[Book Review] Sell With A Story

In the past, my experience with story-selling books and courses have not been great. This could be my own mental block. In my mind, you’re either a story-teller or you’re not. And, I think it’s not that easy to teach people to become story-tellers. It’s a challenging skill to master.

As you can imagine, this made me quite skeptical when I got a review copy of Sell With A Story by Paul Smith. This is not Smith’s first book on using stories. He also authored Lead with a Story and Parenting with a Story, but I’ve read neither. This is my first introduction to his books.

Overall, I enjoyed his writing style. Simple and easy to follow. I also loved the format of the book which is more like a workbook. There is “homework” at the end of each chapter which is very helpful. I appreciated the many examples and how he lead me through the methods of identifying what’s a story and what’s not. It was clear, and it clicked for me.

Then I got to the part where we were to create a short, concise story to introduce ourselves and what we do. Oh boy! This is a challenge because I do so many things. I’ve always failed at creating an elevator speech. Plus, my feeble attempts using a story as an introduction always seem to drag on.

The example he used to teach how to create this intro story is super helpful. Using that, I believe I now have a simple, direct and short intro story. It’s still a little rough at the edges but definitely a lot easier to tell people what I do without their eyes glazing over. Because… you know, tech tends to do that.

The target audience for this book is sales professionals. Not so much digital marketers, or entrepreneurs. Still, I found it pretty helpful to craft easy to understand, engaging stories in explaining complex things. I think it can be quite helpful for writing blog posts too.

The book is scheduled to release September 2016 but you can get a copy now.

6 Reasons Why Outsourcing Hurts For You And How To Get It Right

6 Reasons Why Outsourcing Hurts For You And How To Get It Right

Everybody tells you. Don’t do everything. Outsource it. Get someone to help you. Focus on what you do best. They are right! But every time you try, you end up with:

  • A design that is completely different than what you imagined.
  • A project that seem to require more money at every turn.
  • Someone who disappears.

Sound familiar? There are some rotten workers out there for sure. I’ve hired freelancers since 2006. I have experienced every one of those and more. It is not easy to admit but these are the lessons I have learned.

Reason 1: Not Defining Scope

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, scope is the extent of activity. It’s the range of operation. Some jobs are easy.

With other jobs like building an e-commerce store, the scope can be a little fuzzy. You might have heard people complain about their designer trying to nickel and dime them.

That does happen. But when I talk to people, usually the problem comes right down to the absence of scope.

Let’s take the example of building an e-commerce store. Like a builder, the designer can build you a lavish home, or a small cozy cottage.

Let’s say you ask them to build a cottage. Throughout the process, you make additions and changes. With each change, the builder needs extra time, more labor, or different materials. He may even have to knock down a wall and rebuild to accommodate your changes. Your builder bid on your contract based on a much different house. It’s unreasonable to expect them to absorb the difference.

The same happens when building an e-commerce store, or any project. What you should do is take the time to write down how you envision the store to be like, and what features you want it to have. Then communicate this in simple language. I find bullet points help a lot.

If you have seen this at another store before, give them the URL to that store. Create videos and take screenshots what these look like.

Once both have reviewed and agreed upon the project details. Let them build it. Don’t go changing things around. It’s OK to make small modifications to language, colors and maybe even layout. But within reason.

You can ask for milestone check-ins so you can take a peek at 20%, 40% completion and so on. Just be realistic. Don’t lose your head if you don’t see something at 20% when it’s scheduled for 80% completion. In the early stages, what you are looking for is whether you are headed in the right direction.

Reason 2: Unrealistic Expectations

Here’s a complaint I heard recently. Someone wants an image created for a blog post. She wanted a cat, wearing a vest and a purple hat jumping up and a text she provides on it. What she got was a stock photo of a jumping cat with her text on it.

Granted, the designer could have warned her an image so specific would be hard to find. He could also have told her they use stock photography, but he’ll try to find one as close as possible.

