Business Growth Masterclass 16 – How to Calculate and Lower the cost of your Customers

How to Calculate and Lower the Cost of Your Customers

 

Hello there and welcome to the 16th instalment of my Business Growth Masterclass. The step by step guide to building the business you always wished you could have.

 

Today, we’re going to look at how to calculate the cost of your customer and a few techniques you can use to lower that cost and increase the profitability of each of your customers, both old and new.

 

As ever though, before we get our teeth into today’s material, lets just check on actions from the last Business Growth Masterclass:

 

Did you do your homework?

  • You have a system in place for measuring your conversion rate on a daily, weekly, monthly and by-campaign basis.
  • You have chosen two new strategies to implement for an increase in conversions, and are measuring the results.

Great. Homework done. Now let’s get started with today’s Business Growth Masterclass.

When you buy a product, you want to receive the most for your money. The same is true for customer acquisition.

customers

Generating leads and converting those leads into paying customers is a process that costs you money. You can attribute a piece of your marketing and sales costs to each of the customers that you successfully attract and convert.

Essentially, you buy customers for your business.

Let me repeat that: essentially, you buy customers for your business.

Please read this again and understand it on a very basic level. If I sent you to the store with £40 to buy a white t-shirt, you would be successful. Well you can do the same thing with GOOD clients (ones that pay, stay and refer). Do not be scared to go into the business of buying good clients. This one distinction can completely change the way you do business and your level of success.

So when you think of your customer as your most valuable asset, you’re absolutely right. They’re an investment in your business that you expect to see a return from.

As with any investment, you not only want to see a return, but you want to see the greatest return possible. In this case, you could try to reduce your marketing budget, or boost your profit margins, but the easiest way to minimise the cost of a customer and maximise your return is to increase the number of times each customer buys from you.

In the five-step process, this is called increasing the number of transactions in your business. Instead of constantly chasing down leads and buying new customers, your work is to keep the customers you have bought coming back to spend more money.

In this Business Growth Masterclass we will cover:

  • The financial impact of repeat business
  • How to figure out the average number of transactions of your business
  • How to calculate your average customer acquisition cost
  • The lifetime value of your customers
  • The 80/20 rule and letting some customers go
  • How you can lower the cost of your customers to boost profits

Increasing your repeat business is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to boost your bottom line.

Turning a single transaction customer into a repeat or lifetime customer is one of the simplest ways to boost your bottom line. It costs very little and is largely based on the experience you can create for the people who buy from you.

With a little bit of time and thought, you can turn single-transaction customers into loyal patrons, or even big fans of your business. This not only translates into returning customers, but also earns customers that refer you to their friends.

Financially, the more times a customer buys from you, the lower their acquisition cost becomes. You only have to buy customers once, so when that figure is spread over several transactions it goes down.

Here’s a chart of how a 10% increase and 30% increase in average number of transactions can impact your bottom line.

Starting Point 10% Increase 30% Increase
Leads 4,500 4,500 4,500
Conversion Rate 30% 30% 30%
Customers 1350 1350 1350
Transactions 1.3 1.43 (10% increase) 1.69 (30% increase)
Average Sales Value £140 £140 £140
Revenue £245,700 270,270 319,410
Margins 24% 24% 24%
Profit £58,968 £64,864.80 £76,658.40

What is the average number of transactions for your business?

If you have a system for managing customer accounts and tracking purchases, this next step will be really straightforward. If you have a computer-based point of sale system, your reporting functions may even be able to calculate this figure for you.

To figure out the average number of times each customer buys from you, you need to choose a time period (the last 12 months is a good starting point) and a sample of customer accounts with the number of times each has purchased from you. Take 50 at random, or all the customers starting with the letter “T” as an example to illustrate the point.

Then, add up the total number of transactions for each of the customers in your sample, and divide the total by the number of customers in your sample. This is your average number of transactions. For example, if I have a sample of 10 customers, my calculation might look something like this:

4 + 5 + 2 + 8 + 5 + 1 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 6 = 32 32 / 10 = 3.2 average number of transactions

If you don’t have an existing data source for this information, survey your customers or start your own tracking system to use over the course of a week or month. Note on your customers’ accounts when they purchased and what they purchased, or keep a tally at the cash register. If you can’t survey your customers or create a viable database, then just estimate the figure based on your observations over a week or over the history of your business.

Remember that the average number of transactions is going to be different for every business. Grocery stores will have far different figures than furniture stores, computer stores will have dramatically different numbers than coffee shops based on the frequency that people need those products or services.

What is the average customer acquisition cost for your business?

Do you know how much do you spend – on average – on each customer you acquire? To calculate this, simply divide the amount of money you spend per month (or per campaign) on lead generation by the total number of sales in that month (or campaign duration).

For example, if you spend an average of £5,000 each month on advertising, and you generate about 250 unique sales per month, your average customer acquisition cost is £20. Or, if you spent £10,000 on an ad campaign over three months, and generated 400 campaign-specific sales, your customer acquisition cost would be £25.

To evaluate this figure, look at it as a percentage of your average sale. Of the 250 unique sales in first example from the paragraph above, and say the average purchase was £75, £40 of which was margin. Subtract the customer acquisition cost from your margin, and you’ll have the average profit of each sale, in this case it’s £20.

What is the lifetime value of your customers?

Now, assuming your average customer acquisition cost is £20, let’s take a look at what would happen if you turned that customer into a lifetime customer. What value does that customer have to your business?

First let’s look at the value of a single transaction customer:

Customer Acquisition Cost £20
Number of transactions 1
Average value of each transaction £75
Average profit margin £40
Margin minus acquisition cost £20
Total value of customer £20

Then, assume that an average customer ‘lifetime’ with your business is about five years. Calculate as you did above, spreading the customer acquisition cost over the total number of transactions.

