Is your negative language turning prospects away?

It's not just dogs that don't understand negative commands - neither do your prospects.

It’s not just dogs that don’t understand negative commands – neither do your prospects.

Imagine that you’re visiting a dog obedience class. And you tell one of the well-trained pooches, “don’t sit!”

What does the dog do? Chances are it will sit. Even though you’ve told it not to.

You see, dogs don’t understand negatives in front of commands. They just hear the command.

The human subconscious brain is just the same

Even though our ears hear the negative language (or our eyes read it), our brains don’t register the negative message either, just like the dog obedience class story.

For example, I were to tell you NOT to think of a bouquet of beautiful, luscious red roses, what are you visualising?

Most likely you are thinking of a bouquet of red roses, even though I explicitly told you NOT to think of them!

Your prospects and clients are much the same

Just like your brain doesn’t really register the negative language, neither do your clients and prospects. Yet it is very common to see negatives being used in business communications. Everything from websites, sales letters and emails will say things like:

“Don’t forget to take us up on this offer.”

“Don’t hesitate to contact me.”

These communications may as well be saying “forget about this offer”, and “hesitate to contact me”. Because subliminally, that’s what the readers will be picking up on.

Be bold!

Instead of negative language and wishy-washy phrases, be bold! Tell your readers what you really want them to do!

“Be sure to take us up on this offer.”

“I’d love to hear from you!”

This may seem a very minor tweak to make to your copywriting, but it’s a powerful one.

You see, this kind of positive language makes your team – and your company as a whole – sound more positive, confident and professional.

So make it your company policy to use nothing but positive language in your marketing materials and chances are you’ll get more positive results too.


Common words you need to stop misspelling

When a prospect is deciding whether to buy from you or not, and they don’t know you, they have no choice but to let their instinct – and your marketing materials – guide them.

So what they’re judging your ability on is what they see in front of them, be it a brochure or your website. Chances are they’ll subconsciously be evaluating the design, photography, and the wording… and the spelling.

Why good spelling matters

Simply put, good spelling indicates that you’re professional and pay attention to detail. Poor spelling indicates that maybe you’re not quite so professional. And while we can’t all be spelling experts, there are some common words people get wrong time and time again.

Even computerised spell checkers don’t pick up all the misspellings. So use the tips below as your quick guide to getting the spelling right.

Here’s your quick guide to overcoming these common spelling mistakes

It’s vs. Its

  • It’s: This is short for “it is” – the apostrophe indicates the contraction (shortening). For example: “It’s raining.”
  • Its: This shows possession. For example: “The dog likes to chew its bone.”

You’re vs Your

  • You’re: This is short for “you are” – again, the apostrophe indicates that there’s a contraction. For example: “You’re learning about spelling.”
  • Your: This shows possession. For example: “Your business is very professional.”

They’re vs. There vs. Their

  • They’re: This is short for “they are” with the apostrophe indicating the contraction. For example: “They’re going on vacation.”
  • There: This is used when you’re talking about a place, idea or situation. For example: “There is no milk in the fridge”, or “I went there yesterday.”
  • Their: This shows possession. For example: “Their car broke down.”

Lose vs. Loose

  • Lose: When you can’t find something, i.e. have lost something. For example: “I always lose at card games.”
  • Loose: The opposite of tight, i.e. when something is baggy. For example: “My jeans are loose on me since I lost weight.”

Stationery vs. Stationary

  • Stationery: things you write with or on. For example: “I need to add pens and envelopes to my stationery order.”
  • Stationary: not moving. For example: “The car was stationary in the traffic.”

Affect vs. Effect

  • Affect: to have an influence on something. For example: “The roadworks will affect my journey time to work.”
  • Effect: a result of something happening. For example: “The effect of the roadworks is that I was late arriving at work.”

If you struggle with spelling the words above, then bookmark this page – or print it out and keep it handy! Remember, correct spelling is vital if you want to present yourself (and your business) in a professional way.


How to make your website ridiculously easy (and pleasant) to use

Is your website customer friendly

Is your website customer friendly?

It’s a lazy, rainy Sunday afternoon and you’ve done all your chores. Now it’s time to sit in your favourite armchair and indulge in a little bit of television viewing. And oooh look, there’s a new cookery show on, promising to show you how to make easy-but-delicious meals. Perfect!

