Categories
Copywriting

Why I Switched From Copywriting to SEO Consulting?

Ever since I stopped accepting copywriting clients over a decade ago, it’s a question that seems to come up again and again. It's understandable as I was quite prominent in that world throughout the 90s and in the early 2000s.

I really didn’t stop writing copy, but I left the business of copywriting and now focus on SEO, particularly after years of being a “top copywriter” — a label my peers often give me, although I never really considered myself to be one.

But the question about my departure has once again resurfaced, particularly after I appeared on a YouTube show talking about the shady side of the world of copywriting. I realize I should probably write something to explain it. So I'm going to answer that question once and for all in here.

To do this, I need to give you some background to put things in context.

If you don’t know my story, here’s a quick summary.

My Copywriting Life in a Nutshell

I got married at 19. My wife had a two-year-old daughter whom I’ve virtually adopted. (She's now in her late thirties and still calls me Dad.)

Being a father was redemptive somewhat, as my alcoholic father abused me when I was young. After my mother left, the state institutionalized him; he had Korsakov’s Syndrome (also known as Korsakoff’s Psychosis), a mentally degenerative disease caused by years of alcohol abuse.

But because of my childhood (or so I thought), I had a tremendous fear of rejection. When I learned that I have ADHD at 52, I discovered that a common symptom among people with ADHD is “rejection sensitive dysphoria” (RSD).

It explains the tremendous fear of rejection and my many childhood struggles. So my father wasn’t to blame. Not entirely, anyway. In fact, ADHD is genetic. My father likely had it, and he turned to alcohol to deal with it.

(People with ADHD are highly susceptible to addiction. Luckily, mine is coffee.)

Around the time I got married, I wanted to fight my fears of rejection and dove into sales to fight them. After all, as Emerson said, “Do what you fear and the death of that fear is certain,” right? You get rejected a ton in sales!

But of course, I failed. And failed miserably.

Working on straight commission, I accumulated a mountain of debt, bought groceries on eight different credit cards to survive, and declared bankruptcy at the tender age of 21. It was a big mistake; I know. But I was young, foolish, trying to be a good father (unlike mine), and desperate to “succeed.”

Back in the 80s, the common practice in the insurance business was selling door to door. I moved to the countryside in a tiny little town where my wife grew up in. So I inherited a sales territory in which I knew absolutely no one.

Naturally, referrals were non-existent. I had to find a better way to get leads.

How I Discovered Copywriting

I tried something different. Fueled by anxiety, desperation, or both, I wrote and mailed salesletters offering a free policy audit. Only a few people called to book an appointment with me. But I was ecstatic. I also had an open door to follow-up to see if they received my letter. So no more cold-calling!

The best part was, I also no longer had to face rejection.

That year, I became the top salesperson in my district and then in all of Canada. It was short-lived as many salespeople in my company crushed my results later on. But for a fleeting moment in my life, it felt as if a door opened up and success was possible. Plus, copywriting piqued my interest.

But insurance was tough. In the late 80s, there was an increasing outcry against whole life insurance policies as more people switched to term insurance.

So a year later, I took a job as a consultant for a hair replacement company that also offered surgeries through a partnership with a hair transplant surgeon. I also worked on commission there, too. But it was a growing industry, and I knew about it as my first wife was a hairdresser.

By applying the same tactics from my insurance job, I wrote direct mail letters, created full-page display ads in newspapers, and even produced 30-minute late-night infomercials on TV. Bookings and sales were skyrocketing. My employer was a happy camper, as was I.

At 22, I made more money than I ever made in my life!

How I Became a Copywriter

I eventually became a “marketing consultant” for other cosmetic surgeons, which became my preferred niche. (The reason I say “marketing consultant” is that copywriting wasn’t the only thing I did, and medical doctors would never hire a “copywriter” much less a “sales consultant” back then.)

In the early 90s, I convinced clients to create a “web page” on this newfangled thing called the “world wide web.” I told them it was like an electronic version of the yellow pages, and it was becoming increasingly popular. Since most of them had invested in yellow pages before, this was an easy sell.

So I wrote copy for the web. This was circa ‘92 to ’94.

A few years later, I designed my first website in ‘95 and incorporated myself as “The Success Doctor” in ‘97. The name came about because I helped doctors become successful. (I also had aspirations of becoming a motivational speaker. But marketing and copywriting was more fun, I later found.)

I eventually became quite busy as word got around. Other doctors hired me, too, including chiropractors, weightloss doctors, nutritionists, acupuncturists, etc. I expanded to include lawyers, accountants, real estate agents, and other service providers. But cosmetic surgeons remained my largest clientele.

Over time, more and more clients hired me to write copy for the web, including landing pages, websites, and email marketing campaigns. I guess you can say that this was when I was becoming more well-known as an online copywriter and Internet marketer than a mere copywriter.

But there was a problem.

Clients Would Screw Up My Copy

I love copywriting. But I remember clients messing things up.

Once I gave them my copy, they would put it up on their websites. And it would look awful! The formatting was completely wrong, the layout was atrocious, and the selection of graphics and images didn't fit what I had in mind.

So naturally, conversions sucked. Particularly with projects that paid me with royalties. I was usually the one to blame, even though I believed my copy was good. But my ADHD and fear of failure compelled me to do something.

That's when I included formatting, web design, even landing page development along with copywriting so that my salesletters would look the way I wanted.

So I repositioned myself as a copy “designer.”

I always hated the word “writing,” anyway, because most people think of writing as putting words down on paper. But they have a tendency to neglect the sales and creative aspects of writing. They ignore that it’s about strategy. I spent just as much time on the look-and-feel of the copy as I did on writing it.

I became obsessed with the copy’s performance. For me, getting the right audience to read the copy — one with the right level of awareness and intent — was important. Also, the cosmetics that drive the eyes into the copy, or the copy cosmetics, were just as important as the words themselves.

That's where my work evolved to include other aspects of online marketing.

Enter The World of SEO

I consulted clients on their traffic and demand generation tactics because I wanted some level of control over the quality of the traffic that hit the copy. The market is just as important as the message. So I did a lot of traffic generation, affiliate marketing, email campaign management, and so forth.

Clients increasingly hired me to do SEO (search engine optimization), including SEO copywriting, to help increase their conversions. I also did CRO (conversion rate optimization), which people often refer to as “conversion copywriting.”

So, what does SEO have to do with conversions?

Attracting audiences with the right search intent at the right awareness stage can skyrocket conversion rates. It's about matching the right message with the right market, or “message-to-market match,” as Dan Kennedy would say.

This thinking, along with the way the Internet was evolving, became the impetus behind my writing “The Death of The Salesletter.” Back in 2005, I knew that this is where Internet marketing and copywriting were heading. It was also the beginning of my disillusionment with the industry. (I'll come back to this.)

In my manifesto, I talked about personalization, dynamic content, behavioral targeting, sales funnels (before funnels were a thing), micro-conversions, etc — things that are commonplace today in the world of digital marketing — replacing the long-form, direct sales-driven copy.

I wrote code since I was 11 and designed websites since I was 22, so technology and how marketing was evolving online always fascinated me. Besides writing copy, I also loved developing websites, designing them, doing SEO, and making sure the user experience (UX) was as optimal as it could be.

Then, My World Turned Upside Down

Let me backup a little.

In 2003, as my copywriting career was exploding, I met my second wife who was in the customer support industry. I initially hired her to provide support for my copywriting business. When we realized we shared many of the same clients, we slowly merged our businesses. And eventually, our lives.

But from the news of her cancer diagnosis right before our wedding in 2006 until her passing in early 2015, my wife’s disease grew to become, over the course of our marriage, the center of attention instead of our client work.

I was kind of lucky in that, in 2008, my mother had the same disease as my wife (i.e., breast cancer). It gave me a glimpse into what was to come. In other words, the experience showed me what I was getting into with my wife and helped me to prepare and to grieve before I knew I had to.

In 2011, my mother's cancer became terminal, and we set up a hospice in our home. She passed away later that year on the morning after my birthday.

And sure enough, my wife's health took a turn for the worse a year later. Her cancer came back with a vengeance, spreading to every major organ.

However, shortly before she passed in early 2015 (in fact, it was just a month prior), my father, while still in the institution, passed away, too. His heart stopped during his sleep. The weakening of the heart muscles is one of the many comorbid issues caused by Korsakov’s disease.

So you can say that 2015 was probably the worst year of my life.

But it didn't stop there.

My sister who was my only sibling struggled all her life with multiple ailments, including diabetes. My parents' passing, let alone years of my father’s abuse, affected her deeply and I cannot imagine what she went through. In 2017, she, too, passed away in her sleep. Just like my dad.

Distaste For The Copywriting Industry

I didn't have the headspace or motivation to return to freelancing. So I took a job in a digital marketing agency as an SEO manager and director of marketing communications. We were a Google Premier Partner agency, and I supervised an amazing team of content writers and web developers.

While grief played a role, another reason I didn't want to go back was that I became increasingly disenchanted with the copywriting business. Specifically, I'm referring to the business of writing copy for the Internet marketing and business opportunity (or “bizopp”) industries.

It started many years before then. But it culminated around the time my wife was undergoing her final chemotherapy treatments for her cancer.

I wrote about the scummy side of the business and the reason I left. But long story short, my late wife and I had to deal with a growing number of clients whose business practices were becoming questionable, unethical, and borderline illegal. Even the FTC sued some of them for deceptive practices.

The reason is, they were selling “business-in-a-box” programs.

It's no different from a chain-letter, envelope-stuffing scheme.

They would sell a course teaching people how to make money by creating a business. Sounds legit at first. But they would use the very course people bought to create a business and make money with. When I learned they included my salesletters with their “businesses,” that's when I decided I had enough.

SEO Consulting for Plastic Surgeons

After a few years and being in a much better place, I got remarried, left the agency world, and started freelancing again. But this time, I was doing more SEO work. Sure, copywriting is still a part of what I do to an extent. But now it's about how it can help attract and convert targeted traffic.

I also returned to my roots by working with plastic and cosmetic surgeons. I did it for several reasons. It's an industry I love and have a lot of experience with.

Creating phenomenal user experiences that lead to sales starts with how qualified the user is. SEO is key for that reason. A user's search intent hugely determines their level of awareness and attention prior to hitting your website.

The quality of your conversions is directly proportional to the quality of your traffic, the quality of your content, and the quality of the user experience.

That's where SEO comes in.

Also, being a geek who loves coding and web design, SEO satisfies my dual nature, i.e., both “sides' of my brain — the creative and analytical aspects of marketing. Today, I do 360-degree SEO audits, with technical SEO (coding and hosting), on-page SEO (HTML and content), and off-page SEO (external signals).

All these components work hand-in-hand.

Yes, my work still includes writing copy. But it mostly includes helping my clients generate the right kinds of traffic. In other words, it's about having the right message for the right market — or in this case, the market with the right intent.

Categories
SEO

Funnel Marketing: 5 Things to Laser Focus On

Today, I posted a rant on LinkedIn because I was getting frustrated with the number of connection requests that only amount to spam. This is the exact opposite of applying effective funnel marketing techniques. The vast majority of people who attempt to connect with me have one of five things in common:

  1. Some freelance network (e.g., Fiverr, Upwork, etc);
  2. Some lead generation type of business;
  3. Some virtual assistant or outsourcing service;
  4. Some LinkedIn-related marketing service;
  5. Some “High-Ticket” closer or other B.S.

I understand that it's part of doing outreach. But there are better ways to do that than attempting to connect with someone only to spam their DMs less than a few hours later.

Many of these are automated, too, which is worse.

Some are oblivious “drive-by” spammers who don't care about relationships. For example, I accepted a connection request. I get spammed. So I removed the connection and deleted the DM. But they kept following up, oblivious to the fact that I removed them.

They don't care if you unfriend them. Because once you're connected with someone and they send you one direct message, they have access to your DM box in perpetuity, unless you block them.

They would be a lot more productive if they funnelized their approach.

Sure, they can use Sales Navigator and InMail credits to pitch me. I tend to read those — either for the education or the opportunity.

But rather than spam me, use disingenuous ways to access me, or hit me over the head with a pitch, a better way is to turn their attempt to sell me into a funnel that takes me through each step of the relationship.

There are myriad ways to funnelize your outreach approach, too. It's good old multistep-marketing taught by top marketers like Dan Kennedy.

Now, I understand that this is part of doing outreach. Personally, I hate doing outreach. I'm a fan of positioning, not prospecting. I prefer to attract clients to me and not me chasing them.

Chasing clients hints of desperation, conscious or not. It's the “ketchup stain” principle. It creates antagonism and puts you in a weaker position.

I prefer a “permission marketing” approach, a la Seth Godin.

Traditional marketing is a form of interruption marketing. It's a competition to win people’s attention. Whether it's email spam or social media DM spam, it's unwanted, interruptive, dismissable, and even repulsive.

Permission marketing focuses on creating a relationship instead of making a sale. It's a graduated process that takes place over time. Sometimes, it can be short. Other times, long.

Funnelizing your marketing focuses on demand generation and lead nurturing. And the best way to generate leads is to attract them. Once you do, it's easier to get to know your client, educate them, ask questions, and of course, make an offer. It's also easier to retain them.

The typical sales funnel has 5-7 phases, depending on the industry and who you ask. There are many variations. But the one I prefer is this:

  1. Awareness
  2. Interest
  3. Consideration
  4. Evaluation
  5. Purchase (or Conversion)

The remaining two are Loyalty (repeat sales) and Advocacy (referral sales). But for the sake of brevity, let's stick with the first five.

1. Awareness

Creating awareness is where your content attracts search engine traffic, natural backlinks, social media shares, brand mentions, and so forth. It's not limited to your website. It can include your social media networks, public relations, even paid ad campaigns.

2. Interest

The goal of creating awareness is to drive qualified users to your website, social media profile or page, email list, etc so they can enter your funnel. In short, you want them to raise their hand and show interest — or create it.

Landing pages can drive your audience into your funnel. Marketers call these “lead magnets.” The key is to get them to take the first step, which in most cases is giving up their email address.

3. Consideration

By providing content, you're taking them from being interested in what you say to being interested in what you offer. You educate your qualified leads about your business, your services, and the types of problems you help solve.

