My Best Copywriting Advice, Part Two: 6 Blog Posts That Will Help You Determine the Core Emotional Benefit of Your Offer, Write Web Copy That Sells & Upgrade Your Business Mindset

Last week on the blog, I did something a little different.

Instead of writing a single post about a single topic, I rounded up a handful of posts from yesteryear that highlight some of my “best” copywriting & marketing advice. (“Best” meaning, these are evergreen topics I consider to be some of the most important to building and growing your creative business.)

Today’s post is Part Two of that series.

Let’s dive in.

 

First things first: the mindset stuff.

I’m a firm believer that if your mindset is wonky, you can do all the “right” strategic things in your business, work your buns off, and follow the lead of other successful creative business builders in your niche, yet still not gain any real traction on your business goals.

I say this from deep experience as someone who has let silly limiting beliefs and varying degrees of imposter syndrome keep me from going after what I really want, over and over again.

 

In this first post, I talk about four concepts from Laura Roeder’s “Creating Fame” that have the power to radically transform your business:

Your Big Idea; You Can’t Predict the Future; Discipline Isn’t Sexy, But It’s How Things Get Done and Inevitability Thinking.

In a few months’ time – heck, even as early as next month – your business could look totally different than it does today if you adopt these four practices. I know they’ve helped me.

Four Powerful Ideas That Could Radically Change Your Business 

 

This next post shares a lesson I learned a very long time ago and have never forgotten, and that is, “they want you to be the one.”

This mindset shift will help you if you ever feel terrified of marketing yourself or actively trying to sell your products or services. As in, you know it’s gotta be done, but you don’t do it near enough – or at all – because you let the fear stop you.

They Want You to Be the One (so stop being afraid to market yourself) 

 

This post is about the natural sales ability we all possess, and how to tap into it.

(Yes, it’s true! We all have this ability, and that includes you.)

I guarantee you’ve been having “sales conversations” all your life, without even realizing it.

Read this post to find out more:

How to Tap Into Your Natural Sales Superpower: Two Quick Tips 

 

And while we’re on the topic of selling, let me share with you what chocolate cake and donuts can teach you about selling more. 😊

This post is about how to find the core emotional benefit of your offer, so you can connect with and convert your ideal clients.

What Can Chocolate Cake and Donuts Teach You About Selling More?  

 

In this post, I share how to create killer web copy for your small business by “painting a picture” of your dream client’s ideal outcome, and give you an example of how it’s done.  

The concept of “painting a picture” in copywriting is very powerful, and one of the key tenets of writing successful copy that converts readers into buyers.

What a Personal Development Classic from 1959 Can Teach You About Writing Web Copy That Sells 

 

And finally, a case study of sorts about successfully using personality in marketing, and how Bolthouse Farms transformed baby carrots from a boring agricultural commodity into a cool, crave-able snack.

The lesson: With enough creativity and resourcefulness, you too can uncover the benefits and bring out the personality of any boring old thing to make it interesting and appealing to your audience.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em: The Baby Carrot Story and Using Personality in Marketing 

 

That’s it for this week.

I hope you got at least 3-4 instantly implementable ideas to grow your business using the power of  persuasive marketing and copywriting + mindset from these posts!

 

 

My Best Copywriting Advice, Part One: 6 Blog Posts That Will Help You Create a USP That Attracts Ideal Clients, Grow Your Email List & Write an Email That Sells

This week on the blog, I’m doing something a little different.

Rather than a single post about a single topic, I’m rounding up a handful of posts that highlight some of my “best” copywriting & marketing advice. (“Best” meaning, these are topics I consider to be some of the most important to building and growing your creative business.)

Let’s jump in.

 

First up, USPs.

I consider the advice in this 3-part series non-negotiable if you want to stand out in your niche and attract your ideal clients and customers online. (Instead of drowning in a sea of sameness, where everyone looks and sounds virtually the same, and it’s darn near impossible to tell one freelancer, service provider or creative business from the next.)

In Part One of this series on creating a compelling USP for your business, I laid out definitions of the terms USP (unique selling proposition) and “meaningful difference” for our purposes as creative business builders, covered how a memorable USP informs your signature marketing message, and importantly, why your signature marketing message is so undeniably important to the health of your business. I also shared a short excerpt from my guide Marketing Messages That Convert: A Step-by-Step Copy Messaging Guide for Solopreneurs, Freelancers, Creative Business Builders & Other Non-Marketing Types, to help you make sense of it all.

What a USP Is, Why You Need One ASAP, and How to Create One for Your Service-Based Business So You Can Get More Business, Bookings & Sales [Part 1 of 2] 

 

In Part Two of the series, I covered five ways a compelling USP will help you get more business, bookings & sales.

What a USP Is, Why You Need One ASAP, and How to Create One for Your Service-Based Business So You Can Get More Business, Bookings & Sales [Part 2 of 3] 

 

In the final installment of the 3-part series, I shared Real! Live! Examples! of USPs that have helped businesses of all kinds develop enormous brand loyalty with their target audience & stand out in their (very often) saturated niche.

What a USP Is, Why You Need One ASAP, and How to Create One for Your Service-Based Business So You Can Get More Business, Bookings & Sales [Part 3 of 3] 

 

Next, we talk about email.

Ah, email marketing … so critical to the health of your business online – and offline too, even if you run a mostly bricks & mortar business.

The next three posts cover some of the ground-level basics of getting your email marketing game in shape.

 

This is brief, straightforward post shares two tips for getting more email subscribers: #1: create opt-in copy that gives people a compelling & benefit-driven reason to sign up for your list; and #2: create a dedicated landing page for your email list. Includes a couple of examples of what not to do, and an example of what’s definitely the better way to go. 😊

Want More Email Subscribers? Implement These Two Ridiculously Simple Tips 

 

This next post, while similar to the one above, focuses specifically on punching up the copy on your opt-in form itself to make it more persuasive. Includes six examples of compelling opt-in copy.

Grow your email list with better opt-in copy using these two powerful tips 

 

And lastly, a post about writing a sales email. Something I know a lot of folks feel challenged by.

While this post shares the tale of how I came in #4 in a sales email writing contest, there’s lots of good information about how to write your own story-based email that sells. In this post, you’ll find my original contest entry, plus feedback I got from the two esteemed judges, a basic outline of an email that sells, and tips on what emails that sell need to do to be effective.

How I Wrote a Story-Based Sales Email That Landed Me in the Top 5 in a Copywriting Contest 

 

And that’s what I got for ya this week.

In my next round-up post, coming in a week or so, I’ll share more of my best advice, including some non-copy related mindset stuff. Fun! 😊

From Full of Excuses and Failing in Business to Self-Made Multi-Millionaire: How a Dead Broke Carpet Cleaner Turned It All Around Using the Power of Copywriting and Direct-Response Marketing

brand vs direct response marketing

Photo by Diego PH on Unsplash

Why is it that we so often stubbornly resist what turns out to be the most life-changing advice about achieving business success from those who’ve been there, done that, and know a thing or two, and refuse to do the one thing that might change things for the better and get us to the point of actual traction in our business?

The thing that might transform a wheezing, sickly, underperforming business from breathing its last dying breath into a revenue-generating, full-time income-producing thing of beauty we can be proud of? A business where the number of email subscribers, new client inquiries, and yes, sales, actually increases consistently?

I’d wager fear of the unknown and the natural tendency to avoid discomfort (~ raises hand ~) is probably right up there at the top of the list, wouldn’t you?

Trouble is, we often let this fear and avoidance dynamic keep us stuck inside our wretched comfort zones, where dreams go to die, all the while banging our heads against a wall, expecting something to change even as we won’t, as we go on doing the same ineffective thing day in and day out to get our business to grow.

Sometimes even to the point where the business withers and dies, and we have to – gasp – go back to work for “the man.” Oh, the horror!

Granted, not everyone reading this is in that position.

But plenty of business owners are – gravitating by default to the familiar and comfortable when it comes to marketing and selling, instead of doing something that might be uncomfortable, yet will yield far greater results.

Well, listen up as I tell you a story about a dead broke carpet cleaner who was failing miserably in his business until he discovered the power of copywriting and direct response marketing, then used this knowledge to turn things around.

And turn things around he surely did, going from flat broke and on the verge of giving up, to charging $25,000 per half day for his consulting services, and hanging out with the likes of people like Sir Richard Branson, Bill Gates and Bill Clinton.

Joe Polish is the guy.

As a lifelong student of marketing and copywriting, I’m always on the hunt for people in the copywriting field who are more – and I mean WAY more – knowledgeable and successful than I am, so I can soak up their wisdom and apply it to my business where it makes sense. Joe Polish is one of those people.

Polish is the Founder and President of Piranha Marketing Inc., founder of the Genius Network Mastermind, and co-founder of a highly popular free weekly podcast on iTunes called I Love Marketing. After creating mega-success in his carpet cleaning business, he went on to teach what he learned about marketing to others in that industry, then created a highly profitable marketing consulting business.

But once upon a time, before the accolades, the successes and the abundant income, he was that practically bankrupt carpet cleaner.

Joe’s Story

You can check out Joe’s full story in his own words here, but in a nutshell, when he was in his early twenties and struggling in his carpet cleaning business, as in, on the verge of bankruptcy, dead broke and living-on-credit-cards-struggling, he got invited on a weekend trip that would change the course of his life forever.

On this jet-ski trip to the lake with his buddies, Joe met and struck up a conversation with the multimillionaire real estate investor who owned the jet skis, a man he rightly assumed he could learn a thing or two from. He told the guy about his carpet cleaning business and how poorly it was doing. He shared that he was thinking about getting into another, more lucrative kind of business. He asked the multimillionaire for recommendations for what kind of business he could get into where he could make more money.

The multimillionaire asked him, “Are there people in your industry making money?”

Joe replied that yes indeed there were, and that a few of those companies were even making over a million bucks a year. But he said those companies had an advantage, because they’d been around for years, and had lots of employees and were well-established in the market, with name recognition that he couldn’t compete with as a newbie.