The TV show gets underway, but rather than relaxing you, it’s irritating you. It’s full of zany camera angles and bizarre zooming in and zooming out. Obviously the producers have decided that their cookery show needs to be a different to all the others… but this is just making you dizzy!

You can’t focus on what’s actually being said.

In frustration, you flick over to another channel.

Websites are no different

Just as you expect a cookery programme to be filmed in a certain way, websites are created in a certain way. The internet has been around for a while now, and people have become used to websites having a standardised layout.

Deviating from this standardised layout won’t do you any favours; it’ll just confuse people. So don’t be tempted to re-invent something that’s become the norm, simply because you think it’s “boring”, or want your site to be different.

If you want happy website users, don’t make them think!

Well, don’t make your website users think ABOUT your website – make them think about what you’re saying! Unusual layouts are just too distracting, and will most likely irritate viewers. Instead of changing TV channels, they’ll go back to Google till they find a site that’s more user-friendly.

How can you make your website user-friendly?

1. Logo in the top left hand corner. That’s where people expect to see it, so make sure that’s where it goes.

2. Hyperlink the logo to the home page. This makes it really simple for web visitors to navigate back to the home page if they’re lost. Many readers expect this functionality, and it’s quite irritating for them if this isn’t set up on your website.

3. Navigation menus. On most brochure-style websites there should be just ONE navigation menu, either horizontally across the top, or vertically down the left hand side. Period.

4. Easily-located contact details. As well as having a separate “Contact Us” page that’s labelled “Contact Us” (don’t be smart and call it anything too different to that), it’s wise to put your contact details on every page, too. There’s no such thing as making it too easy for a prospect to contact you. Plus many of your existing clients may go to your website to look up your phone number – so don’t make them click to find your details.


If you follow these four steps, your website will be well on the way to being customer friendly. And don’t be fooled by the simplicity of these usability rules: it is surprising how many websites ignore at least one of these. Yet websites that are easy to use are far more likely to generate sales or enquiries – and that’s exactly what we want!

So don’t be tempted to engage the website equivalent of zany camera angles and other techniques that’ll make your customers dizzy. Stick with the recipe that works.

Are your email newsletters suffering from the “message in a bottle” approach?

When you were a kid, did you ever think of sending a “message in a bottle”?

You know, scrawling a note, sticking it inside a bottle, sealing the bottle, and then casting the bottle into the ocean, wondering where it’d end up and if it you’d ever hear back from the recipient.

Wondering if your message got anywhere is fine for childhood playtime, but not so good in business

Are your email newsletters suffering from the "message in a bottle" approach?Yet in the business world, so many business owners take the “message in a bottle” approach to email newsletters. By that, I mean that they send their email newsletters from their desktop email programme (such as Outlook).

Why is it a problem to send email newsletters from Outlook?

There are a number of problems with sending your email newsletter from Outlook (or any other desktop email system):

  1. Deliverability: There is a very good chance that emails sent this way will get blocked by spam filters, as they can pick up that emails sent “en masse” could be unsolicited (spam) emails. This could even mean that you get permanently “blacklisted” by certain email systems – this is something you want to avoid at all costs!
  2. Lack of reporting: you have no way of measuring if your email got delivered; how many people opened it; and how many people click the links in your email newsletter. So you’re really just sending your email, hoping it will arrive at its destination, not knowing for sure if it has or not.
  3. Formatting: emails sent from Outlook might look OK at your end, but they might not look so great at the recipient’s end. (And don’t be tempted to send the newsletter as a PDF attachment – it’s very unlikely it’ll get opened!)
  4. Legal compliance: it is very easy to ignore the legalities of sending email newsletters. Amongst other things, it is a legal requirement to offer an Unsubscribe option, and to include a postal address of the sender within the email.

So how should you send your email newsletters?

The best way to send your email newsletters is via special email newsletter software. The features differ from system to system, but most of them offer the following benefits:

  • Reporting and analysis: you can see how many people opened your email, and how many people clicked on the links. This allows you to find out what interests your customers and prospects the most.
  • Split testing: you can test and measure what your readers respond to best, for example by changing the subject line or offer. Over time, this will help to make your emails newsletters more focused and removes a lot of the guesswork involved in the “message in a bottle” approach.
  • Spam word testing: various words can trigger the spam filters, and if your spam count is too high, there’s a good chance your email will be blocked. Most email newsletter systems will let you know how your newsletter scores, and which words might cause issues. This increases the likelihood of your email being received by the recipient.
  • Templates and formatting: email newsletter systems allow you to set up a template, giving your emails a professional look.
  • Subscriber management: the system gives you a sign-up box you can put on your website so prospects can sign up for your newsletter. Plus your subscriber database is stored with the email newsletter system, so it’s always ready to go. And if a subscriber wants to Unsubscribe, they can easily do so by clicking a link, without you having to do anything at your end.

