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Is Your Business Scared Of The Dark, Crying For Its Mommy?

Feb 25, 2008
Most businesses talk a big game... with very small fonts.

They claim they offer the best, the first, the most, the biggest, the newest, the cheapest, the easiest, fastest, simplest this and that--and yet do it so quietly and inconspicuously, it's almost apologetic.

In our oversaturated, jaded, disbelieving, cynical, recessionary economy and marketplace--most business behave like the annoying little children of a lost generation, who were admonished to be seen and not heard.

And yet, they're not being seen, either.

Because they're too scared to make an impression, afraid to attract attention, fearful of creating a buzz, petrified of taking a bold and brazen path to success.

Question: How often do marketers want to boost conversions, increase sales and improve their image?

Answer: All the time!

Problem: Most small and large companies--companies that hire image and branding ad agencies--companies that are do-it-yourselfers--sooner or later recognize that their marketing--and the copy on their website and in their direct mail promotions, is lame, uninspiring and a waste of money--like cold, runny gruel served by a state orphanage in a Charles Dickens novel.

So, as their time and money is about to run out... they finally realize what they must do:

* They must attract, and interest their readers--as opposed to lull them to sleep.
* They must create demand among their customers--as opposed to repel them.
* They must drive their customers to action: to inquire, subscribe or buy--as opposed to forcing them to click away, delete or file.

So they're willing to spend a little money (sometimes a lot of money) to hire a results-oriented marketing team--or a direct response copywriter--to finally get the money flowing...

Well, almost...

Ahhh! Mommy, I'm scared!

A few words of advice: If you hire, let's say, a copywriter, and pay him or her thousands of dollars to write, let's say a micro-site, landing page, or a direct mail package 4-8 pages long, or longer...

...And weeks or months later, he or she hands you sales copy that glitters and shines like the best of Halbert, Carlton, Makepeace, Schwartz and others combined... why would you second guess their ability to bring you fresh eyeballs and gobs of money?

Case in point: A marketer once contracted with me to write a landing page. He complained that his landing page, which he wrote, received hundreds of hits a day--but only converted one or two visitors a week!

So, I wrote and delivered a brand-spanking new, hard-hitting landing page. And I provided three headline panels for him to test--to unequivocally determine which will draw the highest response.

But did he test any of them? No, of course not!

Instead, he decided, after much consideration and consternation, to write the headline himself, again.

He explained that the three headlines I wrote were really, really good, but... he was "afraid" that they were, "uh, well... too aggressive", and he was, "uh, well... afraid that they might turn-off" his prospective clients.

Now, did I presume to tell him that his preferences, prejudices, and fears may not be shared by his target market? Sure I did!

And did I tell him that his prospective clients were already turned off by the drivel he wrote previously--and will continue to be turned off by his new and updated drivel? You bet I did not--I'm not that cruel and heartless!

But did I grill him about the demographics, psychographics, the needs, wants, beliefs, and the language his market uses? You betcha! And I did it all before I wrote a word of copy.

So did the client finally agree to test my headlines, as I reasonably urged him to? No, of course not. He held firm, stood by his beliefs. Good for him!

And now, months later, his landing page--his business--is nowhere to be found on the web. Ya' think he folded-up shop? Ya' think!

Frankly, this scenario, has repeated itself all too frequently, in both my and other copywriters professional lifetime.

Now... let me ask you this...

Does your business suffer from penis envy?

A few words of advice: If you think you're small... you're small. And if you think you're big...you're big.

And if you're small, and want to be bigger... don't obsess over what nobody is even thinking about--or looking at.

Case in point: A marketer, a one-person operation, contracted with me to write an online sales letter--"...oh, you know, like those long scrolling sales letters those info-marketers use," he tells me.

No problem. Project is completed on time, test panels are provided.

But, he decides he doesn't need to test. He just goes ahead and picks the headline and deck that he "knows" will be the best performer. Fine, whatever.

And then he does something else (I discover, after the fact)... something really strange. He deletes the salutation at the beginning of the letter, and the signature and P.S. at the end--plus, all mention of his name and credentials.

Why? Because he's "afraid" that visitors will think he's a one-person operation, and he wants to present himself as a big multi-employee company.

Do I explain that people like to read letters, online or otherwise, from other people and not big, faceless companies... and that his service in particular needs to bond on a one-to-one, personal level with the readers?

Do I also tell him that even, oh, you know, those big, successful info-marketers (with tens if not hundreds of employees) start their online letters with "Dear someone or other" and then sign their letters, and add a PS or two, or three? Of course, I do! Does he listen? Does he care? Noooo, of course not!

And off into the dark, faceless and nameless gloom he sailed.

And frankly, this scenario too, has repeated itself all too frequently, in both my and other copywriter's professional lifetime.

Being obnoxious can be wonderful for your bottom line

A few words of advice: Marketing and sales is not about good manners, proper etiquette, good form or a proper up-bringing--that is, not in the Emily Post sense of the world. Because marketing and sales, online and off is a world apart. It has its own rules, its own manners, etiquette and good form.

And rockin' the boat is quiet often the best thing a marketer can do.

So if burpin' at the table and pickin' boogers increases sales--then hell's bells, boys and girls--burp and pick! Or at least give it a shot, and test...

Case in point: An established marketer of computer software asked if I could write a landing page for one of their products. As in the previous example, their current page was getting a fair amount of hits, but it wasn't converting.

And it was easy to see why. The sales copy read like an instruction manual, and the design and layout of the web page was as smelly and un-appetizing as two-week old road-kill.

So I said, sure, I can write the copy for you...and would you like me to recommend a web designer?

"If you think it'll help," the marketing director said. And so I did.

Now, I know of quite a few direct response web designers with serious notches on their belt. They design for the biggest and most expensive direct response copywriters and the most successful internet marketers out there today. So if can get them to work with me, provided the client can afford them--it's a no-brainer.

So I drew up a short list of designers and gave the marketing director the URL's of some of their work--work they did for some of those aforementioned copywriters and internet marketers. And of course, I fully expected her to be overwhelmed by the magic they produced.

And she was, well, sort of...

She sent me an email exclaiming that these landing pages were the most obnoxious, loudest, garish landing pages she had ever seen. "They're absolutely screaming at me!"

Did I write back that screaming can sometimes be a good thing, given proper and fitting circumstances (product and market, for example)? No I didn't.

She wrote that if the style of copy on these web pages--and the type of design on these web pages--is what I recommend--well then, she'd rather work with someone else.

And she went on, writing rather gratuitously I think, that she was not willing to jeopardize the company's corporate image on such an "informal, casual and cavalier marketing approach". It would be "demeaning and insulting" to their clients and prospects.

Did I write back that she barely had any clients for her product? And that results are what count in marketing, not image--and that results help create and fortify an image? That in marketing the ends justifies the means? No, I didn't.

I was showing good manners, proper etiquette, good form and a proper up-bringing... I merely deleted her email.
About the Author
Barry A. Densa is one of America's top freelance direct response copywriters. Visit www.WritingWithPersonality.com and see how Barry easily and quickly converts prospects into buyers using "salesmanship in print". And while there, sign up for his highly regarded FREE ezine: Marketing Wit & Wisdom!
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