Tag : emphasis

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An Auction Bidder’s Wish List

I’m the oldest of six children, and my wife was the first of five offspring for my in-laws.  So, I’m thankful that both of our families exchange names for “secret sibling” Christmas gifts.

My side of the family makes it even easier by creating a message thread on Facebook where we post our respective wish lists for our secret sibling to use for reference in their holiday shopping.

To keep you reading, I’ll show you what I posted.

(in this order):
anything from here: http://www.gfa.org/gift/home
gift cards from iTunes, REI, or Dick’s Sporting Goods
solid-color winter beanies
Smart Wool® socks
black Crocks (size 10)
solid color fleece sweatshirts or hoodies
athletic ankle socks
100g Jetpower micro-canister

What you’ll notice is that I didn’t write, “Something nice,” (though everything on this list is nice to me) or “Great deal for the money” (though I hope my sibling finds the deal of a lifetime).  Why?  Because those are ambiguous requests—unhelpful direction.  See, when they go to a store, there won’t be an aisle for “something nice” or “a sweet deal!”  If they Google search for “something nice,” they will get these random acts of results.

This makes sense on a personal level; but, for some reason, auction marketers disregard this common wisdom when advertising the assets in their auctions.  Their headlines, line ads, and websites lead with information that buyers will not type into their search engines, apps, or wish lists.

Raise your hand, if you’ve seen an auction advertisement that said “Investment Opportunity!” Now keep that hand raised if you think anyone is searching for an office building, flatbed truck, bass boat, or 1950’s Texaco sign with those two words.  In our search culture, advertising needs to focus on the facts, not the pitch—even for offline media.  You might be able to schmooze bidders at open houses or at the auction, even though our culture is growing less tolerant of the commissioned sales schtick.  But you’ll be hard pressed to find advertising that works that way.

Recently, I was asked to rewrite some sales copy on a luxury home, since [I assume] it wasn’t getting many bites.  I couldn’t change the facts, just the adjectives and syntax.  Even if I were J.K. Rowling, I couldn’t rewrite that paragraph in a way that would change someone’s mind about that house.  Either they wanted what it had or they didn’t.  If they wanted four bathrooms and an in-law suite, only a house with those specifications would work.  If they wanted an in-ground pool, stables, and a riding ring, they were looking for those words in whatever media they’re using to shop.

Fluff text is inefficient use of space and attention.  There’s no search criteria field in Trulia for “cute,” no check box on Realtor.com for “cozy,” no ebay category for “like new.”  I just checked: LoopNet doesn’t have a menu selection for “potential.”  Pictures, dimensions, location, age—immutable, objective data—will tell someone if an asset matches their wish list; their own emotional and financial situation will translate that information into subjective evaluations.

I’m regularly amused by auctioneers telling their audience that an address is conveniently located in reference to places a half hour or more away from the subject property.  Convenience is a relative value.  Oh, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen “Unlimited potential!” as a real estate headline or bullet point.  I don’t have a real estate license, but I’d imagine legal boundaries and zoning commissions significantly restrict infinity.  But even if the future development of a property were somehow unlimited, who’s searching for that ambiguity?

Whether searching for Christmas gifts, farm equipment, or a strip mall, consumers will echo what Detective Joe Friday said on Dragnet, “All we want are the facts.”  It’s insulting to tell a buyer what the facts mean.  Buyers will most likely know if what you’re selling is a collectors item, if a home is designed for entertaining, if an address is a good business location—based on the facts at hand.

Does this mean advertising should be reduced exclusively to a list of bulleted descriptions?  No—even if in many media, that’d be the most efficient strategy.  Write your sales copy as long as space and budget will allow.  Emphasis, though, belongs to the facts.  Headlines should tell people if what they want might be described in the next section.  Top billing should go to the unarguable.

Make it easy for potential buyers to compare your sale item(s) to their wish list.  That ease of comparison reflects on your brand, whether they bid or purchase from you or not.

