Shooting yourself in the foot—2
Welcome to this year’s rant at the worst of email marketing. It will probably be my last on this subject. At 7000 words, it is by far the longest blog I have written. Why? Because I want to illustrate the wide range and number of issues, all of which need to be addressed well if a good email marketing campaign is to be created, one which will have the slightest chance of generating even one response.
These issues do not just relate to the wording of the email (vague wording is, sort of, alright if you are writing to someone who knows you; but for mass distribution to people who don’t know you from Adam, you need complete precision and accuracy). It is also about the attitude and beliefs that the writer must have in order to write the email, and the extent to which these are unhelpful, or even wrong.
There must be few people who haven’t received spam emails allegedly from the relatives of high ranking (but now dead) Nigerian politicians offering the chance to look after millions of pounds in return for a cheque for two hundred quid. [For the rest of this article, I am going to refer to Transylvania in order not to gratuitously offend the good people of Nigeria.]
A somewhat elaborate story is woven around this basic tale which, in itself, is internally consistent, however fanciful, and intended thereby to give credibility to the whole proposition.
Reading the email, the vast majority of people probably wonder how anyone could expect them, or anyone else, to believe the story.
I struggled with this myself for some time.
It was only when I heard the explanation that the whole scam became obvious.
The scammers don’t expect you or me to believe any of it. What they are banking on is that there is a tiny percentage of all the people who open the email who are disposed to believe it. I say disposed to believe it: that is what the elaborate story is for. The readers look for some evidence and it is this internally consistent story that provides it.
You can prove anything if you start with false premises. You can quite legitimately prove that 3 = 6 if you start with the premise that 1 = 2. The thinking is, “well, that proof made sense, so the result must be true”.
So only gullibility, a predisposition to believe, is needed. That predisposition does need exceptionally high levels of credulity, naivety and ignorance (little voices in my shoulder are telling me not to write “stupidity”). And, for the scammers, these are the very characteristics which will be needed if the remainder of the ‘transaction’ is to be completed successfully.
These musings are prompted by the receipt from a business adviser of an unsolicited bulk email of such stunning ineptness that one can only wonder at the sender’s motives in writing to me in this way. After all, a business adviser in need of advice on sending an email is an interesting sort of adviser.
One of the sad things about this email is that there is virtually nothing in it which I can bring myself to praise. It is so comprehensively a disaster that, faced with the following fifty two errors and areas which need attention, my suggestion to the author and anyone contemplating an email marketing campaign is:
- email marketing is a poor method of generating leads (measured in terms of the degree of conviction which you can communicate in a bulk email)
- tarting up the email as a spurious request for help is insincere and doesn’t help
- because of its limitations, email marketing will almost certainly cast you in a worse light (on the principle that it is better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool rather than open it and remove all doubt.
Let’s call the sender Jane (apologies to any real business advisers called Jane). Let us not dwell on the fact that one of the services she offers is to coach businesspeople in how to send email marketing campaigns. She is clearly seeking to serve the Transylvanian sector of the market.
Critique of the text
Here is the email:
Subject line: Would you take a few minutes to help me help you?.
I am saddened by the amount of sales people and business owners who are still struggling to attract a constant flow of ideal business clients (not the true kickers who take lots of your time but never buy from you). They are working really hard but not getting the results they want and end up worried and stressed about the lack of cash flow.
Why is this? There is a ton of information out there, yet this continues to be a challenge for so many people.
I am totally committed to changing this situation and am working on a free webinar to give you the exact steps to implement which will give you ALL the clients you want, without having to work so darned hard.
To make sure I am putting enough emphasis on the things YOU need would you take a couple of minutes (literally) to fill in this survey. Click Here
Thank you for taking the time to complete this survey and as soon as the webinar is available I will send you the details.
Until the next time… Find a way and be the very best you can be!
PS. Your input will help me produce THE best webinar for YOU and your fellow Business Owners and Sales People. Click Here
Here are fifty five things the writer needs to sort out.
