The one rule to ensure you attract attention.

The one rule to ensure you attract attention.

The real fight out there, the one that is for most businesses ‘make or break,’  is not for  likes, or new friends, or how many social media feeds you showed up in, it is for attention.

The problem with attention, is that it is transient, hard to get, and there is  no saving it up for later.

Use it or lose it.

To win that fight for attention, or at least have a shot at the title, there is one rule to remember and implement.

Nobody cares about you and what you care about.

There it is, in 9 words, could be better at 7 if you cut out ‘you and’ .

Perhaps your Mum cares,  and your partner, maybe your few really close mates, nobody else.

They are all too  busy caring about what they care about to be worried about you, someone they do not know, or occasionally may know superficially.

Why is it then that we spend so much time telling others what we care about on our landing pages, brochures, advertising platforms, marketing collateral, and websites?

Usually in my experience that mistake comes from one of two places, often both:

  • You do not know who you really need to talk to well enough to communicate with absolute clarity why they should give you some of their valuable attention.
  • You are covering your arse in case someone higher up in the place asks ‘what about….’

Both are short sighted, and revenue destroying tactics.

All forms of marketing activity and material have one purpose only: to contribute to the generation of revenue.

Nothing else. Nada. Zilch. Generate revenue or go home.

What contributes most to generating revenue?

Easy: someone has a problem, and  in the first glance, on your website, or brochure, or whatever it may be, if the answer to their problem, in 10 words or less is there, they may stop. Even 10 may be too wordy, some with the problem will have skimmed over it and moved on to someone who expresses their solution to their problem with greater clarity.

Outside your family, and close circles, nobody cares. Until they need you: then they care, and occasionally when you get your marketing ducks in a row, offer you the opportunity to gain their attention.


Cartoon credit: Hugh McLeod at gaping void

How to ensure your copy does not get read.

How to ensure your copy does not get read.

Copywriting is easy.

That is what you tell yourself, after all, you can write, you are a professional, very used to communicating, and doing it successfully.

My sister is a writer, and every now and again she grabs one of my posts over which I have slaved (yes, it is OK to have family subscribed) and goes into what I call her ‘Teacher mode’

Out comes the red pen and professional editor and she rewrites my posts.

They are subtly altered, so the intent of the post is clearer, makes a greater impact on the reader, and ends up being way, way better.

It galls me a bit that it is a skill beyond mine,  but on the other hand, she makes me feel better by telling me she could never dream up the topics and angles that I do, all she does is polish it a bit.

We are inundated with copy, it comes at us at all times, through all our devices,  and now is increasingly visual  as a means to fight the war for your attention. However, like most things the volume going up does not have any real impact on the quality, if anything the average has dropped as we become ‘do-it-yourselfers’ in order to keep the volume up.

The headline is the most important element of copy in any piece. If you fail to cut through, catch attention, and create an urge to read on, it does not matter how good the rest is, it will not be seen.

There is piles of advice around on how to write a great headline, most of it pretty good, but also so much that we tend to get tunnel vision, and forget most of it, so following are 4 basic things I see continuously that ensures I do not open a piece.

Talking about yourself.

Nobody cares about you, except perhaps your mother, or in my case, my sister. They care about themselves, their lives, and their problems. A good headline reflects those needs, pain points, and offers help to a specific group that you wish to communicate with, and at  the very least, creates interest.

If you are a dentist, do not talk about how modern your equipment is, or how many degrees you may have, address the reason someone  may be looking for a dentist. They have broken a tooth, their child has a crooked bite, or they have a toothache that needs attention.

Using jargon.

Every industry has jargon, it acts as shorthand for insiders, so if you want to grab the attention of your competitors, use the jargon they understand, but if you would rather catch the attention of those who might want to act on what you say, avoid it like the plague.

Last week I saw a headline that promised: ‘to deliver a sophisticated customer centric e-commerce solution to SME’s’ . How much better would it have been if the headline simply promised to make it easy from small businesses to get paid.

Showing how clever you are.