You can do this via a newsletter, or it can be dripped over time through an autoresponder series or multipart course. Some people I know “spoonfeed” their otherwise long salesletter through multiple, easier-to-digest emails.

4. Evaluation

Obviously, this is where you make an offer of some kind. You're moving from educational content to transactional. But it's still educational to a great degree as you want to provide enough information to help them make a decision.

You can start sales conversations, engage with prospective clients about their situations, answer questions they might have, offer comparisons with competing alternatives, provide different purchasing options, and so on.

5. Purchase

Selling is not a single event. It's about solving problems and creating relationships. Whether you're a dentist or a doctor, an engineer or an accountant, a consultant or a coach, you're also a salesperson. Like it or not.

The best salespeople are advisors.

If a competing solution best solves the client's problem, tell them. It's in your best interest to do so. Good-fit clients come not just from problems you can solve but also from the relationships you can nourish. Your best clients can even come from non-clients.

Relationships are more important than transactions.

Finally, keep this in mind.

Funnels can be long or short. They can take place within a matter of days or over a period of years. It depends on the industry, the length of the sales cycle, the complexity of the problem, and the urgency.

But if you've positioned yourself well, chances are clients are already aware, interested, and considering your services before entering your funnel.

In either case, just be cognizant of:

  1. What are the various steps in your funnel;
  2. What's your user's stage of awareness at each step;
  3. What each step does to take the user to the next stage;
  4. And how each step performs and can be improved.

You might have one, two, three, or more funnels. One client, a dermatologist, has 40 landing pages, where each one is a funnel or an entrance into one.

But if you don't have any, just start with one. If you've been in business for a while, you already have one right now, whether you're aware of it or not.

So map out the journey your clients go through, from awareness to purchase, and understand what they get at each step and how they get to the next one. Then tweak it.

In short, magnetize, funnelize, and optimize.

Categories
Books

The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning

I wrote this booklet back in 1992. It was a way to promote myself in my early career as a marketing consultant but without having to “sell” or cold call anyone — two things I absolutely despised and still do.

Since my clients, mostly doctors and other professionals, are limited in how they can market themselves, I realized that this book was also an effective way to educate them on how they can use the same tactics, too.

Long story short, this book launched a very successful marketing career.

Power Positioning is a concept that brings together the art of positioning with the science of direct response. Since putting it on my first website back in 1995, it has been downloaded, distributed, reprinted, and passed around well over a half-million times. (I stopped counting after 300,000.)

This version may have been updated since its first edition, but that was before I launched my first website. So there's a few outdated examples and ideas. But the strategies and principles are timeless, many of which I still use today.

Enjoy the book. And if you like what you read and want more, subscribe to my free daily email newsletter where I send more articles, tips, ideas, news, and examples of marketing in action. Thank you.


Introduction

“Don't duplicate. Differentiate! Being the best in your field is not about being the best. It's about being different. Be unique, and you'll be perceived as the best as a byproduct.”

— Michel Fortin

“Success in marketing is simple … Find the right message, use the right media, and deliver it to the right market.” — Creator of “Magnetic Marketing,” Dan Kennedy, who's my mentor and the inspiration behind this book.

Welcome to “The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning.” The following booklet is packed full of powerful marketing secrets that will help you and your business enhance its image and increase its business almost effortlessly. I invite you to come in and enjoy the many strategies it contains.

While this booklet is copyrighted, I give you permission to reprint these pages for your own reading convenience as well as use it as a lead generating tool in your business or website — as long as the book is not modified, refers to me as the author, and includes a link to this website.

I'm absolutely positive that these techniques will profoundly impact your results. After years of experience in marketing where most of my career has been dedicated exclusively to the professional services industry, these techniques were enormously beneficial to professionals of all types, including consultants, specialists, and even skilled workers and independent contractors.

Enjoy and thank you. Any suggestions or comments, especially those I can use in future works? Let me know!

Good luck and best wishes!

Yours sincerely,
Michel Fortin

Michel Fortin

P.S.: This book contains many examples to illustrate how the ten commandments of “Power Positioning” can be applied in various situations. Many names have been changed in order to protect the innocent (perhaps innocently successful, that is), and others are purely fictional. Similarities in any way were neither implied nor intended. If there are any, it's coincidental.

Also, as in all cases, individual results may vary from those depicted. Too many factors come into play. In addition, wherever the neuter is not used in this book, the male gender was used for simplicity's sake.

P.P.S.: Oh, and one final note. I am a business person just like you and not a lawyer by any means. Therefore, the advice contained in this manual is strictly for educational purposes. It should not be considered legal advice. If you wish to apply ideas contained in this manual, you are taking full responsibility for your actions. I strongly encourage you to first check with the appropriate professional or authoritative body if applicable.

Now, read on.

Warning!

This small booklet contains ten core principles based on my “Power Positioning” concept — a set of powerfully effective strategies that have made tons of profitable business for many entrepreneurs and professionals like you.

These ideas are distilled from my intensive training seminars that have cost some people up to $2,495 to learn. They are offered to you here for a much more moderate investment that, if applied properly, will surely return your investment many times over.

You may have purchased this book in order to find enough business or work until you've reached a comfortable plateau, or you may be like the many people who want clients to come crashing down their doors.

But whether you want a little more business or a lot more, these techniques are so simple that they can be easily applied by both types of entrepreneurs. Bottom line, these techniques work — and work exceptionally well!

You're reading from someone who's learned the hard way. I am continually on the frontlines, day after day, doing what most of you are trying to do — and that's getting more business. I preach what I practice, in other words.

I have oftentimes failed miserably, but I have also reached many phenomenal successes. These strategies are but the result of years of wisdom-building, hard-knocking, trial-and-error, fall-flat-on-your-face-and-dust-yourself-off experience — believe me, they are far from being mere puffery.

While these techniques are tried and proven, they do however require some work on your part. In other words, many of these systems are generic in nature and will require some creative effort for their specific application (of course, you could hire experts like me to do the work for you).

But it is not so much that these strategies are too vague, that they are too difficult to use or that they require a great deal of investment. They simply are guides to help you build your own unique style and, as a result, open the door to endless streams of new, repeat, and referral business. And they do so because they all come back to basic, fundamental marketing principles.

Long gone are the days of knocking on — and sometimes down — doors to get business, let alone just to get people's attention. Long gone are the days of using the phone to such an extent that your ear starts to shape itself into a phone's headset. And long gone are the days of bruised knees that came as a result of constantly begging your customers to give you mere table scraps of their business. In short, prospecting is out. Positioning is in.

So let's start and get right down to the nitty-gritty.

Before we begin, I must warn you: It's been my experience to know that some of you reading this book wish to project a certain image about yourselves into the marketplace. More concerned with looking good than making money, your ego may often end up in the way of following these practical steps. Consequently, making the money you deserve. As a mentor used to say to me, “Do you want to be right or do you want to be rich?”

Also, you are probably used to traditional, MBA-style, statistical-analytical types of knock-until-you-drop marketing approaches. For you, my street-smart “guerilla marketing” techniques may outright rub you the wrong way.

I am not implying that they are illegal, aggressive, or denigrating. Far from it. They are practical and terribly effective techniques that are essential to not only survive but also thrive in today's increasingly competitive marketplace.

If you want more business, then read on! These techniques will certainly help you do just that — and do so in a powerful and positive way. Follow these 10 commandments if you will. If not, violate them at your own risk! It's your call.

Top-of-Mind Awareness

Before we begin, you must understand the concept that underlies this book. In today's society, I believe we have experienced two major shifts that have almost completely revolutionized the entire business landscape.

The first and most important one is competition.

The mere fact that business is becoming increasingly hypercompetitive is an understatement. Businesses, particularly home-based businesses and self-employed professionals, are growing at an explosive rate.

This is not a mere trend, since it was the way things used to be up until the 20th century. Whether you were a farmer, a blacksmith, or a storekeeper, everybody was an entrepreneur in those days. There were no “jobs.”

But when the industrial age took over the agrarian age, more and more people started to rely on full-time, permanent, secure, pension-oriented careers. Today, “permanent” jobs are slowly becoming mere antiques! For instance, in the 40's people held on average two jobs during their entire lifetimes. But today, studies shows that the number has risen to 14 and still growing.

The entrepreneurial boom is far from being just a boom. And the reason for this stems from the second shift that has taken place, which is information.

Along with the eruption in digital technology, multi-channel broadcasting, and cellular telecommunications, the Internet is skyrocketing in population. The ability to retrieve information in nanosecond speed has caused entire layers of middle managers from huge corporations to fall the way of the dinosaurs.

The information age notwithstanding, with more and more employers facing disgruntled employees in today's highly litigious atmosphere, it is safe to conclude that the “job” is soon becoming a thing of the past.

So, what does all this mean? It means that, for a person or business to be able to be — and especially remain — in business, marketing strategies must be such that it places them at the top of prospects' minds at all times. It is not so much to look for more business but to be the business of choice.

For every business or type of product that exists out there, there are thousands of competitors fighting for the same market. Since the information revolution in our knowledge-based economy (including the Internet) has helped to educate people on what's available, there's really no longer a need to prospect for and persuade people in order to have them “buy into” an idea.

The goal, nowadays, is to be the one from whom they choose to buy or with whom they choose to do business — among all other possibilities. Marketing must therefore be such that, if and when a prospect needs a particular product, one's firm comes to their minds in an instant.

Stated differently, positioning is not to compete but to differentiate, to be unique. By doing so, this process helps to provide sort of psychological “anchor” to be placed into the minds of prospects so that they come to choose one business or product above all other choices.

“Top-of-mind awareness” is a term originally coined by Ellis Verdi, the once president of the National Retail Advertisers Council, and the owner of an advertising agency in New York. He said that what most people wrongfully seek to accomplish in their promotional efforts is to obtain short-term cashflow and not long-term results. And they usually accomplish this by offering sales, promotions, discounts and price reductions.

As he said at a recent conference, “Discounting is really like a drug. It brings in some business, and for some it may even bring in a lot of business. But the effect usually wears off and the company will soon find itself with the need to discount further in order to create more business let alone to stay in it.”

Top-of-mind awareness, however, is such that with it there is no need to use price-based promotional methods. What it does is two, important things: It psychologically impacts people so that the mere mention and knowledge of one's company, product, or service inherently creates a need for them; and it places one at the top of a specific market's consciousness so that one is instantly chosen when people want what that person or firm has to offer.

“Power Positioning” is a term I've coined, which is the result of creating top-of-mind awareness from a blend of the art of positioning and the science of direct response so that you, your business, or your products become powerful magnets that attract a greater response from better leads.

The following commandments all reflect this powerful concept — and it's one so simple and yet remarkably more effective, more affordable, and of course more effortless than any other marketing strategy. Are you ready?

Thou Shall Not Copy

If there's one problem in all advertising and marketing, it is the sheer fact that there is too much competition out there. Everything just seems to look like everything else. If one copies another company let alone another company's promotion, it only serves as a reminder of one's competition!

You don't want to remind your prospects about your competition, do you?

So, don't copy them — or as Earl Nightingale once said, “Don't copy, create!” Be unique. Be original. Be special. Be different. In fact, be so different that, if possible (and it is), your name or the name of your firm as well as the services you deliver become generic in the minds of prospects.

Have you ever heard a doctor say: “Take two acetylsalicylic acid tablets and call me in the morning”? What about facial tissue, cotton swab or adhesive bandage? Of course not. It's Aspirin, Kleenex, Q-Tip and Band-Aid.

And that's not all. Xerox, FedEx, Velcro, Kwik Kopy and Quick Lube also stick like glue in the mind. How is this possible? While there are many reasons for this, the first one is the fact that many of these firms created not only a new product but also a whole new category to place them in.

I'll talk about “categories” in the next commandment. For now, let's stick to the idea of “uniqueness.” This concept might seem a little far-fetched for the type of product you offer, but in reality it really isn't.

As expressed earlier as well as stringently taught in my consulting practice, top-of-mind awareness is the greatest key to marketing success in all types of business. Top-of-mind awareness is a process by which an “anchor” in the subconscious of prospects has been created and through which you position your firm or product above all other choices in the mind.

For instance, when deciding to find out about the type of product or service you provide let alone when deciding to buy what you offer, your name, the name of your firm, and/or the name of your product must come to your prospects' minds instantaneously. How is this done? Well, there are several ways to accomplish this, but let me share at least two of them with you.

The first and most important is names. Does your company or service name intrinsically reflect the type of service you offer and does so instantaneously? If not, you might want to reconsider renaming your company or service.

For example, if I told you “Kwik Kopy,” you will automatically think of a company offering quick copies! You might say, “Yeah, but that's only for big chains with big budgets!” People have told me this many times over. My answer is, “But how do you think they became large chains anyway?”

Today, it astounds me to see companies with names that mean absolutely nothing, such as acronyms (like “DFG Enterprises”) or names that do not reflect the competitive advantage if not at least the nature of the business.

If you are a computer network consultant, are you “Mike Fortin Consulting” or “Practical Technologies”? What's better: “John's Drycleaners” or “Spotless Cleaners”? The name of your firm should suggest what you do, what you offer and how you are different from the competition in just a few words.

This generally requires a great deal of creative effort. In my consulting work when I am refining a firm's corporate identity, some names will pop instantly into my mind while others take more time and effort.

So, here's a helpful hint. Try writing down as many names as possible — at least 20 — and pass it around among friends, family, and acquaintances. Ask them what pulls them the most. Look for the “Aha's!” or the “Wow's!” These are the ones you want.

If not, either you will have one that sticks out, or words from a combination of a few of your names that can be used wonderfully together. Listen to what your peanut gallery has to say, but also read between the lines.

In other words, many will tell you what they think looks best, but remember that your goal is not to look better but to get busier. So clue in on their facial expressions when they read your names. Ask them a few hours later what stuck in their minds and not just the ones they liked best.

However, I must point out that there are exceptions to this rule. For example, you are probably self-employed or home-based, and do not use a fictitious name. You may also be limited financially, since repositioning a firm with a new name is sometimes expensive — particularly if you're already established in the marketplace. In these cases, a second technique can help.

