All Posts by Chris

Why Business is Not About Quality

Perfection is a theological virtue and nothing to do with reality.  Yet, many business owners are plagued with perfection.  They call it quality and when quality is absolute, you are in trouble.

Quality and Quantity

Quantity is measurable and if it is relevant and measurable, you should measure it.  There may be cost implications but think of the advantages. You:

  • follow progress, so long as you interpret your figures
  • have evidence for potential customers to show they can trust you.
  • eliminate unproductive processes
  • show customers the progress you make with their contract

Quality is impossible to measure.  Every practice is open to improvement.  You sell the best there is but there is no guarantee it cannot be improved. Someone may find a better solution and topple your dominant position.

But a superior product is no guarantee of success.  The history of marketing is full of competition where a poor product won out over its superior.

Quality is important. No-one knowingly buys a poor product or service. Taken to extremes, quality is problematic because: 

  • It prevents marketing a good product or service, while you seek something better
  • Agonising over copy means you waste time for very little gain.
  • Launching early is a smart move, sometimes called Beta testing, where you do a pre-launch and test your offer before you refine it.
  • Marketing before you produce your offer is often wise.  You waste a lot of time perfecting something that doesn’t sell.

The Best Thing in the World

A well-known cartoon in marketing circles shows a row of pizza shops.  The first has a sign outside: “The best pizza in this district”, the next reads “The best pizza in this city”, the next “The best pizza in this country”, then “The best pizza in the world”.  The final shop has a long queue outside and the sign reads: “The best pizza on this block”.

Your thing may be the best in the world but that is no guarantee it sells.  There’s little advantage to the best in the world.  Why?  People do not always base their choice on quality.  They want to know whether they can trust you.  This is not about honesty so much as compatibility.  Can you work together? 

I’m not saying sell substandard goods.  Quality is important so long as you don’t take it to extremes.  Other things matter too when you make a sale.

The Best is the Enemy of the Good

When something is good enough, get it out there.  You don’t know how to make it better until you test it and get feedback.  All the improvements you make before you launch are tinkering with something you don’t even know sells.

The issue is not quality so much as confidence.  If you are confident in your ability, then you don’t worry about your capacity to improve with feedback. 

Receive complaints graciously and gratefully.  Reply as quickly as possible and thank the person who complained.  Explain the steps you intend and how long it will take to make them.  This is a new promise and the customer has grounds for complaint if you don’t meet your deadline.  So, keep channels of communication open. 

When someone makes an initial complaint they draw your attention to something that needs fixing.  If you vanish or avoid the issue you appear to be dishonest and create anxiety. 

They say the customer is always right.  However, customers can be unreasonable.  Don’t assume their expectations are realistic.  You may need a new deal but occasionally, a refund and removal from your list may be the best course of action.

Fixation on quality undermines your business.  It distracts from more important issues.  The final post for now about reasons for business failure is financial mismanagement.

How to Protect Your Business Security

Sarah is very shaken. Facebook banned her!  She’s not sure why.  She has a successful Facebook group that sends new prospects to her email list at a rate of about one a week.  Fortunately this is not critical to her business security, she can find other customers elsewhere but the group is a great place for conversations that give her insights into her market.

She must have broken some rule, possibly triggering an automated response.  It took ages to work out how to make contact with a human being, who reassured her but it took the best part of a week to resolve the issue. 

Corporate Rule

Sarah is very fortunate, some people are banned from social media platforms for much longer than a week.  The reasons are not always clear and if they have broken a rule, it can be inadvertent. 

This is likely to become a bigger problem for a variety of reasons.  Here are a few:

  • Spam has been recognised as a problem for many years and there are automated responses in place.  Posting the same post in several places can trigger an automated response. 
  • There has been a lot of adverse publicity for social media platforms publishing material with violent, sexual or extreme political content.  As they tighten up security it is impossible to predict what will trigger a response. 
  • Most platforms aim to monetise their services and so are likely to become less tolerant of unpaid marketing.  Penalties may be accidental or deliberately planned.  Why should some business receive benefits other businesses pay for?

