Category Archives: Uncategorized

Unselling the Sold: Three mistakes that will drive away committed buyers

In the past several months, I’ve noticed quite a few overly-aggressive companies making some elementary mistakes that resulting in their losing my interest and my willingness to continue receiving material from them. They spent much time and money drawing me in, capturing my interest with good information, building a relationship that could lead to future sales… only to blow it.

What are the three mistakes they made? And are you guilty of any of them?

1. Sending too many emails

Once you have built a newsletter or mailing list, it’s really easy to bang out a new email every day or two. Why not blanket all those customers with information on what you have to sell, or remind them two or three (or more) times about an upcoming sale or a product you have on special?

Unless each email is carefully written, compelling, and useful, customers will quickly tire of seeing your name in their inboxes. First they will quit opening your emails. Then they will start to delete them unread, or set a filter to drop them into a junk folder automatically. In the worst case, they’ll start pushing the SPAM button when they see yet another “Come to my big sale on Saturday!!!!” from you. And too many SPAM markings, as you know, will cause problems with your email service provider.

Don’t annoy your customers. Send no more than once per week. Make sure that each email is informative and individually written (no copy and paste from last week’s broadcast). Most of all, make sure that each email provides some incentive for your customer to open and read it — information on new products, perhaps a free project they can create or a coupon good for a limited time. Make your newsletters something they look forward to instead of rolling eyes and hitting “delete.”

2. Sending the wrong emails

Late last year I joined a particular professional organization which offered a private membership site with information not available to the public. There were other benefits, such as monthly teleclasses and a print magazine. Joining this organization automatically put me on the “send regular updates” mailing list, and they did a good job of it — informative, timely emails, not too frequent, well-written and interesting.

Then, in midsummer…. The Mistake.

Perhaps this group purchased a list from somewhere else, or perhaps they compiled a list of prominent names interested in their particular topic. They made the unforgivable mistake of not checking this new list against their current subscriber list.

I began getting frequent solicitations to join the same organization of which I was already a member. Each succeeding email offered a better deal for joining, until the final one that offered a year’s membership at approximately half of what I had paid.

Up until that point, I had been reading the solicitations with a mixed sense of annoyance and amusement — how long will this mistake continue? When are they going to cross-check their lists?

With that final email, though, the amusement vanished. I unsubscribed to the regular membership list, I deleted the membership bookmark from my favorites, and I vowed never to darken their doors again. Mine was only one response to their marketing snafu — how many others did as I did and refused to consider renewing?

Cross-check your mailing lists before you start to solicit new customers, especially if you are going to offer deep secret discounts that will make your current customers feel as though they’ve been taken advantage of.

3. Take care in setting up surveys

In another mailing list, which sends informative and interesting technological news updates biweekly, I received a request to fill out a survey to help them decide audience interest and future editorial direction. I was willing to do that, so I clicked through and started the survey.

No. Questions 2 and 3 then dealt with how long I took to read my monthly copy and how many other people in my household read it every month. There was no option to choose “not applicable” or to skip these questions. I clicked out at that point and did not complete the survey.

Dear magazine: I already told you I don’t subscribe; don’t annoy me with follow-up questions that I can’t even skip. If the answer is No, bypass all the questions that pertain only to Yes.

To make things worse for them, this annoyed me enough to go to the most recent biweekly email and click the “unsubscribe” button. Not only did they lose a potential subscriber; they unsold me to the point that I am no longer interested in receiving their free information.

Your turn

What are you doing to unsell those you’ve already sold? Take a look at your marketing practices and be sure you aren’t driving away potential customers with elementary mistakes like these.

Structures: Dancing with What and When

@MarissaBracke on Twitter yesterday:

I’m v. intrigued by structures people create for time, & how & why. Searching for the “right fit” for me. Fascinated by what works for others.

Since I’ve been working with new structures myself, I started to answer her and quickly realized it was either a blog post or about 73 Twitter posts all strung together.

“Structures” is the wrong word, I think

I tried working with Charlie Gilkey’s productivity planners. I downloaded them, I amended them, I dinked around with them. The fit just wasn’t there. It took me a while to see this truth:

Charlie marches. I prefer to dance.