After listening to these and many other excuses Joe made for why he wasn’t successful, the multimillionaire said to him, “If there are other people in your industry doing well and making money and you’re not, there’s nothing wrong with your business, there’s something wrong with you.”

He told Joe he sounded like one of those people who think “the grass is always greener on the other side,” and that going into a new business wasn’t the answer. What he really needed to do was learn and apply fundamental business principles to his current business to make it work, said the multimillionaire.

In Which Our Hero Makes a Very Wise Decision

Our hero Joe takes this advice to heart, and decides he will do whatever is in his power to make his business successful, “or die trying,” as he said.

Cut to advertising and marketing. Except, instead of using traditional image-based or brand advertising, which essentially attempts to create a positive feeling or image around a product or company and build awareness of the brand – think car commercials and fancy perfume ads, for example – Joe decides to use the timeless, proven principles of direct response marketing, which have been working like gangbusters for nearly every kind of business, company and cause for over a hundred years, thank you very much. 

What exactly is direct response marketing you ask, and how does it differ from image and brand advertising?

Unlike brand advertising, which seeks to raise awareness, direct response marketing’s goal is to stimulate an immediate response or action, via print (yes, still!) or web communications. So on the web, that could mean things like getting someone to sign up for your email list, call you for an appointment, set up a free consult, reach out for more information about your products or services, or make a purchase of said products and services.

Direct response marketing works because, as Joe says, “it educates, motivates, and calls your consumers to take action.” (Unlike the Jeep commercial that leaves you full of daydreams about the rugged and adventurous life you might lead if you owned the latest version of the Grand Cherokee, but doesn’t provide a mechanism that allows you to take immediate action.)

And the thing that helps direct response marketing work its wonders? Persuasive writing – copywriting – writing meant to encourage action.

According to AWAI (American Writers and Artists Inc., where I got some fabulous copywriting training):

Unlike news or editorial writing, copywriting is all about getting the reader to take action. That action might be to purchase, opt-in, or engage with a product, service, or company.

But back to our hero . . .

Joe was determined to make his business a success and willing to try direct response marketing to get there. As a result, he went from grossing $2100 per month to grossing $12,300 per month, in just 6 short months. Within a year, he had turned his carpet-cleaning business into a six-figure business.

He began a second business teaching others in his industry the direct response marketing techniques that helped him go from dead broke to six-figure success. He eventually sold the carpet-cleaning business and now generates millions in revenue from his marketing training business.

All because he got out of his comfort zone, stopped complaining about what wasn’t working and opened himself up to something that did, and took action by applying what he learned.

But Will This Work for Me?

Now, you can do “image advertising” or a “brand awareness” campaign if you want to, there’s nothing wrong with that, but just know that it might take months and months to see any kind of traction from your efforts.

Whereas with direct response marketing & effective copywriting, you can create web copy and other communications today that get potential clients and customers reaching out to you tomorrow.

I encourage you to read Joe’s story here, where you’ll learn a lot more about what direct response marketing is and how to apply it, if you’re interested. At the end of his story, Joe shares four proven strategies for marketing your business that worked incredibly well for him and over 6300 business owners in his industry.

And before you go thinking, “But I don’t own a carpet cleaning business, those strategies won’t work for me,” or, “I’m not comfortable using ‘aggressive’ marketing tactics,” keep in mind what I said earlier: the timeless, proven principles of direct response marketing have been working like gangbusters for nearly every kind of business, company and cause for over a hundred years.

And you can adapt those principles in a non-aggressive way to your business and your marketing comfort level. (But don’t get too comfortable, mind you, because your comfort zone is where dreams go to die, and we actually want results here, right?)

Please note, I’m NOT saying you have to actually mail things to people or use the kind of direct response ads Joe talks about in his story (though that works too), but you can practice direct response marketing principles on your website.

If you click on the link above to read Joe’s story, pay special attention to what he says about the difference between marketing and selling, and his definition of what selling really is. I think you’ll find Joe’s definition of selling comforting.

The Takeaway

Over the years I’ve had several clients who don’t feel comfortable “asking for the sale,” or in some cases, even alluding to the fact they have something for sale.

You probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that those people make far fewer sales of their products and services than people who know they have to get comfortable with marketing and selling to be successful in business, or act in spite of their discomfort with it.

(By the way, I find it easy as pie to help other people with their marketing, but I’m not that terribly comfortable doing it for myself, despite providing marketing, copywriting, and PR services to my clients since 2001. But I act in spite of my discomfort, because if there’s one thing I’m wildly passionate about, it’s having a successful business so I never, ever, E-V-E-R, have to go back to work for “the man.”)

That said, I get that Joe Polish’s style may not be right for everyone. I understand the strategies and tactics of other wildly successful marketers I’ve mentioned on this blog before, people like Dan Kennedy, Ben Settle, or John Carlton may be a little too aggressive for your taste.

I get it.

However.

From Polish, Kennedy, Settle, Carlton and other classic marketing mentors, to brilliant marketing types like Naomi Dunford, Ashley Ambirge, Marie Forleo and others – I take what works for me, what I can adapt to my shy-ish, sensitive and creative sensibilities, and leave the rest.

No reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater, as I see it. Instead, I learn and adapt, learn and adapt.

At the end of the day, if solopreneurs and small business owners who are afraid to sell, or think there’s something inherently wrong or sleazy about selling – and therefore resist learning how to effectively market online – would let go of that one very detrimental mindset, they’d be a lot more successful.

And I can say this, because I had to learn this lesson myself in the early days when I was first launching what was then my generic freelance writing business. I fervently wish I hadn’t wasted a year and half and then some working my fingers to the bone doing what was comfortable but wasn’t working, and applied tried-and-true principles of copywriting and direct response marketing instead.

But better late than never, eh?

So my plea to you is, become a student of copywriting and marketing. Even if you don’t learn from me, that is A-OK my friend, but find someone whose teachings and trainings you do resonate with, and learn from them.

Because as Dan Kennedy says, copywriting is the #1 skill to master if you want to increase your income. I wouldn’t be in the business of writing copy for my clients, or helping my clients optimize and improve their current copy, if I didn’t believe that.

In my case, learning from masters like Kennedy, Polish, Settle, Carlton and other copywriting greats has given me a priceless return on my time investment, many times over.

I wish the same for you.

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

By the way, if you’re ready for a magnetic website that attracts, engages & sells to your dream clients, using proven direct response marketing principles (in a 100% non-sleazy or aggressive way), check out my Work with Me page for more details.

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

How I Wrote a Story-Based Sales Email That Landed Me in the Top 5 in a Copywriting Contest

sales emails

Photo by Hello I’m Nik 🇬🇧 on Unsplash

I came in 4th place, to be exact. Now, that might not seem like much, but there were roughly 78 entries from copywriters who ran the gamut from fairly new to quite successful and experienced.

I’ve been doing this here copywriting and marketing thing since about 2001, but some of my fellow copywriters participating in this? Let’s just say I was a little (and by little, I mean a lot) intimidated.

In fact, initially I thought, “No way am I entering a contest I likely won’t do well in given the competition, especially since it’ll take me hours to write an entry. I’m already at capacity with work right now.”

[Can ya hear all the limiting beliefs nonsense going on there? Yikes!]

But deep down, I really wanted to do this. Because if you’re not making yourself uncomfortable from time to time, you’re not growing. So say the personal development geeks. Of which I am one. 😊

I’m sharing the contest details and my entry here, because if you pay close attention to the rules, template, questions, and other guidance Kevin and Chris presented, along the prep work I did before submitting my entry, you’re sure to learn a thing or two about what it takes to write a story-based email that sells.

The Background

The contest took place inside the Copy Chief community, which I’m a proud member of.

The emails were judged by Kevin Rogers, founder of Copy Chief and expert direct response copywriter who has helped clients earn $100M in sales, and fellow Copy Chief member Chris Orzechowski, email copywriter & consultant extraordinaire who helps e-commerce companies earn big paydays with email.

Kevin and Chris critiqued the email entries via video inside Copy Chief, and chose the top 5; we lucky 5 received a coveted Copy Chief “Nobody Writes Alone” t-shirt. Yee-haw! The grand prize winner also won a scholarship to Chris’s Email Copy Academy and an email sequence review.

The Challenge: Write a “story-based” email that sells

The fellas did a fantastic presentation explaining the elements of, and psychology behind, storytelling emails that sell to help us prepare for the challenge.

The Rules

We were given three products to choose from to write the sales email for:

A pillow, a pressure washing service, or a productivity course.

We were to pick the product, write a story-based email that sells people on buying the product, then post our entry inside the Copy Chief forum.

I chose the pillow, and used Casper for my model. But I renamed my “imaginary” product the Euphoria Pillow. 😊

We were graded on:

  • Subject line
  • Strength of the story/hook
  • Clarity & readability
  • Call to action language

Emails That Sell Need to Do a Few Important Things

In order to write a persuasive email that moves people to action, we had to do three things: determine what our ideal customer’s current beliefs were, tell stories to implant new beliefs that would get them interested in our chosen product, and give them an action to take that would bring them closer to their goal, such as making a purchase.

To determine what to say, we were instructed to:

  1. Talk to people in our market – I did this by chatting with couple of friends who had sleep issues and had recently purchased pillows. I also did lots of review mining: I sifted through pillow reviews on the Casper website, plus positive and negative reviews of other premium pillows on Amazon. I saved loads of this voice of customer data into a doc to use while writing my sales email. (You need to understand where people are now, the challenges and struggles they’re facing, and where they want to ultimately be – which is what your product or solution offers. You can’t write persuasive copy without research and voice of customer data. Full stop)
  2. List out their problems – The review mining mentioned above gave me lots of intel about problems and challenges. For example, many people suffer poor sleep and wake up with a stiff neck and other aches and pains because they don’t have a quality pillow. And we all know poor sleep has a hugely negative impact on everything else we do in our day-to-day lives.
  3. List the outcomes (results) they want in their life – On the surface they just want to wake up pain-free. But what they really want is to wake up feeling refreshed, well-rested, and ready to tackle the day. To slay the day. To handle everything with grace, ease and joy, the way you do when you’ve gotten eight glorious hours of deep, uninterrupted sleep.
  4. List their “false beliefs” – Some could include: “Spending $80 on a pillow is crazy, it’s not worth it.” “A premium pillow isn’t going to make that much difference in my sleep quality.”
  5. List “new beliefs” they need to gain in order to make a buying decision – “$80 is a small price to pay for something that can seriously improve your sleep, and because quality sleep is so important to health and overall happiness, it’s worth every penny.”

