Martial Arts Marketing

A few months back, I was in a bit of a rut.

I was working hard on my business. That meant spending most of my days (and nights) sitting behind a desk.

I needed something to get the blood flowing – to challenge myself physically.

I ended up meeting a Brazilian jiu jitsu instructor at a friend’s housewarming party. I saw my opportunity, and I jumped on it.

It’s been two and a half months and a ton of bruises and sore muscles…

But I haven’t quit.

The learning curve’s steep, but it’s been a blast. A great workout and a way to meet some cool people.

One of the things that struck me the most was how consistently people gave me the same piece of advice:

Remember to breathe.

It sounds like such a simple thing.

But it’s amazing how quickly you forget it when there’s a 200-pound man on top of you trying to choke you.

Something that usually comes so naturally flies out the window under so much stress. It gets much harder to fight back and pull off effective techniques.

This happens in online business too.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the insanity of the day to day.

There are customers to satisfy. Products and services to develop. And countless new traffic techniques and tools to try out.

It’s enough to drive even the most organized business owner loco.

Getting sidetracked from time to time is only natural… but it can cause us to “forget to breathe” and lose sight of the fundamentals.

What makes any online business successful for the long haul?

A systematic approach to drive new visitors to your website.

An engaging platform that fosters profitable relationships.

And outstanding service and follow up to convert customers into raving fans.

These things are like oxygen.

Are you treating them accordingly?

Do you have a plan to keep them pumping through your business?

Most importantly: are you executing that plan consistently?

For a lot of people struggling to find the “missing piece” between them and profits, the answer lies in getting back to basics.

Things are nuts out there. Especially online.

But don’t forget to breathe!

Are You Running a Velvet Rope Business?

There’s a bar just around the corner from where I live.

Cheap beer. Loud music. And plenty of seedy characters for people watching.

Basically, everything a guy like me needs to kick back for an hour or two.

This bar (which shall remain nameless) also had some pretty killer slices of pizza. It was the perfect spot for a late-night hunger fix…

(Notice how I’m using the past tense here?)

Now, this place didn’t shut down or anything. I still see people packing the patio when I cruise by on a weekend night.

Something much more traumatic happened.

One night I was hanging out there with a big group of friends. We’d just played some pool, and we were stuffing our faces with some of their famous pizza. All in all, shaping up to be a pretty good night…

Until we saw the rat.

I can’t remember who pointed it out. Things got confusing with all the shrieking and hysterics.

But there it was – scuttling along the rafters. Freakishly big. We’re talking New York City sewer system level here.

Then I was queasy. It was all I could do to keep my food down, much less finish it.

One of my friends pointed it out to the staff. They said they knew about the problem, and that they were “working on it.”

We left shortly after. None of us ever went back.

It’s a shame really.

They sell great stuff – good beer, food, and fun times with friends – but they didn’t package it right. Now all I see when I think of that place is rats.

What does this have to do with your online business?

A lot more than you might think.

There are a ton of businesses online selling great stuff. But they package their offers in a way that makes people run away screaming.

So you might not have a quality issue, but a presentation issue.

When someone lands on your website, what does it feel like to them?

Does it feel like trudging through a rat-infested sewer?

Or the entrance of a posh club where the bouncer raises the velvet rope for them and winks?

You aren’t selling to anyone and everyone. Doing business with you should feel like a privilege. A special experience crafted just for your visitors.

Your website design and copy has to reflect that.

Sounds shallow, but it’s reality.

People will judge the quality of your business by its appearance. They’re doing it this very moment.

Are you paying enough attention to this stuff?

Do you have a clean, easy-to-navigate website layout?

Testimonials from happy customers?

A persuasive, but not desperate, sales pitch?

Invest an hour or two going over your website. See if you can spot any weak spots that are giving people the wrong impression. Better yet, get someone else to look at it with fresh eyes and share their thoughts.

Do this consistently, and you’ll separate yourself from complacent, stubborn competitors.

On the Importance of Opening Wounds

Ever broken something and been forced to wear a cast?

I’ve actually broken four different bones.

I even broke my collarbone twice (that’s a story for another day…)

One of the most annoying things about the recovery process – besides the aches and pains – is the maddening itching sensations under the cast.

You can’t get to the itchy skin of course. There’s a giant hunk of plaster of paris in the way.

So you have to get creative with forks, rulers, and other long flat things to reach the itchy spots. But when you do… oh man, there’s hardly anything better!

The itch is so uncomfortable it’s worth the trouble it takes to scratch it. This usually lasts as long as it takes to get the cast off.

The same goes for selling products and services online…

There has to be an “itch” – an impetus – driving people to find out more about your stuff and (eventually) buy it.

You could have the highest-quality widget in the world. But it won’t sell well if it doesn’t address a legitimate problem or frustration.