It is to add a tagline to your name. A tagline is a small sentence, preferably five words or less, that complements your name and says it all in one single swoop. I'm sure you've heard of “Enjoy the Ride (Nissan),” “Fights Cavities (Crest),” “Kills Bugs Dead (Raid),” or “The Midas Touch (Midas).”

You can do this with almost any name. For instance, a self-employed computer technician added some flair to his name by using a tagline in all his marketing pieces and correspondence, which read: “John Smith, Solutions Made Simple.” An interior designer, Gloria Tessman, now markets herself as “Gloria Tessman's Glorious Interiors.” A business etiquette consultant calls himself “Brian Whelan, Where Protocol Meets Profits.”

In either case, whether you have a unique name or not, try to add a tagline to your name, and choose one that truly communicates all that you are.

Make sure to use your tagline in all your communications, promotions and stationery. Additionally, every single nook-and-cranny of your operations — even breathing! — should become some kind of marketing process in itself.

Remember to look at every aspect of your business, whether it's answering your phone, writing your invoices, mailing your brochures, even handing out your business cards. Every business activity should emphasize in some way your uniqueness through your special name or tagline. Use them!

For example, do you have an answering machine message that says: “Sorry, but I'm not here to take your call right now”? Ugh! Don't do that. Make your machine work for you. Change it to something like…

“You've reached Terry Crawford, the ‘Teacher's Teacher.' I am out of the office right now currently teaching another successful ‘How to Make Mega-Profits Teaching Corporations Part-Time,' designed for college teachers. If you wish to leave a message or would like to receive my free report, ‘Eight Ways to Make Classes Cook for Cash,' give me your name, address and telephone number after the tone in case I need to confirm your address. Thank you for calling the ‘Teacher's Teacher!' (Beep)”

In the above example, several other commandments are followed. We will deal with these aspects in greater detail further in the book, but for now just realize that everything you do must become a part of creating top-of-mind awareness.

You don't need a huge budget to make this work. Once you've got this down, use it in all your communications. You have to live, sleep, eat, and breathe your new name and tagline — especially with your “Elevator Pitch,” which I will discuss later on. For now, don't copy. Make yourself unique!

Thou Shall Appoint Thyself

A recently understood segment of marketing is the immense power behind the product category. Often, many businesses build their entire marketing strategy around a particular brand and its better qualities within a currently known product category, only to have it all go down the drain in the end.

Remember the “New Coke”? In the 80's, Pepsi conducted taste tests called “The Pepsi Challenge.” Coke, on the sidelines, also heard from their own research that a newer, better tasting brand would beat Pepsi.

Only 77 days later, according to Coke's former marketing vice-president Sergio Zyman in his book “The End of Marketing As We Know It,” not only were they forced to reintroduce the older version as “Classic Coke” but they also had to eventually wipe the New Coke out. Better is not always better.

Jack Trout and Al Ries, the fathers of positioning and my greatest marketing mentors, have literally developed the product category concept into a science. In their provocative book “Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind,” they made what I believe to be the most powerful notion ever conceived: “Marketing is not a battle of products but a battle of perceptions.” My business mentor used to also tell me: “Perceived truth is more powerful than truth itself.”

Both are remarkably true. For instance, a survey was once conducted among the passengers of an airline company. And to the question, “If your food trays were dirty, would you assume that the airline also does poor maintenance on its engines,” the answer was, as illogical as it sounds, “yes” for an overwhelming majority! Thus, marketing is truly all about perception.

The greater portion of my early consulting career was focused on doctors, cosmetic surgeons, and medical practices. I often asked doctors this question: “Look at the leaders in your specific field — are they famous because they're busy, or are they busy because they're famous?”

For example, a particular hair transplant doctor is one of the first surgeons in Canada to perform hair transplant surgery and was instrumental in its initial popularization. In addition to the fact that he maintains a portfolio of celebrity patients, this doctor is still widely recognized among the public to be the best surgeon — and that, whether he is indeed the best or not. He even uses outdated techniques in a field that has progressed considerably!

However, superiority in cosmetic surgery is a matter of artistic ability and not of seniority let alone fame. But you see, when people perceive that you are the best, the leader in your particular category or industry, it is much more powerful than actually being the best in the first place. In other words, perceived truth is definitely far more powerful than truth itself.

If you have a product that you perceive as being the best, it may not be a shared perception among your target market. However, whether your product is better than your competition or not, if it's the leader in its field or category, people will automatically assume that it's the best. It's human nature.

For example, people will often say: “They must be the best, because they're the leaders!” People have the natural tendency to gravitate towards the leader of a given category and automatically conclude that the leader is indeed the best — even if that may not be true. For example, Coke outsells Pepsi, even though in taste tests Pepsi seems to be the better tasting brand.

Now, all of this is fine and dandy but you're probably wondering at this point how you can accomplish this. Before I show you how to do that, let me give you an example from Ries and Trout, from their book “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.” (It's a book that I highly, highly recommend.)

If I asked you who was the third person to fly over the Atlantic in a solo flight, and if you're not a history buff, more than likely you will be stumped. Of course, most people know that Lindbergh was the first person to fly over the Atlantic. Being the first, he comes to mind immediately.

Rather than ask you who was the third person to fly over the Atlantic, if I repositioned that same person — that is, if I asked you the same question but rephrased in another way — by asking you, “Who was the first woman to fly over the Atlantic in a solo flight?” of course, it's Amelia Earhart.

This is the power of self-appointment.

One of my favorite marketing gurus is Dan Kennedy, author of the best-sellers “No B.S. Business Success” and “No B.S. Sales Success.” He stresses that “You don't need someone else's permission to become successful.”

When it comes to marketing, he is absolutely right. Many people try to compete and may even get the first commandment down pat, but where they often fail is in creating top-of-mind awareness by drowning their image in a currently known category. They try to be better than everyone.

Everybody knows who is the first in some category or another, but rarely do people remember who's second or third. And one of the biggest errors most businesspeople commit is in attempting to market themselves as a better firm, with a better product or service, at better rates.

Let me share with you a secret that might shock you — if I haven't done it already: Nobody cares. Nobody cares if you're the best. Nobody! Even when people say they have chosen a firm over another because they have a better product, they only think they did and were initially attracted to that particular company for other reasons — probably at a subconscious level.

Look at it this way: if they do in fact make a choice based on a firm's superior qualities, they will not stay with that firm for long, for they will quickly jump at the next “best” thing that comes along. Again, human nature dictates.

People want the newest, the latest, the fastest, the freshest, the brightest, etc. They want the leading product or service in any given field. They want the best! And when I say that they want the best, I don't necessarily mean the “best” but what people perceive as being the “best.”

So, what do you do in order to produce this effect? If there's no category you can be first in, create one! As Dan Kennedy said, you don't need other people's permission to do that. Creating your own category is powerful since it is impossible for others to copy you. In other words, don't compare. Create!

Be the first to cater to a specific market, the first to offer an alternative to an existing product or service, or the first to cater to a market in a unique way — such as by offering an ordinary product but with a unique twist. You can also customize a general product or service for a specific market. Look at your background, your business model, or your clients, and ask yourself:

  • Is there a common thread or something that stands out?
  • Is there something that's really different than anyone else?
  • Can I reposition myself to look unique, original, or different?
  • If not, are there any special awards I or my products have won?
  • Are there any unique references or endorsements I can obtain from celebrities, particularly endorsements my competitors can't have?
  • Do I or my company possess any unique accreditation, certifications, or memberships in specific groups that no one else has?
  • If so, then why, as specifically as possible, did I (or can I) get them?

You might be a travel consultant selling business trips exclusively to financial institutions and brokers — your biggest clientele. Market yourself as “the first to serve the financially inclined,” “the leader in business trips for bankers,” “we take the risk out of traveling for those who deal with it every day,” “the financier's travel agent,” or “the first traveling agent for the smart investor.”

Don't be the best in some category. Be the first in one!

Before we go to the next commandment, I must share with you a small tip that is relevant to the two first commandments. Do you an elevator pitch or speech? And if so, does it create instant, top-of-mind awareness?

An elevator speech is what you say when you introduce yourself, and it usually includes a sentence or two, no more than 30 words, that states clearly and concisely who you are and what you do. But refrain from bland, hackneyed introductions. Be different with your elevator speech as well.

How do you do that? Think benefits. What makes you different? Why should your clients hire you? Why should they buy from you? Why should they listen to you? And better still, why should they remember you at all?

When you introduce yourself to people, do give your name and tell people what you do? If you do, please take this advice: You must stop it right now! I know, I know. You're probably thinking, “What? He wants me to stop telling people what I do? But how will they know who I am let alone remember me?”

Before we go further, let me explain what I mean.

In my seminars, I teach something I call the “Ketchup Principle.” Let's say you've just met a salesperson. He gives you a stellar sales presentation. He is dressed absolutely impeccably. His spiel was stunning. He conducted a first-class meeting with you. In short, everything was perfect.

But all throughout the encounter, you couldn't stop but notice that he had a little spot on his tie — a little ketchup stain, if you will. Two weeks later, if I were to ask you: “What do you remember most about your meeting with this sales professional?” More than likely, the first thing that would pop into your mind is, you guessed it, the ketchup stain!

As the old saying goes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression!” That statement is not only true but it also applies even to the simplest of things, such as names, taglines, and introductions. How often have you met people only to forget their names only moments later?

So, the bottom-line is to stick in the minds of the people you've just met. Again, your introduction is not meant to persuade this potential client right on the spot to do business with you (or refer others to do business with you). The trick is to have you in your prospects' consciousness at all times.

Therefore, when you introduce yourself to others, use your unique name, your tagline, your unique category, and the benefits your provide — and not just your name and what you do. For instance, don't say: “Hello, my name is Mike Fortin and I do consulting work” or “I am a marketing consultant.” Rather, say: “My name is Mike Fortin, The Success Doctor — I help turn businesses into powerful magnets.” (By the way, that's my elevator speech!)

Not only will it arouse interest but it will also make your name stick in their minds, which is what you really want. That person will either remember you when needing what you have to offer, refer you to others when the opportunity presents itself, or talk about you openly especially when others bring up the subject. That's the power of turning words into “mind glue.”

Here are other examples. If you're a computer consultant specializing in network solutions, don't say, “I'm Elaine Wilson, I'm a computer consultant” or “I specialize in local area networks.” Instead, say, “My name is Elaine Wilson of Network Magic, I help relieve computer network headaches.”

Don't say, “Hello, my name is Jack Vidoli; I'm a management consultant specializing in accounting.” Rather, say, “My name is Jack Vidoli of A Knack with Knumbers, I help cut a firm's expenses of time, effort, and money in half by simplifying their accounting systems.” See the difference?

Don't forget to put yourself in a whole different category. It's important to not only being the leader in a category but being the leader in the mind. So use it in all your communications, especially when giving your elevator speech. If you're not the first in some category, be the first in one you've created.

Thou Shall Make The Ordinary Extraordinary

So, if you're following the commandments, you should now have a unique name, possibly a tagline, and established yourself as the first or leader in your unique category. What about the service or product you offer? Do you offer an extraordinary product or service, or do you offer an ordinary one?

Even if the service you provide is customary, traditional, and probably offered by your competition, you should make it appear unique just as well.

Remember that perception is more powerful than truth. You don't need to emphasize that your product or service is unique, better than the competition, or even the best for that matter. Doing so by declaring that it is can sometimes be worse than not saying anything at all, and the reason for that is that it makes your self-serving claim appear suspect, boastful, or exaggerated.

For instance, if you told people that your product or service is number one in the marketplace, your clients will probably either laugh at you or in the very least question your statement. But if you put a name on your product or service (and trademark it if possible), you will indirectly cast an aura of exclusivity and superiority, and do so without utterly flaunting it.

By the way, please note that unique trademarks don't need to be registered, unless you are looking for financial compensation if someone ever copies you. In that case, you must go through a trademark process to register your name. I am not a lawyer and please do not consider this as legal advice. I strongly recommend that you see a trademark or corporate lawyer for assistance in this area, especially if you're seeking to prevent any form of piracy.

However, once you've conducted a thorough search and as a result found that your trademark is indeed original, after formally registering your trademark you will be able to use the “(R)” (or registered trademark symbol) rather than the “TM” in all your communications — and deter copycats or even sue them should they ever use your names or taglines.

Nevertheless, keep in mind that perception is powerful. When it comes to the perception of a product or service, it will generally fall into either one of three categories. (This is especially true with services since they are intangible.) The first one is the “customary,” the second is the “assumed,” and the third is the “unique.” Let's take a look at each element in more detail.

The Customary

You might be a bookkeeper offering an income tax service as part of your portfolio — one that is widely offered by most bookkeepers these days. But don't just leave it like that. Say, “Ask us about our special ‘Total Tax Tranquility' service.” If you're a dry cleaner offering a tie cleaning service (as most dry cleaners do), don't just call it a “tie cleaning service,” call it, “Bring your ties out of retirement with our ‘Re-TIE-rement Reversal'.”

Before we go any further, you're probably thinking that you're a professional businessperson representing a high-class, high-quality product or service, and that this type of strategy is too “hokey” or that it doesn't apply to you.

When I started out in business, I was a marketing consultant specializing in medical practices. Dealing with a professional clientele, I heard this type of objection all the time. However, I still say that it is possible for you to use this technique, even in these circumstances — and probably more so since doctors and professionals are prohibited from claiming superiority.

For instance, I often search the local yellow pages, in the doctor and dentist sections, to find potential clients. One day, I was immediately struck by an ad from a particular dentist who specializes in pain and anxiety management. He has an anesthetist on staff, and uses intravenous and general sedation for his patients in order to make dental work a more comfortable experience. Most dentists offer this “ordinary” service. But what did his ad say?

The headline was made up of two simple words: “Dream Dentistry.”

Even if your service is customary or similar to that of your competitor's, by putting a name on an often nameless product you cast an aura of uniqueness and superiority — without having to state it outright. As one of my mentors used to say, “Implication is more powerful than specification!”

The resulting effect is that not only will the name keep you in the back of your prospects' minds but it will also create curiosity, arouse interest, and enhance desire. By and large, if people had to choose between a general product and one that implies a better or more unique kind of product (with some kind of added value), more than likely they will go for the second option.