Customer Acquisition Cost £20
Number of transactions 15 (assuming 3 per year)
Average value of each transaction £75
Average profit margin £40
Margin minus acquisition cost £38.67 (£40 – [£20/15])
Total value of customer £580

Here’s a more in-depth look at cost of a single transaction customer, in comparison to a tripe transaction customer or a lifetime customer:

One Time Year Lifetime
Customer Acquisition Cost £20 £20 £20
Number of Transactions 1 3 15
Average Value of Each Transaction £75 £75 £75
Average Profit Margin on Each Transaction (excluding acquisition cost) £40 £40 £40
Actual profit per Transaction (profit margin – [customer acquisition cost / # of transactions]) £20 (£40 – £20) £33.33 (£40 – (£20/3)) £38.67 (£40 – (£20/15))
Lifetime Value of Customer (in profit)(actual profit per transaction x # of transactions) £20 £100 £580

Based on the chart above, you can see that the lifetime customer who purchased from you 15 times over five years brought your business £580 in profit, in comparison to the single transaction customer who brought your business £20 in profit.

Both customers cost you the same amount – £20 – but there is a £560 difference in return on investment! Repeat business – the average number of transactions per customer – makes a huge difference on your bottom line.

Give yourself permission to fire some of your customers.

Everyone has a group of customers they enjoy doing business with and are pleased to continually serve (our A-list). Likewise, we all also have a group of customers (our C-list) who are a pain to deal with. They may consistently complain, only take advantage of special offers or never spend much money after a bunch of hassle.

Like a good business owner, I bet you treat every customer with respect, and give them the attention they need – even the C-list. Here is where the 80/20 rule applies: 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers. That 20% of your customers is what we call your A-list.

The important point here is that while you’re busy trying to make your C-list customer happy, you’re missing the opportunity to give your A-list customer the level of service they deserve. Since the majority of your revenue comes from your A-list customers, that’s where you should be focusing your efforts.

So, give yourself permission to fire your C-list, and stop bending over backwards to address their concerns. Don’t let them rule your time. Spend your efforts making your A-list happy, and their purchases will more than make up the difference.

Let’s look at some strategies that will help you boost your repeat business, and your bottom line.

Customer Service

Everyone- even businesses with high customer service standards – can improve the service they provide to their customers. This phrase is used a lot, but it’s true: Under promise and over deliver.

If you’re looking for new ways to impress your customers with service, conduct a survey of your existing customers and ask them how you can enhance or streamline their experience dealing with your company.

When you establish standards of customer service, make sure they are:

Consistently implemented by everyone in your business. Every customer who walks through the door experiences the same level of service, and receive that same service every time they walk through the door.

Convenient for your customer. Make the purchase process seamless for your customer. Think of all the steps your customers has to take from driving or walking to the store until they leave with their purchase, and try to eliminate any inconvenient elements.

Driven by the needs and wants of the customer. Understand how your target market wants to be treated when they’re purchasing from you. What do they value most from the experience? High end linens, or fast service? One-on-one assistance, or ample space and time to browse?

Newsletters

Use newsletters to establish and maintain regular contact with your customers. This is an easy, time-effective and cost-effective customer retention strategy

You’ll spend an upcoming Business Growth Masterclass learning how to create and send effective newsletters, but the most important point to remember is that the newsletter (just like all other marketing materials) needs to be focused on the needs and interests of your target audience.

The most popular and environmentally friendly form of distribution is through email. This is highly cost effective, as some web-based programs start at just £10 per month, and can be customised to your business’ graphic standards.

Here is a list of the types of content you can include in your newsletter:

  • Expert advice or opinion
  • New product or service features
  • New offers or promotions
  • Company news
  • Customer surveys
  • “Missed you!” emails
  • Event or closed-door sale invitations

Added Value

Find ways to increase your customers’ perception of value so they feel that their money goes further at your business compared to the competition. Value added products or services not only add to your average Transaction value but create repeat customers by:

Making a great first impression. Providing a customer with more than they expected – something goes beyond meeting their needs – establishes a solid first impression of your business. They learn to associate the experience of shopping at your business with pleasant surprises, which is a huge draw for returning customers.

Giving them a reason to come back. The perception that your products or services have a higher value than the competition will convince your customers to purchase from you, and refer their friends. The addition of new value-added products or services will keep them coming back.

Here are some examples of added value:

  • Free shipping/delivery with minimum purchase
  • Premium product or service line
  • Bonus gift with minimum purchase
  • Complementary product packages
  • Guarantees or risk-free purchases

happy customer

Incentives and Customer Loyalty Programs

A common form of customer retention is to provide incentives to customers to entice them to come back and buy from you.

A systemised form of incentives is called a Customer Loyalty Programme – and I bet you’re part of several. Loyalty programs work because they provide a consistent visual reminder of your business through a card, key fob, rewards vouchers, or other such items, and give the customer a financial incentive to purchase from you instead of your competition.

These programs vary from simple cards to complex rewards structures, but they don’t have to be complicated or costly. Plus, once they’re in place, they’re super easy to maintain. Loyalty programs are also great market research tools because you can collect a wealth of information on the signup form, maintain a detailed database and monitor their purchase habits.

You’ll spend an entire Business Growth Masterclass learning how to set up a loyalty programme from start to finish, but here are the basic structures to give you an idea:

Loyalty Cards Provide a wallet size card and use a stamp or punch to track their purchases until they reach 10. When they reach the magic number, the next product or service is free.