On the other hand, it’s Fiverr. You cannot expect custom photography for $5. Not even $20. At those rates, you can’t expect people to spend countless hours to find the picture either.

What the buyer expected for $5 or $20 was a job that easily costs 1000 times more. That’s unreal and not fair. What should you do instead? Find a professional photography and pay them their asking price to get the exact shot you want.

Or, relax your expectations. A lot. Chances are, the vest and purple hat have no impact on your sales. Go after the things that do. If the image looks nice enough and isn’t offensive, run with it. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Reason 3: Unreasonable Deadlines

On the heels of unreasonable expectations is crazy deadlines. First, telling your hire you wanted that yesterday will not motivate them to work faster. It only breeds resentment. Also remember, outsourced hires are not your employees. They can decline your job.

Short deadlines are sometimes inevitable. Things crop up and in some industries like website recovery, short deadlines are a norm. Most service providers have a rush fee add-on. If something is urgent, pay them for it. If you can’t afford that, extend the time.

What happens when you are always working with short deadlines? Then what you have, is a project management problem. Tackle that first. Then, work on outsourcing.

Reason 4: You Are A Poor Paymaster

This shouldn’t even be on the list. But it is because too many clients do not pay their hires, let alone pay on time.

If you worked for someone and they never paid you on time, would you continue working for them? I think not.

Oh and don’t haggle after the fact either. When a project is finished, pay them the agreed upon fee. Nit picking on a small pixel out of place, or asking for a discount because of something insignificant reflects poorly on you.

Besides, outsourcers talk amongst themselves. Word gets around. Good people don’t work for poor paymasters. If the only people you seem to be able to hire are mediocre people, maybe it’s because you don’t pay, or pay on time.

Reason 5: You Are Not Consistent

Do you run out to find a new graphic artist every time you need a new image? Or do you have an artist who has worked for you for years and gets every graphic task you need?

If you get someone new for every job and every task. This hurts you. Getting people up to speed on your business is a costly affair.

A regular hire already knows your business. They know your likes and dislikes. They know your habits, your workflow, your outlook. Because of this, they actually become faster and more accurate and over time, cost you less.

What you should do is find the one who works well with you. If possible, they should also enjoy working for you. Once you do, keep them busy.

Reason 6: Poor Leadership Skills

At the end of the day, outsourcing is a lot about leadership than you think. Too many entrepreneurs come into the picture with the posture of a “boss”. I sit here above, giving all the directions, you do the work.

Whether you say it or not, this kind of attitude comes through. Even online where nobody sees you. It comes across in the tone of your emails, and the deadlines you give. It comes across when you hover over projects, and when you negotiate every hour they clock.

Learn to be a good leader. Give praise and recognition where due. Thank them. Again and again. Never underestimate the power or that. Be humble. Learn to be thankful for their service and not pay lip service. Your hires know when you are not genuine.

You need them as much as they need you. Sure you can always hire someone new but remember reason #5 above. Getting people on board is costly. If you are at all concerned about your bottom line – and you should be – keep new hires to a minimum.

Finally, just because you don’t hire the right person the first few times is no reason to stop. It can take a while to find the perfect fit. Don’t be afraid to let people go if they aren’t, and do it fast, but keep looking.

[Book Review] Social Selling: Techniques to Influence Buyers and Changemakers

We’ve been very fortunate to receive a copy of Tim Hughes and Matt Reynolds’ book, Social Selling: Techniques to Influence Buyers and Changemakers

Overall, I was a bit disappointed. It is likely due to my failure to fully understand who the author is talking to, and it is not for someone who operates an online business and already familiar with the ins and outs of using social media in your own business. That said, who is this book for?

Sales professionals. Particularly those who operate in offline, not-so-connected industries, and more specifically, those in B2B.

Even so, that’s a wide brush. If you are one of those sales people who are savvy and comfortable with content marketing. If you know and understand all about influencers. If you have your own following and a strong personal brand and comfortable talking (not selling) to people on social media, then this book is not for you.