For instance, if you owned an imported car that needed a brake job, whom would you choose: A general mechanic? Or one who specializes in imported cars by marketing itself with: “Are your brakes screaming in a different language? See us for your Quicker-than-Customs foreign car brake inspection”?

You get the picture. (Whoops! I'm getting ahead of myself again, since this example also reflects Commandment #4, which is the power of specialization. But I guess you're getting used to me by now, right?)

The Assumed

Speaking of mechanics, are you a mechanic and, as normal practice, offer free estimates? If you are a mechanic, you most likely do. Suffice it to say, pretty much everybody expects free estimates from mechanics or garages these days. However, as simple as it may sound, if you specify that which is usually taken for granted, you help to make your name stick in the mind!

For example, you might call your free estimate, “The Hassle-Free Fee Finder” or the “No Greater than Guesstimate Estimate.” Or your tagline could even be something like, “Where Smiles and Estimates are Free!”

It might sound silly but this process is so simple… And it works. People may or may not know that garages offer free estimates and, more often than not, they only assume that they do. But with a name in which people are indirectly told that estimates are free, people are now assured that they provide them.

In other words, you're turning an assumed product or service into an assured one in the minds of people. And in this day and age where people no longer have time to search for specific information, when they'll need a free estimate your name will pop into their minds instantaneously.

This simple technique is indeed remarkably effective.

As shown in the previous example, making the ordinary extraordinary is like turning the assumed into the assured. Assurance is a great marketing strategy. In fact, there is an immense power behind guarantees, and I love marketing on this remarkable concept. Some people think that guarantees are outdated, overused, and ineffective. Others think that they are not necessary or will increase returns. I know for a fact that that's not true.

People not only love guarantees, but as I said earlier, in today's competitive marketplace you need to stand out like a sore thumb. And a good way to do this is by offering a guarantee in one form or another so that, when placed side-by-side with a competitor, you will be the one who's chosen.

Guarantees sometimes frighten people because it involves taking a great risk on the part of the entrepreneur. The possible loss of revenue is a frightening idea for many people. But if you have a good product, have had good experience with it, and believe in it wholeheartedly, guarantees can become powerful weapons in building sales. They communicate instant credibility.

As a matter of fact, guarantees also help to reduce returns. Why? They are often perceived as an expression of confidence in the product or service. With scams, schemes, and snake oils rampant, people have a tendency to forgive far more easily businesses that are credible, have greater customer service, and have shown, through guarantees, to believe in their products.

Guarantees not only increase sales but also communicate confidence, trust, and superiority — including the perception of superior customer service.

Nevertheless, if you still wish to avoid guarantees or if your type of work stops you from doing so (as in the case of doctors who are legally prohibited from doing so), there are three key areas you may want to consider.

First, does your product or service provide a result that is quantifiable and measurable? Second, can your product or service be easily replaced or exchanged? And third, do you offer additional products or services outside your core portfolio that you can provide in order to satisfy your client?

If you're not prepared to give a full money-back guarantee, you might want to consider an indirect guarantee — such as by adding or subtracting something instead, something different that appeals to your clients.

Here's an example. You're a sales training consultant offering seminars on sales productivity. You might want to offer a guarantee that promises an increase in your client's sales results by, say, 25% following your seminar. If your client's salesforce doesn't meet this goal within a specific period of time, you could offer an additional seminar (or one-on-one, phone consulting) free of charge.

You may be a marketing consultant compensated on a percentage of the client's sales (also called “contingency consulting”). It's really a guarantee in itself. But as a name for your guarantee, you may want to call it the “Make-Money-Or-I-Don't Guarantee.” You might give a bonus product or service free of charge as a way to thank your client for their business. In this case, don't just offer it as a standard part of your package. Market it in the form of a guarantee, too.

For instance, if you are a project management consultant in the computer field, you could add a bonus-training seminar to be conducted after your consulting contract is completed in order to guarantee that people maintain your work effectively after you're gone. As a result, you can call it the “After-Project Assurance Plan” or the “Perfect Project Preservation Pledge.”

In essence, the idea is to guarantee that which is a generally assumed part of your business. If the prospect perceives that doing business with you has some added value, even if that which you offer is identical to your competition or included in a total package, you will be able to destroy your competition!

Often, the problem not only lies with what prospects perceive but also with what business owners perceive. They too wrongfully assume that parts of their products or services are not important, that marketing them is unnecessary, or as one doctor-client of mine once said, that “it all comes with the territory.” I'm sure you've heard the joke about what happens when you ass-u-me, right?

You get the picture.

By the way, that client of mine removes stitches from and follows up with his patients after surgery, and doesn't bill them for these seemingly ordinary services. In fact, they are common practice among cosmetic surgeons. I asked him to put a name on it. He now calls it his “Postop Progress Program.” Remember, if you turn the ordinary into the extraordinary, you will turn ordinary marketing into extraordinary results.

The Unique

Above all, you may still be offering some very special or unique product or service that your competition doesn't offer at all. If so, that's great! However, the same rule applies. Don't just leave it to a vague title or description, since it will still be perceived as similar at first glance or without knowing about it.

Put a name on it, even if it's not entirely new. If you're a management consultant offering seminars on how to get the most out of a particular software you've customized, call it the “Software-Savvy-is-a-Cinch Seminar.”

In fact, while having a unique product or service beats the previous two categories in creating top-of-mind awareness, it doesn't have to be entirely new. It can be copied and customized in such a way that it appears unique or new. According to Brian Tracy in his program “The Psychology of Selling,” many people have made fortunes by simply improving a current product by merely 10% yet packaged it in a different way. Remember the “pet rock”?

This goes back to the issue of perception. I once watched an Oprah Winfrey Show in which Oprah did an interesting piece on marketing. She conducted an apple juice taste test in malls across the United States.

While the program was focusing particularly on how companies can easily use false or misleading advertising, the results of the test revealed some interesting facts nonetheless about the way the mind works.

She had two bottles of apple juice. One was a plain, white plastic container with a label donning a picture of an apple. Very plain. Nothing fancy. The second bottle, however, was an intricately shaped glass bottle carrying a red label with the picture of a woman preparing apple juice in her kitchen.

When people were asked which apple juice tasted better, the majority said that the juice from the glass bottle tasted better. The surprise came when she announced to her audience that the juices from both bottles were exactly the same! (She actually showed footage of her staff filling the bottles from behind the counter.)

Not bad, isn't it? But it didn't stop there. When she asked her participants why they chose the juice from the red labeled bottle, their answers were astonishing. They said, “It tastes really good,” “it's much better than the other one,” “it's sweeter tasting,” or “it has more flavor.” When asked why, one said: “The picture of the lady preparing the juice in her kitchen indicates to me that more care and attention was given into making it, so it has to be better.”

It all boils down to the fact that perceived truth is indeed more powerful than truth itself. When it comes to your unique product or service, pay close attention to how you package it — the name and description you put on it.

This is how brand names have become generic in the minds of people. If it's perceived as unique or as the best through its name, then it is. However, it is difficult for me to give you specific examples here since the uniqueness of your product or service will determine your entire approach.

The key is to market your “original” product or service in such a way so that, if it is ever copied, your product or service's name remains firmly fixed in the marketplace and that your competitor's attempt to copy you will only but remind your prospects of you. If you can, add a guarantee or a tagline to your product or service, such as “Flat-Rate Fashion Facials, They're Flat Out Fantastic!”

Ultimately, make your product or service outstanding by making it stand out.

Thou Shall Find More With Less

The most common mistake newcomers to business make is to think that by expanding their portfolio they will secure more business. Conversely, they think that by narrowing their market they will also narrow their chances of getting more business. In either case, nothing can be further from the truth.

A management consultant who I believe had a knack for human resources also offered bookkeeping services, thinking that having more to offer will keep her busier — she then wondered why she wasn't getting any work!

The truth of the matter is the fact that specializing and narrowing your focus as much as possible will increase your likelihood of getting more business.

An accountant specializing in car dealerships will get more business than a general accountant will. An advertising consultant specializing in print media strictly for home furnishing stores will get more business than a typical advertising agent will. A photographer specializing in weddings will get more business than a regular photographer will. And the list goes on and on.

Over the years, this has been referred to as “niche” marketing. Today, niche marketing is fast becoming increasingly necessary. Why? If we go back to the two major shifts I mentioned earlier, you'll remember that the explosion in both competition and information are changing the entire business landscape.

As more and more businesses get started and more and more people jump into home-based and self-employed opportunities, the less time, energy, and money people will have to spend in choosing those with whom they will do business. This is not only related to new and repeat business but also to referral business. Brand loyalty is harder to fathom than ever before.

Let's say you have two friends who are both in car sales, and you're thinking of referring clients to only one of them. One of your friends is just a typical car salesperson. The other, however, specializes in first-time car buyers (e.g., students, young drivers, newlyweds, late bloomers, etc).

For example, she offers special creative financing methods for those new to credit, additional car-specific driver training information for new drivers, and copies of rate comparison charts that suggest insurance companies with the lowest premiums for new drivers. Now, let me ask you this question…

… To whom do you think you will refer more people?

This is the awesome power of narrowing one's focus. Think of a laser, which is basically a narrow beam of highly concentrated, amplified light. You want to focus like a laser on your niche and, when you do, you will consequently burn yourself into your prospects' minds. Now that's branding!

When you get down to it, as a consumer you will choose, when you have a choice presented to you, to go to a business that specializes in a unique area in which you have a specific need. Specialization is in itself a fundamental marketing strategy, for it helps to project an aura of superiority.

When you deal with a specialist, you will automatically assume that he or she has greater expertise, has greater knowledge about the field, and offers greater service since, by catering to a unique market, it implies that he or she will have somewhat of a better understanding of your situation, needs, and concerns. In short, specialization implies superiority.

Niche marketing is the wave of the future. And the greater the competition will become, the greater the need for more specialists. Why do you think there is a trend in specialty stores these days? There are stores selling only dry foods in bulk. There are vitamin and food supplement stores. There are electronics and computer stores. There are toy stores. There are specialty crafts stores. There are even mothers-to-be and baby-only clothing stores!

The need to specialize is obvious. Here's an example. Today, you can get a toaster from a department store, a home furnishings store, an appliance store, a kitchenware store, a grocery store, and a drugstore. Even a bank!

With all these stores storming you with information, your very limited time to be able to shop around for the best product at the best price will more than likely cause you to go the one that pops into your mind the moment you have a need for a toaster. I mean, all you want is a toaster!

But, if there were a store like “Toasters-R-Us,” you'd probably go there first!

Nevertheless, your goal is to find your niche, to narrow it down as much as possible, and then to hit it with all you've got. The narrower your market, the more business will come to you. In fact, the narrower your market, the broader your chances of success in a hypercompetitive, overcommunicated society. It's the paradox of “less is more.”

If you're new to business or hesitant about narrowing your focus since you want the ability to offer different products or services, focus on a specific niche to start, or create one as a “division” of your main business or focus.

And then, as business creates enough cashflow and confidence for you, look at expanding at that point. However, be careful. If you expand outside of your established area of expertise, your marketing will fall down like a house of cards and will have to rebuild from the ground up.

We will deal with this further, but for now, focus on your niche. And as stated in Commandment #2, become the specialist by appointing yourself as one!

Thou Shall Divide and Conquer

Expansion is far different than business expansion or extension. Extension is often referred to as franchising, licensing, line extension, or branching out. In this context, I am referring to expansion by division or core expansion.

If you're a specialist in your field — which I hope you are after reading this book — and you offer only one type of service, you can expand from within by dividing your core (your product or service) into multiple, smaller components.

This helps to do 3 things. 1) It doesn't take away from your category or specialization. 2) It increases your hit ratio when targeting clients, since some of them might be interested in your entire package while others may be interested in only a portion of it. And 3) it increases the aura of expertise you project because you refrain from spreading yourself too thin.

McDonald's are reputed worldwide for their hamburgers, pure and simple. Ray Kroc was a milkshake machine salesman and his clients were mainly fast-food restaurants. One day in the mid-1950s, Ray stumbled onto the little drive-in restaurant in the American Midwest run by a couple of brothers who were cooking hamburgers in a different way: the assembly-line method.

He had an idea and the result became the joint venture with the McDonald brothers that today has literally revolutionized the entire fast-food industry.

In the beginning, McDonald's had no more than three simple items on their menu: hamburgers, fries, and shakes. Up to this day and hopefully in the future, you will never find a hot dog at a McDonald's. But now they have hamburgers in almost every food category possible.

They offer hamburgers, cheeseburgers, chicken burgers, fish burgers, double burgers, rib burgers, and so on. They have small fries, medium fries, large fries, and super-size fries. That's the power of core expansion.

Nevertheless, how does this apply to you? Let's say you are a programmer and you offer consulting work. For instance, you may provide consulting, research, programming, implementation, testing, hardware installation, training, customization, upgrades, licensing — and the list can go on and on.

Obviously, all of these elements may probably be part of one global package that relates to an area in which you are specialized. But by dividing your core product into individual components, you may not have expanded in a direct sense but you have, however, expanded your possibilities.

Similarly, you may offer an entire package right now but fail to recognize its many different components — parts that can be individualized and offered separately. Look at what you currently offer. Take a notepad and write down every little component that's a part-and-parcel of what you offer. Then see if each part can be marketed, sold, and serviced separately and individually.

Once done, put names on each “division,” and include them in your collateral materials. Using the previous example, you could develop your own research division, development division, implementation division, training division, etc.

The word “division” means exactly what it says. And by doing so, you may stumble onto clients who may need the entire package and others who may only need a part of it — like, for example, a training specialist.

Keep in mind that you shouldn't digress from your specialization, but stick to your core and expand from within. You may have narrowed your niche, but by expanding your core the demand for your products or services will likely increase, even with prospects outside of your target market since you are now catering to different market segments.

You can also add new products or services to your portfolio that cater to your niche. Look at dry-cleaners: beyond dry-cleaning, they also offer tie cleaning, shoe repair, tailoring, winter clothing storage, and so on and so forth.

If you do expand in such a way, don't just leave it at that. Put names on your divisions that specifically describe each one. Like I mentioned in the first commandment, give each division a special brand or suggestive name.

Plus, aside from dividing from within (i.e., your product or service), you could also do it the other way around by dividing your clientele into groups. While they may still be part of your niche, you have classified them into different categories, which will increase your hit ratio, too.

