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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sales Letter Mystery Solved!

Remember when you were a kid and your parents would hand you a pile of junk mail to play with? I bet most of that junk mail was comprised of sales letters (though we really didn’t care, we were just excited to have our own mail!). You know-those one or two page letters trying to sell us something by using bold text, all caps, and most of the time, black, white and red color schemes. For everything from car repairs to hair restoration, those sales letters would come by the droves.

It wasn’t until I began creating sales letters for my own business, and then creating them for clients, that I realized how important those letters were for the business who sent them. As a direct way to present and sell something to potential customers all over the country, sales letters have played an important role in business marketing for years. The good news is that sales letters have evolved. No longer resembling ‘paper telemarketing’, a properly written and designed sales letter can do wonders for driving sales for your small business.

Small product businesses in particular can greatly benefit from a well-written sales letter. Why? Because small businesses usually don’t use sales letters and this in itself presents an untapped market. How many sales letters have you received from jewelry companies, bath & body companies, baby product sellers, etc? Likely, not many if any at all. Most small businesses focus on online and email marketing to drive sales and build brand awareness. While effective and smart, online marketing is only one piece of the marketing puzzle. Sales letters open up an entirely new avenue for driving new and existing companies to make a purchase. And, it adds to your brand awareness, too.

If sales letters are so great, why don’t more small businesses use them? Cost plays an important factor, as having a professional letter written isn’t cheap. And, many small product businesses might not know the value this type of marketing tool can bring. Additionally, trying to create your own sales letter can be daunting if you’re not a writer at heart, and can be just ‘one more thing’ to do.

Let’s take a look at the value a sales letter can bring. A past client utilized a sales letter to promote a new line of children’s apparel to an audience of 2,500 households which contained a child under the age of 5 (she obtained a mailing list from a reputable broker). This client had yet to claim a profit on her business, had one employee and was in her third year of business (not your typical business to utilize sales letters). She had a targeted sales letter created that fit her product, short-term sales and brand-awareness goals.

After mailing, this client had grossed approximately $5,000 in sales from new and returning customers who received the letter- which more than recovered her initial cost of having the letter created and the price of the mailing list. She will send the same letter to a different group of potential clients, and hopes to see profits again.

Creating a sales letter for your small business should be a well-thought out process. Consider why you should consider using one:

• Your past customers present an excellent starting point for repeat sales from your sales letter.

• A well-written sales letter can be used more than once, hence paying for itself over and over.

• Recipients of your sales letter are likely to be more open to something new and fresh, and not the same old sales letters that come from car companies, home repair venues and weight-loss products. Give them something fun and fresh!

• Mothers are a powerful demographic. Small product-based companies NEED to tap into the ‘mommy market’ to drive sales. A sales letter is a potent way to do this.

• Beauty products, health & beauty services, female-targeted products and family oriented products & services tend to market well through sales letters.

• There are not many small businesses (or home based businesses) using sales letters as a marketing tool. This opens up the very wide avenue for smart small businesses to grab onto.

• Sales letters are a prime way to present new goods and services, provide a small product sample or promotion and best of all, JUMP start holiday sales (now is the time, people!)

• Even if you currently use email and online marketing, print sales letters should not be overlooked. A visually appealing piece of mail is a powerful sales tool and only helps reinforce your brand.

Ok, so let’s say your interest is peaked and you want to learn more about creating a sales letter for your product or service. First, take a peek at this sales letter example to see how it is written to target a certain audience, and how it can persuade a reader to take more interest in the product-and hopefully make a sale. Then, consider these things when creating a letter for your business:

• Who your intended audience is and how you will get their contact information.

• Your goals, or the end-result, you are after with the sales letter. What do you hope to achieve?

• The cost effectiveness of creating and sending a sales letter. Even if your budget is tiny, you can still tap into this marketing effort.

• How you will monitor results of sending your sales letter. Will you offer a promotion or coupon code to be traced from sales against the letter?

