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Selling something? Then SELL it

Marketing is selling. You’re selling an idea, a concept, a product, an image, a dream, a service. You’re selling something, and you want to convey as much as you can, quickly and clearly, so that I know what you’re selling and why I should care.

Last week I wrote about the art of copywriting. Your website is an extension of that message. And since so much business is done online these days, it may be the most important marketing tool that you have.

A few years ago I came up with the following acronym which should help you create a website that truly SELLs:

Strike. Hit me with some solid information right away.  Don’t make me look for it, because the attention span of someone searching the internet is short, and getting shorter every day.  Catch my eye with headlines, have clear website navigation, allow me to search for exactly what I need.

Educate. Give me value in descriptions.  Too many companies put the same boring descriptions of the products that they are selling.  If your competitors’ description is the same as your description, you are not making my decision process any easier.  If you need to hire an expert copywriter for your site, do it.  Anything to get a unique, value-driven message across that will entice me to buy.

Leap. Take a risk.  If you are afraid to take risks in business you will lose.  At this point, you have my attention, I have gotten to the product that I am interested in, and all it will take is one small thing to sway me one way or another.  So do something different.  Show me customer ratings, comments, descriptions.  Show me the prices of your competitors compared to your own.  Offer me a special deal as a first time buyer.  Make it easy and make it different, and you will have an easier time convincing me.

Lead. On every single page, put a call to action.  And make it stand out so I know exactly what it is I am supposed to be doing.  After all, your goal all along is to make a sale, so lead me down the sales line throughout every step of the process.  If I get lost, then your sale is lost.

Strike, Educate, Leap, and Lead.  Take a look at the pages on your website.  If you have a page that looks like it was made from a carbon copy of one of your competitors, you are losing.  If you have a page with no call to action, you are losing.  If you are not taking risks and being unique, you are losing.  This is a new era of selling online, and you need to keep up or lead to win.


The Evolution of a Great Idea

The following is a guest post by Peter Sheahan. Peter is founder and CEO of ChangeLabs, a global consultancy delivering large-scale behavioral change projects for clients such as Apple and IBM, Peter Sheahan has worked with some of the world’s leading brands in the area of innovation and change. The author of 6 books, including the international bestsellers Fl!p and Generation Y, Peter focuses on teaching leaders and companies how to flip their thinking, make money in the cracks and find opportunity where others cannot. His newest book Making It Happen unpacks his insights on how the best leaders and entrepreneurs execute on their good ideas, and turn them into profitable results.

Despite what you may have been led to believe, it is very rare that a brilliant idea just comes to you whilst in the shower or walking down the street. It is a sexy notion that in the vast majority of cases just isn’t true. In reality, every idea goes through a process. That process is basically an evolution from expressing your Aspiration to firming up the Concept to creating a salable Offer – something someone can actually buy. This is where many aspiring entrepreneurs get stuck.

One of the reasons many people never engage with this process is that it makes them more vulnerable. Pushing an idea beyond the area of safe and comfortable abstraction into a more detailed offer exposes it to criticism and rebuke. This is a necessary element of the process and must be overcome. Though not everyone is going to accept it, you have to actually make the offer to even have a chance.

If you really want to make it happen, you need to get buyers to part with time, money and energy. Put differently, you need to reject acceptance.

I'm going to be blunt here: there is no point getting excited when your friends tell you that your business idea is a good one. Or even when potential clients tell you that “engaging their people” is a very important issue. That is not the same as getting someone to write a check with your name on it and a few zeros following the first digit. Try this experiment: go talk to the most senior manager you know and say, “I have an idea. I want to work with you on making your business more connected to the community.” Then ask him or her if your idea is of interest. He or she will say yes. Now ask, “Can I have $250,000 for my outreach campaign?” and see if you get an answer you like.

The key to getting your idea from aspiration through concept to offer is to engage in a form of Socratic questioning. Put simply, ask 'how' over and over again.

"I want to start making money working for myself."


"By starting my own business."


"Consulting to retailers."


"Advising them on how to maximize average dollar sales in stores."


"By developing database solutions."


"By extracting information about customers that allows me to tailor their store experience in such a compelling way that they stay longer and therefore buy more each time they visit.'

What I have just said might not make entire sense to you as the reader because you are likely not a retailer and therefore are not the target buyer. Your idea does not have to be clear and compelling to everyone. But it definitely needs to be this to the buyer whom you wish to engage, and that often means understanding the 'code' of different industries and using their jargon to communicate your value.

Bottom line: if you want to create a compelling offer, resist the urge to dwell in the abstract where no one can pick apart your ideas and look for ways to crisply express value to the buyer instead. As you will quickly realize, this takes a lot more work. You will need to truly invest your time and energy into the development of your offer.


Further questions to ask yourself in the process of sharpening your positioning:

  • What is the likely market you will be playing in?
  • Who are the likely buyers?
  • Who else is selling to these buyers?
  • What metrics do they use to judge value?
  • What value will your offer bring?
  • Who else is making similar promises?
  • How can you guarantee the result?
  • What are the biggest problems your buyer is currently facing?
  • What are their objections likely to be?
  • What will your responses to these objections be?
  • How will your offer integrate into the business or life of the buyer?

Once you have the answer to these questions, apply your idea somewhere and if possible, put it to the test in real market conditions. Start trying to sell it, then review and refine it. There is no better feedback than that of an actual buyer. Capture/record the experience and learn from it. Rinse, repeat!