The Template

Chris shared a basic outline of emails that sell:

  1. Subject line
  2. Story
  3. Segue/The ‘Turn’
  4. CTA

(Optional): P.S.

(You’ll see these things in action in my email entry, below)

He also talked about eight kinds of subject lines, along with eight different story frameworks.  I chose the personal story framework for my email.

And of course, we covered the uber-important call to action: you must tell people what to do, why they need to do it, and why they need to do it now.

BUT … even after all this, we’re still not quuuuite ready to begin writing.

Nope, first, we needed to answer the following questions. My answers included here:

1. Where does this email fit into the context of the marketing funnel?

It comes after web visitors have read some info on the Casper website, or have otherwise been exposed to the brand, and they’ve signed up for the Casper email list to learn more.

2. What is the objective of this email?

To make a sale

3. What’s the new belief you want readers to have?

That an $80 pillow is totally worth it and can change their life

4. What’s a story/hook that can implant that belief into their brain?

Talk about how quality sleep is the most important health action they can take, as illustrated through a personal story about the before-and-after results of getting quality sleep; demonstrate through a story that shows – not tells – the transformation. Could also consider using data on sleep; benefits of quality sleep, etc.

5. What is your call to action going to be?

Buy now

6. What ‘reasons to act now’ do we need to add?

Don’t miss one more night of quality sleep and go through your days unable to do all you want to do, to the best of your ability. Life is too short, and you have too much you want to do, for that.

The presentation Chris and Kevin gave was so good, and so thorough, it’s not possible to share all of it here, but I’ve outlined the very basics above.

Prep I Did Before Writing

Once I decided to enter the contest, I was all in. Meaning, I did what I do with every actual client copy project I take on – research, research, and more research, which comes in a few varieties:

:: I talked to a couple of friends with sleep issues. I asked how the sleep issues presented, and what they did to resolve them.

:: I signed up Casper’s email list to see how they do email.

:: I spend loads of time on the Casper website, reading about their pillows (product research), AND, more importantly, reading customer reviews (to gather voice of customer data).

:: I did review mining of other premium pillows on Amazon to gather more voice of customer data on things like: where people are in their solution-seeking journey when they arrive at the place of deciding to spend upwards of $80 for a single pillow, what problems they’re trying to solve, what they’ve tried before that didn’t work, and to suss out the transformation they really want. Sure, they want a good night’s sleep, but more than that, they want all the benefits that derive from a good night’s sleep.

:: If this were a real project with a real client, I also would have: had the client fill out my intake questionnaire, had a call to review completed questionnaire and discuss the direction and goals of the copy, talked to a handful of actual customers, done loads more product research, and undertaken more competitor analysis.

My Sales Email Entry

(Chris and Kevin’s feedback is pasted in at the end of the email.)

Original email subject line ideas:

Red wine, tough love, and clouds made of rainbows

Alternative SLs:

Pairs nicely with success

$80 for a pillow?!?! You’re crazy.

A handful of other subject lines I considered, but didn’t post as part of my entry:

BOOM! This is how you improve every area of your life … for just $80

There’s not an app for that

As soon as I laid down, I was in love

This 5-letter word changed EVERYTHING

Why aren’t more people talking about this?

Is this the missing link to a better life?

You can’t put a price on this

__ % of adults don’t get enough of this

Pillow talk

Driving drunk or driving underslept … which is more dangerous?

Sixty percent of adults have done this life-threatening thing

EMAIL BODY COPY

One Saturday night a few weeks ago, Ronda, my BFF of 30+ years, committed one of the kindest acts a trusted friend can ever do.

She called me out on my bullshit.

Over a bowl of creamy cacio e pepe and a glass (or three) of Poggio Bonelli Chianti Villa Chigi 2016, I shared with her for what felt like the 187th time how my terrible, fitful sleep over the previous few weeks was really beginning to wear me down.

The truth?

My crappy sleep habits were actually wreaking havoc on my career.

Last Thursday was a typical night, I told her.

I woke up in the middle of the night with shoulder and neck pain. Again.

Tossed and turned for hours, couldn’t get back to sleep.

And the whole time I’m lying there, I’m stressing out more by the minute each time I look over at the clock, knowing I’m gonna have to go into work on the next day and give one of the most important presentations of my career, to our agency’s highest-profile potential client yet, on 3 freakin’ hours of sleep.

The stress and exhaustion made me want to weep.

“Well that sucks,” Ronda said.

I told her that wasn’t the worst of it.

After the presentation that Friday my boss called me into her office. Told me she didn’t think I brought my “A” game. Said if we don’t land this big account . . . then she kind of trailed off and didn’t say much else.

“Uh oh,” Ronda said.

Uh oh is right. Like me, Ronda’s worked in advertising. She knows the drill.

If the agency didn’t land this big client we’d been wooing for weeks, I might get fired.

“Crap, I can’t get fired, I just bought a house,” I said.

That’s when Ronda dropped the tough love.

“Kimberly, you’ve been complaining about this since early April. It’s now May. I told you 6 weeks ago about the Euphoria pillows I bought that totally eliminated my shoulder and neck pain. I told you how I’ve been sleeping through the night for the first time in years since buying them. I told you how I’ve never felt more well-rested. I waxed so poetic about these pillows you accused me of being a rep for the company. Hell, you even slept on one when you spent the night here a few weeks ago and said it was like sleeping on a cloud made of rainbows. BUY THESE PILLOWS, girlfriend.”

I’m embarrassed to say that’s when I nearly shouted, “But those pillows are $80 damn dollars a piece!”

With a sigh and what I swear was a little bit of an eye roll, she said, “Kimberly, I say this with love as your best friend: you can be kind of a miser sometimes. I know you spent well over $80 on this bottle of wine and the ingredients for the dinner you made us tonight. Why wouldn’t you spend $80 bucks on something that’s actually, you know, going to improve the quality of your life in an honest-to-god real way?

I had to admit she was right.

“Oh alright,” I said, “give me the damn Euphoria Pillows website link. [à Link to website] And pour me another glass of Chianti.”

I’m happy to report that I ordered two Euphoria pillows that very night.

And while it took me a minute to get over the mild shock of spending $160 (I could buy four bottles of pretty decent Chianti for that sum), a few weeks on, I can say it was more than worth it.

Now I’m sleeping through the night for the first time in a very long time. I’ve never felt more well-rested. I’m ready to wax so poetic about these pillows you might accuse me of being a rep for the company.

And it’s not hyperbole to say that sleeping on Euphoria pillows is like sleeping on a cloud made of rainbows. [à Link to website]

Now, you might be asking yourself, “What the devil is Kimberly emailing me about pillows for? I got on this list to learn how to rock an ad agency career.”

But hear me out on this:

Think of superior quality pillows as a career enhancement tool.

That’s right.

A career enhancement tool, one of many in your arsenal.

You wouldn’t show up to the interview for the senior copywriter position at your dream agency with a resume written on a piece of paper ripped out of a spiral notebook would you?

Of course not.

You wouldn’t knock back two martinis at your agency welcome lunch the first day of your new job, right?

No. No, you wouldn’t. (Unless you’re Don Draper, in which case, you don’t need my career advice.)

So why would you rely on pillows that make it damn near impossible to get a quality night’s slumber, and potentially screw up your chance of landing & keeping that hot new agency career, all because crappy sleep prevents you from bringing your “A” game?

Don’t do that.

And don’t be me – don’t wait until a poor night’s sleep practically derails your career.

It just so happens that today – next Monday the exact kind of Euphoria Pillows I bought and swear by are on sale for $50 bucks off when you buy two.

$110 bucks to improve the quality of your life and, dare I say, your career prospects too.

Go on over to the Euphoria Pillows website right here, and get your $50 off today through Monday only[à Link to website]

Your shiny new ad agency career prospects will thank you.

XO,

Kimberly, reformed miser

P.S. My hesitation about investing in Euphoria Pillows is now a small speck in the rearview mirror. It’s been overshadowed by 6 weeks of kick-ass quality sleep that’s seen my agency land that high-profile client (and I was even made the account lead after redeeming myself with a second presentation to the client last week, woohoo!).

Get your career-enhancement tool here for $50 off, through Monday only.

[END OF EMAIL COPY]

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

So, there it is.

Once I knew my entry placed in the top five, the next step was to watch the video Chris and Kevin recorded breaking down the email and pointing out what worked and what didn’t.

If I’m honest, I was terrified to watch that video, and put it off for days.

Turns out, it wasn’t so bad. Everything they pointed out that needed improving was spot on, and super helpful to know.

Sure, I winced a couple times, but as Chris said in his review, “I’m being nitpicky, but yeah, you know, you’re on the leaderboard, so I reserve the right to be.” LOL.

Feedback from the Experts

(The feedback below comes from the video review Chris and Kevin did. I took notes while watching the video, so they’re a bit rough.)

Kevin’s feedback:

This had me hooked top to bottom.
Although you risked losing me in detail here…

Over a bowl of creamy cacio e pepe and a glass (or three) of Poggio Bonelli Chianti Villa Chigi 2016, I shared with her for what felt like the 187th time how my terrible, fitful sleep over the previous few weeks was really beginning to wear me down.

I love how you framed the value in STORY.

Really well done, @KimberlyHouston

Chris’s feedback:

First up, the weaknesses / what needed work …

He said the subject lines were just “ok/decent.” He said there was some curiosity in the main subject line I chose.

