Friday, October 29, 2010

Profits Down? Raise Your Rates

When sales are down, the first instinct for many business owners is to lower their prices.

You, too? The temptation is strong.

Yet, you ought to resist that temptation. Or, even, do the opposite -- raise your rates when sales are slow.

That's been my experience since 1998. And it's the subject of a recent article in The Wall Street Journal. Here's the key excerpt:

But some research indicates that racing to lower prices—even if it lures more customers—doesn't usually put a company ahead. Even in down economies, raising prices just slightly can have a greater bottom-line impact than lowering them, according to a study in the McKinsey Quarterly, published by the business management advisory firm McKinsey & Co.

A price rise of 1% at an average company in the S&P 1500 index, which includes large-, mid- and small-cap companies, would generate an 8% increase in operating profit if sales volume stays steady, the study found. By contrast, a price discount of 1% reduces profit by 8%. Typically, in order to offset the impact of a 5% price cut, volume would have to rise by about 19%.

Small firms, especially, are likely to feel the impact of a price cut because—unlike big-box stores—each product represents a much larger portion of their profitability ...

It's an eye-opening article, with at least four takeaways you can profit from today ...

1) Raise your level of service along with your prices, for maximum effect (that's what Allen Ackerman did when he added the social networking tool and raised his fees):

 ... business owners walk a fine line between increasing revenue and alienating customers. A-List Placement's Mr. Ackerman says prices at his firm went up in tandem with extra services he offered.

A-List Placement claims a percentage of each new hire's salary, historically about 20%. But when hiring dried up a few years ago and his clients wanted to pay less, Mr. Ackerman decided to created an online social-networking tool, called the Hire Syndicate, that allows recruiters to share information about candidates and job openings. The 500 recruiters now using the site can more quickly find the perfect match for clients.

He says that enhanced service allows him to charge as much as 25% of the employee's salary today, though he makes an exception for long-time clients who say they can't afford the new rates.

2) Go after those clients who can pay more (that's what Brett Klasko does in targeting high net-worth investors with his newsletter service):

... His New York-based firm, Investors Alley Corp., sends stock-market newsletters via email to subscribers.

The company, which generates most of its revenue from advertisers, invested in a better email delivery system last year to insure the newsletters were delivered more quickly and didn't get caught in spam filters. That move boosted his circulation—from 75,000 readers in 2008 to 125,000 today—and allowed him to target more-active and higher net-worth traders. Not one advertiser left when Mr. Klasko raised prices 7% earlier this year, he says. 

3) Bundle products/services together when charging more (that's what Shel Horowitz did when he switched from charging by the hour to charging by the project):

... Horowitz, who owns Accurate Writing & More in Hadley, Mass., offers marketing services such as writing book jackets and press releases. After business dropped 25% in the recession, he decided to change his pricing model from $175 an hour to a set amount for each assignment. The new prices deliver an about 25% to 30% pay increase from his prior model, he says.

"A lot of clients are more comfortable with a flat-fee per service," he explains, adding that returning customers haven't been fazed by the change.

4) Test small, to avoid big disasters (that's what Manny Apolonio did when upping his rates to $40-60 for a few clients, who didn't flinch):

He had set up his company, a concierge service that runs errands for clients, a year ago with rates of between $20 and $40 an hour. As he became inundated by referrals, Mr. Apolonio realized that there was opportunity to raise prices to between $40 and $60 an hour.

"I tested the waters with a few clients and they were totally receptive. We became profitable in June and I'm still incredibly busy," he says.

In most of the cases I've seen over the years, higher prices are more of a barrier in the business owner's mind than in the customer's. But, as with all new ideas, test small before rolling out big.

This is another example of "Inside Marketing" -- improving your marketing from the inside, by making a few changes to what you're already doing.

(For more ideas like these, download Guaranteed Marketing for Service Business Owners.)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thank You = Power Marketing

You know I'm a fan of mailing handwritten thank-you notes to clients. A. Big. Fan.

Thank-you notes pay big dividends, in my experience.

As William James wrote: "The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated." A thank-you note mailed to clients shows how much you appreciate them. You satisfy a craving when you do this. And your clients will always -- always -- reward you for this.

In his excellent book, You, Inc., Harry Beckwith writes: "Handwritten thank-you notes feel like gifts because you took the time to find the paper and envelope, write the note, affix the stamp, and gift-wrap your note in its package."

