In a Nutshell: Whether you’re writing website copy, sending email newsletters, social media posts, physical mailers, or a combination, you have to master the psychology of engagement to turn your prospects into clients and keep your business growing.
Guest: Adam Bensman. Adam is one of the top direct response copywriters and consultants in the country, and he has a particular expertise in helping financial advisors improve their marketing.
My Key Takeaway: If you want win more business from your copywriting, you need to craft a compelling offer that:
- Differentiates your firm.
- Reaches your ideal client right where they are.
- Addresses the questions that are swirling in their mind.
- Provides a high level of perceived value.
1. Why you should delete your glossy headshot from the top of your emails, open with an ellipsis (…), and always end with a PS.
2. How to address your prospect’s pain by appealing to the “search trigger” that brought them to you in the first place.
3. What 4 quadrants Adam says your marketing needs to hit in order to set yourself apart and demonstrate your value to your audience.
Complementary Episode: Pair this with my discussion on how to get started in email marketing with top email marketer Dan Oshinsky. Listen/read here.
Resources Featured in This Episode
Brain Hickey Visit Adam and his team online.
Snappy Kraken Adam works with this comprehensive, fully integrative marketing platform specifically for financial advisors.
“The Architecture of Persuasion” by James Masterson
“The Ultimate Sales Letter” by Dan Kennedy. Adam says, “If you are interested and/or have access to a targeted list of clients, using the techniques that are taught in those books would be an incredibly powerful platform.”
Values Clarification Toolkit Click here to download this FREE tool and start living your values.
Steve Sanduski: Hey, everyone. Welcome back to Between Now and Success. I’m your host, Steve Sanduski, and my guest today is Adam Bensman. Adam is one of the top direct response copywriters and consultants in the country. What I’ve love about this episode is Adam dropped some amazing insights on the psychology of engagement. He talks about how to make an emotional connection with your clients and prospects and how to use the tools of copywriting and a marketing channel like email to do it. Here’s a real key thing too. He helps us solve a specific problem that all of us have. That problem is how do you get a prospect to take action right now.
Adam has some specific things that you can do that work. You’re going to love that. Let’s jump into the episode with Adam Bensman. Adam, welcome to the show.
Adam Bensman: Hey, Steve. Thanks so much for having me. It’s great to be here.
Steve Sanduski: Well, I am excited to have you here. We’re going to be talking about one of my favorite topics which is marketing and perhaps a subspecialty under marketing would be using words to actually market, whether it’s email marketing or writing or blogging. We’ve had previous shows where we’ve talked about email newsletters, but today, we’re really going to get specific with copywriting and what are the kinds of words and how do you want to actually put those words out there in a way that’s really going to connect with your readers. This is going to be a lot of fun. Why don’t we just start with how do you define copywriting?
Adam Bensman: Most people when they hear copywriting, they might think, especially if it’s a word you’ve never heard before, will often think copyright, like to trademark. That’s not it. It’s not just writing. It’s a very specific type of written word that will drive a reader to take a very specific action. For most people, I can share my story a little bit later if you like, when it comes to selling in the written words, that’s anything that your client or perspective client may consume, the process for getting them engaged and excited to connect with you is very different than you would handle in person.
Many people, and this happened to me, I was very good at in-home sales, so I came from the in-home sales industry, and I had a very high closing rate. I trained teams all across the country. When it came time for me to launch my first business online, I completely flopped because what I learned to sell in person did not translate to the written words. You don’t have the same level of control on reeling someone back in, overcoming objections, reading their body language, knowing when to interject, when not to. You can’t have them touch and feel. You can’t slide a proposal over. You can’t flip through your binder and point to page two and skip ahead and skip back. You lose all of that control.
What copywriting is is learning the art of understanding how someone, the majority of people and more specifically your target audience needs to receive information in the right order to make a decision that results in some sort of action, meaning reaching out to you or scheduling some sort of appointment. Copywriting is doing that in the written medium.
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Steve Sanduski: Let’s use an example here. Let’s talk about email marketing because a lot of advisors spend a lot of time sending emails. I think there’s this super opportunity for advisors to get more sophisticated in the email marketing area. I think there’s a great potential there. Let’s talk about how you think about copywriting as it relates to sending emails. Maybe we start with the subject line. I think we all understand the subject line is very important. What are maybe some dos and don’ts as you think about what do we put in the subject line of an email where let’s say this a marketing email, that’s a not client that’s going out to some potential clients?
Adam Bensman: Sure. That’s a really good question and so many people get this wrong. It’s because they’re listening to the masses, they’re listening to the mainstream teachings and after sending over … I’ve had emails delivered well over to 10 million inboxes, not 10 million different sends, not 10 million email sent. It’s 10 million different inboxes and I’ve learned a lot on what works and what doesn’t work. Ultimately, the biggest pitfall that people make is trying to write their emails as a marketing blast. They think, “Well, I have to send a message.” All of a sudden, their voice changes. They’re speaking as if they’re talking to an audience, but they’re not.
Email is a platform and it is my absolutely favorite platform. If you ask me, “Hey, if you could focus on one thing and one thing only in your business, what would it be?” It would be email marketing. The reason is email is a platform that we engage with clients. We engage with friends. We have playful banter. We communicate with family. It’s an extremely personal communication medium. We have access to someone’s inbox in their pocket, on their cellphone and at their desktop and at their tablet, when they’re sitting at the computer.
When we write emails that are conversational, as you would to your friend or to a colleague or to some in your office, that’s the starting point. Clayton Makepeace, which is one of the most profitable copywriters today, I like the way he says this, “Imagine writing an email to your mother.” That’s how you need to craft the subject line. Before we go into the dos and don’ts, I want to frame this just a little bit. When you put an email together, it needs to be personal, it needs to be addressed to an individual human, not to like, “I’m emailing my entire list this great thing.” It needs to just be as if you’re writing to one person on the other side.
The other piece and it’s funny, we are about to dive into the essentially dos and don’ts of subject lines, but more important than anything is your credibility with your email list. When you and I email back and forth, you notice how in the left-hand side of your inbox says my name first. It says, “From Adam Bensman.” People will open their emails based on what they associate with that name. If you’re sending emails constantly bombarding people with irrelevant information or things that really feel like marketing material like you’re shouting at them, if you’ve already damaged your credibility with your list, it’s very difficult to recover from that, very, very difficult.
More important than anything, when you get inspired from this podcast hopefully and maybe do some more research about subject lines, you’re going to see all the dos and don’ts. Now, I’m going to tell you my secrets of what I’ve learned over the years. Number one, do not write a subject write a subject line with a close ended question. That’s a question with a yes or no. The reason for that, if I wrote you an email, Steve, that said, “Did you see this?” and the answer is yes or no, if you think you saw it because you think you’re associating with maybe something in the past that I’ve sent you, you’re just going to delete it or archive it because you’ve already jumped to a conclusion.
Likewise, if you said, “No, I don’t really care,” because all Steve does is send me X, Y and Z material, then I’m just going to delete it. Avoid close-ended questions like the plague, okay? The other thing is to avoid dollar signs, the word free in capitalized letters. All of these sounds like you’re writing a click-bait headline, not the opening of a letter. Don’t be afraid, on the dos, to use all lowercase. Yes, this is coming from a copywriter. It may or may not be grammatically correct. By the way, email is the best place to just let go and write like you speak.
Don’t be afraid to use all lowercase. It feels really personally. It doesn’t feel like a giant email blast so to speak and that’s a big thing in the advisor world is they think of these “blasts.” “I’m going to blast my last,” but you’re not going to blast your friend, are you? You’re going to write him a kind note and hope he’s going to reply. Definitely, definitely write it personal. Don’t be afraid to keep it short. Don’t be afraid to use the first person’s name, so whether you’re most folks are using email or using some sort of platform, maybe it’s Mailchimp, maybe it’s ActiveCampaign or Infusionsoft or one of the variety of advisor marketing platforms that are available today and you have an option to customize the fields to bring in their first name.