Curiosity is critical to persuasive copywriting, and subject lines are one of the key places we need to be using it. If your SL isn’t compelling, ain’t nobody gonna open that sales email, and you know what that means … no sales.

He also called out this section, saying that I was erring on the side of “a little too much detail” –> Over a bowl of creamy cacio e pepe and a glass (or three) of Poggio Bonelli Chianti Villa Chigi 2016, I shared with her for what felt like the 187th time how my terrible, fitful sleep over the previous few weeks was really beginning to wear me down.

Detail is necessary and good, and it’s sadly missing in much of the underperforming copy I see when I do copy reviews. However, as Chris pointed out, “There’s a fine line into crossing into too much detail territory.”

He said he would break this up into two sentences –> And the whole time I’m lying there, I’m stressing out more by the minute each time I look over at the clock, knowing I’m gonna have to go into work on the next day and give one of the most important presentations of my career, to our agency’s highest-profile potential client yet, on 3 freakin’ hours of sleep.

I say this to my own clients all the time: If people see long blocks of uninterrupted copy, they’ll usually be turned off and not read it, so this is good to keep in mind, whether you’re writing web copy, sales emails, landing pages, or anything else you write for your business.

He said about this paragraph, “It’s ok, but a little much,” and suggested I might want to pare it down. –> “I told you how I’ve been sleeping through the night for the first time in years since buying them. I told you how I’ve never felt more well-rested. I waxed so poetic about these pillows you accused me of being a rep for the company. Hell, you even slept on one when you spent the night here a few weeks ago and said it was like sleeping on a cloud made of rainbows. BUY THESE PILLOWS, girlfriend.”  –> Oh, and he didn’t like the “wax poetic” thing either, lol.

Here he cautioned against using “wax so poetic,” again, and suggested I not overdo that. Ditto, “accuse me of being a rep for the company,” which he pointed out, “is kind of redundant from before, so let’s not have that twice.” –> Now I’m sleeping through the night for the first time in a very long time. I’ve never felt more well-rested. I’m ready to wax so poetic about these pillows you might accuse me of being a rep for the company.

Here he said, “Ok, I don’t really know what that means, but alright.” –> And it’s not hyperbole to say that sleeping on Euphoria pillows is like sleeping on a cloud made of rainbows.

He said to tighten this up a little. –> You wouldn’t show up to the interview for the senior copywriter position at your dream agency with a resume written on a piece of paper ripped out of a spiral notebook would you?

Here, he mentioned something that has always been one of my weaknesses as a writer – long sentences. Sometimes lengthy sentences are 100% necessary, but when writing copy, generally not. –>  So why would you rely on pillows that make it damn near impossible to get a quality night’s slumber, and potentially screw up your chance of landing & keeping that hot new agency career, all because crappy sleep prevents you from bringing your “A” game? –>So Kimberly you really have this tendency to, you know, these long sentences. They’re ok. I mean, you have that, then you have a 3-word sentence, and then you have a medium-size sentence. [Which is good, he confirms] So with readability, let’s try to make this a little bit better.”

And here, Chris made a smart observation about how he would have done this differently. –>“Oh alright,” I said, “give me the damn Euphoria Pillows website link. And pour me another glass of Chianti.” –> He said, “Now here, I might handle this a little bit differently, I might transition and zoom out from the story. ‘You know, she was absolutely right. So I went to the website and actually I got a link for it right here.’ Blah, blah, blah, ‘you can buy it through my link. And it’s changed my life and here are the benefits,’ you know really quick, and then, ‘I think you should buy one too, and it’s honestly changed my life and I started sleeping better, my performance at work started improving,’ and blah, blah, blah. That’s how I would have probably taken it. Instead of putting the link in the dialogue, just segue directly into it.”

Finally, he pointed out the “the whole CTA (call to action) could be tightened up just a tad bit.”

And now, what worked about the email:

Chris said he liked the storytelling, and the one-to-one conversation. He said it was very natural and flow-y, “very email.”

He mentioned that a lot of people tried to shove a sales letter into an email in this challenge, and he told people not to do that; my email was a story-based email, “which was exactly what we were looking for.”

He said this was a great opener:

One Saturday night a few weeks ago, Ronda, my BFF of 30+ years, committed one of the kindest acts a trusted friend can ever do.

Chris –>  “It’s a great opening line, because it hooks you to the next one. And both lines pull you into the email copy. And that’s what you want to do at the beginning of an email.”

Here Chris said, “Yeah that’s a real fear, the fear of underperforming. There’s all these problems in people’s lives, how they manifest, how they appear, how they are dimensionalized in people’s lives, those are a good kind of demonstration.” –> After the presentation that Friday my boss called me into her office. Told me she didn’t think I brought my “A” game. Said if we don’t land this big account . . . then she kind of trailed off and didn’t say much else.

“Here you’re piling on the fear, but it’s ‘good fear,’ not like, ‘you’re gonna DIE!!!’ A lot of other people took that angle. But this is like a real fear.” –>  “Crap, I can’t get fired, I just bought a house,” I said.

“I like this because it’s telling your customer, ‘buy my thing!’” –>  “Kimberly, you’ve been complaining about this since early April. It’s now May. I told you 6 weeks ago about the Euphoria pillows I bought that totally eliminated my shoulder and neck pain.”

Here Chris pointed out, this is “an awesome way of handling an objection. This is a nice job.” –> With a sigh and what I swear was a little bit of an eye roll, she said, “Kimberly, I say this with love as your best friend: you can be kind of a miser sometimes. I know you spent well over $80 on this bottle of wine and the ingredients for the dinner you made us tonight. Why wouldn’t you spend $80 bucks on something that’s actually, you know, going to improve the quality of your life in an honest-to-god real way?”

He said this worked. –> And don’t be me – don’t wait until a poor night’s sleep practically derails your career.

And he liked this. –> Kimberly, reformed miser

And finally, re the P.S., he said, “Good, there’s some resolution to the story.”

P.S. My hesitation about investing in Euphoria Pillows is now a small speck in the rearview mirror. It’s been overshadowed by 6 weeks of kick-ass quality sleep that’s seen my agency land that high-profile client (and I was even made the account lead after redeeming myself with a second presentation to the client last week, woohoo!). I was even made the account lead after redeeming myself with a second presentation to the client last week, woohoo! –> Chris:This is kind of aspirational, an implied benefit. People will read that and go, ‘I want that too.” They start to place themselves in your story and they’ll be like, ‘maybe if I . . .’ and they start to connect the dots. ‘Maybe if I get better sleep, I might perform better at work, and good things can happen for me too.’”

In the end, according to Chris –>“Overall, nice job. I thought this was strong, and demonstrative, and very email native I guess is maybe the right way to describe it. So, awesome job, Kimberly Houston.”

Key Takeaways

#1: Do things that scare you. I came very close to not entering this contest, for all the reasons mentioned at the top of the post. And if I hadn’t? I wouldn’t have honed my story-based sales email writing skills, I wouldn’t have gotten one-on-one feedback from two uber-successful & skilled copywriting experts (<– priceless), and I wouldn’t have a valuable piece of content to post to the blog.

#2: Get in a supportive community of your peers. To quote the Copy Chief guiding motto, “Nobody writes alone.” There’s nothing like knowing a wise and experienced group of industry peers has your back anytime you need help with challenges or problems in your business, or simply when you want to share a win. The Copy Chief community is about so much more than copy feedback. Copywriters, marketers and business people of all experience levels are there everyday providing feedback, answering questions, seeking answers to their own questions, and as an added bonus – having a damn good time doing it. It’s no exaggeration to say it feels like a family.

#3: If you want to write persuasive copy that sells, you must do the pre-work before ever putting fingers to keyboard. See above, “Prep I Did Before Writing.” This is imperative if you hope to connect with your ideal customers and convert them into buyers.

#4: When it comes to selling via email, stories tend to work better than strictly transactional emails. (NOT in every case, but in many.) You can probably see why. Would you rather read an interesting story that actually demonstrates how a product can improve your life in real-world ways, or an email that whose sole purpose is to sell, at all costs, and screams something like, “Our biggest pillow sale of the year!! 75% off through midnight tonight! Click here to buy now!”

 

Next time you’re writing an email to sell your products or services, consider using a story-based approach. It can be a lot more fun for you – and importantly, your audience – than writing a standard sales email. And it may get much better results, too.

 

What a USP Is, Why You Need One ASAP, and How to Create One for Your Service-Based Business So You Can Get More Business, Bookings & Sales [Part 3 of 3]

Photo by Rupert Britton on Unsplash

[This is the final installment of a 3-part series on creating a memorable USP. You can find Part One here, and Part Two here.]

If you’ve already read Parts 1 & 2 (linked above) of this 3-part series, welcome back! If you’re arriving at this post fresh from somewhere out there on the interwebs and you haven’t read the first two installments, I recommend you read those first. 😊

To recap, in Part One of this post on creating a compelling USP for your business, we defined the terms USP (unique selling proposition) and “meaningful difference,” covered how a memorable USP informs your signature marketing message, and importantly, why your signature marketing message is so critically important to the health of your business, and I shared a short excerpt from my guide Marketing Messages That Convert: A Step-by-Step Copy Messaging Guide for Solopreneurs, Freelancers, Creative Business Builders & Other Non-Marketing Types, to help you make sense of it all.

In Part Two, we talked about five ways a stand-out USP will help you get more business, bookings & sales.

In this final installment, I’ll share a few examples of successful unique selling propositions and talk some about why they work, which I hope will give you solid inspiration for creating a great one for your own business.

Let’s get started.

As I mentioned in Part One, it’s unlikely that your product or service is unique in and of itself, so figuring out what makes you different – whether this is your process, your personality, your backstory, your specialization, your target audience, or all of the above (and it’s usually some combination of all of the above) – and conveying that in your marketing will give you a competitive edge.

I call this the “combo platter” test.

Another framework to consider is the “what your business stands for” test.

As Joe Putnam from Conversion Engine, writing in a guest post on Neil Patel’s blog, says:

A unique selling proposition is what your business stands for. It’s what sets your business apart from others because of what your business makes a stand about. Instead of attempting to be known for everything, businesses with a unique selling proposition stand for something specific, and it becomes what you’re known for.

