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

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 is probably right up there at the top of the list, wouldn’t you?

The 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 makes 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 & PR services to my clients for over a decade. 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.

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By the way, if you’re ready to get one-on-one strategic guidance to help you to write a magnetic website that attracts, engages & sells to your dream clients {without becoming a pro copywriter}, I’ve got something that will help.

It’s not right for everyone, but if you’re interested in the details, you can check them out here:

The Shape Up Your Website Copy to Start Making More Sales 30-Day Fast Start: A Private Writing & Marketing Mentorship

 

If you’re ready to transform your website copy from lackluster to luminous, so it’s more compelling and client-attractive to your target audience and generates more client inquiries and sales this might  be a good fit for you. Click on the link above for details. 

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Afraid to Sell

By far, one of the most problematic things I see on websites I’m hired to review or write copy for is an unclear, confused marketing message. The web copy doesn’t resonate with the kind of clients the business owner is trying to attract, so when said client lands on the website, they spend 3-7 seconds looking around, don’t feel any connection to what they read, and leave.

And what compounds the problem in many of these cases is it’s nearly impossible for the web visitor to figure out how to actually make a purchase if they were so inclined.

Now, granted, sometimes the above scenario happens when you’re just starting out, and you don’t know what message your website needs to convey to appeal to your desired audience just yet, or when you’re still trying to figure out how all this marketing and copywriting stuff works to help you do business online successfully.

HOWEVER . . . .

Other times this website confusion (and the resulting poor sales performance) is a result of being afraid to sell, of being fearful of actually letting people know that, #1, you have something awesome for sale, woohoo!, and #2, hey, they can buy it right over here! (On the Work with Me, Products & Programs, or Services page of your website.)

And furthermore (well, don’t I just sound like my Mom when she was getting ready to read me the riot act?), many business owners, despite having an email list of potential clients and customers who might just love to buy something from them, have never actually shared with their subscribers that they have products or services available for purchase.

Bottom line, they’re afraid to sell.

You know, one of the questions I ask on the intake questionnaire I have all new clients fill out is “What are the last 5 things you’ve done to market your business or sell your products/services?” And I’ll tell you, an answer I rarely get is, “I made an offer to my email list/audience/blog readers/etc.”

If you’re not selling anything, let me ask you, are you offering anything? Are you sending an email to your list telling them you have something they can buy? If you’ve been at this online business thing for a while, and you haven’t made an offer to your list yet, my question for you is, why not?

Now, let me just say right here: I GET IT.  I was dreadfully uncomfortable coming right out and making an offer to my email list the first time I did it too, but I will tell you it gets much easier after you “break the seal” and do it the first time.

I actually wrote a blog post about this fear of marketing and selling called, They Want You to Be the One, So Stop Being Afraid to Market Yourself, which essentially says that, when someone lands on your website or signs up for your email list, they know you’re operating a business, so it’s not going to be a surprise to them when every now and then you let them know you have something they can buy.

They expect this.

And furthermore (geez, that word again), they were looking for the solution to a problem or the answer to a question when they landed on your website in the first place, and they’re hope, hope, hoping you will be the one who can help them solve the problem or answer the question.

So do not be afraid to sell.

Notice I didn’t say, don’t be uncomfortable about selling. I’ve been in the marketing/PR/copywriting/sales field my entire adult life and I still sometimes feel uncomfortable making a pitch for my services. That’s normal. I said don’t be afraid. Because at the end of the day, even if you do get rejected, you will survive. Rejection might feel crappy, but it won’t kill you.

And if anyone gives you any grief about selling, that just proves they don’t have the first clue about how real business works, and they’re not your ideal client or customer anyway. So not to worry.

So even though I’m not always comfortable selling either, I do it. And you know what I’ve noticed?

When I sent an email offering something for sale, people bought. I made sales. People participated in actual commerce, money and services changed hands, and we all lived to tell the tale.

And by the way, when you’re selling, you don’t have to behave like a carnival barker or be in your face, sleazy or aggressive about it.  You can do it subtly, the way I’m going to do it at the end of this blog post by letting you know I’ve revamped my service offerings and have a bunch of new services available.

You can do it in the P.S. of your email newsletter.

You can make a subtle mention of your promotion in your latest blog post.

Or you can send a full-fledged “sales message” (again, this can be done with subtlety) to your email list.

So please, please, if you have something awesome for sale, let your audience know about it. The sky will not fall if you do, trust me on this.

And here’s the part where I’m going to let you know about my new services. You can’t check them out right over here on my Work with Me page.

Or check out the abbreviated description of them below.

Happy Selling!

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{If you’re interested in any of the services below and want to find out which one might be a good fit for you, shoot me an email and we’ll set up a 20-minute, no-obligation conversation to explore the possibilities.}

The Irresistible Web Copy VIP Package: The 3 Key Must-Have, Uber-Important, Can’t-Do-Business-Online-Without-‘Em Web Pages {+ a little extra} Every Successful Business Needs

If you’re serious about having a successful website that calls in your ideal clients and sells your programs and services, you need:

  • A compelling Home page that grabs attention and gets your right people eager to find out more about you
  • An About page that conveys your unique personality and bonafides in accessible, client-focused language
  • A Services, Work with Me, or Programs page that demonstrates your singular value and gets your ideal clients dreamily thinking, “she’s/he’s the one I want to work with”

The Irresistible Web Copy VIP Package includes: Learn more here.

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The Copy Brilliance Web Copy Makeover

:: Not everyone needs their website written from scratch. You might have one particular web page that’s just not working for you – and it’s keeping you from calling in your ideal clients or making more sales.

:: In that case, I can apply my copywriter’s “let’s uncover and highlight the sales-inducing benefits in this web copy” brain to one page of your already written web copy to transform it from lackluster to luminous, so it persuasively conveys your value and appeals to your ideal clients.

:: If you already have the key must-have website pages on your site written, but you’d reallllly like some professional copywriting tweaking & fine tuning on one of those pages (or another page of your choice) to make it sparkle and shine to call in your ideal clients, the Copy Brilliance Web Copy Makeover is for you.

How it works: Learn more here.

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Copywriting & Messaging Strategy 60-Minute One-on-One Intensive

Think of this like a rapid-fire website audit from a copywriting, messaging and branding perspective. We’ll work side-by-side in one 60 minute session over the phone, as we look at your website together.

You’ll walk away with at least 5-10 ideas for improving your website copy ASAP to more effectively call in and convert your ideal clients.

 This is for you if:

:: Your website copy is in pretty good shape but you want to pick a professional copywriter’s brain for ideas on polishing it up to a fine “I want to magnetize my ideal clients to me” sheen, get feedback on your messaging, or ask questions about specific elements of your copy

:: You’re just getting starting and want some DIY copywriting advice you can run with on your own to write your own copy

 How it works: Learn more here.

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Strategy Consulting for Creatives

So, what you need doesn’t fit neatly into any of the categories above?

No worries, my creative friend.

You can invest in a pack of strategy consulting hours to discuss any of your web marketing and copywriting conundrums. This is great for things like ongoing web marketing advice, guidance and feedback on a specific marketing campaign or bigger marketing project or initiative, help figuring out who your ideal customers are or what your unique difference in the marketplace is, and so on.

How it works: Learn more here.

 

How to Write Headlines for Your Creative Business That Don’t Make You Cringe with Embarrassment (or, Why Great Headlines Beat Peanut Butter on Pancakes)

Formulas. Blueprints. Templates. Rules.