Rewards Dollars Return a certain percentage of each purchase to the customer using coupons that can only be spent with you.

Rewards Points Award a certain percentage of each pound they spend to a points account. These points can be used to spend in-store, or on special items brought in for points-holders only.

Membership Amenities Produce membership cards, and give your members access to services, discounts or amenities that other customers do not have access to.

Remember, each of your customers is a valuable asset that you have purchased to grow your business.

Treat your customers like you would treat good friends, and offer them the perks and rewards they deserve for their loyalty. I find that this approach is also a lot more rewarding because I get to know my customers, and some of them actually become friends.

Of course, there will always be a few clients you’ll never please, so keep the 80/20 rule fresh in your mind. Don’t be afraid of firing the customers who drain your time and your resources. Your A-list will more than make up the difference in revenue.

In the next Business Masterclass, I’ll show you a ton of ways you can add value to your product or service, and boost the pound value of each and every sale.

As always, let me know if you have any questions.

You can  use the contact form below to discuss and get help with the topics covered in this, or any of the previous Business Growth Masterclasses.

Until next time, good luck!

Advertisements

Business Growth Masterclass 15 – How to improve your conversion rate

Hello there and welcome to the 15th instalment of my Business Growth Masterclass. The step by step guide to building the business you always wished you could have.

Today, we’re going to look at a few tips and tricks to increase your conversion rates from lead to paying customer or client.

As ever though, before we get our teeth into today’s material, lets just check on actions from the last Business Growth Masterclass:

Did you do your homework?

  • You have implemented two persuasive writing techniques in your marketing materials.
  • You have elaborated on your list of emotional trigger words and phrases that will inspire your target market to take action.

Now that your target prospects are answering your call to action, how can you get them to actually become your customers?

conversions funnel

A big part of your focus to date has been on identifying who your ideal customers are, deciding how to reach them, and how to communicate with them so that they take action and contact you. Converting leads into customers is your next point of focus, and step two of the five-step process. You’ve spent so much time and money enticing the right people to raise their hands and identify themselves that now all you and your staff need to do is convince them to become your customers. Generally, how your potential customers perceive your business and your staff, as well as how much trust you can build and how fast you can build that trust are the two key factors that impact conversion rates. Secondly, the strength of your sales process and scripts as well as the level of risk involved in purchasing your product or service also have a powerful impact on conversion rates. But before we get into ways you can improve your conversion rates, let’s take a look at where conversions stand in your business right now. I’ll also show you how to evaluate whether you have a strong conversion rate or not – it’s not as black and white as you think.

In this Masterclass we will cover:

  • How your conversion rate impacts the bottom line
  • How to measure your conversion rate
  • How to evaluate your conversion rate
  • How trust and qualified lead generation impacts conversion rates
  • Strategies for improving your conversion rate

Your conversion rate is the second factor in the customer equation.

A conversion rate is simply the number of transactions divided by the number of leads during a specific time period. It’s a ratio between the number of people you attracted with your lead generation strategies, and the number of people who purchased from you and became your customers. So if 150 people come through your store in a day, and 50 of them make a purchase, your conversion rate is 33% for that day.

Converting leads – which is essentially the sales process – is likely the core of your daily business efforts. You’ve spent time and money setting up lead generation systems and strategies, so it stands to reason that you should put equal time and energy into converting those leads into loyal customers. I’m going to show you in a few minutes how you can improve your conversion rate with a few simple strategies, but first I want to show you how increasing your conversion rate alone will have a dramatic impact on your bottom line. Using the five-step formula, here is an example of how a 10% and 30% increase in conversions can impact your total profit.

Starting Point 10% Increase 30% Increase
Leads 4,500 4,500 4,500
Conversion Rate 30% 33% (10% increase) 39% (30% increase)
Customers 1350 1485 1755
Transactions 1.3 1.3 1.3
Average Sales Value £140 £140 £140
Revenue £245,700 £270,270 £319,410
Margins 24% 24% 24%
Profit £58,968 £64,864.80 £76,658.40

What is the average conversion rate for your business?

To figure out your conversion rate, choose a specific time period (day, week, month, campaign) and then divide the total number of sales transactions by the number of people who inquired about your product or service (leads) and multiply by 100. This is a percentage value of your conversion rate. For example, 50 transactions / 150 leads x 100 = 33% conversion rate. Now, if I wanted to look at conversions over a specific time period, the rate would vary:

Leads Sales Conversion Rate
Day 150 50 33%
Week 910 286 31%
Month 4050 1196 29%

If you’ve been tracking your leads over the past few weeks, you’ll be in good shape. All you may have to do is look at your lead tracking sheet, and divide into it your total number of sales over specific time periods. You’ll be able to analyse what your conversion rate looks like over the course of ad or direct mail campaigns, as well as over various weeks in the month. If you haven’t started tracking your leads, you’re going to have to start in order to understand what your true conversion rate is. In my experience, many business owners overestimate what this percentage actually is, so I feel this is an important step in the process.

Keep track of the following items in your conversion rate measurement sheet:

  • Start date and end date of the measurement period (by ad campaign, week, or month)
  • Total number of leads (divided by source – telephone, in store, online, etc.)
  • Total number of sales transactions
  • How trust and qualified lead generation impacts conversion rates

If you’re starting to track leads and sales today, by the end of a week you’ll have a reasonable understanding of where your business stands.

How do you evaluate if your conversion rate is “good” or not?

