I got a sales letter recently from a guy who sells marketing eBooks and seminars. The last email I got from him (before I unsubscribed) promised a MAGIC HYPNOTIC TOOL that would put prospects into a literal trance and get them to buy stuff.
Any time you see a message like this, your crap detector should ring like crazy. You don’t want customers buying from you because they’re hypnotized; you want them buying from you because you’re the stone cold best at what you do.
But the email was well-crafted in one sense–I was curious as hell. What did he have to offer that would LITERALLY PUT MY PROSPECTS IN A TRANCE? I clicked through a couple of screens, and eventually came to his offering: clip art arrows. You know, the kind you can buy on a disk, maybe you’d pay $20 for 1,000 different kinds.
Apparently his theory is that you should include some arrows to point to the most important copy in your long-form sales letter–presumably things like your call to action and so on–and the arrows will magically implant the ideas in your
victim’s prospect’s mind.
The many things that are not magic
Just in case there is any part of your brain that is tempted to believe this baloney, let me reassure you: There is no magic formula.
The truth is, we all want one. We want the magic thing that we can just plug in. We want a Web site that’s an ATM, money spewing out of it just because we've pushed a button or two. We want to get insanely rich without doing any work. There are a lot of guys out there who know you want that, and they are happy to take your money in exchange for a few moments of believing that fantasy.
They are selling you a feeling. They are not selling you magic beans. Or at least, not magic beans that work.
There are no magic arrows. There is no magic font or format or HTML code. There are no magic words, no matter what Web sites promoting copywriting eBooks tell you. (Not even the word free. It’s good in a lot of circumstances, but it is not magic.) There are no magic beans you can plant that will grow to an enormous beanstalk and lead you to hidden gold.
This is the kind of thing that makes people think marketing is evil and stupid. Marketing should be about communicating how your service can be of tremendous benefit to customers. It should be about delivering value and creating relationships. Good marketing is not about hypnosis, trickery, or magic. Those things belong to con men and scam artists.
Now the good news
There are, in fact, two nearly-magic practices. They have always worked and they always will. They work whether you are a giant company or a tiny one. You can do them well or you can do them badly, but even if you put them into practice without much expertise, they will work better than the alternatives.
The first is putting the customer at the forefront of your thinking. Become obsessed with customer benefits. Become obsessed with the value you deliver. Never talk about how great you are–show how great your customer will feel when she uses your product. And mean it, always.
The mantra for smart marketers is benefits, not features. Marketing is about them, not about you.
The second almost-magic practice is testing. The direct mail (most of us call this “junk mail”) world has always understood this. They test everything–the headline (this might go through dozens or even hundreds of iterations to find the “killer”), the font, the size of the mailer, the envelope.
Anything that works gets repeated. Anything that doesn’t work gets discarded.
This works even better in the online world, plus you kill a lot fewer trees. Electrons are, by nature, recyclable.
If you commit to putting these two practices into place, a couple of interesting things will happen. You’ll create relationships with your customers instead of strip-mining them. You’ll start to see a lot more repeat business and referrals. And you’ll know what works, so you can quit wasting money on what doesn’t.
Magic beans not included.