I do think this is a great book for someone who is rather new to using social media and content as a sales tool. Not necessarily new to social media itself. If you have been selling the old way for a while and want to leverage social media, this is for you. If your social media posts are awkward or lack a conversational tone, this is a great book to get you and your company moving in that direction. Pick up your copy here.

Are You Living Your Calling?

It’s Monday. Are you excited to get going? Or are you dreading the grind? Are you passionate about what’s you are about to create this week? Or is work your enemy?

Watch this…

Don’t love your comfort zone too much. Security is over-rated. Don’t settle. Do not be that person who regrets not going after their passion on their death bed.

Now is the time. Decide to do it now. Whatever it is. If you’re ready to start a business, do it today! Here’s one to get you started. “Launch A Profitable Podcast“.

Rise Again, Every Time

A little reminder and encouragement. Business building is hard work. You probably have more failures than you care to admit. Just remember to rise again. Every. Single. Time.

The Complete Step-by-Step Process To Cultivate A Responsive List

So you took the experts’ advice. You created lead magnets, set up opt-in pages to collect leads. You work hard to keep your emails out of the spam box, promotional tabs, and what have you.

And yet…

Click throughs are dismal. Nobody responds when you try to engage them. Where did you go wrong?

Click to download this entire process to developing an engaged list

We’ve got you covered. Here are 29 simple steps you can start doing immediately to cultivate a more responsive list by creating a deeper relationship with your subscribers.

Phase 1: Improve Your Subject Lines

The subject line is undoubtedly the key component to every email you send. We will start here because if your emails aren’t getting opened… well, it would hardly be possible to get anyone to respond let alone build your relationship. Start here:

Keep It Short

You’ll find studies like this and reports, that say subject lines between 28 to 39 characters received the highest click throughs.

True or not, the thing you need to remember is this. __% of emails are opened on the phone. Here’s a screenshot of a Gmail inbox on an Android phone. See how the subject lines are truncated on some?

Mobile Gmail Inbox

 

Try to keep it short enough it won’t be cut off. Sometimes, having it cut off can be helpful especially when it ends with some form of curiosity or an ellipsis (or …). But you’d want to reign in the use of that technique because people have tired of them thanks to its wide use on social media.

Test and rewrite your subject lines for every email. Remember. The subject line’s job. So focus on words that get people to open. Not to tell the whole story.

Avoid Trigger Words

Sometimes, your emails land in the spam box or other tabs, no matter how good your email is. This isn’t a pass for you to get sloppy. It’s certainly better to have more emails outside the spam box than all emails in there. Certain words tend to trigger filters so try keeping them out. Some examples are:

  • Free
  • Buy
  • Income
  • Earn
  • Sale
  • Urgent
  • Winner
  • $ or $$ or $$$$ – you get the idea
  • Excessive exclamation points!!!!
  • All caps

Utilize Numbers

Just like blog title, numbers as in lists often make compelling subject lines. Some examples:

  • 5 Ways to grow sweeter strawberries
  • 7 Easy exercises for a flat belly

Other examples as seen in my inbox:

sumome number subject line

callan rush number subject

Build In Some Urgency

If people do not read an email when they receive it, there’s a good chance they won’t at all. If you are truly emailing about time sensitive matter, mention it. You can say things like:

  • Ends tomorrow/tonight
  • Do this by Friday
  • 48 hours only

More examples from the inbox:

appsumo 24 hours left

Note, in addition to the deadline, they’ve also built in some social proof by telling subscribers this is a very popular offer at 4.5 stars.

callan offer expires

Instead of a time limit, a limited quantity or number of seats can also be very effective. But you want to do this properly. If you’re offering a digital product, make sure it make sense why there is a limit. Telling people you’re running out of copies of your eBook is plain not possible and people will see through that.

I would also limit your urgent emails and time sensitive information. If every single email you send out is urgent, you will tire out your subscribers.