The subject line
The email is headed, Would you take a few minutes to help me help you?.
1 Given that recipients are presumed not to know Jane, the response from most of them will be, “why should I?”. Or just, “No”. Followed by: delete. I think asking questions of readers whom you don’t know is a risky business. Don’t you? In an email subject, where the wrong question means the email isn’t even opened, it is either high risk for the sake of it, or it has some other “Transylvanian” purpose.
2 The heading is too long. I think many people will switch off once they have read “Would you take a few minutes to help me…” before they get to “…help you”. This is because, syntactically, “Would you take a few minutes to help me” is a complete phrase.
Readers of any text always look subconsciously for syntactical and grammatical clues to help with meaning. (A lot more on this in The sense of style by Steven Pinker.) In this case, when the end of the phrase is reached (at “me”) the reader assumes the end of the phrase has, indeed, been reached. The sentence “Would you take a few minutes to help me”, however presumptuous, is complete in itself.
But then the reader hits “help you” and has to undo their understanding up to that point, and has to work out how these extra two words change the meaning they have so far worked out. This unfocusses the message.
For all the nice alliteration of “help me help you”, “help me to help you” might have made a slight improvement in this.
3 “Taking time” as a synonym for “spending time” is an Americanism and, in my book, to be avoided as such. However, its use here backfires because, in English, the phrase “taking time” has an implication of “taking too much time”. (“Take your time, dear, I’ve got all day.”) The writer thus undermines her attempt to reassure the reader that not much of his/her time is needed (“a few minutes”). She unfocusses the sentence some more—which is not what you want in a subject line.
4 Given that this is supposed to be a request, not a demand, a “please” would have been nice.
Here is my suggestion: it deals with all four of these criticisms:
Please spend a little time helping me to help you.
5 The concept of someone needing me to help her before she can help me is odd. Of course, when I talk to business people, I ask them a lot about themselves, their business, and the problems that they seem to be having. This is a necessary part of the coaching conversation. It isn’t them “helping me” in the way revealed later in the email under discussion (which we’ll come to) and, at any one time, it is a one to one conversation specifically about the other person.
Even though the bulk of the email that follows is indeed about how the reader might help Jane, personally I would find something more compelling than “Would you take a few minutes to help me help you?” to put in the subject line.
6 In particular, I would find something which made the reader more important than the writer (as in my suggestion). The whole point of Jane’s long term game plan, as we shall see, is her provision of services to the reader for payment, even though it is covered by a seemingly humble request for help. Asking for help is a ruse, a pretext which she cannot actually make good, as we shall see (36, 39 and 40).
Starting out by making herself more important and demanding help from the reader before the latter has even opened the first email sends the wrong message, I suggest.
Opening the email
7 The first thing you see when you open the email is a logo featuring Jane’s name in by far the largest size of type of any in the email, and a strapline to which I shall return (see 44 and 45). Unfortunately the size of the lettering, and its chunkiness (what typographers call “ultra bold”), just reinforces the impression that Jane puts herself ahead of the reader. Had she asked me, I would have suggested putting her logo at the bottom of the email, like most people do. I know who the email is from: Jane’s name is in the “sender” field. (Which is good: not always the case.)
After a salutation (to which I shall return—47 and 48), the text starts,
I am saddened…
[Excerpts from the email I received are given in bold purple. It seemed the obvious choice.]
8 No! Stop making it all about yourself. This is the third time. People who don’t know you, by and large, simply don’t care. Whilst I am not suggesting they are uncaring, they are just completely indifferent, particularly when they read on to discover what makes you sad.
I knew someone whose sister seemed to have a real problem imagining that other people didn’t think and feel about things (job issues, the weather, the weekend, …) in the same way that she did. It didn’t help her in her job as a junior manager. It’s a lack of empathy; or, better, I should say, it is a failure to empathise.
…by the amount of sales people and business owners…
9 You count people, you measure stuff. Jane means, “the number of sales people and business owners…”
… who are still struggling to attract a constant flow of ideal business clients…
This is where it gets really Transylvanian.
