Watching the Clock
by Dan Kennedy | July 31, 2011
The 'secret' reason long copy usually out-sells brief copy, and lengthy sales letters out-sell short ones, is simply time. The longer the prospect stays in my store,the more time he invests in my proposition, the more likely he is to buy.
The best catalogs are designed to keep the person paging through them for the longest possible amount of time. The best stores keep customers in them for the longest period of time possible - which the FAO Schwartz store in Vegas has tackled many different ways; three floors, slow escalators with brilliantly conceived signage that sells, the opportunity to buy 30-minute use cards to play all the games on the 3rd floor, the environment itself, a maze of specialty stores within the stores, salespeople who engage you (not clerks), even a soda fountain and sandwich/snack counter, so you need not leave for food. The best sales letters keep the reader reading for as long as possible. It's why we use multi-media: letter, CD or DVD it expands the amount of time the prospect invests with us. The best web sites are designed to involve the visitor and keep him there.
I'm amused when clients fall into the grip of competent technicians who are marketing nincompoops. The fools tell the clients that their sales videos should be no more than seven minutes long, audio CDs ten minutes at most. In one of my business fields, professional speakers are even fed this nonsense: keep your demo reel short. All the opposite of the ideal: find ways to create so much interest the person will stay with you, keep listening, keep watching, keep reading. The more time invested, the more likely to buy.
In good old fashioned nose to nose, toes to toes, mug to mug selling, first in peoples' living rooms, then B2B in offices, I quickly learned what many such sales warriors know: likelihood of closing goes up in 15-20 minute increments. If I'm there for 2 hours, I'm not twice as likely to close as if there for only 1 hour, I'm three to four times more likely to close. That's why the in-home guy selling pots n pans or encyclopedias, etc. unpacks and has stuff strewn all over the place; it expands the time he's there.
Of course, you can overstay welcome, unsell the made sale. In each selling situation on stage, face to face, in a tele-seminar, in print, online, etc. there is a specific "sweet spot" where sales peak; stop short or go long, suffer.
For my basic Magnetic Marketing' speech, it was 90 minutes. I could get good results in as little as 70, up to 120. Less than 70 or more than 120, the sales drop off dramatically. But for the most part, most people stop way, way short of the point where maximum sales occur.
There is link between time invested and likelihood of buying.
The highest earning auto salesman I've ever known always took prospects to his office first, for conversation; then out to look at cars; then to test drive; then back to the office. Why not right out to look at cars? 15 more minutes. That's why.
But what about... Today's shorter attention spans.
Age difference... younger buyers, shorter attention spans
My customer's different... he's very busy, won't read a book...
Blah, blah, blah.
Look, all these things are real. Yes, today, everybody's busier, there are fewer readers and fewer people reading as a matter of course, younger buyers do have shorter attention spans. But the correct answer is not to sacrifice what's effective, not to merely surrender. The answer is to be more interesting and compelling.
A few years ago, ABC-TV was in the dumper. Fourth of the four networks, no hits. And series TV had given way to modular TV. Shows like CSI, CSI Miami, CSI New York, CSI Poughkeepsie, LAW & ORDER, LAW & ORDER SVU, LAW & ORDER CI, LAW & ORDER PMS, etc. are all designed so you do NOT need to follow them week after week. The story line begins and ends in each show. Each episode is self-contained and free-standing. And because of their success (as well as, admittedly, higher syndication longevity and value), the prevailing viewpoint in network television was that episodic, serial shows were dead. ABC, desperate for a breakthrough, went contrarian - and hits have emerged that are, in fact, serial: Desperate Housewives and Boston Legal, Sunday nig ht winners.
My point is simply this: it's less about modular or serial, as it is about interesting and compelling. And purely in terms of sales effectiveness, who's evidencing greater power? the writers, actors, etc. behind a show so fascinating viewers calendar it and make a point of being home to watch each episode, or those whose viewers feel comfortable with missing an episode?
Sometimes we are legitimately constrained by weight for a direct-mail piece, or space in print advertising, the 28 minute limit for the infomercial. But more often, marketers unnecessarily imprison themselves with self-imposed time limits far short of their real time limits for their sales presentation and the prospect's buying experience.
Sometimes we are legitimately constrained by very practical operational considerations. In my old seminar business, selling to chiropractors, dentists, podiatrists, optometrists and veterinarians, we found the 3 hour evening seminar far easier to get attendance for than the full day, and it allowed the speaker to travel each A.M., work every P.M., thus fitting five seminars and five cities into five days (vs. three in five if full days). So, essentially, operational considerations exerted control over sales considerations. But more often, operations controls sales when it shouldn't.
The first, best way of thinking is to determine what situation will optimize sales, then try and figure out how to create that situation. More often, marketers decide on the situation that suits them or their employees, or fits some industry norm, then try to create sales within its parameters.
A mistake made at Caesars Palace: they built a gigantic, new 4,000 seat showroom for Celine Dion. Next to it, is a giant Celine Dion store of souvenirs, music, clothing, etc. But the people exit the showroom down steps next to the store. They should be forced to exit through the store. (Disney rides, like Tower Of Terror at Disney/MGM exit through the souvenir store.) This is minutes in a store, and minutes translate to money.
You have to look carefully at how you manage your prospects' or customers' time. There is a three way linkage:
Classic involvement devices in direct-mail include the "affix these stamps to the card" Publishers Clearinghouse kind of mailing pieces. Opening sealed envelopes. Taking quizzes and tests. Even a trick used by Sugarman (and others): find the misspelled words, get the right count, win a prize. Some of these classics can move online or into other environments; some can't. In retail, such things as trying on clothes or test driving a car. Maytag is testing stores where you bring in laundry and do it there, or cook in the in-store kitchen. In-home party plan selling is making a huge comeback. Here's why I've always liked it: every single person who takes the time to go to an in-home party, goes intending to buy something and does buy something; coming home empty-handed would seem like a waste of time! But instead of a quick walk-through of a store, the person is kept for two hours. Most buy multiples, spend more than they intended - because of the two h ours. And the involvement: interaction with the salesperson and other customers, demonstration, looking through catalogs together - involvement. For the party plan business, INVOLVEMENT + TIME = sales.
So, things to think about -
How can you get your prospect more invested in getting ready to buy from you and in selling himself, so the sale is more automatic, the customer will buy more and will pay more?
How can you get your prospect to invest more time reading, listening, watching, visiting?
How can you actively involve your prospect?
How can you create a buying experience?
Dan S. Kennedy is the provocative, truth-telling author of thirteen business books; a serial, multi-millionaire entrepreneur; trusted marketing advisor, consultant and coach to hundreds of private clients running businesses from $1-million to $1-billion in size; and he influences well over 1-million independent business owners annually through his newsletters, tele-coaching programs, local Chapters and Kennedy Study Groups meeting in over 100 cities.
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