This is one of the most complete guides on how to create marketing, especially what to do before you write a single word or create a creative, ad, or marketing funnel.
One of the most common questions our support team gets is…
“I don’t know where to start!”
“What should my decision tree be about?”
We love getting this question because it allows our users to explore their marketing (and even the existence of their businesses) from a foundational level.
I have found this to be one of the best ways to discover a strategic edge for building a longer lasting sustainable business and marketing.
Contrast this with…
“Take my 5-Step Funnel Which Got 1 Million Clients”
The above is useless for most marketers except the person running the ad.
Its value is in learning the marketing appeal being used… the sequence of steps and persuasion infused in the journey a prospective lead is going to go through.
Simply… The most value comes from ‘studying’ the funnel not what the funnel is selling.
Follow this 7-Step Process for an in-depth approach on how to create irresistible marketing…
Before you proceed, feel free to implement these steps in any order. I have tried to provide a logical sequence but the real world is rarely so nicely packaged. Feel free to create your own approach.
Step 1: How to Complete Your Market Research in less than 10 Minutes
A few years ago, I visited a sugar cane farm in Fiji. It was not surprising to learn how a farmer prepares his land before planting.
Here’s what was surprising… sugar cane stems are placed horizontally into furrows (long trenches).
Unless I had this specialized knowledge, my natural but incorrect inclination was to plant the stems vertically or look for seeds!
Here’s the lesson: I could have had the best, healthiest stems to produce the sweetest, juiciest sugar cane. But unless I had known how to plant sugar cane, the vertically planted stems would have turned into fertilizer!
Similarly, we all have gaps in our knowledge and capability with respect to marketing and business.
This is the reason why we didn’t jump straight into marketing or decision trees, which is our natural inclination. If we had, the most likely result would have been frustration and finally we would have quit out of frustration.
What’s our natural and obvious action once we’ve signed up to a new course?
Almost always, nothing! Most people do not even login after signing up.
Most courses are still in their shrink-wrapped packages.
This is why this pre-marketing process has been designed to take it slow… similar to what the cane farmer did to his land before planting the stems.
When it comes to decision trees, almost everyone wants to start from the start page or even the headline… and then jump into the questions and finally the results page (i.e. a dynamically-generated lead magnet).
If you know your market really well or are an experienced marketer, then this can work.
In most markets, it’s best to start with research…
Many years ago, I learnt about a technique from Gary Halbert. Gary shared a concept of an “Inventory of Interesting Facts”.
Please review Gary’s newsletter on the subject…
If you’re already familiar with great marketing techniques, then this does not apply to you. Otherwise, it’s almost impossible to conjure up great marketing out of thin air!
That’s a bit like waiting for lightening to strike…
Great marketing comes from great market research.
Or in our case… market research will consist of creating an inventory of interesting facts.
The easiest way I’ve found to find interesting facts is to use Google.
- mistakes <your niche or market>
- benefits <your niche or market>
- why <your niche or market>
- who should/should not <your niche or market>
This simple technique will give you insights about the benefits, problems, desires, thoughts, needs and wants in most markets.
(In a later step, we’ll use these interesting facts to create lead magnets, headlines and even the pitch and angles for your marketing and decision trees)
Create your own Inventory of Interesting Facts for your market.
Remember, you can apply this information for your Front of Funnel, Middle of Funnel or Back of Funnel depending on where your business needs most attention for improvement (a topic for another article).
Step 2: Understand the Flow from Initial Contact to Conversion and Repeat Sales
Have you ever mapped your customer’s journey?
Here’s a map of the various steps of a customer journey…
What is a customer journey?
A customer journey shows steps a person took from the moment they touched marketing collateral (such as a Google search result) about your business, all the way to becoming a repeat customer.
The Difference Between A Customer Journey And A Funnel.
A customer journey is a more complete tracking of your customers.
A funnel is mostly concerned with discrete steps such as visitor, lead, customer… but not much about how many mini-steps or alternate paths someone takes to go from being a visitor to a lead to a customer.
A customer journey can show a person visited your website 10 times and viewed 20 pages before he downloaded a report, while a funnel is would not show the repeated visits. The funnel will only show how many visitors vs leads, but not the details that differs from person to person.
What is so important about mapping a customer journey?
Our website visitors and leads are at different phases in the buying continuum.