Taking It Personally

Outside of sports programming or sitting in a waiting room, I couldn’t tell you the last time I watched TV news.  Beside how partisan each of the networks have proven to be, I’m disenchanted by the 24-hour news network ecosystem’s need to fill so much of their time with commentary.  I don’t need anyone to tell me what I should feel about a congressional bill, a televised debate, an oval office speech.  I think that’s why I’m drawn to Twitter so much as a news source.  News sources there have to dump the main point and a link in 140 characters or less.

News never has been objective; I don’t know how it ever could be.  So, I don’t ask it to be.

Maybe that’s why after sitting through literally over 5,000 sermons and Bible lessons, I’m so drawn to my TruthWorks Bible study, where I’m pointed to a passage of Scripture with three questions: “What does the writer actually say?” and “What does that mean—in a big picture context?” and then “What do I do right now with this truth?”  It’s good to have wise, educated people bring light to Scripture; and I believe teachers can be agents of the Holy Spirit.  But we need to be careful not to rely on other people to tell us what to believe; we need to be like the heralded Bereans, who “received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.”

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

10 Tips for Better Marketing Emails—Part 1: Do’s

Spam Folder, used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.comEven if you’ve never wired money to an African banker, snagged name-brand software for pennies, or purchased a product to enlarge any part of your body, chances are good that you’ve been offered it via email multiple times—maybe even this week alone.

Thankfully, junk filters are getting better at separating the garbage from the valuable emails—both the ones we want to read and the ones we want others to read.  Even without these filters, it’s a challenge for marketers to get past the personal filters we all use to weed through our respective inboxes.  There’s no tip that will guarantee your email will get read, but these tips will raise your chances of your message getting absorbed by your prospects.

DO use headlines of 50 or fewer characters.  
When we check our email, we typically look at either the “sender” or “subject” fields first.  Neither of those fields contains a lot of space.  If you use a lot of characters in the subject line, the extraneous characters simply won’t be seen.  So, spend characters wisely on what would matter most to the recipient.  Avoid adjectives, multiple exclamation marks, and unnecessary words.  Know that abbreviations like “BR,” “BA,” “SF,” “HWY,” etc. are acceptable and still professional.

DO condense email content and use links to more detailed content.
An email, especially a marketing one, doesn’t need to be exhaustive.  The reality is that if the recipient doesn’t have the motivation to follow an offer or story to the other end of the link, they wouldn’t be motivated to make a purchase, place a bid, read a story, or share your content on social media.  So, sell the sizzle; and link to the meat of your content.

DO use an email service like Vertical Response, Mail Chimp, iContact, or Constant Contact (instead of your computer’s email software).
We can tell when we’re just a BCC—or far worse: a CC—on a group email you typed in Outlook.  Online email systems allow you to upgrade the look of your emails with custom or pre-made templates, helping you build your brand through consistent formatting.  In addition, email services enable you to schedule your emails in advance, include social sharing buttons, and even stream RSS content from your blog.  On top of that, they offer analytical tools to help you evaluate your email strategy and execution.

DO use custom mail-merge fields, where appropriate.  
This makes your emails more personal; and we all take notice when an email has our names in them.  Most online email services provide this ability.

DO create a separate email address for your bulk emails.  
In the event that people mark your email address as junk or that online servers flag your email address, you don’t want it to be the address you use every day.  Definitely avoid using your personal email address, too.

If these suggestions seem like common sense, know that I’m still not seeing them used as common practice by many small business owners—auctioneers in particular.  For all you do to sell your professional brand in the marketplace, don’t sabotage that work and expense with cheap and lazy email marketing.
[tip]

It’s true that a successful life requires sorting through our junk while pursuing our talents and dreams.  Those with both a good filter and a healthy amount of determination tend to accomplish their goals.  That seems common sense to people on the other end of a goal accomplished, even as the disgruntled (who may or may not occupy a public park) look at the results as products of chance or fate, privilege or fortune.

