If you've read Email Persuasion you'll know that I recommend writing your emails in an informal style: as if you were chatting to a good business friend over coffee.
Every now and then I get asked “why?” Especially given that the dominant style of writing business emails is much more “professional” (ie stiff and formal).
My recommendation comes mostly from personal experience. I started getting better results (more interactions and more sales) the more I wrote informally. And partly because writing informally is a generally accepted best practice for sales letters.
But honestly, I wasn't quite sure that was enough. I wanted some real, solid evidence that writing informally worked.
Strangely enough, there seems to have been very little testing done on informal vs formal writing in the marketing world. It's just kind of accepted wisdom that informal works best.
But there has been quite a bit of testing done in other fields, notably in online learning.
The studies they looked at covered four primary aspects of informal vs formal communication:
The use of first/second person vs third person language – ie talking about I/we and you.
Adding sentences which directly address the reader – for example “Let me tell you what happens when lightning forms…”.
The use of polite requests rather than direct commands (e.g. “Why don't we save the factory now?” vs “Save the factory now”) – just like we would do if we were speaking to a friend face to face.
Making the author's view and personality more visible.
Students who studied from more conversational instructions rated them as more friendly and less difficult. And when there was a more personal and conversational style in the writing, students remembered the material better and were able to transfer that knowledge to new problems.
In other words, when it comes to online learning: informal wins.
Got this in my Linkedin Inbox yesterday. It's the first message from someone I connected with a couple of days ago and it's a perfect example of how NOT to build relationships.
First off, it begins with a lie. Or at least an inaccuracy. I didn't reach out to her, she reached out to me to connect.
So immediately I'm on my guard. Either this is a canned message or she's hitting up so many people she can't remember whether she reached out or I did. Or she's trying to fool me into misremembering and thinking I reached out.
Then there's a beautiful line. The sort that annoys the heck out of me.
A couple of years ago a load of emails dropped in my inbox proclaiming “Social Media Doesn't Work”.
It was one of those big product launches. You know the ones where a bunch of gurus cross-promote each other's products in turn to create the sense that everyone is talking about the product and that this is the one you must buy (until the next one comes along).
This one was being promoted with the line that “social media doesn't work” and a link to a video that would explain why.
So, of course, I clicked. Who could resist a controversial subject line and topic like that?
What was the great revelation about social media not working?
Google “free or low cost marketing” and you'll find a zillion websites, books and coaches offering to teach you how to market your business without spending much money.
And while some of the techniques they preach can certainly be useful, I've found that rushing down the “free or low cost” approach can be a huge mistake for most businesses.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating that you splurge a ton of cash on marketing just hoping it'll work for you. A lot of paid advertising is a huge waste of money for consultants and coaches. But “free or low cost” can be equally as damaging in a more insidious way. Here's why…
If you use blogging, article writing or email marketing as one of your main marketing strategies you'll know that one of the biggest roadblocks you face is being able to consistently produce interesting, valuable material that your audience is going to lap up.
Online you're competing against every other source of information your potential clients use. And that means that articles on “working smarter not harder” or revealing that you should be “working on the business, not in the business” aren't going to get you much attention (other than your audience thinking you're rather short of ideas).
Coming up with stunning new insights from nowhere in everything you write is a close to impossible task. But it is possible to feed the content beast by “borrowing” ideas (completely ethically). Here are some of the ways you can do it.
I'm sure you've heard analogies comparing winning clients with dating and relationships before.
Probably they've gone something along the lines of “short term, one night stand pickup stuff is bad, long term lovey dovey courtship and relationship building is good”. In fact I've probably said something similar myself.
It's only part of the story though.
The truth is that sometimes short term pickup style marketing is EXACTLY what you need, and long term courtship will kill you.
You see, there's a huge difference between what I sometimes call “one to many” businesses and “one to few”.
Today's blog post is by Caroline Talbott, leadership coach, author, and long time reader of this blog! Caroline's book Essential Career Transition Coaching Skills was recently published by Routledge.. Over to you Caroline…
We’ve all been told (not least by Ian!) – get yourself known, become a Visible Expert, an ‘Authority’. And we all know that writing a book is a fantastic way to do that – but where do you start?
Here’s the story of how I got mine into print – I hope it’s helpful to you in doing the same.
Myth number 1: Finding a publisher is difficult. Not so in my case – it was about using my network, demonstrating my credibility, taking advice – and persistence.
