You know what makes selling really annoying? When people don’t buy.
Man, is that irritating.
Those pesky customers have reasons they’re not buying from you today, and salespeople call these reasons “objections.”
This is post four in a series talking about what, as copywriters, we’re going to do to blast those objections into zillions of harmless smithereens.
The Hard Question
Once we’ve captured a potential customer’s attention and brought up a problem that they’d like to have solved, we have to answer an important question.
Why should they work with us, instead of all the other things they might choose to do about this problem? (Never forget that doing nothing is one of their options.)
Why not the big, name-brand retail store? Why not some free resource they find on the internet? Why not your closest competitor?
What have you got to offer that solves their problem in a different way? And what makes that way better?
The Dread USP
(If you don’t know what a USP is, it’s a Unique Selling Proposition. If that makes you barf, think of it as a unique promise. That’s the great Gary Bencivenga’s term, and I think it’s a great way to frame the question.)
Havi is a big fan of the Sing with Your Own Voice USP, and so am I. It’s the one thing no one can steal—your personality, voice, and style.
But when you’re thinking about making a unique promise, it’s helpful if you add a little more. “I promise to be myself” is kind of cool in a New Age Self Help way, but that potential customer would also like to know what they’re going to get out of this.
Making a Compelling Promise
I like Bencivenga’s “promise” approach because it covers two sides. The “unique” part you can cover by being a unique human being. But you’re not done yet.
That word “promise” gets us thinking about our friend the customer. What are we going to do for her? How are we going to help? How will her life become better when she does business with us?
Let’s say you run an adorable little independent bookstore. You’ve got the unique thing down. You’re singing with your own voice. You’ve got your mom making her killer chocolate chip cookies for the café, you’ve got tables recommending all your very favorite books, and you’ve got your ancient friendly cat sleeping in the shop window.
No one’s going to mistake your place for a boring chain. It’s got your personality all over it.
Half down, half to go.
What Can You Promise that the Other Guy Can’t?
Let’s face it, the thing that will make or break your bookstore is how well you compete with Amazon.
So what can you promise customers that Amazon can’t?
- Our shop is a great place to curl up in a comfy chair and hang out.
- Enjoy my mom’s fresh chocolate-chip cookies, fresh from the oven.
- Instant gratification! Get your book right now instead of waiting a few days.
- Not in the shop but you want it today, not tomorrow? Easy peasy. Call us or send us an email and we’ll send your book over by bicycle.
- Meet local authors in an intimate, fun setting at one of our local author parties.
- Instead of a weird computer-generated recommendation that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with you, have a conversation with a real live book-lover who can help you find exactly what you’re in the mood for.
After you’ve answered that question, you also need to figure out what you uniquely promise that the other bricks-and-mortar bookstores in your town don’t. So you go through the same exercise.
Repeat until you run out of significant competitors.
The Great Intersection
You can see how the unique promise comes at a wonderful intersection.
Between you—who you are, what you’re passionate about, and what you can uniquely offer, and your customers—who they are, what they’re passionate about, and what they uniquely desire.
If you don’t make an interesting promise that triggers your customers’ “ooh, nifty” response, there’s not much hope for the success of your business.
What Makes for a Good Promise?
1. You have to promise something that people in fact want. Not what you think they should want, but what they actually want.
You can figure this out by talking with customers, spending time in forums in your topic, running surveys, or hanging out on Twitter and in your comments and listening for what’s frustrating people.
This one kills a lot of businesses, so be really stern with yourself about it.
2. As a copywriter, you also want to make that promise vivid. Let the person see, feel, hear and taste what it’s going to be like when you deliver the promise. Use your full toolbox of great creative writing tricks to make the promise come alive in your readers’ mind.
3. A good promise feels intimate, one-to-one. All great copywriting speaks to one person.
Who believes mass advertising, or political promises? Nobody. They’re delivered to the millions, they’re cold and impersonal. But a promise whispered in our ear alone (or a promise that feels that way) gets our attention.
4. And of course, it’s only a good promise if we believe it. That’s why proof is such an important part of good sales copy (or good face-to-face selling, for that matter). So proof comes next in our series.