The root problem is the social media platform owns your posts.  They change the environment on a whim and it has not been unknown for a business to lose all its followers.  Build your online business in a way that is secure from changes to social media platforms and does not incur penalties from breaches of rules, intended or not.

Secure Records

Email lists are the only secure online place to keep customer records.  Use email services such as MailChimp or Aweber or else more complex CRM services, eg Infusionsoft or Kojabi.  So long as you pay their fees, MailChimp has a particularly good offer for starter lists, you know your lists are secure. 

In addition, these lists help you to stay legal and avoid mailing spam.  They help you run a secure business, less likely to be criticised for poor business practices.

Once your list is in place, go forward with more confidence.  Here are a few things to consider. 

  • Use social media to feed prospects into your lists.  Do this directly, through a link to a squeeze page or indirectly by offering to sign up someone who makes contact through social media.
  • Don’t depend solely on one platform.
  • Sell from your website and keep sales low key on social media, eg click here for more information.
  • Post high quality content that aims to draw people into wanting more from you.
  • Try to engage in conversations by starting them in your own groups or engaging with people in other groups.

Overall, use social media strategically to draw prospects into your sales funnel and never be dependent on one platform.

Next time, I shall consider the question of compliance with regulations such as GDPR.

Child contemplating formula

Are You Too Theoretical for Your Market?

I’m guilty as charged!  This is my weakness!  I trained as a scientist and to write as if for a scientific journal is ingrained.  It’s how I think, which makes storytelling difficult!  It is little comfort that many business-owners are too theoretical.

Types of Writing

Let’s start by defining the problem.  There are four types of writing.  They differ in emotional impact, have particular uses and appeal to people in different ways. 

Theoretical Writing

This is default for many writers.  I’m following it in this post.  Theoretical writing is difficult to read because it is, well, boring!  The ideas it expresses may be exciting but the writing is mostly dull.  Why?

The strength of theoretical writing is accuracy.  So, it considers all options and justifies the recommendations it makes.  This makes for cold, clinical, objective language.  It works as background information, equipping the reader with unassailable arguments.  We read to be informed but rarely inspired. 

Technical Writing

This is easier to read than theory but mainly because we have to read it.  Technical writing answers the question, How?  Think of a recipe.  If you follow it, there’s likely to be numbered steps so you keep track of where you have got to following instructions.  Governing documents and legal agreements are other examples of this type of writing.

People read this because they have to.  They applaud instructions that are easy to follow and deplore anything unclear.  So, it shares accuracy with theoretical writing.

Transformative Writing

Transformative writing aims to change things and so packs an emotional punch.  This writing includes stories. It aims to inspire and motivate around a particular problem.

It can be ideologically driven.  Any transformative writer has something in mind they want to change and there is no barrier to taking it to extremes.  This is why this third category should interest business owners more than the first two.  If you want followers, people who take an active interest in your business, use this type of writing.

Transcendental Writing

The focus here is on seeing things differently.  Poetry and religious writing fall into this category.  This writing can be challenging and so for business owners the message is, use it sparingly. 

Mind Your Language!

All four types have uses for business owners.  The trick is not to be confined to one.  Too many, myself included, default to theoretical language and that means people don’t understand us.  Why?  Well. It is hard, especially on a screen, to concentrate on closely argued text, where language is unfamiliar.  And if writing is dull (hard to avoid), where is the incentive to keep reading?

Ideally business owners default to transformational writing and venture from there into other types as appropriate. 

Let’s look at some practical steps:

  • Use stories. Stories convey a lot of information if you prepare them that way and also convey emotion.  They are by far the easiest material to read.
  • Avoid jargon.  Jargon has uses because jargon often has specific meaning.  However, it depends on the reader knowing its meaning.  Even if you provide a glossary with definitions, the reader has to remember what the unfamiliar word means, let alone familiar words with new meanings!  Remember jargon is often used to keep non-specialists out!
  • Use your customer’s language. Even without jargon, text can be incomprehensible because it expresses things in a way unfamiliar to your target market.  How do they describe the things you write about?  It’s not only words that differ.  Your customers may understand the problem you address in a very different way to you.

