In this lesson, we go in-depth on the first element of the 6A framework for smarter email marketing — attraction. You’ll learn how to begin the “sales process” before you even ask for an email address (and without people feeling “sold” to), and why positioning yourself as the prospect’s advocate with your top of funnel content sets you up as the inevitable choice.
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Lesson 3: Attraction: How to Entice at the Top of the Funnel
Voiceover: Welcome to Get More Clients With Smarter E-mail Marketing, a free audio course presented by Unemployable with Brian Clark. For the full experience, head over to Unemployable.com and sign up for the Unemployable e-mail newsletter, the week’s top resources for independent businesspeople, personally handcrafted by serial entrepreneur and content marketing pioneer, Brian Clark. That’s Unemployable.com.
Brian Clark: Everyone, welcome back to lesson three of our E-mail Marketing for Getting More Clients course. This one is called, “Attraction: How to Entice at the Top of the Funnel.” Back in the olden days, if you will, people who started out with early forms of Internet advertising — mainly pay-per-click and Google. Anyone remember Overture? That was Yahoo’s pay-per-click product. They used to be able to drive traffic right to whatever the product or service was and people would buy. Ah, the good old days. Right?
It didn’t take long early into this century where pay-per-click pros started to realize that conversion rates were dropping off and that the way to bring them back up was not to drive traffic to the product or service, but to a landing page that would opt in to an e-mail list. Then, through the course of an e-mail sequence, sell the product or service that way.
These days — at least up until recent years — you saw the exact same strategy on Facebook, with people using Facebook ads to drive people to a landing page with a “lead magnet” to opt in. Even that is starting not to work very well at all. We’ve tested quite a bit of this this year, and our results resemble what we’re hearing from others, which is you can’t just go straight to the landing page. You can’t just go straight to the opt-in anymore.
Now, this is perfectly fine with me. Back in 2006 when I was really trying to build up the Copyblogger audience, about three months in I tried several things and I just didn’t have the big break I was looking for. What I did was craft a free report on how copywriting and content marketing tactics could get bloggers more traffic. Now here’s the interesting thing. I didn’t require an e-mail address for that report. I just put it out there in the wild.
Now, some interesting things happened there. First of all, I got tons of links, which is great for SEO, which is great for traffic down the road. It got passed around a lot, which drove a lot of click traffic back to Copyblogger. But the greatest thing it did was act as a sales letter for subscribing to Copyblogger, because I revealed a lot of stuff, but you can only teach so much, even in a 10-page PDF report. The call to action at the end was “subscribe to Copyblogger.” That was my breakout moment.
That’s why, by the end of that first year, I had developed such a large audience. That was the catalyst. And effectively, it’s what we have to do now, I would say, in line with my comments from before about over-delivering. I think I’m just wired that way, but now we all have to be wired that way. You have to lead with content before the opt-in. From a persuasion standpoint, this is highly effective. After all, we’re not just trying to get an e-mail address. An e-mail address by itself is worthless. It’s the person behind that e-mail address contacting you and hiring you and paying you money, right?
Begin the Sales Process Before You Even Ask for an Email
What I would do in your field, at any given time, is start looking around at what your competition is doing. Don’t be surprised if it’s pretty bad or pretty mediocre. You’ll probably find, though, there will be a handful of exceptional examples out there. The great thing about doing client services work is a lot of times you’ll be geographically centered, so you can look at people in other areas and get inspiration and maybe even a little more from what they seem to be doing and use that in your own area as well.
You could also be positioned differently from someone who doesn’t have a geographic boundary. For example, you work with a certain type of client and they’re using their techniques with another group altogether. Just be careful about copying what someone else is doing, because you don’t know if it’s working well. But it is a great way to get some indications of value and how other people are positioning themselves. Opt in to their feeds and check out how they’re doing it. They may not be doing everything perfectly, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get some ideas from them.