What are the most popular email newsletter systems?

There are a wide number of email newsletter systems. Most of them are web-based, so you can access it from any internet-connected computer in the world.

Some popular choices for web-based email newsletter systems include AWeber and Mail Chimp. If you do an internet search for “email newsletters” you’ll find many other suppliers too.

The way the prices are structured varies from supplier to supplier, so check them out. Most systems offer you a free trial so you can try it out first. Many also offer really good resources and information on how to get the most out of your email newsletter campaigns.

Once you get the hang of the email newsletter system (yes, like most software, it takes a bit of getting used to), you’ll never want to go back to the “message in a bottle” approach again. You’ll love the fact that your email campaigns are so much easier to manage and measurable, so you know exactly where your emails are going.


Which fonts are best for websites?

Have you ever been in a restaurant and the plate brought to your table is the size of a serving platter? And not only is the plate massive, but it’s piled full with food.

And this food isn’t to serve your whole group – it’s just for you. While you enjoy your food and have an appetite, the volume of stuff placed in front of you is ridiculous. You can’t even eat half of it, and leave the restaurant feeling over-stuffed and a little unpleasant.

A website that’s crammed with text can have a similar effect

If a website has lots of information that’s hard to read, it can make readers feel a little overwhelmed and anxious. They can’t read or digest the information, because it’s visually too daunting.

The font you use on your website has a role in that

Fonts for websites aren’t just there to look pretty… they have a job to do. And that job is to get read! Some fonts will help with this; some will actually hinder.

Meet the two main types of font: Serif and Sans-Serif

“Serifs” are the little lines (or tails) you see at the end of characters. Open a book, and you’ll see a Serif font. You see, these little tails lead your eye from one letter to the next, so these fonts are ideal for long, printed copy.


Serif Font

The little tails are known as “serifs”.

Here are two examples of Serif fonts:

Examples of some popular Serif fonts.

“Sans-Serif” means that the font is without those little lines or tails:

Sans Serif Fonts

Examples of some Sans-Serif fonts… notice how they don’t have those little “tails”?

These Sans-Serif fonts actually make large blocks of text harder to read in print… but they actually work well on a website. You see, people tend to skim read websites, rather than read them word for word, and Sans-Serif fonts aid this.

So which Sans-Serif font should you use on your website?

“Arial” is a popular Sans-Serif font which is simple and clean-looking. “Verdana” is another popular font and was developed by Microsoft to be easy to read on computer screens.

Both of these fonts are good choices for the body copy, i.e. the main text (like this).

It’s OK to use Serif fonts for headings and sub-headings because they’re just short lines of text. But do stick to Sans-Serif fonts for the body copy to make the text as readable as possible.

Once you have chosen a readable font it will make your website so much easier to read. And that means that readers will be far more likely to digest the information they’ve read – without feeling daunted, overstuffed, or intimidated.


What makes a good headline?

If the job of a headline is to get people to stop and take attention of your marketing message, how exactly do you do that? How do you get a headline to cut through all the other advertising messages and “noise” and busy-ness?

In short, how can you grab your readers’ attention and engage them in just a few words?

How to engage your readers

The key to getting your readers’ attention is to engage them. That means, getting them to pause for long enough so that they’ll want to read more.

There are a number of ways in which you can write headlines which engage readers, and you can use these techniques either in isolation, or by combining them.

We’ll look at these techniques by applying some examples: the “before” is the kind of introductory text you’ll often read online or in an advertisement. The “after” gives an example of a more effective headline.

1. Ask questions to engage your readers

A very popular and very effective way to engage readers is to ask a question in your headline.

Example – website designer:
Before: We design e-commerce websites
After: Do you wish your website generated more sales?

Example – fruit and vegetable store:
Before: Apples $3.50 a kilo
After: Do you need to increase your 5-a-day fruit intake?