We can use psychological pressure (limited offer, product launch, etc.) to move people over the line… this is probably effective for a one-time sale or to induce trials.
But in order to create lifelong customers… customers who increase the value of your business, it’s best to respect your visitors and not rush.
We want repeat customers so it’s far better to be awesome and let your customers make their decisions at their own pace or as you turn on the pressure gradually.
More importantly, everyone is different so it’s best to ‘meet’ our prospects where they are… and then nurture and coach them towards a sale.
This is why you want to create a map of your customer journey and track actions being taken at each step.
It will make it so much easier to see the steps that indicate where someone is in their journey towards buying your products or services.
Here’s a real life example (from a consulting client): The average visitor from a Facebook ad opts-in at 1%. So that means … and I’ll state the obvious here… that 99% of the people coming to the website from the Facebook ad do NOT opt-in.
What’s the obvious course of action?
A remarketing campaign to bring the visitor back…
That might work…
What about a question when they exit your website?
“You’re leaving! Looks like we didn’t serve you well! Please let us know what you’re looking for so we can better serve someone just like you in the future. Your answers are anonymous so please be brutally honest.”
This is GOLD…
If you get enough people with the same objections and concerns, then you know exactly what to do next.
But it gets better… you might discover a whole new pitch or appeal for your ads and maybe even a whole new landing page to address this new, previously unknown market segment.
Over time you’ll discover segments that should be given an offer right away… segments who need nurturing… while other segments who still have not accepted if there is a solution for their problem, what solution to consider and finally what products to buy.
Buyers should NOT be shown a Lead Gen decision tree – if your product has versions or there are multiple options then you can present a decision tree at the point of purchase. Otherwise, send them directly to your offer!
Needlessly offering discounts might entice someone to try your product, but without repeat purchases you’ve just wasted the reduction in your contribution margin. It’s far better to learn about objections for a more effective nurturing process for this market segment rather than mindlessly discounting.
Map out your customer journey using this Customer Journey Mapping Template. Be sure to indicate actions at each phase.
Step 3: How to Make Marketing Effortless
By 1993, Dominoes was the largest pizza delivery company in the United States. This was partly due to its slogan…
“30 minutes or less… or it’s free”.
In February 2018, Dominoes became the largest pizza company in the world.
What product does Dominoes sell? Is it really pizza?
The world’s pizza company owes a lot of its success to its not so “obvious” product.
Most marketers or copywriters may have written about the benefits (or features of the pizza).
Isn’t that conventional wisdom?
“Start with a big benefit!”
Now, let’s consider another example.
What’s M&M’s slogan?
“Melts in your mouth not in your hand!”
Does their slogan talk about how good the chocolate is?
Nope. That slogan implies kids clothes won’t get chocolate on it when the wearer is eating M&Ms.
Here’s a TV ad for Volkswagen
Does this VW ad talk about the tires, or style, or fuel economy?
Notice an important detail in each of these examples…
The prospect is NOT directly called out!
We’ll often hear that the ad needs to call out the prospect or the target customer.
Yes, it does, but it does NOT need to be direct and so explicit.
We don’t always have to say…
“Attention: All Women Over 40 Who Want To Have More Fun (and Work Less)!”
How would you define a prospect by his need for a hot pizza at home?
How would you define a prospect by their need for chocolates that aren’t messy?
And lastly, how would you define a prospect by their need for a reliable car?
Even if you did learn more about your target customer, it’s not enough!
Great marketing also comes from having a mighty product to supply you with angles, stories and an overall strategy of what your ad is going to be about.
This has been called the big idea or hook.
But that idea is built on a USP (unique selling proposition) — which allows you to create drama or story around a unique benefit of your product.
The point is NOT that a prospect is not important. Learning about our prospects is very important (which we’ll explore soon). But squeezing out what unique benefit you’re going to highlight and how this unique benefit is going to improve your prospect’s life is something that can only be supplied by your product’s underlying USP.
This is why having a great product or a product that is uniquely relevant to your target market just makes it easy when it comes to creating marketing that sells.
The world is full of me-too products!
The world is full of me-too advertising too! You can easily copy (or swipe) someone’s work using spy tools. Unfortunately without having something dramatically different that matters to prospects, it’s no surprise most online marketers are seem to be stuck like a hamster on a wheel of promotions.
How to uncover your products uniqueness!