Your sales letter should have a clear purpose and enough information to drive your reader to take action, hence, make a purchase. Keep it simple, make it visual and use your business identity to build brand awareness and trust.

Best of all, offer an incentive like a coupon or discount code, business magnet or small product sample. The client mentioned above who sent out a sales letter for her clothing line included two small fabric swatches with each letter, so readers could see the amazing beauty of the fabrics she used in her line. Most of all, recognize your sales letter as the long-term investment in your business that it is, use it wisely, and enjoy to the return!
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~Lisa Otto is a professional freelance copywriter who has created marketing materials for several up-and-coming businesses, with impressive results. She specializes in writing for 'mom-markets', health & wellness, business-to-business marketing and consumer-direct copywriting. Lisa can be contacted at: lisacws@yahoo.com

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Meet Your Market-Northwoods Wealth

Deep in the Northwoods, surrounded by white pine, ash and birch trees, perched atop hillsides that look over lakes filled with loons, mallards and Canadian geese, reside impressive luxury homes that mimic nature with natural log construction or cedar shake exteriors. Built in two-story A-frame construction, with towering floor to ceiling peaked windows, winding staircases that crease through steep hillsides to the lakes below, or crafted to blend into the very trees that surround their massive expanse, these homes represent more than beauty by design. They represent a luxury market you may be missing. If you’ve never heard the term ‘Northwoods’, chances are you don’t live in the Midwest where this very influential market resides. If so, you’re missing out on a really big consumer marketing opportunity.

As you can imagine, the homes described above cost several hundred thousand to several million dollars to construct and own. They represent more than just a luxury get-a-way or retreat (for many, homes like these are summer residences). This Northwoods lifestyle is just that, a lifestyle…a measure of wealth, success and status. These homes represent their owners on a highly prestigious level. What it means for you is that this market has money to spend, and if properly targeted, they can spend it on you.

What is the Northwoods market?

Wisconsin, Minnesota, the UP of Michigan and Canada all boast claim to some of the deepest Northwoods expanses in the US. Here, miles upon miles of woodland exist, some mingled with lakes that offer prime grounds for creating a luxury Northwoods retreat. Luxury homes and exclusive seasonal community groups can be found here. People of wealth flock from the larger cities to build or purchase homes in the Northwoods, including physicians, bankers, realtors, professional athletes, entrepreneurs, celebrities, investors and others. Because many Northwoods home owners are seasonal, the bulk of commerce they provide occurs from April-September, sometimes into December for areas that offer winter activities later in the year. Due to this seasonal boom in population and spending that occur in communities where many luxury Northwoods homes reside, gifts shops, stores and shopping centers in those areas adjust inventory to accommodate. This can include offering basic everyday items, along with boutique quality products as well.

Why should you consider this market?

This is a luxury market with money to spend and the affinity to do so. Consumers in this market are influenced by having nice things, luxury things, what their neighbors have (true!), and what is new and trendy. While most income earners in this market are men, women tend to be the main spenders, along with tweens and teenagers.

Gift shops are common in Northwoods areas which often carry an eclectic range of merchandise and who are not afraid to carry higher-priced items. Boutique goods like organic and handmade lotions, soaps and body products, jewelry, boutique clothing, indie books and music DVD’s, country and Northwoods themed home d├ęcor, pottery, glass, outdoor items, gourmet food products, and upscale children’s clothing and accessories are common in stores like these. Many retailers make local wholesale purchases if they can find a local seller of quality, or source via trips to trade shows throughout the year. Ultimately, with the wide selection of uncommon and high-quality goods often found in Northwoods shops and stores, anyone with a product that fits, even with a higher wholesale price tag, should investigate if this market works for them.

How do you tap into this market?