I’ll give you an example. As a do, you could plug where it brings in their first name, say, “Steve, I thought you might be interested in this. Take a look.” That’s how you’d send something to a friend. The other don’ts, all caps, it makes people feel like you’re screaming at them and using any third-person language. Definitely not a good thing. Keep it short. One do, try to keep your subject lines at seven words or less. The reason for that is on mobile. This will be different with an older demographic who has their font size a little larger. You usually get about seven words on the image preview in their inbox on mobile apps, whether it’s Gmail or Outlook.
If you do go longer than seven words, make sure the meat of your subject line comes in the first seven words. Otherwise, it gets lost. Now, I’m okay and there are times I use longer subject lines especially if it’s relevant to an action someone took, like downloading something and I want to mention the title, but I make sure to build in the juice as they say of what’s going to capture that attention in the first seven words. Now, another absolute do is to leave readers on the edge of their seat. You don’t need to give it all the way. A lot of people approach a subject line like they would headline of an article. They feel like they have to “set the hook”, but you don’t need to set the hook and it’s okay to use your subject line as the first sentence of your email.
“Latest news shows market predicted to crash in the next three months.” I’m just making this up on the fly. As your opening line, you can continue the story because someone read the subject line and then they’re going to flow right into the story. At the same time, it’s absolutely okay to take that subject line and retype it out as your first line. It’s a very common tactic in direct mail marketing when there’s a teaser on an envelope. That level of repetition is okay because you want to make sure that, and this goes into the don’ts, there is continuity of message. If you don’t have continuity of message, your reader feels like you bait and switch them. They don’t like it.
I have a whole swipe file I use in a training. Swipe file meaning I took screenshots of very poorly done emails that make you think when you click to open it that you’re going to continue reading about something, but then all of a sudden, it’s completely different. Make sure you don’t use any tactics you read about on the internet as the latest greatest hack to get people to open your emails because when people, again this goes back to sender credibility, when there’s continuity of message, meaning it’s consistent, that builds trust and credibility as a sender. You violate that trust, then bad things happen.
Steve Sanduski: Now, what would you say to someone who said, because what I hear you’re saying, Adam, is the subject line is a little more casual. It might be all lower letters, no caps, but a lot of financial advisors feel like, “Well, I need to be professional in my communication,” yet I hear what you’re saying and I agree with you in terms of, “We need to write this as if we’re talking to one person as opposed to 100 or 500 of our prospects that are on our list.” How do you strike that balance between, “Well, I want to come off as a professional because I’m a professional. The work I do is as a professional,” versus, “My subject line might look casual”? Is there any concern about that?
Adam Bensman: This is where I see a lot of professionals go wrong. By professionals, I mean advisors, attorneys, anyone who comes from a more intellectual background. There seems to be this difference versus the information that an advisor may read. Whether it’s a newsletter, whether it’s market research, whether it’s relevant to their craft is filled with jargon that they typically don’t communicate with when they’re sitting down with a prospect or with a client. Now, when I sit down with my financial advisor, I have to ask him to break it down in what I call lemonade stand talk like, “I already lost track of the numbers and what letters behind what number signify what. I just want to know what am I doing now and break it down into simple terms.”
I’m guessing, most advisors that have this experience where they’re requested to dial it back and to communicate in a way that the average person can understand. There’s a difference between being overintellectualized on your writing and being conversational. If you can be conversational, you can still be professional. One little trick that I like to teach people is when they’re sitting down on a conversation or overhearing a conversation, if you close your eyes and imagine hearing all of the words that you’re bringing in, that you’re hearing, being typed as in subtitles almost like on the movie on the back of your eyelids, you’re going to see the difference between the written word in all of these intellectual papers and studies and market research that you might be consuming versus how human interact with people on a human-to-human level.
If you can start to practice that exercise, even right now listening to this podcast, you’re going to hear where there’s a pause. You’re going to hear how a sentence may come across as more of a run-on sentence and that’s okay when we’re talking, but it’s different in writing. That is a really great exercise to just say, “Hey, how would I talk to someone who’s sitting across from me, at my desk, imagining that we have to speak to the lowest common denominator?” We have a prospect that comes in. They may even be really wealthy because a lot of folks are really good at accumulating wealth and earning money or making money, but they’re not super great at managing money or investing. They don’t have the time. That’s why they hire a financial advisor. Because if they didn’t, they do it themselves.
I’m like that. I like to earn money to make money. When it comes down to coming up with a plan, I want to rely on someone that I trust because I figured to me it’s fast tracking, all the mistakes I’d made as a rookie. I want to go to someone who has experience in this field. If you can just imagine having a conversation with the lowest common denominator, imagine the prospect that is not super well educated in this field and writing the email to them, you can maintain a high level of professionalism while still being conversational.
Steve Sanduski: We’ve got the subject line here. Now, they open up the email and obviously the first part of that email is super important. We’ve got to really grab their attention in some way. How do you think about the first sentence or the first paragraph of an email so that we get them to continue to reading the rest of it?
Adam Bensman: The first line of an email is the most important one of any email. The reason for this is this will make or break whether or not someone continues reading. Same mistakes I see over and over again is people try to lead with some big marketing hook. They try to give the whole punchline away. You don’t need to. All you need to do is get the reader drawn in. There’s a couple of tactics that I use. My first line on an email is almost always with very rare exception going to standalone. The reason for that, I’m going to touch on later, is the importance of formatting.
If you were to open up an email that I sent you that was a giant dense block of 2,000 words and you’re busy, are you going to read it now or are you going to either delete it or save it for later? I’m curious what you would do.
Steve Sanduski: TLDR.
Adam Bensman: Yeah, exactly. Too long, did not read. At the same time, if you break out the first sentence, it’s not intimidating for someone to get started. It’s a huge psychological barrier that you automatically break down. That’s the first thing. Second thing, keep it short. Do not use a run-on sentence. With very, very rare exception, don’t use a conjunction. Keep it short and sweet. I very frequently like to use, and this is still when I write for financial advisors, to open my first sentence with an ellipsis, those three dots. We’ve seen them in writing, right? It’s like you’re trailing off like, “Earlier this week, I read something absolutely amazing and I wanted to pass it along …”
Steve Sanduski: Got it.
Adam Bensman: All of a sudden, you’re like, “What’s amazing? What are you passing along?” This is taking a technique from soap operas. I always like the analogy because the human mind hates not having closure, absolutely hates it. Steve, let me ask you question. Have you ever ordered something on the internet that says it’s maybe two day like your Amazon Prime and you still check the track thing to find out when it’s going to show up?
Steve Sanduski: I do.
Adam Bensman: Yes, everyone I’ve asked has been guilty of this. It’s because we always want to know what’s coming. If we open the email with a complete sentence and the person is not interested, they’re going to bounce. They’re done. They’re going to close it. They’re going to delete it. They’re going to swipe and move on to the next one. I like to open an email with an incomplete sentence or an ellipsis to draw the reader in because it’s natural curiosity, it’s a psychological itch that they must scratch. It’s a human compulsion.
Steve Sanduski: A lot of people will talk about the importance of story. Do you recommend we tell a story in the email and maybe the ellipsis is the first part of that story that gets them in and then you start with the storytelling? How do you or do you work stories into these kinds of emails?