Be Clear About The Contents

Nothing is more annoying than opening up an email to find the content does not match the subject line. When you trick people into opening your email, your credibility plummets. It’s OK to build in some curiosity but most times, stating exactly what’s in the email up front is the best.

Study magazine and newspaper headlines. They often have limited space and need to “get to the point”.

Utilize Current Events

Hot topics relevant to your subscribers make excellent subject lines. You don’t have to make the email about the topic but look for ways to connect what everyone is talking about to what you want to put in front of your audience.

Lead With Benefits

Benefits are one of copywriting’s most important rules. It applies to emails too. Inform people what’s in it right from the get go so he will be eager to read the rest.

orchid listerine

This subject line tells me I’ll have a remedy for my ailing orchids with a household item I probably already have and can implement fast.

Sprinkle Controversy

Controversy always perks people’s ears up, even when they do not agree with you. Only, be sure to back up your claims in your email content.

Steer Clear of Trickery

We briefly touched on this earlier on, but there’s a different form of trickery. You’ve seen them before. Things like adding RE: and FWD:

Test and Try

Watch your metrics. Do not assume what worked for someone else will work for you, but don’t not try it either. Give it a shot. Watch your numbers after the fact. Did it work? Too little data? Try it again later. Now, what are the results?

Ditch it if your other subject line approaches work better. Keep it, and tweak it if it works. Why tweak? Because people can tire of the same subject lines over and over from you.

Download this entire process to work on later.

Phase 2: Create & Strengthen Your Relationship

Your email list is much more than a tool to send offers. It’s a way for you to develop a bond, gain your prospect’s trust which will eventually lead to them giving you their business multiple times over. And, sometimes, it could lead to other mutually beneficial things like working together or having them refer others to you.

Ask How You Can Help Them

Get their suggestions for what they want to see in your future mailings. Ask their feedback how you can make your emails more useful for them. When you get responses, it helps you develop a deeper understanding of your target market. Sometimes, they will help you see avenues that you never thought of before.

Also, with today’s email technology, you could segment responders from non-responders, further customizing the content so they reach precisely the right group. And when people receive what they asked for, they will naturally be more responsive to your emails.

Here’s an example from my inbox.

ask for help partial email 1

 

Accept Questions

For the longest time, one of the things I always had on my site is “Ask Lynette” page. It has one question, what is their biggest question about ___topic____ and one big text field to submit the answer. This has allowed me to create a lot of focused, well-received content. Not just for future emails, but blog posts as well.

Extend An Invite To Connect On Social Media

Social media allows you to engage with your audience in a way never before possible. Promote your social accounts in your emails. Intentionally invite them to connect with you there or join your group. This does two things. Build your following on social media and encourages clicking and responding to your requests.

Ask For Their Thoughts

An email is a poor tool for discussion amongst many people. Overcome this by sending subscribers a short introduction or synopsis of your blog post. Then send them over to the blog to read and discuss. You could also mix it up. Invite people to visit your social media profile to share their thoughts about your email.

Here’s a different approach from my inbox. A simple click to rate email that doesn’t involve taking up a lot of your subscribers’ time and yet lets them make their voice heard.

freecamp share thoughts

Send Them Your Videos

Hopefully, videos are already part of your marketing toolbox. Make those videos work harder by sending your readers over to watch them. Videos let your subscribers experience you. They can see your face, and hear your voice. This reassures them they are connecting with a real person.

Build Comments Into Your Emails

Did someone pay you or your company a compliment? Maybe they wrote you asking a question, or left a mini review on your blog. Ask if you can share it. Then work those into your emails.

This shows you are listening to what they are saying. It helps you create more content, helps others with the same concerns or questions. And finally, it is a form of social proof that you have happy customers.

Hold A Subscriber’s Only Webinar

One of the easiest ways to create a bond with subscribers is on a webinar. Webinars give you a lot of time to present your message or show people your products. The live interaction allows people to ask questions and get the help they need quickly. It is as close to having an in-person group chat as you can get online and that is very helpful.

