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Persuasion Point 6: Sales Letters - Persuasion & Favour Reciprocation

Sarah Jamieson - Friday, March 28, 2014

This  blog is adapted from a series of articles I wrote with my colleague James Atkinson entitled: SEO Strategy: Buyer Persuasion Points

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Your sales letter or verbal sales pitch is an important culminating point of your reciprocal relations, persuasion strategy, and sales process.

Sales letters are the last of the major persuasion points that I show in my previous eight blogs – that is, my series beginning at Buyer Persuasion Points.

Selling to prospects with whom you have built a relationship - is much easier than a “cold call” prospect reading a sales letter.

By the time your prospects reach your sales letter you should have addressed a number of issues and ensured that you have established TRUST.

In this next series of blogs I want to review all of the persuasion psychology techniques mentioned in my colleague’s and my series of articles on Persuasion Psychology.

The sales letter itself is where you can really use those ideas - to make sales.

Persuasion process begins when you first meet your online prospect. See Seller Persuasion Actions. Then, you must use every possible avenue to state your persuasion message – in blogs, videos, web content, social networks, email campaigns and so on.

Then, last of all – you complete the persuasion process in your sales letter.

Your sales letter should NOT be written as a document in and of itself. It is really the last page of a series of documents all of which have a purpose which culminates in the sales page.

And of course, the whole educative, social, and eMail process should be consistent and work as a whole.

All prospects – no matter whether they arrive at your site through search engines, a social site, or PPC - should be presented with a message consistent with that search medium’s needs but also consistent with your overall persuasion strategy.

That is, don’t present sales messages IN your social network and search content– but rather guide your prospects to the sales pages through email and persuasion principles.

 

Favour Reciprocation

It’s quite possible that your prospect’s journey to the sales letter has been initiated by some form of FAVOUR you have done for your prospect. We are all deeply conditioned to treat favoursor gifts as something we must reciprocate - so it does not hurt to have your prospects feel that they owe you a favour.

Reciprocation is a valuable tool in getting prospects to the sales letter.

You can do so via all sorts of gifts and free samples. Helping a prospect in some way or giving them a personalized service of some kind should engage the reciprocation rule in a strong way.

If you’ve done a favour for your prospect he or she will feel indebted to you - until that favor can be repaid with one of their own. This often means buying something from you.

With some prospects, the feeling of indebtedness is quite unpleasant and can often trigger a LARGER repayment than the initial small gift would suggest. How you trigger indebtedness in your prospects is a matter for you to think about long and hard.

Another way to employing the reciprocity principle is by making a concession to your prospect.  Concessions work in a simple way. It may well be that the initial offering to your prospect is quite high priced – but you can offer your prospect a “personalized special” which is a very steep reduction.

The smaller less expensive offering can be presented as a concession. The concession activates the feeling of obligation to reciprocate. Of course, your lower-priced product may actually be the target of the sale all along.

If prospects are then presented with a lower price - that price can be presented as a concession – which should activate the reciprocity rule.  So, think about how you present pricing – before the prospect gets to the sales letter.

Show Expensive Items FIRST

There is extensive proof and data that showing the most expensive price FIRST results in higher sales if a less expensive alternative is later provided.

If you have two expensive items and an expensive item is offered first, a lower-priced article that is seen immediately afterwards is perceived of as considerably less expensive.

With the internet, it’s super easy to test different versions of a concession – for example, does a 30% discount produce more sales and profits than a 15% discount?

You can have many different sales letters for the same product – just create a special link for each concession as it’s created. It’s a win for you because if the prospect buys at the higher price then you’ve done well.

You can also employ the concession persuasion principle in your ultimate pricing on the sales letter. You could start out with a somewhat exaggerated but still plausible price – from which you then “retreat” by offering a discount – over say the next day or so or other time limit.

There is also plenty of data to show that concessions on the part of a merchant increase customer’s satisfaction with the purchase. Thus reducing product returns.

The favor reciprocation principle is easy to misuse and so it should be exercised in an ethical manner.

In the next Persuasion Point blog I look at “Commitment and Consistency in Sales Letters”. 

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Persuasion Point 5 (a): Calls to Action - Join an eMail List

Sarah Jamieson - Wednesday, March 26, 2014

This  blog is adapted from a series of articles I wrote with my colleague James Atkinson entitled: SEO Strategy: Buyer Persuasion Points

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This blog is about those prospects you have deemed ARE ready to buy.