Adam Bensman: I use stories a lot. They have been some of the most powerful emails I’ve written and they have produced some of the most powerful results. For the average person reading about finances like watching paint dry, no one wants to read about it and no one cares about it. All they care about is the outcome of it. If you can create a story, and this requires lateral thinking, like if I was going to talk about retirement planning. I’ll give you a snippet. I wrote an email about retirement planning that use an entire analogy about a message in a bottle that traveled across the Atlantic Ocean and washed up on the shores of Africa and tying that entire message back with the right strategy and in the right vessel, you’re going to bounce off the holes of ships, you’re going to weather any storm and it’s going to make it to its destination.
There’s playful ways to draw someone in. The other beauty of using a story is it will anchor a core concept and a feeling and people make buying decisions in this world. In a financial advisor’s world, the buying decision is choosing you as the advisor based on an emotional decision which is then later validated by an analytical decision. Far too often, advisors’ biggest fault is they’re trying to appeal to the analytical mind. That’s not how decisions are made. They’re made in a mammalian part of the brain. It is pure emotion.
I don’t care if you’re selling B to B, to the largest company or to a ma and pa operation or to an individual. People will always have an impulse, an emotional response that needs to be validated. To answer your question, yes, I use story, but I don’t always use story. It depends.
Steve Sanduski: Now, you talk about making the emotional connection versus the intellectual connection. When you’re sending emails like this, do you really just go for that emotional connection and pretty much leave the facts out? How do you weave facts in while also making that emotional connection that’s really going to cause them to take the call to action that you have later on in the email?
Adam Bensman: Emotions always come first and they should be qualified and validated with some sort of analytical or reasoning that they can relate to. I’ll use direct mail. I’m going to put my wife on the spot. My wife is one of those people who’s … She’s very frugal, but she’s an absolute sucker for a sale. If she gets a coupon from DSW or a shoe store, she’ll save up. She’ll shop for shoes. She’s going to wait until that coupon comes in the mail to save and then it validates her purchase. Now, we all know that that item may or may not have been even 20% off. It might have been marked up. The fact is it is an emotional thing of now she can rationalize the purchase because she’s saving money, right? She does. She’s a smart shopper.
The reason I share that story is when we lead with the emotion first and then validate it, if I were to say, “Hey, the market is looking like it’s going to crash pretty soon. This has been the longest boom in history,” and then you cite some facts surrounding that is very different like, “Hey, this is why people are getting nervous. This is why you should alter your investment strategy and reach out to me as your advisor. Over the last X number of years, I’ve helped people survive some of the worse downturns in history and we forecast some are coming. Here’s what can happen.”
Now, we’re going to trigger the emotions, “But with the right strategy, here’s an insight of what could,” obviously with FINRA-approved language. It’s not too promissory, “Here’s what could happen if you did these certain things and here are some statistics to back it up,” whether that’s cited to portfolio performance or whatever the case maybe. Emotions first and then validate with some facts.
Steve Sanduski: I think that’s so critical because as I think about it and think this basically just totally supports what you’re just saying here is if you were trying to persuade someone with facts first, then what’s going to happen is your facts are going to bump up against that person’s facts or their current belief system, so whose facts are going to win? Well, it’s going to be their facts because you’re just not going to convince them with facts. If you open with the emotion or you open with a story that connects with them emotionally, now all of a sudden, there’s an opening because you’ve opened that channel of the emotion. Then you can slip your facts behind that. I think they’re going to be more receptive to maybe being persuaded because now they’ve got that emotional channel open. Does that make sense?
Adam Bensman: Absolutely. Just to piggyback on that, I’ll give you an example of how an emotional story can be much stronger than facts. If you were to tell someone that they were risking a 30% drop in their portfolio based on some market predictions that are coming up that this could happen, people are talking about it and you said, “Hey, this will happen,” now the average investor is going to say, “That’s a bummer.” Unless they’re in a nearing retirement obviously and that it’s more time, they’re going to pay a little closer attention.
The average person will say, “It always bounces back. It’s the waves. My advisor told me this might happen.” His advisor is listening. He’s probably educated their clientele that they have to ride the wave. It’s the nature of the beast, right? If I told you a story that for the next five years, there is a food shortage and I want you to imagine your plate for dinner. What did you eat on your last meal, at lunch, at breakfast, at dinner? Picture your meal that you had. Imagine if I came up and I scooped out, if I took off a piece of steak, the broccoli, the mashed potatoes or scooped out-
Steve Sanduski: Chicken for lunch today.
Adam Bensman: There it is. If I’d cut your chicken in a third and I removed it and that’s all you’re going to eat for the next five years, how would you feel about only being able to eat 70% of your normal meals? Again, you’ll notice how I shifted out there. I didn’t say 30% less, 70% of, because the whole different mindset instead of reduction, right? It’s like, “Oh my gosh, could I really only eat 70% of the calories?” When we tell a story, using an analogy like that, I just came up with that one in the fly, there’s probably a stronger way to share that, but analogies surrounding food and surrounding vehicles are very powerful. Those are go-tos for me because everybody can relate because everyone eats, everyone has a vehicle.
If we’re a financial advisor, all of our clients have vehicles with very, very rare exception. Those are great analogies. All of a sudden, you’re thinking, “Holy smokes, if I can only eat 70% of what I’m normally eating, what would happen?” Some people might say, “Great, I’ll lose weight,” but that’s not the idea. Then if we said, “Well, that’s what the market is looking like it could do, ” that will be another way to use a story and facts all in one and tying one into the other.
Steve Sanduski: Now, you touched on formatting here a little bit ago and I’m not quite sure what you were referencing there, whether it was the actual format of the email or was it more of the sequencing of the different parts of the email that leads to a call to action?
Adam Bensman: What I mean by formatting is the visual appearance of an email, okay? The absolute biggest mistake in the advisor world is a giant header image on your email. There is so much ego in this field. If you are listening to this, you need to throw your ego out the window and I have bad news for you. No one cares about you. No one cares about your brand. All they care about is themselves and having a conversation. If you open an email with a big picture of your smiley face with your logo blasted across it and they have to scroll down, four mouse scrolls to get to the body, all that screams is, “Listen to me. I’m Mr. Special and I’m about to sell you something.” It screams marketing material.
I challenge people because almost all of my clients have been guilty of this. In fact, that’s the number one change I make. You’ll be shocked at the increase in response rate that happens when you make this little adjustment. Now, I do think your brand is important, okay? I’ll pull back the drama a little bit. If it’s important for you to do that, put it underneath your email signature. When people get to the bottom of the email, they can see your headshot. They can see the link to your website. See, when you and I communicated to set this interview up, we just emailed like two people, two friends having a conversation. If I had put a giant banner image on the top, it would be incredibly out of character of having conversation, wouldn’t it?
Steve Sanduski: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Adam Bensman: You know it’s clearly been run through a marketing program to have that header image. That’s the biggest mistake.
Steve Sanduski: Like in the emails that I send out, I send out a weekly email letter to my audience and I do have a header. It’s not an image of me. It’s my logo and then it has a little tagline on it. It’s a little rectangular bar. Is that a bad idea? Should I get rid of that and then just jump right into the email because that makes it more casual? It’s like I’m texting with my audience. What are your thoughts?
Adam Bensman: A newsletter may be the one and only exception to the rule. If it’s me running the newsletter, I’d personally take it out and I’ll tell you why. When someone open that email, they open it because they saw the subject line, they saw who sent it, so they know it’s you. For you to reiterate, “Hey, it’s me again,” does not bring value to the end reader.
Steve Sanduski: But it makes me feel good.
Adam Bensman: I know it does. I’m sorry to call you out. Like I said, it’s a mistake that most people make. Newsletter, having an HTML or some sort of design is the one exception to the rule. My rule of thumb is the only time I will use an HTML, meaning like a fancy design newsletter, something you might get from Amazon, right, that’s got pictures of products, is only for eCommerce, when I need to show a physical product that’s someone’s interested in. Now, if you published a book and you’re trying to showcase your book, yeah, including a picture of the cover is a powerful tool.
