A guide to content that sells. Sale the 7 C’s

Its never easy writing your own content, I like to tell customers they are ‘blessed with too much knowledge’.

We have too much to say. We want to say it all at once  and because of that, often end up saying nothing at all. And yet…..

Content is the Wind in our Sales…

A boat with wind in it's sales

Customer and good friend Andy’s Trimaran, linked to his album

Good boats don’t go anywhere without the right environment. But what is good content, how do we do that?

I know! we need a template..

It’s a frequent idea, and a lot of people have asked about good content, so it’s about time I responded. It’s taken me 3 years to get this far!

Yesterday I happened to be in a traffic jam after my friend Graham asked me in a meeting, so I made some notes.

The 7 C’s of successful Content

Here’s a quick list of qualities that we have seen be successful in content (not our own, obviously, it’s easier writing other people’s stuff).

1. Credibility

People can tell if something is true. I don’t know how.

But the companies who consistently do a good job always seem to do better in generating more leads from their website. Perhaps it is because they have most obviously ‘done it before’. The insights they get from repeatedly doing something well, that shines through.

Writing should exude trustworthiness, established reliability and expertise. I got that from the Wikipedia entry for credibility – which also mentions integrity. Showing is better than telling, and so I’m not even sure you could make it up.

2. Concrete Details

I truly love stories, the humanity.

The thing is, I believe in some stories more than others. To understand why, I found and utterly recommend this book, Made to Stick, it is astonishingly good.

When I got to the chapter on concrete details, it was a head smacking moment. The best story tellers always drop some irrelevant detail into the mix, it makes it real. Good sales people do it, and so should content, case studies in particular.

3. Choice

This is more a question of a product marketing , but it extends to how you build out content on a lead generating website.

Marketing in a digital world is communicating at scale. We ‘talk’ to literally thousands of people a month. And, if you lined up just 100 people interested in what you do, it would be a different conversation every time.

Installed or hosted, outsourced or managed service, professional or entry level, basic or advanced. Offering depth of choice works extremely well in search engine marketing. Lots of choice will means lots of content of course.

The way I remember it best is “goldilocks marketing” – I wish I had a better phrase – but offering hot, medium and cool versions will extract more business from those 100 people you have lined up. Modular is good, modular is profitable, you get more return from the same amount of visitors (visitors cost money).

4. Costs

Showing costs is tangible, transparent and trustworthy.

“If you have to ask, you know its expensive”

Which is fine if you are expensive of course. But it’s embarrassing for your prospects to have to ask, especially if they can’t afford top dollar. We should care about that.

And, unless you give an idea of ‘relative cost’, there is a perceived risk they are wasting their time if they can’t afford it. Reducing risk is good salesmanship, and customers know the game, it probably won’t be the final cost if everything is included.

Service based businesses are the worst for this, but they probably have most to gain. Can you try a service before you buy it?

  • Whilst I’m at it, we offer a website telephone service that tracks the keywords that generate phone enquiries for £75 per month, plus calls. There, I feel better, less hypocritical.

5. Creativity

A new web visitor (new business) is like being in a job interview, you’re selling yourself, and caring about your appearance is a good sign. Design is a clue, a critical non-essential. I’m not sure if suits are still required these days for interviews, but showering is good, make it clean.

But creativity is more than design.

  • Magnetic words
  • Textures that delight people
  • Demos that blow minds

These things change the way people feel about your company – the most important people, your own people. People don’t contribute to things they don’t enjoy being a part of.

6. Charm

Likeable Experts get more business. In an age where Big Business, Banks, Politicians, Journalists and the Police have all been stuffing up, there is little enough trust to go round. And I’m pretty sure the economy reflects the level of trust in the world.

No trust, no business.

And on the Internet, you could be anybody. Literally. I’m not quite sure how it works, but I trust people I like. Mostly. I tend to buy from them.

7. Care

A many textured word, I’m not sure I’ll do it justice. But here’s what I know about people who care…

They show it in what they do, and in what they say. They show infectious enthusiasm, which often inspires action. They look happy when things go well, and sad when they don’t.

Lastly, only people who care can be creative and do good content…. they get the job done.

Don’t tell Jess I did this, I hope she won’t notice.