2.  Use customer-focused words

Make it about the reader: make sure you use the words “you” and “your” as much as possible – and try to avoid “we”, “us” and “our” as much as you can. Certainly avoid using the latter at the beginning of the sentence.

Example – plumber:
Before: We fix leaks.
After: You don’t need to put up with that drippy tap!

Example – fence manufacturer:
Before: We specialise in the manufacture of high quality fences.
After:  Are you looking for a stylish way to secure your property?

(In this last example, notice how the question-asking technique has also been used.)

3. Offer a solution to a problem

Offering a solution to a problem that your reader is having is another common headline-writing technique. That’s why you see so many headlines beginning with “how to…” or “why…”. Here are some examples:

Example – landscape gardener:
Before: Shrub pruning
After: How to enjoy more fruit this summer with this easy shrub pruning technique.

Example – gym:
Before:  Supervised weight lifting sessions.
After: Why lifting weights will slim you down.

This also means that you’re talking about benefits rather than features, e.g. enjoying more fruit or slimming down… the things the consumer really wants! Pruning or weight lifting is just the means to the end: we don’t necessarily want to spend our time pruning or lifting weights, but we do want more fruit in our garden, or to be slimmer.

4. Using emotional trigger words

There are certain words that are said to grab people’s attention because they generate an emotional response.

Examples of trigger words include: achieve, amazing, bargain, beautiful, easy, exclusive, formula, free, imagine, important, luxury, power, results, revolutionary, savvy, selected, shocking, urgent, valuable… there are dozens more of these. Just look up “emotional trigger words” in your favourite search engine.

Example – hairdresser:
Before: Hair straightening service
After: With this revolutionary hair-straightening technique, you can enjoy 25 valuable minutes longer in bed each day!

Example – business coach:
Before: Dealing with debtors
After: Is your cash flow suffering because you’re not using this important financial management technique?

Health warning: use emotional trigger words in moderation. If you over-use them, you could come off as sounding phoney, insincere and too good to be true. Here’s the business coach example again, with too many emotional trigger words:

Imagine the amazing results you could be achieving with this valuable, revolutionary formula!

… Yuck! That example is so over-hyped, it would be hard to believe what’s being said next. By all means use emotional trigger words, but go easy on them.


These are just some of the ways you can use headlines to engage your readers: there are other techniques as well, but these are a good starting point as they are quite easy to implement. (Plus, they work really well!)

Do make sure you try these techniques next time you write a headline.

One final word on headlines: they shouldn’t be too long. If you can’t easily say a headline in one breath, you need to re-visit it and shorten it. Why? Long headlines are confusing and cluttered… and after all, the whole purpose of the headline is to cut through the noise and busy-ness (rather than adding to it).


Why are headlines important?

Headlines attract attention

It’s true! Headlines attraction attention… Are your marketing headlines working as hard as they should be?

It’s estimated that the average American is exposed to somewhere between 247 and 3,000 advertising messages a day (depending on which research resource you believe), and the numbers are no doubt similar in other Western countries.

That’s an awful lot of advertising messages! So if you want your message to get noticed, it has to cut through all that noise. And that’s what the job of the headline is.

A good headline cuts through the noise so your message stands out

An everyday example of headlines doing this is in newspapers and magazines: their ability to make sales is largely dependent on their headlines.

But I’m not in the newspaper business…

Even though you’re not in the newspaper business, headlines are absolutely vital. They’re not just for journalists: they are equally important for business owners and marketing professionals.

Here are examples of how headlines are used every day in all types of businesses:

  • Email newsletters: the subject line plays a big role in the recipient’s decision as to whether to read your message or not. The subject line is nothing less than a headline.
  • Websites: website visitors decide within a few short seconds as to whether they’ll read on, or go back to the search engine results. A powerful headline will compel them to read on, instead of hitting the “back” button.
  • Print and online advertisements: the best advertisements are the ones that are compelling… and that’s nearly always done with a headline.
  • Social media updates: yes, even many social media updates benefit from headlines – especially if you want readers to click through to your blog, or take some other kind of action.
  • Flyers and brochures: consumers are exposed to so many printed materials, that yours really need to grab their attention right away. Again, headlines play an important role in this.

As you can see, headlines play a major role in the effectiveness of your marketing, both offline and online.