Work Hard To Save Them Money

Many people send discounts and special offers to their subscribers. The problem? They are also receiving the exact same discount offer from other people. This is very true in a large launch scenario where there are many affiliates pushing the same product. Do this instead.

Skip the launch rush. Negotiate a special and truly exclusive deal with the product owner directly. It may not be the same deal. In fact, it shouldn’t be the same deal. It doesn’t even have to be a discount but maybe a meatier bundle offer. Anything that brings value to your subscribers and they can’t get it anywhere else.

Your subscribers will appreciate it, and you will get better traction for affiliate offers.

Tailor-Fit Your Messages

Today’s email tools allow you to really drill down, segment and tag your subscribers like never before. This allows you tailor your offers and messages as much or as little as you want. Take advantage of that.

For example. Send an exclusive offer to those who clicked on a related link in the past.

Run A Survey

Some subscribers aren’t interested in a deep level of engagement and that’s OK. They still want to know their opinion matters. You could try a different approach like a survey. You get valuable feedback and they get to have their voice heard.

Click to download this to work through on your own time.

Phase 3: Develop Effective Offers

Now that you have gotten their attention with great subject lines, and developed a better rapport, subscribers are more likely to take action on your offers. That doesn’t mean you can just bombard them with any and every offer. And this is no time to get sloppy either. Here are some suggestions to get the best possible results.

Make It Something Worthwhile

If you’ve been asking them to submit questions or running surveys as suggested above, you should already have a very good idea what your subscribers need and want. If you don’t, go back and do those first.

Watch out for solutions to help them overcome those problems. Look out for tools and resources they are looking for in order to move forward. Whenever possible, ask for a special offer from the merchant themselves.

Watch Your Subject Line (Yes, Again!)

Don’t try to mask the fact they might have to spend some money. People generally know things cost money. Let them know (briefly) there’s an offer inside or they may see some savings if they open. You don’t have to lay out all the details, but you should be direct.

Minimize Overwhelm

Make your email fairly short and to the point. Don’t bury it at the end of a full blown article. Subscribers won’t make it that far. Also, don’t try to add too many other offers and variables. A good general rule is to let one thought, one action, and one offer shine in the email.

Target Your Offers

Most senders will broadcast one offer to everyone on the list. Sometimes that works. Other times it won’t. If you aren’t already segmenting, do so now. The sooner you do it, the faster you have the data to create and send offers based on what they need exactly and every person’s needs on your list is bound to differ to some degree.

Create Anticipation

Launching a product? Let subscribers know something big is coming up. Start out by telling them to look out for a great offer in the coming days or weeks. As time draws near, you can slowly feed them more details about the launch. This keeps them interested and incentive to open every email leading up to the launch to learn more.

Make It A Privilege

An offer that is only available to a select few makes people feel special. It makes them feel like being part of your tribe has privileges no one else enjoys. Limit your offers to those to clicked the last few emails let’s say or those who bought a product. You could also send offers to only those who responded to your surveys.

This is what Michael Hyatt did with a new product launch. First, he invited only subscribers to a closed group as part of a “think tank”. Members got to participate in the product creation process, see work products, influence design, have a say in the content. See an example of the email below. It also was a fantastic way to build anticipation as well.

I was privileged ( <– see that? ) to be part of the group and was able to watch how all of this went down. When it came to launching time, many were so excited they didn’t have to be sold on the sales page. They were already pre-sold. Plus, the interaction and connection built inside the group is something nobody can steal from him, even if they don’t buy. He’s built a loyal following.

mhyatt fb invite

Story Time

Generally, you do not want to make your emails too wordy. But stories don’t have to be lengthy at all. Learn to craft short stories to draw readers in, then connect that to the offer. This helps break the cycle of constant hard hitting offers that tired out your list.

