A guest post by Ellie Winslow
You’re a writer! Your job is to write, right? And like you, I am a writer, too. I just want to get those words and the information down on the page and bring joy or satisfy curiosity or ease anxiety because I’m providing the information they need.
Marketing is for widgets, not words, right?
Well, maybe not. Let’s take a look at some ideas peripheral to the world of writing. I bring a specific perspective to this subject, because I write about marketing.
True, I write for a small niche audience of hobby farmers and homesteaders. And they need to sell their animals and crafty things. Selling a sheep or a jar of blackberry jam, a dozen eggs or an alpaca is far removed from what writers do.
Except, perhaps, when it isn’t so far removed.
Let’s start by looking at some facets of human nature. We’re all pretty much self-centered. Though I can care about many, no one is more interesting to me than I am. And you find yourself the most fascinating person, too. Readers are also fascinated with themselves. As a matter of fact, this fascination with self extends to all people pretty much in all cultures and times. It is the nature of human psychology. Because it is the nature of the beast, all religions, all philosophies the world over have some version of the Golden Rule in their tenets. Humans need to be reminded that other people matter too, and to basically get out of our own heads to attend to them.
So here I am today, reminding you as writers, that you’re not the most interesting thing to your readers. Even more, when you have to sell an idea, a book, or an article proposal, that agent, editor or potential customer just isn’t much interested in hearing all about you. They are so wrapped up in their own stuff, their own needs and hopes, that what you say about you and your writing just isn’t very interesting to him. Not very interesting equals not noticed, not hooked, not sold.
On the other hand, what you want (“your stuff”) might actually be the answer for what at least some want on their horizon.
Another fact about humans, however, is that it’s hard work to think. They might be able to do the thinking required to go from “I want an article that really brings in advertisers” to “Here’s a writer with expertise and a new slant on a subject that will attract X, Y, Z advertisers.”
But you can make it so much easier and set the hook when you short circuit the hard thinking job. Tell them that he’ll get more advertisers with your idea and expertise—and tell them why! Now, instead of just talking about your idea, you’ve applied it to what that customer is REALLY interested in—their own needs.
Features and benefits
What I’ve just described is the difference between features and benefits. Features are facts. Benefits are why the facts matter. And the difference between presenting facts or presenting why the facts matter can make a huge, major, jumbo difference. It can make a difference to your readers’ interest, but it can make an even bigger difference in how you sell yourself and what you want to write, i.e., in getting the job or in selling the manuscript.
Marketing is really just about good people skills (relationships) and persuasion. The Golden Rule eases relationships. This first and most important principle of marketing is a little like learning a new language. In fact it involves translating from one language (me and my stuff) into another language (the others’ interests, hopes, dreams, needs, wants). Like learning a foreign language, it takes practice. I can say that with some confidence because I also teach seminars about marketing all over the US.
In these seminars, I have the attendees practice this skill. I have them pick one fact about what they sell, then try to come up with one or more benefits (why the fact matters). Why something matters depends on knowing who you’re talking to. You have to get into his psyche to know what matters, of course! After some practice, everybody seems to “get it” pretty well.
At the end of my marketing seminars, in exchange for their written evaluations, I offer a free short consult on a marketing project or ad they’re working on. Without fail, when I hear from them for their free consult, they have written their marketing headline or article putting themselves and their stuff first. Common; it’s human nature. It’s hard to translate. It takes practice. Sometimes it takes scripting.
Remembering to put the customer first
So here are some more ideas that I use to help people remember to put the customer (reader) first.
Imagine you are going on a fishing trip, figuring out what sort of bait to use to catch the fish you’re going after. You may LOVE bananas on your cereal in the morning, but if you want to catch fish, you won’t be using bananas. You have to use worms. Marketing is about baiting the hook. So next time you need to sell an idea or your expertise or a manuscript, ask yourself if you’re baiting your hook with bananas or worms.
Once upon a time, a guy named Max Factor was at a Hollywood party when someone asked him what he did. His response is worth remembering. He said, “In the factory we make cosmetics. In the stores, we sell hope.” Remember that you’re selling hope, too.
When you’re writing or talking to a potential customer (remember your reader, your spouse, your kids, your coworkers might be potential ‘customers’, too) notice what pronouns are at the beginning. When I see ads, headlines or letters that start off with “I,” “we,” “our,” or other personal pronouns, I know they forgot to put the customer first. And the customer (unimpressed because it’s not relevant to himself) skips it or ignores it or never even notices.
Always assess what you’re writing or saying by asking yourself, “Who is this about?” If it’s about you, turn it around so it’s about the listener/reader.
“I have a great idea for a story for you,” needs to be translated to “You’re going to be on the edge of your seat with this story.”
“My new book is the answer to most of life’s relationship frustrations,” could better put the customer first with, “Make your relationship frustrations a thing of the past, with this new book by….” In these examples the information is the same, but the customer first (you at the end) is what gets his attention.
And the thing you’re selling isn’t what the buyers/readers actually want. They wants the feelings they imagines they’ll get when they read/buy your thing. So talk to them about their feelings, not the facts. Emotion sells (actually 95% of sales are closed on emotion)—whether it’s an alpaca or a book, a new car or a how-to article.
Feelings sell! It’s the Golden Rule in action, and it really works!
Now it’s your turn. Have you been able to apply Ellie’s Golden Rule of marketing, even if you didn’t call it that? What gets in your way? What tricks do you have to remind yourself to put the customer first? Let’s talk about this in comments.
Ellie Winslow,lives and writes from Gaylord, Oregon where she grows and writes about about exotic plants and superfruits. She also teaches marketing through books and workshops to hobby farmers and homesteaders at http://beyondthesidewalk.com and about aging and wellness at http://mindingthemiddleagedmiddle.com
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