Finally, to drive this point home, here are two mini-case studies from the book, Thank You Power, by Deborah Norville:

1) According to a 1995 study by Bruce Rind and Prashant Bordia, restaurant servers who wrote "Thank you" on the check before handing it to their customers got tips averaging 11 percent more than servers who didn't.

The takeaway here is simple: A written "Thank you" can pay you back.

2) In her book, "Thank You Power," Deborah Norville describes another thank-you experiment, in which jewelry store customers were called to thank them for their business -- they "spent more during return visits the following month than customers who didn't get a thank you call."

But they also spent more than customers who got the thank you call and were told at the same time of an upcoming 20 percent-off sale. Word of the sale, which could be perceived as a pitch for more business, made the thank you ring hollow.

The takeaway here is a bit more complex: Your "Thank you" may hinder future sales if you do it wrong. While I've personally received -- and used -- discount coupons that came with thank-you notes, they may rub some customers the wrong way, as they did in the jewelry store experiment.

So, as in all cases where you're offered a new marketing tactic, you should test it out. You may be just one thank-you note away from a major breakthrough with your clients.

Seriously. What would an 11-percent bump in revenue mean for you, like the restaurant servers enjoyed?

You'll never know until you test the idea for yourself.

No matter how you choose to say "thank you" to clients, though, it's an easy, proven way to increase their satisfaction and long-term profitability. And it's entirely under your control -- all you have to do is decide, then start thanking them.

This is another example of "Inside Marketing" -- improving your marketing from the inside, by making a few changes to what you're already doing.

(More ideas like these in the Free Report, Guaranteed Marketing for Service Business Owners.)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Marketing + Physics = Google

"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun," wrote King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 1:9

But ... if there's nothing new under the sun, how do you account for creativity?

Like this: Creativity is simply new combination of old ideas.

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are ... chocolate and peanut butter, combined.

The Velvet Underground was ... art and rock & roll, combined.

You get the idea. Old ideas combined in new ways produce creative breakthroughs.

So, what would happen if you combined marketing and physics?

You'd get the creative insights that Dan Cobley, a marketing director at Google, offers in this short video from TED, which is well worth watching ...

(Kevin M. Donlin is author of the Special Report, Guaranteed Marketing for Service Business Owners.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What Do The Texas Rangers Know About Success That You Don't?

The Texas Rangers are in The World Series this year for the first time in team history.

How did they do it?

There's no one reason. You need superior coaching, pitching, fielding, running, and hitting to make it this far.

But I found something the Rangers are doing that not only helped them reach The Series, but can help improve your business, too.

It's this: They defined a key success metric and try to achieve it every game.

What does this have to do with your business?

First, take a look at the photos below, which I had smuggled out of the Rangers' clubhouse last week (don't ask how :-)

The Texas Rangers figure -- rightly -- that you can't improve what you don't measure. So they devised 8 ways to measure what a "Positive Team At Bat" is, including a hit, base-on-balls (BB), hit-by-pitch or catcher's interference (HBP / C. Int) and so on ...

... and their goal is to have 17 "Positive Team At Bats" every game. They figure that reaching this threshold gives them a chance to win every game. So far this season, their system has worked out well.

Now, two things for you:

1) What is the key success metric for your marketing efforts?

Ideally, it's something you have total control over, such as what you do at the plate in baseball. Examples:
  • Calls made to clients and/or prospects
  • Handwritten thank-you notes mailed to clients
  • Pay-per-click ads created or tested in Google Adwords

Whatever it is, you must find at least one way to measure success in your marketing. Otherwise, you're flying blind.

2) What is your daily goal or quota?

Again, you can't improve what you don't measure, so be sure to pick a number -- any number is better than none -- and aim for it.

Analyze your results every day and every week. Do more of what's working, less of what's not. And, sooner than you expect, you may find your business is in the Big Leagues.

This is another example of "Inside Marketing" -- improving your marketing from the inside, by making a few changes to what you're already doing.

(Kevin M. Donlin is author of the Special Report, Guaranteed Marketing for Service Business Owners.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

3 Keys to Inside Marketing: List, Offer, Copy

It's been said that the three most-important parts of any marketing promotion are, in order: List, Offer, Copy.

Think about it: When your child has to sell magazine subscriptions for school, whom do they turn to first? You, Grandma, and Uncle Bob -- the List.

