Start with the prospect, not the product

So where did Ian go wrong?

There’s an old saying in direct marketing circles … start with the prospect, not the product.

In other words, what does your market want? And related to that, can you reach that market and is it big enough to be worth your time?

Ian went wrong because his idea was something he thought every small business owner should embrace. But it wasn’t something they wanted to embrace.

It’s like trying to sell asparagus to kids because it’s good for them. If you’re competing against the jingle of the ice cream truck down the street, you’re probably not going to get the results you want.

And here’s a tip for you freelance copywriters. The key to becoming a superstar in your field is to never take on a dog project like this (no matter how much you need the money). Only stake your reputation on products and services that satisfy some sort of existing market desire, and you’ll look like a genius and never be short of work.


Next, fix the offer

Plenty of great products and services are ignored despite existing market desire. Often that’s because they receive insufficient exposure, but just as often it’s because the offer is not attractive.

Getting people to buy something online requires you to do three fundamental things:

  • Make an offer.

  • Provide information to help people accept your offer.
  • Make it easy to respond to your offer.

The offer is why your landing page exists. The action you’re trying to prompt is the acceptance of your offer, whether it be a purchase, the exchange of an email address for information, or an invitation to call.

When you mention offers, people naturally think about price, and that’s an important component. But offers go well beyond pricing to address things like risk reversal for the buyer, increasing urgency, providing attractive terms, adding incentives, and many other things that make a deal a win-win for both buyer and seller.

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