I have clients ask me this all the time, ‘Once you know what your conversion rate is, how can you tell if it’s “good” or “profitable”?’ Unfortunately, the answer isn’t a black and white one. The truth is that conversion rates vary and depend on the product, service and customer base. Different businesses can have dramatically different rates, yet both rates can mean the respective companies are highly successful. For example, a thriving pound store may have a conversion rate of almost 80%, while a profitable furniture store may have a conversion rate of 30%. Other businesses might have rates of anywhere from 4% to 99%. You can put it into perspective if you think about how differently these businesses operate. Pound stores generally have a high volume of foot traffic and offer a wide variety of products. The price point is low, and most people who walk into a pound store buy something. Furniture stores, on the other hand, offer products of a higher value that usually require more thought prior to purchase. The store generally advertises to attract leads that are looking for specific items and features. Lastly, the product requires a much more substantial investment. So, instead of focusing on how close your conversion rate is to 100%, you need to think of conversions as relative to your break-even point – either for a campaign or for regular business operations. To do this, you need more information than the rate itself. You need to know how many leads you need to convert into customers to see a return on investment. You need to know how much money each lead costs you, on average how much they spend, and how much of their spend is actual profit. For example, if you have £4,000 to spend on advertising and you want to see £20,000 in sales, will a 20% conversion rate be enough to do the job? To answer this, you need more information on other measures in your business. You need to know your average pound sale and average customer acquisition cost. In this example, let’s say your average pound sale is £42 and your average customer acquisition cost is £2.50. (You’ll look at customer acquisition costs in the next Masterclass). If you take your £4,000 advertising budget and divide by your £2.50 customer acquisition cost, you’ll expect to generate about 1,600 leads. So 1,600 leads with a 20% conversion rate would equal 320 sales – not bad. Now, take the 320 projected sales times the average pound sale of £75, and you’ll get £24,000 in revenue. That’s a reasonable ROI for a £4,000 investment! But is the 20% conversion rate a ‘good’ one? To answer this, you’ll have to factor in your profit margin to determine the answer. You wanted to achieve £20,000 from your £4,000 advertising investment. Let’s say your average profit margin is 45.3%. So, on each £75 sale, you made £34 profit. So, let’s look at your actual profit after costs:

320 sales x £34 profit per transaction= £10,880 in take home profit.

So, when the rest of your business measures are factored in, you actually only achieved a 272% return on investment, which is about half of what you were targeting. Therefore, in this case, a 20% target conversion rate isn’t necessarily a strong one for your business.

Now, before you dive into any conversion rate boosting strategies, focus on building trust and generating qualified leads – the cornerstones of a profitable conversion rate.

You probably already know that trust is a huge factor in any exchange with a potential customer. When you first learned about sales and the selling process, you learned about building trust and rapport with the people who are giving you their money. So, trust is therefore a big factor in having a healthy (and profitable) conversion rate. Your prospect needs to trust in the value of your offering, as well as the credibility of the business and the knowledge of the people who work there. The issue here, of course, is the length of time it takes to truly establish trust, or credibility. With all your new leads – practically strangers – walking through the door and picking up the phone, you need to establish instant trust and credibility in order to make the most of the time you spend with each prospect. The other important point I want to make is about the role that qualified leads have in your conversion rate. It’s one thing to have hundreds of leads contact you on a daily basis, but if they’re not qualified leads, they’re less likely to buy, and are therefore potentially wasting your time and squashing your conversion rate.

Here are five ways you can boost your conversion rate with little improvements to your business.

satisfied_customers

1. Build instant trust.

Use testimonials. Ask happy customers to write testimonials about their experience at your business. Use their words (or even their whole letters) in your marketing materials, or post them in your place of business. Testimonials boost confidence in what you’re offering and establish trust in the eyes of prospects.

Showcase your good news. Post awards, accolades, media articles and other ‘proof’ of your credibility around your business and on your website.

2. Create an image of quality.

Consider the appearance of your staff. How do you and your staff members dress? Does your appearance communicate the right message to potential clients about your offering? You don’t need to show up in a suit every day, but make sure everyone’s appearance is professional and appropriate for your business.

Improve the perception of your business. This includes the physical state of your place of business, as well as the quality of your marketing materials and the quality of the service customers’ receive when they purchase from you.

Give merchandise displays a boost. Can you make your products look more attractive through the way they’re displayed or arranged? Put complementary products together, and create feature product displays to create variety and interest.

3. Train and develop your staff.

Give staff conversion targets and incentives. Remember that you’re not the only one who can contribute to an increase in conversions. Involve and support your staff in tracking and boosting conversion rates. Give them individual targets, and incentives for meeting them.

Review and improve sales process. Everyone can improve their sales skills, and refine the process they use to close sales. Take an opportunity to watch and give feedback to your staff members, or hold a brainstorming session to discuss what techniques, phrases, objections are most effective when selling your product or service.

Develop and continuously update scripts. If you’re not using scripts, it’s time to start (you’ll see why in an upcoming Masterclass). If you are using scripts, make sure you’re revising and improving them on a regular basis based on what you and your staff experience during the sales process.

Focus on customer education instead of sales. Face it, no one likes to be ‘sold’ to. Focus your sales process on building a relationship with and educating your customer on the benefits and solutions of your offering. The more they learn, the more they’ll believe what you have to say, trusting the business enough to make a purchase.

4. Improve your offering.

customer-service

Increase quality, exclusivity or range. Can you improve the quality of products or services that you offer? Carry a more exclusive product, or extend your range of products? Take a look at your merchandising mix and service menu and identify areas where you can expand or specialise.

Make great offers. Strong offers can also serve as an incentive for a potential customer to complete the sale. Offer great perceived value, or exclusive and time-sensitive products or services, and you’ll see a spike in your conversion rate.