Up to this point I have suggested that your marketing efforts should not be openly related to ‘sales’. But of course your entire marketing process is about SALES. It’s just that in the earlier Persuasion Points prospects are not ready to read or hear your sales message.

There is not much point in leading a prospect to a sales page if they are not ready to buy. The result is well, - they won’t buy!

Naturally there comes a point where that sales process must openly be about what you are selling. Ideally the prospect will already be in one of your ‘information’ eMail Marketing lists.

Accordingly, I suggest that you separate your social networks, search engine content, and PPC from the point where the information process openly becomes a sales process.

I’ve found this much easier to do in an eMail campaign. But of course you should test where best to start your “open” sales process.

But of course you also need to cater to those prospects who simply want to buy NOW. Most of these ‘buy now’ prospects will arrive via PPC. The image below shows the two types of prospect eventually reading your sales material:

 

Each of the green dots is a persuasion point. For more on going direct from PPC to Sales Letter see: Sales Force Automation.

The Role of eMail and Persuasion

One of the biggest mistakes web site owners make is not capturing the names and email addresses of their visitors so they can follow up later.

Even sites with high conversion rates lose the vast majority of visitors. Distraction plus lack of trust, information, and time to read and consider the offer all contribute to this.

The bulk of web site visitors do not buy anything on the first visit. The average web site conversion rate is around 1-2%. That means up to 99 out of every 100 visitors leave your site without buying, and most will never return!

When someone visits a search engine or a social site, they are usually actively seeking information about something. In my experience, people seeking information are much more willing to take action, for example, opt-in to your email list or buy from you - if you fulfil the need they are trying to meet. By contrast most offline advertising is incidental to what the user is trying to do, read the paper, watch their favourite TV show, listen to radio music and so on. Products that are advertised offline may fill a user need, but the users’ response rate will be lower because they are not ACTIVELY searching for a way to meet the need.

Online, you can position your message at multiple “key information points” where people go to search for a solution to their problems. For example: In the search engines, you can be the most relevant search listing or PPC ad; in social sites (forums, article directories, Facebook, etc.), you can be the helpful friend giving free advice; on related sites, you can show up as a relevant advertisement.

This hunger for information online also creates the opportunity to build a relationship with users - through repeated contact to deliver information. Online marketing is all about relationships, so this is a big advantage.

Online market research surveys let you find out exactly what information different market segments desire, and the language they themselves use to talk about it. It’s akin to reading prospects’ minds. You can then create content that is ultra-relevant and desirable for each segment. Information marketing is all about talking their problem before your product.

And because you understand their problem so well, and offer relevant information, you build trust. This can position you as the only choice in the market when you eventually deliver your sales message.

On the internet you can get your message in front of millions of people and can potentially generate huge amounts of traffic and sales. At the same time, you have unprecedented ability to target your message to the people who are most likely to buy, and then to quickly measure virtually everything they do.

With online marketing you have instant access to sophisticated statistics like click-through rates, conversion rates, ad and keyword stats, email open rates, split and multivariate tests and so on.

This kind of targeting massively increases your sales conversion rate. When you use people’s own language and the exact features and benefits they’ve told you they want, you are telling them exactly what they want to hear - in order to BUY. In my experience this usually equates to a large increase in sales.

This is very different to offline marketing, where market research is very expensive (e.g. focus groups), making it hard for small businesses to benefit from research.

In addition, offline segmentation is a tough process. You can only target your offline message to a relatively broad group, based on the demographic profile of the average viewer of a certain TV show, reader of a certain magazine, and so on.

So, persuasion begins in search engine and social network content – then flows through into the eMails that you send out to your prospects. It must be a slow and well thought through process. Don’t start your sales messages immediately your prospect opts-in to your list.

Take your time and build the relationships – then give out the sales message. It has to be a “natural” process – not forced. It has to flow in a logical way.

Yes, it is time consuming and difficult. But remember this, once you have set up your content > sales process it’s pretty much automated. 

I often read that you must get your message out seven times before it is effective. That’s not been my experience. I think the important issue here is not some magic number of email messages, but rather of simply letting your prospects get to know you and creating a reciprocal relationship – over a period of time. 

