How to pass the fortune cookie test

Are your sales or donations stalled?

You ran a “sure-fire” campaign that just tanked?

Whenever I hear crickets rather than cha-ching’s, here are the top mistakes I troubleshoot for where I veered off course.

Mistake #1: If you’re selling to everybody, you’re selling to nobody

Did I skip over the unglamorous work of narrowing my target audience and really getting to know them?

In their language?

This is usually the #1 culprit.

A narrow audience that really needs your product, or cares about your cause, drives higher revenue than “the world.”

Mistake #2: If I have to convince them the problem exists, I’ve already lost the battle

Unless you are Steve Jobs or Elon Musk with a reputation for showing us the future, you need to sell products or services for a problem your customer already knows they have.

Otherwise, enjoy pushing that rock up a hill.

If you’re a nonprofit and you have to convince people that your mission is a problem first, you’ve lost the battle.

Case in point: Climate change. As long as climate change is being argued as scientific fact or fiction, environmentalists lose the debate every time–even with facts on their side. When enviro’s start asking people if they are sick and tired of extreme weather and want to do something about it, change will happen much more quickly.

Mistake #3: Does my message pass the fortune cookie test?

If you can’t explain what your product, service, or mission is about in one simple, short sentence, it’s probably too complex and you need to break it down into bite-size chunks, or you’re simply out of focus. You’re close to what they want, but a teensy bit off. 

Use my “one sentence that will change your storytelling forever” to fix that.

Business version:  Our *product or service* help *customer* = *benefit.*

Nonprofit version: We *donor and organization together* help *beneficiary* = *benefit.*


Fortune Cookie 1

Mistake #4: Does my message strike an emotional chord?

I can’t stress enough that we all make decisions based on emotion more than logic.

Even our stock market is driven by emotion.

I know you want to sound like a fancy pants to your boss and colleagues, but more often than not, I completely blow it by delivering reasoned, logical information versus resonating emotionally with what my consumer wants, needs, or is feeling pain around.

See mistake #1 above. Spend time narrowing the target audience you serve, narrowing the pain or dream you fix for that audience, and then truly “feel” what they feel (fear, desperation, exhilaration, pride) and use those feelings in your copy writing.

Watch your sales soar and your clients become raving fans.

This is scary, I know.

It’s counter-intuitive to believe that going narrow and smaller actually increases sales, but it does because your audience knows you “get them” and they trust you.

Don’t know what “emotional” is? Two resources: Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer

Here’s a chart of the types of emotions that get “shared” the most on social media, so it’s a good jumping off point.

Heat map of Emotions in Most Shared Content

Mistake #5: Am I reaching people the way they want to get information?

I don’t care that Instagram is the hottest craze in social media if my audience wants to hear from me via email.

Or that Pinterest generates the most shares of all social media if my target audience really only wants to hear from me in direct mail.

I always coach my clients to choose only 2, maaaaybe 3 primary marketing channels. The best way to know which ones work is:

  1. Ask your target audience how they prefer to hear from you, e.g. “where do you get the most reliable information about _______?
  2. Observe behavior – if you get more Like and Comments on Facebook but more conversions via email, then stick with email as your primary communication channel and share reinforcing information via Facebook.

Mistake #6: Did I just come out of left field?

Is your messaging and communication consistent.

I know you’ve never thrown messages on the wall just to see what sticks.

But I have.

It doesn’t work.

There’s a reason I post this blog every Friday morning.

Consistency builds trust.

Blind sides and curve balls erode trust.

It’s okay to introduce new ideas, breaking news, and new concepts, but be super-selective about it.


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Photo Credit: StudioTempura via Compfight cc