I tend to dislike most of these things. And so do most of the other creative business builders I’ve talked to.

But when it comes to writing headlines, templates and formulas can help if you’re experiencing a rough patch while trying to create magnetic headlines for your creative business, especially when you’re first starting out.

Besides, templates and formulas are just a starting point, a way to get the creative juices flowing. You use them to get something down on paper, then you tweak from there, depending on your personality and your business and service offerings.

So today I give you headline formulas, blueprints, templates and rules.

Because if you can train yourself to write attention-grabbing headlines (you can), then your content is much more likely to get read, shared and acted upon. Good news for you, right?

How Important Are Headlines?

Some well-known and uber-successful copywriters suggest that at least half the time you spend writing a piece should be spent on the headline; it’s that important. Agreed.

You may have heard the statistic that 8 out of 10 people will read the headline, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest of the copy. The headline is there to get them to read the rest of that copy – that’s its sole purpose, in fact – so if it’s not compelling, you can bet the rest of the blog post or article or sales page you’ve just slaved over will, unfortunately, be ignored.

And we’re trying to run successful businesses that rely on writing and sharing content that moves people to act, so ain’t nobody got time to be ignored.

That said, the body content of the thing you’re writing, be it a blog post, a newsletter, a sales page or what-have-you also needs to be well-written and persuasive, and it must deliver on the headline. But you knew that.

Golden advice nugget: When writing headlines for your creative business, keep in mind what your audience is thinking, and that is, WIIFM: “What’s In It For Me?” 

Now then, let’s talk about a few headline formulas.

Promise a Benefit or Arouse Curiosity

Two of the most effective ways to approach writing headlines is to promise a benefit or arouse curiosity.

This is something I learned in my American Writers & Artists Inc. (AWAI) copywriting training. According to the fine folks at AWAI, a powerful headline does these 4 things:

  • Begins to develop a relationship with your audience/potential clients
  • Delivers a complete message
  • Compels readers/potential clients to read more
  • Grabs the reader’s attention

Examples of benefit-driven headlines from my blog:

:: For Photographers: The Simple Yet Powerful Website Copy Tweak That Will Win You More Clients (& How to Implement It) {Benefit: win more clients}

:: The Dreadful Client-Repelling Mistake That Will Keep You Broke (and how to fix it) {Benefit: how to fix a mistake that repels clients}

:: What a Personal Development Book from 1959 Can Teach You About Writing Web Copy That Sells {Benefit: write web copy that sells}

Pretty straightforward, right?

Using Curiosity in Headlines

Google will return over 14 million results when you search on the phrase, “creating curiosity in copywriting,” which tells you what a powerful concept curiosity is in persuasive writing.

If you want to arouse curiosity, one way to do it is to ask a question your audience/readers/potential clients want the answer to. If you pose a question that’s aligned with your audience’s needs and desires, they’ll want to read on to find the answer.

Examples of headlines that evoke curiosity from my blog:

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

:: Can Copywriting Principles Work for Visual Artists?

:: Creatives: Are You Making These 3 Web Marketing Mistakes?

A site called Upworthy does the curiosity headline very effectively, by essentially creating that really annoying “clickbait” I personally don’t jive with. At all. But hey, it works for them.

You can read more about Upworthy and some background on why “curiosity-gap headlines” work here:

Upworthy’s Headlines Are Insufferable. Here’s Why You Click Anyway 

Follow Copywriter, Brilliant Marketer and Expert Business Strategist Dan Kennedy’s Lead

As a copywriter and marketer, I follow Dan Kennedy’s work, read his blog, subscribe to his email newsletter, and read the occasional book he’s written. And while he’s not for everybody, his advice works, if you feel comfortable following it.

In Chapter 3 of his book, The Ultimate Sales Letter: Attract New Customers, Boost Your Sales, Kennedy shares some fill-in-the-blank headline formulas you can use to get people to read your sales material. (He mentions the movie Gone in 60 Seconds and wisely says, “That’s what your recipients will be if you do not command their attention and literally drag them into reading.”)

Of course, the same formulas can be used to create headlines for your blog posts and subject lines for your emails as well.

(Caveat: If you spend any amount of time online you’ll recognize these formulas, because so many bloggers, copywriters and other business builders use them. For that reason I try to use them sparingly, because I don’t want my writing to sound like everyone else’s.)

Here are a few of Kennedy’s fill-in-the-blank headline formulas along with his examples of how to apply them:

Who Else Wants ___________?

Examples:

:: Who Else Wants a Hollywood Actress’ Figure?

:: Who Else Needs an Extra Hour Every Day?

How ___________ Made Me ___________

Examples:

:: How a “Fool Stunt” Made Me a Star Salesman

:: How Relocation to Tennessee Saved Our Company $1 Million a Year

___________ Ways to ___________

Examples:

:: 101 Ways to Increase New Patient Flow

:: 17 Ways to Slash Your Equipment Maintenance Costs

Two other formulas Kennedy mentions that I’ve personally used are the “Secrets of” and the “How To” headline.

Examples from my vault:

:: For Creatives: The Secret to Transforming Your Boring Lackluster About Page Into an Ideal Client Attracting Magnet

:: How to Create a Free Opt-in Offer Your Target Audience Will Love (and why you need to)

Check out three other effective headline formulas on Kennedy’s website here:

Three Killer Headline Formulas That Could Skyrocket Your Conversion Rates…

Use Specificity and Numbers

Let get real: we’re all crazy-busy trying to build our creative empires online, and the people we’re trying to attract are too. So you have to get their attention quickly.

One way to get straight to the benefit-driven point in your headlines and immediately hook your readers is to use specificity and numbers.

Why does this work so well?

Because specific details and numbers are more credible than general statements.

For example, which of these examples is more compelling and believable to you?

:: How to Make More Money Selling Digital Products

OR . . .

:: How I Made $6,557.68 Last Month Selling 2 Easy-to-Create Digital Guidebooks

And how about this . . .

:: Tips for Getting More Clients with Your Website

OR . . .

:: 7 Easy Website Tweaks You Can Implement Today That Will Double Your Client Enquiries

Here are two headline examples from my own vault that use specificity and numbers:

:: A Foolproof 6-Step System for Generating Dozens of Ideas for Blog Posts and Newsletters That Your Target Audience Wants to Read (in Under an Hour a Week)

:: How to Improve Your Small Business Website Content Today for Better Sales: A 7-Point Checklist

These kind of headlines reward the reader by letting them know the specific and compelling benefits of reading the article even before they’ve read a word of the body content. What a timesaver for your readers; they’re gonna love ya for it!

The Instant Clarity Headline Formula

The instant clarity headline looks like this:

End Result Customer Wants + Specific Period of Time + Address Objections

Obviously, to be able to make this formula work, you need to have a deep understanding of your customers and clients and their needs, wants and desires with respect to your offering.

I first learned this formula from a fellow called Dane Maxwell, and the example he uses to demonstrate the formula is this, from the real estate niche:

Recruit 2 Top Producing Agents Each Week Without Cold Calling Or Rejection

He goes on to share that using only the first item (end result) or the first and second together (end result + time frame) can also be effective, but using all three elements at once is the most powerful and persuasive.

The reason this formula works well is because it instantly telegraphs the benefits and results the reader (or client or customer) can achieve from reading the content or buying the product or service. It’s all about what important to the reader, client or customer.

So if you’re a wedding photographer for example, maybe your clients want candid, natural-looking shots in which they look relaxed and happy. And the time frame they want it in is their wedding day. As for objections, they may feel there’s no way you – someone they don’t know all that well – can capture their special moments without making them looking posed and stiff.