In my ongoing consulting business, I make a distinction between three types of clients who might need my services. For instance, there are those who are low-key and only seek to increase their cashflow. There are also middle-of-the-road clients who want to possibly expand in staff, size, or scope. And then there are entrepreneurial types who want the whole “ball of wax.”

What's the benefit in doing this? A conservative client in need for some marketing assistance, but fears that he or she will go overboard in doing so (or is low-key, such as a doctor or lawyer), may be attracted to the fact that my services also cater to his or her specific needs as well.

And finally, let's say that your package is inseparable. In this case, there is still a portion that can be expanded by setting up strategic alliances with other specialists (I will deal further on this in Commandment #10).

For example, you're a wedding planner offering a package for helping couples prepare for the most important day of their lives. However, when it comes to stationery such as wedding invitations and reply cards, you use a local printer with whom you've set up some kind of strategic alliance.

This local printer gives a special price break offered exclusively to your specific clients as a way to create more business. And, more than likely, the printer is glad to help since he or she knows that by doing so you will constantly send that specific printer more clients. It's win-win.

You can call it your “Incredible Invitation Incentive,” which includes the planning and printing of wedding invitations. (Also, the design, mailing, and response management of those invitations could also involve the co-services of a graphic designer, mailing house, as well as the print shop.) You see, you are not competing with the printer but both of you are seeking and serving the same market.

That's it for now. Ultimately, remember that by dividing your core you will paradoxically multiply your chances of getting more business. Each one of your “divisions” can cater to its own individual niche. If you own and operate multiple niches, when added up they can become very profitable for you.

Thou Shall Take it Step by Step

A mistake businesspeople often make is when they try to sell their company directly in every communication they produce. (I'm referring to the idea that they try to sell their company as being merely open for business, also called “institutional advertising,” and not direct marketing, which is different.)

Institutional advertising will draw up immediate clients. When advertising, they spend hoards of cash on repeated, slick, and entertaining ads. When marketing to people for the first time, they blab on until the cows come home. When sending out information, they send beautifully designed packages that make shipping crates look like a joke!

They think that by selling themselves right in the ad, with clever punches and ideas, they will get not only an immediate response but also immediate business. This oftentimes backfires and can even take away clients.

Many clients I've dealt with usually get as a result of this type of approach a lot of calls but no business — or at least no long-term business. They end up dealing with a lot of people who are merely curious but never serious. In the end, because of hypercompetition, trying to look for pre-qualified prospects using this approach can sometimes be worse than a needle in the haystack.

A new concept (although it's been around for years but has recently become popular) is direct-response marketing. It is a process in which businesses seek an immediate response as a result of their marketing efforts. While it is often used to sell in the immediate sense, many use this technique to offer a free report, item, or service. Little do people know, however, that the direct response strategy is usually not the true goal of the advertiser.

For instance, have you ever seen an infomercial by Charles Givens? His ad explains who he is and what he does, which is to help people make or save money, and then advertises a “free” seminar in cities in which the commercial is being televised. Do you think he's really doing this for free and traveling across the country only to educate people? In a sense, yes.

But when people arrive at his seminar, they get tiny tidbits of information that will help them make or save money. They get what they were promised. But it's a certain kind of information that, if participants want to have it continually updated, or if they want more, forces them to join the Givens organization.

Membership fees range in the hundreds and even thousands of dollars, and additional products (mostly books and reports) are sold in the back of the room at his seminars. That's the power of pre-qualified lead generation.

People who came out to see him are not general, curious, and uninterested prospects. They have indirectly screened themselves. Once they show up, they are pre-qualified and highly targeted. And after they've been enticed with free information, they are also pre-sold and ready to do business.

As a consultant to cosmetic surgeons, this process is obviously essential if not vital. No one can call a person on the phone and outright ask if that person wants more hair — at least without knowing if that person is bald in the first place! However, doctors will televise an infomercial or place a print ad whereby the people who respond will naturally fit into a specific demographic.

And it doesn't stop there. A process called “multistep marketing” takes place.

The prospect who comes forward usually wants information mailed to him. The doctor sends a professional brochure explaining the procedure, the possible risks, and the potential results. But without any pricing. (For one, it is impossible to determine the cost until the doctor personally sees the patient firsthand in order to measure his degree of baldness.)

The package, therefore, along with its lack of pricing, causes the prospect to come forward once more to arrange a consultation with the doctor. In the majority of cases, those that at least show up for the initial consultation are identifying themselves as interested candidates, looking for more hair.

You see, people who may need your services may fit your demographics. They fit a profile of people within your target market. But people who actually come forward fit your psychographics, which are the characteristics of those who not only need your services but also want what you have to offer.

As in the previous example, the demographics for a hair transplant surgeon encompass people who obviously have lost hair. But psychographics, on the other hand, are comprised of people who not only have hair loss but also want to do something about it (since not all of them do).

In your case, if you offer a specific product or service that caters to a specific market, find out ways to make your market come forward with minimal effort on your part. This is called “lead generation marketing.” In my experience, one of the best ways to do this is to offer a free report of some kind.

The report doesn't have to be product-specific, occupation-specific, service-specific, or industry-specific. It doesn't even have to directly relate to what you're selling. As long as it targets and appeals to an audience that fits within your demographics somehow, you're ahead of the game.

A used car salesperson friend of mine placed a small classified ad in the local newspaper and it read something like this: “Is your car a lemon? Do you know that there are ways to turn your lemon into cash? Before you get rid of your clunker, call for my free report '10 Ways to Turn Your Lemon into Lemonade'!” He even used the pseudonym “The Lemon-Aid Institute.”

And guess what? People who answered his ad were not only in the market for a new car (which was what he wanted), but they were also frustrated with their previous dealership for selling them their lemon. They were enticed to seek more information from that specific salesperson and his specific inventory.

In the end, they were far more qualified (or pre-qualified, in this case) and also positively impacted by the valuable service the salesperson provided. Car buyers, therefore, placed more confidence and trust in that salesperson, and eventually also felt more comfortable in sending him referrals!

Let's say you're a financial planning consultant. Your services may include investments, mutual funds, and savings plans. Rather than place an ad that directly markets these services, you could place a classified ad promoting a free course, seminar, or report on helping people save money.

Let's say you're an image consultant helping people to enhance their appearance. You could offer a free kit including a makeover, makeup sample, consultation, or a special report on the best colors that will match one's unique complexion.

The idea is to have people come to you rather than you to them. Being in the information age, I personally prefer the “free report” style of lead generation. The incentive doesn't have to relate directly to what you do, as long as it logically appeals to the same target market.

If you recall from an earlier example, you can turn your answering machine into a 24-hour salesperson. Your free report offer should therefore be included in the message — they must be somehow invited to ask for the free report.

When it comes to advertising though, you shouldn't go into large circulation newspapers or general publications. There are a variety of reasons. I will deal with this issue a little further in the next commandment, but for now just remember that your main goal is to generate leads, not immediate clients.

The portion of the general public that fits into your demographics is merely made up of “suspects” (you suspect that they might need what you have to offer). When some of them come forward to get your free report, sample, or service, you've isolated the “prospects” from your suspects. Then, if they want more once again, they've now become “expects” (you expect them to do business with you). This can be done in virtually all industries.

I used to work as a salesperson for a music store specializing in pianos and keyboards. Older pianos usually require considerable repair since the wood inside holding the strings with which the piano creates its sound may be too old, cracking, and broken beyond repair. They constantly fall out of tune. A salesperson at the store had a small classified ad that said:

“Beware parents in the market for a piano!” [That was the headline.] “Many parents usually buy used pianos for their kids because they don't know if they'll love music and therefore want to minimize the risk of losing their money. However, to the unsuspecting buyer, many used pianos are internally broken beyond repair and temporarily ‘doped' in order to sound good and be sold quickly, only to become broken again when it's too late. Before you buy any piano, call for our free report ‘Don't Let Piano Problems Put Your Bank Account Out of Tune: 6 Ways to Find Hidden Problems with Used Pianos'.”

His report not only explained the possible faults commonly found in older pianos that can easily go unnoticed, but since he was catering to a specialized market (i.e., parents), his report went on to explain how used pianos fall out of tune quickly causing the child to learn the piano the wrong way and eventually to lose interest — let alone the parents money!

Of course, what the salesperson really wanted was to get these parents to buy new or professionally refurbished pianos from his store and especially from him. The resulting effect, however, was that the report not only brought prospects to his door but also instilled in them a greater confidence in the salesperson in addition to the reasons for buying a certified piano rather than a used one. Last time I checked, he made a fortune using this technique!

Look at lead generation advertising or multistep marketing as a form of job search. People often send bulky résumés to potential employers in an attempt to sell themselves as much as possible, when very often their attempts get filed away — into the “round” file, that is. (Sounds familiar?)

Career consultants stress the importance of summarizing a résumé as much as possible, of including past accomplishments and results (instead of responsibilities and duties from previous jobs), and of putting it all on one page. Why? The résumé is not meant to land a job but to land an interview.

Lead generation should be regarded in the same way. Your ad must be small, contain a concise message, stress an immediate benefit (something for free, for example), and offer a useful tool or additional information if the prospect wants to come forward and know more. And this can be applied in virtually all fields and for many if not all types of products or services.

What can you offer your prospects to arouse their curiosity and interest? What can you give away for free so to entice them to get more, thereby identifying themselves to you as interested, potentially qualified “expects?”

If you're giving something away, realize that what you're really doing is not giving away free stuff but generating better leads. Keep in mind that, in the end, the cost of free stuff can be far less than the cost of mass marketing.

Thou Shall Speak Softly but Carry a Big Stick

The following is probably the greatest commandment in “Power Positioning.”

Now that we've talked about lead generation advertising, the next step is where to advertise. And the trick to having as many pre-qualified prospects come forward is to have your ad noticed and read by such a specific group of people as much, as often, and as effectively as possible. General publications won't do that and they cost a lot of money. Cost-per-lead money.

Specialized publications, on the other hand, have the distinction of appealing to a specific audience and thus increase the chances of it being noticed as well as read. Why? If one newspaper has a readership of 100,000 but only 25,000 fits into your demographics, where another has only 40,000 readers but all of which fits into your demographics (because the publication is specialized), which one do you think will give you the greatest response?

In other words, rather than fishing for minnows in the middle of the ocean, you'll be a catching big fish in a small pond. Think of the specialized publication as a sonar that will help you to find the kind of fish you really want.

This is due to the fact that not only the readership of a specialized publication will match your demographics but also that people who buy these types of publications have a tendency to read them from cover to cover.

Unlike a general, mass-published, large circulation newspaper that will only be skimmed through (i.e., it is bought by many but read in its entirety by few), a specialized publication will be read more intently and thoroughly (i.e., it is bought by few but read in its entirety by many).

Your per capita hit-ratio will dramatically increase than if you would have advertised in a major publication that's too general or too vague. Your little ad can easily get “lost” in such large media or get drowned in a sea of ads.

These days, specialized publications exist by the truckloads!

For example, there are occupation-specific, special-interest-specific, or industry-specific publications, which can include newsletters, trade publications, ezines, journals, reports, corporate mail, magazines, specialty newspapers, catalogs, and communiqués from specific organizations. There are numerous publications for specific people or on specialized topics.

For instance, if you go to your library, you will find that there are magazines for home-based businesses, newsletters exclusively written for corporate executives, magazines purely about cigars, newspapers strictly published for firemen, and even magazines geared for, of all things, gerbil breeders!

As long as the readership somehow logically fits into your target market, this is where you will get the greatest bang for your marketing buck.

An advertising agent specializing in computer-based firms can advertise an offer for a free report in computer magazines or, better yet, in magazines read particularly by computer firms (such as hi-tech or Internet magazines).

A medical consultant, whose target market consists of doctors, should advertise in medical journals, health-related magazines, medical association newsletters, or medical equipment manufacturer catalogues — anywhere that puts him in front of as many doctors as possible. Anyway, you get the drift.

By the way, having your own newsletter is also a powerful way to attract quality prospects. If you are not yet publishing one, get on it. It may be offered for free or at a nominal cost to pay for the printing and distribution, but the idea is to have the people who read it want more and come forward.

You can sell advertising space in your newsletter to, or swap ad space with, firms also catering to your unique clientele (again, it's developing strategic alliances). Conversely, you can buy space in a newsletter written by another firm that also caters to your target market. The possibilities here are endless.

However, it wouldn't be right for me to end this portion without discussing the web. With information being one the major shifts the world has experienced, the Internet can help to make your presence known in a better, quicker, and cheaper way. If you're not on the ‘Net yet, you're losing out big time!

But if you are, your website and email addresses, which should appear in all your materials, should be made available to everyone with whom you come in contact, even as part of your signature on all forms of correspondence.

Email helps prospects to come forward in the privacy and convenience of their own homes or offices, and it also gives you a chance to respond to them immediately. It's truly a dynamic form of communication that, to this day, is still often overlooked. Permission-based email marketing is a goldmine!

For example, with an email announcement list, discussion list, or electronic newsletter (often called “ezine”), you have the opportunity to remain in constant contact with your clients (and thus maintain top-of-mind awareness), develop credibility, and build relationships with them. Also, you should invite people to subscribe to your email list at every chance you have.

If you haven't already create a landing page or “mini-site”. Many people think that this is too expensive or technical, which for a large sophisticated website it can be. But a single web page (or a smaller, more content-driven website with just a handful of pages) is different than a robust site in that it's usually a part of a greater website — a chapter of a book if you will.

These sites are usually called domains. Many Internet providers have domains on which your web page can be stored (many are free). Some non-competing strategic alliances with websites might host yours as well.

Nevertheless, while your “mini-website” may not be as large, as glitzy or as sophisticated as having your own domain, it's a good start. It's a low cost way to be on the web and it doesn't have to be slick with graphics.

The important thing is to maintain a presence. Your page can be strictly information-oriented identical to a book or newsletter. Your page can also be designed to advertise you, your company, and the products you offer.

But most important, it can be a wonderful tool for people to access your free report. If your report is written in a two-dimensional printed format, more than likely you will have a digital copy. Therefore, by having it available via the Internet, people can access your free information and print it themselves at home or the office, without costing any money, time, or postage.

