Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Business Inspiration from Teddy Roosevelt

A lot of people that start businesses get really excited about making millions and taking the world by storm.

It’s more likely, however, that your business will grow organically. You’ll chip away at daily tasks, improve your marketing skills, create better offers over time, and generally plant seeds at a pace you can handle. Then you’ll wait out the growing seasons to reap better rewards and profits each time around. It will all snowball, and you’ll be making great dough in due time.

It’s just not going to happen all at once.

I like to keep a quote from Teddy Roosevelt in mind when I’m building my own business and helping others add to their bottom lines:

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

Great advice. If you show up every day and put in the necessary work to keep the wheels going, you’ll do fine. And you’ll find that what you have will become better every day (knowledge, resources, contacts, customers) and where you are will improve from week to week.

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Reminder: Marketing Seminar/Webcast on StartUpNation This Morning 11AM Pac US

Just a quick reminder....

I'll be conducting an eBay marketing seminar via the Web this morning at 11AM Pacific (U.S.) on StartUpNation. It will be a 1/2 hr presentation, then a 1/2 hr Q&A session.
  • Learn crucial presentation & design tips
  • Build an eBay brand
  • Sell anyone anything with words
  • Learn advanced marketing strategies
  • Create top-notch customer satisfaction and retention programs
  • Take it all to the next level

This talk will be good for existing eBay sellers, new entrepreneurs, and even non-eBay entrepreneurs who need a quick refresher course on marketing fundamentals (with some lesser-known tips and insights thrown in).

Come join us this morning or come back to the links and view the archived presentation.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

StartUpNation eBay Marketing WebCast Tomorrow

I'll be presenting a live WebCast and Q&A session tomorrow on StartUpNation.

StartUpNation produces radio shows and live Web events that offer expert advice on all aspects of starting and growing a business. It's an entertaining way to learn how to be an effective entrepreneur -- on eBay and in the "real world."

The title of the seminar tomorrow is "How to Start and Grow an eBay Business," but we'll be going much deeper than that.

We'll cover sales psychology, offer some key insider tips, and view some bad and good examples of eBay listings. The presentation portion lasts a half hour, then there's a half hour of Q&A.

The presentation will be archived on their site, so it's easy to refer back or catch it at a later date, too.

Come check it out: 11:00 AM (Pacific, US). Please tell your friends and associates about it, too. I'll send out an email blast about the event, too.

Thanks,
Phil

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Don't Try to Make Out at the Beginning of a Blind Date -- Brochure/Collateral Organization

Quite a few marketing documents make the mistake of introducing feature lists too early.

In boxing this would be called leading with your chin.

In the dating world, I’d describe this as trying make out with a blind date when you first pick her up.

Feature lists are important, but you don’t want to lead with them. In the dating scenario, you want to go to dinner first, discuss your strengths, values and interests. Don't consider these features. These are more like dream-connections. You're selling yourself as a dream. She'll go home and tell her friends, "I went out with this guy who's into surfing, tai-chi and global travel. He's the top salesman in his company, and he loves cats like me!"

The real functional features are your make-out compatibility attributes, how messy your apartment is, how much $$$ is in your bank account... You know, the stuff that really matters. ;-) So the first half of the date attempts to build up interest. Then you save the physical feature list (your make-out skills) for last.

You make a connection first. Then you close with the goods.

The same goes for business writing. Connect with the prospect’s dream first. Sell them on the idea of a new image, better health, a more productive work day, the promise of status or sexiness, or a money-making/profit proposition. Make the emotional connection and show them that you can offer these incredible, life-changing benefits.

Then you slam-dunk the sale with a feature list. Show them all the things your product has that make it equal to or better than a competitive product.

These kinds of descriptions can be as long or a short as necessary. It depends on what you’re selling. If you’re selling a boat, the list could be quite long. If you’re selling printer refill cartridges, chances are the benefits and feature list will be small.

In any event, don’t try to make out at the beginning of the date. Wait until you’ve established a connection.

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Monday, August 29, 2005

Obviousness - Can This Quote Apply to Your Sales and Marketing Efforts?

"If you want to feel good, be rational."-- Ayn Rand

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Focus

"Outcome only improves when you ignore it and attend to the nitty gritty."

-- From article, "Attentional Control in Tennis"

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Friday, August 26, 2005

A Customer Service Lesson from Verizon Wireless

Earlier in the week, I wrote about how my house painters dropped the ball with their customer relations.