  • If you have trouble with content, it doesn’t mean you don’t care.
  • Thanks to Andy for the picture of the boat
  • You may now all point out more words I could have used, please..

Why you do what you do

Several times this week I have been reminded of this video (tucked away on our inspiration page). It might say leadership, but it is marketing gold.

One of the most important things a company can do is to tell people “why”.

In terms of ‘selling’ ourselves, this is extremely important. Trust controls all decision making, it is a way of measuring the ‘feeling’ of risk, and once people know ‘why’, they relax.

If we have all the right intentions, then people will go with us. We can even make mistakes, as long as we’re trying to do the right thing.

This is a central plank in converting interest, into action. The video does a much better job of explaining.

Simon frames the message in various ways. But to my mind, by not having a central purpose, backed up with a consistency in behaviour that demonstrates these ‘principles’, we will have people wondering, pondering and prevaricating.

Without knowing our motivation they’ll wonder if we’re just doing it for the money, and they know that never works.

I suppose it begs the question. So….

We do what we do in order that our customers can grow. We want them to make enough money that they can afford to pay us to keep working the conversions, because when we get growth, our customers want us to do more work, not less. Enlightened self interest maybe, but it works for everybody.

To the point that if we can’t do it, then we’ll stop charging.

Telemarketing Company Review

It would surprise some that I (matt) am a big fan of telemarketing. Given our belief in the internet and it’s capacity for lead generation.

Love that phrase "We make it happen"

But way back in the day, when a previous company was selling Telephone Systems, the only way to generate a constant source of business was to carry out consistent telemarketing.

Having developed a very healthy respect for what it can do, and for the people who can do it well, we know there is a definite and still growing need for quality services. We’ve been looking around.

Why would a search company be interested?

We meet people who are in businesses that can’t use our services. If that’s the case, we tell them.

  1. If you have a niche, and you know where the prospects are, then someone should be picking up the phone.
  2. If there are lots of people looking for what you do, but you don’t know who they are (capital equipment is once every 7 years on average), then we may be able to help.
  3. Even so, a number of our clients benefit from follow up calls to their warm lists, generated from Search Marketing campaigns.
  4. We offer a ‘holistic’ marketing service. If our clients grow, so do their budgets, it’s in all our interests to do the right thing first.

A lot of us ‘ less superhuman people‘ find scheduling telemarketing regularly hard work, and if that includes the dear reader – I would give this advice:

If you don’t like doing something, it is worth paying an expert to do it for you. Otherwise it is likely to stay at the back of the queue, you will feel terrible about yourselves because you know it should be done, in an ‘important not urgent’ kind of way. But you will forget, in favour of something you enjoy more. Human nature gets to us all.

Even if, when the business is small, it is tempting to try and do everything yourself, stop, look in the mirror, and then start asking around for someone to recommend a person they know. It is a false economy, and practically you will find out the limiting factor in progressing the business is YOU. I learnt the hard way when trying to learn how to do book-keeping many years ago. Not a good idea!

Face to face with telemarketers

So trying not to make the same mistakes in other areas, I found myself in the office of a true professional this morning. It was the buzzy smiley office of Xen Consultants in Wolverton Mill, Milton Keynes, and I met with Michaela Graham, the boss.

There’s a reason for blogging about this, and it’s the time Michaela afforded to go through the telesales proposition. I’m always impressed at meeting fantastic sales people, because they achieve things seemingly effortlessly, but you shoud know it takes a massive amount of preparation and thought. I’ve always aspired to being better in face to face sales than I am – it is one of the most valuable things you can do for any company. One of…no wait, it is the most valuable thing.

We choose to generate leads, helping ‘the great’ to generate more business. It is ‘our calling’ – I’ll just wait for that joke to sink in. No Marketing, No Sales, No Business.

Back to the meeting. Michaela was kind enough to show what worked (which was impressive), and to give some crucial advice

  • Never promise more than you can deliver
  • Always share and be as transparent as you possibly can with clients regards results, even on a bad day (who has those?)
  • Have prospective clients speak with existing clients as often as possible (That means having happy customers)
  • Employ people
  • Create good relationships between staff and clients by taking the time to understand each other
  • Making sure it happens – that was a key message for me.

As Conversationware enters a new phase, the advice felt extremely useful.