There are many formulas available on how to do market research.
Here are 2 methods to help you…
METHOD 1: Table
Over the years I’ve used many techniques to extract uniqueness and its relevancy to target customers, including creating a table with the following headings.
Feature, Advantage, Benefit and Ultimate Benefit (Benefit of the Benefit).
Here’s an article on a simple test for Distinguishing Features form Benefits.
METHOD 2: Gary Bencivenga’s 10 Questions!
- Why is this product made the way it is?
- What consumer problems, desires, and needs is it designed for?
- What’s special about it—why does it fulfil a consumer’s needs better than the competition?
- Who says so besides you?
- What are your strongest proof elements to make your case believable?
- What are all the product’s best features and how does each translate into a consumer benefit?
- If you had unlimited funds, how would you improve this product?
- Who are its heavy users—the 20 percent who generate 80 percent of sales?
- What irresistible offers might trigger an explosion in sales?
- What premiums can be tossed into the mix to press your prospects’ hot buttons?
No one method is superior. Use whichever method appeals to you including your intuition or gut feel.
The most important part is not the method, but actually doing the work, and being able to see or even conjure up unique benefits that are not obvious — much like the 3 examples we started with.
Is there a right unique benefit?
It’s entirely possible that you will find a few unique benefits and you’ll be dumbstruck about which one to use in your marketing.
You can split-test to find the unique benefit or appeal. Or you can simply pick the one that is different to most of the ads in the markets.
Yes you can play it safe by mirroring or copying what is currently working. But why should you be richly rewarded for being a me-too marketer!
It would be an even greater tragedy if your product contained something special and you didn’t at least test to see if it did.
My personal preference (not a recommendation) is to go with something that you have not seen before.
That’s how Dominoes, VW and Mars (M&M’s parent company) became gigantic businesses.
Select one of the methods above and use the process to uncover elements about your product you did not see before.
Step 4: Create Your Customer Magnet
Do you know the speed a rocket has to reach to break through the stranglehold of earth’s gravity?
7 miles per second or 11 kilometres per hour!
Imagine thousands or even millions of hours of preparation for that one moment when the rocket rips through space towards a space shuttle or another planet.
Similarly we have to prepare if there is ever any hope of selling a product or finding success.
This is what we’ve been doing this article, especially in the last 2 lessons.
In Step 1, we created an Inventory of Interesting Facts.
In Step 2, we used 2 methods to learn more about our product or service and how it matters to our leads.
Today, we’re going to use an inventory of interesting factors to ‘extract’ our ideal customer’s needs, wants, thoughts, feelings etc
But we’re going to do it in a specific way… using a customer magnet.
Caution! Please do not get hung up if there is something that you don’t know or are having a hard time articulating.
Perfection is the enemy of progress.
Remember, no one in your market place is even remotely doing any of this so you’re miles ahead even if you do a terrible job!
Much like how Rome was not built in a day, you have to commit to doing this badly before you can do this well.
Everybody starts at SUCK!
There is scientific evidence that suggests… we get smarter and better when we make mistakes … provided we accept these mistakes as a small and necessary step for progress.
My good friend, Blair Gorman of numerologist.com, one of the best marketers I have ever met… is a prolific split-tester.
His favourite line is… “Test it!”
Another good friend, a terrific marketer, Gauher Chaudhry, is another prolific tester.
In fact, what I love about Gauher Chaudhry is how non-judgemental he is about any idea! Gauher will test pretty much any crazy idea.
About 2 years ago, Gauher told me about a test where he added an extra, grammatically incorrect, visually weird punctuation at the end of his headline!
Who cares… it worked!
Here’s the pattern for marketing success with your decision trees (or any other marketing)…
Step 1: Idea looks good
Step 2: Create the decision tree
Step 3: Run traffic
Step 4: Now let’s improve
Step 5: Repeat
The initial version is rarely ever perfect or pretty! It just need to function.
Here’s what we’re testing for… will the appeal of your decision tree resonate with the market?
If it resonates with the market, we’ll run another test to improve it.
If it does not resonate with the market, we’ll run another test to improve it.
A few months ago I had a chat with a CEO of a mining-related business.
They had just lost $7m and 2 years on a project.
My question: What’s the next step?
His answer: We’re going to try something else.
Are you seeing a pattern here?
In a world of incomplete and imperfect information, the best course of action to take is to trade like an options trader.