Today, I've got a short story about the opposite effect which was achieved by one single person at a humongous corporation.

I switched mobile phone providers because my contract was up and I wanted a new phone/pda-type thing. For months I'd been calling my provider, Verizon, to see if I could get a new phone. They kept telling me that my contract was up in June, so I had to wait until then to get the new phone (for discounts). The people in their store said my contract was up in June, the people in their Radio Shack stores said the same thing, and their phone reps repeated the story. I was convinced. My contract was up in June.

Except it wasn't. It was up in August. So when I switched to T-Mobile in June (because I love the Sidekick II) I got dinged with a $175 early cancellation charge by Verizon. No warning, no nothing. Just "adios, don't let the door hit you on the way out, and how bout kicking us another $175."

So I've been dealing with Verizon people on the phone, getting the right addresses and contact info to state my case. They had me write to corporate, then to another address. I still don't know how it's going to work out, but I'm not going to pay the $175. Maybe I'll pay something less than that, but not the whole enchilada. In any event, I was starting to form an attitude about Verizon Wireless.

That all changed, with one brief encounter, however. The last person I talked to at Verizon was stunning. I've never come across such a person in a corporate customer service setting. Usually you have to deal with some deadbeat who's giving you a hard time or giving you the run-around. This woman was courteous, helpful and empathetic. Unreal. I thought I was dreaming.

The last thing she said to me made me realize that somebody in customer service is doing something right at Verizon. Or.. she's just a diamond in the rough. In either case, she said, "We wish we could have kept your business, and I apologize for this mix-up, but we'll do our best to set it straight and let you go gracefully." My jaw hit the floor. Class, literacy and some recognition that both of us were working toward an equitable solution. I was expecting to get jilted at every turn during this process, but this particular encounter made everything seem like it might work out ok. We'll see.

In any event, the lesson is clear. One person made a difference in how I feel about that company. Right now, I think they're going to treat me fairly. Verizon will get cooperation and a spirit of understanding from me in future dealings (wherever they may lead). Mainly it's because they didn't stick it to me with the rudeness and stonewalling that I expect from large consumer corporations. I was heading down the path of disillusionment and animosity, but one person brought me back and adjusted my attitude ever so skillfully.

In my opinion, every company needs to cultivate employees like this. eBay sellers, small businesses, individual entrepreneurs. Heck, I need to pay more attention to the way I handle disputes in my own business. It's so easy to "throw down" and take a stand, but it's rarely productive. With just a few turns of a phrase, like "let you go gracefully," you can turn bad word of mouth into someone who sings your praises -- even if they're no longer a customer!

Think about how this post might have read if the customer service rep had said, "Screw you. You're hosed."

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

How to Scare Customers Away from Your Business

I went into MicroCenter (a local/chain computer store) this weekend to buy a printer.

I asked the sales guy which one was a good low-end laser printer. He directed me to a more costly Hewlett Packard model.

I told him that I like the low end ones, because I can refill the toner cartridges for about $10/per vs. about $89/per if I buy the cartridges from the manufacturer.

He said that I didn't want to do that, because it would junk up the printer and break it. I reiterated that the cartridges were almost as expensive as the $99 low-end printers (which come with one cartridge installed).

He said, "Essentially the cartridge is the printer." I agreed!

So I said that I could buy a $99 printer every year and screw it up by self-filling toner 5-10 times over the year -- and I'd still be saving money by not buying 5-10 full price cartridges. Heck, I'd even save money by buying cheaper, pre-filled, non-manufacturer cartridges on eBay.

He didn't get it and became a bit miffed. He then proceeded to lecture me on how no one wants to pay money for anything anymore.

I was aghast! So, I'm to assume that it's the customer's fault that they want to find a deal? This was a revelation. And from a salesman, no less.

Utterly amazing. I told him how I purchase printers, and he couldn't sell me anything but the high-end HP. And he kept trying to convince me that my low cost system was going to break the printer "after a couple of years...." After telling me that the cartridge is essentially the printer!!!

I had to laugh as I was leaving with my $99 laser printer.

What does this have to do with marketing? Lots.

Rule 1: Don't try to sell a customer something he isn't interested in. (i.e. a high end printer)
Rule 2: Find out everything about the customer's needs, wants and the way the customer intends to use the product before offering solutions.
Rule 3: Don't blame the customers in general for the prices of the goods in the stores.

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Monday, August 22, 2005

Recommended Home Business Resource

If you're running a home business you need to constantly pay attention to marketing, network with people who can help you succeed, and stay inspired week in and week out. Des Walsh has a blog called Thinking Home Business that helps with all of these home biz aspects.

