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Avoiding waffle

Write Stories That Sell, #2

Do you remember taking exams? I do. The memory is perhaps a little too raw.

All the insecure students would mill about beforehand, testing each other. We were then herded into a cold gymnasium, where row after row of desks were spaced three feet apart.

A bald, serious-looking examiner would explain the rules. Awkwardly, everyone would watch the minute hand of the clock rise agonisingly to the top of the hour.

“The time is now 9.02, and you may begin…” announced the examiner.

As soon as those words were uttered a frenzy of paper turning and scribbling would begin. Everyone would turn over the paper, glance at the question, and write like mad.

Everyone that is, except for me.

I would spend the first seven minutes of an examination reading the questions and drafting an outline.

The outline was essential to keep me on track, and stop me waffling. Students tend to fill their brains with so much information before an exam that it tends to all fall out onto the page in waffle.

When you write emails to promote your business – especially story based emails, there is a great temptation to waffle. You have all this information in your head about your products and services. You have various stories you might use.

The problem is, how do you stay on track and avoid waffling?

The answer is to work to a structure.

The structure I work to is one called the ‘open sandwich structure’.

Open sandwich

When you read an email that follows the open sandwich structure it is like biting down into an open sandwich. We first encounter the filling, which is the story. An open sandwich can contain all kinds of fillings, just like your email can contain all kinds of stories.

At some point we stop telling our story, and start delivering our content. Your content is the information you want to deliver about your products and services. Most marketing emails skip the story part of the sandwich, and focus exclusively on information.

If you never include any stories in your emails, you are in effect asking your readers to eat dry bread. They may eat dry bread once or twice, but not over a significant time frame.

If you need to nurture a relationship with a potential customers over months and years, rather than hours and days, you need to be using stories.

At the point in the sandwich where the story meets the content, we have something called the ‘one idea’. The ‘one idea’ is a single word or phrase that encapsulates your story, and is like the margarine that holds everything together.

Without a cohesive ‘one idea’ there is a strong possibility that your story will not relate in any way to your content, and feel desperately random.

The one idea behind today’s email was ‘waffle’. If you look carefully at the end of the story (ends ‘onto the page in waffle’) and the start of the information (starts ‘when you write’) both sentences deliberately contain the word waffle. Waffle is the link between the story and the information.

If I had wanted the one idea to be planning I would have simply rewritten the last line of the story, making the last word ‘planning’ instead of ‘waffle’. Your reader will view your story as being about whatever you finish on.

The power of the one idea is it allows you to apply a single story to a wider range of purposes. The story and content don’t have to be directly related.

I select most of my stories because I like the story, not because the story matches my content. In this email I made the story about waffle by setting ‘waffle’ as my one idea.

Most story telling – especially within business use – is poor because the writer has not chosen a single idea for the story to be about. This one idea needs to link in to the information you want to communicate, which will normally come after the story.

The formula is:

1. Open with your story
2. End your story on your ‘one idea’
3. Begin your content on your ‘one idea’
4. Finish on your content, including a call to action if appropriate

If you tell stories without identifying a one idea you will waffle.

Are Your Stories Boring?

Write Stories That Sell, #1

It was a rainy Tuesday morning in September, 2012. I sat in the boardroom at the Q4 sales meeting, along with 12 sales reps and line managers. After dwelling on the sales figures it was time for me to stand up and deliver my marketing update.

I delivered most of my talk to glazed expressions. Then the subject I had been avoiding came about. The website.

In the weeks before the meeting I had been busy. I had replaced the stock images of unrealistically happy people with photos of real employees. I had rewritten most of the homepage content, cutting out the corporate drivel. I had increased the font size so everything was actually readable.

I published the updates, sent a company-wide email to 60 people, and sat back.

Can you guess how much feedback I received?

None. Zip.

None that is, if you ignored the sound of knives being sharpened.

Owen, the sales director, piped up first.

“I’ve had complaints about the website from partners and customers. It isn’t corporate enough. I don’t know exactly what I’m looking for, but it needs to have more zass.”

“Yeah!” piped up Colin. “Have a look at ABC Corp’s website! We want a website exactly like theirs.”

Contrary to what Colin thought I had actually looked at ABC Corp’s website. I thought it was another ‘mee too’ website, with meaningless corporate branding and empty statements.