There is no secret here.
Unless you call taking small risks a secret… repeatedly… and using feedback to correct course… or move onto something else.
We have to love taking risks (small calculated ones). There is NO way around this.
This is why professional investment managers don’t put all of their funds into one investment!
They spread their funds among different investments, including not investing or counter-investing, i.e. going short.
Split-testing is the way to spread your funds. Each variant in your test is an investment…
… so it’s reckless not to test!
It’s reckless to assume there is a process or step-by-step method that is foolproof.
Despite spending billions on research, investment managers and venture capitalists have not been able to find a way to tame reality…
Venture capital and Investment returns have not improved.
Unfortunately, it seems we’re wired to gravitate towards people or processes that provide certainty. Maybe it’s reassuring to not want to make a mistake.
But have you ever considered the opportunity cost of simply doing something and making a mistake vs. months or even years performing intellectual jujitsu…. being an info-groupie trying to find a way not to make a mistake and in that time you have wasted your most precious resource…
You just have to be willing to embrace reality — you will make mistakes.
It’s nothing personal. It’s just the way reality works. Mr Market rewards those who are willing to play the game the longest.
Staying solvent and avoiding ruin is our number one goal.
Back to the inventory of interesting facts…
What we’re going to do is go through the Inventory of Interesting Facts (Step 1) and your Product Research (Coming soon) and see how that information can apply to various aspects of your customer’s life.
Basically we want to take all of the good research we’ve done and evaluate and “massage” it from the point of view of our customers.
Here’s an image to explain what a customer magnet is…
One of the most powerful, yet under utilised ways to understand your customer is to walk a mile in your prospect’s shoes…
1) Warm up your mind for emotional flexibility and granularity.
Read and feel your way through a various words around the wheel.
Google “emotions wheel” to see other wheels like the one above. Feel free to use whatever wheel you want. They’re all quite similar. The most important part is to warm up your ability to express emotions.
Randomly select words around the wheel fires up nodes on our brain’s synaptic network. This is the same ‘trick’, mind readers use…
Here are 2 examples…
a) A mind reader asks…
“Imagine a carrot and an Easter egg. Now think of an animal?”
Most people will answer… “a rabbit”.
b) Placing images of gifts next to a social media share button increases social sharing.
Tip! Use the emotional warm-up technique before you write an email.
2) Now go through the facts from your inventory of interesting facts and imagine yourself as the prospect. Close your eyes and put yourself into your prospect’s shoes.
Take your time and really let yourself experience what this person’s life is like. Remember you’ve already activated your synaptic map so trust the process.
Example: Imagine a dog owner who has an uncontrollable or a scared dog.
What emotions do you think he or she is going through?
1) Frustrated with terrible books on how to train or tame dogs
2) Disappointed with himself for not doing enough
3) Exhausted with long hours and possibly sleepless nights or getting calls from neighbours that the dog has bitten or uprooted their backyard.
4) Embarrassed having to avoid having family and friends over
5) Helpless, because despite spending many hours and a small fortune nothing is working
6) Defeated from the whole experience.
Now go through and write down various stories and scenarios for as many emotions as you can do. If this is your first time then push yourself to at least 30 statements. You’re building capability that will serve you well for all future campaigns.
Use the above format if you want…
“Emotion + statement”
But more importantly do the work. The format is not as important the mental rewiring from actually doing the work. Just like mathematics, marketing is NOT a passive exercise.
3) Now go through the various components of the customer magnet and use the emotional statement format from above and come up with as many statements as you can.
This will form the basis of your ad campaigns, landing pages, sales copy — in fact doing this work now means your first campaign itself will have a much better chance of hitting that mark than simply guessing or copying a competitor.
Components of Customer Magnet
- Thoughts: What thoughts does your prospect have about his problems, benefits he desires.
- Feelings: Go through the wheel of emotions
- Hopes, Dreams & Desires:
Please go through each interesting fact and write a statement in the content section of each component of the customer magnet. Not all components will be relevant for each interesting fact.
Step 5: How to Start the Conversation With Your Market (There is no ONE Market)
Have you read “Breakthrough Advertising” by Gene Schwartz?
Some pages in my copy of “Breakthrough Advertising” have more highlighted text than not.
It is one of the most important books in marketing ever written.