5. Take away purchase risk.

Provide free trials and demonstrations. Allow your customers to test out your product or service for free, with no obligation to purchase. Or, offer free demonstrations so your customer can see the benefit or solution your product or service provides.

Guarantee product or service performance. Take away the purchase risk from your potential customer, and you’ll have a powerful strategy for closing sales and increasing conversions. This is also an immediate trust and credibility booster – you are so confident in your product or service’s results that you’re guaranteeing them.

Work with your staff on a daily or weekly basis to consistently measure and increase conversion rates.

Post a calendar in the staff room or common area, and track your targeted and actual conversion rates on a daily and weekly basis. This will give you and your staff a visual reminder of the company’s goals, as well as an indication of how the team is performing. You don’t work in your business alone, so involve and motivate your team to support you in growing your business. Give them incentives and help them develop their sales skills, and I promise you’ll see an impact on your conversions. The next step is about customer loyalty – how to keep your clients coming back to make new purchases, instead of continuously trying to buy new clients. As always, let me know if you have any questions.

You can  use the contact form below to discuss and get help with the topics covered in this,or Any of the previous Business Growth Masterclasses.

Until next time, good luck!

Business Growth Masterclass 14: How to Be a (Better) Copywriter

Hello there and a belated Happy New Year to all who follow my blog. Let’s hope for a busy and very prosperous 2014 for us all.

Welcome to the 14th instalment of my Business Growth Masterclass. The step by step guide to building the business you always wished you could have.

Today, we’re going to look at what it takes to write brilliant attention-grabbing copy in all those marketing peices that are so important to the growth and prosperity of your business.

As ever though, before we get our teeth into today’s material, lets just check on actions from the last Business Growth Masterclass:

Did you do your homework?

  • You have created at least two advertisements to use in an upcoming campaign.
  • You have a plan in place to test and measure the success of each advertisement, and make changes based on your results.

Great! You’re all set to go with this month’s Masterclass. Read on.

When writing sales copy, you’re racing to hold your readers’ time.

Unlike novels or news stories, sales copy doesn’t have the luxury of a reader’s patience. No one is going to leisurely sit down with your brochure and pour over every word, or analyse your ad to really understand what it’s trying to communicate.

Writing for sales means racing to catch and hold your readers’ attention long enough to convince them to take action. Every word and every sentence needs to mean something to the reader and support your message.

There are dozens of helpful tips and suggestions in this Masterclass that will strengthen your ability to write effective copy. Someone once told me that copywriting can never be too long – just too boring. And it’s true. Copy needs to be captivating and easy to read or it simply won’t be read.

As you work through this Masterclass, I encourage you to take a few of your recent marketing pieces – like a brochure, sales letter, an ad or any other copy-heavy document – and identify the mistakes you may be making. There are always opportunities to strengthen your work, so be open to them.

In this Masterclass we will cover:

  • Copywriting myths
  • Tips for triggering emotions and hitting hot buttons
  • Strategies for improving copywriting
  • Persuasion techniques for marketing materials
  • Examples of effective copy

The first step to better copy is to stop buying into these myths about copywriting and copywriters.

I find that there are a lot of misunderstandings out there when it comes to copywriting and copywriters. This is often closely linked to advertising myths, like you have to have a big budget to be successful, or the prettier the ad, the more effective it is. It’s all just hype.

I urge you to let go of these common misperceptions:

1. Good copy needs to be clever and fancy.
Good copy needs to get the message to the right audience. Fluffy words, long sentences and poor attempts at clever humor get in the way of the message. You’re not competing for a copywriting award; you’re competing for customers. Worry less about the high budget ads in Vanity Fair, and more about your audience’s emotional triggers.

2. Copy is the crux of the marketing campaign.
Of course your copy is important to your marketing efforts, but it can’t make the ship float. You need to have your target market identified and your message clearly defined before you can reach out with success. You need to have a strong product or service offer before you can tempt your audience with it. Strong copy is essential, but only after a strong foundation has been built.

3. Only professional copywriters can write effective copy.
As a small business owner, you have a considerable advantage over professional copywriters and big budget ad agencies. You know your product inside and out, and are actually passionate about it. Once you understand the elements of strong copy, you’ll have no problem creating it yourself.

Here are the key points you need to remember when writing sales copy:

  1. Copywriting is persuasive writing.
  2. Use a strong headline to get your readers’ attention and read the sub headline.
  3. Use a captivating sub headline to get your readers to read the first sentence.
  4. Design your first sentence to persuade the reader to read your second sentence.
  5. Repeat until you convince the reader to take action.

Strong copy grabs and holds your readers’ hot buttons, and keeps them reading.

Just like you did when you practiced writing headlines and creating powerful offers, use your knowledge of your target audience to provoke emotional reactions in your sales copy.

1. Use the word ‘you’ twice as often as ‘us’ ‘we’ or ‘our’.
To avoid writing sales copy that focuses too much on the merits of your business, try writing from the perspective of your reader. Focus on answering the question “what’s in it for me?” over and over again.

People love talking about themselves, so let them. Use the word ‘your’ as often as possible, and twice as often as the words ‘us’ ‘we’ or ‘our.’ Pretend you’re having a conversation with one person in your target market, and talk about them as much as you can in that conversation.

For example, if I simply wrote, “Buy our product and receive…” it would not have the same impact as “When you buy our product, you will receive…” Similarly, “Our members benefit from hundreds of pounds in savings” doesn’t hold the reader like “When you become a member, you will save hundreds of pounds…” does.

