customers

New eBay Book Reveals Marketing Strategies
that Build Repeat Sales, Loyal Customers

NEW YORK, NY, July 1, 2005 – Most eBay sellers rarely follow up with consistent marketing efforts. They simply cash the PayPal credit and vanish into bits and bytes. “I’ve been buying on eBay for more than seven years, and in the 1,000+ packages I’ve received from eBay sellers, only two have included any kind of marketing push,” said eBay aficionado Janelle Elms.

That’s a shame, because it’s common business wisdom that the people who have already bought from you are your most likely future customers.

Elms is one of the authors of the new eBay book, “The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing,” which debuts at eBay Live in San Jose (June 23-25). “Too few of the millions of eBay sellers are taking the time to ask buyers to come back and spend more money,” said Elms. “They could triple their business if they grasped just a few marketing basics.”

Elms is an eBay University lead instructor, author, and eBay Silver PowerSeller. The new book, which is geared towards advanced eBay sellers but is certainly accessible for new sellers, shows eBay sellers all kinds of low-cost or no-cost marketing ideas. The strategies help sellers build their brand, generate repeat traffic, build customer loyalty and boost profits. It also catalogues and explains dozens of new eBay tools and applications that help people sell more efficiently and profitably on the site.

The McGraw-Hill release will be available this July, online and in bookstores across the country. The authors maintain a blog,, and an eBay Group (eBay Marketing Success Strategies) that offer bonus material, updates and excerpts from the book.

Contact: Bettina Faltermeier
212 904 3604 Tel

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