We’re inspired by the level of Xen Consultants success and growth, the advice is backed up with some evidence (credibility is persuasive). We’ll try to go about things in the same way, and we look forward to our own first campaigns.

If you’re thinking of telemarketing – this might be useful.

Try telemarketing

Try telemarketing

Talk to Michaela and you might find out something, like how many similar businesses to yours have tried telemarketing already.

What is a Unique Selling Point

And do you need one?

Many marketers talk about the Unique Selling Proposition, the USP.

If you’re wondering if they’re useful, you are not alone, or unique, even. Most clients bring it up, so we thought we’d examine whether there is a ‘point’ to them.

Is a usp a silver bullet

Is a usp a silver bullet

Depending on your world view, you may or may not agree with this article.

USP description

The USP was conceived as a way to help people, consumers, to make up their minds by having advertising that articulates a specific benefit of the product.

USP based advertising is definitely more to do with sales than with any previous form of advertising. And because our world view is that (web) marketing is just sales, but to a wider audience, we applaud the sentiment!

What if we don’t feel unique

Most clients have trouble with the USP concept, they feel ‘dishonest’ by claiming they are unique (hold onto that thought). For those who struggle, a USP doesn’t have to be unique to your product, just unique to your marketing, with no other local competitor claiming it.

This construct pre-supposes that people will be persuaded by the USP’s specific benefit, and it will make up their minds for them. Will it work?

What’s the proposition?

Here’s what we discovered about the humble, old fashioned USP and it’s influence on prospect decision making.

The concept of the USP was originally from the world of advertising in the 1950’s, and its key protagonist was Rosser Reeves who is the basis of one current hero of ours – Don Draper of the tv show MadMen uses his accomplishments, it says here in Wikipedia.

The thinking behind USP’s is that people will weigh every aspect of a product or solution, and will make a perfectly balanced judgement based on ‘the truth’. Of course, your version of the truth will include that thing that ‘only you do’, the thing, the slogan, that makes it overwhelmingly likely that people will make the right choice.

Effectively, this is where the idea of the slogan came from.

The USP and the time constraint

If you read the article in Wikipedia, and I recommend you do, there is a key statement

His (Rosser Reeves) greatest contributions were to express more clearly than anyone else the philosophy of a claim and to show how the philosophy could be applied to commercials that involve severe time constraints.

The USP is key when you have time contraints, and for us, that means it is specific to the advertising format.

It doesn’t apply to marketing, or to face to face selling and to a degree it doesn’t apply to the web – you wouldn’t use a USP in isolation.

A website is not advertising. People only turn up if they are looking for something, most often via a search engine, and these people are willing to give you more time, they’re not there to ignore you.

So USPs don’t work as well when time isn’t limited, but we’d suggest the home page is the one place where a slogan fits, and unique is good.

Do USP’s help people make buying decisions?

We don’t think so.

There is a new science that examines decision making, its called ‘behavioural economics’, and is more interesting than it sounds. We picked this up from discussions on SEOMoz, (hat tip) about nudges and a comment therein about Dan Ariely.

Behaviour is something we will come back to again and again in the future.

1. It is now accepted, by some people, that ‘facts’ are completely ignored if they don’t match what you already believe in, and if you don’t know what you believe in, then facts won’t necessarily help. This is supported by Congitive Behavioural Therapy, if you’re interested.

2. People will not believe you when you tell them your USP anyway. If you disagree, then you’ll understand the point.

3. But for a real ‘insight’ on decision making, look at the first video on this linked page from Dan Ariely, on making decisions. It is 17 minutes of joyous confusion.

Incredibly, this calls into question the ability for us to make balanced, lucid decisions. Of course, this doesn’t apply to the likes of you and me. It’s everyone else that has the trouble.

We firmly believe that the more complex the solution, the more money is involved, the more likely that USP’s won’t work. Simply, it is less likely that a single factor will convince a large proportion of the audience.

The final nail in the USP coffin

Would seem to be in the same article

In the 1960s Reeves’ techniques began to fail. Consumers became more savvy and learnt to tune out uninteresting commercials

This sort of advertising started to fail once consumers realised marketers were manipulating them. It went on to be replaced by emotional branding.