So using this formula, a wedding photographer could come up with something like this for a blog post headline:

:: The No-Fail Formula for Getting Candid, Natural-Looking Shots on Your Wedding Day Without Looking Posed, Uncomfortable or Stiff

Or let’s say an interior designer wants to write a blog post to help her ideal client – a busy young family on the go with a couple of small children and a dog – undertake a DIY design project to spruce up their home. The end result they want is a luxurious home that reflects their specific taste and design style, but it also has to be practical and easy to keep up. And they don’t want their lives to be disrupted in the process, so the DIY project can’t take more than a month.

So our interior designer could write a blog post with a headline like this:

:: From Chaos to Calm: 7 Simple Steps for Transforming Your Busy Young Family’s Home into an Oasis of Practical Luxury in 30 Days or Less

Now let’s talk about the “cringing with embarrassment” part. (or, How to Use Magazine Headlines and Book Chapter Titles to Craft Compelling Headlines Your Target Audience Will Love)

The headline formulas discussed above are time-tested and work well, which is why they’re used and shared so frequently. But sometimes the headlines that result can feel over the top for us sensitive creative types.

So one of the handy little tips I like to share with my clients when it comes to both getting ideas for content their target audience wants to read, AND brainstorming great headline ideas at the same time, is the magazine headline method and the book chapter title method.

Magazine Headlines

One of the best ways to practice writing headlines (and to spark ideas for blog posts your audience actually wants to read) is to grab a bunch of magazines in your niche and read through the headlines.

(I wrote more here about using the magazine method to find out what your target audience wants to read.)

Publishers do exhaustive research and spend thousands of dollars to figure out which stories will generate the strongest response among their readers, so why not piggyback on that research to gather headline ideas for your own blog or newsletter?

And to make it super-easy, you don’t even have to go to the bookstore, just sign onto Amazon online and go to the magazine section.

Once there, search for magazines in your industry or niche and read through headlines of 5-10 magazines there.

(Caveat: Don’t copy these headlines/ideas verbatim; instead, put your own creative spin on them, geared specifically to your business and your audience.)

For example, suppose I want to generate headline ideas for an interior design business. So I go through some magazines in the home design niche over on our good friend Amazon, and putting my own spin on what I find there, I come up with the following headline ideas:

:: How to Create the Perfect Beach House Décor on a Budget

:: How To Do Rustic Right

:: How to Create Big Style in a Small Space

:: Your Luxe Living Room: 12 Small Changes You Can Make Today for Big Impact

:: DIY Weekend Project: Create the Perfect Outdoor Retreat

From Magazine Headlines in the fashion industry, I came up with these headline ideas:

:: The Best _________ for Every Body Type (swimsuit, dress, etc.)

:: How to Look Like You Hired a Stylist (Even When You Didn’t)

:: Hot Trends and Amazing Accessories for Every Budget

:: 5 Minute Styling Tricks You Can Learn Today

:: The One Accessory Every Woman Needs Right Now

:: How to Dress for Your Body Type

Book Chapter Titles

You can use the same method to gather book chapter titles to use as headline templates. Here’s what you want to do here:

Search on your topic in the books category; choose a few books in your niche from the returned results.

Once you get to the list of books you want to check out, click on books with the “Look Inside!” option on the book cover image so you can get a look-see at what’s inside.

Once “inside” the book, cruise through the Table of Contents, specifically Chapter Titles of said book, and let the idea sparking begin!

(Again, you don’t want to copy these headlines/ideas verbatim; you want to use them to craft headlines that are geared specifically to your business and your audience.)

So let’s take our hypothetical interior design business and come up with some headline ideas from book chapter titles:

:: How to Decorate Like a Pro, Even If You’re Design-Challenged

:: 3 Investment Pieces Everyone Should Own: Which Pieces to Spend the Big Bucks On and Why

:: Home Design Basics: What You Need to Know Before You Get Started on Your Next DIY Project

:: The Ultimate Guide to the Best Decorating Resources Online

:: How to Build a Room Around a Signature Piece

Now let’s do the same for our fashion business:

:: How to Shop Like a Stylist

:: How to Go from Demure to Daring with a Signature Wow Piece

:: 3/5/7 or 2/4/6: Guide to Understanding Clothing Sizes

:: The One Must-Own Item That Complements Every Body Type

:: 10 Wardrobe Staples Every Woman Should Own

See, how easy was that? By spending just half an hour looking through Amazon, we came up with 21 headline ideas, not to mention, ideas for what to write about in the first place!

Now just for fun, if you’re completely stumped for a headline idea, head on over to Portent’s Content Idea Generator. Enter the subject you want to write about, and the generator will give you some headline ideas.

When I did this for the very article you’re reading right now, Portent suggested the following headlines:

:: Why Great Headlines Beat Peanut Butter on Pancakes

:: The 5 Best Resources for Magnetic Headlines

:: How Benefit Driven Headlines Are Making the World a Better Place

And my personal favorite:

:: Why Copywriting Will Change Your Life

Fun stuff, huh?

So there you have it. Tons of easy-to-implement headline templates you can start using today to get your content read, shared and acted upon. And for still more writing magnetic headlines goodness, check out the additional resources below.

Additional Resources

If you’re serious about learning to write great headlines, you can head over to Copyblogger at the link below and sign up to receive the free e-book, How to Write Magnetic Headlines. I’ve got it and it’s good. Seriously, you’ll find dozens of easy-to-implement headline templates in it, so go to town, my friend:

How to Write Magnetic Headlines

From Alexandra Franzen, here are 10 ways to write blog post titles, headlines & email subject lines that make people go, “whoa!”

And from Buffer, check out this in-depth post on how to write headlines for all the various kinds of content you’ll be writing as you build your online empire:

30+ Ultimate Headline Formulas for Tweets, Posts, Articles, and Emails

 

Comments? Questions? Other headline templates you’d like to share? Leave ‘em in the comments below!

[Sign up for free weekly updates and get instant access to the CREATIVE REBEL GUIDE TO WRITING A CLIENT-ATTRACTING ABOUT PAGE, plus copywriting & web marketing tips and other goodies for creative freelancers & biz owners that I only share with my subscribers, delivered straight to your inbox each Tuesday.]

 

For Creative Business Builders: A Powerful Yet Painless Way to Market Your Business That Practically Does the Selling for You

Most creatives I’ve worked with or talked to have some level of discomfort around the idea of marketing and selling. Sure, they want to earn a good living from their creative products and services, but they practically writhe in agony at the notion of actually having to market, or even scarier, having to sell. 

Look, I get it. Marketing and selling can bring up all kinds of uneasiness. You don’t want to seem intrusive, pushy, or even worse . . . scammy

But, and this is the truth, authentic marketing isn’t pushy or sleazy, it’s simply deeply connecting with your ideal audience and communicating that you can provide a product or service that is beneficial to them, that they already want, or they wouldn’t be searching for it online and have landed on your website in the first place. For more on this idea, check out a post I wrote called They Want You to Be the One (so stop being afraid to market yourself).

That said, there is a powerful way to market your stuff that feels genuine and easy, and in fact, practically does the selling for you, if done correctly.

What is this thing I speak of?

Client testimonials.

Client and customer testimonials are social proof and third party validation all rolled into one. And because of the third party validation aspect, much more persuasive to would-be clients than anything you say about yourself. Potential clients trust them because they’re essentially a referral from someone who doesn’t benefit directly if a new client signs on with you.   

