We Need to Talk About Your Promotions…

How Business Owners Can Write a Kickass Sales Argument

Business owners are (sometimes!) terrible at talking about who they are and what they do. Mostly, they struggle to make what they do interesting to other people.

This lack of understanding is a problem.

If you don’t know what people are actually interested in, how well do you think you are marketing to them?

Not well, is the answer.

There is a better way, though…

We need to talk about your promotional marketing messages.

Specifically, I’m going to help you write more persuasive sales emails, but this skill will also transfer over to any other marketing channel you use :)

Let’s say you have a coupon for your business and today you’re sitting down to write an email to your customers about it…

What do you do?

As a crutch to fill up some space in the email, you may plug your favorite blog post that you wrote this month and lead with that. Drop the coupon somewhere in the middle, almost as an afterthought, and then roll into sharing another 2 or 3 posts.

Business owners who don’t particularly enjoy talking about what they do, or don’t understand how to communicate it in an interesting way to others, can wind up writing an email without a clear objective.

The problem with this is having several, unrelated calls to action is confusing for the reader.

Too many calls to action, will lead to inaction.

On top of that, because you spent the majority of the email talking about unrelated topics — you didn’t bother to explain why someone should spend their money with you.

Today, I’m going to show you a better way of talking about yourself in your marketing.

By following the steps I’m about to describe to you, I have been able to get at least 1%+ click through rate on every list I’ve written for that’s under 500. (Click through rates do drop as the list size grows, after a certain point.)

Results from one of the autoresponders I did, the fact that they were all previous customers contributed to the high open rates. Slightly blurry, I don’t have access to the list anymore and this is from a Google Doc :)

If your click through rates are lower than 1% (and the list is small) you’re either not getting the right people on your list — or you’re not communicating with them properly.

From lists I own, much better! (Note: BurgBox is no longer a functioning business. It was a subscription box, the list had ~200 emails before I cleaned it — but I still can do reports from the individual emails I sent out.)

P.S. Thanks to Daniel for inspiring me with his quote “Without data, it’s just your opinion” to share my own email marketing results :D


Why do you market?

What’s the job of your marketing?

It’s not to create “brand awareness”. It’s not just to make you feel fancy about your business, and it’s certainly not to win any awards.

Your marketing only has one job: to create customers.

Most business owners have taken their eye off this goal…

There are two main camps of business owners:

  • The ones who don’t understand the value marketing brings to their business, and so their marketing is an afterthought.
  • The ones who care too much about its reflection on their company, and stress over saying the wrong thing so their marketing ultimately doesn’t say anything.

When you’re preparing to send a piece of marketing into the world, you can think about it as trying to lay out a convincing argument for the reader to buy your product.

Like a lawyer, you’re trying to convince the reader to render a verdict.
Except, instead of guilty/not guilty you’re trying to get the reader to judge whatever you’re promoting as useful/not useful.

Thinking about your marketing communications this way will lead you to make different decisions than before.

Let’s go back to the earlier example.

You have created a discount coupon, and you’re writing an email to convince readers to use it.

Does it still make sense to link out to those 3 different blog posts?


How to Write a Sales Argument

How you’re going to convince someone to buy your product, is to give them a clear understanding of how it fits into their life.

We’re going to go over techniques to help you identify the problems your customers face, the “downside” of what they’re losing by not buying, and the “upside” of what they’ll gain by buying.

After teasing out these 3 things, you’ll easily be able to put together a cohesive story around (whatever you’re promoting).

Each step will have a section where I’ll discuss higher level concepts, and then walk you along how I incorporated these concepts into one specific example.

At the end I’ll show you the full text of the example, so you can reference it when you’re trying to create your own story ideas for your promotional communications :)


The Problem

When you’re selling something, the customer wants to know that you’re capable of addressing their specific problem.

How can you signal to them your experience?

One way to do this is by leading your email with a vivid picture of their problem.

Copywriters do this all the time in something called the Problem-Agitate-Solution formula. You might want to take a look at some PAS guides for more inspiration on painting the problem’s picture.

You don’t always have to start it with a question, or stick to a strict PAS format — but that path should give you plenty of examples whenever you’re stuck on how to phrase something.

Action step: Identify their problems

The internet is also going to be a wealth of information for you.

Open up a blank Word Doc (or grab a pen and paper), and start typing terms related to what you’re selling into Google.

Specifically, focus on forum style websites — or websites where user comments are the bulk of the information.

Look for user-written content and write down events that happened to them which stood out to you. You’re trying to basically put together a Google Doc of potential “plot points” for you to use during your story.