Too Theoretical?

You may have the solution to a real problem but it is easy to be too theoretical about it.  Don’t assume people are interested in the method you use.  At first they want to know what it does for them.  Do they have the problem?  Would they welcome a solution?  It really doesn’t matter what it’s called or how it works.

Some people want theory before they decide but they ask for it or you offer it.  If you provide proof your approach works, many people take it on trust.

Perhaps this is one of the milder causes of business failure.  It limits the people who listen to you.  They may think you always talk like that, they’ll never understand you and so your offer is not for them.

You need to find a space where people understand your business and make a decision where they sense a good fit.  Your problem may be you expect too much of yourself and of them.

drink overflowing

Using Email to Build Capacity

Sarah’s business is doing so well, she has encountered a problem.  There are not enough hours in the day to provide a quality service to coaching clients, do her marketing and business administration. This is success! However, Sarah doesn’t have time to think about the future.  How can she build capacity when she is run off her feet as it is?

Decide About Capacity

Sarah must make one decision before she decides anything else. Success has its own momentum. Does she want to expand.  This may seem perverse.  Why should she not expand?

It depends on what she wants from her business.  If she is comfortable with current capacity, she needs to work out how to manage it so she is not run off her feet.

However, if she decides it’s worth expanding, this is an opportunity to make a real difference.

Is she an entrepreneur, who wants to build a mainstream business?  Or is she a creative who wants enough income to live comfortably, while she does things she enjoys?

Building Capacity

Both options require capacity building and both need an email strategy.

“Steady State”

Let’s start with the steady option.  Although this option does not aim for growth, the business needs to recruit customers.  It’s not a do nothing option.  Sarah needs to automate as much as possible so she can enjoy her lifestyle. 

Her aim is to maintain income at a certain level, with an annual increase so that standard of living remains constant.  To reduce time spent on the business to a minimum.  This creates time for non-business activities or to develop new ideas, so the business innovates and does not stagnate.

The aim is to find low-cost ways to build capacity.  These are likely to be self-limiting and that is what she wants.

First, consider price increases.  This works if costs do not increase with price.  It may be possible to make enough money with less work, because you need fewer customers.  Make a gradual adjustment to prices, to work out what prices the market can bear.

Next, review automation.  This is where email lists pay off.  Can you do what you need to do with a basic email service or do you need something more advanced?  Customer Relations Management Services may be costly, so spend time working out what you can do with what you already have.  However, the rewards of good CRM may outweigh costs.

Growth

Growth implies greater costs. The best solution depends on the business.

A natural way to expand is to take on staff.  This implies increases in salaries, premises and other on-costs.  At this stage, you need a business plan if you don’t have one already.  You may need investment.

There are intermediate possibilities.  You could pay for administration services.  These may free up time, to take on more customers or do business planning.

This is not an easy transition and it may mean a cut in your own drawings from the business until income compensates for new expenditure.  So there is an element of risk.

Your email strategy should pay off. If you grow your list and use more advanced CRM services, you can transition to a service that enables you to do more online, delivering services as well as marketing them.

Don’t Forget Why

Finally, don’t forget the value you deliver to your list.  Increased capacity means a lot more work and this can result in loss of focus on why you are in business.  This is not trivial.  Your why is your main selling point. Lose track as you expand, you sell less because people no longer see why they should buy from you and not a competitor.

This is why you must maintain lists and track your customers and followers.  Value your list as your most valuable asset.  What would happen if you lost your list?  Security is paramount. 

cog wheels

Dependence on Technical Solutions

In business, the chances are you have, like me, tried technical solutions that do not match expectations.  There are large numbers of proven methods and they work – just not always.  One of the biggest challenges business people face is how to find methods that work.

So, let’s think about the issues to consider as you develop your business.

Technical Solutions

Technical solutions are proven approaches to solving problems. The reason they don’t work is rarely to do with their effectiveness.  There are good and bad technical solutions but mostly it depends on how you use them.  If you choose the wrong solution, whose fault is that? 

Actually, the answer to that question is not straightforward.  Here are some things to consider, when choosing a proven method.