Computer screens are pretty faceless and it’s difficult to have eye ball conversations with prospects. On the face of it, then, you would think that it’s easier to build relationships OFFLINE.  My experience however, is the opposite.

The internet is not as faceless as it first appears. You CAN build relationships online – very quickly and relatively inexpensively.

I mentioned above that providing information and content is a great way to build relationships. Of course writing articles and making videos for the social networks takes time and this is a cost to you – but often you can do it at minimal cost.

In any event, when your prospect is deemed ready to buy – you must refer them to a sales letter which is the topic of my next blog.

Persuasion Point 5: Prospects Respond to an Action Call

Sarah Jamieson - Tuesday, March 25, 2014

This  blog is adapted from a series of articles I wrote with my colleague James Atkinson entitled: SEO Strategy: Buyer Persuasion Points

In this series of blogs on Persuasion Points, have shown that there a number of points at which an online business can influence and persuade searchers and prospects. Persuasion Points are predictable and can be discovered through market research.

These points are excellent places at which online sellers create and begin ‘reciprocal relationships’ with searchers. The right types of reciprocal relationships eventually lead to sales.

I have earlier discussed the following entry Points: 

  •  Prospects have a need or desire
  • Prospects start researching online 
  • Prospects start an educative process
  • Prospects engage in social relationships.

Thus, knowing the ‘Persuasion Points’ of buyers in their marketplace a business can then “convert at all the bases” so that the entire search-to-sales continuum is covered.  To put it another way – you should publish content that allows searchers to FIND your business no matter which Persuasion Point the searcher enters the search-to-sales continuum.

I now move to the fifth of these points – Prospects Respond to a 'Call to Action'.

When a prospect wants to solve a need, desire, or problem they’ll often seek or encounter an online ‘call to action’ offer. This is where many sellers BEGIN their sales process. You of course know better!

In online jargon, sales relationships are often referred to as “direct response”.

What is direct response?

It’s an offering that demands a direct response. For example, the seller / marketer seeks an opt-in to an email list or directs you to a sales letter then seeks a buy response. Thus for more information the prospect may: click on a Google Adwords, join an email list, click from an email to a sales letter, click a BUY button on a sales letter and so on.

All eBusinesses MUST incorporate direct response attributes which is another way of saying you need a sales process.

In internet marketing, the terms “direct response” and “direct market” appear to mean the same thing. But there are qualitative differences. So, I want to briefly discuss two aspects of direct response marketing

1. The direct response as internet marketing ‘norm’

The use of the direct market model EXCLUSIVELY – without the benefit of surveys, prospect segmentation, SEO, and Social Marketing is the most prevalent online business model and is widely taught by internet marketing gurus as the only eBusiness model that works!

Because it holds a ‘normative’ position, this type of direct marketing causes many systemic dysfunctions in markets.


When I was learning internet marketing, I used the direct market model exclusively and extensively. The old model WORKS – though it is expensive to operate and you need to be very wary of advertising costs – especially Adwords. 

Strictly speaking direct response by itself is a MARKETING system, but many eBusiness owners would consider direct response as their primary eBusiness “model”.

This form of online marketing is practiced by many large corporations and individuals who appear to function from a “making-money” point of view. This type of activity may eventually lead to a form of systemic dysfunction in particular marketplaces.    
For example, in the “internet business” market, GREED and “making money” drip through the pages of endless emails and sales letters.

Wary buyers eventually turn off the hype and conversion rates drop below 1%. Put another way, 99% of potential customers are not really “listening” and the cost of doing business in a market becomes prohibitive.

The direct marketing standard is actually an offline business model. I’m sure you’ve encountered this model. All that junky paraphernalia stuffed into your mail box is one part of the model. The online model uses the same techniques adapted to the internet.

It works, but it’s becoming less & less effective, more & more expensive - especially now that Google and other search engines are shifting their search algorithms towards shared social relevance.

2. ‘Call to Action’ as a necessary part of a sales process
 
This facet of direct response is simply the sales process part of my system. It is the fifth of the Persuasion Points that I show above.  

All online businesses must have some form of direct response ‘call to action’ sales process. This is one of the advantages of running an internet business. It is relatively easy to set up these systems – such as obtaining an eMail opt-in, directing prospects to a sales letter and so on.