My book came about when I saw a post in a professional coaching forum from a fellow member who is the Editor of a coaching book series – she was asking for ideas for new titles, I made some suggestions and one of them she liked. I took her advice about how to write the proposal and a sample chapter – she liked that too, and so did the publisher – eventually. It took a lot of waiting, chasing and a little bit of re-positioning. But getting the contract in my hand was a major moment!
So the best tip I can give you is: find someone, using your network, who has a need for what you want to write about (as with any product or service) rather than writing something and THEN trying to find a need…
Myth number 2: Writing a book is hard I must say this is the part I loved! The following are my tips for how I got into the flow and made this enjoyable.
Content: If you choose a subject you are really an authority on you will know what you want to say – and you will move in circles with other experts who have different but equally valid takes on the subject. Tap into their ideas and feature them in the book – you’ll then have a range of interesting perspectives. And also a host of people with a network for promoting your book!
Find your voice: Don’t try and write in some fancy, artificial way that’s not you. Writing a blog is a great way to start and to practice with short pieces – and you get feedback.
Just put yourself out there: There’s also nothing quite like a blog to give you the courage to write down your stuff. I remember the trepidation when I pushed the button to publish my first blog post – and then the adrenalin rush when I saw it on the Internet. You know what you’re talking about so don’t spend hours agonising over “Will other people agree?”. As I’ve learnt from Ian, no one can please everyone and the people who are attracted to you are the ones who will want to read your book and work with you. Take the attitude ‘It’s my book and if I say that’s right – it’s right!’
Getting down to it: Set aside time every day to write (or everyday that it’s physically possible). Our minds are freshest and most creative in the morning so just get up, start writing. Great excuse to hang around in your dressing gown! Begin by writing as a stream of consciousness and then critique it afterwards.
Myth number 3: You’ll be asked to do endless rewrites Not so. After I’d written each chapter I asked fellow coaches to peer review my work. I owed a lot of coffees/lunches etc afterwards but most said how much they enjoyed reading it. The upshot was that there was nothing I had to rewrite, just a few suggestions that were left up to me to use if I wanted to.
Myth number 4: Once it’s written your work is done No, definitely not. The publishers employ a very helpful band of copy editors, proof checkers, co-ordinators etc etc who support you in getting the manuscript ready for printing. But you still need to do a lot of checking yourself to ensure that it’s exactly as YOU intended. I have to say most of this is still something of a mystery to me – and that’s one of the benefits of using a publisher – because if you self publish you have to do all this yourself. And it’s not easy when you have 60,000 words to contend with!
Does all this take a long time? Yes. I was given a year to write my book and then it took almost another year to get it on to the shelves. But it sure is worth it when you get your own printed book in your hand and see it on Amazon, and then read the 5 star reviews!
What would I do differently? I think the one thing I would change is that I would have put less content into this first book. I could then have got it out there faster – and would have more material for a sequel!
So what are you waiting for? The most difficult step is the first one so plan your strategy and get started – there’s no time like now. Why not you, why not now? If not now, then when?
With over 30 years experience in business, Caroline Talbott develops leaders and their organisations through executive coaching, leadership and Organisation Development and change consultancy, and. She is the author of ‘Essential Career Transition Coaching Skills’.
There used to be a time when over the top marketing hype was restricted to get rich quick schemes and the like. But these days it seems to have infiltrated almost every sector.
In my own field there now seem to be daily offers and webinars that promise to teach you how to get floods of clients without selling, make millions in passive income just by knocking up an ebook or online training course, or to make six figures from group coaching just by holding a few webinars.
Of course, none of it works. Or more accurately, it doesn't work for 99% of people who try it. The truth behind these extravagant claims is usually that…
When most of us start out in business, we tend to be time rich and money poor.
Most of the marketing we do tends to be the stuff that we can do for free. But which naturally takes a lot of our time.
Basically, we don't have much marketing leverage.
I remember when I started out on my own nearly 6 years ago. I did what I was taught was the best way to meet new clients: networking.
I went to a couple of events a week at least, hoping to connect with people who needed my services. Over time I got good at it, and I got smart: I focused my networking on events where there'd be a decent number of potential clients or referrers in attendance.
What I found took the biggest toll on my time though was the follow up.
Networking best practice, I was taught, was all about arranging a follow-up meeting with likely looking businesses to discuss how we might be able to help each other out.