Believe it or not in this economy, many gift shops and stores in Northwoods areas have been in business for many years, showing a longevity supported by the wealth boom in seasonal population. To find them, you need to know the areas where they set up shop. You can start by using Google to research shops in the states mentioned earlier. Then, contact them to see if they are accepting new products, then make your pitch. Or, ask followers of your social networks who may live in these areas to provide you with some leads for shops to pitch. Because many of these retailers are seasonal, make your pitch at an appropriate buying time (mid-winter-late spring), or provide a fast turn-around time to meet rapid wholesale purchases if possible.

As a lucky girl who grew up in a lake home in the deep Northwoods, I can appreciate the excitement of taking a boat ride around the lake, just before dusk, to ‘sight-see’ all the beautiful Northwoods lake homes. Even better, was the fun of spending hours browsing the gift stores and shops in the community where we lived. Every season, merchandise became more exciting, fresher and more wonderful. There was always something uncommon and always something original. Why not make it your product that stands out and entices this deep-pocketed market to make a purchase?

To get help promoting your product to the Northwoods market, consider Boutique Up! Daily’s Retailer Swag program, which will be targeting very select retailers in this market throughout 2009.


~Lisa
lisa@boutiqueup.com
http://www.boutiqueup.com

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The MTV Music Awards catalog *FREEBIE*

Want to be part of the MTV Music Awards catalog? Here's a little incentive, going on today through Friday 4/24: If you and a friend both sign up and pay for catalog placement, BOTH of you will get $50 back!  AND, both of you will be entered into a drawing to be held Saturday morning, for a free catalog placement (which means you'd get your entire purchase price refunded).


How to enter?

Visit Boutique Up! and learn more about our catalog for the MTV Music Awards.

You & a friend must complete the checkout page and each purchase a placement spot.

Either reply to this post, or email me, to let me know you've completed checkout, and who your friend is so both of you receive an immediate $50 back (each).

Your name, and your friend's name, will be entered to win a completely FREE placement in the catalog. To be announced Saturday 4/25.

So easy!  Need more info? Download our MTV Music Awards catalog information sheet here, or email me for assistance. 

(This special is good for new participants only)


~Lisa

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Dish on Press Kits; PART TWO

First, please read PART ONE if you haven't already done so.

So, now that you know what goes into a press kit, how do you package it? This is where heads butt and everyone has a different opinion. In the end, you'll need to decide what type of packaging works best for what you hope to accomplish. Here's why...

You've likely heard other business owners chatting about how expensive it was to create their press kit packaging, or how they hired a graphic designer to create custom folders, letterheads, etc for their press kits. You may have even seen examples of very artistic press kit packaging or those with embellishments and lots of flair.

Once you have all your pieces written, you'll need to package them in an orderly, attractive way. This is where some people run into their largest expense in the entire press kit creation process. As mentioned in part one, media and retailers are often overwhelmed with press kit submissions, and one rule of thought is to make press kit packaging colorful, unique and even decorative in order to grab attention (and be pulled up out of the slush-pile, as it were).

Does it work? Maybe. For some. However, having worked with, read blog posts by and chatted with reporters and business owner who receive press kits on a daily basis, the consensus seems to be that 'pretty' and 'expensive looking' does not guarantee you a lifeline out of the slush pile.


Instead, most reporters and others will say that a nice folder, embellished with an attractive business label, and filled with attractive, well written and well placed press kit components, (and maybe even a little treat or product sample) is preferred. Yes, be creative and add your own flair, but also remember that spending a lot on design does not guarantee anything. Ultimately, your persistence and willingness to follow up on each press kit sent will help determine your success!

So, the general rule of thumb is:

  • Assemble your press kit in an attractive pocket folder or folder of your choice. Feel free to use a nice colored folder, especially one coordinated with your business label and logo. You can print your press kit on glossy paper, professional weight paper, or any type that you see fit.
  • Having professionally printed business labels with your company name and logo is fine
  • Be sure all of your press kit components are printed on your company letterhead (many times, your copywriter will be able to create this for you).
  • Keep your press kit packaging simple.
  • Feel free to add a little treat (candy is good), or a small product sample or promotional item if appropriate (like a business pen with your name on it). Treats can actually be helpful!

