Monday, December 23, 2013

The Second Most Common Marketing Mistake

Any ad you put on Fri market on a list, on a flyer, on a bulletin board,  on craigslist—or anywhere else--can make you lots more income if it avoids the two biggest and most common mistakes.

 Last blog I talked about headlines.  That’s the place of biggest blunders.  Re-read that article to create headlines that actually get attention and tempt people to read further.  Reminder:  Write it, then ask yourself, “Who is this about?  Me or the Customer?”

 Whew, ok, you avoided the first biggest mistake and wrote a headline that works!

 Second biggest mistake is too many (and too big) words.

 Writing for marketing (copywriting) is different than any other kind of writing.  The reason is that no one has to read what you write for advertising.  Let me restate that because it’s the foundation of how to execute good copywriting!

 No one is FORCED to read your ad.

 Not like in school where you had assignments you had to read.  Not like at work where you have to read memos or reports.  Not like voter information booklets where you want to know what you’re voting on.  Not like research where you’re looking for information.  Advertising is not something anyone in his right mind says, “I want to read all these ads.”

 The upshot of that is you must make it fun, interesting, surprising, or relevant—but mostly EASY to read.  Or they won’t.

 If it’s hard to read, you lose them.  And too many words make it hard to read!  Sentences need to be simple and direct—subject, verb, and object, not a lot of irrelevant words.  This is one of the hardest things for people to “get.”  It seems like more words ought to make it clearer and more important.  They do not!  More words make it harder to read and dilute your message. 

 Let me give you an extreme example: 

 “Insofar as manifestations of functional deficiencies are agreed by any and all concerned parties to be imperceptible and are so stipulated, it is incumbent
upon said heretofore mentioned parties to exercise the deferment of otherwise pertinent maintenance procedures."

In other words, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Ok, that’s an extreme example.  But I watch farmers and crafters writing copy that does essentially the same thing—it wanders, uses too many words and uses big words where a simple one would do.  In many places that kind of wordiness is allowed or even encouraged.  Legal, scientific and law enforcement writing come to mind. 

 But this is copywriting and it needs to be simple and easy to read—about 5th grade level.  Not that you’re talking to 5th graders, but the easier it is to read, the more likely they will read it and get your message.

Distill every sentence down to the “meat” of what you’re trying to get across.  Find little words, not big ones, get rid of ones that are not absolutely necessary.

Understand that the brighter you are, the more you know, the bigger your vocabulary, the more tendency you have to use too many words and bigger ones.  It’s human.  It takes conscious editing to make things simple and easy to read.

 Here’s another example, extreme, about libraries:

Libraries are a prime example of the epitome in intellectual investigation.  They invite individuals to extravagant flights of fancy and exploration.  They are tailor made to entice the niche specialist and the generalist, both, to delve into realms unexplored as well as conducive to the entertainment of the simple, the young and the intellectual.   Not very clear, not very concise 

            Here’s what it’s really saying, “Libraries appeal to people in all walks of life and with many purposes.”  Even more distilled would be, “Libraries are for everyone!” 

Now let me give you some examples from Friday market list ads.  I am just picking ads or parts of ads that are too wordy for examples.  As I go along, notice, too, where these examples show seller focus on himself not on the customer, but my focus today is the wordiness.  This one for an alpaca: 

“_____and her mother were purchased by us to use in our breeding program (pregnant mother with female cria at side ). I am not disappointed in the quality of either of these girls. Both girls came from ____ genetics. She has _______ ($2500.00 stud fee), _______ (deceased), and ______ ($5000.00 stud fee), ______in her close genetics. Her mother has been bred to _______ for a 2014 cria and is in my foundation herd and not for sale. She has a gray muzzle and ears and would be considered a "GRAY FAWN" like her mother who has produced 3 gray cria bred to gray males!  She is very fine fleeced, dense and even color. She comes with a LIFETIME of free breedings to any herd sires owned or co-owned by us.”  131 words

This paragraph could be edited considerably without destroying the essence of the information:
“Here’s show winning fleece--microns, density and color--in one dynamite package with guaranteed 2014 breeding to Asteroid is one of my favorite herdsires. He has produced extremely well for me. He is easily handled and loves his job. He is housed with 4 other males and gets along well with them. Asteroid is extremely dense and produces crias with dense, fine fleeces. I have sold all of his crias with the exception of one of his females from 2013. She will be in my 2014 show string if I still own her. Please take a look and consider this incredible male!a 10x COLOR CHAMPION.  You also get free breedings to any of our sires for her lifetime.  Grey fawn with heavy genetics for desirable grey offspring, and championship genetics throughout her pedigree.”  49 words, and I could probably edit out a few more if I looked at it again later.
 
