The zeitgeist is a knucklehead.
There. I said it.
From politics to pandemics, masking to mayhem, opening to closing, turmoil abounds. One of the best ways to handle it? Ignore the 24-hour news cycle and turn off the talking heads. It changes everything.
So, what's wrong?
Or better yet, what's right? How's your world? What's good? Bad? Nagging? Nifty? In short: How is the new normal affecting your business? We want to know.
Reply to this email and tell us what's on your mind, what new intel you want to offer, or any piercing question you might have in the COVID age.
We'll talk about you right here.
Not yet downloaded your free copy of Lightning Branding: How to Generate Revenue Faster With An Electrifying New Brand, there's still time. Just visit http://www.lightningbrandingbook.com.
For information about our new Lightning Branding courses, both do-it-yourself and we-do-it-with-you editions, click here. (There's even a video of us!)
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
We spend so much time talking brand, we don't spend a lot of time talking copy...
And recently, your relentless scribe had the opportunity to write a piece of direct response copy that was 100% successful.
Please understand, I'm not patting myself on the back. Had I failed at this, it would've been inexcusable.
Instead, I'm offering it as an example of how anyone can write a good advertisement for almost any product or service.
Personally, I have never in my life written an advertisement for a motor vehicle or a motorhome. So, that makes me unqualified in that area, right?
Of course not--but a lot of so-called "pros" will try to tell you that.
First, some backstory. As you may know, the fabulous Honey Parker and I have a podcast called CoupleCo: Working With Your Spouse For fun & Profit.
For two years, we've been driving across the country in the CoupleCoach, a 25-foot C-Class motorhome. We've been interviewing entrepreneurial couples about crushing it in business without crushing each other.
We usually show up with two black bags. One contains good microphones. The other contains good wine. (People are scared of microphones. They are not scared of wine. It helps loosen up the conversation and makes the subjects very happy.)
COVID-19 sent our transcontinental travel plans were sent into a sideways skid. Nobody really wants strangers showing up, regardless of whether they're toting microphones and wine. So, we decided to sell the CoupleCoach.
Step One: Take the CoupleCoach and have the outside professionally cleaned by a commercial truck washer, complete with Armor All on the tires. (BONUS: You feel really cool sitting in line, waiting with all those tractor trailers.)
Step Two: Park the RV someplace pretty. Take a comprehensive range of photos using the phone's camera set to HDR. Use a photo editor to crop the images, deepen them and boost the color.
Step Three: Write the copy.
Here's where the fun begins. (If you fail to see the merriment in this mission, you'll probably just want to go hit the unsubscribe button. That's OK.)
Creating this copy requires understanding: a) your Core Customer, b) the benefits of your product, and c) your copywriter's voice.
CORE CUSTOMER: This motorhome is smallish at 25 feet, but it's also expensive. It's also built on a Mercedes Sprinter chassis, which is an object of desire. So the Core Customer presumably knows something about Mercedes, and has some money to burn. The customer will have a decent level of income and sophistication--and little to no experience with RVs. We'll call the customer Sophisticated Newbie. So, while a first motorhome might be a daunting prospect, Sophisticated Newbie has accomplished things in life. This person also wants to have fun.
BENEFITS: The key benefits are a) the Mercedes chassis, b) the rig is really clean, c) it is loaded just enough, d) it is well maintained, and e) it's a great size for a newbie.
VOICE: Did you know that I'm a smartass? (Don't answer.) We'll have to reign in the smartassery for Sophisticated Newbie, but just enough. This person is buying a fun machine, so we still need to have some fun. We have to project confidence with a smile, and be reassuring to the our Sophisticated Newbie.
Now, about the competition...
Just for the fun of this exercise, I found two competing ads for a comparable rig. Same maker. Same chassis. Same model line. Here's the first ad:
"Approx. 8900 miles, two slide outs, Mercedes diesel, kitchenette, rear queen size bed, Onan generator, propane range, microwave, electric/propane fridge, A/C, propane heater."
Twenty-three words! Zero character! Buy now! (The minimal photography and drab images are especially persuasive.)
The other ad has more photography. It's somewhat better. At the same time, it manages to make the RV look like a mobile prison cell. Even on the outside. And the owner's stuff is still all over the place--in the RV, in the closets, in the storage compartments.