The model allows a great number of areas in which persuasion principles can be built into your sales process.

The internet is a wonderful place to establish “like-minded” communities. It’s relatively easy and inexpensive. When you “sell” in a community environment – you are tapping into a long-established way of doing business.

Picture a hardware store in a small town - run by a Mr. Jones. When you want help to fix a leaking roof you go to Mr. Jones. He advises you how its done and provides all the necessary materials. He does not try to “sell” you a bunch of unnecessary goods.

You have a reciprocal relationship with Mr. Jones. He advises you and he knows you’ll buy what’s necessary to do the job. Reciprocal relationships - this is the best way to sell.

For more information of how our Persuasionworks system functions please see: Online Marketing Strategies.

In the next blog I’ll look more closely at various ‘calls to action’.

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Persuasion Point 2: Prospects Start Researching a Solution

Sarah Jamieson - Saturday, March 22, 2014

This  blog is adapted from a series of articles I wrote with my colleague James Atkinson entitled: SEO Strategy: Buyer Persuasion Points

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When prospects look for a solution online they’ll usually start searching on Google or perhaps another search engine.

In my internet marketing experience I’ve found that the average “search” in a market range is typically between five to six searches.

This is because searchers don’t usually find everything they need to know about a subject on the first search.

Each segment tends to search on keywords in a certain order, usually progressing from general to specific. Usually, searchers find new information with each search. They do a search and read some of the results. This leads them to realize they will need to refine their original search based on what they’ve learned from reading.

This process of search-learn-refine goes on until they find what they’re looking for or the searcher gives up. This progression from inquiry to inquiry is called the search continuum.

The Search Continuum

In my previous blog I state the importance of surveying your market – see also: Market Segmentation. A proper survey should reveal the search continuum of your market.

Your survey should lay out for you not only the information prospects want now, but also the information they will want in the future.

If you think about the idea of the search continuum - knowing what searchers will require in the future in a tremendous advantage for the online entrepreneur!

After you have discovered the search continuum – you can cover searcher requirements with appropriate content.

Searchers may also progress from segment to segment. Using the dog market as example, here’s a hypothetical series of searches:

  • A searcher wants to buy a dog for her family. The first search is quite general – “family dogs”. She reads a web page from the search results describing good family dog breeds and decides that the family would like a Golden Retriever. 
  • She then searches on “Golden Retrievers” but finds that the breed has a genetic predisposition to hip problems. 
  • The next search is more specific: “Golden Retriever hip problems”. The searcher learns that breeders can screen dogs through the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) to ensure they aren’t predisposed to hip problems.
  • Now she wants a breeder near home whose dogs are OFA screened. This leads to a more specific search yet: “Golden Retriever breeders California OFA screened”.
     

At this point the searcher may find a breeder and stop searching.

Knowing the search continuum for each segment means that you can actually discover not only what someone has just searched for, but also what they will want to learn in the future.

In other words, you’ll learn the sequence of information they will want to know, and in what order they will want to learn it. You can anticipate searchers’ needs before they even know they have them. And you simply cater for those needs in advance.

Understanding the search continuum allows you to build a relationship with prospects by educating them about how their needs can be met.

By showing that you understand their needs, you gain their trust and position yourself as an expert.

You can create free content pathways on your site that present the information that each segment wants to learn about, in the order they need to know it in.

You should then optimize this information so that it ranks high in the search engines for the appropriate keywords.

In my next blog I’ll discuss the next Persuasion Point: Search and The Educative Process.

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Hey … What’s “Persuasionista”?

Sarah Jamieson - Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Well - that’s what I’m called around here.

My colleagues and I have created an online marketing and eCommerce system. We’ve been working on the software for years and now we’re ready to take it to market. Persuasion is at the heart of the system.

Persuasion?

Yes, persuasion!

Software is important, but it’s just a means to an end – like cars, phones, computers, and so on.

“Hey Persuasionista … phone call - client!”

I still have to talk to them, sort it out, fix the problem, convince, persuade. One of most important qualities ANY business needs is the ability to persuade.

What My Blog is About

So, that’s what my blog is about – the points at which an online business interlaces between software, persuasion, and SALES. The software allows you to measure and manage your business but you still need persuasion to get sales. That’s why our system is called Persuasionworks!