However, don't make your free report available directly on your site. Many people who choose to use the multistep marketing process I described earlier (which I strongly encourage) want the names and addresses of those people coming forward for future follow-up and direct mail possibilities.

In this case, they have a special section of their site that includes their free report, but it is one to which only people who have a password can access. If you use this technique, and people have seen your site or your ad somewhere let alone your free report offer, they can write or email you to obtain their secret, free, and maybe time-sensitive password.

Once “inside,” they can read your report and do so instantaneously. They now have access to useful information and feel part of an elite group of educated members. Your newsletter can also be published on the web and made available through password-protected access, too.

And if your newsletters carry a subscription cost, you can charge people to obtain their password and you can bill them regularly for renewal. Again, the possibilities here are endless. The web opens many doors for you.

Remember that you're not trying to advertise with the hope of stumbling onto a trickle of suspects. You want an endless stream of pre-qualified, pre-screened, and pre-sold expects! In other words, you don't want to shout in order to attract prospects. You want to speak softly but carry a big stick with which you can lure better leads and “clobber 'em” (with your freebie offer, valuable information, or unique expertise) when they're in proximity.

For example, people who visit your site and read your web page will hopefully want more and come forward to get it. But even when only a small portion do, you know in advance that they are much more qualified, which saves you time and effort than trying to fish in a dried-up desert filled with unqualified suspects.

In addition, once you're on the web there are many more advantages that come with using this medium, such as search engines. Search engines are like electronic yellow pages that contain mostly every page available on the web. (However, there are ways to use engines effectively, and we'll come back to this in Commandment #9.)

You can also link your page to other sites and get your link posted on those that also cater to your specific market. Also called “reciprocal linking,” this method is simply another way to advertise through specialized means.

Nevertheless, it's all part of developing an effective lead generation system, and you know what “system” stands for, don't you? It stands for “Save Your Self Time, Effort, and Money!” Yeah. That's the ticket!

Thou Shall Become a Celebrity

In the second commandment, you learned that you should be the leader in your category or in your unique area of expertise. Now you need to be known as such. And one of the most effective ways to do this is through publicity.

I met a fellow once while working in New York City who ran his own show on cable television — his very own cable show! Cable and community television stations are wonderful mediums to get the word out effectively. This is an area in which you can get a lot of publicity at little or no cost.

My friend, a programmer, hosts a show called “Solution Sentral” on which he is either being interviewed or playing the role of interviewer. His guests ranged from employers looking for specialized technical staff to other consultants in similar areas. The show naturally appealed to the high-tech sector.

He also takes calls on the show and has a real-time, live email-in format where people can ask questions online to which he'll answer directly on the air. But keep in mind that the show is not meant to advertise him directly — if so, the station would charge him for it — but as a public service.

Publicity is different than advertising. But the idea behind publicity is not to market your business or product (or at least not directly). Your goal is to get yourself known and known as an expert in your field. There are many ways to get publicity out there let alone free publicity.

Why is it so important? Publicity is far more credible than advertising since it comes from an “objective” third party. If you have narrowed your focus to a very specific, highly specialized field, publicity will come easy to you. The media loves to receive information from people who are uniquely qualified in their specialty.

Do you write articles for your local newspaper or in the very least in the op-ed section? Do you send news releases to all the TV, newspaper, and radio stations in at least your area? Do you offer free seminars during fundraisers for non-profit or not-for-profit organizations? Do you offer to speak at luncheons, clubs, and organizations such as Chambers of Commerce? Do you offer free services to charities or sponsor community projects? The list goes on.

A hair transplant doctor sent out press releases to all the TV stations and offered to perform surgery live on the air as part of a medical documentary. With the patient's consent, cameramen filmed the doctor performing the procedure and the news reporter occasionally asked questions, such as: “What exactly are you doing now, doctor?” Or, “What's this for?”

But he didn't stop there. Not only did the news report cause his practice to get flooded with calls the next day, but the doctor also obtained the right to mass-copy the news report on videotapes, and mailed them as part of his information package to potential patients and referral-sources.

The show created a lot of “buzz” and the surgery was the talk of the town. I don't know if he actually did this, but if I were in his shoes I would have the tape digitized and available to be played on the web. People accessing his website can view the clip right from their own homes.

Some people I know have their interviews, speeches, or voices digitized and plug it on the ‘Net as well. Of course, everybody can do that. But if you're not on the web, yet have a copy of a TV or radio interview on video or audio cassette, get the rights to copy it and send it to everybody who wants one, including potential referral-sources and strategic alliances.

A temporary help agency specializing in government support personnel had a neat idea. Their clients are mostly purchasing agents and, one year, a golf tournament was being held for (believe or not) government purchasing agents! (It was to raise money for a charitable foundation.) The tournament was held in the middle of summer and it happened to be a hot day.

So the salesperson, wearing a T-shirt bearing their 1-800 phone number, rented a golf cart and loaded it up with coolers containing soft drinks. He drove his cart from hole to hole and offered free drinks to all the golfers in the tournament. In addition to the exposure this gave him, he was also given a chance to speak at the awards ceremony and mingle with the crowd.

If you're an expert (and by specializing, you are), get out-and-about and make yourself known as one.

For example, I know of an insurance agent who decided to specialize in life insurance for newlyweds and new families. His company didn't require it from him but he decided on his own to develop an expertise in this area. You'll often find him at bridal fairs, bridal shows, home-buyers seminars, home furnishing stores, banks, mortgage institutions, toy stores, baby clothing stores, car dealerships, and so on.

Now, for a typical, general insurance agent to do this kind of stuff may or may not be a waste of time. But how much more effective will he be if he promotes himself at those events or locations as an insurance agent strictly catering to new couples and new families? Yup. Much more.

Do you have your free report written by now? If so, then write a query letter to magazines and newspapers for an article you wish to contribute. If you don't know, a query letter is one in which you address the editor and propose to write an article around a topic on which you have an expertise.

Ensure that the headline of your query grabs their attention and makes them want to read it. Make your article somehow related to your free report, too. Explain how your article will benefit their readers. Give them a brief outline of your article along with a summary of your free report as “tickler.”

Don't forget to include in your query that you're not seeking any type of compensation (at least not now), but ask if you can add a byline. A byline is a small note at the end of your article describing the author and how he can be reached. Send the same letter to as many newspapers as you can, especially specialized publications read by your target market.

By the way, always ask for publishing rights so that the paper doesn't prevent you from having your article published elsewhere. Above all, make sure that your query addresses how your articles will benefit their readers. Keep in mind that the readers of a specialized publication are potential clients.

Now, write! While your article should be educational and not promotional, it may contain some highlights of your free report as a way to further educate the reader. Your byline can and should invite people to order it. It can say:

“The author, Michel Fortin, is the ‘Success Doctor', a direct response copywriter, speaker, and marketing consultant who specializes in marketing for cosmetic surgeons. If you wish to learn more about the ideas written in this article, you can obtain a free copy of the complete report, ‘The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning', by calling him [number], or by visiting his website at SuccessDoctor.com. You can also email him at [email address].”

Since your articles do not appear blatantly promotional, they help market your expertise subtly yet far more effectively, and as a result, carry far more weight than any self-serving advertisement. They grant you almost an instant and much greater credibility because, like publicity, which comes from an objective third party, they imply your superiority rather than state it outright.

And since implication is more powerful than specification, publicity will help to solidify your leadership in the mind and do so faster, more effectively, and for a longer period of time than any other form of promotion.

There's an old saying in the insurance industry that goes: “Talk good about me or talk bad about me. But either way, please talk about me!” So, get out and about! Get others to know you and talk about you.

Thou Shall Seek Out and Spread Out

I know that the yellow pages' people will hate me for this, but your yellow pages' ad, although an essential part of your entire marketing machine, doesn't have to be of a large size, in color, prominently displayed, or tied-in with other gimmicks that the yellow pages salespeople have to offer. While necessary, the yellow pages should only be used as support systems.

The concept of this entire book is to teach you that creating top-of-mind awareness (not “institutional advertising”) should be your main marketing goal. When people have seen your ad, heard about you, or have a need for your services at any particular time, your contact information may or may not be available to them at that particular moment. Therefore, you want the yellow pages to back you up and not use them as a full-blown marketing medium.

Yellow pages salespeople more than likely don't have to sell you on the need to be in their directory, but where they make their commissions is by making your transaction as hefty as possible by selling you on size, color, and other gimmicks. Quite frankly, you don't need it! Your mere presence is all that matters.

However, there are some basic rules that you should follow.

The title of this commandment is: “Thou shall seek out (support systems) and spread out (among them).” Indeed, I'm a fervent believer in support systems since, when creating top-of-mind awareness, your potential clients may not necessarily need you at that moment, but they may do so later when your contact information may not be available to them.

Whether it's local directories, specialty directories, occupation-specific registries, industry or trade directories, yellow pages, search engines, Internet directories, or trade publications, you should seek them out and list your company in as many of them as you can. The trick, however, is to spread out. Essentially, being there (and being everywhere) is all that matters. In short, be prolific.

Don't be prominent in size or display. You can have a small black-and-white telephone ad carrying the name of your company, your tagline, what you do (your specialization), your “unique” product, and your free report offer.

However, spreading out, especially within a single directory, is your best bet for higher visibility. Be in as many locations as possible. For example, if you're a hairstylist specializing in house calls, your ad can say:

“Meg Kessler of ‘Scissors on Wheels' is your in-house haircutter! Specializing in onsite special event hair management and the creator of ‘Hassle-Free Hair Job'. To see how I can make sure that your next event has a good hair day, or for a free copy of my report ‘Styles That Can Make or Break Your Next Public Presentation', call right now…”

Now, here's the trick. The yellow pages people might tell you to be in only one particular location of their directory. Don't. Try to be in as many locations that logically relate to your firm or your service, or that appeals to your market.

Your ad can be small but it should appear in as many sections of the directory as possible. For instance, beyond the obvious “Hair” section of the directory, the previous ad can also appear in “Weddings,” “Event Planning,” “Image Consultants,” “Modeling Agencies,” “Conference Planners,” “Color Consultants,” even “Senior Citizen Services.” You get the picture.

This also applies to the Internet, with search engines and directories like “Yahoo,” “HotBot,” and “AltaVista.” You should not only try to be on as many of the major search engines as possible, but also try to spread out as much as possible among them using keywords that appeal to your market.

For instance, a search engine is one in which you conduct a search based on a keyword — a word that you want the engine to search. It will scan their entire database and find as many web sites that contain your keyword.

You might register your website according to a specific set of keywords, but if you register it under numerous keywords your hit-ratio will increase dramatically. Keywords don't necessarily have to relate to your content.

Those that also indirectly relate to your content — let alone to your firm, product, or service — should also be included. They should comprise of any word that may be tied to benefits you provide and your target market.

For example, a baker specializes in cookies. She not only bakes different kinds of cookies but also creates different shapes, sizes, designs, and arrangements with them. One of her many creations is cookie baskets with bows and lettering for, among other things, weddings, bridal showers, and baby showers. So what did she do? She registered her page under “cookies,” “weddings,” “marriages,” “showers,” “baby,” “brides,” “grooms,” “party,” “cakes,” “church,” “gifts,” “family,” “souvenirs,” “ideas,” “shopping,” etc.

Another support system that is often ignored is the answering machine. It should not be regarded as simply being a means of taking your calls and messages. Turn it into a support system as well. In fact, turn it into a salesperson working for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Your message should invite people to do something. That's direct response in action! For instance, does your message ask people to just leave a message? Or does it invite them to place an order for your free report?

Telephone companies usually offer multiple voice mailbox services, giving the caller the ability to either leave a general message or press a number in order to leave a message for a specific recipient in another mailbox. There's also the option to choose the number of boxes you wish to have on your phone. But a mailbox doesn't need to be associated with an actual person.

Here's a sample message:

“Hi! You've reached Craig Jones of ‘Investment Mastery Inc.', where people learn how to be wise with their wealth. If you wish to leave me a message, press 1. To order my free insider's report, ‘Money-Making Magic: 8 Sure-Fire Strategies for Making Money in Stocks,' press 2.”

Ultimately, the object of “seek out and spread out” is to use as many support systems as possible. You want to be in front of your prospects often, but more importantly when they decide to buy from you. In other words, spread yourself thin. Don't be big. Be small, but be everywhere!

Thou Shall Make Thy Net Work

We've made it! You've now reached the last commandment. And what better way is there to end this book that's chock-full o' marketing secrets other than by telling you about something I truly hate. I hate networking. Really, I do!

I hate it because, in my experience, it hasn't brought me anything substantial in return. You're probably saying right now, “What? Is he crazy? Has he lost his mind?” But wait a minute, hear me out.

Networking isn't a bad concept. Far from it. If the previous commandments have been properly followed, networking can be a fantastic marketing tool to leverage them. If you can be at the top of your prospects' minds, you can also be at the top of your network's mind, right?

By using your special name, tagline, “unique” product, free report offer, lead generators, celebrity status, and support systems when networking can bring you an incredible amount of business.

However, here's the problem. Having a network and having a networking system are two entirely separate things. When you're only networking, for instance, often people will want something in return or else they will either stop sending you clients or simply lose interest (if you don't take the time to recognize their efforts, and that's if you have any time left at all).

So, how can you reward your network? Better yet, how can you turn your network into a networking system? The answer is by developing a network of strategic marketing alliances. Or marketing joint ventures.

All throughout this book, you have read about techniques in setting up strategic alliances in some form or another. They were included in the many examples you've read up to now. There are as many different forms of systematized networking opportunities out there as there are businesses.

I strongly encourage you to vigorously seek them out. In my experience, I have found that they mainly fall into three major categories. The first is what I call the info-network, the second is the auto-network and the third, the intra-network. Let's take a look at each one and how you can apply them.

Info-Networking

The information-based network is one in which a strategic marketing alliance is created in which information is exchanged in some form or another between parties. Basically, that information includes qualified leads that both you and your alliance share, or information about each other that is promoted to each party's target market or clientele (also known as “cross-promotion”).

As long as your strategic alliance logically shares the same market without directly competing with you, there is an immense potential for you.

For instance, I mentioned the power behind the free report and especially the newsletter. Advertising space can be sold at a nominal cost in order to pay for the printing and distribution of your newsletter, or it can be offered to those that might be happily interested in being directly promoted to your market.