His ad also has more copy. It's about 300 words long. Here's an outline of what each paragraph details:
So, here now, your relentless scribe's copy for the CoupleCoach...
The Coachmen Prism 2200LE is the best of both worlds: the legendary Mercedes Sprinter 3500 chassis, and a roomy, comfortable C-class coach. (A friend with a much more expensive Sprinter-based C-class peeked inside this one, and was really bummed out. His rig was just more expensive. This one was more roomy.) The Sprinter is a pleasure to drive. And once you park and open the slide, the coach has plenty of living space. We've had 8 people inside and felt perfectly good about it. (Not sure you can do that in a van.)
The walk-around queen bed features the upgraded mattress. It's surprisingly good by any standard, not just RV-bed standards. The entertainment center features a 32-inch flat-screen TV and a surround-sound bar, as well a stereo system with CD/DVD. Kitchen features a combination microwave/convection oven, a three-burner range, and a dual-fuel refrigerator (electric/propane). Works great. Always had ice for our beverages.
Bonus: we bought this rig new. That means we handled all of the road trials so you don't have to. And (for real) we've never pooped in the toilet. This is one clean rig. We've lived and worked in it for extended periods. The swiveling cab seats are great for that. We've always had plenty of storage. There's also a custom made black walnut dinette tabletop, and a custom sink cover/cutting board. Both are handcrafted artisan product by Boone Creek Farm in Missouri. (The original factory components are also still in the rig.)
All regular maintenance has been performed by Mercedes Benz of Draper. We've also had warranty work on the coach performed at the Coachmen factory. Additionally, we had Coachmen install tank heaters so the rig can be used in colder weather. The Onan generator has very low hours. There's a Zamp portable solar panel, which is really convenient. When you park your rig under a shade tree, you can still put your solar panel out in the sun. (The coach came pre-wired for solar as a standard feature.) The receiver hitch is great for your bike rack. All six tires are fairly new, and still have plenty of life left in them. When not in use, the rig has always been stored under cover in St. George.
Here's a link to the full specs...
Is this genius copy? Heck no. It's just fun and authentic--and it did something really, really useful...
It attracted the right people. Everyone we spoke to was a pleasure. (The scammers notwithstanding, of course. Everyone tries to get a piece of you. Hint: a text message sent at 2am is a dead giveaway that you're not really an interested buyer in Arizona who doesn't have ready cash but will provide a cashier's check, sight unseen.)
Everyone who reached out was new to RV'ing. They were all happy, interested and interesting. By day four, we had a conditional offer over the phone from a retired college professor and his college professor son. They drove four and a half hours to come pick it up, we went to the credit union to confirm their cashier's check, they drove away, and I had to tell four other people whom I would've liked to meet that the RV was sold.
And why did this happen? The buyer said exactly what we'd hoped: the photos made it look attractive, the copy made it sound attractive, and talking on the phone immediately confirmed that this was just the seller and the deal he'd hoped for.
And this is not that hard to do.
Yes, I write better than some people. Yes, I have more experience turning a phrase than many.
But everyone has a voice and a command of the language. And something I don't have that you do is your story.
Whatever you're selling, you have a story that goes with it. That story needs to be attractive. What is it that makes a prospect desire what you have? Hint: it is not saying, "Don't try to scam me, wait until I get around to you, and here's just one of the problems you're going to buy when you buy from me." It's saying, "Wow, isn't this great!? We've had our fun with it, and you can, too!"
The easiest way to do this is write a letter to someone you know about what you're selling and what they'r like about it. Then, don't mail it. Turn it into an ad.
You can write an ad for almost anything and make it better than the other ads for similar products. Just tell me a) your story, and b) what's in it for me.
If you'd like to see the classified ad (with all the photos) at KSL.com, click here.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
Psychologist and entrepreneur Dr. Rachna Jain is back with insights into how these crazy times can be good for business and good for you. Ironically, social distancing is leading to all kinds of new ways to meet new prospects. And, there are more opportunities to put new skills into your tool box.
DO YOU REALLY HAVE ANY IDEA?
Do your employees?
Or your business partner?
You might be shocked and surprised, perhaps unpleasantly.