He shares three excellent examples of this USP framework in action: Starbucks, Zappos, and project management software, Basecamp. Check out Joe’s article on unique selling propositions here for more on that.

Examples of Effective USPs 

If you’re anything like me, it helps to see Real! Live! Examples! to make the theory talk gel and show you the way forward.

I love me some examples, so here’s a big ol’ section full of ‘em.

 [*Caveat: When you look at the first set of examples below from our friend Jim Muehlhausen, you might think, “Oh noes! I have to fit my USP into a short, pithy tagline!” No, you do not. Great if you can do it, but my definition of USP is broader than that. See “combo platter,” above.]

In Compare a Unique Selling Proposition to a Unique Value Proposition, Jim Muehlhausen says:

The goal of any great business model is to have a high-profit product that customers want to buy. A highly marketable product is traditionally described as having a unique selling proposition. Whole Foods offers only healthy choices in its stores. Domino’s Pizza grew rapidly because of its super-fast delivery. UGG boots are not only fashionable but also allow you to walk comfortably without socks. These are all unique selling propositions.

Muehlhausen shares a list of other good examples of products with a clear USP and tagline:

  • BMW:The Ultimate Driving Machine
  • Dawn Dishwashing Liquid:Gets grease out of your way
  • Domino’s Pizza:You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less — or it’s free
  • FedEx:When it absolutely, positively has to get there overnight
  • MetLife:Get Met. It Pays.
  • M&M’s:Melts in your mouth, not in your hand
  • Target:Expect more. Pay less.
  • Walmart:Everyday low prices

Want more?

A fantastic resource I love is Corbett Barr’s 10 Examples of Killer Unique Selling Propositions on the Web. I often refer people to this article when they’re struggling to come up with a USP for their business.

Saddleback Leather is one example of a killer USP Barr shares in the article above, saying:

“There is no other leather bag company on the planet like Saddleback Leather This company oozes personality. The website is full of tales of Mexican bullfighting, travel in third-world countries, simple pleasures and touching stories about the owner’s beloved Labrador named Blue.”

About TOMS Shoes, he says:

“TOMS Shoes are quirky, comfy, light and inexpensive. That alone maybe isn’t enough to make a company stand out in the shoe business. The most unique and compelling part of the TOMS Shoes story is that they give a new pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair you purchase.”

Check out the article over on Fizzle.co for these and a handful of other great examples.

Here are a handful of my own favorite USP examples, curated from around the web over the last few years and saved into my personal swipe file:

Hiut Denim 

I can’t even begin to explain how much I adore this company. I would marry this company if I could.

What they stand for?

“Do one thing well. We make jeans. That’s it. No distractions.” 

Their backstory is also very compelling, with a powerful emotional hook. But it’s not contrived. It’s not some made-up marketing B.S. It’s the real effing deal.

Hiut Denim saved a town and its livelihood.

Whether or not you find that meaningful, it’s certainly a story you won’t forget. “Oh, that’s the company that saved the town of Cardigan and got them making jeans again.” 

I mean, sure, Meghan Markle wears their jeans, but in my mind, that’s just a natural result of their extraordinary product and business ethos.

They also have the best weekly newsletter of any retail goods company I’ve come across, called Scrapbook Chronicles. It’s full of compelling stories, creative inspiration, out-of-the-box thinking, and interesting ideas. It’s my favorite thing to read on a Saturday morning.

The Unmistakable Creative 

The Unmistakable Creative is a podcast, blog, and so much more. Podcast host, writer, and multi-published author Srini Rao says about The Unmistakable Creative:

I help creative individuals and organizations bring their ideas to life using research-backed principles from neuroscience and behavioral psychology.

Now, you can argue that’s a value proposition, and you’d be right, but The Unmistakable Creative is a distinctive brand with a stand-out USP.

Srini says about his podcast:

I’ve interviewed bank robbers, drug dealers, billionaires, performance psychologists, New York’s highest paid dominatrix, performance artists, entrepreneurs like Tim Ferriss and David Heinemeier Hansson, and many more, trying to understand what makes some people’s lives so uniquely them – so unmistakable.

The podcast is a treasure trove of fascinating people doing unexpected things, many of them taking decidedly non-traditional paths to finding success, joy & fulfillment in their professional and personal lives.

Definitely not your “usual” business or marketing podcast (though there are many guests who are geniuses at both of those things), which is one of the reasons I find it so compelling.

Anthropologie 

If you want to read an in-depth, case study-like overview of how Anthropologie has developed passionate brand loyalty among its ideal audience, check out the article Sophisticated Sell on Fast Company. 

I read this article years ago, saved it to my “examples of great USPs and messaging” file, and still refer to it often.

The article overview sums up Anthropologie’s unique appeal nicely:

“Why are so many women so passionate about shopping at Anthropologie? Because Glen Senk and his colleagues aren’t just selling clothes and furnishings. They’re selling a sense of adventure and originality — and the promise of self-discovery.”

If you’re a student of effective copywriting and marketing, you’ll know that what we “sell” has less to do with the actual product or service on offer – whether that’s photography, design, art, business consulting, marketing services, or anything else – and more to do with how our products and services make the buyer feel, how our goods enhance or reinforce a perception people have, or want to have, about themselves.

What Anthropologie “sells” is the aforementioned “sense of adventure and originality — and the promise of self-discovery.” (Think about the oft-used example of a mattress: it’s not the mattress itself that’s being sold, it’s a good night’s sleep.)

Their retail stores create a distinct experience. As Anthropologie’s president explained in the Fast Company article, “One of our core philosophies is that we spend the money that other companies spend on marketing to create a store experience that exceeds people’s expectations. We don’t spend money on messages — we invest in execution.”

One of the things Anthropologie does especially well is spend the time and effort to know their core customer deeply, then reflect that in all they do, through every touchpoint of the buyer experience.

“Most stores cater to a broad base of customers or specialize in a product category. We specialize in one customer. And we offer her everything from clothing to bed linens to furniture to soap,” says Anthropologie’s president.

Now that is a distinct USP.

(If you’re on my email list or read my blog, you’ll know that I am absolutely obsessed with beginning the process of determining your USP & signature marketing message by getting to know your ideal client or customer and their needs and desires really, really well. It all starts there. That’s why I love this Anthropologie example so much. I highly recommend you read the entire Fast Company article linked above; it demonstrates how they have done this successfully.)

The Parker Palm Springs 

Hotels. There are a million of them. So how to stand out and be remembered in order to attract your ideal guests?

The Parker Palm Springs does it in a thoroughly captivating way: through the use of a “short memoir” on their website Home page.

The “memoir” shares a day in the life of an ideal hotel stay, from waking and enjoying a decadent breakfast, to exploring the lovely hotel grounds, to spending time at the sparkling pool and enjoying an afternoon cocktail, all the way through drinks & dining in the p.m., and on through to nightcaps the end the evening, and a perfectly delightful day.

The feeling of being transported and pampered the hotel delivers is captured beautifully in their messaging, images and overall web experience. And those rooms! To die for.

What you come away with after visiting The Parker Palm Springs website is a very different experience to most hotel websites, many of which (even for the nicer hotels) feel much more transactional and utilitarian in their approach.

As I like to say, you have to “paint a picture” for your ideal clients and customers, and The Parker Palm Springs does it brilliantly.

 

I hope this three-part series has helped you better understand what a memorable USP is, the importance of creating one for your business, and how to get started devising your own.

My next step suggestion is to begin paying close attention to the brands you’re drawn to, and note why that is – I bet it has something to do with that company’s USP and brand messaging. (For example, I’ve been driving a Jeep Cherokee for years. When I first bought it, I was still living out West after being a life-long East Coaster, and doing a lot of hiking in the mountains on the regular. The Jeep USP and brand messaging aligned with the person I saw myself as at that time – an active, outdoorsy person who doesn’t follow the beaten path in life and likes to do things a little differently.)

Discovering and conveying your USP is essential to business success, especially online where every potential client or customer that could be yours has a world of choices at their fingertips 24/7.

I have more examples of memorable USPs from my swipe file I may share next week, or some other time soon.

In the mean time, good luck with creating your compelling USP and signature marketing message (s)!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a USP Is, Why You Need One ASAP, and How to Create One for Your Service-Based Business So You Can Get More Business, Bookings & Sales [Part 2 of 3]

Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

[This is Part Two of a 3-part series on creating a memorable USP. You can find Part One here. Part Three is here.]

In Part One of this mega-post on creating a compelling USP for your business, we defined the terms USP (unique selling proposition) and “meaningful difference,” covered how a memorable USP informs your signature marketing message, and importantly, why your signature marketing message is so undeniably important to the health of your business, and I shared a short excerpt from my guide Marketing Messages That Convert: A Step-by-Step Copy Messaging Guide for Solopreneurs, Freelancers, Creative Business Builders & Other Non-Marketing Types, to help you make sense of it all.

In today’s post, we’ll talk about five ways a stand-out USP will help you get more business, bookings & sales. Then in the final installment of this series next week [Part Three], I’ll share a few examples of successful unique selling propositions and break down why they work so well, which will help you create a great one for your own business.

Ok, so let’s recap a bit:

In Part One, I mentioned that creating your signature marketing message can be approached through use of a “formula” of sorts, which looks something like this:

ICA (Ideal Client Avatar) + USP (unique selling proposition) + your expertise + your life experience & unique backstory + your worldview, applied to your ideal client or customers’ challenges & how you will solve them = your overarching marketing message

You’ll weave this in on your website, blog posts, newsletters, social media updates, and all your marketing communications, wherever you’re in conversation with your audience.

Your signature marketing message is what compels your ideal clients and customers to choose you over all the other choices they have, it tells them why you’re exactly the right person or business to solve their problems and challenges, and it begins to tell them how you’ll do so.

Your messaging should strike an emotional cord with your ideal/desired audience, and make them feel like, “Yes, this is exactly who I want to work with. Where do I sign up?”