Online Relationships and Persuasion

Look at it this way: Buyers and sellers are simply two sides of the same coin.
When you provide what your buyers want – they’ll buy! And to get them to buy or to keep buying – you need a reciprocal relationship with your prospects and customers.

Online relationships are NOT face-to-face personal sales relationships – such as occur at say a local electronics shop. In this situation, the salesperson gets to know you face-to-face and then uses various persuasion techniques to encourage you to buy. If you've been shopping there for a while, he or she may know all about the stuff you own, what you'd like to upgrade, and which new gadgets you've got your eye on.

On the other hand, the means by which you effect all your internet relationships are via written and spoken words delivered on a SCREEN.

This may seem a somewhat thin basis for creating sales relationships – but really all the influential principles of persuasion can be woven into the fabric of online relationships.

Internet interactions are powerful motivators of online sales when the relationship is built on reciprocity – creating Reciprocal Relationships.

The relationship is an exchange - a give and take. You give something of value to prospects who in turn eventually give something of value back to you – in this case money. In addition, value provided by the online entrepreneur can also be built on other persuasion principles - for example:

Commitment and Consistency

Free downloadable ebooks or white papers may act as more than a favor that needs to be reciprocated. That paper can provide prospects with valuable information shortcuts built around commitment and consistency.

Tailor your message so that prospects see the market in a way that suits your own business model.

Social Influence

An online social network can be used to show prospects social proof that many people use your products to solve their problems.

Liking and Partiality

Online narratives like videos and written content can be utilized very effectively to make yourself likeable and relateable and to show a strong understanding of your prospects' problems and their desired solutions.

Authority and Influence

The internet is a wonderful tool to build authority and influence. The web is a tireless medium that's open for business 24/7.

Scarcity and Exclusivity

This is one of the most commonly used persuasion tools online. The number of ways in which you can drum up scarcity and exclusivity is only limited by your ability to engineer shortages and construct uniqueness. 

All internet commerce occurs through relationships created by words.  These are what I call words of connection, social association, and persuasion.

You are judged almost entirely by what you write and what you say:

Online shopping is now the fastest-growing retail sector. Shoppers go online for a number of reasons including:

  • Convenience,
  • Ease of purchase,
  • Product research, and
  • An ever-increasing comfort level with the internet  

Consumers go online to research a particular product or market. A merchant can take prospects “off the market” at a very early stage in the “search pathway” and eventually lead the searcher through to purchasing a number of related products. I show you how to research here.

In fact, the economic downturn may be boosting online sales growth. In the search for value many buyers are shopping online rather than driving to the store. Consumers believe buying online is often cheaper than offline.

So, online sales, as a whole, are forecast to experience explosive growth in the next few years. I believe the trends driving this growth will continue for a long time yet.

In addition, there are unique differences between offline and online businesses that create remarkable opportunities for the online entrepreneur. For example, ultra-relevance is one of the most decisive advantages offered by internet marketing and you won’t see its equivalent in offline marketing. I'll explain this in later blogs.

In every market, people search online for information to educate themselves - their fears, desires, and everyday ideas. 

Searchers also explore specific product types for information or comparison before they buy. This research happens in the search engines and social networks. I call this information / education period the “pre-buying” phase.

My research indicates that many internet marketers ignore “pre-buyers”. Pre-buying prospects are simply looking for information - and they aren’t ready to buy. An online survey gives you the ability to stop prospects searching and as a consequence, stops prospects finding your competitors. You can take people off the market with ultra-relevant content.  For more see: Prospect Segmentation.

Put another way, you can inoculate yourself against your competition. Your ability to give each segment exactly what it needs can position you as an authority and build huge trust and loyalty that is very hard for a competitor to defeat.

You can deliver online content that BOTH:

  • Meets the immediate needs of prospects
  • AND

  • The needs they DISCOVER after searching.

There is a huge opportunity for marketers who are prepared to provide pre-buyers with ultra-relevant content. You can engage, educate, and create trust and loyalty with your ultra-relevant content - until prospects are ready to buy.

And, when prospects are ready, you present them with a sales funnel that completes the entire persuasion process you have built. 

In my next blog I am going to take you through what I call Persuasion Points. This will help you understand how you can interweave software and persuasion to make SALES.


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