As the TV show Mad Men demonstrates, the world of advertising in the 60s was a pretty interesting place to be. And one of the most interesting guys in the field was Eugene Schwartz.
He was one of the highest paid copywriters in the business, and billed himself as the hardest working.
Decades before anyone else was getting into it, Schwartz was using techniques learned from Zen Masters to enhance his output. He used a method uncannily similar to the recently published Pomodoro Technique for productivity. And his method for fueling his creativity matches up to techniques taught today.
He used those techniques to get very rich working only 3 hours a day, 5 days a week, and spending the rest of his time collecting art (and giving much of it away to museums).
And in his book Breakthrough Advertising, published in 1967 (and which sold for up to $900 until it was recently republished) he wrote some deeply profound words about marketing.
Here's one quote I keep coming back to:
Let’s get to the heart of the matter. The power, the force, the overwhelming urge to own that makes advertising work, comes from the market itself, and not from the copy.
Copy cannot create desire for a product. It can only take the hopes, dreams, fears and desires that already exists in the hearts of millions of people, and focus those already existing desires onto a particular product.
Schwartz was talking about advertising, but what he says applies to all marketing.
And it explains why most of us find marketing and selling so painful.
Most of us imagine that our job in marketing is to persuade. To convince a potential client that they want what we've got. To create a desire for our services.
And we feel bad about that because it feels manipulative. We're trying to push them from where they are to where we are.
But Schwartz says that doesn't work. We can't create desire. Instead we need to channel the desires they already have.
Instead of pushing them from where they are to where we are, we go to where they already are. We show them how what we've got satisfies that desire.
We don't push. We uncover.
And, of course, if what we've got doesn't satisfy their desire, we move on. Because there's no point trying to persuade them that actually they should want what we've got. We can only channel what they aready want.
So in a nutshell, Schwartz has given us the clue not only to marketing that isn't painful and salesy. But to marketing that actually works.
I've talked a lot on this blog about “Value In Advance” marketing: building credibility and trust with potential clients by giving them some way of sampling what it is you do.
When I switched from more traditional forms of marketing (telling people how great I am) to Value In Advance marketing (demonstrating it instead) I saw a huge turnaround in the number of qualified, high quality leads I was generating.
And when I discuss this strategy with professionals they can all see how effective it can be – in theory.
But they often highlight a number of barriers that they think will prevent them from adopting the strategy.
Perhaps you're thinking of these too.
The first is that they don't know what to create as a “lead magnet” to share with potential clients.
The second is that they don't think they have the expertise: they're good at what they do but don't consider themselves thought leaders.
The third is that they don't have the time to create their lead magnet (or they're just not good at writing).
What to create as a Lead Magnet.
In summary, the key is to brainstorm the typical challenges your clients have (that you can help with) and identify what I call the “first speedbump” in their journey to solving them.
So if you're a leadership coach, for example, you might decide that the first thing your clients need to do is build their own confidence before working on specific leadership skills.
Focus your lead magnet on this first speedbump – it'll be the most pressing issue on the minds of the biggest number of your potential clients.
But I'm not a Thought Leader.
Putting aside the fact that “thought leader” is such a misused phrase these days it's become meaningless – the truth is that you don't need to be the world's leading expert on a topic to produce something of genuine value to your potential clients.
You do need to know your stuff. You can't just make it up or be “one week ahead” of your clients.
But almost every professional I speak to has significant knowledge of great value to their potential clients.
Most of out clients don't need or want to know the latest leading edge theories in your field.
They want simple, practical ideas that will get them results.
That's what you should focus your lead magnet on.
I'm not good at writing and I just don't have the time.
Although a written report is the most common format for a lead magnet – it's far from the only one – or even the most effective one.
And there are far less time-consuming ways of developing a lead magnet.
A series of short bullet point tips can be hugely useful to clients, for example.
If you do work that's visual or online, you can record a “screen cast” of you at work (for example, creating a sales letter if you're a copywriter) and commenting on what and why you're doing it.
If you do design work, do a critique of 5 good and 5 bad designs in your field (e.g. websites) and write that up (or again, make a screen recording of you doing it online).
Make an audio or video recording of your thoughts on a speciic topic. It doesn't have to be word perfect – as long as the content is solid.
So please, don't let these barriers stand in the way of implementing this hugely powerful marketing approach.
Quite a bit of the training and coaching work I do is to help professionals improve their selling skills to close more business.
It's an area where many people feel unfomfortable – they don't want to be too pushy or “salesy”.
And there are indeed techniques and approaches which can improve your conversion rate by improving the way you interact with potential clients in sales meetings.
But often there's something else you can do. Something that can have an even bigger impact than any sales technique.
Let's do a little exercise.
Think about the very best ever sales meeting you’ve had. A meeting with a potential client that was incredibly pleasant, where you felt really engaged, and where the client emerged enthusiastic and signed up to work with you right away.
Visualise it now.
Now rather than thinking about what you did in that meeting, I want you to think about the characteristics of the client you were meeting with. What was it about them that made the meeting go so well?
Chances are, they had most of the following factors:
They had a genuine problem or issue that you could help with
The issue was important to them – it had a big impact
You could add a tremendous amount of value to them
They were able to easily afford your services
They respected your expertise – they saw you as an authority in your field
They trusted you – they weren’t second guessing what you were saying and your motives
You got on well – your personalities and communication styles clicked
Let’s call these types of people your high potential prospects.
Here’s one of the big secrets to having more successful sales meetings.
Your success at winning clients is less to do with what you do in your sales meetings and much more to do with having the meeting with the right person.
If you can sit down with a high potential prospect: someone who has a genuine need for what it is you do, who feels the urgency of that need, who trusts in you and believes in your capabilities – then you are very likely to get a sale.
Conversely, if you meet with people who don’t have an urgent need, or who don’t perceive you to be an expert at what you do – then no matter what clever sales techniques you might use, you’re going to struggle to sell. It’s going to be painful.
Now, if you're a huge company – IBM, say – then you don't have much choice. You pretty much need to sell to everyone to keep up your market share and revenues.
But for most of us, that's not the case. Most of us only need a handful of good clients every year to do very well indeed.
We have a choice. We don't have to try to sell to everyone.
One of the characteristics of a consultant or coach with an inadequate marketing system in place is that they have very few high quality leads, and spend a lot of painful time trying to sell to the few they do have. Most of whom aren't anywhere near the high potential prospects we thought about earlier.
With a strong marketing system, the people you're meeting are a good fit to that high potential prospect profile. They're a pleasure to meet with and talk to, and they're much, much easier to sell to.
So next time you lose a sale, or are considering doing something to improve your selling skills, take a step back.
Is the issue really your selling skills?
Think about your most recent sales meetings. Have the people across the other side of the table looked like those high potential prospects you visualised earlier?
If they haven't, then chances are the issue is really your marketing system.
Chances are you're just not selling to the right people.