Let’s deconstruct what we have so far, as we did with the subject line:
10 It’s unlikely any one business will have more than one ideal client in its lifetime because the word “ideal” is like the word “unique”: you can only have one of them. If a business had two ideal clients then either (a) they would have to be so similar that they would be the same client or (b) one would be “less” ideal than the other. “Less ideal” is meaningless, so one of them would not be ideal.
11 However, the chances of anyone getting an ideal anything are vanishingly small. If only because, if you had an ideal X (say an icecream), how would you know that someone standing next to you didn’t have a better one? So, I suggest, no business has ever had any ideal clients.
12 I suggest most businesses know that striving for the ideal is pointless and they don’t do it.
So, let’s replace the clause above with:
“… who are still struggling to attract a constant flow of good enough business clients…”
13 But no business wants a “constant flow” even of good enough clients. What they want is enough clients. A “good enough” number. No sane business is striving to get a constant flow, whether or not they would struggle if they tried.
A “constant flow” of prospects would take up all the business’s time, thereby removing any opportunity to do actual fee paying work. The only way of dealing with that situation would be to ignore most of the prospects—and nice people don’t do that sort of thing. Had I been asked, I would have suggested “a regular flow” was what Jane meant. “Regular” can be one a day, one a month, one a year: regularity defines the spacing between the arrival of the prospects, not their number.
14 Jane says she is saddened by the number of sales people and business owners “struggling to attract a constant flow of ideal business clients”; not that she is saddened by the fact that they are struggling; let alone that they are struggling to do something which is (a) pointless and (b) impossible.
15 In fact, no businesses are struggling to “attract a constant flow of ideal business clients”, let alone “still attract a constant flow of ideal business clients” (my emphasis). I’m not sure what “still” adds. Is the implication intended to be that it’s OK to struggle for a period of time to “attract a constant flow of ideal business clients” but after that it’s just too sad?
Anyway, she has nothing to be sad about.
Had I been asked, knowing what was to come next in the email, I would have suggested:
Many business owners and sales people struggle to attract enough good clients.
Isn’t that the truth of the matter? (Sorry, I said I wasn’t going to ask questions of unknown readers. Consider that a rhetorical question.)
16 In seeking to emphasise her point, Jane’s degree of hyperbole sends it into orbit. If no businessperson really struggles “to attract a constant flow of ideal business clients” [my emphasis], she has not so much alienated her readers—those who are left—she simply has simply failed to engage with them. Given that she hasn’t actually engaged with them yet (other than the Transylvanians), she is working on a high risk strategy (or…). Their response can only be, “What the hell is she talking about?—Not my problem”. And: delete.
…[ideal business clients] (not the true kickers who take lots of your time but never buy from you).
17 Firstly, I assume she means “tyre kickers”. This is not the first basic mistake (“amount”) and, in a context of some frankly flakey text so far, simple mistakes, which betray a failure to proofread the text, (a) imply carelessness and (b) do not inspire confidence.
18 More importantly, “never” is an assumption. Today’s tyre kicker may well buy in the future (though not if you airily dismiss him or her as a tyre kicker not worthy of your attention). I would consider playing the long game while not having any expectations (ie, making demands) that they buy just because you want/need them to.
19 Thirdly, if someone takes up a lot of a service provider’s time, that is because the service provider allows them to do it. The tyre kicker is only too pleased to have found someone who, like them, doesn’t want their business to move forward and prefers to waste time playing this particular game.
Normally, in criticising a marketing email, I would restrict myself to the things which have to be done well. Because, if they are not done well, the email is deleted, so there isn’t really any point in going further. The things which have to be done well are
- subject line
- first sentence.
However, this email is so rich in unintended learning points—from someone who, I have good reason to believe, seeks to sell her services advising other businesses how to do email marketing well—that it would be unfair to the reader not to enable them to learn from the further problems this writer makes for herself.