Typically, if we think of the attention span of our modern consumer, it’s like a gnat. I mean they used to say it’s seven seconds to make a first impression. Well, now data shows if your website takes longer than two seconds to load, you’re going to lose 70% of your traffic. When someone opens that newsletter, I want them engaging with that content instantly. I want to make it easy for them.
Steve Sanduski: Right. We just want to eliminate as much friction as possible for them to keep reading, keep scrolling.
Adam Bensman: Correct.
Steve Sanduski: Anything else with the formatting, so get rid of the header except in rare circumstances. You also talked about how the first sentence of the email, oftentimes you’ll start with the ellipsis and it’s just typically one sentence, not a paragraph, of two or three sentences. How about the rest? I know I see some of the newsletters that I subscribed to, pretty much the whole email is individual sentences. There’s like no paragraphs. Also, some of them may have little sections that are bolded to let you know, “Here’s like a new part.” What do you think of that or other ideas on the formatting?
Adam Bensman: I’m going to walk into that in a second, but I’m going to frame it with a concept that I think should be the number one or number two takeaway of this entire podcast for any listener. When you are working in a written medium, whether it’s email, direct mail or your website, there are three levels of readership. Everything that you write has to appeal to those three levels of readership. Level one is a person that’s going to open the email and scroll. That’s person that’s going to rip through. They opened it up. They’re in a rush. They’re literally scrolling through.
All their looking for is, “Is there anything that’s jumps out to me that excites? Otherwise, I’m gone.” We’ve all done it. You watch people on their newsfeed on Facebook or Instagram. That thumb is probably the most powerful muscle in the arm these days. You’re ripping through a newsfeed. Then have you seen it, Steve, where someone will stop and then reverse and take a look really quick?
Steve Sanduski: Swipe right, swipe left.
Adam Bensman: Yeah. When someone catches something, they’re skimming really quickly. They’re just looking for something that might be interesting. That’s it. If they open and they were hesitant, they’re like, “Hey, I got an email from Steve,” and I’m only using you just since we’re talking but, “I got an email from Steve. I opened it up and I’m just going to quick scroll down. Oh, cool. Look at this. He’s got a book he just released,” and he’s going to click, okay? The first one is a scroller. That’s the lowest, lowest level of engagement.
The second level of readership is a skimmer. That’s the person that will usually open the email. They read the subject line. They’re going to read the first few sentences. They might glance over and realize that this email is really long or really short. They’re just going to skim. They’re interested. They don’t have all the time. They’re going to look for the key takeaway. That’s a skimmer. They’re going to skim a page just like you’d skim a book if you’re going to click and try to catch up on a brief before a meeting and you forgot to do it and you’re like, “Oh gosh. At least I have to have key takeaways.” That’s your best avenue is to skim.
The third and final level of readership is your most qualified reader. Those are the folks that are going to read everything. It’s the lowest number of people, but sometimes, not always, this is where I differ than most marketers, most marketers will say, “Well, they’re going to be the most qualified,” not true, not true at all. They just happened to have the most time in life what he had to read. Mission accomplished by the way. It means you did something great in your writing. When you use formatting in proper spacing, bold and underlined to draw out those keywords, the easiest test for you to run your emails, your website or newsletter through is to just quick rip through it and scroll using your most and just look for what jumps out of you.
If the stuff that you really want someone to notice doesn’t jump out, if the big emotional triggers don’t jump out, just go back, change it, change the font size, make certain things bold, italic or underlined, so they pop off the page, okay? Same thing if you’re skimming and same thing if you read everything. Now, the last couple of notes on formatting here, I personally believe in one thought per paragraph. If it’s up to me, I like one sentence per paragraph. I cannot even tell you how many times I’ve written an incredibly long form email and I’ve had people reply saying, “I never read emails. I got to the bottom and didn’t even realize I finished.” That right there is mission accomplished.
One of those specifically was someone who I later ended up working with and realized that they also have the attention span of a gnat. It’s not to say that they are wrong. We all do it. It’s life these days, shortened to the point. When you use, even though, again grammatically it might not be correct, the idea is psychologically they start reading, it creates a slippery experience. Read one line. If you look away, if your phone dings, we are bombarded with an eruption throughout our day, I want to make it super easy for someone’s attention to come back to my email and know exactly where they left off. Otherwise, it’s overwhelming and they’re going to leave.
If you’re not comfortable or you feel like it’s off brand for you to use the one sentence per line, try to do one thought per “paragraph” before there’s a line break. That might be two sentences. It might be three, but I would really encourage you to not do more than three because then the emails get really dense. Then the final point on this is link placement. Steve, you seemed like you have some experience in the marketing world. Have you ever heard the “best practice” of only putting the link at the bottom of your email?
Steve Sanduski: Well, I think that’s a bad idea.
Adam Bensman: Well, I’m glad you say that. For some reason, people think, “Oh, I have to put the link at the bottom because that way when a reader gets, they’re qualified. When we think of what the purpose of our email is, it’s to get someone to consume what we’re linking too and/or to prompt a reply. One of my favorite tactics and I have click maps that I’ve tested all these stuff multiple times, if you put what I call a passive call to action, meaning you’re linking a sentence that is relevant to the next page, if you’re going to link to them to a report or an invitation to come meet with you, if you link to them saying, “The top three things that people are doing these days to save time and maximize their,” whatever it is, the top three things would be hyperlinked that would click through.
Now, it might not be the title of the next page. It might not be the title of the lead magnet or the book that would go at the bottom, but don’t be shy to put a link higher up in the email. Again, different levels of readership. Make it easy for someone to click. If the goal isn’t to click, that’s okay. Writing email to get a reply is important, but we do want people to click through. A link high up can be really helpful.
Steve Sanduski: Now, this might be getting granular, but you’ve just mentioned, I think you called that a passive link where you’re linked to the words in a sentence that it might say, “Top 10 reasons why you should do, blah, blah, blah,” and then top 10 reasons is linked, okay? Other people would then blow that. They might say, “Download now,” and it might be a button that says, “Download now.” What are your thoughts on actually linking the text versus maybe having a button image or just having a separate line that says, “Join now”?
Adam Bensman: This really comes down to brand preference. When it comes to buttons, I like to only use buttons on tangible goods, meaning a book. If I’m linking through to RSVP for something, I might use a button. If I’m inviting them to link through to let’s say a squeeze page or a landing page or an opt-in page, someone’s going to go to a page where there’s no other option but to input information and click to the next phase, I’ll more often than not use plain text. I very seldom use buttons in general for the main reason that it does not feel very personal.
It feels like it came from an email marketing program.
I want someone to feel like I’m sitting at my computer, writing them a personal email, not like I’m sending … I wouldn’t send you a button, Steve, if you and I were communicating. I wouldn’t. It would be like, “Hey, click here to get my book and it was on Amazon,” you could use a button there. As a general rule of thumb, if you wanted an easy answer, I would go plain text. Just a quick story on that, one of my clients that we are experiencing some massive success, for them, before I got involved, she was writing all of her own emails. She never hyperlinked anything.
She copy-pasted a link, even if was 500 characters long. “_utm/”, she’d just use the link in the email.
When I got involved, I started hyperlinking texts. She’s like, “No, I don’t do that,” and we skipped it. It is amazing because that’s what her readers are used to. It feels like she’s sitting there putting it together. Don’t be afraid to like, “Well, my marketing doesn’t look polished.” Who cares? Don’t you want people to feel like they’re working with you instead of a marketing robot? If you want to just paste a link in there, go for it. If you want to use plain text, do it. If you do want to use one or two-point font size larger that’s bold with the name of what they’re doing like, “Click here for your free,” whatever it is or, “For the offer,” for them to get on a phone with you, that’s okay. Generally speaking, I would avoid anything that is only doable in an email marketing program.
