We all start our businesses with great dreams. Owning your own business is an opportunity to achieve a level of success that most of us will never realize in the corporate world. Why then is success so elusive?
Without a doubt there is a huge gap between dreaming about success and actually achieving it. What holds back so many small business owners and entrepreneurs? There are certainly many factors but one of the main culprits is business development.
Put simply, many new business owners, especially those in services businesses, greatly underestimate how difficult it is to attract consistent streams of new clients. This comes as a surprise to many entrepreneurs, especially when their business model only requires that they add two or three new clients each year. Intellectually we think to ourselves that this can’t possible be all that difficult.
What makes this deceptive is that getting our first few clients is usually fairly easy. If we’ve done anything close to a reasonably good job of developing a network of clients, a few of them will throw some work our way.
However what most fledgling consultants and advisors fail to realize is that their network doesn’t have an infinite amount of business to give them. After the first rush of activity it’s likely that you’ve received most of the business you will get. Returning to to this group in 6 months is likely not to yield much more gold. The reality is that you can very quickly lap the track if you are not bringing new people into your circle of relationships. This is where things often start to fall apart.
Which is why systems become so important. Systems for getting new people to raise their hands and express interest in who you are and what you do, and systems for building trust and credibility through regular contact.
Without such systems, small and solo services providers are almost always doomed to failure. The initial clients go away, pleased with the work you’ve done, but unable to offer you more. This puts you back at the starting gate. From this proverbial square one, you must once again start the process of trying to get that next piece of business. Since the cultivation time for developing prospects into clients is often considerable, the repeated cycles of feast or famine become inevitable.
Although it’s not particularly difficult to set up a system that will alleviate this problem, so few business owners do. Which raises the question of, why?
It’s my belief that many people think that it is too complicated and too much hard work. I find that ironic that these same people are willing to work extremely hard servicing their clients, but are unwilling to do so on their own behalf.
What do you think?
As we wind down 2009 and set our sites on 2010, here are some thoughts that may be of help.
Wishing you many best wishes for a happy, safe and healthy holiday season and for much success and prosperity in 2010 and beyond.
Thanks for being a subscriber to my Gentle Rain Marketing Newsletter.
As my expression shows, 2009 was a painful year for many of us.
In today’s video I share with you some thoughts for making 2010 your best year ever.
This is a larger video so it may take up to 20 seconds to start after you press play:
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In today’s video I answer a reader’s question who struggles with CONVERTING PROSPECTS into paying clients, and another question from a reader who finds he is getting distracted and as a result having a hard time IMPLEMENTING his first marketing campaign.
This video may take up to 20 seconds between the time you hit PLAY and when it actually starts, but I think you’ll find the short wait to be worth it.
Thought I would take a quick break from reviewing sales copy to share some thoughts that will hopefully be helpful to you in your pursuit of new business.
(OK, truth be told, I actually just got back from the gym and I’m procrastinating since it’s 10:30 already, but I was reviewing copy at 11:00 last night, and besides, writing you is far more fun.)
Anyway, there I was last night reading through a bunch of copy for my coaching clients, and I found that I was getting terribly…bored.
So I put down what I was reading and picked up something different…landing page copy that a client sent.
Same thing. Less than a third of the way through it, I WAS BORED.
Not to be cruel, but if I hadn’t been getting paid to read it, I doubt I would have lasted more than three sentences.
OK, so now I had a choice. I could either go to the home theater and watch “House” with Marian, or I could soldier on. Personally, I think that House has jumped the shark, so I kept reading. (However if it had been “Dexter”…so much for copy review.)
Anyway, more reading copy. Mark’s getting sleepier and sleepier. This obviously isn’t working.
So what I decided to do was try to figure out why I was so bored. Being the process oriented guy that I am, I shuffled Sam and Bailey off the desk (the two most productivity-inhibiting felines that have ever lived) and put 5 of the pieces that I had been attempting to read side by side.
What was wrong with them? Why didn’t they make me curious to learn more? Why didn’t I want to take action? Why did they just make me…not care?
And I came up with the answer.
It’s the reason why a LOT of sales letters, emails, free reports, landing pages and follow up messages don’t get the response that the writer wants.
It’s a fundamental reason why so many marketing campaigns fail.
And I’m going to share the answer tomorrow in my monthly Inner Circle program.
I’d love to send it to you, so if your not a member sign up here.
I’ll admit I sometimes have a bit of a snarky streak to me. Different things bring it out. Last week I did a favor for a friend and spoke to a bunch of business owners about website copy and sales letters. I shared with them the advice I’m about to share with you.
At the end of the talk a lot of of them came up to me, and in that uniquely Southern condescending/pious manner (that just makes you want to slap someone) said, “It was nice to have you provide that nice little refresher for us.”
Here’s where the snarky comes in. I decided to look at each of their websites (I even grabbed their sales brochures on the way out). Thought I’d see how they were incorporating “my nice little refresher”. And guess what I found.
Copy that was just basically a bunch of crap. I’m sorry but there’s just not a polite way to put it. Anyway, here’s the advice I gave the group…perhaps you’ll find it more useful than the dweebs I spoke to.