While I struggle to eliminate distractions and to work diligently, I’ve found that it’s a very different type of choice that can keep me from my dreams: which dreams to follow.  I know people more talented than I will ever be who have spun their wheels for years, because they didn’t choose one or two dreams from their many potential life paths.  Candidly, I have stunted my own growth in some areas by trying to grow less significant areas.

It’s true: the jack of all trades is the master of none.

Hardest of all, is the prospect of chasing dreams that won’t matter in the long run.  I am utterly convicted by one sentence in the Bible: “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?”  It’s a daily challenge to align my dreams with God’s, my kingdom with his, my walk with his path—even though God’s dreams for me are bigger and presumably better than my own.

[footer]Stock photo used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com[/footer]

0: The Importance of Importance

MegaphoneClients often help me know what to emphasize in their advertising pieces. The best-intentioned even type everything in Word®, marking their intent with bold, bold and italic, bold and italic and underline, bold and italic and underline and ALL CAPS, and sometimes even bold and italic and underline and ALL CAPS and RED.

It’s a hierarchy of emphasis, but it seems sometimes that half of everything is emphasized in one way or another.

In my seminars, I hold up an example of a brochure whose cover holds over 12 headlines, all bolded, capitalized, colorized, and italicized—and ask the audience to pick out which line is the important one.

They can’t.

And so, in emphasizing everything, nothing is emphasized.

When you sit in a cafeteria or stadium or sanctuary alone with a friend, you can converse as in a library. As others trickle into the space with their coffee shop volume, both you and they gradually raise the decibel level for clarity of hearing. By the time the chairs are full, you are conversing like those annoying cell phone yellers on an airport bus. In a stadium or on a concert floor, you may have to yell to the person sharing your armrest—and may not be heard even then.

What you’ve done is raise the volume—the boldness—of your expression. But you haven’t changed the proportion of your impact to the sound environment. You can keep going louder, I guess, until your shrill squawks from a megaphone; but the easiest solution is to find a quiet place.

So it is with advertising. All you have to do is quiet everything but the big thing, and the big thing will hang out there like orange on St. Patrick’s Day.

The hard part is sifting your message down to the biggest one or three ideas. If those don’t capture the buyer on what you’re selling, chances are that all the other information won’t either. When shopping for a car or home or cell phone, buyers want more than two or three amenities; but if what you’re selling doesn’t have the first tier of needs or wants, they’ll be onto the product that does. If you try to hold them for the minors, you’ve damaged your credibility and likelihood of success.

So, don’t spend the few seconds of attention-grabbing you have in American Culture on information that won’t matter until after the decision-deciding headlines. Bold only the big stuff, drawing down the level of impact in reading progression. Free up the space for more visual impact with photography. Move the rest to the inside of the brochure or with “more details online.”

Do this, and you will have quieted the moment for your message. Your message will stand out from the used car dealers and factory closeout furniture barkers—and your vociferous competitors. Your approach will appear corporate, refined—no less than professional. You will have the ear of your prospect, or at least their eyes.
[tip]

I struggle to choose and maintain the headlines of my life, to sift out the biggest, most-important themes. I’ve got a Covey quadrant on my desk, dividing my intended tasks into important and not, urgent and whenever. But sometimes the line between constructive and intrinsic blurs. Often the slayer of Best is Good or Better.

As a follower of Christ, it’s even more difficult. The incentive and results are mostly abstract, fighting an unfair battle against the tangible and present. But when I quiet the storm of to do lists and media—when I sit in intentional silence—I can meditate, contemplate, re-center my day and life on what I’ve chosen as my headline.

God asks in the Bible to “be still and know that I am God.” Not because family is unimportant, not because vocation is unnecessary, not because culture is irrelevant . . . but because he speaks “in a still, small voice.” He could make his voice the loudest sound I’ve ever heard. But he chooses to draw near to those who demonstrate their desire to listen by allowing his whispers to resonate into absorption and obedience.

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