Steve Sanduski: I’m hearing loud and clear the importance, I’ll just say more of a casual layout here and casual communication, so that people feel like, “Hey, we’re just two friends having a conversation here,” as opposed to I’m sending some massive thing to a bunch of people and it’s got to be rigid and formatted.
Adam Bensman: Yes.
Steve Sanduski: How about everyone complains that, “I can’t get this person to take action or I can’t get them to respond or they’re not returning my call,” what are your thoughts on how to actually drive people to take actions sooner rather than later?
Adam Bensman: That’s like the million-dollar question in marketing. There’s a book that I’m sure you’ve heard of, The Architecture of Persuasion is one and then what’s his name? I’m drawing a complete blank.
Steve Sanduski: Dr. Cialdini.
Adam Bensman: Yeah, thank you. We can put a link some place. There’s a lot of literature out there that talks about it, but I’m going to bring it back to what’s relevant to a financial advisor. Far too often, people put off a decision to contact a financial advisor because the pain is not so loud that will drive instant action. I’m going to share … This is like my million-dollar secret and I still have yet to date to hear any marketer communicate this in this way. Steve, you’ve heard of people say, “Hey, you have to address pain, right? Agitate the pain and provide a solution, correct?” You’ve heard this?
Steve Sanduski: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Adam Bensman: Let’s use the weight loss example because mostly everyone has at some point in life attempted to lose weight and you might have been overweight for 10, 15, 20, 30 years, but the day you decide to start losing weight, something happened. I called that the search trigger. It is an acute symptom in someone’s life or business that says, “Ouch, I can take this no longer. I’m either going to, one, seek some solutions,” whether they know of it. This comes to brand awareness and the level of awareness of what you offer.
If I was overweight, let’s say the minute it hit the 250-pound mark. If I was overweight, the minute it was 249, it’s fine. I hit 250, and I’m like, “Oh my gosh. I can’t do this. How am I 250 pounds?” that might be the moment where I decide to lose weight. Up until then, I didn’t have that search trigger, that acute symptom. With that acute symptom comes a series of questions that a company, they, prospects mind. I’ll give you an example. In the finance world, with an accountant, most people switch accountants when they have paid too much in taxes. They feel like they received poor advice or something went wrong. They then seek a new accountant.
If accountant number one offers a free consultation, which by the way anyone offering a free consultation, the other takeaway is throw that out and let’s work on a new offer, addressing the search trigger. This accountant is offering a free consultation. Now, the other accountant is a smart marketer and he says, “Hey, I just looked at my book of business and I realized that everybody has contacted me, either called or by way of a referral or responding to my email marketing and said, ‘Hey, I just paid too much in taxes,’ well, now my offer is going to be a free tax reduction plan session.”
Now, the accountant is going to do the same thing. They’re going to sit down. They’re going to want to see your last year’s returns and talk about it. Any smart accountant, the first thing that they’re going to do is highlight the low-hanging fruit and they’re going to identify where those key opportunities are to earn trust credibility and win the business. Nothing changes in the meeting. It’s just the positioning of it. The drive action now, the more you can speak directly to the symptom. For someone wanting to acquire, let’s say, retirees who are nearing retirement, you could use some symptoms like, “Have you given yourself permission to retire? Do you know what your income plan looks like? Do you know if you can afford to go visit the grandkids?”
I don’t know the answer to these off the top of my head, right? Whatever those answers are, whatever acute symptom, now people think pain, “Oh, well, they’re going to come to me because I’m a professional.” No, they’re not. They’re going to come to you because you’re a professional after something is agitating them so much, so acutely to reach out. The secret to driving action right now so they don’t put it off is to use language that speaks very specifically to them. If it’s more than one thing that’s okay.
The other way to do it is to offer some sort of time-sensitive opportunity. Whether that’s adding an additional value-add, I know a lot of advisors have authored books for press and you could say, “If you book with me by the end of the week, I’m going to give you a free copy of my book and any other material,” so any bonuses that are time sensitive, using urgency surrounding deadlines, whether it’s tax deadlines, whether it’s end of year deadlines, but reminding people that they cannot put this off another day and also showing them what will happen, what their life will look like if they delay taking action any further.
“Up until this point, you’ve put off your retirement planning, but what happens in five years when you look back? By the way, here’s an example of what our standard portfolio could grow at by the SMP 500. Are you willing to delay longer if it could cost you $60,000, right?” That’s how we get people to take action right now and not save it for another day because it is the lowest thing at most people’s priority list.
Steve Sanduski: Lots of great gems there. A couple of things, one is you mentioned that a financial advisor should never offer like a complementary session or a free one-hour conversation-type thing and you said instead you need to tie it specifically to, and I’m going to paraphrase here, like their pain point. Whatever you’ve identified as the key thing that’s going to drive them that trigger to take action, that’s what your first review session needs to be about, is addressing that specifically. Did I hear that correctly?
Adam Bensman: Absolutely. Steve, when you hear free consultation, what comes through your mind, if I were to offer you a free consultation?
Steve Sanduski: I mean knowing what I know how this all works, it’s like, “Okay, this is their way to try and generate new business and get to know them, but I’m a busy guy, so I want to make sure that if I have a ‘free’ consultation, that there’s a specific objective that I have going into that meeting and that I’m going to have some resolution coming out of that meeting either, A, ‘My problem is solved. I don’t need to work with you,’ B, ‘I don’t like you. I don’t want to work with you,’ or, C, ‘I do like you, you can solve my problem, so let’s get to work.'”
Adam Bensman: You hit the nail in the head with the first sentence you said. A free consultation is a way for someone to have a conversation and see if you’re a good fit. With, especially when you start looking at higher net worth individuals which is a targeted client for most all advisors, if every single advisor out there is offering a free consultation, “Why should I choose you? Why do you deserve an hour of my time? What’s in it for me?” That’s the question that we must ask as we embark on selling our own. A lot of advisors hate the word selling, generating new business, acquiring new clients, whatever language you like to use for. “What’s in it for me, the client?”
Number one is consumers are smarter than they’ve ever been because they are bombarded with a record of marketing messages every day, more so than any time in human history. Everybody knows that a free consultation is only a way to get you in the door to try to sell you. That’s it. If you differentiate your services and provide value and/or tangible value, your likelihood of someone taking you up on the offer is higher. Now, the art of doing this is an entire process. I have my own process going through that we probably don’t have time to get into today, but I’ll give you a few snippets of it.
Number one is to identify the search trigger. Again, that’s acute symptom in someone’s life or business that’s going to push them over the edge to either, one, seek your services or, two, be receptive to your services. When you nail this message downright and I’ll give you a quick snapshot of it, when you end up in front of an individual, they literally believe that you’re a gift from God or gift from the heavens that you showed up at the exact right time.
I’m not trying to get all religious on it here. What I’m trying to do is this is marketing synergy. This is, “You showed up at the exact right time. You spoke my language. You’re my guy. You’re my gal. You are the answer to my problems.” There’s four quadrants that I teach. Number one, we’ve all heard your target market, your ideal client persona. Whatever you think that is, get more granule. There are 45 to 65 earning $250,000 a year or more. They have two kids. They drive a Mercedes. They live in the suburbs. They spend their money on golf, the country club, this, that and the other thing. Whatever that is, we have that target market. That’s the first quadrant.
