Why expecting the unexpected helps you write sales copy

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Feb 032011
 

Every time I see a Learner Driver, I remember the words of my driving instructor.

"Mirror, signal, manoeuvre"

It was drummed into me, that I must always look in the mirror before I did anything. Just in case someone was trying to overtake me, or a motorcyclist was alongside or toads had fallen from the sky.

"Anticipate what other drivers might do." he told me.

How terrifying was that? There I was, trying my best to control a metal box on wheels, trying to keep it on the right side of the road and trying not to collide with stationery objects and yet I'm supposed to anticipate unexpected events like small children running into the road, drivers pulling out to overtake me, motorcyles appearing out of nowhere.

Anticipate stray balls.

Yet after years of driving that is exactly what we all do. We anticipate unexpected events. As we drive along and see children playing with a football on the side of the road, we subconsciously prepare for the ball rolling into the road and children running after it.

Look out for unexpected objections

When you write about the benefits of your product or service, your best efforts can be sabotaged by unexpected objections, ones you haven't anticipated. Ones you haven't even considered.

You may have spent hours working out a fantastic promotion or special offer. You've done all the leaflets or created the content for a web page. You've sent out the emails and though you get some interest, people aren't buying.

Why unexpected objections are preventing people from buying

There are a huge range of objections that people have. Many of them you generally anticipate, such as: Am I paying too much? Will it last? Will it work? Can I return it if it is faulty?

But you'd be amazed at some of the unexpected objections your customers have. They may be tiny even trivial concerns, but they can prevent people from buying.

An example of a totally baffling objection to buying meat in a Farmers' Market, came out of a customer survey done by the market organiser. Some customers said they didn't buy the meat

'…because of the chillers [mobile refrigerated units].'

We were amazed. For those who attend Farmers' markets selling chilled products, the chiller is seen as a necessary but expensive piece of equipment to enable you to keep your products at the right temperature. It is seen as a pre-requisite to selling meat in a market situation.

Now a comment like that needs further investigation. What exactly about the chillers was the problem? It could be:

  • the fact that they were mobile – they didn't trust the electricity supply
  • didn't like the look of them – were they unclean, old, damaged?
  • couldn't get at the products – they were behind glass
  • could get at the products – so thought it was unhygienic
  • felt too much like buying meat at the supermarket

How do you get to the bottom of unexpected objections?

That story of the Farmers' Market chillers illustrates why the only way to ferret out these objections is to ask. Ask your customers and if you don't understand the answer, keep asking, until you get to the bottom of what is bothering them.

Another simple objection that can have a devastating effect on trade is if customers think you're closed. There is a sign on the door of Carmarthen Provisions Market that says 'Come in, we are open". Clearly this is a response to feedback that customers walk on by, because they don't realise the market is open.

Not realising you're open can happen online too. If people go on your website and links are broken or information is out of date, or wrong, they can think you too are "closed".

When do you need to find out about unexpected objections?

Every time you develop a new product or promotion. Talk to your potential customers and find out about any small objection that might stand in the way of a sale. Mary Portas, Queen of Shops, regularly takes to the streets to question shoppers about a particular shop and why they do or don't shop there. She also tests out new ideas on unsuspecting passers by, to see what would make them go for it and what would prevent them.

Learn from an expert and do the same with your customers or potential customers.

Once you have this information you can use it when you write your sales copy. If you find out, for instance, that people don't like phoning you because you only have a mobile number, you could then ask more questions to find out what it is about this that puts them off.

You could tackle this in various ways, depending on how much it is hurting your business:
give the landline number but explain that it is on answerphone because you are out working
suggest people text your mobile with the word 'enquiry', then you will call them back
engage a telephone answering service that gives you an 0845 number and answers calls when you're unavailable.
Unexpected objections, like a stray ball, can throw your sales off track

Talk to your customers and find out where their concerns lie.