I’m going to introduce some text from the example email in a second, but first I wanted to touch on how I did the research.

The example email is going to be about plumbing.

I don’t know a lot about plumbing, so what I was Googling for was basically to find out what exactly happens when people experience a problem?

I wound up relying a lot on Angie’s List, Reddit, and Stack Exchange (specifically this DIY Stack Exchange section).

What I learned from my research:

What I wrote in my own Word Doc looked a little something like notating that multiple appliances would be clogged (in this plumbing situation), black water, dirty water, strange pipe noises, someone’s bathtub was so full of water it was about to overflow.

I’m pointing out to you what stood out in my own research, because I want you to pay close attention to how I wound up using these details in the beginning of the copy:

“Does your toilet smell bad, no matter HOW often you clean it?

This isn’t just any old bad, but stomach churning, nose wrinkling sewage bad…

Or how about this:

Imagine that you’re waking up on a Monday morning. It’s a regular day, you’re about to get ready for work just like any other day.

A weird smell wafts into your room, and you hear a concerning gurgling noise groaning from your bathroom…

You explode out of bed and frantically run to check on the bathroom, only to find disgusting, dirty, black water gushing out of your drain ready to spill over the edge of your bathtub!”


The Downside

I wanted to clarify something. This isn’t a prescription on the order that you need to arrange the sections in.

PAS, that’s a formula that is asking for the elements to be in a specific order.

That’s not the case here. All I’m saying is that you need a clear understanding of the problem, the downside, and the upside to be able to create a thorough sales argument.

Otherwise I would tell you to test, test, test! Write A/B tests of the content, try writing 2 different stories that tie into your offer and seeing which performs better.

I couldn’t tell you what order to arrange the elements would work best for you, because every list is different. Split testing the content, and experimenting with different ways of organizing your stories will give you the most accurate answer.

Anyway, when I’m talking about “the downside” I would catalogue every possible negative to not buying your product.

Think of what they’re missing out on (good results), but also what the risks are of not changing.

If you’re selling a weight loss product, it’s probably pretty clear to you what the risk of not changing is for your market. “If you don’t lose weight, you’re going to suffer through health issues — and you won’t be around as long for your family.”

If you’re selling a commodity, maybe the downside doesn’t feel as clear to you.

But there is one, you’re just going to have to dig a little deeper to find it.

One fallback is always the good old FOMO — fear of missing out.

(Note: Below I embedded a dope podcast if you wanted to learn more about FOMO)

For another downside, just look back to the purpose of you emailing. If the purpose of your email (or other marketing communication) is to promote your Mother’s Day sale then part of the downside for your reader can be about how disappointed their mom will be if they don’t get her anything, for an off the cuff example.

Action Step: Dig for The Downside

In your Word Doc (or on your paper), you’ll want to make a new section where you can brainstorm The Downside.

Spent 5–10 minutes really doing a brain dump of all the angles for a downside.

Feel free to make it a combination of your own ideas, potentially knowledge you have from your customers (depending on what they’ve told you), and don’t be afraid to turn to the internet for more ideas!

In the example email, actually all of my knowledge of the downside came from internet research since I don’t know that much about plumbing.

“The Downside” is peppered in throughout the copy (rather than being a block section), but here they are pulled out:

“Most homeowners unfortunately wait until it’s too late to have their annual plumbing inspection though, and have to deal with the costly and serious repairs from a severe plumbing problem — like a clogged sewer drain.”

And

“Just the cost to repair a sewer main will run you over $2,437, without the cost of even repairing the damage to your home.”


The Upside

Now flip perspectives, and catalogue everything the reader stands to gain from doing business with you.

This can be benefits that your product will give them, painting a picture of their problem being solved (“Ah and think of how good you’ll feel when you’re finally WHAT YOU WANT and don’t have the pain of dealing with YOUR PROBLEM anymore”), as well as comparisons between your product to other product categories (eg spending $500 on a fitness program doesn’t seem so crazy if losing weight will spare you $4,000 in medical bills).

A benefit is not a product feature.

The difference is that a product feature is a physical attribute of your product (it’s lightweight), and a benefit is the customer’s benefit from that feature (no more struggling with our competitor’s heavy options).

Here is an example of the difference between benefits vs product features from my article on cognitive biases:

“Take out a pen and a paper and list out all of the features of your product.
Let’s use a Swiss Army knife as a quick example.
What are the features of a Swiss Army knife?
It has a screwdriver, scissors, pliers, maybe a bottle opener, it’s small, it doesn’t break easily, it doesn’t rust (I think).
Now take each individual product feature that you have listed out, and for each single line item write out a story about how that feature helped someone.”