Second quadrant is what that person wants to buy. Now, this usually has absolutely nothing relevant to what you are selling or what you provide. If I am seeking financial advice, I am not seeking, “I don’t want to buy a financial advisor. In fact, I don’t even want to buy financial advice. I want to buy security, trust and confidence that when I retire, I’ve got money coming in, so I can sit out on my boat and play golf and do all these things. I want to buy usually the outcome of the service.” That’s the second quadrant.
The third quadrant is the search trigger which we’ve addressed through this podcast which is the acute symptom that makes them reach out. The fourth quadrant is what you are selling or offering or providing. When you throw a dart and create a bull’s eye and you create synergy that addresses your target market which is quadrant one. Quadrant two is what they want to buy. Quadrant three is identifying their search trigger and you answer the questions that a company is search trigger. You create an incredibly powerful offer that will make someone wanting to kick down your door to get it.
If we use the accountant as an example, the accountant knows their target market might be a small business owner or medium-sized business owner, they have their persona. They know what that person wants to buy is having the lowest tax liability possible. It’s what everybody wants. Why would want to pay more in tax if I could pay less? The search trigger is they paid more in taxes. Now, boom, that pain hits. “I just paid a tax bill. I paid a quarterly bill, an annual bill,” whatever it was. They expected a refund. They didn’t have it. We know now all those different scenarios.
Don’t be shy by the way to address all of them. It’s okay to layer out a couple of details. If we come in and say, “Hey, I’m going to offer you a free tax-reduction plan session.” Now doing that session is no different than your consultation, but now it has its own identity. It has a perceived value behind it. If we can then talk about preparing some sort of plan, path, review, something valuable that scratches the itch, because remember, with that search trigger, there’s questions. Weight loss for example. “I’m 250. I need to lose weight. What’s the fastest best way and healthiest way for me to lose weight?” These might be the questions that are going through my mind.
If I can position my offer, not my free consultation to lose weight with my great coaching program but get a free 90-day safe, healthy and fast weight loss plan with minimal exercise, right? Again, that can be truncated. Now, all of a sudden, that right client which is important to be attracting the right client, don’t worry about filtering too much, it’s okay to do that. It’s more potent to do that. When you can craft a compelling offer that, one, differentiates yourself, two, reaches your ideal client right where they are, three, it addresses the questions that are going in their mind, and number four, provides valuable or perceived value, a high level of perceived value. You will win more business and have people taking you up on the offer because it’s truly irresistible.
Steve Sanduski: I love that. You mentioned that people are not buying you as the financial advisor. They’re really not buying a financial plan. They’re not buying your process, but they’re buying the outcome of what you can do for them. I think we always have to keep that in mind. It’s the outcome that they’re looking for, not your process or not your plan.
Adam Bensman: Exactly.
Steve Sanduski: Let’s also talk about the end of your letter, so the PS. I know a lot of folks will say, “You should always have a PS in your letter.” I’m going to ask you that. Do you agree with that? Then also, should we have a hot link in our PS every time? What are your thoughts on that?
Adam Bensman: My general rule of thumb with rare exception, always, always, always use a PS. There’s a few reasons. Number one, and I hate to say this, but it’s true, we train our email list to communicate with us. We train them on what to expect. When they see the same formatting, that it’s easy to read, that it’s value-packed, that it’s conversational, it’s entertaining. They like to read it. If there’s a PS on every email, you can’t use it sometimes, they will get in the habit of scrolling, at least scrolling if not reading all the way to the end. Use it without fail.
The only time I don’t is for a quick followup where it might be one sentence, “Are you still interested in chatting about your blank, blank, blank? Just reply here.” Sometimes, I might use a PS to link to like an online schedule or to make it easy for them, but that would be one of the rare exceptions, just sending a one-line email, trying to prompt a reply. In general, yes, always use it. There’s a couple schools of thought on the PS. Thought number one is appeal to the skimmers and scrollers. You said it earlier, TLDR, too long, didn’t read. They opened the email, they skimmed down. One school of thought is to do a quick recap of the email.
That’s a one-sentence summation, two, maybe three-sentence summation of the entire email. It’s covering what you covered, why it’s important to them and why they need to take action right now. Then we have our call to action. Call to action means, “This is what I’m going to tell my reader to do. They’re going to click here to schedule a call with me. They’re going to click to download my book or they’re going to reply to the email.” We always, always, always include a call to action, whether it’s prompting a reply, asking for them to click or something in the PS.
Again, school of thought one, use it as a summation. School of thought two is you use that to drive instant action by using some sort of scarcity or time pressure or urgency for them to take action. If I was going to talk about an investment strategy, maybe it’s yearend and you found that a lot of your clients that you acquire you’re able to make some tweaks on their investment portfolio on taxable and nontaxable accounts that both saves them money and puts them at a more advantageous place in the future, but you’re coming up on yearend, you can say, “We need to do this. It’s important that we meet now because it’s December 1st and we have a limited opportunity for us to examine your portfolio and help maximize your tax savings while setting you up for retirement. Click here now to schedule your call with me.”
That would be an example of scarcity. I hate false scarcity. I hate the whole, “I only have room for two more clients,” when you know you’re like starving for work or you’re scaling and you just hired five more people. Don’t use that. Be authentic. That’s another key rule.
Steve Sanduski: I’ll give you a great example of that and I just sent this in my email recently where a very famous online marketer, I’m not going to mention his name. I’m sure, Adam, you would recognize who this person is, but I get the email. I’m intrigued by the subject line. They’ve got to do online program that they’re offering. I clicked on it. It says, “Closing tonight at midnight.” I looked at it. I’m like, “Okay, I’m going to sign up for this. I like this.” I’m a student of direct mail and writing and I thought, “I’m going to go into my inbox and I’m going to do a search on the whole sequence of emails that he sent leading up to this, ‘This is going to close at midnight tonight.'”
Here’s what happened. A month earlier, for the same program that was going to take place like a couple of months from now, he did the same sequence. A month earlier, it said, “Special price ends tonight at midnight.” I clicked on the link from a month ago and it was the same special discounted price of the email I got that day that special price was going to end at midnight that night. You talk about how you got to be legitimate in this. If you are going to use a deadline and use this idea of scarcity, you sure as heck better be legitimate about it and have integrity with it.
I am a firm believer in this idea of putting a deadline on things because it does cause people to make a decision, but I am 100% clear that that’s the deadline. This is not a marketing gimmick. It’s like, “I want you to make a decision. You’re in or you’re out and then let’s move on. Let’s not waste other’s time,” is how I look at it.
Adam Bensman: Yup, I agree. I’m really glad you brought that up, Steve, because it’s become so overused. It’s overused because it works, but then what happens is people catch on. Now, I’m sure you look at the marketer. It puts a bad taste in your mouth like, “Do I trust them? What else is going to try to cohorts me into?” That’s the one thing I really dislike about the modern age of marketing is this new buzz of persuasion and it almost borderlines manipulation. Now, in my opinion, I don’t think anyone has the power to persuade anybody to do anything against their will. It is about putting the right information in the right order to appeal to the right person for them to take action.
If you can do that with integrity and by the way there’s nothing wrong with saying, “If you act by this date, I’ll give you a free copy of my book plus this,” there might be other bonuses or material you’ve developed, that is an offer that you are entitled to do. It is designed to get people to take action now. There’s nothing wrong with that. It is also up to you. Let’s say someone did archive the email, they responded the month later. If you wanted to gift it to them anyway when they came to the office, that’s okay.
You can say, “You know what? I really appreciate you reaching out. I’m super excited to work with you. I know before I offered the free book and that was only until X date. I know it’s past it, but I want you to have it.” That’s okay to do. Don’t use marketing gimmicks because people will see right through it.
