Shock of the new? Try the shock of the old first.

Let’s face it – we’re all looking for the silver bullet, the magic wand that’ll turn good marketing into great marketing. The thing that’ll make us stand head and shoulders above the rest. So we’re on a permanent quest for the new – the innovative, different, funky idea that’ll turn heads and get people calling. Or signing up. Or buying. Or coming back. But really, it’s the old that works best – the basic tricks of the trade that deliver the goods time and time again. It’s just that familiarity breeds you-know-what (no, not content). But those old familiar tactics do work. So put aside the search for the new, and discover the joy of the old. 1. Don’t forget the call to action. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen copy (well I can, actually, because in true trainspotter style, I keep a tally) that has no call to action. Lots of sausage (aka features). Lots of sizzle (aka benefits). And then? It leaves the reader to decide what to do next. Instead, make sure you tell them – again, and again, and again. 2. Include an action button. Related to (1). If you have an action button, people take action. If the button’s orange, apparently, it makes even more people act (yes, a fellow anorak has actually tested this). Just a few weeks ago, I had a voicemail very early on a Saturday morning. “Your site said ‘Call me NOW!” so I did,” said the caller, apparently disappointed not to snag a real live human being at 4.30am. 3. Create sense of urgency.When does the offer end? How much stock do you have? What’s the maximum number of people you’ll extend the discount to? When do people have to reply by? How long will stocks last? (Believe me, it’s rarely a matter of chance.) Create a sense of urgency by placing a definite limit on your offer. You can always extend it, to prolong the frenzy and net a few more orders. But make sure people have a reason to act now – not tomorrow. 4. Give away something free – your time, an e-book, a mini marketing plan (to be followed by a maxi one, at full cost), an extra day, an extra 10%, a T-shirt. It doesn’t really matter how much it’s worth. Everybody likes something for free, whether it’s a before the sale (a sprat to catch a mackerel) or during (a second mackerel). 5. Step outside yourself. When you’re designing an offer or writing it up, stop being you. Be them, and try to see how they’ll read and respond to it. Think like they do, and ask yourself ‘WIIFM?’ (What’s in it for me?) and ‘WSIC?’ (Why should I care?). Think like them, and you’ll write for them. Simples. 6. Plan before you…well, before you do anything, really. Before you write, before you launch, before you design the site, draft the sales letter, make the call. Know how you’ll tell the story. Know what the next step is. Know the end before you begin. Then, and only then, begin. 7. Do it again. And again. Repetition (a) reinforces and (b) demystifies and (c) makes familiar and (d) makes you look bigger than you are and (e) helps you stand out from the pack. If you keep popping up, you’ll remind people that (a) you’re still alive and (b) you’re here to stay and (c) you really want their business. Plus, one day, the stars will align your selling cycle with their buying cycle. Now step up a gear and sprint for the finishing line. 8. Don’t forget The Others. You’re not in this alone. There are lots of competitors out there, so you need to know how (and if) you measure up against them. Are they cheaper, or making bigger claims, or better offers, or being nicer? Do they look more established, more reliable, more impressive? Your marketing doesn’t exist in a vacuum, but in a spectrum, so you need to check it out. That ad won’t appear on an otherwise blank page. That website will be just one of many. That direct mail piece will sit in a pile of direct mail pieces. So what are you going to do to get noticed? 9. Be yourself. Often, I talk to people first, and then check out their websites. And I’m glad it’s that way round, because otherwise I’d get a skewed picture of them and their business. As I work through the copy, I find myself thinking Where’s the humour, the friendliness, the likeability I immediately picked up on when I spoke to them? The humility, self-deprecation, the eagerness to listen and please? Instead, I see bland business-speak that makes them sound like everybody else. So drop the BS (no, I mean business-speak), be yourself and show you’re human. Because, funnily enough, clients are humans too. 10. Cut it down, cut it out. Get to the point and do it fast. Summarise and save the detail for later. Write for them, not for you (hint: they’re busy). Get out your red pen and be brutal. Cut, cut, cut. It feels good because it is good. 11. Never have 11 points (because some numbers just don’t work).