Information - The Art Of Selling
Money may well make the world go round, but facts, details and data oil the machine that beats at the heart of it. We supposedly live in the age of information, yet many of us seem unable to use it to its full, and allow ourselves to drift along on a sea of missed opportunities.
If we can take it for granted that you have a good product, it should be a safe assumption that the single most powerful marketing tool at your disposal is information - the simple truth. You're not selling a duff product, trying to convince punters that underneath the rusty exterior lies a power beast? nor are you trying to sell ice to the Eskimos. You're trying to sell your software to people who either need it, or could use it - to the point where they're actually prepared to buy it. So how do we get them? With information tools.
An information tool is any kind of device that you can use to show yourself and/or your product. Like any other tool, its primary purpose is to make life easier and more efficient. In our line of work, the most commonly used is a signature file. Your signature file should be around four to six lines of simple text, to be used at the end of every single email, letter, report or newsgroup posting. No exceptions; in your business correspondence, to your friends, family, everything and everyone.
The actual content of the descriptions is critical here. Make sure you write the text in the first person - either I or we. There's nothing wrong with referring to yourself as either of the two - but make sure you're consistent. Make sure you also use positive phrasing, and keep it simple. Be as concise and precise as possible; an exact number looks far better than vague-isms such as loads, lots, many or heaps. If your writing skills aren't so good, get someone to help. Chances are you're going to use these texts many times, so it's worth getting the content just right.
Again, content is king. If you can provide some sort of tips or information that people either need or will find useful, they'll want to receive your newsletter, but be careful not to drive them away. If you send out a mailing every week, some are bound to get fed up and unsubscribe. While you're at it, make sure it's easy for someone to subscribe and unsubscribe; it's very bad form to make it difficult to do so. Some sort of stock text explaining how to do this is a very good idea.
Another golden rule is to stick to pure, clean ASCII text. You may like HTML in your mailings, but if the recipient's email client doesn't - they're gone. In brief, useful is good; short and sweet is even better. And before you announce your new mailing list, make sure that you have the time for it. You can end up looking awfully silly when you close before issue one even comes out.
Take Advantage Of Your FAQs
Frequently Asked Questions are another golden information opportunity; chances are that you've already read over a fair number of these yourself, and it may even be one of the first things you look for on a site. I know I do. Practically speaking, you can't throw every bit of information you have on the front or main page of your website. It doesn't look good, and will simply overwhelm most visitors. But when a person goes to read your FAQ, they already know the basics, and want to know more. Feed them.
Many email clients also allow some sort of auto responder to be setup - that can send out a stock text when a certain address or specific subject is received. Better still, many webhosts have this sort of feature.
We supposedly live in an age of information overload, where quality loses the battle to quantity on an ongoing basis. Don't let your product become another casualty. Keep it short, keep it sharp, and use it wherever and whenever you can. Think of every opportunity to write an email or note as an opportunity to reach a customer; don't waste it. Be seen, be sold.
Copyright 2004 Dave Collins