Have you ever visited a business that never quite communicated to you what it was actually selling? Moreover, have you ever read a product description that told all about an item yet failed to excite you enough to buy it? Chances are the business or product sales message was poorly presented or was outright missing.
While you needn't resort to high-pressure, in-your-face sales pitches, you still need to communicate a sales message that converts "lookers" into "buyers." Here's how you can sharpen your sales message—for your business as well as your products or services—and guide your customers from the product shelf to the checkout counter.
Step 1: Define your goal and intent—to yourself!
No matter which commodity or service you aim to provide in the marketplace, your sales message-and its effectiveness-depends upon how well you know and demonstrate your own business intent and goals. While this might sound like an obvious piece of advice, many sales messages fail because they lack clarity of purpose from the proprietor's perspective. Whether you're intent upon filling a market gap, introducing a bold new product, or simply offering collectibles and curiosities for the fun of it, be clear about that with yourself, first, to ensure any and every message you put forth solidly upholds your business goals.
Online customers are seeking businesses that are clear not only about what they're offering, but why
Step 2: Tell us why you're here
After you know your business intent, you can tout your offerings with confidence and clarity. Online customers are seeking businesses—large or small—that are clear not only about what they're offering, but why. This is where your business mission begins the telling of your sales message.
If you're a small business that can offer personalized care and commitment, then that's part of your message of differentiation from your competitors. If you aim to be a larger business whose inventory can't be beat for selection and availability, then that's the set of facts you need to trumpet to your potential customers. And, if you're that savior of salvage that seems to come up with the curiosities of yesterday and today, then you need to share that you're the place to find everything eclectic.
Whatever your approach will be, be sure to explain it to your audience so they'll understand why they will want to buy from you. That's your business identity, and it's integral to establishing and enhancing your sales message.
Step 3: Use a hook to connect with shoppers
Once you've attracted buyers by your business premise or mission, it becomes time to immediately give them a return on their invested interest. To that end, this is when you focus on your sales message to convey what you're offering and to whom you anticipate it will be delivered. When they find an item that might interest them into making a purchase, your job becomes delivering a well-crafted "pitch" that speaks to them about the desirability of the item.
What would this pitch (often called a "hook") contain? Consider the following:
- A question that presumes a customer's need or desire for such an item. ("Looking for rare music previously only available on vinyl?")
- A reference to the item's immediate use or desirability to the buyer. ("Our library of reference texts ensure any student can deliver a well-researched project report or thesis.")
- A bit of nostalgic language or phraseology that's suited to the item's time period.
- A reference to a current trend such as the revived interest in items like yours.
- Historical events or styles that account for the manner in which your item was designed or manufactured.
Though you don't want to distract or annoy your buyers with the excessive promotion or hard-sell come-ons, recognize the persuasive power of a brief sales hook. Keep the hook to a single sentence if you can, but no more than two.
The call to action is the portion of your message where you motivate your shoppers to make a purchase
Step 4: Make a call to action
As you might expect, this is all building to the important crescendo of your sales message—the call to action. Just as its name implies, this is the portion of your message where you motivate your shoppers to make a purchase. Common call-to-action messages include, "Order now, while supplies last," or "Bid now to ensure this unique find doesn't get away." Notice the obvious action verbs in the call-to-action statement ("order" and "bid"). These impel action on the shopper's part.
Take care not to get too heavy handed with your call-to-action message, or your shoppers will feel as if they're being bullied or badgered. One good antidote is the slightly more passive call-to-action that nonetheless gains customer interaction with you or your business: "Contact us today if you have any questions about our products and their availability."
Other variations of the call-to-action message include an incentive for new customers, to get them to make an initial purchase ("New customers get a free widget with their first purchase"), or loyalty rewards for returning customers ("For every five widgets purchased, you'll get one free").
You can also experiment with limited-quantity merchandise to establish a sense of urgency ("Only 50 available at this price") or time-sensitive offers ("Get free shipping this week for every order over $50"). Keep your messaging engaging, worthwhile and fresh to encourage return visits by your customers.
As you can see, sharpening your sales message begins with clarity from the outset—for you as well as for your potential customers. Explain your business and your offerings in a compelling way, provide detailed and compelling information about your specific products or services, then make a call to action to encourage your shoppers to make a purchase. Follow this message-honing plan and you'll likely increase your sell-through rates and improve your business' bottom line.
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Dennis L. Prince has been analyzing and advocating the e-commerce sector since 1996. He has published more than 12 books on the subject, including How to Sell Anything on eBay…and Make a Fortune, second edition (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and How to Make Money with MySpace (McGraw-Hill, 2008). His insight is actively sought within online, magazine, television and radio venues.
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