Earlier this year, the Fabulous Honey Parker and I announced a new project called CoupleCo.
This is a project by and about couple entrepreneurs--why they do it, why they love it, and how they keep a business going without killing each other.
CoupleCo is one reason we're out here on the road, crossing this great nation of ours in the Slow Burn Marketing Brand Response Unit. Besides visiting clients, we've been conducting interviews for CoupleCo.
Recently, we interviewed a couple who have been running a business together for about 8 years.
These are not kids. They are fully formed, middle-age adults who've been around and had successful careers of their own independent of each other.
TOGETHER, THEY HAVE BUILT A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS
They are exactly the kind of people we like to interview.
In wrapping up an interview, we ask the subjects a series of quick questions about each other.
With this particular couple, the exchange went something like this.
"OK, Bill. What is Jill's best quality?"
He says, "She has leaned to do this and such much better with more patience and insight, and she has become more thoughtful about the process."
She says, "You have no idea what you're talking about."
She then rebutted his entire answer.
Clearly, she was right.
He had an entire set of assumptions about something she was doing in the business, and he was dead wrong.
LET THIS BE A LESSON ABOUT ASSUMPTIONS
They are no substitute for actual communication.
And actual communication is something that is frequently lacking inside of a small business--and can bite a brand in the butt, Bob.
Often, the lack of communication is basic.
A simple and common example: The receptionist says to the business owner, "I don't know what's going on, but the phone is suddenly ringing off the hook."
Business owner: "Oh! I forgot to tell you! We're running a new ad in the paper!"
And don't think this is uncommon. I can't count the number of times something like this happened when I worked in radio.
You spend a couple of weeks working with a client who's spending a few thousand to put together a radio promotion.
The radio commercial finally hits the air.
And you find out the business owner never bothered to communicate the promotion to the staff.
DON'T THINK THIS IS NECESSARILY SMALL IN SCOPE, EITHER
We've seen the person in charge not bother to communicate a new brand to the staff.
You know what happens then?
People who've been working under the old brand for years and loving it (even if the brand fits like a bad suit) become uncooperative and pissy.
They refuse to join the business in its brand evolution.
And eventually, the brand withers.
Conversely, we've seen a good explanation of a new brand to the team do astonishing things.
A workforce that was already doing a good and competent job suddenly becomes energized and ready to do things that are even bigger and better.
THE TROOPS BECOME GALVANIZED!
A good brand makes them rally around their leader and prepare to go forth and crush the competition!
But that works only if there's actual communication.
There is no substitute for having a message and being clear.
Communicating the brand and the advertising--the strategy and the tactics--is an essential step.
Imagine that commerce is a battlefield.
The brand's army is assembled there, ready to fight.
And the general standing before them suddenly looks at his cell phone, and wanders off to take a call from his wife.
And never comes back.
WHAT ARE THE TROOPS TO DO?
That's a lot of guys all dressed up, armed to the teeth, and scratching their asses.
That's an expensive proposition--and one that's destined to fail.
Without a mission and orders, those troops are going wherever they feel like--and that doesn't mean they're going to accomplish anything of value.
They need communication.
We've seen something as simple as a re-branding with clarity and purpose give the business owner a tool with which to marshal the troops, inspire them, and give them purpose in a business that was once muddled and without obvious direction.
But if clarity of communication is lacking?
THAT ENTIRE REBRANDING EFFORT WOULD BE POINTLESS
It would be a waste of time and money.
And who has enough of either?
At its most basic, communication keeps everyone on the same page with a clear of idea of mission and goals.
The receptionist doesn't wonder why the phone is suddenly ringing.
The salespeople don't look like idiots when a customer says he wants the offer from the radio.
And your wife doesn't look at you during a recorded interview and say, "You have no idea what you're talking about."
Talk to each other. It's more profitable.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
DO YOU OWN A BUSINESS WITH YOUR HUSBAND/WIFE/PARTNER/SIGNIFICANT OTHER?
If so, you are brave and lucky individual.
Lucky because you get to run a business with the most important person in your life.
Brave because there's a good chance your relationship will be destroyed when it augers into the dirt like a drunk in squirrel suit hurling himself off a cliff in the Swiss alps.
Did you know that 57% of all couplepreneur businesses end in business failure AND divorce?