But, it’s not a book I would recommend for someone just starting out in marketing. It is arguably one of the most important books in marketing. But, to absorb the lessons, requires experience of having gone from an idea to being humbled by the market.
Each person in your market has a unique combination of needs, wants, emotions and numerous other factors. Our job as marketers is to find the common threads that resonate with people. Each one of our profitable threads is a market segment.
Ultimately, each person has a job to be done, and our product or service is applying for that job.
The critical thing to remember is the product is a means to an end. It’s the thing that gets their job done.
What is a Job?
A job can be as simple as a hole in the ground.
Then everyone from a tractor leasing company, a hardware goods company or even the neighbourhood kids who would not mind spending an hour digging are all candidates who can apply to get the job done.
This is a simple example. Not all jobs are as straightforward.
Now let’s take someone who wants to have breast augmentation surgery done.
What job are they applying for?
Maybe they want to feel good about themselves… or get someone’s approval… or crave attention.
Of course, not all needs will be as articulated as clearly as… I want bigger breasts because I want people to notice me.
That would be too shallow a reason to verbalise… even if that was the reason.
Or in some cases, our leads and prospects might not even be able to articulate the reason themselves. We do have hidden or also repressed emotional needs.
Who can apply for this job?
Products and services that deal with self-image and self-esteem… all the way to cosmetic surgeons locally and even overseas (medico tourism as it’s called where a procedure is part of a holiday experience). Cost is a factor, but medical tourism might also be selling a special, decadent and self-indulgent experience within which there is a small medical procedure. This is probably emotionally easier to accept.
This information will almost always not be available in a survey, or in any market research.
This is the intuition part of marketing…. this where you have to think and dig deep into the various emotional needs of your market.
The reason for picking a difficult example is to illustrate our need as marketers to not be superficial in our marketing.
Merely borrowing from an old winning headline is not respecting your market enough.
Yes, sometimes we do get lucky, and it just works. Other times you have to dig deep.
In the next lesson, we’ll look at a few ways to shortcut this process.
In the previous lesson, we found out about the various aspects of our market… in the customer magnet.
The primary purpose of the customer magnet is to help uncover variations that exist in our market.
A great example is the effect of context on purchasing.
A person might spend…
* $5 to buy a bottle of wine for cooking.
* $20 for a family BQQ
* $30-50 as a gift at a dinner party
* $300 to get access to a thought-leader or ‘guru.’
* $5000 when a deal for a $10m sale of a business is at stake.
So if you were selling wine, then it’s important to understand this situational or circumstantial contexts that change buying behaviour.
This is why it’s so important NOT to skip the various elements of the customer magnet.
In this step, we’ll learn to shortcut part of the process using…
State of Product Awareness and the State of Market Sophistication
The concepts come from Breakthrough Advertising by Gene Schwartz.
1) State of Product Awareness
“How much do these people know today about the way your product satisfies this desire?”
Levels of Product Awareness
- Prospect is either not aware of his desire or his need, or he won’t honestly admit it to himself without being lead into it by the ad, or the need is so general and vague that it resists being summed up in a single headline, or it’s a secret that just can’t be verbalised.
- Prospect has a need (not a desire) and recognises the need immediately but does not know connection between fulfilment of need and product.
- Prospect either knows or recognises immediately, that he wants what the product does, but he/she doesn’t yet know that there is a product that satisfies his/her desire.
- Prospect know of the product but isn’t fully aware of all your product does or isn’t convinced of how well it does it, or hasn’t been told how much better it does it.
- Prospect knows of your product, knows what it does, knows he wants it, except has not bought it, or existing or previous customer.
2) State of Market Sophistication
“How many other products have been presented to them before yours?”
Levels of Market Sophistication
- First to Market: Never received any information about such a product before but you can create being first, i.e. tech breakthrough, a radically better product, a familiar product at a ridiculous low price.
- You’re 2nd to Market
- Prospect has heard many claims including exaggerated extremes. Similar claims don’t work. Dozens of ads have been seen. Believability is gone. Maybe even tried a few products.
- Prospect has heard a few mechanisms. Getting tired of exaggerated claims *Mechanism: An aspect of the product (not a claim). E.g. ‘The Silver Bullet’
- Market is exhausted. Market no longer believes in advertising.
Gene explains further…
“The answer to questions [above] gives you the location of that market in relation to your product. Your strategy for exploiting or overcoming the answers to these last two questions will give you the content of your headline.”