Steve Sanduski: Right. The other measure that I use because there are occasional exceptions where, “Hey, this thing ended at midnight tonight,” let’s say, and then the next week, you let someone in. There are occasionally extenuating circumstances where that makes sense, but to make sure that I have integrity if I’m going to do something like as I always say to myself, “Okay, I’m going to assume that every other person who did get in by the midnight deadline is going to be aware that this other person got in after the midnight deadline. Can I in good conscience justify why this person was able to get in after the deadline because of their particular situation?”
If I can justify that, then it makes sense to me. If I can’t then I do it. Again, I think we just have to make sure that we’ve got complete integrity when we’re using that. You touched on this persuasion versus manipulation. There obviously are marketers out there who are on the manipulative side as opposed to the persuasion side. Another way that I always look at that is, “I only want to be in businesses where I’m adding great value to people. I want to persuade people. I’m not going to manipulate them, but I feel like what I offer is of such great value to my audience that I do want to persuade them because I think it’s in their best interest, not my best interest, but it’s best for you which ultimately will be good for me. I think having that kind of mindset is helpful too.
Adam Bensman: Absolutely. My big breakthrough in the copywriting world and, Steve, you might have heard this in another podcast I was on, I started an email marketing. It was quasi-software, quasi-service for the in-home sales business. At that point, I was COO of multistate, multimillion dollar company, traveling over the US, turned to consultant, training sales teams all over the place, cut my teeth in door-to-door sales by the way which is like in my opinion one of the best ways to learn sales because there’s no filter. You get your teeth kicked in. I think to myself, “I’m a stud at selling. I’m going to start this business. It’s going to go off the hook.”
I went six months with zero sales. I was sending emails. I was doing it what everyone tells you to do. I was blogging, engaging in Facebook or posting in LinkedIn, doing all of those things. Six months, no sales. I started following marketing programs. I did it all, nothing worked. Finally, I got a lucky break, use someone else’s email list and a collaborative opportunity and put together an email. When I asked myself the question, “How do I control the uncontrollable? How do I communicate in a way by taking all the elements of my in-person conversations, package it up in a way that is conversational and I’m just going to be me, I’m not going to try to be a marketer, I’m not going to try to sell?” and so many people do that.
It’s hard not to do, but I was trying to sell, I was trying to market. It didn’t work. I write this first email. I went over and edited and edited it and it was a whole new approach that got added to the queue to get sent through the program, but it was all plain text. It did use bullet points by the way. Bullet points and bullet list as a side note, it’s a great way to draw quick attention to the key points, easy way for people to consume things. I literally woke up in that morning to a bunch of leads. Email two went out more leads. Email three more leads. I closed a $100,000 in business by the end of the week by doing it the right way.
If you take what we talk about in this podcast, if you write your subject lines personally like you’d write an email to your mom as Clayton Makepeace, I have to give him full credit for that sentence, he just pushed what I do in a way that’s really well spoken. If you open the email with a short line or sentence or a story, if you write conversationally, if you imagine your lowest common denominator prospect, all you’re doing is embodying more of who you are, your authentic nature and soul as a person.
If you address the target market, what they want to buy, their search trigger, if you speak to them, you’re going to create such a strong emotional bond, your authenticity will bleed through and you’ll naturally start to attract the right clients. When people engage with you, they’re going to love you out of the gate and it’s going to be the exact expectation they’re going to have when they meet with you in person. When I approach a brand and I work with a company or I write for anybody, my goal is to throw all the traditional marketing junk and create real connections with the right clients that I wholeheartedly believe that company is meant to serve.
We have a gift. That’s why we’ve fallen into the field, that’s why everyone listening is a financial advisor because they love what they do and what a better way to do it than to be authentic, use ethical marketing, sound principles, not of manipulation but of influence and clear communication to work more, most importantly more, of the right clients that I wholeheartedly believe you’re meant to serve.
Steve Sanduski: This whole idea of being authentic I think is so critical and I think oftentimes, we’d say, “Okay, well, I’m a professional so I have to have this professional voice that I’m going out to the marketplace with. It’s a bit of a mask, I think. I think it’s important for each of us to know that when we are communicating, you’re really making this point in our conversation today about be who you are online. Don’t put this mask on like, “I need to present this different face to the public.” I think what is hard for people and it’s hard for me too is really being able to go forward with your voice and really finding your voice, and again not putting the mask on, but just being real and open as opposed to having behind a little bit of a shield.
I think that’s something that can take, “It’s taking me time.” I think it’s always a work in progress, but I’m very conscious of trying to be a communicator who I am and just put it out on the line. I think that’s an important thing for all of us. It’s something we have to continue to work at.
Adam Bensman: Yeah, absolutely.
Steve Sanduski: All right. Why don’t we just wrap up here with a couple of things. One is, is there anything else that you want to share that we haven’t talked about here?
Adam Bensman: I would encourage everybody that’s listening to start taking their emails more casually. Don’t get overwhelmed. Don’t worry about all the functionality. Don’t fall for the BS of having your email with a big image header and being overly produced. Be you. Don’t be afraid to send some emails that do nothing more than prompt to reply to even say, “Hey, I was out.” For me, I’m a big mountain biker. I might send an email saying, “Hey, I was out on my mountain bike the other day and I have this really great idea that I’m going to start testing with clients and I just want to share with you. Here’s the idea. What are your thoughts? Reply and let me know.”
When you start to break up your emails with more conversational pieces, when you don’t pound your list with always trying to sell or market or send something that’s overproduced, don’t worry about it. Just be you and have fun with it most importantly. Write how you speak. If you need someone to prove it to make sure you’re grammatically correct, that’s okay. By the way, grammar is very flexible in an email. People expect it because it’s conversational. The last thing, the big takeaway, work on your formatting and craft that compelling offer. Relisten to that section with the four quadrants.
Find a way to differentiate yourself. Find a way to stand apart. Bring value because that one gem alone can be embedded not only into your emails but your email newsletter, your Facebook ads, your Facebook post, your LinkedIn profile, your LinkedIn post. Any outreach, your direct mail, all these things, when you have that compelling offer becomes the backbone of what you do and don’t be shy to have multiple offers. If you have different market segments that you do well in, you have an offer for retirees. You can have an offer for small business owners. You can have an offer for a different segment.
Don’t be afraid to have different offers for different segments even though it’s just a different entrance point. That would be my big takeaway from an actionable standpoint for anyone listening.
Steve Sanduski: Well, I’ve got a couple of rapid-fire questions that I want to ask you, but before I get to that, I’ve got two other quick things that I want to add. One is I always want to remind people, so we’re talking a lot about email here that you should always be building your email list. If you don’t have an email list, you need to start one. Whether you’re using Mailchimp or Campaign Monitor or a variety of other systems out there, get in the habit of getting as many people’s emails, qualified prospects’ emails as possible and then start using the things we’re talking about here.
Another thing, Adam, is I’m sure people are going to want to reach out to you. How do you work with people? What’s the best way for folks to reach out to you if they want to talk to you about possibly having you help them in their copywriting and some of their marketing?
Adam Bensman: Anyone can shoot me an email adam@brainhickey, that’s my brand, B-R-A-I-N, like your brain, hickey like the mark on your neck that a lover might leave you. Unforgettable messaging is what we do, so email@example.com. I am no longer taking on new clients at the moment. It’s been about two years, but you are welcome to shoot me an email. I have a couple of programs we’ll be releasing soon. There’s a website. I’m going to be releasing my sales email formula. It’s a 12-step writing process that builds in all the fundamentals we talked about today, but then layers on some additional training on the right sequence, what goes where in the email, how to write it, some samples, some video training alongside it. You can get on that list for when it is released at www.brainhickey.com/newcourse, all one word.
