It's easy to get caught up in endless theory, and difficult to pull practical marketing techniques out of the fluff that permeates the books, blog posts, and podcasts available today.
Earlier this year (in my annual review) I committed to learn with greater focus throughout 2016.
Practically, that means for the first quarter of the year I had a single focus―marketing.
Progress Report: My First Focused Learning Semester
For my first attempt at this type of focus, I had moderate success.
My goal was for 90% of the books, blog posts, podcasts, and other content I consumed to be related directly to marketing in some way.
While I did a pretty good job of maintaining that focus, I didn't cover as much material as I would have liked to by the end of month three.
That said, each book that I did finish seemed to complement the others in a way that got my marketing gears turning.
The best unexpected benefit I found in this experience was that it was much easier than usual to ignore blog posts, podcasts, or recommended books that didn't fall into my marketing lens.
The Five Marketing Books That Led to This Post
- 80/20 Sales and Marketing by Perry Marshall
- Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff
- Permission Marketing by Seth Godin
- To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink
- Epic Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi
Best non-book resource: The Building a Story Brand Podcast[/su_note]
Actionable Marketing Techniques
1. Make Every Subject Line Either Useful or Intriguing―Not Both
When customers sit down to check their overflowing inbox, they are selective in what content they consume.
Your audience typically falls into one of two broad categories of motivation.
A) They're motivated by extrinsic needs, such as utility (“What can this do for me?“), or
B) They're motivated by intrinsic needs, such as curiosity (“This looks interesting, what's it about?“)
Typically, which category a customer falls into depends on their email load and attention span combined with other factors like time of day, how they check email, etc.
Use a reader survey to get a clear audience profile, so you'll know whether to write subject lines that are obviously useful (“Create and launch an online course in just 30 days”) or mysteriously intriguing (“You won't believe how fast we launched our last course”).
2. Focus on Experience more than Features for Whatever You Sell
You may have heard the expression “People don't buy drills, they buy holes in wood” which is clever, but not 100% true.
People don't really buy holes in wood, they buy new storage space in their garage or a fun project with their son, which the drill makes possible in the end.
In the majority of consumer purchases, buying decisions are made based on anticipated experiences.
If you're selling an online course, don't focus on the fact that your course includes 25 lessons that are each less than ten minutes long. Position your course as the means to experience real change in your customer's life because of what you provide.
3. Add A Negative Clause to Your Sales Page to Persuade Your Customer to Buy
This was the most counter-intuitive piece of marketing insight I ran across, but it's brilliant.
As it turns out, if your sales page is full of nothing but examples of how your product is great, customers may start to wonder if what you offer is too good to be true.
In many cases, adding a single disclaimer or negative clause can actually reassure your customer that your product is realistic, and help them decide to buy in the end.
Consider adding a section to your sales page that reads “This Product is Not For You If…” or mentioning a limitation on the content inside your course.
Of course, be sparing. If you provide too much negative information you'll be giving people reasons to avoid buying from you.
4. Date Your Customer to Develop a Lasting Relationship
The central message of Seth Godin's Permission Marketing is worth repeating because it's so powerful―yet simple to understand.
“If you want to create sustainable business, start by dating your customer.”
In the world of email lists and social media, much of what we do comes back to Permission Marketing.
Every time someone signs up for your email list or follows you on any social media site, they're giving you a basic level of permission.
Once you recognize that, it's your responsibility to care for that permission and nurture that relationship into something deeper (which ultimately may lead to a sale or multiple sales).
Seth Godin's 5-Step Process for Getting the Customer to Say “I Do”
- Offer an incentive (such as an ebook or other free download)
- Educate the customer about your products (your onboarding email sequence)
- Reinforce the incentive (offer a next-level resource or related freebies packed with value)
- Increase your level of permission (gather data and deepen your customer engagement)
- Leverage your permission into a profitable win-win scenario.[/su_note]
5. Rely Heavily on Data in Marketing, Rather Than Trusting Your Gut
This was a common theme throughout many of the marketing resources I consumed over the last three months.
Effective marketing is a science, which relies heavily on analytics, systems, and specialized skills.
As one example, check out what data you can learn from people's searches using Google Trends:
There's a lot of skill involved with using each dataset or system. Rather than trying to learn every skill-set at once, you need to hyper-focus on one specialty at a time.
Whether that's list-building, copywriting, or any other marketing skill, you need to pick one.
If you're considering the writing side of marketing (or just want to learn more), check out Copywriting 101―this month's new tutorial series.