Did you also know that your faithful scribe just pulled that statistic out of thin air?
YES, THAT STATISTIC IS A LIE
As far as you know.
But it brings up an important question: how the hell do entrepreneurial couples make it work?
The Fabulous Honey Parker and I are constantly asking ourselves that question even as we run a business together.
From our lofty writers' perch here at the Mountaintop Marketing Fortress, we peer down into the world of entrepreneurial couples across the land and wonder, "Does anyone have louder, more vehement, knock-down, drag-out arguments about comma placement than we do?"
Professional writers in business together. You certainly can't say that we don't care about our product.
CALL US THE BILL & MELINDA GATES OF SMALL-BUSINESS BRANDING
No, we're not multi-billionaires.
Nor is either one of us a propeller-head overlord intent on ruling the world through domination of zeroes and ones.
But like the Gateses, we are a married (ahem) "power" couple who've joined forces to make the world a better place--but through small-business branding.
And as Mrs. Gates says about her partnership with Mr. Gates, "We have a collaborative relationship, but we don't spend every minute together."
Of course, Honey and I probably spend more time together than they do, engaging in various kinds of lunacy that Bill and Melinda might eschew. It's hard to imagine the fearless leaders of the Gates Foundation training for wilderness endurance races together.
CAN YOU SAY, "BRING ME THE EPSOM SALTS, DEAR"?
Anyway, there is a point to all this.
Not that both working and playing together is somehow the be-all and end-all of professional perfection.
Though, there is something to be said for being able to do all this with your best friend on earth.
However, if you do own a business with your significant other--or you know a couple who does so--you know that such an undertaking is a glorious minefield.
You think everything's going along swimmingly and then--KABLOOM! Professional and personal body parts everywhere.
HOW DO BILL & MELINDA GATES DO IT?
Or Brangelina? (Apparently Angelina directed Brad in By The Sea and they found it really difficult. But they survived and are stronger for it.)
Or Beyoncé and Jay-Z? (In the wake of rumors about marital trouble on their On The Run tour, they renewed their vows and released a new album. They survived and are stronger for it.)
Or any of the thousands of other non-power couples who run little businesses all across this great nation of ours and survive the daily BS and are stronger for it?
How do they keep the ship afloat despite doing one of the most insanely inadvisable things in business: sleeping with the boss.
Especially when you're not sure who the boss really is?
(You might think that I'm the boss in this business, since Honey routinely calls me, "Mr. Parker." You would be entirely wrong.)
WHAT IS THE SECRET TO A CRACK COUPLE IN BUSINESS TOGETHER?
This is the question that The Fabulous Honey Parker and your relentless scribe have been asking.
And knowing how to have a violent throwdown about comma placement is definitely not the answer. Or even part of it. (Though it certainly makes for a good story over cocktails.)
We've learned by doing.
But there has to be a better way.
This is why your relentless scribe now poses this question: what would you like to know about working with your husband/wife/significant other?
Are you in such a business/relationship now?
Would you like to be?
IF YOU'RE NOT OR YOU DON'T, DO YOU JUST STAND ON THE SIDELINES?
Are you watching the couples who are doing it and just shaking your head?
Do you think they are insane?
Do you envy them?
Do you wish they had better comma placement skills?
What is the single burning question on your mind about couplepreneurism?
Send it our way, because The Fabulous Honey Parker and I are grappling with this challenge right now, this very minute.
AND THE RESULTS ARE GOING TO BE A WHOLE LOT OF FUN
Yesterday, September 5, Labor Day 2016, we officially launched a project called CoupleCo.
Tagline: It's business...and it's personal.
CoupleCo is an entrepreneur's resource for married couples or significant others who have started a business together.
And right now, we need to know what a couple (like you if that is you) in business together needs and would like to see.
And since you know that we here at the Fortress have a very hard time not enjoying what we do, there will be laughs. Frequently there is entertainment.
Even if you're not in business with your life partner but have flirted with the idea--or think we're all just crazy--talk to us.
If you know someone who fits the bill, share this missive with him/her/them.
Blaine Parker is prone to ranting about any and all things related to brand. In many ways, he is a professional curmudgeon. While there is no known vaccine for this, the condition is also not contagious. Unless you choose it to be so.