The key is that time on the web is not limited, and this is why long copy works, once again. Emotional branding won’t work on the web (on it’s own) for much the same reason. A combination would cover all the bases.

The product is the marketing

My friend Seth Godin promotes that the product is the marketing – he’s right. This is a long quote, but exceptional.

To work, advertising has to be honest. He insists the product being sold actually be superior, and argues that no amount of advertising could move inferior goods. He also disagrees that advertising was able to create demand where it did not exist. (edit: Sell what people are looking for)

Successful advertising for a flawed product will only increase the number of people who try the product and become dissatisfied with it.

If advertising is effective enough and a product flawed enough, the advertising will accelerate the destruction of the brand.

Similarly, it is a waste of money to claim uniqueness that doesn’t exist (you can let go of that thought now), because consumers will soon find out, and they won’t come back to the brand. This is important because historically fortunes are made from repeat business (edit: emphasis mine). Money would be better spent building some kind of meaningful advantage into a product before launching a costly advertising campaign to promote it.

The thing is, Seth Godin didn’t say the above originally, Rosser Reeves did in the 1960’s. Most people forgot, or didn’t learn it in the first place, that is until the marketing world shattered into little pieces and required that the product to be good again. Products get found out quicker with social media (Word Of Mouth on Speed).

I queued a long time to get this photo

I queued a long time to get this photo

(See, I do know him)

What happened to our Sales Process?

When given the choice, would you pick up the phone and talk to a sales person, or would you rather browse google.

The ‘Sales Process’ is changing into something called the ‘Buying Process’


You don’t get to steer any more.

The sheer volume of choice, and over capacity in every industry means a bewildering array of suitors. And there aren’t many of us that have more time than we used to, in order to talk to them all.

It’s easier, quicker and less stressful to use search engines for product and solution detail, than it is to call, wait for the right person to call back, and then get pushed into a sales pipeline. Especially if you don’t get the right answer first time.

So, these days, buyers won’t pick up the phone to find out if you’re an expert. Prove you’re an expert though, and then they might be more inclined.

At this point, there will be people who think their complex solution can’t be sold online, like some book or a camera from Amazon. But when we’re talking about process, it is clear that the point at which we get to speak to prospects is now later than earlier. It won’t get better.

Highly available and findable detail from the competition makes sure that these days we can’t just put a list of products on the website and hope it will be enough.

The competition is working hard too.

No sales person is hurt in the process.

If we don’t impress people with our knowledge, with our insights and customer stories, they’ll just click the back button. (that’s not a hint).

Within that context, the ability to educate themselves on the buying decision has put the buyer firmly into the driving seat. If we don’t provide quality information, people will find it elsewhere, in a heartbeat.

It is self service decision making, and sales are won and lost without anyone even being aware there was an opportunity.

Anecdotally from some customers recently, I hear that close rates are increasing.

It would seem that Customers are kissing less frogs and have ‘half made up their mind’ before they walk through the door. I firmly believe that once you’ve helped people understand what’s important, it’ll be your business to lose.

Marketing got longer and sales got shorter.

Turning Browser Caterpillars into Butterfly Leads

To compete effectively for prospect attention then, we need to share our hard won knowledge up front, on a website. It is counter intuitive, and all our instincts tell us to keep secrets, to worry about competitors, to worry that prospects ‘won’t understand’.  Just make sure they do.

It’s going to be an uncomfortable ride for many.

The good news

Once it’s done, the lead generation process gets very efficient indeed. Frog kissing was always a let down, and very expensive.

Information is as cheap as cabbage leaves.

A plain simple marketing truth

Being in business is fast becoming a celebrity shoot out.

Isn’t buying an iPod very similar to calling a number and voting for our favourite singer, dancer, aspiring business person, whatever? ….It’s a contract, we buy, and Steve Jobs promises to come back next week to entertain and delight us with his designs and deliver us a unique experience.

I’m tempted to compare the iPhone purchase to a tactical vote – because ‘the public’ likes the look of the current vote leaders even less. Looking at it like that, then it’s no suprise people will pay more ($550) to keep their favourite in the game. It’s just the equivalent to phoning in twice.

On some mass level, the public longs to buy into and be a part of the corporate celebrity story, if only to give it more legs (cue a kate moss clothing joke), and give us the next chapter in the soap that is corporate stardom.

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