In turn, you should seek out ad spaces in newsletters, corporate literature, brochures, or catalogues of potentially mutually beneficial alliances. The obvious advantage is that it can save you money by swapping ads.

This also refers to mailing lists where you can swap lists of prospect or client addresses. Mailing lists seem to have increased in popularity these days and, if used properly, can produce pretty good results. Mailing list brokers sell or lease mailing lists that you can use to conduct direct mail and telemarketing campaigns — lists of people that match your demographics.

However, beware: brokered mailing lists will be limited to the demographic data you specify and not the psychographic element of your target market — that's impossible to discern unless you or the brokers were psychics!

Also, electronic mailing lists are a little more complicated. Email is a more intimate medium and privacy is an increasingly important issue these days. Therefore, if you choose to use a broker's list for your direct email campaign (I don't recommend this), make sure to choose a reputable firm where you are guaranteed that people have voluntarily submitted their addresses and “opted-in.”

In order to curtail both problems, a better solution is to seek out strategic alliances and ask, rent, or buy their list of prospects and clients. (In the case of email, you are not sharing or swapping lists but exchanging endorsements and special offers emailed to each respective list.)

Most of them will approve especially when you trade your list of clients or prospects with them. But if you have to rent their lists, the cost will definitely be far less than that of one coming from a broker — they're not cheap!

Most strategic alliances are not accustomed to the idea of sharing their lists and will therefore be happy with just a few bucks. But the added advantage is that, since you know from where these lists originate, you'll have a better handle on the quality (i.e., the psychographic element) of the recipients.

As far as email and privacy are concerned, info-networking doesn't mean that there has to be an actual mailing list exchange. You can swap ezine ads, solo ad mailings, or exclusive special offers endorsed by each list owner.

Nevertheless, should you decide on using targeted mailing lists to market your free report offer, realize that it should yield a substantially greater result than ordinary, unsolicited, untargeted general public mailing lists.

For instance, mail directed to the public usually results with less than 5% in response, while direct mail to a predetermined demographic will likely produce more. But if your free report is used in your campaign, and if your goal is only to generate leads and not sales, your response rate will be a lot higher.

Auto-Networking

Auto-networking is the process of creating referral-sources that automatically supply you with good quality leads, automatically, without you having to lift a finger. Things like brochure stands, posters, flyers, coupons, and business cards can be placed at the offices of potential referral-sources.

Again, I hate networking, especially when I have to work for them (or, in other words, nurture them). So auto-networking doesn't mean to give out cards to a possible referral-source and then hoping it will produce something in return. It means setting up a system between both of you where, since you are both catering to the same market, you have made an arrangement to constantly supply each other with collateral materials, leads, and information.

Here's an example. A dry cleaner discovered that the largest clientele of a nearby restaurant was mostly made up of company executives having “power lunches” (those business lunches the tax people love to hate). The dry cleaner, knowing that her greatest clientele is also made up of executives who bring their shirts or dresses to have cleaned, saw it as an opportunity.

Coupons were made up and handed out by the restaurant's waiters and waitresses along with their clients' food tabs. They offered a 5% percent discount on dry cleaning services and the coupons could be accumulated up to a maximum of 25% — of course, they were valid for a limited time only.

In return, the dry cleaner handed out coupons (clipped to their clients' garment bags) offering a free appetizer or dessert at that particular restaurant — good for one per person per lunch — with every load of $30 worth of dry cleaning.

But it didn't stop there.

They exchanged posters, flyers, coupons, and printed materials (such as the restaurant's menu and the dry cleaner's brochure, which were both left on each other's counters). They also marketed the campaign under the banner of:

“Don't let the spot on your shirt from the juiciest roast beef in town at Carmicheal's Restaurant ruin that big deal! Bring it to Sparkling Cleaners, the first dry cleaner for the busy executive, because ‘Power Lunches Deserve a Clean Image.' With both Carmicheal's Restaurant and Sparkling Cleaners, you can take your clients to lunch… And take a bite out of dirt!”

By the way, I must take a moment to ask you a question. (“Here he comes with another pop quiz,” you say.) In the previous example, particularly in the marketing approach that the dry cleaner and restaurant took, were included some other commandments. Can you guess what they are? The obvious ones are hard to miss. They both carried the trademark symbols, indicated that they specialized in one area, and had taglines added to their names.

But the one that might have gone unnoticed is the category in which the dry cleaner placed itself. Being the first to offer an executive dry cleaning service is probably a little misleading, but by calling itself the first dry cleaner for the “busy” executive, it has created its own unique category. (All right, all right. I was just checking.)

Another form of auto-networking is, as the saying goes, “You can't teach an old dog a new trick, but you can surely teach a new dog an old trick!”

Creating networking systems with referral-sources who are either approached by competitors or already implicated in other commitments may be a difficult task. So, what can you do? Get them while they're just starting out, especially before they become potential targets for your competitors.

Previously, I showed you how important it is for you to get known in your industry as the expert — the celebrity in your field. By conducting speeches, seminars, guest lectures, sponsorships, evening classes, and the like, you are creating that all-important top-of-mind awareness. Many of the members in your audience should encompass potential referral-sources.

But referral-sources have to come from somewhere, don't they?

So, if you can approach them before they can be approached by your competitors, you can save yourself a lot of effort let alone grief.

For example, hairdressers are often the biggest referral-sources for hair replacement surgeons. I teach hair transplant doctors to become known among the hairdressing community and set up strategic alliances with them by, among other things, setting up brochure stands in their salons.

However, if they have been in the industry for a while, many of these stylists may have already been approached by other doctors or have a fixed idea of which doctor to whom they would refer their clients for cosmetic surgery.

In my consulting work, I help doctors to set up special presentations as “guest lecturers” at local hairstyling and beauty schools. Schools love it since it's part of their curriculum to teach future hairstylists on the biomechanics of hair growth and potential solutions for hair loss. Some provinces or states also make it an essential part of their licensing requirements.

As for the doctor, he not only gets his name inculcated into the minds of these future hairstylists but also has created an almost impenetrable barrier against competitors wanting a piece of the referral pie. By being part of their schooling, these doctors became a part of their minds!

This technique can be applied in almost every industry in myriad ways, with trade schools, business schools, community colleges, government services, unemployment insurance subsidized courses, skills training, and so on.

A government software designer can give a small presentation during courses the government provides to recently hired purchasing agents. A wedding planning consultant can give a brief talk during “marriage preparation” courses. An accountant specializing in corporate taxation can give seminars to young entrepreneur workshops offered by local chambers of commerce.

Intra-Networking

Think of Intranets (internal or private networks) and intrapreneurs (employees owning a portion of their employer's company). “Intra-anything” simply means two or more parts of a whole that are independent but also inter-dependent.

It's like a “network within a network.”

Basically, this is the old bartering system that goes back since the beginning of time. But in terms of intra-networking however, it is not a direct exchange of product for product or service for service (or even product for service), but an exchange of a service or product for promotion, clients, referrals, or leads.

For instance, a restaurant makes an arrangement with a local gas station to offer coupons to each client that comes to pump gas. They were given the permission to hang posters in the station, leave menus at the counter, and place fridge magnets on the pumps. For every 10 coupons the restaurant received, the employees at the station were given a free meal.

A freelance writer specialized in editing corporate newsletters. She will then have her articles and personal advertisements published for free in association newsletters that target her market in exchange for editing the publisher's business correspondence let alone the newsletters themselves.

An advertising agent specializes in elevator advertising. Hotels place the agent's brochures in all its executive suites, which are often rented by traveling executives, in exchange for free advertising space in elevators of other business office buildings.

What kind of product or service do you offer from which a referral-source may benefit, one who caters to the same market you do? Think of ways of being able to offer your products or services for free in exchange for pre-qualified leads or, as mentioned in info-networking, promotional efforts.

Intra-networking can also become powerfully effective if you were lucky enough to stumble onto another company that offers products or services that complement your products or services well, while at the same time sharing costs (such as advertising costs), leads, as well as clients.

Take the example of the strategic alliance between the printer and the wedding planner mentioned earlier in the book. Obviously, this might relate more closely to the auto-networking style.

But the printer can give a special price break to the wedding planner for their own printing needs in exchange for client referrals. If the printer agrees to print the planner's promotional materials, business cards, brochures, or letterhead for free or at a discount in exchange for a certain number of clients, that's intra-networking at work!

Altogether, info-networking, auto-networking, and intra-networking are powerful tools to help you create good referral-sources that never stop working. The idea is nonetheless to network but to do so wisely so as to be able to create as many leads and clients as possible with the least amount of effort.

Don't network. Make your net work for you!

Bonus! Thou Shall Put it in Writing

Here's a bonus commandment. I thought I'd make it a bonus because 11 would sound a little funny, wouldn't you think? And it is indeed a bonus since, with all that you have learned, you would never be as effective if I didn't give this extra piece of advice while implementing the first 10.

I can never stress enough, whether it's in this book or in my seminars that, in order to create endless streams of new, repeat, and referral business, you must turn every single nook-and-cranny of your business into an effective marketing system. Everything you do must become a marketing activity.

In other words, every step you take during the normal course of your daily business activities must include making yourself known as the expert in your field — at least in the minds of those who are in it. All your correspondence, literature, promotional materials, and advertising must contain at least eight or nine of these commandments — although 10 would be more effective.

The power of the written word has been proven to be of immense proportions. Roger Dawson, in his book “The Secrets of Power Negotiating: How to Get Anything You Want,” emphasized a universal law, which states that people will believe more what they see in writing than what they don't see in writing.

As Roger points out: “If it is said, it could be true. But if it is written, then it must be true.” Therefore, when positioning your firm or product, your efforts will be far more effective if they are done through the written word.

For example, writing your own book is indeed an effective if not essential tool for establishing your credibility. They say that you must “publish or perish.”

Today, that statement has greater meaning. In a society where people are constantly bombarded with marketing messages and leery of claims of any kind, the process of communicating your uniqueness, your competitive advantage, and especially your expertise through the written word (such as by writing books, articles, endorsements, reviews, and press releases) is far more credible and believable than any direct promotional message.

Nevertheless, start by putting things down in writing.

If you don't have a brochure or publicity kit, make one! If your services are not listed in a catalogue for all your clients to see, print one! If articles written by or about you have been published, make copies and pass them around! If you have reference letters written by clients who initially had concerns or objections, offer copies to prospects who have the same concerns! If you don't yet have a free report, newsletter, or lead generator, create one!

I may be overly emphasizing the importance of putting things down in writing, but I feel that I can never stress it enough. Realize that the above items, along with all of the tools that you've learned in the previous commandments, are crucially important to have in writing in some form or another in order to create lasting top-of-mind awareness. The written word is immensely powerful!

Let's take the example of the cosmetic surgeon one more time.

A patient being consulted for surgery has concerns about pain. Now, if the doctor says that the procedure is painless, his response will be somewhat believable. But how much more believable will it be if the doctor pulled out of a binder a testimonial written by a patient, one who had the exact same concern prior to his surgery, and in it claimed that the procedure was indeed painless?

Let me share with you what I do in my own consulting practice. For instance, in my car or in my travels, I not only carry a promotional kit but also usually carry several large briefcases that contain the following items:

A Business Portfolio

This is a large three-ring binder that contains copies of ads, books, white papers, booklets, business forms, radio scripts, flyers, direct-mail pieces, infomercials, sales letters, and commercials that I produced. In short, my portfolio provides samples of my work (some are now digitized on my laptop).

A Reference Binder

This binder contains just testimonials written by satisfied clients. But the neat part is that they are grouped into topics with letters from clients who had a specific or similar concern. The binder is neatly divided into sections for quick retrieval in case I need to convince a prospect with a similar objection.

A Presentation Binder

Being a computer lover, I use PowerPoint Presentations. But if my laptop doesn't work for any reason, I use my presentation binder. It contains an overview of my company, my brochures, lists of my products and services, lists of past clients, and sample contracts. It also contains charts, graphs, statistics, and “ticklers” that will help to sell me and my services.

And Media Kits (lots of them!)

I always carry around a large number of press kits that contain recent news releases, articles written by and about me, transcripts of interviews, brochures and business cards, books and reports that I've written, awards and letters of recognition, recent copies of my newsletters, and of course my résumés.

If you don't have a laptop computer, you can still create a larger presentation binder offering the materials that I just described. You can purchase a special binder that bends halfway and props up on a table or desk. While you don't have to have the entire package I just gave you as an example, you can fit most of it into your special binder and use it as your “bible.”

Finally, a quick word about written materials. Some years ago, I came across an article (I believe it was in “Entrepreneur Magazine”) that gave interesting statistics gathered from a recent survey conducted by a direct-mail marketing firm for a credit card company. ‘

The survey found the following results: documents that are high in contrast (i.e., dark print on light colored paper) have pulled a greater response over colored print on colored paper. And they also found that the higher the contrast is, the greater the response will be.

For example, it found that traditional black on white is best, yet dark color on white or black on light-coloured paper is acceptable. As long as you maintain a contrast between your text the paper you print them on, you're rolling.

The research also showed that borders (frames around texts) seemed to have increased readership by 20% over plain text with faint or nonexistent borders. It also found that certain words pulled more than others, including the words “save,” “free,” and “discover.” Using the right words that pull the best deserves a book of its own — or a copywriter like me. But for now, just remember to try using these words in your printed materials as much as possible.

(By the way, although I don't remember if this is true since this article appeared many years ago, it is my guess that one of these three words eventually became the name of that credit card company conducting the research! Can you “discover” which one it is?)

And more important, make sure they all contain if not stress your name, tagline, specialization, and unique category.

It is my sincere hope that these power positioning strategies will help you create endless streams of new, repeat, and referral business. I wish you good luck, both on your quest for increased business and greater business health!

Dynamically yours,
Michel Fortin

Michel Fortin

P.S.: Want more? Check out my blog to read my articles, subscribe to my free ezine, or better yet, join my private membership site and watch videos of me, in action, writing and dissecting other people's copy “live.”

Categories
Copywriting

What Performs Better: Long Copy Or Short Copy?

Here's a reprint of an answer I gave a student in another forum who asked:

“Long copy? Or short copy?”