Get the right list of prospects and you won't get a lot of push-back on your price or sales pitch. The selling is relatively easy.

Or, what do you do on the last day of a garage sale, when you've got a box of Harlequin Romance novels and 3 old hockey sticks that haven't sold yet? You lower the price or even give them away -- that's the Offer.

With the right offer, again, the selling is relatively easy.

Yet, most business owners spend days and weeks agonizing over the last of these three keys: the Copy -- they words they use to sell their products or services, whether on paper, by phone, or in person.

They spend precious little time choosing the right audience for their promotion (the List) or structuring the price, payment terms, guarantee, and other elements of what they're selling (the Offer).

Not only can you, as a business owner, improve your sales by spending more time on list selection and offer creation, but these elements are 100% under your control.

You get to decide whom to sell to (List) and what to sell (Offer), before worrying about how to sell it (Copy).

That line of thinking is part of what I call "Inside Marketing" -- improving your business from the inside.

(Kevin M. Donlin is author of the Special Report, Guaranteed Marketing for Service Business Owners.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Vonage Customer Service Fail - The Joseph Jaffe Trainwreck; UPDATE: Resolved

You know the Golden Rule: "Treat others the way you would want them to treat you."

We've heard it since childhood and it still makes sense.

Especially if you deal with customers -- you know, those people who your salary?

In fact, since the advent of digital technology, which lets us record nightmarish calls with customer service or take videos of sleeping repairmen ... you would think every business that wants to stay in business would have taken notice.

Every smart business in 2010 should have a sentence in their Employee Handbook that reads: Every conversation you have with a customer may be recorded for defaming purposes.

But somebody forgot to tell Vonage.

Take a look at the following Tweetstream from Joseph Jaffe (@jaffejuice), which I've been following for the past hour or so ...

It's the latest textbook example of customer service gone wrong, thanks to dual-use technology in the hands of customers. By dual use I mean that, like sickles or hammers, Twitter can be used for peaceful purposes or as a weapon of war.

And Joseph Jaffe, as you can see above, is on the warpath. Very publicly.

Look. It is never a best practice to threaten a customer ("We will have to block you") as Melissa, the soon-to-be-former customer service agent, is quoted as saying above.

But it's a worst practice to treat customers rudely now, when that conversation is instantly made public to millions of people, as it is on Twitter.

So here's a new Golden Rule of Customer Service, submitted for your approval (and Vonage's education):

"Treat others the way you would want them to treat you ... so that you won't mind if they share it with the planet."

UPDATE: There is a happy ending to this story. Within the hour, Vonage called Jaffe to fix things. Good catch by Vonage! I hope Melissa gets to keep her job ...

(Kevin M. Donlin is author of Guaranteed Marketing for Service Business Owners.)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Mediocre Advertising Won't Drive Sales

Some new ads from Subaru are making the rounds.

Here's one ...

Yes, it gets attention, which is the first rule in advertising.

But does it make me more interested in owning this thing? Or desirous?

My opinion: This is way too clever for its own good.

Does anyone remember when Subaru tried the opposite approach? In 1992, Subaru was like Punk Rock –

... and that didn’t work out so well.

I predict the same fate for the Mediocrity campaign.

This is what happens when funny people who hate to sell are given lots of money and no supervision. Funny people should stick to being funny. Because, when it comes to advertising, humor is a minefield.

Very, very few ads use humor in a way that also sells.

Below is one example. Can you think of any others?

This commercial was produced by Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB) in 1969.

Here's the script, which uses words, images and, yes, humor, to actually sell ...
I, Maxwell E Snavely, being of sound mind and body, do hereby bequeath the following:

To my wife Rose, who spent money like there was no tomorrow ... I leave 100 dollars and a calendar.

To my sons Rodney and Victor, who spent every dime I ever gave them on fancy cars and fast women ... I leave 50 dollars, in dimes.

To my business partner Jules, whose only motto was spend, spend, spend ... I leave nothing, nothing, nothing.

And to my other friends and relatives who also never learnt the value of a dollar ... I leave a dollar.

Finally, to my nephew Harold, who oft-times said, “a penny saved is a penny earned”, and who also oft-times said, “Gee Uncle Max, it sure pays to own a Volkswagen” ... I leave my entire fortune of one hundred billion dollars.