2. Use emotional trigger words.
Keep your list of emotional trigger words and power words handy when you’re writing. Word choice is a powerful component of successful copywriting, and not because particular words or phrases are unique. A few dozen words and phrases in marketing have been proven to have a stronger impact on target audiences than others. (For examples of some of these “powerful” words, take a look at the list in Business Growth Masterclass 12)

Use the tools that are available to you to continuously update and add to your lists of powerful words and phrases for copywriting. Research ‘power words’ online, or invest in a software programme that will measure the impact of your copy based on a database of statistically measured words.

3. Describe your audience’s problem in detail.
Don’t assume that your reader knows you understand their problem, or the experience they’re going through. Sympathise with them and show that you understand their problem, just like you would with a good friend. This technique builds their trust and confidence in you, so the more specific you can be in your description, the better.

A meal delivery service might consider copy like this: Are you tired of coming home from work, exhausted after a long day, faced with coming up with yet another dinner idea for your family? The copy can then go on to describe how the audience would benefit from the service.

4. Concentrate on benefits.
People buy benefits and results, not features or attributes. No one buys water filters; they buy clean, fresh-tasting water. They don’t buy lawn mowers and fertilizer; they buy a green, well-manicured lawn.

Hit your target’s hot buttons by painting a picture of how the benefit will solve their problem. Describe how cough syrup will ease symptoms, not cure the ailment. Focus on what is bothering or irritating the reader, that’s what they care about. Show how your product will bring about relief.

Use these simple guidelines and techniques to improve your overall copywriting skills.

Tone

  • Studies have shown that conversational writing is remembered more often than formal writing. Write to your audience in the same way that you would speak to friends or family. If you struggle with this, consider taping yourself having a fake conversation with a potential client, and then transcribe what you said.
  • Read every piece aloud as part of your editing process to ensure that it flows smoothly and is easy to understand.
  • Write in a tone that your readers are comfortable with, and used to hearing. Read the publications that they read to gain an understanding of what that tone sounds like.

Sentence Structure

  • Keep sentences to about 16 words or less.
  • Maintain a rhythm in your writing by varying sentence length.
  • Split long sentences into two, and connect them with words like ‘so’, ‘and’, or ‘because’.
  • Limit paragraphs to two or three sentences, or a single thought.

Vocabulary

  • Use clear, simple language, just like you would in conversation.
  • Avoid complicated, overly descriptive words
  • When you read your copy as part of the editing process, take out any and all unnecessary words. Use the least amount of copy to communicate the most information.
  • Avoid any and all industry-specific jargon and corporate clichés
  • Keep language positive and future focused, using words like ‘can’ and ‘will’

Formatting

  • Use headlines and sub headlines to break up your copy into sections
  • Remember that most people only skim information in the newspaper or on websites, so format your writing to be conducive to that habit.
  • List benefits and other important points in bullets or numbers so the reader can quickly identify which parts are of interest to them.

The Post Script

  • Use the Post Script (P.S.) at the end of your sales letters or direct mail letters to reinforce your message.
  • Studies show that reader look first at the headline, then the signature and P.S. before deciding to read the letter.
  • The P.S. can act as a secondary headline, or last opportunity to sell your message. Use it to restate a guarantee, powerful offer, primary benefit or free trial.

Use the following persuasion techniques for a surefire boost in response rate for your marketing materials.

Now that you’ve grasped a few of the basics of copywriting, use persuasion techniques to drive your message home and convince your audience to take action. Compelling or persuasive writing gradually builds an argument and leads the reader slowly down the path to the call to action.

Sales copy is persuasive because, when done right, it:

  • Grabs the attention of the reader from the beginning
  • Supports a main focus or argument
  • Backs up claims with specific proof like stats and expert opinion
  • Makes the reader believe what the copy is saying
  • Convinces the reader to act because there is something in it for them

Use storytelling to hold your readers’ attention 
We’ve all been conditioned to pay attention and respond to storytelling, so use this technique to hold your audience’s attention. Stories are also easier to remember than facts or lists. For example, tap into their empathy and tell them the story of someone who had a similar problem to the one they do, and describe how your product or service provided the solution. Use the story to gradually build proof behind your message.

Use metaphors to communicate imagery 
You won’t always be able to include images in your marketing pieces, so train yourself to write copy that communicates imagery in words. The easiest way to do this is to compare your points to strong images and objects that your audience will relate to and feel emotional about. You can do this with metaphors like sleep like a baby, and brewing like a perfect storm.

Use repetition to reinforce key messages
It often takes several attempts before someone will truly hear and understand what you have to say, so don’t be afraid of repeating yourself in your copywriting. Repeat your key messages several different times, several different ways. You can summarise your points in bullet form at the end of letters or important paragraphs, or use testimonials to reinforce your message through someone else’s voice.

Back up your claims with ‘reasons why…”
Use the word ‘because’ or the phrase ‘here’s why’ to build trust in your statements and claims. Place short lists of proof beneath bold statements; you are more likely to be believed because you went to the effort of backing up what you had to say.

Answer silent objections
Just like in the sales process, attempt to overcome objections before they can even be raised. Based on your experience selling to live customers, address one or two of the common objections in your copy. This shows that you understand the reader’s perspective and relate to their thought process because you’ve answered questions before they’ve asked them.

All successful copywriting taps into a reader’s emotional triggers, and convinces them to take action.

I know I keep coming back to this, but it’s really important. The more you can cultivate your ability to use words and persuasion to motivate your prospects, the stronger your marketing materials will be. All you have to do is practice, and test out a few of the techniques you learned today.

If you like, I can share with you a few tried and trusted templates for getting your marketing message across. All you have to do to benefit from this is fill in the form below and we can get started straight away. These make the job super easy and will save you heaps of time working it all out for yourself.