Here’s another way to think of it:

The hook/big idea/marketing message of your business answers the question, “Of all the other [thing you do] out there who are equally talented, skilled, and experienced, why should your ideal clients choose you?”

A marketing message that converts will entice your desired clients and customers to take some kind of conversion action, such as subscribing to your email list, signing up for a free consult, inquiring about working with you, making a purchase, or similar.

 

So, let’s say after reading Part One of this post you’re clear on what a USP / meaningful difference is, and you understand how it informs the creation of your signature marketing message. You also get that it’s imperative to begin incorporating your USP and signature marketing message into all your copy online and elsewhere in your marketing communications, so you can stand out from pack and attract and convert your ideal clients & customers.

Once you’ve got that in motion, you’ll start enjoying the following benefits.

5 ways a compelling USP will help you get more business, bookings & sales

A compelling USP attracts and appeals to your ICA

#1: Your signature marketing message is created based on a USP that is meaningfully different in a way your ICA finds appealing, so when expressed in your marketing communications, ideal clients will naturally be drawn to you, and want more of what you have to offer. [I get this may sound like theory, but in next week’s post when we look at examples of great USPs, all will become clear.😊 ]

A compelling USP creates trust with your ICA, and trust = more sales

#2: When you communicate what makes you different from others who provide a similar product or service in a way that resonates with your ICA, they’ll feel seen, heard, and understood. This creates trust. And creating trust is critical to making sales.

A compelling USP helps you create marketing copy faster (and related … helps you make sales even if your copywriting & marketing skills aren’t stellar)

#3: Knowing your ICA well and understanding what your USP/meaningful difference is, means you don’t have to be the world’s most skilled copywriter or marketer to start getting great results from your web and other marketing copy, as long as you’re expressing an enticing USP clearly.

And that means …

You can sit down and bang out copy faster. Get it up on your website or landing page faster. Send out those sales emails faster. And obvs, start making sales faster as a result.

What a bonus!

I still fret over every sentence and word when I’m writing copy for my own business, but because I know my USP and how it’s meaningfully different for my ICA, I can incorporate those elements into my messaging and get the copy out the door so I can make sales now, rather than some undetermined time in the future when the copy is “perfect.” Which it never will be.

True story: my website in its current iteration sorely, sorely needs to be redesigned and upgraded, and I do just fine. In fact, there are many things in my business that need to be improved and upgraded, and there are loads of things I’m not good at, but despite that, I do just fine.

That’s because my marketing message, of which the USP is a large part, resonates with the right people, and enough of those right people reach out to work with me so I can earn a good living.

A compelling USP allows you to create the right marketing message for the right audience

#4: Knowing your USP will allow you to create blog posts, videos, newsletters, email onboarding and nurture sequences, social media status updates, web copy and all other conceivable kinds of content to show off your expertise to your right people with much more ease, instead of spending countless hours in front of your computer pulling your hair out wondering what to write. When the right messaging gets put in front of the right audience at the right time, some of those people are naturally going to buy.

A compelling USP will help you save time, and time = money

#5: When you don’t have to work yourself to a frazzle creating content that establishes your authority and attracts good clients, you’ll free up more time to do other key activities in your business. And as we all know, time is money. Actually, time is a finite resource, and therefore more valuable than money. One way to spend your valuable time well & earn more is to write effective marketing copy faster, which you are equipped to do once you know your ICA + USP.

And as a result of #1 – #5 above?

You’ll convert more sales, because your targeted content & marketing copy demonstrates your USP / meaningful difference in a way your ICA finds engaging, in a way they are drawn to, and in a way that is deeply beneficial to them (which makes it nearly impossible to ignore).

The bottom line is, being one of a kind in your marketplace makes it so much easier for your right people to find and choose you. And you do this in part through a kick-ass USP.

And … that’s it for Part Two.

In the final installment of this 3-part series next week, I’ll share Real! Live! Examples! of USPs that have helped businesses of all kinds develop enormous brand loyalty with their target audience & stand out in their (very often) saturated niche.

My hope is that you’ll look to those examples for inspiration in creating your own memorable USP and the signature marketing message that naturally goes along with it.

In the meantime, if you want to learn more about the process I recommend for finding your USP and compelling marketing message/s, I invite you to check out the Marketing Messages That Convert guide here.

What a USP Is, Why You Need One ASAP, and How to Create One for Your Service-Based Business So You Can Get More Business, Bookings & Sales [Part 1 of 3]

Photo by Ine Carriquiry on Unsplash

[This is the first installment of a 3-part series on creating a memorable USP. You can find Part Two here, and Part Three here.]

“Your USP can mean the difference between success and failure.” Corbett Barr, Fizzle.co, from The Ultimate Guide to Finding Your Unique Selling Proposition

Oh, how true that is.

I know it well, because I stupidly didn’t create a USP (and the signature messaging to go with it) for my service-based business when I first got started online, the result of which was months of wasted time, weeping into my wine on a regular basis, and working myself to a frazzle with nothing to show for it.

I came very, very close to giving up on my business entirely, a story I’ve told before.

If you want to avoid my dumb mistakes, then I urge you to take Corbett Barr’s assertion that “deciding on a USP is possibly the most important decision you can make about your business,” seriously. 

Before we get into the finer points of USPs and how creating a compelling one will help you sell more, let’s talk definitions.

I started my copywriting and marketing career way back in the dark ages, round about 2001.

Since then, I’ve seen/read/heard enough definitions for various marketing terms – USP (unique selling proposition), UVP (unique value proposition), positioning statement, Point of Difference (POD), differentiation, core marketing message, and many, many others – to make my head spin.

Many of these terms are used interchangeably.

Heck, despite my years in the marketing trenches, even I started to feel overwhelmed trying to make sense of it all while researching this article. (And I’ve got the 40-page research document to prove it.)

All of which is to say, there are marketing nerds out there who may disagree about what, exactly, a USP is, but I care not one whit about that.

The important thing to know is that you need to do something to distinguish yourself/your business online, and your USP is how you do that. Because without a compelling USP, you’ll struggle to get any kind of traction at all (been there, done that).

For our purposes here, I define a USP (unique selling proposition) as:

The collection of factors unique to you and your business that compel your ideal clients to choose you over someone else who offers a similar product or service. This will be based, in part, on the kind of clients and customers you serve, and their needs / desires related to the thing you sell.

Now, if you want an “official” definition of what a USP is, here’s one  from businessdictionary.com:

Real or perceived benefit of a good or service that differentiates it from the competing brands —and gives its buyer a logical reason to prefer it over other brands. USP is often a critical component of a promotional theme around which an advertising campaign is built.

Corbett Barr defines a USP like so:

Your unique selling proposition is what makes your business stand out. It’s what makes you different and earns you a special place in the minds of your potential customers.

I like to think of your overall USP as your reason for being. Think about it from your customer’s point of view. With tens or hundreds of potential options out there, you have to answer the question, “why should I buy from you?” ~Corbett Barr

It’s unlikely that your product or service is unique in and of itself, so figuring out what makes you different – whether this is your process, your personality, your backstory, your specialization, your target audience, or all of the above (and it’s usually some combination of all of the above) – and conveying that in your online marketing will give you a competitive edge.

Like brilliant marketer Derek Halpern, says, “It’s not about finding unique ingredients, it’s about finding a unique recipe.”  

Take me, for example. I’m a conversion-focused marketing copywriter specializing in website and email copy, which is not unique in and of itself, but the combination of the clients I serve + my experience, expertise, offerings, personality & style, approach and backstory is.

Meaningful Difference vs USP

As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, newsletters, and elsewhere, I prefer the term “meaningful difference,” rather than USP. This is because often people hear “unique selling proposition,” and get wigged out about the “selling” part of unique selling proposition.

If that’s you, then think of your USP as your “meaningful difference.”

What is a meaningful difference, you ask?

Nigel Hollis, Executive Vice President and Chief Global Analyst, Insights Division, Kantar, defines it like so:

So what’s a meaningful difference? I think of it this way. We humans find it impossible to judge anything in isolation. We tend to compare things to very close alternatives. So a difference, a factor that distinguishes one item from another, gets our attention. And while a difference may be apparent to most people, it won’t seem important to everyone. A meaningful difference is one that is considered to be important—one that provides a brand with a meaning that is likely to have an influence on a person’s brand choice. [Bold highlighting mine]

According to Hollis:

In the absence of a meaningful difference, the cheapest brand may be regarded as the best choice. Lack of differentiation turns brands into commodities and marketing messages into white noise. But a meaningful difference can spark consumer interest and fuel demand for a brand, even when that brand carries a significant price premium. In today’s complex, confusing, and increasingly impersonal world, people cherish meaning wherever they find it, whether it’s in a brand, a memory, or a lump of rock. So to build value, give people a reason to cherish your brand. [Bold highlighting mine]

Think about that – “a meaningful difference can spark consumer interest and fuel demand for a brand, even when that brand carries a significant price premium.” [Italics mine]

Look no further than well-known brands Apple, Harley Davidson, and designer Tory Burch, to see this principle in action.

You could buy a computer, or a motorcycle, or clothes much more cheaply from plenty of other companies, but the cache attached to these three brands because of their position and differentiation in the marketplace makes their ideal customers insanely eager to pay premium prices for them.  Heck, they even line up around city blocks for hours, just for the privilege of paying premium prices, in the case of Apple.  

That’s the power of effective differentiation, AKA, meaningful difference.

[Hollis’ notion of meaningful difference is much more nuanced and in-depth than I have room to talk about here. I suggest you read his article, Not Just Different but Meaningfully Different.”]

How Your USP Informs Your Signature Marketing Message 

Ok, now we’re clear on what a unique selling proposition (USP) or meaningful difference (MD) is.

This is fantastic information to have, because a USP / MD is a key part of your signature marketing message.

And your signature marketing message is what attracts and converts your ideal clients and customers.

What is your marketing message, exactly? Is it your tagline? Your mission statement? Your company’s vision statement? The details of the product or service you provide? A combination of all the above?