(Kevin M. Donlin is author of the Special Report, Guaranteed Marketing for Service Business Owners.)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Your Customers Are Questioning You

Of his time in a Nazi death camp, Viktor Frankl wrote: "What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life."

He continued: 
We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life -- daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk or meditation, but in right action and in right conduct.
This unconventional thinking helped Frankl survive the same conditions that killed 6 million other people.

After revolutionizing his world from the inside, he was able to endure unspeakable hardship on the outside.

Now. No matter how tough times may be for you, seen in this context, they aren't that tough.

But you may be facing uncertainty, even despair, in your business. You may have days (weeks?) when you ask yourself: Why am I doing this?

Well. How about switching the questions around, as Frankl did?

Instead of asking about the meaning of your business life, think of yourself as being questioned by your business. Specifically, you are being questioned by your customers:
  • What are they telling you?
  • What do they want?
  • Will you give it to them?
  • Why not start tomorrow?
Asking new questions is the best way to get new answers.

This kind of thinking helped Frankl survive nearly three years in a concentration camp, along with the loss of his family and his profession.

So, try turning your business problems around. The next time you get stuck, ask yourself: What do my customers want?

If you're not 100% sure, go ask them. Or call them on the phone. Then start giving them what they want.

It just might help your business survive -- and thrive -- in an economy far less hostile than a death camp.

(Kevin M. Donlin is author of the Special Report, Guaranteed Marketing for Service Business Owners.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Nimble Marketing from a Big Company - GotoWebinar Thank You

Pop quiz: What comes in those small, square envelopes you get in the mail?

Answer: Good news.

Usually, it's a party invitation or a thank-you note.

Either way, good news.

Never a subpoena, a bill, or a letter from your ex-wife's attorney. Those come in #10 business envelopes.

Sending thank-you notes to your clients may be the best use of a first-class stamp I can think of.

That's why it's always puzzled me ... why don't more small businesses send more thank-you notes?

Think about it: If you know there's something your clients want, and you can give it to them at a very low cost ... why don't you?

Now. Want to know something more puzzling?

A very big company just sent me a thank-you note (pictured above). It's from Gotowebinar, signed by my account rep, Kristen.

Hey, Kristen -- way to go. You've added a personal element to an otherwise big, impersonal company. I will return the favor by remaining your client, giving you thousands of dollars in business in the coming months.

That's a nice ROI on a 44-cent stamp.

But this is the puzzling part -- if a business giant like Gotowebinar can mail out handwritten thank-you notes, why can't you?

(For more ideas like these, download Guaranteed Marketing for Service Business Owners.)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Your Marketing Message: Something, or Nothing?

Ever see one of those "Garage Sale -- Today" signs down the street ... for about 5 days straight?

After you've seen it for more than one day, the word "Today" means nothing.

Because it can't be today every day.

What words have your prospects and customers been exposed to over time that now mean nothing?

"Value!" "Quality!" "Service!" "Selection!"

... you can add your own.

Don't use those words. They mean nothing.

Think: How can you say what you want to say, in language that actually means something to your market? Language that doesn't insult our intelligence, like "Today" every day.

No huge marketing budget needed. Just think.

(Kevin M. Donlin is author of the Special Report, Guaranteed Marketing for Service Business Owners.)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Your Brain, Your Business, Your Life

I like my brain.

It's been very good to me, despite those four-and-a-half years of intensive neuron slaughter, otherwise known as college.

So I really liked the book, Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School.

Author John Medina, a molecular biologist with a gift for clear writing, shares the latest science and its implications for your brain, your business, your marketing, your family, and your life.

Here are three takeaways from the book, which can help you improve your business from the inside ...

1) Exercise boosts brain power

Your brain evolved to survive in jungles and prairies, after our early ancestors routinely walked an average of 12 miles a day in search of (and in avoidance of becoming) food. As a result, your brain is NOT meant to sit in a cubicle or a classroom for 8 hours a day.

Think about it: The smartest senior citizens you know are probably the most active. And most of history's greatest thinkers were physically active: Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, Napoleon Bonaparte, Albert Einstein, and Douglas MacArthur all had a habit of pacing as they thought or taught, for example.

If you do nothing more than aerobic exercise, 30 minutes at time, two or three times a week, your brain will benefit. But don't stop there. Break up your workday with physical activity, such as walking, biking, or stretching.