If you want to write sales letters or website copy that will actually get read and motivate people to take action, here’s an often overlooked step.
I know this is just my option, but I’m a believer the far too much time and effort is spent on writing and far too little is devoted to identifying the facts about your product or service. For example, the more that you develop a detailed list of facts and their corresponding benefits, before you sit down and write, the better the final result will be.
But hardly anyone is willing to do that. Why? Probably because it takes time, it takes thinking, and we’re a society in which patience is in extremely short supply. But I’m a believer that if you’ll take this step, your sales copy will have a richness to it that will enable your readers to visualize the results that your product or service promise.
Marketing mastermind Garry Halbert used to suggest writing down one feature or fact about what you’re selling on a 3X5 index card. He’d make fun of you (an believe me that wasn’t a pleasant experience) if you weren’t able of come up with at least 3-dozen. I always found that the first 5 or 6 were pretty easy to come up with. But by the time I got to 24 I felt the well had run completely dry. But there would be Gary, pushing, pushing, pushing. “Come on you poor excuse for a marketer” he rasped, “Dig, what else do you offer?”
And the interesting thing was this. The most compelling facts, the ones that actually resonated the most with the reader, the ones that hooked their attention and motivated people to take action, were invariably among the last group of facts I came up with.
Everyone thinks that copywriters sit down and just “start writing”, As if they had a magic pen or something. Or they think that “anyone can do it.” A mindset similar to-I can boil water therefore I am a chef. Hardly anyone gets the hard work, that goes into writing sales copy that actually achieves it’s purpose of motivating people to take action.
But I digress.
Now once you have your list of features or facts prepared you need to turn them into something that will interest your reader. Remember the old saying, “Nobody buys grass seeds, they really buy the promise of beautiful lawns”. So for each fact we need to turn them into benefits. Or, as one wag puts it, the answer to, “Why should I care?”
For example I am working with a HR consultant who offers a brand new assessment tool for hiring sales people. Suppose to be a good predictor of sales success. One fact about this assessment tool is that it has been tested (or as they say in psychological terms, “validated”) on over 15,000 sales people. OK, that’s an interesting fact. So now we have to determine what the benefit is, the “why should I care?” factor.
*You should care because this means that you no longer have to rely on your gut instinct.
*You should care because if the big boss wants to hire some jerk but the assessment says you shouldn’t, you’ve got evidence to support your decision.
*You should care because this means that whether you’re hiring one or 100 reps it’s a good predictor of success.
*You should care because it means that the test has been around a while unlike all those other assessment tools that pop up and then disappear into the morning mist.
Validated by 15,000 sales people is a fact. OK, but not a compelling reason to use it. No longer having to rely on your gut instincts (which make most anyone who has to hire someone very uncomfortable) is a real benefit. That’s the stuff you want to emphasize in your sales letters and on your website.
OK, as I said in the beginning…I realize that you’ve heard all this before. But before you dismiss what you just read as a “nice reminder of something I already know”, let me ask you to take a look at your sales letters or website home page. How compelling is it? How chocked full of “why should I care?” benefits does it contain? Remember that there’s a world of difference between knowing something and actually implementing something. So if how you’re presenting your business in print needs a tune up keep these thoughts in mind (or even get someone-like me-to write something great for you.)
One of the more common questions that I get asked in my sales training seminars on lead generation is “How long should a sales letter be?”
Although there are no hard and fast rules, and no shortage of conflicting opinions, here’s what has worked best for our clients.
First, it’s important to differentiate between writing sales letters in the business-to-business market vs. writing letters directly to consumers. Although there is a natural overlap, there are some crucial distinctions. One of which is that consumers tend to have more time and willingness to read a lengthy sales letter than those who are perusing your letter while they’re at work.
>>> Frustrated with trying to write a compelling sales letter from scratch? Use my Directory of Sales & Marketing Letters to jump-start the process. Send out one of my Battle-Tested letters today and you could be face-to-face with a top prospect next week. Check it out here.
***In the consumer market, the old saying that “the more you tell, the more you sell” has some bearing on how long your letter should be. When marketing to consumers, a 4-page sales letter out-pulls a two page. A 8-page letter does better than a 4 page. At what point are there diminishing returns? There really doesn’t appear to be one as long as two variables are kept in mind. 1) Mailing to a list of highly targeted prospects, and, 2) Writing in a style that engages readers. In other words, “If I’m interested in the topic I’ll read what you have to say (as long as it’s interesting) but if I’m not interested than one page is probably too much.”
There are tactics copywriters use in terms of format and structure that make longer letters more likely to get read. The first is the use of stories. As one successful writer of fund raising letters (probably the most difficult and competitive market for copywriting) commented, “Tell me that 1,000,000 people died of starvation in Africa, and I’ll probably just throw the letter away. However, tell me the story of Sam, who’s an orphan, reduced to eating bugs to survive, and I’ll whip out my checkbook.”