Not the end after all.
The email continues:
They are working really hard but not getting the results they want and end up worried and stressed about the lack of cash flow.
This is fair enough. Irrespective of what it is they are struggling with, some of them
- are working really hard
- aren’t getting the results they want
- do end up worried and stressed about the lack of cash flow.
20 I actually think that they are worried and stressed about the lack of money coming into the business, cashflow being a somewhat recherché term in accountancy and finance which has been hijacked by people who wish to appear clever—rather as journalists think that using the word “epicentre” as a synonym for “centre” makes them look clever, when, in fact, the epicentre is precisely not the centre of an earthquake. But let that pass.
21 My main issue with this bit is the assumption that all these businesspeople are working hard. I think the point is precisely that they are not working hard. (Well, someone had to say it.)
A whole range of anxieties, limiting beliefs and emotions, blocks and fractures are impeding them from “showing up”. It is actually all of this which has to be tackled, not some behavioural sticking plaster which, if it is successfully applied, will simply result in the businessperson finding some other unhelpful behaviour to indulge in because the underlying problems haven’t been resolved, or even addressed, or even understood, or even recognised.
Why is this? There is a ton of information out there, yet this continues to be a challenge for so many people.
22 Even assuming that “this” refers to the more sensible, “Many business owners and sales people struggle to attract enough good clients”, it isn’t surprising that many business people are still challenged, given that “information” in itself can’t help them.
23 What businesspeople need is insight and understanding. I don’t mean they need to be understood, though that helps. I mean they need to understand what’s going on. “Information” (whatever that actually means in this context) ain’t gonna cut the mustard.
By setting up a false explanation for the problem she describes (as reframed by me), Jane looks as if she is setting up a straw man to knock down. But she doesn’t do that. You’d expect her to continue along one of these lines:
- “But information ain’t gonna cut the mustard…”
- or, “The information that is available is wrong/unhelpful/patchy/…”
- or, “I was visited in a dream by the archangel Michael and he revealed exclusively to me that what businesspeople need to do is…”
- or, …
24 As it is, she moves elsewhere and this sentence is redundant.
Jane goes on to what she heads as…
It starts, inevitably,
I am totally committed to changing this situation…
25 Once again, dear lady, the reader isn’t interested in you. They are interested in whether what you have to offer (which you have coyly not yet revealed) is of any help to them.
26 I don’t think even Jane could describe the difference between being “committed” to something and being “totally committed” to it. The word “totally” is unnecessary here. (I’m tempted to say it is totally unnecessary.) Once again the hyperbole puts off the reader and risks alienating those who are left.
27 “Changing this situation” is a curiously vague and imprecise thing to be totally committed to. Changing how? Changing by how much? Does changing it by an immeasurably small amount count? Does changing it for only a few people count?
What is the “situation” to which Jane is totally committed to changing? That all the business people in the position she describes stop being in that position?
The idea that they would all change as a result of a generic, “one size fits all” webinar is clearly absurd; so Jane must be proposing that they all become her individual clients, which is also absurd, as she doesn’t have the time for even a tiny fraction of them.
28 I must point out that noone can make anyone else feel, believe or do anything. So, actually, Jane can’t change anything that requires decisions and activities of other people. More hyperbole. She can suggest she is able to create a facilitating environment in which her clients choose to do, feel and think differently. But she doesn’t make that suggestion.
I would have said:
I am committed to helping businesspeople be more successful.
It’s bland, but there is nothing in the 220 words of the email that convinces me Jane can actually help business people improve their business, because her email is all about her needing help (which we shall come on to again). She has made no attempt to define her credentials. Who knows whether she knows anything at all about her subject?
(The more she expects us to believe she is the international (for which we presumably are expected to read knowledgeable, competent etc) expert, the more absurd her ploy that she needs the reader’s help before she can do her job properly (ie give a webinar).)