2) Sleep well, think well

A lack of sleep retards your ability to pay attention, remember, reason logically, solve problems, or do any other thinking. For best results, your work schedule should match your productive times, whether it be morning, evening, or someplace in between.

And -- here's the fun part -- your businesses should encourage a nap in mid-afternoon, when productivity sags for almost everyone. So, instead of a Red Bull at 3:00, try a 20-minute siesta.

3) Vision trumps all other senses

Our brains see and think in pictures. Visual processing dominates how we interpret the world, with about half your brain power devoted to vision. As a result, pictures are easier to remember than words.

This has vast implications for your marketing and presentation efforts. Here are two:
  • Include pictures in your ads. Research shows that the eye is always drawn to pictures and  remembers them better than words alone. (A tough pill to swallow for a copywriter like me who loves words!)
  • Delete your presentations and start over. The typical PowerPoint business presentation has almost 40 words per slide. More pictures and fewer words would capture and hold an audience's attention far better.
There are way too many more useful tidbits than I have time to share here. If you love your brain, you owe it to yourself to read this book soon :-)

Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School
Oh, and in the spirit of including pictures, here's one of the book ...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Accidental Guerrilla Marketing - The Apple Backpack

Instead of throwing it out, my wife (at left) turned her shopping bag from the Apple Store into a backpack.

She is now an unpaid human billboard for Apple.

Did Steve Jobs plan this? I wouldn't put it past him.

More likely, this is a case of accidental "guerrilla marketing" ... the kind that happens when your company has legions of raving fans.

If you own a business, how could you make it easier for customers to "guerrilla" market your products or services?

The best way, of course, is to create raving fans who wear your bags or tattoo your logo onto their bodies.

But that could take years and cost millions of dollars.

Instead, how about:
  • Shipping your products wrapped in company T-shirts instead of bubble wrap?
  • Offering $100 for the most-creative use of your product's package, like making it into a hat?
  • Mailing refrigerator magnets, coffee mugs, or other tchotchkes with your product (or invoices), then offering a $100 reward for the best customer photo posted on Flickr?
If you're good at what you do, customers will happily market your business in ways you never thought of. All you have to do is give them a chance ... and a little push.

(More ideas like these in my Free Report, Guaranteed Marketing for Service Business Owners.)

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Hidden Payback for Taking Notes - Worth $5,000

Mitch Joel makes excellent points in a blog posting about the value of taking notes:
Too many people think of taking notes... and they immediately think of school. They think of note taking as some kind of linear, clean and formulated process. It doesn't have to be. In fact, some of the best notes are the ones that would never make sense to anybody else, and they are the ones that you never look at again either. For years, I've taken notes in meetings. I hardly ever go back to them. In those instances, it's the act of writing them down that helps me to remember and focus. In other instances, I'll take notes to refer back to once (like ideas for a Blog post), but then there's no more need for them.
Taking notes at meetings or seminars has two obvious paybacks ...

1) Writing sharpens and reinforces your thoughts.

It's impossible to be muddle-headed on paper. Or, as writer Rob Long said, "How do I know what I think until I see what I've written?"

When you jot down notes on what speakers say at a seminar or conference, for example, you sharpen the meaning of those words and drive them deeper into your brain, where they can germinate and grow into future thoughts.

2) Writing is more reliable than memory.

Ever left a grocery list at home and returned from the store to a 150-decibel butt-chewing from the spouse, because you forgot to buy milk? Enough said. Memory is fine, but notes are better.

But wait ...

There's an additional, "hidden" payback to taking careful notes at seminars, especially if you secretly hate to network (like me).

You know you should network, but you can't or won't talk to strangers and swap business cards.

So, here's the hidden payback: You can meet any person you want to, at a seminar or conference, by offering your notes to them afterwards.

I do it all the time. It's as easy as tying your shoes. Here's how ...

1) Attend a seminar.

2) Take careful notes. Save them in a PDF document, along with your contact information.

3) Email them to the event organizer, or upload them to the event blog, or do something else to let attendees know you are offering your notes, to provide another perspective on what was said at the event.

If you do nothing more than this, you will make new contacts when people download your notes and contact you with their thanks.

To take it further, however, reach out to people you wanted to meet at the seminar. Email your notes to them and say, "We didn't get a chance to talk, but I thought you might like to look over my notes. I hope you find them helpful."


How about if I follow my own advice?

