Shelby Blanchard Stogner is a freelance copywriter who works with growth-minded companies to turn leads into loyal customers. If you’ve been looking for a better way to show prospects what you can do for them, contact Shelby directly at 618-406-1757 or email@example.com to get started.
Recent Posts by Shelby
What is social proof? The essence of social proof is simple: “If a bunch of other people like it, maybe I will too.” It’s peer pressure in positive form. When McDonalds tells you that they’ve served over a billion hamburgers, or a YouTube video boasts thirty million views, they’re offering social proof. How social proof Continue Reading
When I was younger, I remember being amazed at people who claimed they “didn’t have time to read”. Making time for reading was the easiest thing in the world! Pre-baby, I read an average of two and a half books a week. Post-baby — not so much.
Austin Kleon’s “How to read more” is a great reminder of how to make time for books again. My tips look a little different from his (visit the library often and keep a separate ebook going on the iPad so I can read at the gym feature prominently), but I’ve kept a reading log for years and I think his idea of sharing your favorite books with others is a great one. So, without further ado, the books I read in 2014:
1. It’s an easy ask. Who can say no to answering three questions, especially when it’s about a service you already use or a product you’ve purchased before? Some marketers like to use phrases like “take a brief survey” or even “a three-minute survey”, but brief is entirely subjective. After all, my cable company calls at least every other week to tell me they’d like to have a brief conversation about my TV habits in order to save me money, but what they consider “brief” I consider “too damn long to spend on something I neither need nor want”. Three questions, on the other hand, is three questions – period.
2. It forces you to focus on what matters. When you’re holding yourself to three questions, there’s no room for fluff. You’ve got to figure out what you really need to know from your clients and prospects. What information do you have to have in order to grow your business? I’m hardly the first writer to observe that writing a short piece can be far harder than writing a long one. Winnowing out the BS and the weasel words can be a real challenge. But when you’re creating the survey equivalent of a haiku, you’re forced to cut the fat and get right to what you really want to know.
3. It makes next steps easy to see. A survey is at heart a tool for gathering information. But in the information age, with all the world’s knowledge at our fingertips 24/7, too much information can be as big a problem as too little. With a three-question survey, you only ask for the information you have to have. That makes is crystal clear what steps you need to take next. Did you ask your clients where they first heard about you? Then focus more on those marketing channels. Did you ask what clients loved about your service? Then do more of that stuff, or make those benefits a bigger part of your advertising.
When you design a three-question survey, you’re giving yourself an immediate, actionable roadmap for the next steps your business should take. If you’ve been considering surveying your clients but balking at devising the questionnaire, now is the time. You’re just three questions away from your next marketing idea.
If you follow literary or science fiction news, you may have heard of the recent unveiling of the Albee Agency scam. In brief, a supposed literary publicity agency was caught with a whole page of faked testimonials – leading writers to discover their extremely tenuous credentials and creating suspicion that the agency as a whole was a complete scam.
It’s always a delight to see a scammer caught in the act, particularly early on in the scam so as few people as possible are taken in by the ruse. With the Albee Agency, the slew of faked testimonials was an obvious giant red flag for the company’s legitimacy. But as Victoria Strauss, blogger for Writer Beware, noted, there were actually three elements of the site that pinged her scam detector: lack of credentials, lack of specificity, and the big one – faked testimonials.
It’s worth noting that the Albee Agency website has a crisp, professional-looking design. Where’d they get caught? Their website content. So before you get too wrapped up in the schadenfreude, you might want to review your own company’s website to see whether you’ve made any of these three mistakes that might make your customers think you’re peddling a scam:
1. Lack of credentials. The Albee Agency claims to have been in business since 2005 – a pretty decent lifespan for a PR & social media marketing company. However, when you dig into their brand, you’ll note that their domain was registered in July 2012, their blog dates back to September 2012, their Facebook profile debuted on Sept. 13, 2012, and their Twitter account was only set up in August 2012. There’s no evidence for their claimed history, and plenty of evidence that they are a brand-new business.