I’m also going to be releasing a program where I’ll be working with folks in a group setting to help them craft their irresistible offer or offers. Now, when we do this, we go through a process of crafting the big offer first which is someone getting in touch with you to set an appointment and then working backwards through any step of your marketing as we call it your funnel. Whether that’s an eBook or a newsletter, some sort of entrance point where a cold prospect first meets you to get them into the funnel so we gradually give them more of what they’ve already wanted until they are up to that point where they’re ready to make contact.
General questions, I’m always happy to hear from people who have insights, share your insights, shoot me a message. Again, firstname.lastname@example.org and the website brainhickey.com/newcourse. I’m more than happy to respond to folks. It might be a day or so, but I respond to every single email that I receive.
Steve Sanduski: I mentioned earlier that I’m a student of all this and I am on your list. Whenever that course is going to get released, I’m on the notification list, so looking forward to that. That sounds super exciting. This has just been awesome what we’re talking about here. Let’s wrap up with a couple of rapid-fire questions. I’ve talked a lot about learning, so what’s something new that you’ve learned here in the past 12 months or so?
Adam Bensman: Direct mail isn’t dead. I did a lot of direct mail many years ago. What I will say when I say direct mail isn’t dead, I would take any pamphlets or flyers that you’re using that are generic postcards and I’d throw them out. Now, if they are working which would be mind blowing to me, but if they’re working, don’t stop using them. Anything that’s working, don’t stop. Direct mail has been one of the most powerful tools in the B to B space and to reaching people. There’s a book I’d like to recommend called The Architecture of Persuasion by James Masterson, that alongside Dan Kennedy’s book, The Ultimate Sales Letter. If you are interested and/or have access to a targeted list of clients, using the techniques that are taught in those books would be an incredibly powerful platform.
I breathe new life into direct mail for a number of clients that I’m working with and they’ve proven to be more effective acquisition channels than digital platforms. Now, that depends on the niche and most of those are B to B. If you are serving any businesses or small businesses or small business owners, people are straying away from it because of the cost, but if you’re using an actual sales letter in an envelope that’s well written, hand addressed, hand stamped or at least looking like it with a powerful headline and teaser copy, and again a conversation, all the same fundamentals we just talked about in the email and going into a direct mail letter, that is not dead and I would encourage anyone who has been on the fence about it to do some experimenting and expect roughly a 1% response rate. Every 100 letter should generate roughly one inquiry.
Steve Sanduski: I think key point, direct mail is not dead. I’ve also had other people on the podcast who do seminar marketing and they use direct mail invitations for the seminars and are crushing it. Some of these things, people say, “Oh, you’re not going to do digital marketing?” Well, I’m a believer, you got to absolutely try these new things and see what works, but sometimes the older strategies can still work because other people have given them up and tried to move on to the new things. I think that’s one reason why email has never really gone away. I think there’s a bit of resurgence right now in email marketing. I know it’s been very successful in the work that I do. Some good thoughts there. All right, one final question here is, how about a negative experience that you’ve had? What did you learn from that?
Adam Bensman: The most negative experience that I’ve had had been all surrounding taking on the wrong clients. I had a couple of higher profile individuals I’d worked with in the past. Everything I do, no one has ever heard of me because I call myself a silent seller. I’m under an NDA with all the companies I’ve worked with. Many people who had seen this podcast will know, a company in the financial space that I worked with and-
Steve Sanduski: I’m not going to be able to tease out of you, huh?
Adam Bensman: For them, I do have permission to tease it out.
Steve Sanduski: Oh you do, okay.
Adam Bensman: We’ll get to that as we close. I absolutely, absolutely love working with them, but a negative lesson that I learn was taking on the wrong clients. What happened with that, this was earlier in my career, I’m at a place of luxury now where I can pick and choose and have been in a place where I haven’t had to take on and I’m not taking on new clients, but I took on a new client, a higher profile client, really, really big project. We did really high seven figures in a launch. It was entirely draining, not good synergy, I realized. Most importantly that’s relevant to the advisors listening is when you are compromised, so I was compromised, I was hired as an advisor for my professional guidance, but all of my advice was not taken.
When the performance of a project doesn’t go as planned, but you’re the one that’s supposed to be directing it, it was tough. It both took longer. There wasn’t good synergy and it wasn’t in the right sweet spot. I made the mistake of just trying to walk away and I let money get in the way of it and said, “Hey, I’ll stick around,” and I ended up walking away. What I learned from that is how important is to have synergy and shared values. I have an incredibly strict criteria of companies that I work with. I have to have shared values. I have to believe in the product or service.
If I were in the market for that product or service, they’d have to be someone I would work with and most importantly, I have to love, not like but love the members on the team. If it checks all the boxes, they’re worth considerations. For any advisors here, I would say don’t just take the business because it’s the business because you’ll reach a point. If you have it already where you’re going to be so busy serving folks that the folks you took when it was just because the check cleared so to speak, they’re going to be the first people you want to get rid of because there’s no fulfillment there. It’s draining. Doing what you do should really fire you up.
Steve Sanduski: Yeah. No, I think that’s such a key point and I know all of us are guilty of early in our career we’ll bring on any client that can fog a mirror, the old fog a mirror test, but then as we start getting some financial means, then we get a little more selective. I think the earlier in your career that you can do that, that you can focus in on who your ideal clients are that you can best serve, that you can add the greatest value to and that you enjoy working with them, they enjoy working with you, your business is going to grow much faster. You’re going to be much happier. Your clients are going to be much happier, it might be hard to do early on, but again, just great advice there, just really focusing in on who your ideal clients are.
Adam Bensman: Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. So many people focus on the traditional “niche or niche” and they’ll look at industries or age and you don’t need to think about it in that way. It might be a personality type. It might be a shared value. I worked with an advisor years ago. His entire niche and sweet spot was more of a lifestyle-driven individual rather than a corporate individual. These are folks that place a high value on life experience and travel. That was a good fit for him. Don’t box him in. Don’t box it into the stereotype. “They have to be between this age or this age or net worth.”
Look at the clients you love the most and identify those key characteristics because it might be a weird combination of things that makes up who you are and the clearer you’re getting it, the easier it’s going to be to find more of those people.
Steve Sanduski: Excellent. All right. You teased something here just a minute ago. Are you going to share something with us?
Adam Bensman: Yeah, absolutely. I do work with an amazing company called Snappy Kraken. They provide an incredible, comprehensive, fully integrative marketing platform specifically for financial advisors. To date, they’re the only one who’s offering exclusive regional territory rights. Their rates are really competitive and it’s a fantastic team. They’re really on the cutting edge of it. I’m very fortunate to have connected up with them. If anyone listening who’s interested in taking the reins of their marketing, you can go to snappykraken, S-N-A-P-P-Y, kraken is K-R-A-K-E-N, dot com. You can contact them through there and check on your territory availability. There are some great people. I fully endorse them. I mean obviously I work with them, but I love what they’re doing. I believe in what they’re doing.
Steve Sanduski: Excellent. Robert Sofia I think is the founder of that company?
Adam Bensman: Yes. He’s a great guy. I just was talking with Robert a couple of days ago actually.
Steve Sanduski: Excellent. All right. Well, Adam, this has been fantastic. I learned a lot. I think I’m going to have to change the format of my newsletter and get rid of that header.
Adam Bensman: Send it to me. I’m happy … I’ll put together a Screencast for you and give you my feedback.
Steve Sanduski: Okay, awesome. That would be great. Again, awesome. I really appreciate you taking some time here. Just wonderful insights and wisdom and lots of things that we can be working on to be better copywriters and do a better job communicating and connecting with our clients. Again, the website is brainhickey.com. Sign up for Adam’s new program. Get on the wait list there. I know I’m on it. I’ll be part of it. Appreciate it.
Adam Bensman: Excellent. Steve, thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure being here.