I'd like to give you my speaker notes from a three-day, $5,000 Jay Abraham seminar.

The speakers were phenomenal: Seth Godin, Stephen R. Covey, Stephen M.R. Covey, Marshall Thurber, John Assaraf, Donald Moine, Andy Miller, and others. If you can't find at least a dozen money-making ideas from these 25 pages of notes, you ought to move to Cuba ...

You can download the $5,000 notes here.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Auto Wrap Marketing: The Incredible ROI

Here's a great, low-cost, "guerrilla" way to market your small business: an auto wrap.

Kim Hutchens, co-owner (with her husband Rod) of The Musik Haus Studios in Maple Grove, Minnesota, says this marketing tactic paid for itself with the first student who signed up after seeing it, in 2001. "When we first got the car, we were getting calls like crazy," she told me.

All the new business since then has been pure gravy. That's a pretty incredible return on investment, eh?

Along with word-of-mouth, this creative car is the main form of advertising for The Musik Haus. "We get comments all the time, it's fun to drive, and people love it," she says.

It's been so effective that her husband Rod is talking about adding a second vehicle to the fleet. "He wants a big truck," says Hutchens.

Great marketing doesn't have to cost a lot. Creativity and fun go a long way -- and don't cost anything.

Think: How committed are you to making your business succeed? Enough to change what you wear or drive around town? If you're hesitating, what's that say about your commitment level?

You don't have to do a full wrap of the family minivan -- FedEx Kinko's can create a magnetic sign for your car for less than $100.

And don't forget t-shirts (pay 10 college students to wear them), bumper stickers (pay 10 local moms to adorn their baby buggies) ... even Segways can carry a message.

(Kevin M. Donlin is author of the Special Report, Guaranteed Marketing for Small Business Professionals.) 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Rare Copywriting Secrets from a Legend: Eugene Schwartz

If you're in business, you must sell to survive.

Much of that selling may be face-to-face with customers. But that puts a ceiling on your potential -- if your only way to sell is in person or by phone, you can only make so many sales a day.

To really expand your business, you must capture your best sales pitch and tell the world -- in print, on TV or radio, or online.

And how do you capture your best sales pitch in words? Copywriting.

If you've studied copywriting -- the art and science of selling with words -- you should know about Claude Hopkins, Victor Schwab, John Caples, David Ogilvy, Gary Halbert, and John Carlton, to name but six copywriting legends.

All but the last two wrote excellent books that you should buy from Amazon, then READ multiple times.

But there's a seventh "lost" master who many think was one of the greatest copywriters who ever lived.

His ideas are still "swiped" today by in-the-know marketers. His specialty was direct-mail advertising -- the most difficult and competitive form of copywriting.

His name was Eugene Schwartz.

Before dying in 1995, Eugene Schwartz wrote several books on copywriting, including the masterly "Breakthrough Advertising."

But today, I've got a special treat for you ...

You see, in addition to writing about it, Gene spoke and taught about copywriting to audiences of lucky marketers.

Such seminars were rare, however. Only one, from October 1993, was transcribed that I know of. Another, from May 1994, was recorded on video. You can buy neither the transcript nor the video any more.

But I've got both of them in my library.

And I'm going to share two copywriting secrets from Eugene Schwartz with you now, taken from those "lost" lectures. They will deliver insights about business and marketing that you won't find anywhere else ...

1) Talk Little, Listen Much

Idea: According to Gene Schwartz, "Speak to everyone you can. Be the best listener you ever met. That is your market talking. You don't have to have great ideas if you can hear great ideas."

Application: Just today, a copywriting client of mine wrote to tell me about a sale one of my sales letters had made for him, selling a very expensive service.

Because it's the early stage of the service rollout, we put his phone number prominently on the web page, to encourage phone calls. This lets his prospects ask their most-pressing questions. The more questions you answer in a sales letter, the more you can sell.

His customer asked these two questions by phone:

1. What is an XYZ service?
2. How can you guarantee it?

I wrote back to my client: "Guess what I'm writing for you tomorrow? A P.P.S. in the sales letter to answer those two questions." And we're going to sell a lot more of his expensive service. Because we're listening to his market.

Are you listening to your customers? Your market? What are they trying to tell you?