Your job now is to locate where on the continuum of “state of product awareness” and “state of market sophistication” your prospects are.
All of the work from the previous section was to find the areas of the state of product awareness where our leads and customers are.
Please use the diagram to mark where your prospects are.
If you’re dealing with a house list and your leads know about your product then you’re a level 5.
You can form markets from the intersection of Level of Product Awareness and Level of Market Sophistication.
Now, it might seem like it’s complicated, but this does make marketing easier.
Now you don’t have to guess what ads to create.
No longer do you have to worry about how to make your marketing resonate with someone who is aware of his problems AND has seen and tried lots of products AND is extremely sceptical.
Compared to… someone who might be aware he has a problem, but has only seen a few ads.
The marketing you’d create for both of these markets will be different. Marketing that works for one will almost certainly not work for the other.
Great, we’re starting to break apart the market and that is one of the most strategic actions you can do.
Why is breaking up the market so important?
Step 6: How to Enter the Conversation
In the previous step, we went through the Gene Schwartz grid and selected intersections where our potential customers might be lurking.
Quick remainder why we’re doing this…
Because people have different needs and wants in each of the ‘boxes’ in the grid.
Though it may be possible to create ONE marketing message that works in most grids or across the entire state of product awareness and stages of market sophistication, the probability of executing that well gets lower, the greater the ‘grid’ territory you want to address with ONE message!
(Please reread the above statement a few times! It might just save you tens of thousands or even millions of dollars in lost opportunity).
In fact, it’s a lot of work to be able to do that. It’s also high risk… because… as mentioned above the probability of success is low.
More importantly, there is frankly no need to work so hard and take so much risk.
Market research is still stuck in the past.
Before the internet, marketing was much harder.
You had to get it right… the very first time!
Firstly your choice of media was low. You only choices were TV, radio, newspaper, magazines, billboards or direct mail. These were controlled by large corporations and more often than not, you had to use a media buyer who practically operated a toll booth.
It was a crap pricing model. The client took all of the risk because the cost of producing ads (esp. TV ads) was high and buying airtime or space was even more expensive.
Even if you had the funds to produce 5 different ads, buying media would send you broke!
So what was the answer…?
Businesses had to spend a lot of time on market research and product development and testing.
The way to control risk was with upfront work.
This meant we had to get it right — a failed campaign could be a career-ending. Add to that the embarrassment and public ridicule.
So naturally, businesses spent more time on market research.
Then came the Internet…
Overnight the impact of those billions of dollars spent on TV, radio, newspaper, magazines could now be tested! No more guessing and hoping if your multi-thousand or million dollar campaign will work.
And, you don’t have to spend a fortune to make an ad, nor do you have to spend a fortune to buy media.
Yes, you can run an ad for a budget at $1000, $100 or even $10!
The implications of this are enormous. There is no need to waste so much time on market research…
Its success rate has always been dubious as all business success rates would (should) have improved over time. They have not. The risk of reality can’t be reduced with a 10-step formula.
Now, you can let the market tell you what it wants in…
You can test any number of market segments… simultaneously!
The groundwork was laid in the last lesson…
Remember when we selected boxes in the Gene Schwartz grid?
That was our first step. But it’s not enough just by itself!
In this lesson we’re going to learn how to say it… and… in the next lesson we’ll uncover what to say!
Back in 2011, “Great Leads” by Michael Masterson & John Forde was released.
It’s not a famous book, but it’s a very important book for our purposes.
This book is about creating Leads, which has a specific meaning in copywriting.
A lead is not a prospective customer… a person who enters your marketing funnel as part of your lead generation activities.
In copywriting, a lead is the first part of a sales message. The part that normally contains the pre-headline, headline and a few opening paragraphs.
Obviously this is also the most important part of your sales message. If you don’t grab your prospect’s attention at the beginning of your sales message, then it really won’t matter how good your offer or your product is.
Great Leads contains 6 archetypes or models of leads…
More importantly it explains when to use each type of lead.
The 6 basic leads are…
What is an offer? An offer is how you close a sale, i.e. what’s for sale and here’s what you get. Generally an offer is presented at the end of a sales letter or VSL.
In an OFFER LEAD, the offer is brought to the beginning and presented right up front. And it almost always mentions product, price, discount, premiums, guarantees, and related deal elements.