Surf around that site for a bit, and I'm certain you'll find a handful of insightful business tips that you can apply directly to your business. Walsh brings a lot of other good resources together at the site, and he acts as an excellent information filter.

There's a lot of garbage out there that gets cycled and re-cycled through blogs. This one helps you weed through it all and increases the chances that you'll stumble onto something really useful. If you're looking for accurate, reliable, actionable small business information, watch this blog every week.

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Thursday, August 18, 2005

The 7 Deadly Web Copy Mistakes

This post features a unattributed list of Web copywriting sins. I don’t know where I found this, but I like it, so I thought I should pass it along. If you know where it comes from, please let me know. I’d like to give it proper attribution and congratulate the author on their insights.

Also, if you know anyone else who could use this kind of weekly
marketing tune up, please send them here or have them sign up for the weekly newsletter at http://www.qualitywriter.com/blog. Thanks.

Enjoy!
- Phil

SEVEN DEADLY WEB COPY MISTAKES

Words on the web are a different animal than words in
print. As a copywriter, I watch the trends. And YOU
need to be aware of online behavior too. That is IF
you want potential clients to read what's on your
website. Studies show a full 79% of Internet users
SCAN the page rather than read word for word. What
does that mean to you? It means whatever they DO read
had better be GOOD. Here are 7 web copy mistakes you
need to avoid.

Mistake #1: OPENING WITH FLASH

Open with a bang, but not with Flash. If you don't
know, Flash is a program by Macromedia that shows mini
movies. Graphic artists LOVE Flash animation. They
think it's pretty and high tech. Internet cruisers
hate it. They can't wait to find the "Skip Intro"
link. That's because Flash stands in between them and
the information they're hunting for. See, studies show
when folks are online they have a need to feel
"active." There are millions of pages of information
out there. And they aren't so sure yours is the best
use of their time. Flash slows them down. So trash
the Flash. And go with stronger copy instead.

Mistake #2: NO COMPELLING HEADLINES OR SUBHEADS

In print, eyes go to the picture first. Not so online.
Research shows the first thing web users see is a
headline. Now, remember what I said about scanning?
Eyes drift down the page looking for easy-to-pick-up
words. Well, the headline and subheads should
effectively tell scanners what's on the page without
having to dig into the real copy... like a quick
summary of the entire page! Headlines get the
attention. The first subhead identifies the problem of
your target audience. The next wows them with the
solution - YOU! This way scanners can gloss over the
content and get the whole story with the headlines and
subheads. Once they're hooked, they can go back and
really read your copy.


Mistake #3: OPENING WITH "WELCOME TO MY HOME PAGE"

You're wasting valuable real estate if this is your
first phrase. It may be the first and last thing a
site visitor reads. Don't forget why web users visit
you in the first place. It's all about THEM. Not you.
Something THEY need got them to your site. Figure out
what it is. Identify the benefits, or emotional
buttons in your copy. People WANT to know they're in
good hands. OR that they made a smart purchase. Do
them a favor. Convince them with benefit-laden copy.


Mistake #4: NOT BUILDING COPY AROUND KEYWORDS AND
PHRASES

Quick lesson. Keywords and phrases are what Internet
surfers type in to a search engine, like Google. The
search engine comes back with a list of related sites.
Surfers tend to click over to sites at the top of the
list. Search engines put the sites with relevant
keywords HIGHER on the list. They find those sites by
reading the copy on your web pages. Get it? So figure
out what words your target market would type in to find
you. Those are your keywords. Now build them into
your copy.

Mistake #5: NOT ENOUGH WHITE SPACE

You can guide the eye where you want it to go... if you
have a path. Don't clutter up the page with too many
confusing options. Or slow-loading graphics. Use
strategic white space to pull your reader through your
copy from start to finish. Remember, reading on a
computer screen is tiring on the eyes. In fact, online
reading is 25% slower than reading print. So make it
easier. Break up your information into bite-sized
pieces. Use short, snappy sentences. Paragraphs with
one thought and one thought only. And use bullets
liberally. You never know which is the magic one to
turn a reader into a customer. Make your copy
scan-able.

Mistake #6: BORING THE READER AWAY

Your message has a heck of a lot of competition.
People don't have to read your copy unless they want
to. YOUR job is to keep them engaged. Let me let you
in on a little secret I learned from marketing genius,
Joseph Sugarman - the purpose of copy is to get you to
read the first sentence. Then that sentence should get
you to read the NEXT sentence. And so on. And so on.
And so on.