But I’m not using headlines in all these instances…

If you’re not using headlines in all of the scenarios listed above, you should be! There’s absolutely no point in putting all your time in to writing the body content, if you’re not going to write a strong, attention-grabbing headline! Maybe you haven’t even considered that these attention-grabbing things are actually “headlines”.

Next step: Now that you understand how important headlines are, make sure you write great ones. And be sure to review your existing online and print materials, to make sure that the headlines are as strong as possible.

Just like reporters and journalists spend a good amount of time crafting their headlines to sell their newspapers, you need to craft your headlines carefully too, to cut through all that advertising noise. Here’s what makes a great headline → 


How to make your business friendly

Could your business be scaring customers awayHave you ever looked up a company and:

  • There’s no map on their website, nor opening times. Anyway, you hop in your car and hope for the best…
  • You look up the address: you reckon you should be in the right place because your trusty map (or GPS unit) got you there… yet there is no street number marked on the building.
  • You can’t find anywhere to park? All the spaces are either reserved, full, or threatening a tow-away… and every single on-street space is full too. So maybe you end up parking half a block away in a dodgy looking side-street and pray that your car (and its contents) will still be there later.
  • You’re not sure which building is the right one? There are no signs or any other indication as to where you should be going.
  • On closer inspection, you can’t even find an entrance door? So you then pluck up the courage to ask in another office, and the snotty receptionist gives you some half-baked directions which you don’t quite understand (probably because she’s just made them up).
  • You’ve now found the door, found which floor you’re meant to be on, arrive there… but the door is locked/unmarked/etc.? (One time I took the stairs, simply because I prefer stairs to elevators, only to find that they led to a fire escape door which was locked… so I had to walk all the way back down and THEN take the lift! It was a hot, humid Auckland day and I was rather clammy by the time I found the reception area!)
  • Eventually find where you’re meant to be, but are later than planned, hot, sweaty, in a bad mood, grumpy, etc?

I’m sure we’ve all had frustrating experiences like this to some degree

Just imagine how hard the sales staff will have to work just to get you feeling at ease and happy to be there. They’ll be starting on the back-foot right from the outset!

Personally, my heart sinks when I visit a business like this. I figure they may as well go home, not bother. If they care that little about the customer, why should I spend my money with them?

The business doesn’t seem friendly (nor customer-friendly) – so why should I do business with them?

Sadly this scenario is fairly common – and yet so easy to fix. Here are my pointers for companies who rely on customers (and suppliers) visiting them:

1. Have a “contact us” page on your website

On said web page, include:

  • All your contact details – including the physical address.
  • A map of your location. This is soooo easy using Google Maps – and free!
  • Your opening hours.
  • Car parking details. If there are reserved spaces, mention where they are: and if you know full well that they’re nearly always taken, suggest where the best alternative parking spot is. If it’s pay-and-display, let your customers know if they’ll need cash or if they can pay with their cell phone or credit card. Better still, give them the coins or refund them their money.
  • A photo of the outside of your building – this will help people to find your business.
  • Any other directions or instructions that will help your clients.

2. Invest in signage

Invest in as much signage as is necessary – don’t be tempted to skimp. Make it easy and obvious for customers to find your business – and if you find they often go the wrong way, do something about it! Be proactive!

In some cases, a simple self-printed and laminated page is better than nothing. Yet nothing is often all you see… that’s just lazy!

Hint: if you do go for the DIY option, be sure to replace it regularly because paper does fade, get crumpled, rain-damaged etc. A dog-eared bit of paper is not a professional look.

Oh, and if your address includes a street number, please please display that street number somewhere on your building or shop-front.

Remember – there’s no such thing as making your business too easy to find!


A stressed out customer won’t feel too get about spending money with an unfriendly business.

Chances are you may not see them again, and the stories they’ll be telling their friends will be about what a nightmare they had finding your business, rather than raving about the excellent products or services on offer.


Customer referral programmes: 7 steps to get yours cranking!

Referrals are the lifeblood of most small businesses, and they are indeed a wonderful thing. What better than to have your customers doing your marketing for you!

The problem is, that if this is left to chance, the process is very sporadic. Wouldn’t it be great if you could enjoy more referral business?

The good news is that it’s totally possible to be enjoying more referral business! I’ve worked with numerous clients over the years to systemise their referral systems, and the good news it’s easy to do.

However, there are definitely some ways of creating a referral system that work better than others. Here’s your 7-step guide to getting more referral business.