Invitation lead (opens by asking the prospect to become a member, etc.) is a subtle variation. This lead works well to a receptive audience. This lead might contain only a discounted price or can be strengthened with a guarantee (if you allow X, then you’ll get Y or you don’t pay OR you don’t pay until you get result-X).
What is a promise? A statement of intention — A prime benefit that reader will get – a reason-why that he can’t resist (A Hollywood smile in 3 days).
A Promise lead must answer this question: “If I read this, what will I get in return?” Promise leads tend not to work in markets where prospects are highly exposed to marketing messages. You can still use it if you can reposition the industry (they’re the old, ineffective way).
A Promise lead can also be used for a later message in a multi-step campaign, i.e. where the prospect has consumed the promise and proof and is in the right emotional state to be presented with a pure promise.
PROBLEM SOLUTION LEAD
Problem solution ads are about worries – what’s keeping your prospect up at night?
These leads are most often done by naming the problem and then promising to fix the problems. This approach works well when the prospect who recognise a problem they’d like to change — it’s not about educating the reader about his problem, but more in the reader feeling that someone understands his problem and situation.
Then a solution and the product through which the solution is delivered can be presented.
Secret leads create emotional tension by talking about the benefits of the product without discussing the solution/product. It’s basically using the Zeigarnik effect (a half told fact).
Secret leads tap into our desire to know. They begin by teasing the prospect with a secret.
A secret lead connects to a deep instinct in people to feel there are secrets to things — and to get an edge you need to know stuff that others don’t, i.e. a secret.
The secret is the most universally applicable and useful — it allows us to keep the prospect reading until the prime benefits and USP (unique selling proposition) of the product are fully presented.
What is a proclamation? It’s an assertion — sometimes a statement of fact or opinion or statements that might be true now or in the future.
A Proclamation LEAD begins with an emotionally compelling statement (usually a headline) and then in the copy you give information to validate the implicit promise made.
A good proclamation lead reads like a newspaper story to sell the reader emotionally before the pitch. PROCLAMATIONS must be found or derived from research.
The Story lead is the most indirect of all leads. The hook is the tension created by the story. The promise embedded in the story through a metaphor — he see himself.
Not all sales letters begins with a promise, an offer or an invitation. Story leads contain a promise, but they are much less direct. If the story is well told then the reader gets involved emotionally. Effectiveness of stories comes from our unconscious involvement (we don’t realise we’ve been sucked into the drama).
I leave it to you read this book.
What we’re going to do is add these Great Leads inside the Gene Schwartz grid…
You’ll notice that there are a few Great Leads in each box. Why is that?
The reason is to add some optionality — remember marketing and persuasion is not an exact science so we want to give ourselves as much chance of success.
(Side note: The leads were added into the grid using a simple model after mapping leads to level of direct and indirectness of each of the 25 intersections.)
Also the boxes in the grid as not as concrete as shown in the diagram.
Reality rarely comes nicely packaged like that!
Now we know what Great Leads we can use… we have a pattern of what to create.
But we don’t quite know what to say (see Step 7)
Go through the 6 Leads.
Step 7: Discover the Emotional Hot Button for Maximum Response
Yes, you’ve selected the LEAD(s) you’ll use in your marketing. Now, you know how direct or indirect your copy lead will be. You’ll be direct and to the point if you selected the OFFER lead… all the way to a STORY lead, which is the most indirect of all LEADs.
Today we’ll look at appeals of your marketing. Appeals will tell us WHAT to say.
In marketing, it is quite tempting to only want to show people the benefits of our products and services.
As you’re probably heard many times, sell the steak, not the sizzle.
But do people really want the benefits of your products… do they really want the steak?
Back in early 2000s I attended two Gary Halbert seminars on marketing and copy.
During one of his seminars Gary asked…
If you were to open up a new hamburger stand, what one advantage would you want?
My fellow attendees started shouting the answers…
… and so on…
Then Gary revealed his answer…
“A Starving Crowd”
A “starving crowd” is a great metaphor to implant into our brains.
Focus on the prospect!
Years later, I learnt about the “jobs to be done” concept. This is where your product applies for a job to be done.
Job to be done can be seen at different levels of abstraction.
A person might want to put a hole in the wall so he can hang up his wedding photos or to put up a light fitting like a lamp.