  • What are you trying to fix? The obvious question many businesses fail to answer.  If you do not understand the problem, how can you possibly find a solution?  You can waste a lot of time and money pursuing a methodology that does not solve your problem!
  • What does it do?  This may seem obvious but try to penetrate beyond the hype.  Many online solutions automate some process.  It’s worth asking about the fit between your current approach and the approach the solution offers. 
  • How much does it cost? Many solutions require a monthly fee.  Once you have loaded your data into it, you have committed to a system that might be hard to get out of.
  • How long does it take to set up? I’ve heard of people who buy something on a monthly retainer and never take it out of the box because set-up is so daunting.  Remember, it’s not just getting started, it’s trouble-shooting during the early months until you understand the system and have sorted out the inevitable issues between your data and the new system.
  • How long does it take to run? It’s supposed to save time. Does it?  There are other issues such as getting things organised, tracking progress and security that may outweigh time taken but pay attention, is this actually beneficial to your business? 
  • Does it come with support?  If you pay monthly, you pay for support.  Support must be swift and effective. 
  • Does it provide updates? This is not about the addition of new bells and whistles, so much as how swiftly they deal with fixes to problems. 

Decontextualisation

Off-the-shelf solutions are generic.  They’re designed for general use.  Bespoke solutions are likely to be expensive and not always guaranteed to work. 

Let’s stay with the former.  If you’re going to opt for off-the-shelf, on grounds of cost for example, then it is safer to opt for simple solutions and build from there.  If financial investment is low, you are not so likely to find you lose money investing in the wrong solution.

Furthermore, you may do more with simple solutions than you first thought.  Invest in a basic email service such as MailChimp, and you can do a lot.  A few other similar low-cost systems may be all you need to develop your business.

This gives you time to work out your offer and how to market it, leaving greater investment in more advanced systems until you are clear about what you need to grow your business.  This way you integrate your business context, into a basic system, see how it works and invest in something more advanced once you have a clear idea what you need.

Adaptive Solutions

And this is where magic begins to happen.  Choosing technical systems is only part of what you need.  Your business has its unique approach and maybe you can solve its problems using basic tools.  Can you adapt your business to the prevailing environment, avoiding use of complex technical solutions?

Every technical solution begins as an adaptive solution.  It was created to solve a particular set of problems and may work for other similar businesses.  People stumble on new ideas as they wrestle with their particular problems and context. 

The question is whether to invest in one or more technical solutions or to develop your own.  If your business is to solve the same problem for customers, then it is worth investing in a new solution.  If something else is more important then you need the simplest solution that does the job.

Remember though, any new technical solution changes your business.  Your business has to adapt to your new solutions.  Businesses that can’t adapt fail.

One form of adaptation that some businesses find difficult is finding the language their customers need to hear to understand their offer.

Two cyclists following a track

How to Get Started with Customer Relations Management

Sarah is freaking out.  She is convinced her business is in meltdown.  After good progress, she is struggling to keep track of prospects and customers. Does she need customer relations management?  It is important track customers, the stage they are at and potential for future sales.

Sarah has heard of CRM services and thinks she should sign up for one of them so she does not have a lot of remedial work if she delays.

Keeping Track

Keep track of your customers.  Once you have clarity about the goals of your business and find success at marketing and sales, CRM becomes more important, especially if you plan to expand your business.

May I make a suggestion?  During the early days of your business, keep a paper tracking system.  You won’t have many clients, so it should be manageable.  As soon as it becomes hard to keep up, that shows you are ready for automation.

This way you work out a system that works on paper and test it.  Of course, when you automate, things change but you have more chance of being on top of the new system, if familiar with the elements you need to record.

FEBE

FEBE stands for Front End Back End.  You need to design both.  An early paper system helps you see what you need.

Sometimes, people see the need for FE but not so much for BE.  At the early stages of your business, with no clients and few contacts, you naturally design the FE to record the contacts and clients you need.  Broadly, your focus is on marketing.  How do I find my market and get them into the front end of my business?

The BE is your records of prospects and customers.  You need to record where they are in your sales funnel and what they have already purchased from you.  For current clients, you need to record where they are in your coaching programme too. 