The great thing about our over-delivering need these days of leading with content is that we’re really beginning the sales process before we even get the e-mail. That’s a great thing because it’s completely invisible. What people are looking for is valuable information that addresses their problems and desires. If you do that, it does have the effect of beginning the sales process on them, but you’re beginning these pinpoints of influence that we’ve talked about, even before you’ve asked them to do anything. The first thing you ask them to do is not to hire you, of course, it’s to register or opt in for some valuable information. Just remember, you’re trying to do more than just get the opt-in. You’re framing yourself as the inevitable solution, again, before you’ve ever asked for a single thing from them.
Okay. Now what’s the key to making this high-value initial piece of content, the one that they first come across in order to become familiar with you and be presented with the opportunity to deepen the relationship with an opt-in? You’ve got to identify the pain point that is at the very beginning of a buyer’s journey. Sometimes this is, “Who do I hire?” which, of course, you’re hoping to be that person. But sometimes it’s different than that. There are many situations where people need to be convinced that what they’re trying to achieve is doable in the first place.
Think about this. It’s very difficult to get a home loan these days compared to, I don’t know, 2007, 2006. We know how that turned out. That’s a problem where there are certain people — they may be first-time buyers, they may be relocating to a more expensive area, whatever the case may be — they’re not even sure if they can get a loan. If you’re a mortgage broker, you start by enabling the ability to believe that it’s possible. You don’t jump straight into details that are farther along right there. If they don’t make it past that, it’s not that they just don’t hire you, they’re not going to do anything whatsoever. Keep that in mind. You have to understand who you’re going after and what is the first problem that they’re facing on their journey.
Now, of course, people want the end thing. If they’re buying a house, they want the house. If they’re looking for a web designer, they want a new website. We know this. But what do they also want? They want to have a great experience. They don’t want to have a horrible time buying that house. They don’t want to have one of those disaster stories that get passed around about how their designer was non-responsive and delivered a terrible website late.
Remember, experience is everything. And here’s the beauty of this type of marketing: you’re beginning the experience before you know really they’re even there. You’re beginning the experience with them with your marketing because your marketing is valuable and addresses the problem they have first. Their first problem is not whether you’re the right person to hire. It will always be something before that.
Position Yourself as the Prospect’s Advocate
When you’re thinking about creating this type of content, what I want you to do — and this is as important a mental adjustment as you’ll ever make — you want to position yourself as their advocate. You’re looking out for them, and that has to come across. It can’t be self-promotional. It has to be almost just giving for the sake of it.
That is difficult for some people — 15, 20 years ago, people were downright antagonistic to it. Now that we know content marketing is the way to go, more people accept it, but they still have a little trouble. You’ve worked hard to develop your expertise. You do know more than the people you’re trying to serve, but that doesn’t matter. The key word is “serve.” Without them, you don’t make any money. We’re all like this. We need the people who buy our goods and services to feel benefit from them, and that’s why we’re in business. Never forget that.
The key here with this top-of-the-funnel content — tell the “why” and then promise the “how.” Let me explain what I mean by that. You’re telling why they need certain information to arm themselves, if you will, as they go on this journey toward whatever end result they’re trying to achieve, whether that be purchasing a house, getting a new website, getting their taxes done, whatever the case may be. Tell them why in the sense that, “This is why you need to look out for yourself and I’m here for you.” Then we can get to the point where we say, “And I’m going to tell you how to address all of these issues that I’ve just laid out for you in this initial piece of content.” That will be the opt-in content. Okay?
Very important that you teach them as if they have to do it themselves. This is the silliest objection I’ve ever heard over the years, “I can’t tell these people all this stuff. They don’t need me then.” I’ve heard this from lawyers who are officers of the court. I’ve heard this from brokers who are licensed to do real estate transactions, which are, for most people, the most expensive and complex transaction they ever do. And yet you get people — even people like web designers. If you teach me what you know about web design, I still can’t do it. I still want to hire you. That’s the point. This type of marketing is so effective because you aren’t holding back and you’re using the word “you.” You’re telling them, “Here’s what you need to look out for in this type of transaction,” not, “Here’s how I will help you in this kind of transaction.”