In attempting to demonstrate that Jane understands the problems that businesspeople have, which her services are intended to ameliorate, she has described those problems in such an exaggerated way that the reader can only assume she is talking about someone else; she has no real understanding of the problems they have. Of course, I am sure she does understand the readers’ problems, her problem is that her written style (I use the word “style” advisedly) fatally lets her down. (Or reveals an unattractive neediness.)
29 What she actually ends up communicating explicitly is that she doesn’t understand what’s going on for other people. If she can’t communicate competently, that’s a disqualification from being considered as a service provider.
The meaning of a message is what the recipient makes of it.
The recipient is not a mind reader. The recipient cannot work out what you really mean if you write the opposite.
…and am working on a free webinar to give you the exact steps to implement…
30 Unless there is an opportunity for people to participate in the event, I think it is disingenuous to call it a “webinar”. It will be a recorded lecture.
31 Jane cannot possibly guarantee that, were I to listen to the webinar, the steps I would learn would be the “exact” ones for me. Each business will require different steps, if only slightly so. Hyperbole.
32 And, one can’t “implement” a step: one walks up and down steps. Would it not be more powerful to write “actions”? Jane is using the word “steps” metaphorically, whereas “actions” would be used concretely; the word says the actual thing to be done.
However, one can’t “implement ” an action. You “carry out” an action. “Steps to implement” is far less compelling than “actions to carry out”. Or, even, “actions you can carry out”, if you want to go all NLPy.
…which will give you ALL the clients you want, without having to work so darned hard.
33 Notice that something that has crept in. Although the writer hasn’t asserted that all businesspeople are struggling to do anything, the implication of this sentence is that the reader, whoever he or she is, is struggling. I don’t believe Jane’s list segmentation is sophisticated enough only to supply her with a list exclusively of those that are struggling. Those who aren’t struggling may be offended—if only by the lazy thinking. They may switch off and: delete. Given the proposition that is coming, this could easily have been modified to be inclusive, thus increasing the flow of, if not ideal clients for Jane, at least acceptable ones.
34 As it stands, it’s just more hyperbole. It would be interesting, though, to find out what would happen if a businessperson bought the product but then didn’t get all, let alone ALL, the clients they wanted. Grounds for prosecution under misleading description legislation?
35 The use of all capitals is shouting. It really is unlikely that any reader will not be able to grasp the concept of “all the clients” he/she needs, without being shouted at. I suggest an italic font is appropriate (which is the purpose italic fonts were invented for; capital letters, as the name suggests, are for the “heads” of words, ie their first letter only (capital, from Late Latin capitellum, diminutive of caput, a head)).
To make sure I am putting enough emphasis on the things YOU need…
36 Unless Jane only has a very small number of listeners to the webinar (which is presumably not her intention), she will not be able to put all the emphases on all the topics that all the listeners want. So this is misleading. (A comma is really needed after “need”, and there is more shouting.)
…would you take a couple of minutes (literally) to fill in this survey.
37 What does “(literally)” add to the quality or meaning of the message? It raises a suspicion that it won’t be “a couple of minutes” (actually, it is). Also, being pedantic, it isn’t a survey, it’s a questionnaire. A survey is the distribution of questionnaires to a number of people, the collation of their responses and the deductions that can be drawn from them.
38 A “please” would have been nice, or even a “I would be grateful if you would…”. (And a question mark, too, please.)
39 I notice the “survey” is headed “What is stopping you from doubling your business profits?” This is a far cry from “give you the exact steps to implement which will give you ALL the clients you want, without having to work so darned hard.” I am wondering how that bridge is going to be crossed. (It isn’t.)
40 Firstly, does Jane mean “profits”? Or margin, or income? Or even cashflow as per the earlier part of the email? Doubling profit or margin can be achieved by efficiency savings on the one hand and cross selling on the other, whereas the questionnaire implies the webinar is going to be a sales tutorial. And, why “double”? And over how long a period?
In particular, if Jane wishes to “make sure I am putting enough emphasis on the things YOU need”, how will she discover the personal issues the listeners to the webinar have around everything to do with getting “ALL the clients you want, without having to work so darned hard” when the questions she asks are only to do with the far more restricted “doubling your business profits”?