You can also use the contact form to discuss and get help with the topics covered in any of the previous Business Growth Masterclasses. (Listen, I know some of you don’t like filling in forms like this, but I promise you it will be worth your while. Go ahead!)

Since you’re probably seeing a big increase in qualified leads by now, we’re going to shift gears in the next Masterclass and move on to step two: increasing conversion rates. Are you ready?

Until then, good luck!

Business Growth Masterclass 13: Marketing Materials – Ads

Hello there, and welcome to the 13th instalment of my Business Growth Masterclass. The step by step guide to building the business you always wished you could have.

Today, we’re going to look at the importance of high quality advertisements in your overall marketing mix.

As ever though, before we get our teeth into today’s material, lets just check on actions from the last Business Growth Masterclass:

Checkpoint:

  • You have created a list of words to use in your marketing materials that will target your potential customer’s emotional motivators.
  • You have practiced writing headlines, and are working to strengthen the headlines you have been using.

For many small business owners, advertising is a confusing, expensive marketing strategy that delivers mediocre results.

We’re surrounded by advertising everywhere we look. From TV commercials and Google Adwords to local newspaper and radio spots, everyone is vying for your attention and the money in your wallet.

So, as a small business owner, how do you weed through the big corporate marketing campaigns and your competitors’ ads, flashy design and high budgets, and figure out what you should do for your own business?

In this Masterclass I want to show you how to create clear, cost-effective ads and placement campaigns that get results for your company.

I use a few hand picked templatesfor my coaching clients and I’m going to share some of this material with you today. They’re not going to win any advertising awards, but they don’t need to because they’ve generated hundreds of thousands of pounds for small business owners just like yourself! At the end of the day, do you want an advertising trophy, or thousands of pounds in the bank?

In this Business Growth Masterclass we will cover:

  • Types of advertising
  • Print advertising for lead generation
  • Steps to creating effective (and inexpensive!) print and classified ads
  • Testing and measuring your ads
  • Examples of effective ads

Successful advertisements are those that have been designed with a clear purpose, and for a specific target audience.

Successful ads are successful because they pay for themselves with the sales traffic they generate. They bring in leads, promote products and services, and maintain awareness of your business.

So, like all of the lead generation strategies you’ve been working on, effective advertising is rooted in a strong understanding of your target market and how to motivate them to do what you want them to do.

Successful advertising, no matter what its specific purpose is, always:

  • provides a benefit, meets a need, or solves a problem
  • targets an audience that wants or needs the benefit or solution
  • offers a product that is closely tied to the benefit or solution
  • clearly communicates the message (the benefit or solution) and is easy to understand
  • pays for itself by generating a high volume of sales traffic

Every business should have an overall strategy or purpose for their advertising over time. This will not only allow you to save money by making bulk ad purchases, but will keep you from advertising on an infrequent basis, or in an ad hoc fashion.

Align your advertising with your business growth or positioning goals, and map out a six month or year-long strategy. Do you want to position your business as the expert in the industry? Double your lead generation? Sell a specific product or service? Announce new products or services? Maintain awareness of your company?

Here are some forms of advertising that each have a separate purpose:

Information Advertising is a common form of advertising that features the company in question in a positive light. Be careful not to misuse this form, as no reader is going to be interested in an ad that is too “me”, “me”, “me” focused. Always provide something of interest or benefit to your reader.

Image Advertising is a type of advertising that reinforces your brand name and image. It’s a less aggressive strategy that aims to keep your business at the top of customers’ minds, even if you have no specific message to communicate. It might include running frequent small ads with just your business logo and phone number or email address.

Ads That Sell convince a prospect to make a purchase before they’ve even identified themselves as prospects. These are more rare forms of advertisements, and harder to create. Lead generation ads are a more effective way to generate traffic.

In this Masterclass, we’re going to focus on advertising for lead generation.

Ads that have been created for lead generation have a strong “call to action” and are focused on motivating readers to respond.

You may want prospects to pick up the phone, bring in a coupon, enter their contact information in a contest, call for free information, visit your website or visit your place of business. At that point, they enter the formal sales process and you can work to convert them into loyal repeat customers.

Use the emotional motivators you’ve been focusing on the previous Business Growth Masterclasses to speak to your target audience, and focus on getting your readers to do something that identifies themselves as potential buyers.

1. Design your advertising strategy. Advertise to your target market in the places they go to most often for information.

Using the information you gathered in your market research, determine the publications that your target market accesses most often.

  • Do they read the local newspaper? If so, which section?
  • Is there a community newsletter or neighbourhood publication that would also serve as an effective vehicle for your message?
  • Is there a local listing publication that would serve as an inexpensive way to test and measure your offer?
  • Can you create a YellowPages ad that generates leads?

Once you have determined the publication (or publications) that you wish to target, make contact with the sales representative at each. This person is a great resource for you to use to your advantage – ask questions about size, specs, deadlines, proofs, changes and other expectations. Newspapers often use their own systems for layout, and have their own requirements for file preparation.

This person will also have demographic information on the publication’s readership, so gain access to that data and use it to inform your campaign.

When you are establishing a relationship with the publication, make sure to spread your advertising budget out to maximise your investment. Publications will often give you discounted rates when you buy in bulk, or commit to a certain budget over the year. Keep in mind that you will need to test and measure which ads are effective, and which aren’t, so try to structure your contract in a way that allows for flexibility.

While you are looking for a good advertising rate, remember that advertising is an investment that you make into the growth of your business. That money is used to ‘buy’ customers, whose purchases become your return on investment.

Ad placement is also an important consideration, but you will have varying degrees of influence over the final placement. Always request placement that is well forward and in the top right-hand corner, preferably in the section of the paper that best relates to your industry.