While the other evidence makes it clear that the Albee Agency’s start date is a bunch of bunk, there are legitimate reasons for an online presence that’s more youthful than the business itself. Your company may have started out offline-only, or you may have gone through a major reboot or rebrand that necessitated all new web accounts and addresses. But if that’s the case, it’s important to give your customers proof of your history. And if you’re just starting out, don’t fake a history you don’t have! Being a startup won’t prevent you from gaining business success; being a fraud almost certainly will.
2. Lack of specificity. Who is the staff at the Albee Agency? What is their background or experience? Why should you trust them to promote your book? What, in fact, will they actually do for you? There’s nothing to go on at the Albee Agency website that would answer any of these questions. They claim to have worked with over 10,000 authors, and to have had clients appear on or in Good Morning America, Family Circle, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal, and yet there’s not a single link to a specific story or author.
What’s the lesson here? If you’ve done great work and you know you’ve got a great staff, toot your own horn! Show off a picture of your staff hard at work. Stock your portfolio with examples of your best projects. Let each staff member write a blog post about their history and what they do for your clients. Be specific throughout – give your prospects a clear picture of exactly what you can do for them.
3. Faked testimonials. Now, I know you would never actually fake your testimonials. After all, if you’re doing great work, you don’t have to. But are you presenting your testimonials in a way that makes them seem less-than-convincing? Whenever possible, use full, real names for your customer testimonials, and don’t try to edit them into a perfect quote – leave them exactly as you received them. If you have them, photos of the customers who gave the testimonials can go a long way toward showing prospects that you are the real deal.
It’s a good idea to have a customer or friend review your website from time to time, to get that outside perspective. You know you do great work, so make sure your presence on the internet echoes the values and value you’re offering your clients. And if you find yourself getting stuck on what to say, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m happy to help.
Thanks to my new Hulu subscription, I’ve got thousands of hours of TV shows at my disposal whenever I want them. With all those options, I’ve found myself hooked on one show: Shark Tank. The premise is probably familiar to you: entrepreneurs go before a panel of “Sharks” (read: venture capitalists) to try to convince them to fund the entrepreneurs’ fledgling businesses.
I’m hardly the first to pull marketing lessons from the show, but it truly is a fascinating look at how businesses start and grow. Aside from the fact that every entrepreneur needs to read Guy Kawasaki’s Art of the Start before going on the show, I’ve noticed a common thread among people that don’t do well with the Sharks: they don’t seem to have gotten any outside perspective on their business idea.
So many fledgling business owners are savaged by the sharks when they go on the show because it’s the first time they’re telling their story, and they are under the mistaken impression that they’re in control of the message.
They almost certainly think they’ve told their story before. Indeed, most of the show’s entrepreneurs have the patter down, have little quips and anecdotes they’ve woven into the theme of How Their Business Came to Be. But to truly tell your business’s story, you have to have a conversation – not perform a monologue. You need to understand what your audience cares about, why they came to you, what they want to get out of the interaction.
Most people quite naturally start out with a new business by discussing the concept with family and friends. But telling your story to family and friends gives you the illusion that you’re in control of your message. They won’t ask you the hard questions, and they’ll always take whatever you say in the best possible way. After all, they already know that everything you do is just great. They love you and want you to be happy and to succeed.
Too many companies approach their marketing materials as though they were still speaking to an audience composed of their friends and family. They recite their polished story, complete with smiles and self-deprecating jokes for a softer touch. What they don’t do is think about the questions a skeptical audience might bring to the table.
In the real world, when prospective customers encounter your story for the first time, they’ll be skeptical. They’ll have questions. They’ll have baggage from businesses like yours that they have encountered before, from the bad apples in your industry, from all their experiences, good and bad. If you don’t begin to counter those objections even before they raise them, your prospects will simply walk away.
You see it all the time in the Shark Tank. The entrepreneur contestants have never even considered that someone might not love their breakthrough product. When the sharks start asking the hard questions, they sputter and cough and try to evade the issue. And what happens, every time? The sharks walk away from the deal. Even a good business can be capsized by a bad story, when the business owner forgets that the story is not the thing.
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