I thought there was a big opportunity to zag, as the saying goes. I thought there was an opportunity to ditch the clich├ęs and produce a website that actually spoke to our customers.

But no. That wasn’t what the sales team wanted. They wanted a safe, corporate website that was under no circumstances to impart any meaningful information.

I imagine you are reading this series because you want to communicate meaningful information to your customers. You want them to pay attention to that information and spend their money with you.

I believe stories are hands-down the best way to deliver information. Most corporate people are terrified at the prospect of exposing themselves and telling a story or two.

The one thing people struggle with above anything else is the idea that their stories are boring.

Please take a second to think about today’s video (link at the top) and the sales meeting story above.

I was not doing anything amazing or unusual in either story.

The stories became interesting because I identified the drama in them and followed a specific structure.

You already have all the stories you need. They may seem boring to you, but if you structure them correctly they won’t be boring to your audience.

We’ll talk more about that structure tomorrow.

August 31, 2015

The ‘Set Field Value’ explained

You might have noticed under ‘process’ there is now an option to set a field value.

This can be extremely useful under certain circumstances. I have a guest video today from Greg Jenkins, explaining the ‘Set Field Value’ option in more detail.

Greg Jenkins is the founder of Monkeypod Marketing, where they focus on providing empowering entrepreneurs through educational events and online courses. Prior to starting Monkeypod Marketing, Greg worked at Infusionsoft as a curriculum developer and lead trainer for Infusionsoft University. Greg lives in San Diego and loves hiking, traveling, binging netflix and enjoying craft beer. But you could probably switch those last two verbs too.

August 28, 2015

Linking Infusionsoft to WordPress

Getting a contact’s information out of Infusionsoft and on to a web page has always been a pain. The only real solution in the past has been to use imember360, which costs $57 a month.

I was recently introduced a WordPress plugin called WPFusion. WPFusion allows you to display an Infusionsoft contact’s information on your WordPress pages.

You can also restrict certain pages to people who have certain tags, and customise the content displayed depending on a contact’s tags.

Unlike imember, WPFusion is priced at a single one time fee.

Read more about WP Fusion

August 21, 2015

Infusionsoft Campaign Planning

Everybody seems to have a different approach to planning campaigns in Infusionsoft. The default planning mode for most people seems to be to open the campaign builder and start building.

When you start creating campaigns without an overall plan that is when things start to get confusing. Pretty soon you forget what campaigns you have already done, and what the logic behind those campaigns actually was.

I have a particular approach to campaign planning in Infusionsoft which I think you might find helpful.

August 14, 2015

Decision Diamonds – Keep Your Sanity

When you link a goal or a sequence to two or more sequences, Infusionsoft will create a ‘decision diamond’.

Infusionsoft Decision Diamond

I find that decision diamonds are the most common reason for campaign screw-ups.

It is desperately easy to create a complicated decision diamond that do not work as intended and accidentally breaks a campaigns.

Today’s video is about creating decision diamonds that are simple and, straightforward.


August 7, 2015

Infusionsoft Opportunities Explained

This video looks at two of the most frequent errors when using opportunities in Infusionsoft.

Things to do

  1. Rename your pipeline stages (if needed).
  2. Set a concrete number of days for each stage
  3. Watch for opportunities that ‘get stuck’
July 31, 2015

Three Infusionsoft Campaign Organisation Tips

Managing your campaigns is easy when you have about five of them. But what happens once you have been using Infusionsoft for a while and have 50 or 100 campaigns?

Chaos, that’s what happens.

Today’s Confusion Clinic video shares three tips to defeat Infusionsoft campaign chaos.

Things to do

  1. Adopt a consistent campaign name syntax so your can filter your campaigns.
  2. Review your goal and sequence names
  3. Start an active campaign log

Infusionsoft Lead Scoring In Practice

Lead scoring is one of the most under-used tools in your Infusionsoft application. This video covers:

  • How to set up lead scoring
  • Whether lead scoring applies to broadcast emails, campaign builder emails, or both
  • How to use lead scoring to measure a customer’s purchase activity
  • How to use your lead scores to focus on your best prospects and customers

Things to do:

  1. Configure your lead scores
  2. Set up automation triggers based on your lead scores in the campaign builder