This is part one of a three-part series on how to profitably translate advice from old-school marketing guru Dan Kennedy to a new online environment.
Dan Kennedy is the Sovereign of Sales Letters. (Or maybe that’s the Duke of Direct Response.) He knows exactly how to deliver a marketing message with maximum clarity and zero confusion. As he’ll readily tell you, he’s one of the world’s highest-paid copywriters. His classic book The Ultimate Marketing Plan promises low-cost ideas and high-profit results.
This book delivers on both counts, and it’s well worth the read. But it was written in 1991, and at first seems like it’s more relevant to a restaurant or dry cleaner than it is to an online marketer.
If you have a hard time translating bricks-and-mortar advice to your internet business, well, just be glad we’ve got Copyblogger.
The Ultimate Marketing Plan walks you through the 14 steps Kennedy considers necessary to build a bulletproof marketing plan that can help you to explode your business.
And this post will tell you how to translate those to what you’ve been up to.
Dan Kennedy’s 14 Steps to the Ultimate Marketing Plan
1. Putting together the right message
This is your business’s Unique Selling Proposition, boys and girls.
The principles behind the USP have been talked to death. You can call it the Purple Cow, your market position, your winning difference, or just the answer to Why Should Anyone Read Your Blog?
The reason the USP has been talked to death is that this core idea is essential to effective marketing.
Even though defining your USP is one of the best places to start when you’re building a solid marketing plan, it also seems to be one of the easiest places for people to get lost.
Kennedy defines the USP this way:
When you set out to attract a new, prospective customer to your business for the first time, there is one, paramount question you must answer:
“Why should I choose your business/product/service versus any/every other competitive option available to me?”
Kennedy, in his characteristically cranky style, has also been known to call this “justifying your reason to exist.”
You must know the facts, features, benefits, and promises that your business makes — inside-out, upside-down, backwards, forwards, and sideways. Because if you can’t clearly articulate what makes your business unique, how can you expect anyone else to care?
You will need to crow about your business if you expect it to expand, but it’s pivotal that you are trumpeting the right things.
The right USP coupled with the right offer, especially at the right time and place, is important for any business. For a business fighting for attention with millions of other blogs all over the world, it’s essential.
2. Presenting your message
Regardless of where you choose to market your product or service, there is a right and a wrong way to deliver your message.
According to Kennedy, the customer has five mental steps to take between first contact and completing the sale.
- Awareness of a need or desire
- Picking the thing that will satisfy that desire
- Picking the source for that thing
- Accepting the price/value argument
- Finding reasons to act immediately
Let’s say your particular product is a vacation package that includes a seven-day cruise.
Pictures of an island paradise might spark initial desire, while shots of a cruise ship will put a finer point on the new longing. Information about what makes your company’s cruises different will let the prospect know that you’re the right source to satisfy their craving.
Copy that paints a picture of all the fun to be had as well as the tremendous value of the package, backed by proof (user testimonials and pictures both work great), will serve to convince your prospect that his money will be well spent.
Finally, a special, a limited time offer, or perhaps a coupon or room upgrade, will help to get the deal done today rather than . . . never.
Whether you’re online or off, it’s your job to lead the prospect through these five points. Without clear road signs, your prospect will get lost.
3. Choosing the right audience
Who you don’t serve is every bit as important as who you do. It is always okay to trim the tribe.
Let’s say you’re planning to open a steakhouse. What do you think is most important to a spectacular opening day?
- Elegant decor?
- A well-trained staff?
- Ample parking?
- A robust menu?
- Reasonable prices?
- Delicious food?
The answer: None of the above.
The best thing you could possibly have when cutting the ribbon at your new steakhouse is a starving, steak-hungry crowd with a growl in their collective belly.
Which means you don’t want to send your marketing message to vegetarians or calorie counters.
When it comes to reaching your audience online, you’ve got to find the equivalent of those hungry carnivores.
A blog that tries to speak to everyone will find few, if any, readers. It’s always smart to choose a general topic that’s got wide appeal. But within that topic, the tighter your focus, the easier it will be to grow an enthusiastic base of readers, then customers.
4. Proving your case
It seems every decade makes us more jaded. The Internet has only accelerated the process. Your marketing messages needs to survive a lot of cold, hard skepticism.
Some people might argue that you should never put negative thoughts into your customer’s head.
You won’t be.
You’re simply addressing what’s already there.
You cannot ignore this step. Proving your case will get you a lot farther along on your way to making the sale.
Address objections. Your prospect may desperately want your fantastic online cooking course, but she’s got a list of objections holding her back. Fortunately, we’re no longer in Kennedy’s 1991, where you had to use a photocopied 16-page letter to tackle each objection. These days you can do it in blog posts, email autoresponder sequences, and with virtually any form of social media.
Social proof is key. You’ll notice up there in the left-hand corner, that Copyblogger proudly advertises its 100,000-plus subscribers. That’s not bragging. It’s a decisive emotional trigger. Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd.
Gather testimonials. Happy, satisfied customers can be a magnet for more. What others say about you will always carry a much higher impact than what you say about yourself. While it’s a great idea to put customer testimonials on your own site, you also want to always be aware of what people are saying about you off your site.
Pictures tell a story. Before-and-after, shots of the product in use, or bright smiles on the faces of satisfied customers. Seeing is believing. If you can prove your point with pictures, you’ll go a long way toward silencing the skeptic. Images can also set a powerful mood, which gives your copy an instant emotional charge.
5. Putting your best foot forward
Like it or not, first impressions matter.
If you run a brick-and-mortar business, make sure your store is squeaky clean. Freshly washed windows and a floor you could eat off of will help to create an environment that’s conducive to sales.
Believe it or not, the same holds true online.
If you’re using WordPress for your business, make sure you’ve got a great-looking theme that’s well optimized for SEO. (As you might guess, we’re rather partial to Thesis.) Even if you’re on a budget, you will still be able to do some basic customization.
Make sure your layout is simple and clean. Emphasize your USP with a strong tagline. Be sure your page instantly conveys how you can benefit your reader and potential customer.
When you can afford it, have someone customize your site in a way that’s unique to you and your business.
Either way, if your website is your business, it should look its absolute best. Fortunately, for a tiny fraction of what bricks-and-mortar businesses pay in rent, you can have a “storefront” that shows you’re serious, professional, and worthy of your customers’ business.
(In case you think I’m not too good at counting, the other 9 lessons gleaned from The Ultimate Marketing Plan will come in two future posts. The links to the book are Amazon affiliate links, which means if you buy it, I’ll be able to buy a pack of gum! Put any of this advice into action and you should get quite a lot more out of the deal.)