It’s akin to a lesson I learned when I worked in advertising and PR: any business can pay for advertising, but not any business can get written up in Forbes or Inc. magazine, which is why third party endorsement via good PR was much more valuable to my PR clients back in the day than big, glossy ads in high profile publications. 

It’s the same with client testimonials.  

If you have a page of glowing testimonials on your website that speak to the transformational work you do and the results you get for clients, referring potential clients and customers to this page during the client-getting courtship phase can do a lot of the making-a-sale heavy lifting for you. And in way that doesn’t make you feel like you’re twisting arms or coercing anyone to do anything against their will.  And who doesn’t want that? 

So, how do you get your current and past clients and customers to give you the kind of testimonials that persuade new clients to find out more about working with you? 

Well, I’m going to share some wonderful resources on how to tackle that very thing at the end of this blog post, because it’s been covered very adeptly by other people I admire and respect who can show you how it’s done.

What I want to share with you here are a few patient testimonials I wrote for a medical center client that highlight transformation stories, a very persuasive form of third party validation. You can adapt the same idea for your own business to create client testimonials on steroids. 

Note the powerful impact of storytelling in these four examples: 

CPR Saves a Life and Forges a New Friendship 

NHRMC eased Eileen’s pain so she could get back to her garden . . . and start planning her African safari. 

A fall paralyzed her. The trauma experts at NHRMC helped her get back on her feet. 

Minimally invasive spine surgery helps Dianne get back to active life. 

Now obviously you don’t want to copy the style and layout of these examples. I share them with you strictly to use as idea generators for thinking about how you can have your clients tell the story of their transformation, or the key aha moments they experienced after working with you or buying your products. Then craft this client feedback into compelling stories that speak to what’s possible when clients and customers work with you, as in the examples here.   

:: If you’d like someone experienced at extracting persuasive stories from clients and creating testimonials like the ones above, get in touch with me at: Kimberly [at] kimberlydhouston [dot] com, and let’s talk specifics. I’ll create a custom proposal based on your specific needs.

Resources for Creating Powerful Testimonials

Here’s a brief article by publicity/marketing/business expert Melissa Cassera in which she shares a simple two-step approach to getting testimonials. Love her suggestion here that’s its less stressful for the client and will net better results for you if you ask for “feedback” rather than a “testimonial.”

How To Get Your Customers To Write AMAZING Reviews (Without Begging, Pleading Or Being Pushy + Creepy) 

How to Get Testimonials That Get You Business, wherein business coach Christine Kane share 7 tips for getting great client testimonials that will help increase your sales.

And from the fine folks at Copyblogger, here are 6 Questions to Ask for Powerful Testimonials. Highly recommended. If you only have time to read one of the posts linked up here, please make it this one.

And finally, here business coach and consultant Erica Lyremark shares 3 quick formulas for writing powerful testimonials, in Testimonials Made Easy.

And if you want to understand – and implement – the power of storytelling in your marketing (client testimonials are a great place to do this), read this article:

 Science of storytelling: why and how to use it in your marketing: A look at how humans have always loved stories, and six tips for incorporating them into your digital marketing 

And there you have it. If you have any questions or comments, please share them in the comments section below, and happy testimonials creating!

For Photographers: The Simple Yet Powerful Website Copy Tweak That Will Win You More Clients (& How to Implement It)

photography web marketing

[NOTE: Though this post is geared to photographers, the principles apply to all creatives selling any kind of product or service.]

Photographers, I love you. Fine art photographers, wedding photographers, lifestyle photographers, product photographers, pretty much all of you.

For years, I wanted to be among you:  a working photographer, making a living from photography.  I chased this dream for some time.  I took a year-long course in photography at my local community college, worked for a local photographer as an assistant, then put together a portfolio and applied to the photography program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Lucky for me, I was accepted into the program. Unluckily, I decided art school wasn’t in the cards for me at that moment. I moved to New York anyway and went to “regular” college, taking a few photography courses during the three years I lived there between other commitments.

I share this with you because I want you to know that my heart is with you, that I’m not coming to you strictly from a place of sharing advice on how to write persuasive web copy that can help you win more clients in your photography business, but also from a place of big, full-hearted, sappy love for the work you do every day.

Now that we’ve established that, let’s talk about the simple yet powerful web copy tweak that can help you win more clients. But first . . . .

The Problem with Most Photography Websites

Many photographers make the serious mistake of assuming their gorgeous images will speak for themselves to sell their services and get clients, imagining that once a potential customer sees the talent evident in the online portfolio, they’ll immediately reach out and inquire about working together.

Unfortunately, this rarely happens.

While having a web presence and an online portfolio is a great first step, it’s not enough. The “build it and they will come” approach simply does not work online, where you’re competing with dozens, if not hundreds, of other photographers in your town who provide exactly the same service you do. And if you live in a big city, thousands of other photographers.

Since your potential clients can easily find at least two dozen other talented photographers whose images are just as stunning as yours with a simple Google search, you’re going to have to show them more than your gorgeous portfolio to get them interested in hiring you.

What Potential Clients Are Looking For

What a potential client is looking for when they land on your photography site is evidence that you clearly understand who they are as a client, that you have the solution they’re looking for, and that you, specifically, are exactly the person to provide that solution.  

In other words, they want you to be “the one.” They’ve been searching and searching online, and they’re feeling frustrated that they’ve already been to 12 other wedding photography/lifestyle photography/insert your photography specialty here websites, and they can’t distinguish one photographer from the next. They want to land on your site and think, “This is it, I’ve found the ideal photographer for my job at last. I can stop searching, cue the trumpets.”

This is why you get price-shopped, by the way. Because most photography websites look nearly identical to one another and most photographers provide similar services, the ONLY thing potential clients have to go on to distinguish you from your competition is your price, so naturally they’ll choose the person with the lowest price.  This is not the kind of client you want.

{To learn more about web surfing behavior and what potential customers are looking for when they search online for that thing you do, check out 7 Ways to Improve Your Web Copy Today for Better Sales: Basics for Creative Entrepreneurs. And pay particular attention to Item #2, where I share an example from the world of wedding photography.}

So how do you convey to your ideal clients that you’re the right photographer for their project? You do it through compelling, client-focused web copy. That’s the simple yet powerful website copy tweak that will win you more clients: CLIENT-FOCUSED web copy.

That may sound way too simple, but you’d be surprised how many photography websites don’t adhere to this simple, yet persuasive principle. (Lots of other kinds of websites don’t either, by the way, not just photography sites.)

Your web copy must connect with the reader/potential client and speak to what’s important to them as a photography client, as opposed to using company-centric copy that focuses mostly on the company, i.e., with language like “our goal,” “we have,” “we specialize in,” etc.

Because the edifying truth is, people don’t really care who you are, they want to know how you can help them. They’re seeking the answer to the question, “WIIFM?,” meaning, “What’s in it for me?”

So what you want your web content to do is make an emotional connection with your ideal clients through speaking directly to their desires, wants and needs in a way that makes them eager to do business with you.

Building the Foundation: How to Create Compelling Client-Focused Web Copy

To create persuasive web copy that effectively sells your services, you have to get the foundation in place first.  This is critical work that if left undone, will create frustration, vexation, and irritation (you can tell we love our thesaurus around here), loads of wasted time, and frankly, will attract more than your fair share of pain-in-the-butt, price-shopping clients. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

On the other hand, if you do the foundational work first, creating compelling web copy for every page on your site, from your Home page, to your About page, to your Services and Pricing pages, and everything in between, becomes a breeze.

