I just finished reading a very interesting book that was all about word of mouth marketing called Word of Mouth Marketing (go figure) by Andy Sernovitz. You should read it. The book actually inspired me to write this article… which you should also read.
I’ve worked as a copywriter, a marketer, an editor, and a salesman my entire life. I’ve heard lots of different theories about how to sell, how to speak to people, how to write compelling copy….
Blah, blah, blah….
What it really comes down to is this: if people don’t find what you are saying both VALUABLE and INTERESTING, you might as well go work in an office cubicle.
Being valuable and interesting is easier to achieve than you might think. But it requires your acceptance of one very simple fact: YOU HAVE TO STOP SELLING.
The hell you say? Selling is what any business does! It’s how you make money! It’s the way our entire economy works!
Sorry, buckaroo, but you are wrong. Well… not entirely.
You see, the real truth is YOU don’t sell anything. If the business you own or work for produces anything of any value, eventually someone is going to need it. But it’s wise to remember that what you do–even if you think you own the only patentable process/device/service or whatever–can be done by someone else.
Your customers don’t need you. They need your product/device/service or whatever. So why should they do business with you?
The answer, of course, is nothing new. It’s nothing you haven’t heard at least one thousand times. Your customers have to like you. Once they like you, you can sell them anything… right?
[cue Price is Right loser music]
Nope. Wrong again.
Okay, so what is the right answer?
Like I said. It’s simple. It’s so simple you’re not going to do it. I know this already. Most people simply don’t believe this is true. But I promise you that if you give this a shot you will see results.
Are you ready to stop selling yet?
The truth comes down to this: no one buys anything or does business with anybody because they were sold to, because they saw an ad, or even because they did the research to find the best product/device/service or whatever. A potential sale may have germinated here, as it should, but the actual buying decision comes from someplace else entirely:
The buying decision comes from word of mouth.
What does that mean? Well, word of mouth is simple (I think I mentioned that this is all very simple). Word of mouth is people talking to people. That’s it. But the key element here is what they are talking about.
If they are talking about you, they better be recommending you. You better be “that guy” who can fulfill their need. If you can trigger word of mouth people will sell for you, because the only place any sale is ever made is when someone asks someone they know and trust, who isn’t involved in the selling process, who they should talk to.
Make sure that person they recommend is you.
Word of mouth begins by opening up a conversation, by simply talking to people. But most importantly, word of mouth begins by shutting up about your product/device/service or whatever and listening to your customers. I mean REALLY listening.
Enough about your stuff, already. People know all about it. Your customers are not stupid. What they are is people. They have lives, they have needs, they have families, they have good times and they have bad times. And, most of all, people need to share ALL of these experiences with other people.
Were you listening? That person is called a friend. Are you ready to be a friend? Because I promise that if you really are ready to start listening to your customers instead of treating them as suspects/prospects/leads and all the other bullshit that goes along with everything you’ve ever been taught, and then spending a horrendous amount of time stuffing all of this “data” into a spreadsheet, and then using that data to send out mailers, postcards, flyers, and spam emails… you will find that a magical thing happens:
You’re no longer working. You really are just being a friend, a friend that everyone you communicate with already knows carries some product/device/service or whatever that they actually do want or need.
Be a friend first. The business will come.
The business will come to you so naturally that you shake your head wondering why you didn’t try this before. It will come to you not because you were a friend to that one person, it will come to you in droves, in huge spikes in website traffic, in a glut of phone calls and email inquiries, in people stopping by just to say hello.
It will come to you because the new friends you make are doing all the talking. They are talking to their friends, and those friends are talking to all of their friends. They are talking about you.
As you can imagine, this goes both ways. If you can’t learn to shut up and listen, they are still going to talk about you… and the friends of those people are going to talk about you, too. And oh, the things they will say.
So, what does this all have to do with copywriting?
Have you ever held a superbowl party? Or any party, for that matter. They can be a lot of fun. You get excited, you talk to your family and friends about it, you discuss options, maybe you even assign your buddies some homework of their own, you know, just so you can get them involved, make them feel like they are a part of this, too.
Imagine this: you do all of this work, you get all of your friends excited, you are excited, your wife and kids are excited, your friends start talking to all their friends about what an awesome party this is going to be, because (insert your name here) throws the best parties! Friends commit to coming, some of them even commit to helping out! And then everyone arrives at the party and….
Your house is a mess. You forgot to get the beer. You didn’t realize that ordering twelve pizzas required a call in advance….
The great, fantastic party that you got everyone excited and talking about just flopped.
And guess what? You will never get a second chance.
If you’re gonna throw a party, you gotta be prepared.
Your business website is party headquarters. It’s where there is always fresh and tasty pizza and piles of buffalo wings, it’s where the coolers are overflowing with ice-cold beer and soda, it’s where the game is on not only on one but TWO screens in high-freakin-def.
Like the old saying goes: be careful what you ask for. Don’t invite people to the party if you’re not prepared to actually throw one.
Being prepared means a website flush with valuable content. We already made you interesting. This is where the valuable part comes in. You have to spend some time on your website content. It has to be good, it has to be valuable (accurate and pertinent) and it has to be concise. In short, it has to be professional and shine, shine, shine!
You ever get a text from someone who clearly does not care what their autocorrect inserts? That feeling right there–that is what people think about you when they come to a website that has boring, inaccurate, outdated, or even erroneous content, a website that is difficult to navigate, has cruddy pictures, or dead links. But worst of all, if the copy on your website sucks, you are done for. You look like an idiot, an idiot that doesn’t care, and people will talk about you that way.
Good copywriting is best left to professionals. For them, it’s not difficult at all to achieve. Bad copywriting is also very easy to achieve; it’s what you already have when your phone rings and you find yourself saying things like:
- Yeah, we really need to update that information.
- Oh wow, we spelled all those words wrong?
- Aren’t the directions up there? They should be.
- I don’t have any idea what that word means.
- There is supposed to be a section here that explains that… somewhere.
- Yeah, we don’t even carry that product anymore.
You don’t care and it shows. You scribbled some stuff on a napkin at lunch and handed it to your web guy, who begged you to take another look at it. But you were busy, you had stuff to sell, more important things to do.
You just got all dressed up and your fly is down…
Get the picture? To sum up, word of mouth brings you traffic, which in turn will convert to sales. I’m not saying there’s not a followup process, that at some point you won’t have to call people back to eventually talk shop. That’s going to have to happen, too.
What I am saying is that by the time your customers get to this point all the barriers have already been torn down. They are not afraid to send you an email or a text, or to speak with you on the phone, about anything. They go to your website, enjoy it, and actually use it.
Even better, they are not afraid to comment on your Facebook posts, to retweet your tweets, to double-click your Instagram photos. They are not afraid to recommend you to all of their friends, who will recommend you, via word of mouth, to their friends as well.
They know you. They trust you. You shut up and you listened, and you made sure you had a clean and organized house before inviting people to the party. You are their friend, and friends help each other get what they desire and need. Friends can be trusted.
Get dressed. Zip up your pants. Get the party started.
About The Author:
Ted Uram is an award-winning writer, editor, marketer, and writing coach with more than 20 years of direct industry experience. He is a firm believer that words can work wonders when properly employed. He also values all his friends. To find out more about Ted, or to read more of his articles, visit CapstoneContent.com, or follow him on Twitter @ThatArticleGuy
Image From Michal Adamczyk