For your potential customer, clear beats clever every single time. It may not get a chuckle from your mates in the pub after work, but so what, they are already your mates, and not required to pay your bills. The most common offender is the use of a pun, never as funny in a headline as in the pub, followed closely by the use of ‘digital shorthand’ such as ‘gr8’.

Allowing grammatical and spelling errors.

Perhaps it is just my age, but a spelling or grammatical error in a headline or sub head ensures I do not open it. Not only does it offend my sense of what is right, it demonstrates that the writer is either too stupid to understand the basic rules of written communication, or that they have so little concern for my time that they did not make the effort to get it right. Why would I read it in either case?

The difference between ordinary copy, and great copy is a big bagful of money, and a lot of effort, experience and specialist skill.


9 steps to making cold calling work for you

9 steps to making cold calling work for you

I find cold calling really difficult, while recognising the potential effectiveness when the inertia is overcome.

For me,  it takes time and emotional energy far greater than the return I have ever got from cold calling, except when I have run  out of options, then it seems to work. When the instinctive fear of failure is overcome by the necessity to take a step, when the fear of failure, or rejection is beaten by the fear of not being able to feed the kids or pay the bill on the fridge, the fear of rejection by a stranger seems trivial.

What does it really matter if you are rejected by a complete stranger anyway?

A friend of mine treats cold calling as a game, she does it for a living, and is very good at it.

Recently I sat down with her to try and extract from her routine a scalable cold calling template, and realised two things:

  1. The fear of failure was crippling
  2. Cold calling is pretty much the same as sending a cold email , which I am OK at.

Her advice was to get over the fear, and she referred me to this terrific TED talk, and to treat cold calling with just the same set of disciplines I used for cold emailing.

I have a process for developing email success that I use as a coaching outline for those I work with, and it almost always gets great results when applied sensibly. However, adding Jia jiang’s Ted talk will add greatly to the effectiveness of the following pretty standard management process to increase your effectiveness.

Segment your list.  The better you know the prospect who answers the phone, the more likely you will have a successful call. The more defined your call list, with unique messaging and value propositions developed for each segment, the better. This is as different from the completely random call you get as you are sitting down to dinner in the evening, from someone in a call centre flogging home insulation, insurance or a holiday, as it can be.

Headline. The first sentence in a phone call, or headline in an email carry the same responsibility: to pique the interest of the receiver. Fail in the first glance of a headline, or 5 seconds of a call, and it is a long hard road back. There are plenty of headline generating tools around, but the best lesson in my experience is to go to the local newsagent, and just think about the headlines on the cover of the magazines you see. They are aimed to grab attention, and direct the reader to the following sub  head, which leads into the magazine article.

Them not you. Make the message about them, and the things that interest them, not about you, as generally they will not be interested, and you will have lost them. You need to  be able to spell out exactly how you can help them.

Be a peer. Speak and write like a peer, not a supplicant sales person. There are few worse sales turn-offs than a “needy” caller. Much better to be a busy peer, making a little time in a crazy schedule because you have discovered something that you think will be of value to them.

Credibility. Be credible by providing social proof, or better yet, a referral from someone the receiver knows and respects.

Personalise. Ensure everything is personalised, anything less than a highly personalised call will almost always fail. It is necessary for you to have done the research, to know a fair bit about the receiver, the problems they face in their role, and the value of a solution you may be able to provide. Making a call to the switch of a target company and asking to be transferred to the “person responsible for XXX” is a waste of everybody’s time.

Respect. Time is our most valuable resource, so respect the receivers time by keeping it short, but to the point, ending with some sort of call to action by you or them. However, the CTA needs to be consistent with the context of the conversation. Early stages may lead to a further conversation, or the inclusion of someone else, but rarely to a sale on first contact. Generally the objective is to get some sort of positive response, a step towards a sale, but not a sale, yet.

Differentiate yourself. If you are just the same as everybody else, why should the person you are trying to engage bother with you? While the call has to be about them, and not you, it is also about articulating the way that you can help  them in ways others cannot. The necessity here is that you have done some homework, at least enough to have a shot at articulating the solution you may have to a problem they face, or opportunity they may be unaware of. Differentiation early in the conversation offers a reason why they should continue to give you their time, and builds the status you have in the conversation, you are not just another cold caller.