This foundational work consists of:

#1: Figuring out who your ideal clients are so you can speak directly to them with a targeted and persuasive marketing message

#2: Determining what makes your work, your process, your services, or the way you do business different, better, more special, or more compelling to these ideal clients than others who do what you do, also known as your unique selling proposition

I cannot stress enough how important these two steps are to creating your compelling marketing message; everything flows from this.  It will inform everything else in your business, from the kind of clients you work with, to the services you offer, to how and who you market to, to your tagline and your client pitches, and lots more besides.

Stick with me, I’m going to tell you how to do this.

{If you want to read the story of the exhaustion, struggle and overwhelm I experienced in my business and how I resolved it by figuring out my ideal clients and unique selling proposition, check out Creatives: Are You Making These 3 Web Marketing Mistakes?}

Defining Your Ideal Clients

This is the fun stuff – where you get to dream up exactly the kind of person who would be perfect for your services and who you’d L-O-V-E to work with. 

Because the bottom line is, if you haven’t defined your ideal client/perfect customer/target audience, then you’re trying to talk to “everybody” with your web content – which means it’s most likely bland and boring and homogenous.  And that means that as lovingly crafted and well-written as it may be, it won’t convert the right readers into your dream clients and potential clients. Say it with me: bland and boring does not convert!

To find out more about defining your ideal clients, including the opportunity to download a free Defining Your Audience Checklist, check out The Dreadful Client-Repelling Mistake That Will Keep You Broke (and how to fix it). The downloadable checklist is at the end of the blog post.

How to Uncover Your Unique Selling Proposition

Once you’ve determined who your ideal clients are, you can begin to work out what your unique selling proposition is. Your USP is simply the collection of factors unique to you and your business that compel your ideal clients to choose you over someone else who offers the same product or service.  In fact, who you serve – your ICA or “ideal client avatar” – can be part of your unique selling proposition.

The benefit of a well-defined USP is that you’ll begin to connect with and convert your ideal clients, instead of ending up with the ones who make you want to plunge daggers into your eyes.  Because when a potential ideal client lands on your website and sees it’s not like the hundreds of photography sites they found when they were Googling that thing you do, they will stop and take notice, instead of trucking right on past your website never to return.

To find out how to uncover your USP, including the opportunity to download a free Defining Your USP Checklist, check out Creatives: How to Uncover Your Unique Selling Proposition (and why you need to). The downloadable checklist is at the end of the blog post.

In that post you’ll find a couple of examples of creative service providers doing differentiation right, so you can see what that looks like in the context of writing client-focused web copy. On a similar note, you might want to check out this guest post I wrote called 6 Authentic, Low-Cost Ways to Differentiate Yourself Online to Attract Your Ideal Clients and Customers.

Ok, So You’ve Figured Out Your ICA (Ideal Client Avatar) and USP (Unique Selling Proposition), Now What?

Once you’ve knocked out these two very important first steps, you’re ready to implement what you’ve discovered about your ICA and USP to create compelling client-focused copy on your web site. The foundational work you’ve now done makes this much easier.

I would start with the Home page and the About page first, because those are the two most visited pages on most websites.

(For more information on writing an effective About page, including a template created especially for creatives, check out For Creatives: The Secret to Transforming Your Boring, Lackluster About Page into an Ideal Client-Attracting Magnet.  At the end of that blog post you’ll have an opportunity to get the template I use to write About pages for clients, gratis, of course.)

Now on to the Home page. You want to think of your Home page as a virtual storefront – unless you provide a warm, welcoming, value-packed reason to come inside, people are going to walk right on by.

On the web, that means potential ideal clients will click away from your site faster than green grass through a goose if you don’t instantly demonstrate value and relevance to them.

Your Home page needs to: 

Convince busy web visitors on a mission to find specific, problem-solving information to stay on your site long enough to read further, find out what you’re about, and take some kind of action – such as checking out your products and services, signing up for your email list, or requesting a quote/more information, etc.

And because of the way people read and search on the web, you only have a few seconds to do this.

Here’s a down-and-dirty Home page checklist that will help you get yours in tip-top shape.

An effective Home page will do these 5 things:

1. Demonstrate that you understand your target audience’s problems

2. Offer a solution to those problems by sharing the benefits of what you have to offer, clearly, concisely, and compellingly.

3. Explain how solving the problem will improve your clients’ lives. See copywriting power tip #1, below.

4. Let your website visitors and potential customers know how you’re different from the competition and what makes you uniquely qualified to solve their problems.

5. Include a clear call to action. Very simply, this means giving them something to do next that will deepen the relationship with you, such as reading your blog or signing up for your email list, etc.

Remember, all the copy on this page needs to be client-focused. It’s less about you and more about your potential client’s wants, needs, and desires.

Your Home page will demonstrate what you can do to make your clients’ lives easier, better, healthier, richer, more successful or what have you, depending on the exact product or service you provide.

While the blog post linked up here is not strictly about Home pages, you’ll find some helpful advice on wooing and engaging potential buyers with web copy:  Why Most Product Websites Make Me Sad: The Good, the Bad, and the Unsightly.

For the fine art photographers reading this, I know you may think that these suggestions won’t work for you. If that’s the case, I suggest you check out this post I wrote on how you can apply copywriting principles to what you do:  Can Copywriting Principles Work for Visual Artists?

A Powerful Way to Reel ‘Em In: Three Bonus Client-Attracting Copywriting Power Tips

Copywriting Power Tip #1:  “Paint a Picture”

Whatever services you offer – wedding photography, lifestyle photography, product photography, even fine art photography – you need to help your potential clients and customers see the vision of what can be for them when they use your services or buy your work – their ideal outcome.

A very effective way to do this is to “paint a picture” with your web copy. Get the nitty-gritty details of how to do that here:  What a Personal Development Classic from 1959 Can Teach You About Writing Web Copy That Sells.

Copywriting Power Tip #2:  Inject Personality

One of the most common website faults among creative service providers is boring, bland, and flavorless web copy.  Remember, bland and boring does not sell.  And since bland, boring copy is a common malady all over the web, if you buck that trend, you’ll stand out – in a good way.

There are creative ways to invest even the most plain, utilitarian thing with personality through the use of compelling web copy. That said, creative services typically are not bland and boring, so your web copy shouldn’t be either. Copy with personality gets remembered, creates desire for your services, and more importantly, sells more effectively than homogenous, dull as dirt web copy.

This doesn’t mean you have to get crazy, mind you. If you’re more Josh Groban than David Lee Roth, then own it, and let that shine through in your web and other marketing.

To learn more about using personality in web copy, check out these two posts: How to Sell Any Boring Old Thing with Scandalously Good Copy and If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em: The Baby Carrot Story and Using Personality in Marketing.

Copywriting Power Tip #3: Tap into the Power of Emotion

One of the most important pieces of advice I can ever share with you about writing compelling copy that persuades people to buy your creative services, is to tap into the power of emotion in your copy. Buying decisions are emotional decisions.  People buy based on emotion and justify purchases based on logic.

You may have heard that little bon mot dozens of times, but what does it mean in practice?

Think about chocolate cake.  Or Krispy Kreme donuts.  (Mmmm, donuts . . . as Homer Simpson would say.) If people acted rationally they wouldn’t buy these things – sugar is bad for you, it’s not nutritious, and it makes you fat – it’s nothing but empty, unhealthy calories.  But cake and donuts are both multi-million dollar industries because eating them makes you feel good.