Ever hear of the "Bucket Brigade?" This term comes
from the times before fire departments got organized.
If there was a fire, villagers lined up down the
streets. One end of the line started at the water
source. The other end was at the blaze. To put out
the fire quickly, they passed buckets of water down the
line. Briskly. Without letting up. Without slowing.
Imagine that pace when you're writing your copy. Each
sentence leading you into the next.

Mistake #7: UNDERESTIMATING THE IMPORTANCE OF COPY

Copy describes what you do and persuades the reader to
take some action. But what really makes copy
invaluable is its ability to build a lasting
relationship with your reader. Whether you're there or
not. 24/7. Good copy is friendly. Informative.
Establishes rapport. Grows trust and loyalty. It
deepens the connection between you and your audience.
Once you have that bond, you don't have to bother
convincing them how great your product or service is.
They're READY to sign up!

P.S. Amazon.com and Walmart.com have the lowest prices for
"The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing" (McGraw-Hill, 2005)


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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Best Marketers Tell True Stories

John Forde ran a nice newsletter feature yesterday on the importance of storytelling in marketing.

This strategy applies to all kinds of selling situations. Think about telling genuine stories in your ads, on your Web site, and in your press releases. You'll find better responses and the process is much more fun that regurgitating the same old feature/benefit points.

If you don't already subscribe to Forde's newsletter, I recommend it. I learn at least one important new thing each week or am reminded of something that I should pay more attention to.

His article reminded me of an eBay selling example from my book, too. The following is one of the storytelling sections of "The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing":

Storytelling Sells
Stories capture buyer attention, bring in wide ranges of audiences, and provide an engaging context for explaining almost anything. You can tell all kinds of captivating stories on eBay. They can be one line long or the fill up three conventional, mythological acts. The best dramatic stories involve a dilemma, a struggle for truth or reason, and a solution.

Many typical eBay stories involve cleaning out an attic or finding a rare item at a swap meet. These are often true stories, and they reinforce the uniqueness of the item. If your products have interesting stories attached to them, especially stories that motivate shoppers, be sure to include them.

The following are five proven story formats for selling on eBay:
• Stories of product origin
• Stories of product scarcity and uniqueness
• Stories of customer life improvements
• Stories of product development, engineering, and/or production process
• Stories of artistic creation

Here’s an example of telling a story, selling the dream, and selling value in a listing for rare Roman coins:

“Imagine Owning a Piece of History from the B.C. Era for Less Than TWO DOLLARS Per Coin!”…”The Romans built an empire which lasted over 500 years (from 27 B.C. to 476 A.D) and encompassed a quarter of the world. Think of all the gladiators, nobleman, and soldiers that have come into contact with these coins! Many of these coins were buried more than 1500 years ago by Roman soldiers who were going off to battle. Many did not return, and thus their money (these very coins) were left in the ground only to be discovered millenniums later by archeologists.”

A story like this attracts far more bidders than one that simply says, “Please buy our coins. We think you’ll find that they’re nifty.”

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

How to Correctly Use Fear in Marketing Copy

The following is from Dr. Robert Cialdini's Inside Influence Report:

"...advertising campaigns that inform potential clients of the real-world threats that your company’s goods or services can alleviate should be accompanied immediately in time by clear, specific, effective steps they can take to reduce the danger.”

The whole article is very intriguing. Take a look at this article, and see if you can apply some of the wisdom to your own advertising campaigns and marketing materials.

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Friday, August 12, 2005

Persuade Like a Jedi - Yet Another Way to Boost Sales

There's a psychological technique called labeling that's useful for marketers. Noah Goldstein writes about it in the Inside Influence Report. He uses the following line from Return of the Jedi to illustrate his point -- Luke Skywalker (to Darth Vader) "I know there's still good in you. There's good in you, I can sense it."

Essentially you project traits, attitudes and beliefs onto your prospects and customers, then you give them choices that will make them want to act consistently with that label. The best example Goldstein gives is about a study they conducted with voters. One group was told that they were above average in their political activism and would probably vote in most elections. The other group was told that they weren't really very active in politics. Guess which group voted more in a subsequent election?

You have numerous opportunities to use this technique in your communications with buyers.(Past customers are especially impressionable, because they usually think that their buying decisions are intelligent/shrewd/tasteful/etc.) Don't be unethical, though, and just start throwing around compliments or labels that aren't truthful. Most people can sense cheeseball come-ons. Be honest and you'll create strong, profitable connections.