Here’s one for a goat.  Note how hard it is to read:  

             Sable Buck For Sale
 A Christmas gift for the one on your list that is hard to buy for????  Offering for sale a two year old purebred sable buck.  Proven breeder.  CAE tested (WSU) negative 1-13.  LA 2-04 86 (VV+).  _________, adga genetics ___________.   I am only selling him because I need to trim down the buck herd and I used him heavily this year.  He is also AGS registered.  Located in central Missouri.  $450 or best offer.  Transportation within reasonable distance for gas reimbursement.  View his photo on my website.  (91 words)s gift for the one on your liist that is hard to buy for????  Offering for sale a two year old purebred sable buck.  Proven breeder.  CAE tested (WSU) negative 1-13.  LA 2-04 86 (VV+).  Sweetbriar MV Eldorado  http://www.adgagenetics.org/GoatDetail.aspx?RegNumber=C001546081   I am only selling him because I need to trim down the buck herd and I used him heavily this year.  He is also AGS registered.  Located in central Missouri.  $450 or best offer.  Transportation within reasonable distance for gas reimbursement.  View his photo on my website.

Here’s how I’d edit and rewrite:

Solve the gift dilemma for your Sable-loving Special Someone
Give this top genetics two year old buck!  Outstanding enough that we’ve used him on everyone here!  You can have confidence in him with:
o   LA score
o   CAE Negative
o   Transportation available from MO
o   Reg #
Farm website for photos _______________________(55 words)

 The art of writing copy is a skill you CAN learn.  Go ahead and write your ad.  Then leave it for a few days.  Now, come back and look at what’s about you, what words are not necessary, what words are too big (pompous) and how you can edit to make it lots shorter and sweeter--but always about what the customer gets, not about you!

 My Christmas gift to any one on this list, between now and the end of the year, send me your already edited short classified ad and let me see if I can edit it even more.  Sometimes seeing more editing helps you learn how!  Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Three Reasons why listing What You Have For Sale is a BAD Headline


1.  It’s a boring headline with no pizzazz
            Nubian buckling for sale—ho hum
            Herd reduction—hmmm, (customer thinks) “I wonder about their management”
            Special calendars—why would he think they are special?
            We have extra ________ for sale—it’s all about you and he doesn’t care about you!

 2.  Lots of rural businesses have the same product or animal for sale.

How are you going to stand out when every livestock breeder has extra males for sale.  A male had better have something very special about him to even be worth mentioning.  Unless they have exceptional genetics.  And if they are worth mentioneing, why are you not talking about what those exceptional genetics could do for a customer?  Because he’s saying, “I should care why???? “ 

Whatever your product, the headline needs to make it plain why yours is just the one they need—and it does not happen unless you can excite that customer with your headline—your only chance at a first impression. 

3.  Listing what you have for sale might get the attention of the guy who is actively looking for your thing, but a better headline might remind a bunch of people that they really do need your product, they just were not thinking about it today.

One of my favorite examples that I’ve used in my marketing seminar is this:
     “We are starting our fall semen collection trip.” 

·        Who is that headline about?  (answer, not the customer)
·        Who cares about it?  Maybe one or two people who know they want their animal collected.
·        How to fix that headline?  “Safeguard your valuable genetics this fall with our semen collection service.” 

Now there are potentially dozens of folks with a really fine buck (pig, horse, dog, or other collectable animal) who is getting up there in age.  They’ve seen dynamite offspring and realize the breeding years for the really good ones are limited.  Your headline has reminded them that his contribution is at risk and getting him collected will give them peace of mind.  The second headline is about what the customer gets, not about the seller of the service. 

A good headline gets attention, speaks to the customer’s self interest.  See if you can write a headline about your for-sale thing that does that. 

Always ask yourself this question about your headline.  “Who is this about?” 