A second suggestion concerns layout. With a lengthy sales letter it’s likely that it will be initially quickly scanned, rather than read in detail from the very beginning. That’s why sub-headlines are so important. They propel readers from one section to the next, and for the reader who is just scanning, they indicate areas that may be of particular interest to specific readers.
However in the world of B2B sales letters the rule of “the more you tell, the more you sell” doesn’t apply so neatly. It’s still important that your letter be targeted to a very specific niche. The more the reader sees a reflection of themselves in your opening sentence the greater the likelihood is that they will read further into the letter. And, it should go without saying, that the tone and prose of the letter should be welcoming and appropriately informal so that it engages the reader.
This is why letters that are one or two pages in length tend to do the best.
This makes a great deal of sense when one considers the environment in which the B2B letter is read. It’s quite different from reading a letter in the comfort of your home. In consumer mailings the initial decision on whether to pay attention to the letter is done over the trashcan and largely based on what appears on the envelope. Once the letter makes it into the “read” pile, it stands a good chance of actually getting read in its entirety.
That’s different than letters that are received at the office. First, they may not actually arrive to the intended reader in their envelope. It is far more likely that they are in a pile in an in-box. (What to put on the envelop to get it past the screener has been discussed elsewhere.)
But the main difference is the level of distraction that exists in the B2B environment. As the letter is read, the phone is ringing, there is someone waiting outside the office and the prospect’s mind is trying to juggle multiple tasks. Thus it is imperative (even more so than in writing to consumers) that the first sentence hooks the reader’s attention. There are multiple ways of doing this but my favorites are here:
There is another factor that must be considered when writing any sales letter but one that is critically important in the B2B market. “What do you want the person to do once they have finished reading the letter?”
With a 6/8/10 page letter we can actually sell products (albeit low priced ones) to readers. However in the B2B market the level of services that are being offered doesn’t make this practical. Unfortunately the “call to action” of asking for a meeting tends to be too much-too soon and usually fails to elicit a positive response.
The calls to action that work the best in B2B are either 1) offers of additional information or, 2) a statement that the writer will be calling to arrange for an appointment in the next few days. Offers of free information will result in a higher response rate, but using the letter as a lead-in to an appointment setting call can work well also. When I was an executive at Kraft, if a letter seemed on point, I would give it to my secretary with the directions that “If this person calls go ahead and schedule a brief meeting.”
Naturally if you want more information on what to say in those follow up calls my telephone marketing scripts will be helpful. Find out more here.
Jason Holcheck writes, “Is it better to have a live stamp or run the letters through a machine? Also, I’m mailing a lot of letters, will my response rate be hurt if I bulk mail them?”
My response: Remember, the first goal in any direct mail campaign is to get the letter opened. Thus it is crucial that we make the letter look like personal business correspondence.
I don’t know about you, but one of the criteria I use when sorting my mail is to look a the stamp. If it’s a bulk-mail stamp I know that the contents are probably just promotional so more times than not-it goes directly in the trash.
A live stamp makes the recipient pause and say to themselves, “I wonder if this is something important?” It’s that moment of uncertainty that we’re looking for so that they will open the envelope and at least read the opening sentence of our letter.
So, without a doubt, using a live stamp will increase the response rate you get from your mailings.
One often overlooked tool for motivating readers to take the next step in the sales process is to use your signature box.
I’ve created over a dozen signatures that I use on a regular basis whenever I’m communicating with prospects or clients. As with any good sales copy, the goal of the signature is to motivate people to click on the link which takes them either to a sales page or to a page offering some sort of additional information. For example here’s one that I use to actually sell a program.
This sales letter made $76,894. Here’s how to write one.
If I want to send people to a page that is designed to capture information on them in exchange for a free report, here’s a signature I use.
How To Get More New Clients With No Cold Calling Or Hard Selling
You always want to take advantage of the opportunity to advance the sales process or further the relationship. You email signatures can help you do so.
One of the more common questions that comes up is “What kind of response rate should I expect from my mailing?”
The “big thumb”…way-to-general answer has always been 2%. But is that really accurate?
Response rates vary enormously depending upon a variety of factors. For example if you’re mailing to your house list (those with whom you already have a relationship) a response rate of 30% would not be unheard of. (Unusual but not unheard of.)
A mailing that asks the reader to request a free report might get a response rate of 1% to 10%. It will largely depend upon 1) Is the report something new and interesting or just a rehash of stuff that’s been written about many times before. 2) the quality of your list.
***If you want to increase your odds of getting the highest response rate possible for your next mailing you need my Directory Of Sales & Marketing Letters.
A direct mail piece that asks someone to buy something (under $100) might realistically result in a response rate of .5%. The same percentage often holds true for financial advisors or others who market largely through seminars.
Multiple mailings can often times triple the response rate that you get. As I discuss in more detail in my Gentle Rain Boot Camp in a Box Toolkit the strategy is to develop three separate letters, spaced out sequentially, that offer the same call to action.
For my clients offering high value services, this has been the approach that’s worked the best for them in terms of building the initial relationship.
What are you finding works for you and what response rates are you getting?