2) The Creativity is Not in You. Never Mistake That

Idea: According to Gene Schwartz, "... the absolutely most talented copywriter in the world, who doesn't work very much, will be beaten by the copy cub who puts in four times as much work, because the creativity is not in you. Never mistake that. The creativity is in your market and in your product, and all you are doing is joining the two together. And the only way you can get the creativity out of your product and your market is to dig it out."

Application: Before you can sell it to anyone, you've got to know your product or service better than anyone. That requires many hours of painstaking research, to "dig out" every last benefit.

You can still see bullet points in sales letters today that are direct descendants of such Schwartz gems as these, unearthed after many hours of patient digging:

  • Eat this one delicious food, and it will probably kill your "uncontrollable" craving for sweets, right on the spot! See page 122.
  • Do you want to develop total concentration? Then turn to page 31 ... read the four simple questions taught to you there ... and see how those questions automatically rivet your attention to the other person's words ... keep your mind from wandering ... lets you store up his thoughts as though they were engraved on your memory
  • The one fatal TIMING mistake that makes most people fat (90% of all overweight people do it). Not in this case, what you eat, but how you eat it. See page 19.

I've spent entire weekends combing through hundreds of pages of research, reports, books, and customer emails to dig out features and then turn them into benefits for a sales letter.

How many hours do you spend digging for gems in your products and services? If you're not willing to put in the effort, don't complain if the sales don't follow.

(For more ideas like these, download Guaranteed Marketing for Service Business Owners.)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

You Can Laugh at Recession Worries, if Your Business Does This

You can laugh at recession worries if you ... increase your revenues with new ideas that your competitors can't match.

What's the easiest way to find new ideas to beat your competitors?

By borrowing them from non-competitors -- businesses in completely different industries.

Like McDonald's, which borrowed the idea of a drive-through window from ... banking.

Or Robert Stevens, founder of the Geek Squad, who borrowed part of the idea for their logo from ...

According to Rupert Hart, author of "Recession Storming," ideas are all around you, waiting to be borrowed.

He offers these two examples:
  • How could you become the McDonald's of your industry, by offering a simple, limited menu of unparalleled consistency?
  • How could you emulate H&R Block, by providing seasonal, personalized service at a reasonable price?
Think: How could you become the Apple of your industry, by borrowing from their product design? (Hint: take about 3-5 links off your home page, for a start -- Apple's design is as much about what they don't include in their products as what they do include.)

Or how could you become the Zappos of your industry, by borrowing from their customer service? (Hint: pick up the phone and call your customers. Zappos builds relationships, one customer at a time, often when their employees answer customer questions by phone.)

(Kevin M. Donlin is author of the Special Report, Guaranteed Marketing for Small Business Professionals.)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Work to Live or Live to Work?

Take a look at this gorgeous autumn photo of the Biosphere, in Montreal.

Now a question: On a day like this, would you rather drop everything and take your family for a walk along the river, or work?

If you'd rather walk than work, then you, like me, work to live.

You see success in business as a means to an end, not an end in itself.

Here's my take on this age-old question of life balance ...

Since July 1 of this year, I've kept a special journal, in which I jot down 3-4 things I savored each day.

And here's what I found analyzing more than 270 journal entries over the past 90 days: Less than 5% of the best things in my life are things money can buy.

Examples of this 5%:
  • "stack of books in mail from Amazon"
  • "a big check for $____"
  • "our newly redecorated basement room"
By contrast, about 95% of the best things in my life are free. They include:
  • "morning coffee on the deck"
  • "the Tigers in first place"
  • "chicken dinner with laughter"
  • "swimming in the lake"
  • "watching the sunset from a bridge"
  • "walking Ginger (my dog)"
The best things in life are free. Duh. You knew that, right?

But there's more ...

Most of the best things in life -- things that money can't buy -- are experiences, not things.

Yes, I had to buy the coffee and pay the contractors to build the deck, for example. But you can't buy the 30 minutes I woke up early and spent, coffee in hand, watching the sunrise sparkle on the creek out back.

Yes, you can buy a chicken dinner at a restaurant, but not the laughter -- that's priceless. Literally.

And so on.

So, don't let earning a living keep you from living. Money's nice, but the experiences are what count. And you need to unchain your butt from your desk to make those happen.

Now, if you'll excuse me, it's Friday and the fall colors are peaking. It's time for a long lunch and a longer walk outside with my wife and dog ...

Meanwhile, if you want to put an end to "feast-or-famine" syndrome in your business, grab your free Client Cloning Kit here.