Both have rhythm. Both get you from one point to another. But mine is intended to be more fluid while still working within an overall context. Think: marching band formation vs jazz improv. Music in both cases, movement in both cases, same end results, different process.

The main thing I took from his approach was the utter necessity of long-range planning. For client work this is not quite as critical, but I’ve been flailing for most of a year on several of my own projects simply because I never had time to work on them. The key:

Schedule my own projects just like any other job.

Follow me and I’ll outline what I do.

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Don’t Kick Its Ass

Ever notice how many productivity coaches tell you to go “kick today’s ass” or “crush it?” Every effort to get something done is framed as a struggle. Just you and your superpowers against the minutes turning into a waste of your day.

How would your relationship with time be different if you swam in it, letting it support you like water? Moved through it, with it, danced in it? How would your day be different if it weren’t a foe to be conquered but a partner in creating something beautiful?

Just for today, don’t kick Friday’s ass. Ask it to dance with you and see how much you accomplish.

Then leave me a comment and let me know. Maybe we can start a gentler meme about time and productivity.

How Visible Are You?

Whether you are just starting out or have been in business for several years, there are easy, inexpensive ways to make more of your potential customers, clients, or collectors aware of who you are and what you can do for them.

First, make sure you know who you are trying to reach. If you are a local business with a physical location such as a restaurant, you probably want to reach customers who live within a certain area. If your business is less location-dependent — for instance, if you sell goods by mail order or offer services online — then your target should be defined by those who could benefit from your products or services and not so much where they live.

But how do you let them know where to find you, especially when you have little or no advertising budget?

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Educating your audience before you sell

Early in June an interesting brouhaha happened on one of the email lists to which I belong.

A talented writer and artist created a long, detailed blog postabout creating stamps for decorating fabric. Many people praised it and several asked her to release it in e-book form so they could download and keep a copy. Agreeing that it was a terrific idea, she published it as a Kindle book available from Amazon. She immediately found herself in the midst of a storm of controversy.

Some readers felt that she had no right to charge for the information that she had previously given away for free. One even went so far as to say that she now felt morally justified in “stealing” the material by copying and printing off the blog post. Others howled because they did not own a Kindle and thought they would have to buy a $250 reader device to download the book. Others howled because the Kindle is black-and-white only and the photographs that accompanied the article were in color. It’s also not possible to print from the Kindle, so the reader has no opportunity to create a hard copy for future reference.

Her readers were probably expecting a PDF ebook. Amazon ebooks are very easy to create and publish – just upload an HTML-encoded file (in which format the blog post already existed). Links remain links within the Kindle file. Creating a PDF ebook requires a bit more expertise from the author but would probably be worth it to the readers.

The author’s failure here lay in not educating her audience prior to releasing her product for sale. Kindle software which supports color images is available for PC/Mac, iPad, and iPhone, free from Amazon. No reading device is required. (Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem you can print from the Kindle software either.)

Until this little whirlwind occurred, I was not aware of the Amazon Kindle option for publishing ebooks. Creating both a Kindle version and a PDF version that could be sold directly seems to me to be a great pair of options for producing and distributing information products. Do both!

What about the free-vs-pay controversy?

Of course the author is entitled to charge for her work. The Amazon ebook sells for $2.99 and her royalty is about $1.00 per copy. Hardly highway robbery.

My suggestion would have been, once there was obvious interest in the information, to create both a PDF and the Kindle e-book, add a post to the blog about how to purchase them, and then take down the original post.

Those who howled about “no right to charge for it” would of course still howl. Most readers, I think, would have been very happy to pay a small amount to have it formatted and ready to print out without having to copy and paste from quirky blog software.

All it takes is a little education.

Two Great Ways to Send Your Readers Fleeing into the Night

One piece of advice you’ll see over and over again (yes, from me too) is to engage your audience with blog posts, newsletters, email, Twitter and Facebook. This means writing in such a way that your ideas are communicated clearly to your readers.