Or a photograph stand job is to display affection for one’s family or to be taken back to a special nostalgic moment.
And, a lamp’s job could be to create a homely feel or romantic ambiance.
This deeper meaning to our marketing is the appeal.
It’s the non-obvious, non-overt, implicit theme of your marketing and copy.
You could even call it a perceived benefit because the benefit is constructed in the mind of the customer.
Appeals allow you to stop guessing…
There are tens or possibly even hundreds of emotional appeals and angles you can use in your market.
The biggest mistake most people make is that they pick the first idea that comes to mind. Or, to do ‘competitor’ research and simply steal somebody else’s appeal. This is a quick and fast method to arguably one of the most under-appreciated elements of your marketing.
You can also test your way to find the best appeal as well.
Unfortunately, this is time consuming and expensive.
Please note: This is not a suggestion to NOT research or test — simply, it’s just that it’s not the lowest hanging fruit that will fill your coffers with riches! You’re better off spending a bit more time to narrow your list of appeals or even one appeal and let the marketplace tell you if you’re right. When you’re starting fresh, it’s can be very expensive.
Is there a better way to find appeals?
The approach I prefer is to use a preexisting list of appeals and see which ones are most relevant to our audience.
One of the best list of appeals comes from….
How to Write a Good Advertisement by Victor Schwab
Victor has 4 categories of appeals…
1) People want to gain
- Praise from others
- Pride of accomplishment
- Improved appearance
- Advancement (social & business)
- Security in old age
- Increased enjoyment
- Personal prestige
2) People want to be:
- Good parents
- Recognized authorities
- “First” in things
- Sociable, hospitable
- Proud of their possessions
- Influential over others
3) People want to do:
- Express their personalities
- Satisfy their curiosity
- Appreciate beauty
- Win others’ affection
- Resist domination by others
- Emulate the admirable
- Acquire or collect things
- Improve themselves generally
4) People want to save:
How to use the appeals?
In reality, prospects are a ‘mush’ of a number of these appeals.
It might seem daunting to look at appeals and then do a ‘mash-up’ to create a fictitious representation of a prospect (or a few).
But it’s not that difficult or complicated. In fact, I assure you this is nowhere near as time consuming or expensive as wasting weeks or months testing.
Hardly anyone is doing this kind of mental work so even if you’re even half correct, you’re still miles ahead of the rest of the market and your competition.
By going through this process you have already gained a massive edge.
Now, the actual process of mentally visually and viscerally feeling what a person is going through can be enjoyable.
You’ll have so much fluidity and you’ll probably never run of ideas to test.
1) Select a number of appeals that are relevant to your market (use the list above or any other you find online).
2) Now write a paragraph or two about how each appeal will be delivered by your product or service. Add some context around the appeal. Write in the first person if that helps.
Example: Gain Money
“I have always dreamt of giving my family a good life.
I am worried that I’m not saving enough. I am worried my investment decisions have not been the best. Truth is I am lost with so much information which often contradicts each other. So I have copied my friends because it’s easy.
I have worked really hard at my company. I went above and beyond what is expected, but I keep getting overlooked for promotions. But now my biggest fear is emergence of AI and machine learning. My greatest competition all of a sudden is technological progress. There is constant pressure to stay on top of technological changes and keep outsmarting the machines.”
The above process might look like it’s a customer avatar but it’s not. When using a customer avatar, you form a fictitious person. We are not forming a person. You simply pick an appeal or a few and ideate around how that appeal applies to your product.
Be creative and don’t worry about being right. I’ve found this to be much faster and much less stress-free than creating a fictitious customer avatar.
I’ve found to many counter-examples of how real customers differ from a customer avatar. If the customer avatar format works for you, then by all means use it. There are no rules — this is another way, that’s all.
Why are we creating contexts around our appeals?
To create and convey emotional messages. I’ve found this to be a much easier way to add emotions into marketing.
The 7 steps above builds the roadmap to use for your all of your marketing.
You now know… who your target market, where they are on the Gene Schwartz grid, how to communicate with each person and what to say!
Your next step is to execute…
One Last Thing…
Paul here @ LeadsHook
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and we appreciate you taking the 27 minutes to read it through.
Although, the whole process has be broken down to 7 steps…
We do realise, even though this process will change the way you look at your marketing forever, finding the bandwidth to execute may still be an obstacle.
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