Remember, new clients are more expensive than old.  Once they are on your list, some may be tempted to buy from you more than once.  This depends on what you sell, of course, but once you find them and they know like and trust you, the costs of marketing new products and services to them are lower than seeking new customers.

CRM services help you manage all this.

Email Services

Email services, eg MailChimp or Aweber, manage your email lists.  More expensive CRM services cover this too.  You may not need anything more than an email list.

It is worth building a list from the earliest days of your business.  Email services are an efficient way to look after your lists and help you stay legal.  They offer three main services:

  1. Broadcast emails – go out to your whole list or segments of your list (there are several ways to segment them).  Send broadcasts immediately or schedule them.
  2. Automated sequences of emails go out once someone signs up to your list.  These could be one or 2 brief greeting emails or a longer sequence, you can advertise as a lead magnet.
  3. Systems that publish blog posts on a regular schedule. 

Customer Relations Management Services

CRM services such as Infusionsoft and Kojabi, build on basic email services.  They are more expensive than email services, significantly more complex and may take a lot of time to learn how to use them.  Survey the market to find out what’s on offer. 

If you think you need one, take an early look ro see what they offer.  Find out which services are a good fit with your paper systems.  It is possible you’ll have difficulty implementing the CRM service even if the fit is good.  These are all issues to consider.

These applications depend on a sound email marketing strategy.  Take capacity seriously.  It’s not only current capacity that matters but whether you want to increase it in the future.  We’ll look at this next time.

Indian Scops Owl in a niche

Your Minimum Viable Market

Minimum viable market is one of the hardest things to understand about marketing.  It’s counter-intuitive. How is better to target a smaller market?  We’ve all been there.  At a business network meeting, you ask someone who their business is for and they reply: my market is everyone!  I’ve done it myself and so have you.  But not knowing your minimum viable market may damage your business.

Minimum Viable Market

In the early years of your business, until you are clear about your offer, lack of clarity about your minimum viable market is unavoidable.  Businesses fail if they don’t address this but it is a slow burner.

What is your minimum viable market?  It is the smallest market that generates the turnover you need for a viable business.  Too small and your business cannot grow.  Too large and your business lacks focus, trying to be all things to all people.

The idea is particularly important for niche businesses.  When businesses enter the mainstream, they inevitably standardise their offer.  They design an offer to appeal to the widest possible market.  This is a difficult transition to make and it is made only where a business develops a product with mass appeal.

Who Are They?

They have a problem and you have a solution.  This key unlocks your minimum viable market.  Before anything else, identify the problem you solve.  Define it carefully.  Describe it in crisp sentences with detail.

The hard part is identifying those who share the problem.  Understand how they experience the problem.  They may not realise they have have the problem.  Or they know they have it but do not believe it can be solved.  These are two distinct positions, requiring different approaches.  

You make voluntary decisions about your market.  Choose to market to one sex or in a specific geographical area, for example.  You make these decisions for reasons of preference or convenience.  Is it discriminatory?  Not necessarily.  If you provide a service for a specific group, you hone your service to appeal to that group.  For example, hairdressing is different for men and women.  There’s no reason why a women’s hairdresser can’t provide the service for a man.  Most men prefer the male version but possibly not all.  The few men who prefer to use a women’s hairdressers are a secondary market.  Any marketing the hairdresser practises will be to their usual market of women.  If a man approaches them, they decide whether they provide the service. 

A service promoting itself for one group is usually accepted.  Problems start where a service with no stated preference discriminates.  A recent case where a cake decorator refused a cake for a gay couple for religious reasons, was problematic because the shop could not define a market that did not include gay couples and so some argued it was discriminating on grounds of prejudice.  Defining on grounds of demographics is fine so long as it does not discriminate against legitimate users. 

What Do They Believe?

Let’s follow the cake decorators a bit further.  They were accused of discrimination on the basis of faith.  They became known as followers of that faith and so may find they attract customers who share their faith.  People who agree with may start to go there to get their cakes iced.  Equally, those who disagreed may go elsewhere.