Follow up. And follow up again, and again, politely and with respect. Generally sales people give up at about 3, whereas all the research indicates that 5-7 follow  ups are the point at which the ability to convert increases significantly. It reflects the old advice about advertising frequency, at about the time you are getting sick of the ad, if it is worth anything, the target audience is just building awareness of your proposition.


So, what is stopping you, pick up the bloody phone!


Photo courtesy Nancy Rose via Flikr.


How to make the hardest sale there is…..Yourself.

How to make the hardest sale there is…..Yourself.

There are too many older people, men and women, but mostly men, who find themselves on the scrapheap somewhere north of 45.

20 years of working life left, and they struggle to find jobs that use their knowledge and experience, and end up mowing lawns or delivering packages.

What a waste of a deep resource, as well as being a social blight on us all.

The jobs these people are looking for no longer exist, they have gone, and are unlikely to come back. Not only do we as a community not value the lessons of experience, we positively discriminate against those with the experience by exclusion.
Subtle, on paper illegal but evident everywhere, exclusion.

We will have to get used to it, as the changes wrought by the industrial revolution and the social disruption colloquialised as ‘Luddites” is coming back at us very, very, fast.

AI, VR,  Augmented VR, and a host of technologies to automate every repetitive task, almost no matter how challenging it may be, is coming at us like a train.  In the coming few years accountants, lawyers, architects, doctors, and many others insulated so far, will all feel the heat of change.

So what should the people displaced by these technologies do?

Learn to sell.

Sales is not just about a product, it is about selling themselves, but the rules are identical.

When someone seeks to buy a product with a significant price tag, they generally have some outcome in mind that they require. The art of selling is to identify that outcome and develop the path that makes you the only option.

Let’s look at it from another angle: how do you sell yourself into a job, which is entirely different to how do you get a job.

Sales is all about the process. Selling yourself is similarly all about the process, from identifying targets, making the introduction, warming up the prospect, to closing the deal. Absolutely no different, except that we are personally involved, failure to get a job means that the kids do not get fed, so the pressure is on, and most buckle and revert to the supplicant mode. Understandable, but absolutely the wrong thing to do. Nobody will hire a supplicant to sell their products, therefore when selling yourself, never be the supplicant.

Know your prospect as well as possible. This is sales 101, why would it be any different selling yourself? Knowing a lot about the businesses you might like to work for is about the most basic piece of information you could have. As a senior manager, I hired a lot of people, and never once did I hire anyone who had not taken the trouble to learn a bit about the business I worked for at  the time. Now, with the net it is even easier to have detailed information about all sorts of things on which to base a few intelligent and engaging questions.

Ask questions. That way you get answers, and can ask the next question, and that is the best way to engage with anyone, ask them about the things they are interested in. Most successful bloke I ever saw with girls was a pretty ordinary looking bloke, smart, but nondescript. He never talked about himself, in fact, did not seem to speak much at all beyond a few questions, as he was flooded by girls who thought he was the bees knees. I only understood this when it was too late for me.

Hustle, at least a bit. Nobody ever failed to be hired for not following up enough. While I dislike the term ‘follow up’ in a generic sense as it is a red sales flag, finding another way to say the same thing, such as ‘just thought I would seek some feedback on our meeting last week’. People want to hire others who will not give up, who will persist, get back up after being knocked over, so why would it be any different when selling yourself.

Know when to walk. As in any sale, there is a point beyond which you will not go. Determine in your own mind what that point is, and be prepared to walk away.  This clearly signals you are other than a supplicant, and does the self-image a lot of good.

Sales collateral. You need sales collateral, even if it is just for credibility. Selling for a business it is the website, product information, deals, and so on. Selling yourself it is your LinkedIn profile, presence on industry platforms and forums, lack of party photos on Facebook, and finally a resume that is short, clearly identifies how the skills you have will solve their problems and be without the usual spelling and grammatical failures. Core to this is the visual elements. We are visual animals,  good photos are  essential.