Focus On Clicks

Your sales pages are designed to tell the full story and convince visitors this product is the right one for them. Your email’s job is to get them to that page. Two different steps. There’s no need to sell people in the email. Just work on getting them to visit.

Follow It Up

The lack of follow-up is a most common mistake. While you don’t want to make them tired of hearing it, you should remind people of expiring offers.

Don’t forget to follow up on buyers too. Thank them. Ask them for feedback. Let them know about features, settings, or information they might have missed in the product so they will consume it. Send them ideas, suggestions, and case studies if you have any so buyers can make full use of their purchase.

Wrapping It Up

In closing, some key takeaways to keep in mind:

  • Work (hard) on your subject lines. Test, and tweak them regularly.
  • Keep things short and to the point. This applies to both subject line and the email copy itself.
  • Given the above two points, it’s a good idea to learn more about good copywriting.
  • As much as possible, reach out, invite, include. Make people feel special. Listen to their concerns.

When you consistently work these things into your email process, you should start seeing better results. There’s a lot here to take in. If you can’t read it all in one sitting, bookmark this, OR you can download this entire process in eBook form and read it later.

Download this whole process to enjoy and work through at your own pace.

Re-Branding? Here’s What NOT To Do

A big part of small business branding is clearly and concisely communicating what you offer. When people ‘get’ you, they less likely to forget you. They may not recall you right away, but when they do, they recognize what you do instantly.

The Story of a Horribly Executed Rebranding

Photo Credit © Depositphotos.com/konstantynov

Have you ever heard or participated in a conversation that goes something like this?

“Do you know Sarah Brown?”

“Oh yeah! She’s that interior decorator who specializes in vintage decor.”

If you were Sarah, you should be very pleased because people can put your name, profession, and specialty together. On the flip side,allow me to share a story about Valerie (not real name).

I’d known Valerie for years. We travel in the same circles online. Because of that, I didn’t expect to have a tough time looking her up.

Since she had a pretty common name, a simple Google search didn’t work. Usually, in this situation, attaching the person’s profession, industry or job title to the search helps tremendously. I thought I knew what her business was but after several failed searches, I realized I had no idea what she does!

The next step was to look her up in the forums and groups we participate in. To my surprise, all the searches turned up empty. I had to really dig in. After lots of attempts and finally finding her, I realized the reason it was so difficult, was because she never signs her posts with her real name. She also used a nickname that didn’t have anything to do with her business or name.

Sadly, that wasn’t the end of the story. The website in her signature was very old. It was clear from the look of the site that she no longer offered those services anymore. There was no link to direct me to what she might be mastering today. Through some miracle, I found a newer website of hers. It was a completely new business that didn’t have much to do with the old one.

A few months later, Valerie surfaced again and this time, she was announcing yet another brand new business. Again, she said the old business (which was the newer one) didn’t fit her anymore. The latest business venture wasn’t even close to the last one – again.

Needless to say, I was very confused about her brand. If she even had one at all. My original intention on locating her was to figure out if she was a good candidate for me to refer prospects. No surprise, the conclusion was a big no.

This isn’t saying you can’t re-invent yourself. Sometimes, it takes a few tries before we “find ourselves”. And, as entrepreneurs, it is common for us to move from one interest to another. However, most re-inventions remain within the same industry and the most successful brands attempt to stay true to their core offerings. Should you absolutely need to do a complete makeover, get professional help. If you can’t afford that, ask seasoned entrepreneur friends.

At the very least, leave a message on your old website. Tell people why and how you can now better serve them – if the audience overlaps. Give them a way to reach you at your new site. Have a plan to wind down the old website so as not to confuse more people going forward.

Finally, try not to re-brand as often as one changes clothes. That’s not a good way to build any business. It is terribly confusing and only makes you look unreliable.

Get The Complete Step-by-Step Process

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Launch A Profitable Podcast

Discover how to start your own podcast business, leverage it to grow an existing business, grow your influence, and more.