Is there some misleading going on here?
Thank you for taking the time to complete this survey and as soon as the webinar is available I will send you the details.
41 This is all rather presumptuous (that I have completed the survey, that I want “the details” or the webinar). “If I may” would lighten the message.
Until the next time…
42 Again, this is rather presumptuous. “Unsolicited” comes to mind more than once: the original email, the questionnaire, “the details” and so on. Most recipients couldn’t give a damn and will have deleted by now.
Find a way and be the very best you can be!
43 Maybe it’s just me but I find this so patronising. I do not need Jane to tell me to be the very best I can be. Why do I have to find a way before I can be the “very best”? To what degree, in sending this email, is Jane being the very best she can be? If her intentions are Transylvanian, then maybe she is being the best she needs to be; but, for all those few people who simply opened the email, I wonder what the value is to her business of trashing her reputation. Something tells me that Jane’s idea of the”the very best” (note, once more, hyperbole: what is better than best?) is actually not the best.
If it’s a subtle way of implying that “the way” to “be the very best you can be” is by hiring Jane, then it is a factor of ten more subtle than anything else in the email.
44 For what it’s worth, Wikipedia (and I do not hold that site in much respect, to be honest) says,
such closings as “Cordially” or “Best regards”, are always inappropriate for business letters to strangers, and their use may be considered silly and uninformed by the recipient.
For me, “best regards” is a meaningless hybrid of “best wishes” and “kind regards”. I don’t see how regards can be good, better or best, whereas obviously they can be kind.
PS. Your input will help me produce THE best webinar for YOU and your fellow Business Owners and Sales People
45 Postscripts are so vulgar.
I appreciate that the idea is that the writer pulls out the single most important message and repeats it here. Unfortunately, it also comes across as an afterthought—something which the writer forgot to include in the main body of the letter or email—and he, or she, can’t be bothered to revise the text. As with other points in this email, it creates a doubt…
46 I have to say that a strategy of “I am the international expert but I don’t know what to put in my webinar unless you tell me” strikes me as a rather high risk one, but there you go.
Once more, shouting isn’t needed. But, if it has to be there, surely it is “the BEST”, not “THE best”. Also it isn’t necessary to capitalise “Business Owners and Sales People” (and it wasn’t done in para 1 of the email, so there is inconsistency there).
47 Some recipients who do not know Jane will be put out to be referred to by their first name, uninvited, while those that do know Jane are less likely to be put off by being addressed slightly formally, eg Mr Marchant, particularly if, like mine, the acquaintance is slight.
Whilst there’s no substitute for segregating her mailing lists—and no excuse for not doing so—a stopgap salutation which includes the title and surname is better than one which some will see as too informal.
Segregation would allow Jane to send out different texts to different groups. This will allow her to allude to the fact she has met a recipient in the body of the text. I would expect a mailing list of 5000 to be split into as many as ten lists, the members of each of which can be addressed differently according to whether Jane knows them, their market sector and whatever other variables are of interest to Jane
48 “Hi” is not businesslike. To be avoided, if only because some recipients will find it objectionable, and none will complain about being addressed as “Dear…”.
I’m unhappy with a logo (see 7) that
- appears at the top of the email, not in the footer
- contains the sender’s name in by far the largest type of any in the email
The rest of the text is:
International Sales and Marketing Leader
Coach and Speaker
49 I don’t know what ‘international’ is supposed to convey. I have had clients who are employees of international organisations; and one client who lives and works in Australia. Does that make me international? Whether or not it does, is it relevant to my next client, even if they are based outside the UK (where I live and work). The problem is that I think that one is supposed to infer some degree of heightened competence from the word ‘international’ yet, in truth, there is no correlation between the location of clients and the competence of the service provider.