You may think that that’s not very savvy marketing, but it actually is. What you’re doing is getting them to firmly convince themselves that they want to hire you and that you really had nothing to do with it. Now, we know that’s not true. Even though we’re providing this amazing value, we are touching on these very powerful forms of influence. But, again, it’s invisible. All they see is that someone is addressing their problems, and they’re somehow coming to the conclusion that you’re the right person.
Okay. Again, this entire process at the top of the funnel with becoming their advocate and positioning yourself in a certain way is really a very subtle form of “us versus them”. “Smart people like you need to know this because you don’t want X, Y, or Z to happen like it happens to other people.” In this case, the “them” is perhaps the service providers who won’t take as good care of them. That’s the implication, certainly. The other “them” is the less-than-savvy consumer who made the wrong choice of web designer, real estate agent, or whatever the case may be.
This may seem a little esoteric right now. I’m going to give you several examples of this so that you can start thinking about how you’d like to position yourself. When you figure that out, these top-of-funnel-type articles, reports, whatever you decide to do, come into focus really quickly, and then we can move on into getting them onto an e-mail list and completing the process of turning them from a prospect into a client.
Okay. Back in the day with my real estate businesses, the “why” was agency. Let me explain what I mean by that. In real estate, if you just call the person on the sign in the yard, you are contacting a person who represents the seller. That puts you at a disadvantage right from the beginning. Further, even if you sign something that says they can co-represent you and the seller, you’re still at a disadvantage because the seller got all the good stuff up front and you’re coming in later looking for someone to guide you when you’re probably not going to get the best deal.
This was my positioning. I was heavily focused on, “Here’s what you need to know before you call that number on the sign in the front yard. What you need to do is call a buyer agent who represents you,” and gave all those reasons. Then I took it a step further. “You need to hire someone who is an exclusive buyer agent, someone who doesn’t take listings at all. Because technically, if they have listings, they have a fiduciary duty to those sellers to try to sell that house to you even if it’s completely wrong.” Of course, what kind of agency were we? We were an exclusive buyer’s agent.
That was a way of using something so boring as agency law to really put up some red flags for people that, one, maybe they didn’t completely understand. Or number two, they kind of understood, but you just made the implication of what that meant crystal clear and they’d now like to learn a little bit more from you and hopefully hire you.
Let’s say you’re a designer and you take the position — let’s say you’ve got an article that says, “Web design is not just about pretty pictures.” Then you proceed to outline how some great websites — the whole Flash trend was a painful example — are just pretty, but they’re completely ineffective. A really savvy web designer is schooled in the principles of usability, of conversion. After all, if you have a business client, they are trying to develop business with that website. Again, you’re basically saying, “Some web designers are only concerned about aesthetics and coolness and being clever, and yet I understand that this is a business project and I’m looking out for your economic success, not just a pretty picture.”
Let’s say you’re an app developer and you write about warning people about all-too-common a scenario in which an entire feature-rich app is built in total seclusion without any feedback from anyone and it turns out that you’ve wasted six figures and no one wants this app. You start with that horror story and then you lead into things like Lean and Agile software development whereby you build and iterate in smaller chunks, getting feedback along the way and making sure that if the project’s going to fail it does early and inexpensively, or you’re going to get it right with the right amount of feedback.
Trust me, that is a wonderful way to attract clients, when you put their best interest first. Again, you’re their advocate. “You could make an expensive mistake. I could benefit from that expensive mistake, but I don’t want that to happen to you.” That’s powerful stuff right there before they’ve even given you an e-mail address. Keep that in mind.
Then, for the copywriters and content marketing freelance writers out there, please don’t give writing tips. The people that you want to hire you don’t care. In fact, they don’t want to hire a writer if they didn’t have to. What they want to do is increase sales. Understanding that, you need to explain how sales increase by providing value, by inserting these six influence elements that we’ve already talked about.