If it’s about your stuff or about your farm or about you, you’re missing a chance to connect with your customers.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

How to Fall in Love With Your Customers

In articles to come I will talk more (as I have before) about ways you can more effectively get customers to your farm (or store or website).  Those are some of the nuts and bolts of marketing that you can learn and get better at, like headlines and copywriting skills.
 
But, falling in love with that customer standing in front of you is how you help them get the feelings they long for with a new purchase.  See, they don't really come to you wanting your ________________(animal, service, product).  They want to feel a certain way when they own it.  That's a big difference.  And when you tune in to that difference, your business thrives and everyone wins! 
 
No one is immune to love.  Let's define it in this context.  When you love your customer, you tune in to his heart and psyche.  You care about his results.  You see into his 'soul' for the things that positively touch his life.  You put his needs first.  You like him.  You "get" him.  You are on his page, not your own.
 
"Wow,: I hear you thinking..."That's a big order!"  Maybe not so big as it looks from the outside. 
 
Before that customer shows up (or gets on the phone) you need to check your own attitudes.  You may have very strong opinions and beliefs about politics or religion or raising children or diet or any number of other things, but for the time you're dealing with customers, tuck those attitudes in a closet somewhere in your own head and remember they have no place in your dealing with customers.  (Maybe later in some cases, but not now.)  If you can do that, it gets you far away from any judgmental superiority.  'Judge not lest you be judged' was very sound advice long ago and it holds today.
 
Now let me give you three actions that make you fall in love with your customer. And co-incidentally, make him fall in love with you!
 
1.  Actively look for things that you like about this person.  Find one or two right away.  These can be physical or psychological things.  You are looking for something you can compliment him on.  Doesn't have to be a biggie, either. 
 
    "I love the way the sun catches your hair color today."
    "You have the loveliest smile."
    "Isn't that about the cutest two year old I've ever seen."
    "It's so gratifying to me when people come prepared for the mud."
    "I really appreciate your promptness."
    "Your vocabulary on conformation is impressive."
    "It's so great that you already did your homework about ____________."
    "Love your bumper sticker!"
 
Two things happen when you give someone a compliment.  The first is in you.  You will always get more of what you're focused on.  If you are focused on what's good about this person, you are more drawn to him and will find more to like.  But second is that people always respond positively to compliments (ie to you and by extension, your stuff or your service).  And by the way, this works on children, mates, co-workers and staff, too. 
 
2.  Look them in the eye!  Making eye contact is super important.  Again, it is two fold--both in you and in the customer.  For you, first.  The eyes are the window to the soul--that might be a cliché--but it's true anyway.  You can see how they are feeling, how they are responding, if you need to do something different, if they are excited, or even serious or not.  You can "read" people when you look into their eyes.  And in the customer, when you make eye contact, they feel important to you, that you care.   Not making eye contact sends the message that you're evasive and you don't find them important.  What does a picture of two people gazing into each others' eyes convey?  Love.
 
For phone conversations you get the effect of eye contact from listening very carefully and sometimes paraphrasing what they've just said to see if you got it right.  In other words, paying very close attention.
 
For some people it's an easy thing to look people in the eye.  But if you are particularly shy and find it hard, think about it this way.  Whatever you initially feel about 'intruding' they are also initially feeling.  Sometimes it just helps to know you're not alone in that discomfort.  And practice on someone who's sympathetic to your shyness first!  Then realize that there are benefits to you both to overcome that shyness.
 
3. Ask open-ended questions--and listen to their answers.  Given half a chance, customers will tell you exactly how to fulfill their dreams and longings.  If you ask questions with one or two word answers, they can't.  The questions need to be ones that get them talking in long paragraphs.
 
Not "Do you want milk or meat from your goats?"
But, "Tell me about the goals for your own goat farm." (notice it's not even technically a question.)
 
Not, "What kind of alpaca are you looking for?"
But, "What are you looking to accomplish with your alpaca herd?"
 
Not, "Is the horse difficult for you?"
But, "How is the horse difficult for you?"
 
As easy way to remember this action step is to start with the words, "Tell me how..." or "Tell me about..."  or "What do you want to see...?"  Then listen very carefully to what they say.  Within their answers is the information that tells you how to serve them impeccably--a win/win for everyone concerned.  And by the way, people love those who care enough about them to listen to their dreams.  They will love you right back!
 
Falling in love with your customer is easy when you know how!  And you both will be happy with the results.
 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

I have a recommendation for you...