50 ‘Leader’ is also problematic. Leading whom? Leading other sales and marketing coaches and speakers? If so, where’s the evidence? Leading the client? That’s not really a good position for a coach to be in vis à vis clients. In what sense, leading? The traditional definition of being the boss, being the charge doesn’t really cut it. The person others look up to for guidance and motivation? Again, I don’t find anything in the rest of the email that is congruent with this concept.
Given that I deduce that the point of the email is to initiate a little game whose intended outcome is that the reader becomes one of Jane’s clients, it is fair enough to see how well this email might help her in her endeavours to “attract a constant flow of ideal business clients”.
Given that people buy from people, what sort of person does Jane come across as?
51 Well, she certainly puts herself first and is somewhat demanding (no “please”s or “if I may”s). Everything about the email—proposition, style, layout, offering—would be better off if they were thought of holistically, as being all of a piece, and, in particular, cast from the perspective of the recipient’s imagined needs, not those of the sender.
52 On the other hand, she seems surprisingly unsure of her position. I pick this up from vagueness at crucial points (“I am totally committed to changing this situation” [my emphasis]) but more from the relentless hyperbole, inappropriate emphases and some unconvincing wording: “saddened”, “constant flow”, “ideal… clients”, “working really hard”, “ton of information”, “totally committed”, “exact steps”, “ALL the clients you want”, “things YOU need”, “couple of minutes (literally)”, “THE best webinar for YOU” (that’s three: “THE”, “best”, “YOU”).
53 All of this results in text which cannot relate to the real world of the reader. As she chooses not to justify her credentials either, beyond stating in her logo that she is an (the?) “International Sales and Marketing Leader Coach and Speaker”, the only audience which would respond in the way she would like are those in Transylvania.
Except that the purpose of the email is, prima facie, merely to seek assistance. There is a form to fill in. She is asking for no more. Of course, she will take your contact details, she will infer that you are interested in her services, and she might look at the answers to the questions (not that there is much chance of her incorporating all of them precisely into the content of her webinar).
54 Personally, I have a very low threshold of tolerance of people who seek to get into one sort of relationship (service provider and client, in this case) by pretending to be in another (service provider and information provider).
The game plan
In this case, it seems to me that a game might be being played. Something along these lines (notice three levels of disclaimer that this is actually the game Jane is playing):
step 1 – this email
step 2 – punter opens questionnaire and, whether or not he/she fills it in, their contact details are added to a second list.
step 3 – in due course, the webinar is ready and “the details” are sent to the punters in step 2. The email accompanying the links to the webinar will include some justification of why the punter should watch it and the promise that Jane will follow up the webinar in due course.
step 4 – Assuming the punter doesn’t contact Jane first with one of a number of messages (“Go away”, “I might be interested”, “I want to be a client”), Jane follows up the webinar. Did you watch it, was it interesting, what resonated with you?
step 5 – step 4 again.
step 6 – step 5 again.
In this war of attrition, the idea is that, sooner or later, Jane gets to talk to at least some of the punters on the phone. The conversation will largely be about Jane (which Transylvanians will like), touching only a little on the punter’s business issues (this is because, I suspect, comment on those issues should be deemed billable work).
55 It feels to me there is a scarcity model in operation here. Why shout at people, why exaggerate the message to the point of unreality, if you weren’t scared the punter wouldn’t get it if you talked reasonably? The anxiety is, obviously, that, if the punter doesn’t get it, they won’t contact Jane.
The irony is that, shouting at people, exaggerating the message to the point of unreality, is precisely the way to ensure that the punter doesn’t get it, whereas talking reasonably makes it likely they will.
Very curiously, Jane does not provide in her email her telephone numbers, her email address or a link to her website; her postal address is invalid, consisting of the postcode, the county (redundant) and the word “other”. It seems to me that this is about controlling the channels of communication the outside world may use to reach Jane.
But this is an “International Sales and Marketing Leader Coach and Speaker”, so we are entitled to assume that everything in (or not in) the email, including the mistakes and the hyperbole, are there through deliberation and assessment based on knowledge experience and understanding. Otherwise there is a considerable amount incongruity between what is read and what is implied.
