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Friday, January 25, 2013

Your Own Drum

What I'm reading: Netherland by Joseph O'Neill
What's on the iPod: The Wild Hunt by The Tallest Man on Earth

writing, client, freelance
Yesterday was a bit of a blur, though a relatively nice one. For a day that wasn't littered with projects, I felt like I'd done quite a bit of work. I had lunch with a friend, got some birthday gifts bought on the way out of the cafe, and headed home to get a project Anne and I are hammering out revised a bit. I'm still feeling kind of lousy, but I'm medicating for the infection. I hope it takes just one round of antibiotics. Sinus infections can be stubborn.

As we talked yesterday, Anne and I came to the topic of sales pages. She and I have been looking at various website sales pages, and there seems to be two camps on how sales pages are better written. One camp believes long, detailed and rich in personality. The other camp believes short, to the point, and with an eye to the brand.

Depending on whatever guru you happen to listen to, you're going to hear their own version of what's the "right" way of doing things. Honestly, I know what I like personally and what I will never, ever click on. I know what it takes to get someone like me to part with cash. That's how I write my sales pitches-- from that perspective. Mine is a bullshit-free zone.

But which do I like?

Doesn't matter what I like. It's what you like that matters, especially if I'm selling to you. So if I want to sell to you, whose advice should I listen to?

Yours, of course.

That's where I part ways with many of the self-proclaimed experts on sales methods. If I follow their tried-and-true method, I'm sure to sell to you. Why? Because they say so? And how would they know what you, my customer, wants?

They don't.

So if you're trying to sell to your client base, here are some things to keep in mind:

Be a learner, not a lemming. It's okay to mirror someone else's methods and try on different ways to sell. It's not okay to do it exactly like so-and-so because so-and-so says to. That's not reason enough to ignore your audience. Learn the basics, but don't forget to grow beyond them.

Put your clients' needs first. Always. I send out letters of introduction and queries my way, and while you can mimic that to get started, know that those letters are also sent out the way my client needs to see them. That means I tweak them to fit each client personally. So if I'm sending a letter to an insurance client, your letter to a consumer-facing retail client is probably not going to read the same.

Be yourself, not myself. For the very reason my LOIs and queries work for me they may not work for you. That's because they're not your personality. I may take more liberties (or fewer, depending) than you would, or I may wear my confidence closer to the vest (or all out) than you're comfortable doing. When you're writing any sales material at all, put it in your own voice and within your own boundaries.

Stand out from the rest. That goes along with not being a lemming. Suppose I learn how to write a brochure that gets attention. Great! Oh wait, not great. That same place I learned how to write that brochure has taught about 3,000 other people how to write it exactly the same way. So how is my brochure going to be different? If I don't go beyond the template approach taught to me, it won't be. Never be afraid to put your own spin on things or draw outside the lines.

Change when the clients demand it. That fantastic brochure you paid six consultants to teach you to make  got you some great response rates. Then it started dropping off. Here you sit a year later and what? No one answers you? Your potential clients are sending you a clear message -- they want information in a different way. So why not listen?

How do you follow the beat of your own drum?


Devon Ellington said...

I create jobs in organizations that excite me by convincing them that they can't live without me! ;)

Cathy Miller said...

Oh doing things like annoying people with my #FF :-)

Sorry my sicky self missed the sales pages post. I am so right there with you about hating the supposed wisdom of looong sales pages. And that you have to click to yet another page to find out how much the frickin' thing costs.

I also agree that in the end, it's what your client wants that matters. For example, I have clients who make readers provide contact information to have access to their case studies. Personally, I think that's a big mistake. I understand they are looking to capture leads, but I'd love to know how many they lose by the requirement. But, it's their choice.

I follow the beat of my own drum by putting my Keep it simple spin on it - even if it turns out the client wants the long version. ;-)

Paula said...

One thing I try to do is to keep the "me, me, me" part of a query or LOI as low key as possible. No one wants to hear someone ramble on about themselves. They want to know how they stand to benefit if they hire you.

It never hurts to ask a simple question either. That shows you're interested in what the potential client has to say, but it also can start a discussion.

Lori said...

And they know it, Devon. :) Smart companies.

Cathy, you troublemaker! LOL I think the long-winded pages probably worked one time somewhere, but they ring false to me. I loathe them. I'd rather show paying customers for $X you get Y, Z, A, B.... none of the "Gee, how would you like to know everything I can possibly say on one topic?" I've never understood that approach.

Paula, I love it. The discussion has to be part of it or what's the point?

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