It has been a while since I have blogged.  In spite of the best intentions, putting my farm and home together has taken all my time and attention.  Little energy has been left over for writing.  Maybe I will do better in the coming year, for the hardest part is behind me.

So today, as we approach a very special time of year, I am pleased to touch base again. 

Marketing has a bad rap.  It's too bad, because real marketing, the kind that touches people's hearts and makes their life better, is a different animal all together.  Good marketing is just  the most incredible service to customers.  It serves them.

And today, I saw a TED talk that talks about some things related to marketing from a little different perspective.  I think it's important to come at a subject from many angles.  If you've been a reader here very long, you've heard me talk about reaching customers at a heart level.  They don't care about you, or your stuff, they only care about feeling better in some way.  And when you talk to them about how it happens with your farm or product or animal, they not only listen, but they want to buy from you.

So I commend this TED talk to you today.  See if you can see why I think it's one of the best marketing videos of all time even though that's not really his subject!  Worth the 18 minutes of your time!  "How Great Leaders Inspire Action:  The power of purpose" 
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tedtalks/simon-sinek_b_4394863.html

I would like to hear from you.  Tell me how your businesses are going, where you need help, how can I talk to you in ways that will help you serve your own customers?

Best wishes,
Ellie

Friday, June 28, 2013

Examples of Edited Ads, Headlines etc.

Below are some advertising items sent by some of my readers.  I've selected from several kinds of businesses (I have clients NOT on farms, too) to give you a variety of examples.  Most of my focus in this post is on two copywriting ideas that are most important:  Putting the customer first, and getting rid of extra (or ho-hum) words.  None of my suggestions below is the final word, there are lots of ways to make these ads sparkle.  But below are some examples that use good Marketing Principles (the ones that get you sales!)

1.  Connie’s headlines 
                         Connie's Custom Rug Weaving
                          Rugs...like grandma used to make.
                           Creations from your fibered rug yarn

My suggestion:                    
Pamper Your Feet with the Softness of Warm, Comfy Rugs...
...like Grandmas use to make!
 Put your own rug yarn to use in custom woven rugs by Connie

2.  Marie’s ad  (I have shortened some of it)
 
Too Good to Geld - Alpacas
 
Do you want fine fleece, beautiful conformation or a potential herdsire?
Do you want to upgrade your females with some great genetics?  We have
five full Peruvian (including one full Accoyo), intact males that need
homes.  Most of these alpacas could be used as herdsires, but for us, they
don't fit our breeding program because they are related to our current
herd.

My suggestion:

 An Easy Upgrade For Your Alpaca Herd
With Finer, Softer Fiber and Better Looks, Too!

There's genetics for both better fiber and better conformation in these five full Peruvian males.  You can get tremendous bargains because they are too closely related in our herd.  (then more details...)

 
3.  Nubian Milkers for sale
 
We have finished kidding and now slowly picking through the herd to make room
for the younger does coming into the herd.
HARD CHOICES... 
 
My suggestion:

Take the Guess Work Out of Buying Nubians Genetics!
Eliminate the risk of buying kids with these already-producing Nubian milkers-- because we have to make room for the new girls. 

4.  Anne's ad (she teaches writing classes)
 
Do You Long To Finally Get YOUR Book Written?
Does this sound familiar?

·         You have a new way of seeing an old problem and you're excited about the solution you've found because you know lots of people would benefit from your insights and ideas.

·         You have a story you want to tell about yourself, your family or something else, and you know it's a dynamite story that would be appreciated by many and probably teach a thing or two as well.

·         You've created a new business, or reinterpreted and old one and you want the world to know.

But...writing a book seems overwhelming!

My suggestion:

 Is Getting Your Book Written Getting You Down?

         Here is HELP— Whatever your dream book idea!     
To get the ideas clear
To get it organized
To actually get it written…
 
        
 5.  Justin's Headline (on business card)  He runs a Handyman service

Stormy’s Handyman Services
gets your repairs done right

My suggestion: 

Household repairs done right—without the contractor price
Licensed, Bonded…and Reasonable
Stormy’s Handyman Service
 
6.  Ann's ad, also shortened 
We've been breeding alpacas since 2003 and have grown with the industry. We have a few suris and do some little experimenting with mohair and alpaca fiber blending and such.
AlAnn Ranch Alpacas breeds hardy, genetically-diverse animals to thrive in our harsh northern Arizona clime, producing fine fibered, healthy cria. We strongly believe in the improvement of our USA herd health and genetic diversity. Herdsires include brown Enchantment’s Cerrillos, rose gray Magnestar, and true black Infinity’s Octagon in our Huacaya herd. Introducing Suris —  
 
My suggestion:
 
Get the Benefit of a Decade of Alpaca Experience...
 