1. Give your customers a service so amazing that they say, “WOW”!

First things first: you need to be giving consistently excellent service. No-one is going to recommend a business that gives terrible or lack-lustre service. So your business needs a good story behind it.

To show what I mean, here are some stories that are so dull that no-one’s likely to repeat:

“I went to ABC Dentist and it didn’t hurt too much.”
“XYZ Plumbers installed my new bathroom OK. I paid my bill and never heard from them after that.”
“I bought an ABC Gadget and it works OK. I managed to understand the instructions after reading them a few times.”
“XYZ Mechanics put a new battery in my car and it’s OK now.”

And here are some stories that you wouldn’t want your business to be part of:

“I went to ABC Dentist and it was really painful – AND their instruments looked filthy!”
“I got XYZ Electricians to install a new power point, and they left a terrible mess behind – it took me ages to vacuum up all the dust!”
“I bought an ABC Gadget and it fell apart after just 5 minutes! It’s rubbish!”
“My car was repaired by XYZ Mechanics and they did all this extra work I didn’t ask for, or approve, and the bill was astronomical!”

Instead, these stories make great conversations – and will get your business talked about in a good way:

“When I left ABC Dentist, the friendly nurse gave me a bag of freshly-baked Dental Buns to take home!”
“XYZ Plumbers installed my new bathroom and did a great job – they even left a bottle of posh bubble bath for me!”
“When I picked up my car from XYZ Mechanics, it had even been valeted for me, I’ve never seen my car look so clean and shiny!”
“When my ABC Gadget broke, the company replaced it without question AND gave me a spare set of batteries by way of apology!”

2. Find a way of facilitating referrals

Make it easy for your customers to tell your story and pass on your details.

A common way to do this is with a referral card of some kind. (Or if your business is web-based, then an online system of some kind works well.)

But let’s assume you do business face-to-face, and will be giving printed referral cards. The key here is to encourage your customer to keep them in their wallet, and that means three things.

Firstly, the referral card has to fit in their wallet, so a business card-sized referral card is ideal. (Or at least something that folds down to business card size.) Don’t be tempted to do anything larger because it’s “prettier” – it’ll just get left on the desk… or in the bin. Trust me, the cards that work are business card-sized. End of story!

Secondly, make sure the referral cards look good. Let a graphic designer work their magic. Personally, I’ll happily put a well-designed card into my wallet, but if it’s ugly and looks cheap, I won’t want to carry it in my purse, let alone give it to my friends. It would be too embarrassing to give them something cheap and ugly looking! If your card looks bad, it makes your business look bad. Good design is well worth the investment.

Thirdly, there has to be an incentive for the referrer… and that’s what the next step is all about:

3. Think about rewards that will motivate your customer – and add value

Some businesses choose to offer a reward to incentivise referrals and speed up the word-of-mouth activity.

It can be a good idea to reward (a) the referrer, and (b) the referree.

Some schemes involve prize draws, so that only a select few win a reward. My feeling is that schemes that reward everyone will get a better uptake. People love instant gratification, rather than the possibility of a gift!

Any rewards offered must be fabulous in the eyes of the recipient: enough for them to shout your story from the rooftops! It’s probably better to offer nothing at all, than something really dull or lacklustre.

And remember, it’s all about perceived value, not the actual value of the item. Therefore value-added gifts of some kind work well; or contact your strategic partners for a relevant offer that’s beneficial for them, you, and your customers.

It’s best to avoid offering discounts: all that does is erode your bottom line. And to be honest, discounts aren’t really all that exciting. 10% off; 20% off… yawn.

But a free car valet? Or a bouquet of flowers? Yes please!!

4. Make the rewards practical to implement

The other thing to consider is that the reward has to be easy and practical to implement. I’ve seen some referral schemes offer bottles of champagne, which is great if you have a local wine shop that can pick, pack and send all the orders for you.

Otherwise you’ll have to be prepared to spend a lot of time buying the champagne; buying boxes for it; writing labels; organising couriers… you get the picture!

So yes, make sure it’s practical to implement – no matter how busy you get.

5. Offer a choice of two rewards

Here’s a sneaky tip: don’t offer one reward – offer two.

Why? If you offer just one thing (e.g. a bottle of champagne), people then starting umming and ahhing if they want that item or not. For example, they start thinking: “do I really want champagne? I don’t actually like it that much. Nope, I don’t think I’ll bother with this offer.”