So when writing your web copy, you want to make an emotional connection with your ideal clients that makes them feel good, or excited, happy, inspired, relieved, encouraged, understood, relaxed, or any one of dozens of other emotions, depending on the exact service you offer.

So, how do you figure out the deeper emotional benefit you want to tap into? One way to go beyond the surface benefits your product/service offers to get to the core emotional benefits your customers want is through the use of what’s called the “so what?” technique.  It’s simple, and it works.

Learn the “so what?” technique and how to apply it here: What Can Chocolate Cake and Donuts Teach You About Selling More?

The bottom line: you have to use client-focused copy to create an emotional connection – that’s how you stand out among all the other talented photographers online, and that’s how your right people will find you.

And there you have it, my talented photographer friends – the simple website copy tweak that will win you more clients: client-focused web copy, and how to create it.

I know this was a heckuva lot to take in all at once, so here are the steps again, simplified:

  1. Figure out who your ideal clients are and what they desire (I pointed you to a free downloadable worksheet for this)
  2. Determine your unique selling proposition (Ditto on the free downloadable worksheet)
  3. Use this information to create compelling client-focused web copy that speaks to your ideal clients wants, needs and desires, starting with the Home page and About page on your site

But wait, there’s more!

You might find this post I wrote on taglines valuable as you re-work your website copy to focus on your ideal clients. It’s a dead-simple formula for creating a tagline for your creative business in 20 minutes flat: Taglines 101: How to Create a Tagline for Your Creative Business.

Questions? Comments?  Leave ’em below! 

To get on the VIP List to find out when my upcoming course — 30 Days to a Magnetic Marketing Message That Sells: A Course for Wedding, Portrait, and Lifestyle Photographers — drops, head right over here.

[For more on writing copy that connects with your ideal clients, sign up for free weekly updates and get instant access to the CREATIVE REBEL GUIDE TO WRITING A CLIENT-ATTRACTING ABOUT PAGE, plus copywriting & web marketing tips and other fun stuff for creative freelancers & biz owners that I only share with my subscribers, delivered straight to your inbox each Tuesday.]

Why Most Product Websites Make Me Sad: The Good, the Bad, and the Unsightly

I recently got a comment on my Facebook page asking for examples of what I consider good home pages for websites selling physical products.

Off the top of my head, I couldn’t think of a single one.  Yep, that’s right, I couldn’t bring to mind even one example from recent memory of a website selling physical products that made a lasting impression on me. 

Then I remembered I’d stumbled on some I loved in the last year or so, but dang it, I didn’t make a note of them at the time, so they disappeared from my memory like a fine vapor, just like that.

And that is unfortunate. 

But it highlights the big problem with many e-commerce and product sites: most are entirely forgettable.

What bugs me about the default kind of product website (examples coming up) is there’s no wooing of, and engaging with, the prospective buyer. Many of these sites feature tons of images with short and boring product descriptions (well, if they have to be boring, at least they’re short, right?), how to order info, and not much else. It’s all, “Well, here’s what we got; we couldn’t be bothered to make it look/feel/seem compelling or desirable in any way – so how many bracelets/hoodies/cheese logs do ya want?”

Plus, there’s not much to differentiate one site selling jewelry/clothing/food items/what-have-you from the next.  Most are soulless, corporate things that don’t move or excite the likely buyer, or call up any emotion at all, except for “Next!” as the potential customer hits the back button or navigates back to Google from whence they came.

Here’s what I’m talking about. One of these sites is trying to sell us some lovely men’s jeans, and the other, sterling silver jewelry:

Jeans {<– Click here}

Sterling Silver Jewelry  {<– Click here}

Notice the cold, impersonal feel.  Notice how everything is jammed together on the page, with nary a finely turned phrase anywhere to increase desire for or connection to the products, or paint a picture of how wonderful it would feel to own them.  This makes me sad.

What you want is personality.  Memorability.  Warmth and approachability. Copy that engages with the likely buyer on an emotional level, copy that forges a human connection. You want to give your web visitors an experience. We’ve talked about using personality to connect with ideal customers and stand out online before here and here.

Ok, you say, now I know what ineffective product site home pages look like, but what about product website homepages that get it (mostly) right, ones that exude warmth, personality and a sense of connection, sites that are memorable, engaging, and use copy well? Well, I toiled over my computer to find you a couple of examples, so let’s take a look at those, shall we?

Daniella Draper Jewellery 

Take a look at this site. {Click on company name above} It’s beautifully designed. It’s memorable. It’s evocative.  There’s a person looking directly at you as soon as you land on the page. There’s warmth and a sense of human connection. The likely buyer of this jewelry (or “jewellery,” as it’s spelled here) is going to be intrigued enough to want to scroll down and find out more.  It employs easy and intuitive web navigation.

Admittedly, there’s not much copy on the home page, but there are several markers of personality, warmth, and humanness, from the image of the young woman at the top of the page, to the picture of Daniella herself, to the Instagram feed featuring shots of Real! Live! People! wearing the jewelry and otherwise keeping it real, as the youngsters say.

Two of the brief bits of copy on the home page – “Beautifully British: Handcrafted Silver Jewellery,” and “Incredibly unique, designed and handmade by Daniella Draper” – begin to give you a glimmer of what you can expect from your experience here, and naturally compel you to explore more of the site if you’re the likely customer for this handmade jewelry.

Compare this site to the two I linked up above, where as many products as possible are crammed onto one page, making the products look janky and cheap, even if they’re not.

Hiut Denim Co. 

Again, notice the beautiful design and easy and intuitive web navigation. {Click on company name above}

The “Do One Thing Well” tagline instantly conveys passionate attention to detail, a love for going above and beyond to craft something amazing. And the images and home page copy all support the “do one thing well” ethos.  Very nice.

But here’s what I simply adore about the Hiut Denim site: its fantastic use of a Founder Story to set itself apart from all the other companies online selling premium denim.

Check out the “our story” copy on the home page to see what I mean. It’s actually more than just a founder story – it’s the story of how Hiut Denim helped Cardigan, a small town in Wales once home to the biggest jeans factory in Britain, get back on its feet again after the jeans manufacturing operation moved to Morocco.

How can you not love this? –> “So we decided 4 decades worth of know-how shouldn’t go to waste. That’s why the Hiut Denim Company was born: To get the town making jeans again.” Call me crazy, but that actually gives me chills.  

And talk about differentiation!  What a powerful and effective way to set themselves apart from other premium denim purveyors and forge an emotional connection with the likely buyer – because after all, you’re not just buying finely crafted and beautiful denim, you’re helping a town hold on to its livelihood.

The J. Peterman Company  

I always have to share the genius of J. Peterman when I’m talking about pitch-perfect product copy, because it’s the pinnacle of gorgeous and evocative product copywriting. {Click on company name above}

The beautifully written copy here reads like a story (just click on any of the individual product images), one you aspire to become a part of, or one you identify with, if you happen to be the likely buyer. (And that is who we’re talking to after all – we’re not trying to convince the unlikely buyer to buy our stuff, we’re trying to appeal to those with a predisposition or pre-existing hankering for the product.)

As humans, we’re hardwired to respond to stories, and the copy on the J. Peterman site taps into that longing brilliantly.

If your business sells products of any kind, your time would be well-spent studying the compelling product copy on the J. Peterman site.

Conclusion

What do these product company web pages have in common?  They are evocative. They convey warmth, soul, and personality.  They are approachable. They make an emotional connection.  There are actual human beings involved. They make you want to stick around and explore, even if you’re not planning to buy the goods right now.  They are memorable.