In the end, there is not a clearly defined need to spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on your press kit packaging.

So, if the recipient might just throw your press kit in the 'slush pile', how do you get noticed? The answer to this question is PERSISTENCE.

Keep a calendar at your desk specifically for the purpose of marking when you sent a press kit out and to whom you sent it. Then, be sure to follow up in a few days to a week to be sure your recipient received it. A phone call is best, but if you want to work your way up to a phone call by emailing first, that's OK too. You may not receive an answer, but continue your follow up process until you do!

Alternately, you can assemble your entire press kit electronically, saving the need to physically send them out all of the time. How? The simplest way is to have your writer save your press kit documents in a PDF file and then host the file on your website or press page. You can then send the link to the press kit page (or even the PDF files) directly via email to your recipient. Each business should consider having their press kit hosted electronically as this is becoming the preferred method to receiving press kits. And, you still do need to follow up after sending an electronic kit, just as you would if you sent a paper one.

OK, Examples of press kits for you to see:

Elaborate, nicely decorated kit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/prixprix/sets/72157604457132575/

Bright, colorful kit: http://www.sophieandspice.com/kitphoto1.jpg

A simple, pretty electronic press kit: http://www.2houndsdesign.com/skin1/presspacket/about2HoundsDesign.pdf

Adjust your kit to your budget and taste, and don't forget to get help if you need it! Feel free to contact me via Creative Writing Studios if you'd like help on your own press kit.

~Lisa

The Dish on Press Kits, PART ONE

With spring comes the fresh opportunity to promote your product or business. And, it seems this time of year seems to generally jump-start interest in hitting promotions hard, and a common question comes up over and over again: "What is a press kit and how do I make one?"

A press kit comes in many forms and can be called different things; media kit, or pitch kit, and has many purposes. A press kit can be used to generate media interest in your product or business, and is useful in pitching your product for garnering wholesale/retail interest. I also know of artists who have used a press kit to gain entrance to exclusive craft and art shows, and also when pitching artistic pieces to galleries and museums for exhibition.

If you're trying to gain some business exposure and/or sell more product at wholesale, a press kit really is a must. So, what components make up a complete kit? Well, this can vary a bit based on what you are selling or what your business speciality is. But, some main components remain the same:

  • A company biography
  • A cover letter introducing yourself or your business. Also called a 'pitch letter'.
  • A current press release
  • A profile of business services offered or a line sheet (sell sheet) of products you are promoting

Additionally, some businesses may choose to include the following when pitching the media:

  • A question & answer sheet for interview purposes
  • A fact sheet about your business or product
  • A head shot of you or your CEO, whoever is the 'voice' of the company and acting as the representative to be contacted on your company's behalf.

Each piece plays it's own role in presenting your business.

Cover Sheet: This is often your initial point of contact; your pitch to gain a reader's attention and make them want to know more about your business.

Company/Personal Bio: This tells the history of your company, or your own story as related to your business. A bio not only displays how the company started, the inspiration behind it and often the timeline of your business creation, but it can weave a very interesting and personal story of how and why this business or product was created.

Press Release: A current press release acts as the current announcement as related to your business and provides current information which can be used by your reader. For instance; say you have a recent press release announcing the launch of your company. This will provide the reader immediate information about your business and what you do. This is helpful, especially for the media, because it gives them something to work from.

Line Sheet or Services Profile: Basically, this is a sheet that outlines what product(s) you are selling, specifics about the product(s), and pricing as related to your reader. For a service-based business, creating a services profile outlines exactly what your business does.

Fact Sheet: A fact sheet provides a very quick look at targeted information about your product or business. This is a great tool for highlighting very specific selling points about what you are offering.

Question & Answer Sheet: A Q&A sheet provides a guide for media persons to follow during a potential interview.