The following excerpt comes from my guide, Marketing Messages That Convert: A Step-by-Step Copy Messaging Guide for Solopreneurs, Freelancers, Creative Business Builders & Other Non-Marketing Types

The way I define a marketing message is this: it’s the combination of things about you and your business — that you already possess! — that put together the right way, will help you attract and connect with your ideal clients & customers (your “ICA,” or ideal client avatar), stand out from the online crowd (instead of being a copycat version of every other person for hire out there doing what you do), and, once you’re getting consistent quality traffic to your website, help you get more business, bookings and sales.

It’s created from your ideal client profile, your unique selling proposition (USP), or what I prefer to think of as your “meaningful difference,” your expertise, and your unique backstory, among other things.

So, if it were a formula, it would look something like this:

ICA + USP + your expertise + your life experience & unique backstory + your worldview applied to your ideal client or customers’ challenges & how you will solve them = your overarching marketing message

You’ll weave this in on your website, blog posts, newsletters, social media updates, and all your marketing communications, wherever you’re in conversation with your audience.

Your signature marketing message is what compels your ideal clients and customers to choose you over all the other choices they have, it tells them why you’re exactly the right person or business to solve their problems and challenges, and it begins to tell them how you’ll do so.

Your messaging should strike an emotional cord with your ideal/desired audience, and make them feel like, “Yes, this is exactly who I want to work with. Where do I sign up?”

Here’s another way to think of it:

The hook/big idea/marketing message of your business answers the question, “Of all the other [thing you do] out there who are equally talented, skilled, and experienced, why should your ideal clients choose you?”

A marketing message that converts will entice your desired clients and customers to take some kind of conversion action, such as subscribing to your email list, signing up for a free consult, inquiring about working with you, making a purchase, or similar.

If you want to learn more about the process I recommend for finding your marketing message/s, I invite you to check out the Marketing Messages That Convert guide here.

Ok, that’s it for Part One, folks.

Coming up next week, in Part Two, I’ll be talking about 5 ways a compelling USP will help you get more business, bookings & sales, then in the final installment the following week [Part Three], I’ll share Real! Live! Examples! of USPs that have helped businesses of all kinds develop enormous brand loyalty with their target audience & stand out in their (very often) saturated niche. My hope is that you’ll look to those examples for inspiration in creating your own memorable USP and the signature marketing message that naturally goes along with it.

 

Grow your email list with better opt-in copy using these two powerful tips

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Ah, the power of language.

If you’ve spent any amount of time online, no doubt you’ve come across many an email opt-in form.

Some use language that practically compels you to put down your pricey Starbucks beverage right.this.second, and sign up N-O-W.

Others generate a big ol’ “meh,” and send you scurrying to close your browser tab quicker than green grass through a goose.

You want your own email opt-in copy to be in the first camp, obvs.

What I’ve found far too often, however, is that my beloved audience of otherwise brilliant creatives with drool-worthy goods and services to offer are not converting their website visitors to email subscribers …

… because they’re not optimizing their opt-in form with language that:

#1: Conveys the benefit to signing up for their email list.  

AND / OR …

#2: Lets their personality shine through

Which is unfortunate, because we know that a responsive email list is critical to being able to market effectively and the key to building a thriving business online. 

The good news is, the fix for this is as simple as writing persuasive copy on the email opt-in form that addresses #1 and #2, above.

Here’s the kind of boring, lackluster opt-in form copy that does not get sign-ups:

o “Sign up for updates and special offers”

o “Join my newsletter”

o “Newsletter signup”

o “Join our mailing list”

You know you’ve seen ‘em. Heck, you might even be using that exact kind of generic copy on your email opt-in form right now.

Unfortunately, that kind of copy is a conversion killer (converting web visitors to email subscribers, in this case) because it’s generic and offers no benefit to signing up.  

Plus, it’s entirely lacking in personality.  And let’s be honest – the opt-in form copy above is just plain l-a-z-y marketing.

What you want to do instead is speak to something your audience has challenges with and convey how signing up for your email list will help them solve that problem, i.e., demonstrate value and relevancy to your target audience.

For example, one thing creative service providers often struggle with is getting the right kind of clients – clients who understand the inherent value in hiring a creative pro, and are happy to pay a premium price for that that pro’s services.  

The copy on my own opt-in form addresses that, and offers a solution: 

Enter your email to get instant access to the FREE Creative Rebel Guide to Writing an Ideal Client-Attracting About Page (so you never have to accept work from someone simply because they have a checkbook and a pulse, ever again.)

By the way, the biggest objection/hesitation people have to sales offers – “do I really need this?” – is the same thing they’re thinking when deciding whether or not to sign up for your email list, so you have to give them a clear, compelling, benefit-driven reason to do so.  

You need to be able to answer the question for your audience of “what’s in it for me?”

2 Simple Opt-In Copy Rules* 

(*I dislike “rules” intensely, so let’s just call these opt-in copy “suggestions”)

  1. Demonstrate value and relevance:  be clear about what’s in it for your audience if they opt-in to your list, based on their particular needs and goals – what do they get and how will they benefit from it?
  2.  Show some personality, fer cryin’ out loud 😊

Examples:

#1:  Opt-in copy I wrote for an Interior Designer:

Enter your email below to grab my free guide, “From Chaos to Calm: 7 Simple Steps for Transforming Your Busy Young Family’s Home into an Oasis of Practical Luxury.” (Plus weekly design tips and inspiration I only share with email subscribers.)

#2:  Opt-in copy at Archie McPhee website (I highly recommend reading as much copy on this site as you can – it’s hilarious and brilliant.):

Sign up for the Cult of McPhee Email Newsletter and you’ll receive free monthly emails (normally a $700 value!) announcing our upcoming events, contests and specials. You’ll also get advance notice of our coolest new products and qualify for special members-only deals!

#3: Simple, short and to the point opt-in form copy from Tara Gentile:

Want to know what your customers are thinking? There’s a map for that. Get it!

#4: Funny, irreverent, and totally on brand opt-in copy from Laura Belgray:

Get the only emails anyone likes anymore*

Emails that make you a better writer — become a Shrimper and drink ’em up!

*According to an unscientific but totes accurate study

#5: One-of-a-kind, only-she-could-do-it opt-in copy from Ashley Ambirge:

25 DAYS TO $100K

Freelance Money Mentorship

For new and aspiring freelancers who do not like the action of pinching pennies nor kissing asses.

First Name:

Email:

Reveal First Secret: The $8,000 Rule

You’ll get one lesson from me, Ash, in your inbox every day for twenty-five days. Together, we’ll take your skills and learn how to sell them to other people for a premium rate, doing the work you love, wherever you are in the world.

#6: Opt-in copy from the funny & brilliant business mentor, Matthew Kimberley:

PSST:

Did you know that all of my best writing goes out by email?

Enter your email now and get your own copy of the infamously useful “5 Things You Need To Do Every Morning To Make More Sales In 60 Days”

 

And there you have it.

Can you see how the opt-in form copy in the examples above offers a clear benefit to signing up specifically geared to a select target audience and what they’re struggling with + how they use non-boring, non-generic, personality-centric language?

If you model that, you’ll be in good shape. 

Here’s another blog post I wrote about getting more email subscribers using the [totally free, how awesome is that?!] power of language, by the way:

Want More Email Subscribers? Implement These Two Ridiculously Simple Tips

But hey, don’t just listen to me. 😊

Here are a few other fantastic resources to help you out:

Use this Hollywood Secret to Write Addicting Opt-In Copy (from the esteemed Neil Patel)

Opt-in Copy that Doesn’t Suck: The Criminally Underrated Way to Grow Your Email List (especially useful if you like to nerd out on numbers and statistics)

The Best Opt-in Email Example (Plus 6 Extra!) and the Perfect Places to Use Them (you’ll find some great examples of opt-in form copy here)

 

Let me know how you do!

Want More Email Subscribers? Implement These Two Ridiculously Simple Tips

Photo by Jungwoo Hong on Unsplash

I’ve been doing loads of web copy & messaging strategy sessions this week, and here’s something I’ve noticed:

Pretty much everyone I talked to KNOWS that building a healthy, robust email list is non-negotiable if you want to build your business and get clients and customers online (without having to do the constant client-getting hustle).

Yet, most of the fine folks I had calls with had their email opt-in forms buried in a hard to find spot on their website, and/or the copy asking people to sign up for the list was the standard, “Sign up for updates here,” or “Join My Newsletter,” or similar.

And in most cases, there was also no dedicated landing page for the email opt-in opportunity.

That situation will not convert very many web visitors to email subscribers, if it converts any at all.

This wasn’t news to most of those I spoke to – they get it.

But keep in mind, every day your website isn’t optimized for email opt-ins is a day you’re not building your audience; therefore, you’re “leaving money on the table,” to use a terribly cliché phrase. (Cliché, yes, but TRUE? Also, yes.)

During every consult where the above was the case, I shared the following advice.

Two tips anyone can implement simply and quickly to increase email opt-ins

Tip #1: Create persuasive opt-in copy

What you want to do is create opt-in copy that gives people a compelling reason to sign up for your list. Make it about the benefits of signing up, and tell them how often they can expect to hear from you, if you can fit that info in.

So, not this:

Or this:

 

No, no, no no no. That will not do. No one wants to enter their email address into a mystery form like the ones above with no information about … anything.

Instead, give your opt-in copy some personality, and share those benefits! For example, the copy on my Home page opt-in says:

“Enter your email below to get instant access to the FREE Creative Rebel Guide to Writing an Ideal Client-Attracting About Page (so you never have to accept work from someone simply because they have a checkbook and a pulse, ever again.)”

The pop-up opt-in on my website says:

“Get Actionable Copywriting Tips to Grow Your Creative Business: Weekly copywriting & web marketing advice for creatives, solopreneurs & other non-marketing types. Sense of humor and Southern twang included at no extra charge.”

And check out the copy on Ashley Ambirge’s opt-in form for her “25 Days to $100K Freelancer Challenge”

Notice how much more enticing the idea of handing over your email address in exchange for valuable, interesting content becomes when the copy conveys benefits AND personality.