The same type of stuff that we’re talking about in this course, you have to teach to them. Notice we haven’t said one word about writing an e-mail yet, because ultimately we’re talking about trust, we’re talking about authority, and we’re talking about persuasion in a way that is wrapped up in independent value to the degree that no one really feels sold to. That’s what we’re trying to do.
Enter the Conversation That’s Already Playing in Their Heads
Now, let me leave you with one thing that may surprise you. In my case, back in the day, 80 percent of the people that hired me — they understood the agency stuff. They understood that they could get screwed by calling the guy in the sign. I was entering the conversation that was already playing in their head and clarifying things for them that, “Yes, this is how it works. Yes, I’ve chosen to represent people like you and to avoid people like them out of good business.” See what I’m getting at?
Then 20 percent of people were like, “Ah, I didn’t really understand all that stuff. Really, thank you for teaching me that.” It’s surprising how many people, how many clients of that web designer understand that they need to be thinking about conversion. They’ve heard that, but they don’t necessarily understand how it works in design. You become their person. The app developer — they’ve heard of this whole Lean startup thing and the Agile software development, they don’t understand what it means. You just brought it home to them in dollars and cents.
Then for the writers, again, you are showing them that you are not some frustrated poet that wants to get paid to scribble together some beautiful prose. You write, you create words — salesmanship in print that change the bottom line. That type of person knows that inherently, and they’re just going to be completely refreshed that they heard it from you. You want to enter the conversation that’s already playing in their head for the most part.
Think carefully about the kind of clients you’ve had, the kind of clients you’ve had the most success with. What was their knowledge level? What do you need to speak to them about? That type of person who’s out there as a prospect right now. It’s great that you have an existing business with clients because they are your greatest source of, number one, “Here’s the type of person I’d like to get fifty more of and here’s the other person I’d rather never work with again.” Then, figuring out what the commonalities are — especially from an information and knowledge basis — so that you can position yourself accordingly on a go-forward basis.
Speaking of the six influence elements that we touched on, we haven’t even asked for the e-mail address yet, but we’ve already established authority. We know what we’re talking about and that we’re an advocate for the prospect. Affinity or liking, your positioning. Like I said, when you enter that conversation that’s already in their head, you have matched their worldview. That is a very powerful affinity concept which we’ll explore in more detail when we get to that lesson.
Reciprocity, of course, you’ve given them something before you ask for anything whatsoever as opposed to the landing page approach, which is some clever copy and you immediately asking them for something so you can give them something. This flips the switch on that. Again, you may have gotten away with less in the past. These days you’ve got to give first, and then you can go ahead and ask for the favor in return. When you think about it, the favor is, “Let me send you more great stuff like this,” which is weighted in their favor. But we understand that if they become a client, that is multiple thousand dollars in fees for you, and then you’re getting what you’re after also.
Finally, here’s something that we didn’t touch on except for when I talked about that report back in 2006. When you share, even if you’re doing paid ads on Facebook, some people are going to like that post. They’re going to share that post. Some people will do that without even clicking and reading, it’s crazy. The people who are really interested will see that sharing and liking, and there is some social proof for you that this is some good stuff. If you really hit it out of the park with the people you’re trying to reach, you could get massive social proof and sharing out of it, which obviously extends your reach and will ultimately build a stronger and hopefully more vibrant e-mail list when we get to that point.
Okay. This episode, as all, is brought to you by the Rainmaker Platform. It’s the best way to get a powerful website, powerful e-mail, and sophisticated marketing automation all in one completely integrated, secure, and maintenance-free package. Check it out at RainmakerPlatform.com and take your free trial.
In our next lesson, we’re going to shift a little bit along the 6A framework from Attraction to Access, which is kind of a tech concept, but it’s really a psychological concept, and I’ll explain in detail why it’s important. Until then, enjoy and keep going.
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