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Persuade Like a Jedi - Yet Another Way to Boost eBay Sales

There's a psychological technique called labeling that's useful for marketers. Noah Goldstein writes about it in the Inside Influence Report. He uses the following line from Return of the Jedi to illustrate his point -- Luke Skywalker (to Darth Vader) "I know there's still good in you. There's good in you, I can sense it."

Essentially you project traits, attitudes and beliefs onto your prospects and customers, then you give them choices that will make them want to act consistently with that label. The best example Goldstein gives is about a study they conducted with voters. One group was told that they were above average in their political activism and would probably vote in most elections. The other group was told that they weren't really very active in politics. Guess which group voted more in a subsequent election?

You have numerous opportunities to use this technique in your communications with buyers.(Past customers are especially impressionable, because they usually think that their buying decisions are intelligent/shrewd/tasteful/etc.) Don't be unethical, though, and just start throwing around compliments or labels that aren't truthful. Most people can sense cheeseball come-ons. Be honest and you'll create strong, profitable connections.

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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

*The* Best Food in the Country (USA) -- And More Marketing Tips

I’m back from a New York business trip. If any of you want to learn about some phenomenal NYC restaurants, drop me a line. We had three “off-the-charts” meals while relaxing between meetings in the Greenwich Village, SOHO, Tribeca area. I didn’t think gourmet food could push the envelope any further… but, then we found ourselves at Blue Hill. Ask for details if you’re interested. One word – unreal. Not sure I can even write about it effectively.

Back to marketing....

Headline writing is critical if you want to grab attention. As David Ogilvy would put it, this is the place where you filter out real prospects. People read headlines and decide whether or not they’re the intended audience for the particular story, pitch, product or service.

Historically, headlines were mostly written in all CAPS prior to 1950. This trend has diminished up to the present day. Currently, about 75% of newspapers, for example, use lower case headlines. There’s a reason for this – they’re easier to understand and read quickly. Some tabloid rags still do all caps to grab attention, but the research data indicate that this is a questionable strategy.

Physically, it’s just easier to decipher words quickly when you can see dips and spikes in letter tops (which lower case letters have, but ALL CAPS don’t).

Keep this in mind when writing your headlines. It’s not just about Internet “YELLING.”

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*The* Best Food in the Country (USA) -- And More Marketing Tips

I’m back from an NYC business trip. If any of you want to learn about some phenomenal NYC restaurants, drop me a line. We had three “off-the-charts” meals while relaxing between meetings in the Greenwich Village, SOHO, Tribeca area. I didn’t think gourmet food could push the envelope any further… but, then we found ourselves at Blue Hill. Ask for details if you’re interested. One word – unreal. Not sure I can even write about it effectively.

Back to marketing....

Headline writing is critical if you want to grab attention. As David Ogilvy would put it, this is the place where you filter out real prospects. People read headlines and decide whether or not they’re the intended audience for the particular story, pitch, product or service.

Historically, headlines were mostly written in all CAPS prior to 1950. This trend has diminished up to the present day. Currently, about 75% of newspapers, for example, use lower case headlines. There’s a reason for this – they’re easier to understand and read quickly. Some tabloid rags still do all caps to grab attention, but the research data indicate that this is a questionable strategy.

Physically, it’s just easier to decipher words quickly when you can see dips and spikes in letter tops (which lower case letters have, but ALL CAPS don’t).

Keep this in mind when writing your headlines. It’s not just about Internet “YELLING.”

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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The 3 Advertising Fundamentals

When writing a product description, a title within a description or cross-promotion within a follow-up email, you need to keep some fundamentals in mind.

Paint these three ideas on your walls. Put them in a calendar pop-up that launches every hour. Tattoo them on the inside of your skull.

Capture Attention
Communicate
Persuade


If you do these three things well, you'll outsell 90% of your competition. You can't rely on one or two to do the job. They all have to work in concert. And don't get too artsy or creative with the first one. Keep to the context and benefits of your product/service, and you'll be fine. Think about how the reader of your words will come out ahead by purchasing your product, and then write to that. That's your psychological target.

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Monday, August 01, 2005

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

"This is true in everyday life as it is in battle: we are given one life and the decision is ours whether to wait for circumstances to make up our mind, or whether to act and, in acting, to live.

-- Omar Bradley (U.S. WWII General)

Popdex Citations