Tip #2: Create a dedicated landing page for email opt-ins

Create a dedicated landing page for your email list, and have access to that page it in the main navigation menu at the top of your website.

This link is what you’ll use in your social media bios. Because, again, you want to build the email list, and this will help you do it.

Here’s the power of a dedicated landing page for your opt-in:

The small opt-in form on my website Home page converts about 1.9% of website visitors. My email opt-in landing page converts around 48% of website traffic.

HUGE difference.

If all you have on your site is a tiny email opt-in form, especially if it’s hard to find AND the copy on it is not that compelling, you’re missing out on potential subscribers every single day.

And if you’re doing things to drive traffic to your site so you can GET more subscribers, that effort will be wasted.

So, what should you write on your email opt-in landing page?

You can go into a little more detail about the kind of information people can expect to receive once they sign up, and how often they’ll hear from you. You can share more about the benefits of signing up.

For example, on my email opt-in landing page, I say:

Enter your email below to get instant access to the CREATIVE REBEL GUIDE TO WRITING A CLIENT-ATTRACTING ABOUT PAGE …

You’ll also receive free weekly updates: tips and advice on how to use personality-driven web copy and bespoke web marketing strategy in your creative business to:

  • Instantly captivate clients who are perfect for what you have to offer . . . and subtly shoo away those who aren’t
  • Get client inquiries rolling in consistently so you can get off the feast-or-famine roller coaster for good
  • Book more projects & make more folding money

All while keeping your creative integrity intact.

Enter your email below and click “Give Me the Guide!”

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

To recap, if you want to get more email subscribers:

#1: Create opt-in copy that gives people a compelling & benefit-driven reason to sign up for your list

#2: Create a dedicated landing page for your email list

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

LIKE A LOT OF PEOPLE I SPOKE TO THIS WEEK, I TOO WAS AFRAID TO MARKET TO MY LIST IN THE BEGINNING

I’ll admit, I wasn’t always about sending offers to my list when I first got online. 

Sure, I started an email list from Day Freakin’ One, but even as an experienced marketer and copywriter, I was hesitant to send anything other than high value free content.

“What if people get upset?” I wondered. “What if people unsubscribe?” I whined, to no one in particular.

Now I realize none of that matters. If someone unsubs because you sent out an offer, they aren’t your people, and were never going to buy from you anyway.

Or maybe they unsub because you’re just not their jam. That’s cool. You don’t want those people on your list. Let them go.

OH, BUT THEN …

Let me tell you, there is nothing quite like sending an offer to your subscribers, and getting people raising their hand, eagerly saying, “Yes, I want that!,” in return.

A few years ago, when I sent my very first true sales email to my list, I was pretty nervous, because up to that point, I’d ever only sent “value bomb” / educational emails.

But I got over my fear and hit “send.” The email announced a small $500 offer, and 5 people replied yes within 24 hours.

And no one died!! AND I generated $2500 in revenue!

I’d always believed in the power of email marketing, even if I was too afraid to make an ask at first, but after that first experience, I was well and truly sold.

Sold, I tell you!

$2500 in 24 hours from sending one email?

I’ll take it.

And I’m small potatoes. My list is TINY. Embarrassingly tiny.

There are folks out there sending one or two emails and making 5 or 10 times that. They’re more well-known, have pricier offerings and bigger email lists, but I’m living proof there’s still much you can do with a small, dedicated list of email subscribers.

Of course, it goes without saying that you have something valuable people actually want and are willing to pay for.

But you can start building your email list now, before you have all your products and services worked out; that’s what I did.

 

I hope by now you’re sold on optimizing your website for email opt-ins.

It’s one of the very best things you can do for your business, especially if, like me, you’re an introvert, and love the idea of doing most of your marketing online.

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Want me to write your persuasive opt-in form + email sign-up landing page copy so you can start getting more subscribers sooner rather than later, and build your audience of raving fans?

Email me at: Kimberly [at] kimberlydhouston [dot] com with “Email opt-in copy” in the subject line, and I’ll get back to you ASAP with details of how we can work together.

If building your email list is important to you, then let’s connect!

Why Relevant Messaging for Your Target Audience is Non-negotiable [& how to create it]

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Recently I was on a strategy call with a client I’ve worked with on a handful of copywriting and marketing projects over the years.

Since we’ve known each other for a while, once the strategy session was over, we got to chatting informally about business, and life in general.

She asked me an interesting question.

“I’m curious,” she said. “I know what I need your help with, but what’s the main thing your other clients come to you for, if you don’t mind my asking?”

Even though I serve a varied group of creative service providers, freelancers, and solopreneurs, there’s not a long list of marketing-type things I help people with, or problems I help them solve.

My work with clients mostly boils down to a small handful of things. It’s largely writing email or website copy and/or working out their web & email marketing strategy.

And it always, always starts with getting clear on relevant messaging for their target audience, so their websites and email campaigns attract and convert more ideal clients.

Because without targeted, persuasive messaging, it won’t matter how much traffic you get to your website, how beautifully designed your site is, or how fantastic your work is.

Your ideal clients will not linger on your site, they will not sign up for your email list, and they will not inquire about working with you.

Full stop.

I’ve seen this over and over again, and I’ve been at this since the stone age, AKA 2001. (Which, by the way, I can’t even BUH-LIEVE I’ve been doing marketing communications that long. But I digress.)

This happens because not understanding your ideal clients’ hopes, fears, and dreams, together with your meaningful difference in the marketplace, results in messaging that’s generic, boring, bland and homogenous. 

And that means that as lovingly crafted and well-written as your marketing copy may be, it won’t convert enough web visitors into solid prospects and ideal clients to make all that hard work you’re putting in to “get the word out” worthwhile.

When clients come to me, they’re often experiencing the following challenge:

They’re getting some level of traffic to their website, but their site isn’t converting traffic into leads, and leads into clients.

In other cases, it’s doing a little bit of this, but not nearly enough.

This, despite having a beautifully & professionally designed website that showcases the work they do in a compelling way, or a perfectly serviceable DIY website that does the same.

Yet, people aren’t people reaching out to work with them often enough. Or at all, in some cases.

I have so much empathy for clients in this situation.

Because I was in this very same predicament when I was selling myself as a generic freelance writer way back in the day, a story I’ve told many times on this blog and in my newsletter.

What saved my butt and my business was getting clear on who I wanted to work with, what problems they had that I was uniquely qualified to solve, and how I could express this persuasively on my website and elsewhere through a clear and compelling marketing message.

That’s what changed everything for me.

I went from having a poorly performing website that wasn’t generating nearly enough qualified leads, and where email sign-ups were moving at a glacial pace, to getting high-quality clients from a tiny amount of website traffic and doubling my email sign-ups.

This was a result of clear, compelling messaging that appealed to my target audience.

Messaging that was not generic. It was also not based on what I thought people wanted, but instead on copious research + interviews I did with real, live, flesh-and-blood humans about their challenges and desires related to their creative businesses.

So, here’s my hot tip for you.

If you create a marketing message that appeals to your ideal clients and share that on your website and through your other marketing channels, it’s entirely possible to gain A LOT of traction – as in, leads, clients, and email sign-ups – without having to do loads of other things first.

Now, to be clear, those “other things” – a professional website, relevant services & packages that your ideal clients want to buy, qualified traffic coming to your site, consistent marketing, etc. – are all important, necessary, and need to be put into place.

BUT, the right messaging always comes first.

That way, when your marketing starts working and traffic starts coming to your site, your audience is met with messaging targeted directly to them and their needs/wants/desires, which in turn, makes them want to subscribe to your email list, inquire about working together, sign up for a free consult, or take some other step in your sales process.

To help you with that, the following is a brief excerpt from my recently released copy messaging guide, which you can purchase if you so desire, or you can get started by implementing the golden nugget below, without spending a dime! 😊

Your marketing message is the combination of things about you and your business — that you already possess! — that put together the right way, will help you attract and connect with your ideal clients & customers (your “ICA,” or ideal client avatar), stand out from the online crowd (instead of being a copycat version of every other person for hire out there doing what you do), and, once you’re getting consistent quality traffic to your website, help you get more business, bookings and sales.

It’s created from your ideal client profile, your unique selling proposition (USP), or what I prefer to call your “meaningful difference,” your expertise, and your unique backstory, among other things.

So, if it were a formula, it would look something like this:

ICA + USP + your expertise + your life experience & unique backstory + your worldview = your overarching marketing message

You’ll weave this in on your website, blog posts, newsletters, social media updates, and all your marketing communications, wherever you’re in conversation with your audience.

Your marketing message is what compels your ideal clients and customers to choose you over all the other choices they have, it tells them why you’re exactly the right person or business to solve their problems and challenges, and it begins to tell them how you’ll do so.

The right messaging should strike an emotional cord with your ideal/desired audience, and make them feel like, “Yes, this is exactly who I want to work with. Where do I sign up?”

Here’s another way to think of it:

The hook/big idea/marketing message of your business answers the question, “Of all the other [thing you do] out there who are equally talented, skilled, and experienced, why should your ideal clients choose you?”

And there you have it.

My hot tip for you is to spend some time creating your compelling marketing message and begin sharing it on your website and every other place you communicate with your audience.

Because again, even without all the other elements in place yet, this can work wonders for your business. I can’t promise that, of course, but it certainly worked wonders for mine.

Creating and sharing persuasive, targeted messaging that spoke to my ideal clients and conveyed my meaningful difference is what made all the difference between me giving up and crying into my Lucky Charms, and still being here, 7+ years into my freelance business journey, loving what I do and supporting myself with it.

If you want to go deeper on how to create a signature marketing message, you can grab my guide, Marketing Messages That Convert: A Step-by-Step Copy Messaging Guide for Solopreneurs, Freelancers, Creative Business Builders & Other Non-Marketing Types, for less than the cost of a Starbucks date.

And if not, use what I’ve shared in the excerpt above to get started on your own.

Either way, I wish you the best of luck!