Advertise frequently – or at least regularly – to see the highest return on investment. There are a number of reasons for this:

  1. People need to be reminded constantly of your business (even big household names like CocaCola advertise regularly)
  2. There are always new customers to market to
  3. The people who are actually looking to purchase your offering are a percentage of your target market that rotates regularly
  4. People need to see your advertisement regularly to build trust and belief in credibility

Make a plan for regular advertising that suits your budget. You may want to alternate between large and small ads, or between display and classified ads.

2. Write copy for your ad that speaks to the emotional motivators of your target audience.

Use the writing and persuasion skills you’ve been learning in the past two Masterclasses, and apply the same principles to writing your ad copy. The next Masterclass will take an in-depth look at copywriting; so more help is on the way!

Like you learned in the headlines Masterclass, the most important part of your copy is your headline. You need to start with a headline that catches their attention with emotional triggers, and then gives them a reason to keep reading and care about what you have to say.

In advertisements it’s especially useful to follow your headline with a subheadline that is equally interesting and engaging. The remainder of your copy should focus on communicating the benefits or solutions that your product will provide, and deliver on any promises you made in your headline. Tell your prospects why they should take action, and what they’ll get when they do. Use the emotional trigger words to hit their ‘hot buttons’ and keep them reading.

A final tip in writing ads for lead generation is about weeding out unqualified leads. Make sure you include enough information in your ad to deter unlikely customers from making contact with you. For example, be up front about price and you’ll avoid dozens of phone calls from people who can’t afford to purchase your offering.

3. Ask your customers to take action.

Since the purpose of your ad is to generate qualified leads, your call to action has to be prominently featured so your readers know what to do and how to do it.

  1. Ensure the way you want them to contact you is a larger font size than the rest of your contact details, or the only contact method.
  2. Tell them how to receive what you’ve promised – free information, a special offer, preferred status. For example – Call 0845 6669997 right now and ask for Ted; Visit www.newco.com and sign-up to start receiving your bonus guide; or come to the store and ask for your membership card.
  3. Link your call to action to copy that mentions customer benefits and rewards. Phrases like, Call now and start receiving: lists of benefits are particularly strong motivators.

4. Layout your ad using these guidelines.

Remember that it is the strength of your message and the clarity of the layout that will determine how effective your ad will be. Resist the urge to get really creative and stick to a clean and simple design.

Layout should be kept simple and allow the message to come through clearly, not the formatting. Keep all type horizontal, and avoid the urge to get too creative.

Headlines are absolutely essential to successful ads. Create a powerful headline that draws in readers, and make it stand out from the rest of the ad.

White Space gives your reader’s eyes a place to rest and will keep their attention on your ad longer. If you cram too much copy or too many images into a small space, your readers will move on.

Type needs to be easy to read, but also stand out from neighbouring newspaper copy. Stick to a maximum of two types of font, and avoid font sizes below 9pt. ALL CAPS and reversed type (white on black) should also be avoided.

Images need to be professionally taken in order to be reproduced in newspapers. Take care that black and white images are not too dark, or too light, and choose photos the will clearly communicate your message.

Color can boost the response rate to your ad by almost 40% over a black and white one, so use it if you can fit it into your budget.

5. Make sure to be aware of and set yourself apart from the competition

Pay attention to what your competitors are doing so you are aware of what they are doing well, doing poorly, or not doing at all. With this awareness, you can make choices to set yourself apart, or improve on your own strategies.

Without copying their strategies (you don’t want to be a “me too” business), look at their messages, layout, placement choices and offers. What can you do to give your offer or your ad an edge? Is there something they haven’t thought of?

You may want to get into the habit of clipping their ads out of the newspaper, and making observations about the messaging or design. Use this information to improve your ads and distinguish your business, but stay focused on your own purpose and messages.

6. Test and measure each and every ad, every time you run it.

Like I said above, successful advertising is advertising that pays for itself.

It is helpful to think of advertising as an investment, rather than an expense. You are investing money in your business and using it to ‘buy’ customers. Ideally, those customers will offer you a favorable return on your investment by purchasing from you on a repeat basis (we’ll look in detail at customer acquisition costs and lifetime value in an upcoming Masterclass).

The only way you will know if an ad is paying for itself is if you track and measure the results it generates. You need to know where your customers are coming from, how they found out about your business, and why they decided to take action.

You can use your lead tracking system to do this, and then assess the results at the end of a fixed time period. You can also put codes or “keys” on your ads to indicate where your customers came from. This includes actual codes on coupons that tell you which publication the ad was placed in and in which week, as well as different offers and bonuses: Buy 2 get 1 free vs. Free gift with purchase, or Guide to Home Energy Savings vs. 25 Ways to Save Money on Energy Costs.

Remember, effective print and classified advertising rarely needs to be flashy or clever.

Get into the habit of always asking yourself, “what am I trying to accomplish with this ad?” You can even write your purpose on a sticky note and put it on your computer screen to keep you focused. Then, make sure that your headline, message and unique offer all cater to that purpose.

Effective advertising doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive, or even cleverly designed. Like all aspects of lead generation, it really comes down to a strong understanding of your target audience, and knowing how to communicate with them.

So, in the next Business Growth Masterclass I’m going to help you become a better copywriter. You’ll build on the skills you cultivated creating strong offers and writing effective headlines, and learn how to craft persuasive text.

Oh, by the way, if you would like some help with the ideas discussed in this, or any of the previous Business Growth Masterclasses, or to get expert help with any other aspect of growing your business, use the following form to get in touch: (Listen, I know some of you don’t like filling in forms like this, but I promise you it will be worth your while. Go ahead!)

Thanks for tuning in!