But if you offer TWO rewards (e.g. champagne or a bouquet of flowers), the thought process is quite different. People don’t think “yes/no”, they think “which one”. For example: “hmmmm, I don’t really like champagne much, but I would like a nice bouquet of flowers to brighten up my desk. Yes, I’ll go for the flowers”.

Don’t be tempted to offer more than two rewards, that just makes the decision too hard!

Do send the rewards out promptly: a handwritten thank you card with it goes down a treat, too.

6. Promote the referral scheme

You ain’t gonna sell it if you don’t tell anyone about the referral scheme. It might sound obvious, but I’ve seen to many businesses carry out all the steps above… and then not implement the scheme, and then claim that “referral schemes don’t work”. You have to market the referral scheme, just like you market everything else, and you need to market it in as many ways as possible:

  • Face-to-face: you and your team need to tell your customers about it. To make sure this happens consistently, write it in your sales scripts.
  • Newsletters: this is a great way to publicise the scheme. Ideally, make it a regular slot in the newsletter, and announce how many goodies you’ve given away, or who the winner is. As well as reminding people that the scheme exists, it’s also proof that it’s “real” and that people out there are benefitting from it.
  • Website: your website is another great medium to promote the scheme. Best way to do it is to dedicate a page to the referral scheme, telling people how they can sign up; how it works, and announce how many goodies you’ve given away.

7. Test and measure!

As with all marketing, measure the response you get.

Try different offers and rewards too; if one thing doesn’t work, try something else.

Your referral programme should be flexible and measurable so that you get the best results out of it. Perhaps survey some customers as to what they think of it: chances are you’ll get some great feedback.


A referral scheme is a very effective way to welcome new customers to your business. It’s also very cost-effective: all it’ll cost you is the design, printing and rewards. And this is significantly cheaper than running advertising or direct mail campaigns.

I sometimes have clients saying to me: “oh, the referral scheme isn’t working very well. We only get or so new 5 clients a month through it”.

My response: Wow, 5 new new clients a month? That’s 60 new clients a year, and if they’re spending $200 each, that’s $12,000 of sales revenue… and the design and printing of the cards cost you less than $800! And if those clients come back year after year, that makes the whole exercise even more profitable!

In terms of client acquisition cost, a referral scheme is hard to beat for small businesses. Especially if you follow the 7 steps above.


3 cunning ways to use numbers in your copywriting

Numbers in your copywriting can help influence your readers and communicate your message your clearly. Here's how to do it.

Numbers in your copywriting can help influence your readers and communicate your message your clearly.

Did you know that there are rules for writing numbers?

The traditional rules say that you should spell out whole numbers up to nine, and use numerals for numbers greater than 10.

That’s all well and good, but mostly we use words in business to convey a message, or to spur the reader to take a particular action. So  numbers are as much of a tool in your copywriting as words, so it’s important you use them wisely.

Here are 3 ways in which you can use numbers to your advantage in your writing:

1. Use a number to add emphasis

Consider these sentences:

“You’ll receive 4 bonus goodies as a thank you.”

“You’ll receive four bonus goodies as a thank you.”

In which sentence does the number stand out most? In the first one, where you’ve used the numeral. So if you want to add emphasis the number, use a numeral. (Or conversely, if you want to make the number less obvious, spell it out.)

2. Consider psychological price points

What’s the difference between $99.95 and $100? It may just be 5 cents, but psychologically it’s a whole different price bracket. $100 dollars sounds significantly more expensive than $99.95.

So look at your pricing: could you be using psychological price points to your advantage so they drive more sales?

3. Use specific numbers to boost credibility and believability

Consider the following sentences:

“There were 150 people present at the wedding.”

“There were 147 people present at the wedding.”

Which sounds more accurate and believable? The last one, with the odd number.

People generally have a tendency to round numbers. But that makes them a bit generic and unbelievable. If you use an odd number you sound very precise – and therefore very credible.

Note: this doesn’t apply to numbers ending with 5; that still sounds like it’s been rounded (even if it hasn’t). Numbers ending in 1, 3 and 7 are probably the most effective.

Don’t be afraid to break the traditional rules of copywriting from time-to-time. Remember, sales copy is there to sell, so use numbers as well as words to achieve that goal.