A scarcity model—the belief that there is not enough to go around, not enough work, not enough money, not enough love, ultimately—is of course the default mode for the majority of small businesspeople. But it isn’t attractive. It puts people off (if only because, subconsciously, they see themselves when they see it in others).
Potential clients, who are also running a scarcity model, just love it when they come across someone unencumbered by one.
Worse, it’s highly likely that most of Jane’s prospects are running a scarcity model: it is precisely why they are “struggling to attract a regular flow of good enough business clients” (well, it’s one of the reasons).
If the service provider, such as a coach, has the same problem as the prospect, it is likely the prospect will see themselves in the coach and recoil from him or her. It is, I hope, obvious that the coach is unlikely to be able to help the prospect through this and, whatever other things need fixing, if the scarcity model isn’t fixed, both businesses will still struggle. It is like someone seeking to rescue a drowning man by jumping in after him. In all likelihood, a third person will have to rescue them both (by throwing them a line).
Heading: What is stopping you from doubling your business profits?
1. What is the biggest challenge in your business?
Four options are offered, each of which then has some more options offered.
The more I read it, the less sense I find in “the biggest challenge in your business”. Are challenges really “in” businesses? Don’t businesses face challenges?—and, of course, that is just a way of avoiding the issue that, actually, it is the people that have challenges, as Jane correctly writes in the heading, “What is stopping you from doubling your business profits?”
So Q1 should be “What is your biggest challenge in your business?”
This is an important point because businesspeople frequently seek to distance themselves from any understanding that it is they, not their business, who needs to change. And, further, to the extent that a business is, in itself, an abstract concept (OK, it has a legal meaning and, if it is a company, a presence at Companies House), it cannot be changed, in itself; only the people in it can change.
Anything which helps them maintain that distance isn’t helpful; the way these questions are phrased is ambiguous and that just gives the reader a choice in how they will interpret them.
I would have thought that, if the reader knew what the biggest challenge to their business was, they probably wouldn’t need the webinar, but let that pass.
The four options are:
2. Lack of focus and direction
3. Attracting Prospective Clients
I would have thought that should be “Not attracting prospective clients”.
4. Converting prospects into high paying clients
Again, I would have thought that should be “Not converting prospects into high paying clients”. If we’re talking about only doubling profits, then there is no need for “high paying” clients.
5. Increasing repeat and referral business
These are two different things.
Of these four (or five, if you count 5 as two) options, three are to do with technique. Only one (2) is to do with the individual businessperson themselves, and I strongly suspect that the advice that will be given will be behavioural. Techniques are, by definition, behavioural.
I’d like to see in Jane some awareness of, and ability to practise, emotional intelligence. Businesses are, after all, only people—or, rather, they are the relationships between people—and 3, 4 and 5 are directly about developing better relationships with people (whether referral partners, clients or prospects). Of the seventeen options listed under the main four, none have any references to that.
I see that, under Attracting Prospective Clients, one of the options you can tick is, My marketing messages are generic (see 47 above).
It is sad that, under Converting prospects into high paying clients, two of the options are, Overcoming objections and Closing the sale. These concepts are so last century and betray out of date thinking; they betray a lack of awareness of marketing thinking of the past fifteen years; they betray a lack of awareness of EI. In short, they are simply not useful any more (readers wishing to know more are referred to the work of Grant Leboff and others).
Whilst each of the five questions (ie 1-5 above) also has an “any other comments” box, I think Jane will struggle to deal with some of the remarks that could reasonably be entered.
> Steven Pinker, The sense of style (Penguin)—for writing style
> Grant Leboff, Sales therapy (Capstone) and Sticky marketing (Kogan Page)—for sales and marketing
> How the scarcity model affects sales
> How the scarcity model affects business
> story: Ledger
> blog: Shooting yourself in the foot
© 2016 Jeremy Marchant . subbed 25 april 2016 . image: Free images