And importantly, the combination of web copy, photography, graphics, and the stories they choose to tell all work together to create an experience that will resonate with the likely buyer. This is what you want.  

In the comments below, I’d love for you to share your favorite product websites and tell me why they resonate with you.  (Even if it’s your own!) Go ahead, share your thoughts; I’d love to see what other product sites out there are making an impact!

[For more on writing copy that connects with your ideal clients, sign up for free weekly updates and get instant access to the CREATIVE REBEL GUIDE TO WRITING A CLIENT-ATTRACTING ABOUT PAGE, plus copywriting & web marketing tips and other fun stuff for creative freelancers & biz owners that I only share with my subscribers, delivered straight to your inbox each Tuesday.]

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

Baby Carrots_blog image

 

Consider the carrot. The baby carrot, to be precise.  

A nutritious, wholesome, feel-good snack you can feel smug about eating, what with its minimal calories and healthy dose of good-for-you beta-carotene.

And sure, they’re good for you, but the truth is, they’re just not that interesting, are they? I mean, carrots, right? They’ve been around for 2000 years, they’re not trendy or hip like ramps or kale, or whatever other produce happens to be taking its star turn this year; they’re not really unique or special in any way. 

So, what if it was your task to “brand” them? What if you had to come up with a way to position baby carrots so they could compete with, say, cheetohs, potato chips or other junk food as a snack alternative?

Maybe you’d think, well, let’s promote their health benefits, that’ll do it!

Unfortunately, that line of thinking happens not to work all that well.

(Horrifying factoid: In 2012, $116 million dollars was spent on advertising fruit and veggies. And $2 billion was spent on advertising junk food to kids.  Yes, you read that right – $2 billion dollars.  Damn, that’s a lot of money spent to convince kids to eat crap!)

Even though print and online publications have been touting the joys and benefits of eating fruits and vegetables for years, not to mention many dozens of stories appearing on TV about the dangers of unhealthy eating, produce still has trouble competing for our shopping dollars, and per capita consumption isn’t up.

What’s a carrot seller to do?  And what’s the point of all this talk about carrots, anyway?  

My point, and I do have one, is that with enough creativity and resourcefulness, you can uncover the benefits and bring out the personality of any boring old thing to make it interesting and appealing to your audience, as I talked about previously here

Bolthouse Farms did this with carrots a few years ago. And if you can do it for carrots, you can do it for your creative products and services.

How Bolthouse Farms Transformed Carrots from Boring Agricultural Commodity to Cool, Crave-able Snack

A few years ago, Jeffrey Dunn, President and CEO of Bolthouse Farms, which grows and processes more than a billion pounds of carrots a year, was shopping for an ad agency to help create a campaign around baby carrots. Bolthouse had never marketed its carrots before, but sales were down, so Dunn decided to shake things up and get creative.

But he didn’t want to appeal to smarts and responsibility as in, “eat carrots because they’re good for you,” he wanted to market his company’s baby carrots in a different way. He knew that pitting the health benefits of the cute veggie against the perils of eating junk food wasn’t going to cut it. Instead he wanted something funny and emotional that appealed to impulse snacking.

Enter ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky.  Instead of pitching a campaign centered around the health benefits of carrots, Crispin proposed aligning the baby carrot with junk food.

In an article in Fast Company, Omid Farhang, vice president and creative director at Crispin, said “The truth about baby carrots is they possess many of the defining characteristics of our favorite junk food. They’re neon orange, they’re crunchy, they’re dippable, they’re kind of addictive.”

The idea was to do the same kind of marketing for carrots as for things like Coke and cheetohs, because as Dunn was quoted as saying in the Fast Company article, “If all we do is tell people fruits and vegetables need to be part of their diet or they’re not going to be healthy – the rational approach – we have zero chance.”  

Think about it – we already know we need to eat our veggies, so telling us that in an ad campaign has no impact. As Farhang said, “What a silly use of advertising dollars to tell people that vegetables are healthy.”

Instead, the campaign they rolled out featured new packaging in which baby carrots were packaged like Doritos, in a crinkly potato chip bag with junk-food-style graphics, and an ad campaign with taglines such as “Eat ‘Em Like Junk Food” and “Baby Carrots: The Original Orange Doodles.”

You can read more about the whole she-bang in the fabulous article in Fast Company, “How Carrots Became the New Junk Food.” And check out the Bolthouse Farms website here for a great example of how to position with personality in order to stand out in your niche.

Marketing Lessons and Questions to Ponder

I don’t know if it’s because I once worked for an ad agency and I appreciate a killer creative marketing campaign when I see one, but I haven’t been able to get the Baby Carrots story out of my head since I first heard about it late last year.

It’s proof that positioning with personality works.  (Sales in Bolthouse’s test markets went up 10% to 12% over the year before in the year following the test campaign.)

Think about how Bolthouse Farms went against the standard approach in this campaign by deciding not to use a health benefits approach, instead aligning themselves with junk food.  How can you apply this kind of creative thinking to your own marketing?

Consider how Bolthouse uses personality to transform baby carrots from a healthy, but boring vegetable into a hip, crave-able snack.  Are there ways you can do this with your creative products and services?

Share your thoughts in the comments! 

[Sign up for free weekly updates and get instant access to the CREATIVE REBEL GUIDE TO WRITING A CLIENT-ATTRACTING ABOUT PAGE, plus copywriting & web marketing tips and other goodies for creative freelancers & biz owners that I only share with my subscribers, delivered straight to your inbox each Tuesday.]  

 

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

chocolate cake & persuasive copy

Image by Max Straeten

One of the most important pieces of advice I can ever share with you about writing compelling copy that persuades people to buy your creative products and services is to tap into the power of emotion in your copy.

Buying decisions are emotional decisions.  People buy based on emotion and justify purchases based on logic. Yes, you’ve probably heard that little bon mot dozens of times, but what does it mean in practice?

Think about chocolate cake.  Or Krispy Kreme donuts.  (Mmmm, donuts . . . as Homer Simpson would say.)

If people acted rationally they wouldn’t buy these things – sugar is bad for you, it’s not nutritious, and it makes you fat – it’s nothing but empty, unhealthy calories. 

But cake and donuts are both multi-million dollar industries because they make you feel good.

So when writing your web copy, you want to make an emotional connection with your ideal clients that makes them feel good, or excited, happy, inspired, relieved, encouraged, understood, relaxed, or any one of dozens of other emotions, depending on the product or service you offer.

Worth-repeating-until-eternity step number one is always, always, ALWAYS knowing who your ideal client is and what they need/desire – everything flows from this. 

You really want to get inside their heads and figure out the deeper emotional benefit they’re seeking as a result of buying your product or service.  What is the core desire you’re tapping into with what you sell?

If you make one-of-a-kind jewelry, it could be your customer’s desire to feel unique and special, and therefore validated as the quirky individual she is. If you sell knitwear for infants, it could be that warm, fuzzy feeling that comes from your customer knowing how safe and warm her baby is in the wintry weather, all while looking too adorable for words.

So, how do you figure out the deeper emotional benefit you want to tap into with your copy?

One way to go beyond the surface benefits your product/service offers to get to the core emotional benefits your customers want is through the use of what’s called the “so what?” technique.  Ask “so what?” until you feel like you’ve gotten to the real benefit your thing provides.

Here’s an example from some work I did with a professional organizer to help her figure out the core emotional benefit of her email opt-in offer:

These tools will help you get more organized. (surface benefit)

So what?

