Jer 1:11 The LORD showed me something in a vision. Then he asked, "What do you see, Jeremiah?" I answered, "A branch of almonds that ripen early."
– The Bible
In the series I did on email deliverability, one of the members who commented in the discussion blog spoke extensively about building trust and relationships with your prospect, and using regular emails that give details of your schedules to your prospects. The illustration he used involved selling a service, specifically airplane tickets.
In another article on "targeting your email" I have written on the importance of not only getting past the spam blockers and getting opened, but also using segmentation of your database to target specific types of individuals, instead of just sending emails en masse to all the members that subscribed to your email. I emphasized the importance of benefits over features.
Now in this article I will discuss how to actually sell your vision in your ezine. I’ll talk about how to use your ezine to build strong trusting relationships with your prospects, and how to avoid the errors that could make your prospect subconsciously disengage from your marketing.
I’d like to say a big "thank you" to Michael Katz at http://www.bluepenguindevelopment.com/, an excellent resource for ezine writing, ezine marketing strategy and everything ezine. Just a few months of subscribing to his newsletter have given me many relaxed evenings reading hi insightful and humorous emails (or listening to the podcasts). Some of the concepts I now write about were originally gleaned from listening to him.
Vision is what you see as your defining end.
Mission statements and vision statements have fast become corporate fads. Ever since Tom Peters’ book In Pursuit of Excellence and other books started insisting that corporate re-engineering is based on "mission statements" and "vision statements," everybody has gotten one.
A vision is quite simply what makes you wake up and go to work every day. Without a vision, you will despise your work. If you despise your work and your business, then it is quite certain that your customers will notice and despise your work too. The first, most important thing in a business is the vision.
We can parallel this point and say the most important thing on your website is your vision. Let’s see, Google’s vision is to be a "simple free search engine," Amazon is the "biggest online book seller," Digg is an "excellent book marking site," Technorati is all about "blog search," Snap is a "cool behavioral search engine," and eBay is an "anything goes auction site."
Once your user has bought your vision, buying your product is inevitable. You have become more than a URL, and you now "stand" for something definite. You have become a brand.
The Big But
The problem is that most online business owners, or people with a website presence, take the second most important thing in a business as the only thing. Most businesses seem to believe that they are only in business to make money. Well, making money is the most important reason you are in business, however with that as your only reason, you are guaranteed to not make too much of it.
Most website owners want traffic, and a lot want traffic to translate to sales. This is why all the search engine optimization and Internet marketing research is done ad nauseum. Email campaigns are also expected to be successful, hence all the copy writing and building of your opt in database. But a lot of online businesses have no idea what the website is about, which means a lot of pain suffered by the designer/copywriter (yours truly).
Before you can adequately communicate your vision to your users through your email, you must first discover it. Unfortunately a vision is hard to discover if it was not there from the beginning. A good way of checking your vision is by asking what would be the point of your business if you weren’t making any money. The person reading your email is not really interested in buying your products, not until they buy your vision.
For example, I get a frankly horrible newsletter once a week that gives stock tips. The design is awful, there is little content apart from "buy before Monday" and there is always an indecipherable part at the end. Now, I also get stock tips from another organization’s newsletters once every few months. The design is mundane to the point of boring, but according to their adverts, they want me to "spend more income when you retire," that is all.
This makes me take the second company’s stock tips quite seriously — after all, they want me to retire in ease. That is their vision, not the benefits of buying their mutual funds (which include increases over the past five years, free stock picking advice and other normal benefits) nor the features of their money management schemes (pension schemes, capital appreciation, portfolio management). As a subscriber, I do not really care about what features you offer (unless its unique, then I promise to review it). Benefits can motivate me, but sell me on your vision; it’s what makes you go. In this case, "making ME retire" in ease is what makes this mutual fund company thrive.
It is one thing to have a vision; it is another to say it. I’ve adapted the next section from Michael Katz’s article on getting more clients by getting more "vision" at Blue Penguin Development. It illustrates how to match your product with your service.
Vision: "Small businesses deserve a way to inexpensively generate targeted leads."
Service: pay per click marketing from Take Aim Search.
Vision: "Having a chronic illness doesn’t mean you can’t continue to thrive in the workplace."
Service: coaching from CICoach.com.
Service: web demos and presentations that connect instantly from Glance.net.
The connection between vision and service must be made by the user, so that he or she will actually buy your service after buying your vision.
Other illustrations include:
Vision: "You can build your online business with minimum technical knowledge."
Service: web design from Site Build It.
Vision: "You can learn how to increase your memory capacity without stringent exercises."
Service: resources and coaching from iMind Consult.
Vision: "Bring your brand to life."
Service: core branding services from www.adstratcom.net.
Stop talking about just the cash flow; let everyone get with the vision. When I started writing for www.devhardware.com, I discovered that the vision in the opinions section is to provide information on trends and future events. You and your design and copy team should sit and talk about your vision all the time. The cash flow is your reward for pursuing vision. If you abandon vision in pursuit of cash flow you will discover that as soon as you start chasing the money, the money starts running.
If people catch your vision, they will probably just throw money at you. If they don’t, then you better have great benefits and credentials. But a vision will make them disregard all that as they beat a path to your door.
Most ezines contain features and benefits. As a designer/copywriter I find it hard to incorporate vision into content if the vision does not exist (hence hours spent laboring over key word research). Currently however I am working on three projects that actually have visions, which opened up multiple key word possibilities which had few competitors yet had wide appeal (a real niche market). The presence of a vision makes the process of generating content relatively interesting.
The one I will use as an illustration is a computer tips site. The owners (my resident experts on all things programming and hardware) are thorough bred geeks who write C++ and assemble systems to relax. I was clueless about what to do with their site so I decided to reinvent it (and even rename it) and build it around finding computer resources which will help you slow down physical upgrading while maintaining the relative speed of your PC, to "improve your computer’s performance." We flooded the site with tips, got fellow technophiles to generate content and are monetizing aggressively with affiliates. It was fun to do and we did it like we were just kicking it.
The ezine is still in its delivery stage since we haven’t built up a database, but without a doubt it will have our vision, "improve your computer’s performance," all over it. Right now we are working on the technical aspects of the ezine delivery and on who our target demographics should be. It is inevitable that both our market and our product will evolve over time, and quite possibly our vision as well.
So even when "selling your vision," you must realize that it will inevitably change, and you have to understand the times you live in. For example, currently interactivity is in with web site design, and static is out. It is all "web 2.0." If you are still keeping a static site and your competition is light years ahead, then you have to tailor your vision to fit the terrain. You must not expect to remain stationary but be open to varying routines, themes and even varying your "vision."
Yes, do buy Michael Katz lunch if you ever catch up with him.