So, polish up the pitch, do the research, and get out there.


Leveraging the flip side of an elevator pitch

Leveraging the flip side of an elevator pitch

Honing an elevator pitch is something we all should do, and many spend hours writing and practising a pitch, following one of the many templates around, most of which are similar.

Grab attention.

Describe the product.

Articulate the benefit.

All in 30 seconds.

We fantasise about catching that mystical perfect customer alone in an elevator, enthusing him/her to such as extent that they rush out and buy.

Rarely happens.

More often, you get the opportunity to deliver your pitch at a networking meeting, or some semi social gathering.

Still rarely happens that your perfect customer is there, listening, but we are happy to be delivering a pitch perfectly in that hope.

However, most people, somewhere in their networks, will know someone who will be the perfect customer.

The question then becomes how do make the pitch sufficiently memorable, that they are able to recite it back to their networks.

Do this successfully, and you will have  a host of sales people out there pitching for you, and we all know  the most effective marketing is still person to person, word of mouth endorsement.

It comes down to being able to articulate your differentiator and value proposition, in one sentence, in simple words.

It must be memorable, simple, and describe why they should be interested beyond any apparent alternative.

In the early days of Uber, founder Travis Kalanick described Uber as “Push a button and in 5 minutes a Mercedes picks you up and takes you where you want to go”

Nothing about platforms, technology, marketplaces, or any of the other buzzwords we slip into so easily, just the benefit. More recently it has been further simplified into ‘Push a button, get a ride

One of my clients in Sydney, Planet Press  that I met after I was ‘constructively rude’ about a botched elevator pitch delivery has a rare differentiator. It is a medium sized printing business with a highly experienced and skilled design function, combined with digital and offset printing, a wide range of die cutting, perforating and assembly options, along with a slick distribution service, all under the one roof. How do you make that lot sufficiently memorable that someone hearing the pitch will be able to relate it to their networks?

Quality printed communication from under one roof’?

Perhaps not quite there yet, but closer.



How to make your website really work for you

How to make your website really work for you

A friend of mine recently drafted a website for a product he is launching, and asked me to have a look before publishing it. Not a great thing to be doing, as by the time I had finished commenting, he had tuned out. There was just too much bad news.

There are millions of websites out there, so the question  now is not just how to get your website seen by those to whom it is targeted, but how do you then get them to take some sort of action, without which, it all has little point.

A few simple rules

Clarity of purpose. Ensure it is crystal clear what you do, in essence why the site exists. The simpler the better, remove all the detail, all the jargon and fancy words, opting instead for simple statements and graphics that illustrate why you are there.

What problem do you solve. Customers buy solutions to problems, not products. The purchase of everything from the groceries to expensive luxuries are in some way connected to a problem, real or perceived that the customer has. Tell them which one you are solving, how, and why they should buy from you.

They are not interested in you. Almost every site has an ‘About us’ page. It is useful to give some background, demonstration of expertise, and how you care deeply about the ‘bilbies’, but less is more. People are interested in you only to the extent that it confirms their decision to purchase from you. The fact that your grandfather who founded the business was apprentice of the year in 1935 is supremely irrelevant, as are the awards you may have won in 2000.

Demonstrate that your solution works. This can take many forms from testimonials to statistics and demonstrations, but is an important component of building trust and credibility.

Have a designer design. The look of a site says a lot about you, and it is a designers job to interpret the important things visually. The choice of images, layout, use of white space, location of icons of various types are all done better by a pro. It does not have to cost a lot, and most of those who design websites who may be good technically are not necessarily good at visual and creative design. The bit of extra investment is almost always well worth it.

Tell them what to do now. Ask for the action you want a visitor to your site to take. Download something, watch a video, follow a link, whatever it may be, make it clear, easy to do, and ask.

My friend was sorry he asked, but a week or so later, showed me a way better version that will now be published as a part of his product launch in a few months.