(Puts on hat of Mrs. Spurlock, fifth-grade English teacher)

Grammar counts!

I followed a link this morning to a blog post that looked interesting, on the subject of making your WordPress installation hacker-proof. The first two sentences read:

Today there is more and more security breaches than ever before. Web browsers seems to fall behind faster than they can spell to themselves and this really makes an online business or venture quite hard work.

Web browsers spell to themselves? Who knew?

The entire article was unreadable because of numerous subject-verb number disagreements. Simple homonym problems such as “boarders” when the author meant “borders.” Not to mention the usual suspects of “it’s/its” and “you’re/your.”

I must be fair. Since there was no contact information on the site, I looked up the domain name WhoIs to find out that the site was registered in Sweden. English is obviously not the writer’s first language. On the other hand, if he is writing for an audience who will read in a language not his own, it seems reasonable to have a fluent speaker review and edit the article. This reads like he ran it through Babelfish.

The writer of this blog post failed in his most important task — he did not communicate his ideas clearly. He was so muddly, in fact, that I have made a note not to follow any links to this particular website in the future. It’s just not worth my time to try to puzzle out what he means.

Spelling counts too!, which really should know better, recently ran a story about former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy and his ongoing battle with the courts over hidden assets.

Attorney for HealthSouth shareholders John Somerville was quoted:

”[The] IRS back in 2003 documented some 300 million dollars worth of property he had and that frankly a lot of it is missing. All the jewelry, 21 carrot diamonds, artwork is missing…”

Although the meaning of the sentence is still clear in this case, the absurdity of the mental image completely stopped this reader’s train of thought.

How many readers are you potentially losing because of unclear writing or poor spelling skills?

Who Unfollows You on Twitter (and why should you care)?

I’m not obsessive about keeping track of my Twitter followers, but I do tend to keep an eye on the total number. If I see a big jump all at once, it’s likely that the spammers are out in force again, and I go check to see who I need to block. If I see a big drop all at once, it might be that Twitter is cleaning out the spammers that I didn’t catch… or… was it something I said?

I may regret this, but I just signed up with a service called Qwitter.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The correct URL is If you try to go to, you’ll end up on a soft porn page.

You don’t need to give your password, just your Twitter ID and your email address. Qwitter watches your followers list and sends you an email like this when someone unfollows you:

John Gruber (gruber) stopped following you on Twitter after you posted this tweet:

What’s the difference between Arial and Helvetica?

I say I may regret it because it might crush my ego that people don’t like me (sniffle), but on the other hand, it could be good information about who thinks I am boring or offensive (although I’m not nearly as potty-mouthed as some of the bloggers I know. Okay, I’m not really potty-mouthed at all. Don’t want to raise false hopes either). This could help me post more useful information for those who do like what I write.

I’ll report back after I’ve had a chance to collect some data. In the meantime, do you keep track of your followers, or let ’em fall where they may?

Another Security Breach in the News: How to Choose a Secure Password

Over the past two days, hackers have posted the stolen login information and passwords for thousands of email accounts at GMail, AOL, Hotmail, and Yahoo. While Gmail has taken steps to remedy the problem, there are some things that you should do immediately to protect your accounts:

– Check your email account for suspicious activity
– Reset your password NOW
– Don’t use the same password for every login you use.

I’m not going to lecture on why it’s a bad idea to use your first pet’s name as your password. I’m just going to show you one way to choose a secure one that isn’t easily cracked.

If you have other methods, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

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Quilt Market /Festival are coming! Are you ready?

In one of my earlier work lives as a quilt book editor, I went to just about every major quilt show and festival held each year. We looked for great examples of quilting art and craft to feature in magazines and books… and like everyone else, we shopped a little while there.

Only a little. Those rumors you heard about my not being able to see out the rear view mirror coming home are completely unfounded. I promise.

Because I was there on business and had to maximize the use of my time, I had to develop an efficient way to see everything and then to whittle down to things I was most interested in. I also have a mild sensory integration dysfunction, which means that I get overwhelmed really easily. I needed to create a checklist to keep myself on target.

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