Businesses often talk about the need to know like and trust.  This is a powerful positioning tool. It is possible choices are seen as discriminatory and so business owners must take care what they say.  But a business owner’s worldview need not be discriminatory.  Mostly it doesn’t matter whether we agree on a particular issue.  But someone who knows me is likely to know where I stand and might choose me on that basis. 

My general worldview can be important. For example, I emphasise the contributions business people make beyond making a profit.  I buy from business people who take a very different view on this issue.  So, I know that worldview is important not because it attracts like-minded people but because it flags up what to expect. If someone needs support over a particular problem, they may explore whether I can help them precisely because I do not share their worldview.

Conclusion

In terms of business failure, there are two issues.  One is to fail to define a minimum viable market.  This leads to marketing with no focus and is likely to attract no-one. 

The other problem is where, defining your minimum viable market, you deliberately or inadvertently apply the wrong constraints to your market.  These may be perceived as discriminatory or else do not attract the people you thought it would.  Examine your own motivations here – if you attract people who are not the ones you expected, who’s to say they are not your market?  Maybe you need to overcome your own prejudices first!

A lot depends upon reading the context in which you market your business.  Another dimension to business depends on context: technical solutions.  Implementing a new technique can be fraught with disaster!

A mangle

How to Boost Sales Online

Sarah has a new coaching offer.  She charges £500 for several sessions and offers an opportunity to change over to a more healthy diet.  How can she boost sales?

If this were an online course, Sarah could try a product launch.  She could aim for huge numbers of clients and manage them through a members area on her website or through a service provider such as Kojabi. 

However, Sarah has capacity for a limited number of coaching clients.  She could sign up 10 – 15 and realistically, if successful, allow a steady trickle of clients climb to her maximum capacity.  She could try an Evergreen launch, where people access her site any time and make contact.  They negotiate a start date, so Sarah has control over numbers who sign up.

Bigger Offers Require More Promotion

Sarah’s offer occupies middle ground.  It is a bigger commitment than attending a workshop and for many a substantial financial commitment.  The key is to prepare through an email strategy.  Sarah should consider three strands:

  1. A sequence of emails introduce the coaching topic without making an offer.  She sends emails to people who opt into her list.  They include valuable information readers easily implement.  Typically, she sends a sequence of 4 emails and the fifth carries her call to action, which might be a link to a page on her website that makes her offer.
  2. The website carries more information and valuable teaching.  Typically, this is a video or a long sales letter.  The call to action is to book a telephone conversation with Sarah. 
  3. This enables her to complete the sale and fix a regular day and time for the coaching.  It’s important to sort out payment at this stage.  It should be understood coaching starts once payment is complete.  It should be a single payment for the whole coaching programme. 

Product Launches

So far I’ve described an intermediate sale.  If you have capacity to offer something online for unlimited numbers, try a product launch.

The product launch has two aims.  Make as many sales as possible and grow your list, through referrals and affiliates.

Prepare a sequence of four emails.  The first three contain high quality teaching, in the email or on a webpage.  Send this to your list and encourage people to read or watch the teaching and forward the email to others who may be interested.  Anyone new, signs up to your list and then receives all the emails in the series.

The emails also go out to the lists of others prepared to collaborate.  Offer them a percentage of what members of their lists actually purchase.  There are ways to tag new list members so you know who they come from.

The sequence of emails / videos are together similar to a sales letter.  Great teaching with an offer to follow up with in-depth teaching.  The fourth email should be highly anticipated, with a call to action to sign up for the offer.

Squeeze Pages

Squeeze pages are landing pages with a single link.  They include no distractions, such as navigation to other parts of your site. 

If you use a long sales letter, use a title, text and images and a call to action.  Usually, the CTA appears in several places on the page.  Some people want to buy before they get to the end

A video is possibly more effective.  Here use a title, the video, possibly a brief summary of its content and a call to action.

If this works, you may find your list grows rapidly.  So, it is worth thinking about the implications for your business.

do not give up

Businesses Fail Through Lack of Confidence

We tell ourselves stories and sometimes we’re not aware we’re doing it.  Think of times you have contemplated a course of action and not taken it because it is too risky.  Right or wrong, you told yourself a story.  If you are not aware this is story, then how do you know whether it is true? These stories undermine confidence.