Here’s the example copy:

“Bob was on a camping trip with his children one day. Just him, and his two sons Luke and Trey enjoying some crisp clear water and the great outdoors. After not too long, they got their first carp on the line! It was the BIGGEST carp that Luke had ever caught, and that beast really put up a fight. It took all 3 of them to reel that bad boy in! Luke and Trey get a hold on the wriggling monster, and are trying to hold it still while their dad searches for something to pull the hook out. While Bob is frantically searching their car and their gear bags for the pliers, he has the sinking feeling in his stomach that he must have forgot them at home…. Right as he’s fretting he’ll have to tell his sons that they won’t be able to eat the carp just yet, Bob REMEMBERS something… He threw his Swiss Army knife in his pocket on the way out the door! Because it was so easy to grab his Swiss Army knife without a second thought, Bob’s fishing day with his sons was saved! And they had a happy time for the rest of the day.”
For some of the product features, you may have feedback from customers or know their stories of what their favorite features are.
If you don’t have a ton of feedback for a particular line item, you’re the business owner! Your product is lightweight. Great. Why is that a desirable design feature? Do people struggle with competitors products who are too heavy? What was the functional reason behind the feature, and create a story around that.”

If you wanted to get a better understanding of what type of benefits people get from buying something, you should check out this guide on it too.

Action Step: Reach for The Upside

Logging the benefits, and being clear on what is and is not a benefit, in The Upside section will be an amazing reference while you’re writing your story around your promotion.

Use your personal knowledge from customers, first hand experience, and internet research to put together a list of mouthwatering upsides to doing business with you.

You can also include every detail that is necessary as far as educating the customer where your service fits into their lives.

Here’s how I wound up doing it in my short sample email (again, it’s not in a block — the info is several points through the message):

“Most homeowners don’t know this, but you shouldn’t wait until an emergency just to call the plumber.

You shouldn’t even wait until you have “A little problem that you should get checked out”.

Homeowners actually need their plumbing inspected AT LEAST once a year, to keep your pipes in tip top shape.”

And

“I also know that a plumber can seem like an expense to most homeowners without a clear return. I want to emphasize to you that getting your plumbing inspected once a year could save you thousands of dollars.”


Pulling it All Together

Honestly, when you have a Word Doc where you have followed all 3 action steps and compiled the information together as I’ve directed — the story will jump out at you itself.

It will be incredibly easy, and natural for you to imagine several ways you can combine the information you’ve gathered into an on-topic story!

I’m going to show you the full copy of the example email now.

In the previous sections I wanted to draw attention and comment on specific aspects of the thought behind the copy.

Now as you read this whole text, I want you to absorb the “flow” — and how I organized plot points to create one story arc that leads directly into offering a call to action to use the coupon:

“Hey FNAME/Hey there,
Does your toilet smell bad, no matter HOW often you clean it?
This isn’t just any old bad, but stomach churning, nose wrinkling sewage bad…
Or how about this:
Imagine that you’re waking up on a Monday morning. It’s a regular day, you’re about to get ready for work just like any other day.
A weird smell wafts into your room, and you hear a concerning gurgling noise groaning from your bathroom…
You explode out of bed and frantically run to check on the bathroom, only to find disgusting, dirty, black water gushing out of your drain ready to spill over the edge of your bathtub!
Most homeowners don’t know this, but you shouldn’t wait until an emergency just to call the plumber.
You shouldn’t even wait until you have “A little problem that you should get checked out”.
Homeowners actually need their plumbing inspected AT LEAST once a year, to keep your pipes in tip top shape.
Most homeowners unfortunately wait until it’s too late to have their annual plumbing inspection though, and have to deal with the costly and serious repairs from a severe plumbing problem — like a clogged sewer drain.
I definitely don’t want to see that happen to you.
I also know that a plumber can seem like an expense to most homeowners without a clear return. I want to emphasize to you that getting your plumbing inspected once a year could save you thousands of dollars.
Just the cost to repair a sewer main will run you over $2,437, without the cost of even repairing the damage to your home.
Have you had your annual plumbing inspection yet?
If you still need your annual plumbing inspection (or any other plumbing services), here’s my gift to you…
[THE COUPON]”

What’s next?

Here are some great next steps to learn more about making storytelling work for you in your marketing, if you enjoyed this guide :)

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