Your home will be less cluttered and look nicer. (surface benefit)

So what?

You’ll feel less frazzled and actually be able to really relax and enjoy your family when you’re at home, because everything is tidy and in its right place. (deeper benefit)

So what?

You’ll enjoy high quality family time the way it was meant to be enjoyed, because there won’t be petty annoyances and frustrations from nagging the kids or the husband to keep things neat or put things away, etc. Time at home will be spent watching a movie, or playing a game, or cooking a meal together and other fun and satisfying family activities.  (even deeper benefit)

So what?

You’ve created this wonderful oasis that your family loves spending time in together and you’re all bonding and getting along so well – wow, you really care about your family, you’re an amazing wife and Mom.  (Bingo! Core emotional benefit.)  

The emotional benefit the professional organizer’s audience – busy Moms with young kids and an active family life – wants to achieve is a calm environment that benefits the whole family and creates stress-free family time. With this in mind, one idea I pitched for the name of her opt-in offer was a handy organizing guide called:

From Chaos to Calm: 9 Easy-to-Use, Inexpensive Tools to Get Your Home and Family Organized, Eliminate Overwhelm, and (Finally!) Create a Stress-Free Oasis Your Family Can’t Wait to Come Home To

So the bottom line is, you want to convey how your creative goods or services enhance your customers’ lives by demonstrating the emotional benefits of owning/experiencing them, like we did here with the professional organizer’s opt-in offer. 

And that’s what chocolate cake and donuts can teach you about selling more: tap into what makes your ideal audience feel good.

Your turn: what’s the name of your business and the core emotional benefit it provides?  Let me know in the comments section!

[Sign up for free weekly updates and get instant access to the CREATIVE REBEL GUIDE TO WRITING A CLIENT-ATTRACTING ABOUT PAGE, plus copywriting & web marketing tips and other fun stuff for creative freelancers & biz owners that I only share with my subscribers, delivered straight to your inbox each Tuesday.]  

Can Copywriting Principles Work for Visual Artists?

image by Clarita

image by Clarita

Recently I received an email from a subscriber who had just downloaded my Creative Rebel Guide to Writing a Client-Attracting About Page and thought it was “just fantastic!,” to use her words.

But there was a small problem.

She mentioned that as a visual artist and not a service provider, the suggestions in the guide wouldn’t really work for her, because, as she said, “I don’t offer solutions to peoples’ challenges or other services like design or advice.” 

Here’s the thing, though.

Anyone selling anything, online or elsewhere, can benefit from using tried-and-true copywriting and marketing principles to win clients and buyers, and make sales.  It all starts with getting clear on who your ideal buyers are – whether they are collectors, clients, customers or whatever you call them in your world based on what it is you provide – and what they want.

Because I know there are other visual artists out there who struggle with how to apply copywriting and marketing principles in their business, I thought I would share my response to this lovely reader so those of you in the same position can start thinking of how you can do the same:

Thanks for getting in touch, and thanks for the kind words, I appreciate it!

Let me just say I still think you could adapt the advice in the Creative Rebel Guide to Writing a Client-Attracting About Page to your work as a fine artist.  Once you get clear on why your clients buy art from you, you can tap into that to write your About page. [And any other copy on your website.]

Mainly, the advice in the guide is about focusing on your clients and customers in your website copy and on what they are seeking, then positioning yourself as someone who can deliver that to them. You are delivering the *experience* of art to them, and they will have all kinds of motivations for buying art from you, so the key is to figure out what those motivations are and tap into that in your website copy.

So although you create fine art, that IS the solution some people are seeking — they want to experience beauty, or create a beautiful home – and fine art is part of that – or maybe they collect art because it makes them feel “special.”  There can be many motivations for why people buy your work, and if you can home in on what those reasons are, you can write your About page, or any other copy on your website, to focus on those needs and emotional drivers in a way that really connects with your ideal clients and customers.

I hope this makes sense, and I wish you the very best of luck!

Cheers,

Kimberly

So, for you fine artists and other visual artists out there, what are your thoughts? What has your experience been with using copywriting and/or marketing principles to attract clients or collectors and sell your work? What’s worked and what hasn’t? Let me know in the comments!

[Sign up for free weekly updates and get instant access to the CREATIVE REBEL GUIDE TO WRITING A CLIENT-ATTRACTING ABOUT PAGE, plus copywriting & web marketing tips and other goodies for creative freelancers & biz owners that I only share with my subscribers, delivered straight to your inbox each Tuesday.]  

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

No matter how you currently feel about sales as a topic (maybe that it’s icky, pushy, sleazy, manipulative – any of these ring a bell?) or your own sales ability in this moment, you already possess a natural ability to sell. And it doesn’t involve any of the afore-mentioned limiting beliefs about what sales is or does.

Yes, you – you have a natural ability to sell. In fact, you’re having “sales conversations” all the time, and you’ve been doing it all your life.

Think about it. When you were growing up, how often did you try to “sell” your parents on taking you to the mall, or letting you stay up late, or buying you something special, even when it wasn’t Christmas or your birthday?  

When you were in school, did you ever try to convince your friends skip school, or have a party when their parents were out of town, or to find out if that special boy or girl “liked” you?

As an adult, have you ever tried to talk your significant other into taking a trip, going out to dinner, or picking up his/her socks, fer cryin’ out loud? Or persuading your kids to clean their rooms or do their homework?

And when a friend asks you to recommend a hair salon, dog groomer, dry cleaners or a restaurant, how easy is it for you to wax poetic about your favorite service provider in any of these categories?

These are all sales conversations, of a sort. Of the authentic, unforced, perfectly natural and comfortable variety. You can think of them as “connection conversations,” if “sale conversations” rubs you the wrong way.

And really, that’s all “sales” is – connecting people – whether friends and family, or clients and customers – with something that will help them improve their lives in some way.

So remember this when you start to get tweaked about having to sell – and I know you’ve had that icky  “I-really-wish-I-didn’t-have-to-do-this” feeling about selling, because I’ve had it, and I hear it from other creatives. Often. (Of course, you could be different. You could love sales. If so, shine on, you crazy diamond.)

If you sometimes feel the “ick” factor about selling, keep in mind that sales is not about applying undue pressure; it’s not about forcing, but “tempting.” And you already have experience with that, you little minx. 

So fear not selling.

 

Here are two quick tips for when you’re writing content for your website, sales page, email newsletters, or however you communicate with your clients and customers to make an offer:

:: Imagine you’re having a conversation with a close friend. You’re hanging out together at the coffee shop or the bar, talking informally with just this one person about something that will enhance their life in some way – that’s how you want to write your sales messages. To one person, conversationally, connecting them to something that will help them solve a problem or achieve a goal.

:: Start your sales letter with, “I was thinking about you today.” This effective insider copywriting tip comes from master copywriter Drayton Bird. It’s a great way to get into the conversation without sounding like a douchey, over-the-top huckster.

So if you want to write a sales page or make an offer without feeling “salesy” or “markety,” try one of these techniques.

In the comments section, tell me about a time you used your natural sales ability to persuade someone to do something, and how it turned out. Or share your own tips for creating effective sales messages, I’d love to hear ’em! 

[For more on writing copy that connects with your ideal clients, sign up for free weekly updates and get instant access to the CREATIVE REBEL GUIDE TO WRITING A CLIENT-ATTRACTING ABOUT PAGE, plus copywriting & web marketing tips and other goodies for creative freelancers & biz owners that I only share with my subscribers, delivered straight to your inbox each Tuesday.]