I’m not saying anything is possible but how do you know until you try?  Confidence is not solely being prepared to try, it is not being stopped by failure.  It’s the ability to pick yourself up and start over. 

Tenacity

Tenacity works when it is perceptive.  Attempting something that never works is probably not a good idea.  After any activity, ask yourself what went well.  What could have gone better?  Learn from mistakes.  Find out more about the barriers to your objective.  Apply what you learn to your next attempt. 

Remember, the biggest reason businesses fail is when the owner gives up. There are times when you have to conclude it is better to call it a day.  But usually, when you learn from experience, it is worth another try.

Consistency

Adapt your strategy to meet your learning but don’t forget why you are in business.  Your new strategy must be consistent with your business aims. 

People around you will offer advice.  Listen carefully.  Do they help you understand what went wrong or do they offer a solution to the problem, as they understand it?  Beware of solutions – they are often not what they seem.  Solutions, offered in a spirit of helpfulness, are rarely right for you or your business.

Ask why they think that solution would work.  Try to get to their analysis of the problem.  Then thank them and work out your approach, consistent with why you are in business. 

The Stories You Tell Yourself

“I am not the sort of person who …”   Maybe that is true for now.  But you need to see where your experience of failure points.  Repeated failure may mean you need to try things you genuinely believe are not right for you. 

Trust your subconscious mind.  You accumulate experience all the time and when faced with something new you are not keen to try, tell yourself a new story.  You could fail but equally, you may be on the brink of something new and exciting. 

The alternative is to give up.  That’s how businesses fail.  Draw inspiration from others in your field.  Their stories may help.  But beware!  Your heroes may not be as heroic as they appear.

Social media images suggesting hype

How to Use Email to Promote Products and Services

Sarah does not want to appear “salesy”.  Her efforts to avoid universal opprobrium for the sin of salesy-ness means she does not make many sales.  She makes sales in real life over a coffee but it’s a lot of work finding and pursuing leads.  Her problem is how to promote products and services online.  Automated sales would not consume so much time but isn’t it likely to cause followers to unsubscribe if she bangs on about selling her stuff, when she emails her list?

Promoting Events, Products and Services

If you sell over coffee, you can sell online.  Switch it around, if you can’t sell over coffee, you are unlikely to sell online.  Observing what works in real life helps you understand what sells online.

The context in which you sell online is important.  Give your list something of value.  Then offer them the option to opt into some deal to further their interest.  There are several ways to do this.  They are sometimes referred to as product launches and mostly include high value teaching, as a prelude to making an offer.  More sophisticated approaches include using affiliates to grow your email list. 

It depends on what you sell.  If you aim to fill a workshop with capacity of up to 30, you don’t need methods designed to draw in hundreds of customers.  A sales video or long sales letter may do the trick. 

Think it through.  A good email with some teaching, followed by a link for those who want more, is not off-putting.  If someone is not interested, they ignore the link. 

From Attention to Action

Your aim is not to offer customers a get-out clause, you want them to follow the link.  So, you need a compelling subject line, excellent email content and a clear call to action. 

Capture attention and then move readers to take action.  Think about what you do, when you go to a sales page.  What makes you buy?  On the sales page, you read on because you are interested.  Once you finish reading or watching the video, you decide whether to make a purchase.  You may be impressed by the offer but for some reason, not this time.  But you decide to keep an eye on this business, maybe someday.

Tune Down the Hype

It is not hype to state what you offer and outline its benefits. It is hype to make outrageous claims, such as “Best in the World”.

The challenge is, show you have a product or service worth exploring.  Then leave it to the prospect to decide.  Give them time but try early bird offers, so you can assess viability.  For example, if you’re trying to fill a workshop, offer a lower price for the first 50% who sign up or who sign up by a given date. 

You don’t need to attempt a hard sell to make a sale online, so long as you are confident about what you are selling.  Next time I’ll take a closer look at ways to boost your online sales.

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