...without putting in your own decade! Our ten years in alpacas gives you confidence, solid, innovative information and expertise that's invaluable.
(then continue telling the details...)
 
 
7.  Saanen Buckling, Southern, Oregon
 
________ Saanens is offering for sale: JJ's Dillon,  DOB: 03/09/2013 3 JR Grand Champions at his 1st show at 2 months of age. Heavy milk...
 
My suggestion:
 
How to Get More Milk in Your Saanen Herd
 
Heavy milk lines back up this Saanen Buckling, born March 2013!  (Quantify what heavy milk lines means with numbers).  As a bonus you get show-winning conformation to boot!  Dillon was Junior Champion three times at his first show!  (I borrowed this ad from a goat list)
 
8.  Livestock Guardian For Sale
14 months  old neutered male Great Pyrenees for sale. 
Has been with livestock since he was 6 months old.  Almost out of his puppyhood which is a definite plus.
 
My Suggestion:
 
Keep Your Animals Safe and Enjoy Peace of Mind
 
You don't even have to deal the the puppyhood problems because this Great Pyrenees is 14 months old and he's ready to protect!
 
Whenever you write marketing messages, ask yourself these two questions"
 
1.  Who is this about?  If it's about you and your stuff, make it about what the customer is hoping for.
 
2.  Are there words I can take out to make it easier to read?  Then edit unmercifully!
 
 
 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

You've asked me for examples...

Over the last several blog articles I've given you, I've talked about how to make your marketing writing (copywriting) easy and interesting for your potential customers.  Several of my readers have asked for more examples.  Good idea!   

For the first 8 or 10 folks that send me examples of their copywriting (off websites, flyers, brochures or ads) and agree to allow me to use them here, I will give you my take on how to improve them.  I don't need to use your name or identifying info, your choice, though. 

Email me a short paragraph, or a headline you want help with.  Not more than 50 words, please.  I'll post the original and an updated version that sticks to copywriting rules.  Free consult opportunity if you're willing to share with my readers.

Time limit is one week from today.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Why Being Concise Matters in Marketing Messages

When you write an ad, remember no one out there is forced to read it.  Not for work, not for school, not for love nor money does ANYONE have to read your ad.

If you make it hard to read, they won't!

One of the biggies of 'hard-to-read' is wandering around with words.  When you put in words that don't help your message, when you have long complicated sentences (like this one) and when you add big words when simple would do--you lose readers.  Here's a story that illustrates the concept of being concise:
With great pride, Benjamin Bernstein painted himself a sign to hang over his store:
FRESH FISH
SOLD HERE
DAILY
As Bernstein placed the ladder to hang up the sign, a kibitzer sang out, "What kind of cockamamy sign is that?" 
"Why? What's wrong with it?" 
"'Fresh fish,' Bernstein? It would never occur to your customers that you sell fish that aren't fresh--unless you advertise it!" 
"You're right." Bernstein took his brush and painted out "Fresh." 
"Wait!" said the kibitzer. "What about 'Sold'? Obviously you sell fish; you don't give them away free." 
Mr. Bernstein painted out "Sold" and said "Okay?" 
"No, why 'Here'? Obviously, you don't sell fish over there. . . ." 
"You're right!" And Bernstein painted out "Here." 
"That leaves 'Daily,'" said the kibitzer. "I ask you, is that smart? If fish are fresh, they must come in and go out daily. Right?" 
"Absolutely!" Bernstein crossed out "Daily," leaving a sign that read only:
FISH
"Perfect," said the kibitzer.
(Leo Rosten, The Joys of Yiddish. McGraw-Hill, 1968)
And a quote from a teacher of writing:

If all you learned in school was how to pad an essay to reach a minimum word count, put that experience aside. Often the quickest way to improve your writing is to cut the fluff and quit when you're done.
 
I couldn't have said it better myself!