1. Long copy versus short copy has been the single greatest debate since the beginning of the printing press. But long copy always outperforms short copy. Don't be long for the sake of being long. Be long for the sake of providing as much information as is needed to make the sale — and not one word more.

2. People object to reading copy because: a) they are not targeted and b) the copy is boring. “Length” is the excuse because it's a common currency. “Boring” is subjective. “Long” is objective. When copy starts to bore you, you naturally are inclined to say it's “too long.” It's too long because of the fact that it started to drag, causing the reader to lose interest.

3. Speaking of targeting, this is crucial. The previous poster said, “I would read it if it's something I'm interested in, like John's TrafficSecrets.com.” And that's exactly the key. As Dan Kennedy said:

The person who says ‘I would never read all that copy' makes the mistake of thinking they are the customer. And they're not. We are never our own customers.

There's a thing in copywriting I teach called ‘message-to-market match'. It is this: when your message is matched to a target market that has a high level of interest in it, not only does responsiveness go up but readership goes up, too. The whole issue of interest goes up.

The truth about long copy is that, first of all, there's abundant, legitimate, statistical research, that's split-testing research, to indicate that virtually without exception, long copy outperforms short copy.

There's some significant research has been done that indicate that readership falls off dramatically at 300 words but does not again drop off until 3,000 words.

— Dan Kennedy

As Dan says, what you can pull from that is this: people who dropped off at 300 words weren't qualified for your offer in the first place. They wouldn't have bought from you after 300 words much less after 50 or 5,000 words.

4. Recent web usability studies show that people respond more favorably to more copy on less pages. Here's an interesting study on long scrolling web pages by the folks at User Interface Engineering. They found that people prefer longer scrolling copy over short, multiple pages.

I particularly like these 3 passages:

1. “Our research shows that fewer, longer pages may be the best approach for users. In the trade-off between hiding content below the fold or spreading it across several pages, users have greater success when the content is on a single page.”

2. “Increasing the levels of information, similar to adding sections to an outline, also seemed to help users.”

3. “Users may tell us they hate scrolling, but their actions show something else. Most users readily scrolled through pages, usually without comment.”

Read the results of the study here.

5. Plus, here's my reasoning behind long copy sales pages over multiple, smaller pages. For a single product-focused “mini-site,” this process is proven to have the best results in split-tests. Clicking to another page causes what psychologists call “cognitive dissonance.” (Also known as “buyer's remorse” or having “2nd thoughts.”)

The idea is that, by clicking to another page while one is engaged in the reading process of sales copy forces readers to think twice, as it causes a brief, mental dissassociation or distraction, which interrupts the flow, momentum and intensity of the sales pitch.

6. And best of all, recent tests conducted by MarketingExperiments.com prove, without a doubt, that long copy outperforms short copy. Reprinted:

In the first test, we sent traffic to two landing pages using Google AdWords. The first page was the home page, which contained short copy describing the product. The second page was similar, but featured a much longer article about the product. Both pages prompted visitors to click through to the order page, from which point they would be taken to the shopping cart.

Our initial results were gathered after a five-day period:

Test 1 – Short Copy
——————————-
Clicks = 810
Cost = $94.29
CPC = $0.10
Revenue = $271.75
ROI = -14%
Conversion = 0.37%
——————————-
Test 1 – Long Copy
——————————-
Clicks = 1,163
Cost = $135.61
CPC = $0.10
Revenue = $547.50
ROI = +21%
Conversion = 0.52%
——————————-

In our initial micro-test, long copy outperformed short copy by 40.54%. Click-through traffic sent to the short copy page was unprofitable (-14% ROI), while traffic sent to the long copy page produced an ROI of 21%.

In this first micro-test, it appears that the long copy page performed much better than the short copy page. However, a five-day period is not enough to account for statistical fluctuations that may skew our real results. So we continued to test.

We maintained the same test, expanded our keyword bidding slightly, and gathered additional results over the subsequent five days:

Test 2 – Short Copy
——————————-
Clicks = 1,700
Cost = $258.62
CPC = $0.15
Revenue = $295.75
ROI = -66%
Conversion = 0.18%
——————————-
Test 2 – Long Copy
——————————-
Clicks = 1,440
Cost = $218.83
CPC = $0.15
Revenue = $1,094.15
ROI = +50%
Conversion = 0.69%
——————————-

Again, long copy outperformed short copy, this time by an even greater factor of nearly four to one. Our ROI was a dismal -66% for the short copy page and a very respectable 50% for the long copy page.

And…

In general, long copy offers the following advantages:

1. Your visitors will have most of their questions answered and will have less anxiety about ordering from you.

2. Long copy can reduce customer service by qualifying your customers to a greater degree.

3. Long copy with bolded or emphasized points can allow some of your visitors to skim, while others more interested in specifics can find all the information they want. In this sense, long copy gives visitors more options.

4. Long (and interesting) keyword-rich copy often performs well in natural search engines.

Even more…

The long vs. short debate often overlooks the most important factor when it comes to website copy: quality. High-quality short copy will outperform poorly written long copy every time.

The best possible copy should be developed and tested before you even begin to worry about the long vs. short debate. Utilize an A-B split test. This will ensure that other factors (such as time, traffic source, and so on) do not skew your results.

And finally…

Copy should be long enough to do its job effectively, and not a word longer. Long copy for the sake of long copy is not to your benefit. Always keep in mind the primary goal of your website's copy (to sell your product or service, to solicit subscriptions, etc.).

Utilize bullets and/or numbered lists where appropriate. These make it easier for visitors to digest your information and prevent your pages from becoming one long block of gray. Utilize testimonials. Praise from your satisfied customers is much more effective than self-praise.

While our initial Long Copy vs. Short Copy micro-tests returned results clearly in favor of long copy, true optimization of your own website's copy will only come through your own testing. However, the guidelines above should give you a good place to start. We will continue to revise our own testing and share our results.

Read the issue here, with specific results:
http://marketingexperiments.com/archives/long_vs_short.cfm

An interesting discussion is going on in one of my favorite online forums, The Warriors Forum, about short copy winning over long copy. And the author of the thread cited a study he conducted, where he proved that shorter copy won over long copy.

Some people are screaming “heresy!” Others agreed.

Personally, I believe the study conducted is indeed valid because it makes sense. In this particular case, short copy was warranted for this particular market with this particular offer.

But is this true in all cases? When you look at his study closer, you realize that it lacks information about the variables involved, which makes the study, and its findings, a bit misleading.

Here's what I mean.

I truly believe that long copy sells better than short copy. But I base my opinion on the average, not the universal. Because, in some cases, shorter copy does sell better. But there are very specific reasons for this, and I want to go over a few of the important ones that I see all the time.

However, before I give you some of those reasons (and there are many, which I cannot go through in the scope of this one article), I'd like to make a distinction, if I could, so you understand the factors that come into play.

When people often look at short copy, even test it and then realize that it works better than long copy, there are many variables that one fails to look at. The price, the industry and particularly the target market play a significant role.

But there are also two others that I'd like to go over today: a) the product category or type, and b) the pre-selling process (i.e., the mindset of the market).

First, the product type.

When I used to teach marketing principles in college (part of the Business Administration curriculum at Algonquin College in Ottawa, Canada), my students learned that there are four textbook categories of products:

  1. Convenience products
  2. Shopping products
  3. Specialty products
  4. Unsought products

Each product category has a different sales process and marketing requirement. Why? Because the level of commoditization of the product delineates how much marketing, promotion and relationship-building is required to sell the product.

(And when I say “marketing,” I mean all types of marketing, from branding to pricing to availability to distribution.)

To give you some examples, a “convenience product” is one often purchased to fulfill immediate needs. The purchase is done at an almost unconscious level, too. Pricing is often moderate to low, and brand equity, reputation and relationships do not make a big difference if any.

The product has penetrated the market en masse. It is widely available. And more often than not, convenience products are impulse purchases. They are also staples, in most cases.

Take, for example, bread, milk, batteries, etc. These are often the types of products you find in convenience stores or in the supermarket checkout lines, where people just grab them and add them to their orders just because “they're there.”

No real thought has been given into making the buying decision. Price may either be low or a non-issue, in most cases. And copy, if any is used, will be relatively short and brief. A small POP display (point of purchase stand, cardboard ad, logo with product name and description, etc) is all that's required.

As for “shopping products,” those are less commoditized products. They are a little higher in price. A little more thought is required into making the purchase. And people tend to “shop around” when deciding on buying such products.

They either weigh the pros and cons before buying it, or they make the decision to buy relatively quickly — albeit less quickly than a convenience product.

Other times, they take a bit of time to decide, depending on the price, the availability and the market. They will analyze first, and they often require a bit more copy to gather enough information to justify their decision.

Products like cars, appliances, computers, etc are shopping products. (They can be more or less in price too, such as videos, movies, homes, vacations, even software and online services.)

As such, a little longer copy is required, often to differentiate the product from its competitors, and sell the uniqueness and the specific benefits of the product.

Third is the “specialty product.” This is a product that definitely needs more copy and a lot of selling is required. Specialty products are higher priced, highly targeted and more valuable — especially for very specific target markets.

(That is, they might not be of any value for others but of high value for a select group of individuals.)

Exotic goods, luxury cars, expensive jewelry, art and so on are specialty items. Take Mont-Blanc pens, Porsche cars and Pearson yachts, for example.

(A popular magazine is the Robb Report, which is a magazine for the affluent. Take a look at some of the ads in it, and you'll see exactly what I mean.)

In my marketing classes, the example given was a particular brand of gourmet bread that was gluten-free, created with an exotic herd of mountain sheep's milk grazing on the alpine slopes, flavored with rare spices and condiments grown in the Amazon jungle, fire-oven baked to very specific temperatures, and gift-wrapped inside a special, ornamentally carved wooden box shipped directly to people's doors.

(And yes, a loaf can cost you up to $500 each.)

Therefore, longer copy is definitely needed in this case. The goal would be not to differentiate it from its competition (since there's very little of it) but to create value, justify the purchase and add reasons why.

In other words, why would someone pay $500 for a loaf of bread? There are very specific individuals who would and very specific reasons they would, too.

Finally, “unsought products” are exactly that: unsought. Products that no one would have ever known about or looked for. Now, this doesn't mean exotic and fancy products, either. This means products people don't necessarily look for or believe they don't need. At first.

Preventative type products fall in that category (i.e., life insurance, pre-arranged funeral services, financial investment services, etc). Almost all information products fall in that category too, by the way. (If not, they probably fall in the “specialty” category.)

Consequently, long copy is a must in these cases. And the copy is not only meant to differentiate, add value and justify the purchase, but also to create a need and a desire for the product.

What I mean is, you need a lot of copy to educate the market on why they need (and subsequently want) this type of product. You need a lot of copy to really build a compelling case for buying it.

Granted, these categories are not universal. Because another element comes in, which is the second one in my list mentioned earlier.

And that is, the process.

The process can help identify, isolate or even create certain markets (and therefore certain mindsets) that will buy a product with more or less copy. And that process is not limited to words — or to selling itself, for that matter.

Long copy is often attributed to a long copy salesletter. But that is not often the case. Copy is not limited to a salesletter or website. It can often take many forms, take place over time, and communicated and delivered in many different ways.

When all added, they take the form of, and replace, a long copy salesletter that would otherwise be required if none of these other steps were taken.

For example, if you have an affiliate program, then your affiliates can and should “pre-sell” the product for you. Their “copy,” in other words, is part of the entire sales engine. When they hit your site, and if they're highly targeted and qualified from moment they hit it, then you need less copy to sell them.

In fact, if your affiliates did their jobs right, they've already sold your prospects even before they read your copy.

Even if your affiliate (or even yourself, when you sell to an established list of paying clients) doesn't use a lot of copy to pre-sell, the “uncommunicated” copy was delivered in the form of building the brand (and that brand can also be you and your expertise), trust, credibility and relationships.

For example, when you promote a new product to an established audience (or if your affiliates promote your product to their established lists), a relationship already exists. The process didn't start with that promotion but a long time ago.

How many times have you already sold this audience in the past? If you have done so, particularly several times, the likelihood that little copy will be required for the next promotion.

You don't need copy to build credibility or educate your market, in this case, because that job has already been done.

In other words, copy was already used, albeit indirectly.

How much copy in other promotions have you used? How many times did they read your articles, websites and blog posts before they bought from you? How great is the relationship you created with them before you sold them anything? How much did they read about, learned from and educated themselves on: you, your expertise, your business or even your affiliates' businesses?

That's copy. All of it.

It's all part of the sales process. And “copy,” in the case of selling to an established, qualified market, didn't start with that salesletter. It started a long time ago through other means.

Try to sell to a brand new market for the first time, one who has never heard of you, and you'll need copy. Lots of it.

Hire a sales representative to sell for you, and that's copy too, albeit delivered incrementally, in different ways, over time. For example, include all the prospecting steps, qualification questions, needs analyses, phone calls, sales presentations, written proposals, objections handled, and closing attempts the salesperson did.

But it's still all one big piece of copy. Remove all of those steps and start fresh with just a salesletter, and you will definitely need a long copy salesletter. Without question.

In other words, if you had to replace all those steps with just one, the process would have taken the form of one long-copy salesletter.

Finally, there's also a correlation between my two points, i.e., between product categories and processes.

Because a product, which may at first be an unsought product — with a bit of copy, awareness, brand equity and credibility built over time — can change and be promoted to another category.

They can go from unsought, to specialty, to shopping, and even to convenience, after a specific point in the sales/life cycle.

Take bottled water, for instance.

Bottled water was once unsought when it was first introduced. Over time, it became a specialty product. After a while, it then became a shopping product.

(And in some cases, I'd even venture to say that bottled water is now a convenience product, especially in certain markets such as gyms, schools, offices or certain locales where water quality is known to be poor.)

So when you really look at it and think about it, long copy always wins. Always. It's just not a long copy salesletter every time. Granted, after a period of time, it's not always needed when the audience is pre-sold, or when the product is a low-priced convenience product.

Bottom line, copy doesn't need to do a job that's already been done. So the question is not “how long should your salesletter be?” But rather, “how qualified, targeted and sold is my target market before they even read my salesletter?”

And therein lies the key: the market, not the copy.