Creating a press kit isn't something you should tackle yourself if you are not comfortable writing, or just don't welcome the thought of having to create professional content about your own business. Because the media and wholesale markets are often flooded with press kit inquiries, you want to be sure your content and presentation are as professional as possible. This does not mean that you can't step out of the box and place a very unique spin on your press kit, or give it a funky, original tone. You want your kit to be a representation of you, your business and personal or branding style. However, no matter what you do, be sure the end result is always professional, easy to read, well written and highly presentable.

Asking a professional, like Creative Writing Studios, to create your press kit is a best bet if you're not willing or able to do it yourself.

PART TWO will discuss how to package your press kit, how to create an electronic press kit and what the heck to do with it once it's done.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

You Can Win: Free Content Marketing Service

Did you know that Boutique Up! offers writing services, like press releases, press kits, content marketing and blogging?


No?  Well, that's about to change. We have a great contest to open your eyes to content marketing, and how it can be a BIG benefit to your business.

Content marketing comes in many forms: blogging, writing articles, creating booklets and informational brochures. The basis of each is to provide interesting, engaging and enticing content which your customers & potential customers will find useful.

Say you create wedding jewelry.  Good content marketing topics for you would be the 10 hottest wedding dress trends for 2009, Caring for heirloom wedding jewelry or easy wedding day tips.  Of course, there are so many more topics to choose from. 

How does it work?  One topic can be stretched in many, many ways.  The same topic can be a blog post, a content article to be posted to the web, a beautifully designed insert that you send with every order, newsletter content....see where I'm going with this? One well written article or content piece can have multiple returns for you.

Here's the PRIZE from BUD.  We'll create 3 content articles specifically for your business. I'll show you how to use them to your advantage and teach you how to use content marketing as a staple of your marketing plan. 

HOW TO ENTER:  Leave a comment below with the three topics you'd like to cover for your business.  A winner will be chosen on April 20th, 2009!

Good Luck!

~Lisa

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Going with What Works

I'm going to share a little secret, that really isn't if you follow me on Facebook.  This is more of a hard reality that, unfortunately, many of you are already facing. Recently my husband lost his job, 100% due to the failed economy. His profession, interior and decorative carpentry, is not in high demand as you can imagine, so the outlook for him to find another job anytime soon is slim.


In light of this, I've taken on not only a full-time job, but a very part time one, too, as well as running both BUD and Creative Writing Studios.  Busy is now very much an understatement in relation to my life. All this sudden mayhem has made me take a step back from all that I do and seek out what's working, and what's not. 

This has been a blessing. Now that time is a commodity more than it has ever been in my life, taking stock of what's working in business and what is not has been a true eye-opener.  Continuing with things that don't work, but are still a part of my business solely as 'time suckers', is just....dumb. Yet these things have been so much a part of my daily business that I either just let it slide or found reasons to keep them included.  

Having 12 email accounts is one of these things that just ain't workin'.  Offering services in which the time commitment does not equate a profitable return on my time investment is another. Finding reasons to do everything myself is yet another.

Trimming the fat, as it were, may not save me or my businesses in the long run. But don't you think that trimming the unhealthy and making room for new growth and long-term business health is worth a try?  As I evaluate my business plan, decide where to make changes while still offering valuable, cost-effective services, I think it is.

The moral of this story is: don't wait until you have to take stock in your business to do it.  Look at it now and see what you can do to keep yourself afloat in these changing times. Going with what doesn't work is a sure way to add stress to stress, and even flat line the road ahead of you.  Slow sales, increase in competition, new regulations, impossible credit lines....it is affecting everyone. How we choose to deal with it makes the difference.

For me, I'm going to keep looking ahead and do what I can to support those who use BUD and Creative Writing Studios. While both businesses may be leaner and able to do a touch less, if we stay afloat with the ability to generate growth with the re-blossoming of the economy, than I've done a better job than I'd hoped.

In the meantime, I'll do what I have to to ensure my family has what they need, just like you will, too.  Then we can all meet on the other side together and compare damages....and successes.

~Lisa