Think about how world-class authors do this to hook readers in their novels.

First they introduce a few characters. Then they immediately present a situation the characters are forced to get out of. This has to happen in the first few pages. If it doesn’t, they’ll lose most readers’ interest.

There’s a caveat too: the situation or problem has to be significant. It has to be something readers actually care about for the story to work.

No one cares how Jane’s struggle to decide between a white or blue blouse ends.

Practically everyone, on the other hand, is intrigued by Frodo’s quest to destroy the one ring in Lord of the Rings. That’s literally a situation of life and death.

Compelling prose isn’t enough. It takes a compelling problem to really get those pages turning.

Sometimes consumers know exactly what their problems are. They fall down the stairs, and they know right away they should probably get to the doctor.

But other times the problems are more subtle. The iPod solved a problem most of us didn’t know we had: not being able to store or access our digital music in one place.

The people you want to become your customers are walking around with plenty of open wounds. Many of them have just scabbed over.

It’s practically impossible to create desire, but you can uncover it if it’s already there.

Do this early on in your website copy. This isn’t the time or place to be subtle.

You already have the hero to the story you’re writing – the potential customer. Now’s the time to introduce the situation that only your product or service can help them solve.

The sales-driving formula: a “hero” + an undesirable situation to escape from + the solution (product/service) that helps them do just that.

Spring-Fed Sales

I still remember how it felt the first time I jumped in.

It was like being hugged with a bristle brush and a thousand frozen needles at the same time.

Muscles started to cramp up by the time my face rose above the water’s surface.

I’d just hurled myself from a 100 degree Texas summer afternoon into Barton Springs.

No warm bath water there. Just crisp, 68 degree spring-fed water all year round.

All I could think about was moving as fast as I could.

All I could think about was getting warm again.

That’s one of the reasons I love the place so much. There’s no better way to cool off on a scorching Austin day.

Dip in, and try not to scream.

Get out, and stretch out on the grass while the sun warms you.

I could do it all day…

Sometimes you just need to shock your system, you know?

The people you want to become customers aren’t any different. There are painful, frustrating things in their lives – some of them that you could solve – but they’re stuck in a rut. It’s easier to trudge along with their routine than take action and fix something.

There’s a reason why people who dip their toes in the water at Barton Springs tend to reconsider their decision to swim…

Most online copy is like this. It pulls people to the edge of the water and gets them to dip their toes in. It makes them just uncomfortable enough to go scrambling back to the status quo.

But you can’t afford to do this. You need to send them hurtling into the cold water like a rocket.

How?

By doing everything in your power to make a killer first impression. A headline that grabs them by the throat. A compelling opener that gets them hooked. Things like that.

But don’t just shock people for the fun of it.

Some “internet marketers” love red font, highlighted text, and ridiculous claims (“Lose 25 Pounds This Week… Eating Cookie Dough!!!”) They use gimmicks to get the shock factor, but they don’t back it up with a solid offer.

No one wants to get into the freezing water.

But another world opens when they do… as long as you’re offering a legit solution to their problems.

No more timidity with your first impression.

Throw them in right over the edge, and give them something to swim to with an irresistible offer.

Spring-fed sales, baby. Spring-fed sales.

Stop Trying to be Superman

All of those prospects in pain…

And so little time!

You can’t save them all.

But too many businesses are pretending like they can.

Their websites present them as a Swiss Army Knife (with all the nifty attachments) solution that can cure all of their visitors’ ills.

A business like this fashions itself as kind of “online Superman.” By hook or by crook, they’re dead set on helping out every freaking person who stumbles onto their website.

This line of thinking is understandable – who wouldn’t want to turn every hit into a paying customer – but it isn’t profitable.

Superman can fly and throw a truck through the air so far it disappears…

(There’s a reason why he’s a comic book character.)

Let’s put all the cards on the table here. I can’t help every potential customer. And neither can you.

This isn’t exactly a rah rah post, but it isn’t meant to discourage you either.

Identifying where your strengths and weaknesses lie – and figuring out how to serve people only from a place of strength – is the first step to improving your customers’ experience.

So you can’t help out Everyone (with a capital ‘E’) who comes to your website. Big deal. Neither can anyone else!

It’s amazing what happens when you stop catering to everyone.

Instead of trying to make your business fit a wide range of needs, you get to focus on serving the people whose situations line up perfectly with your unique skill-set. There’s clarity instead of confusion.

It’s time to stop trying to be Superman and become a new kind of hero: “Awareness Man” (or “Awareness Gal.”)

That’s the first step to taking your business to the next level. And it’s one a lot of people are too afraid, complacent, or ego-driven to take.

With awareness, you know what you do well and what you struggle with. You reorganize your business so you can spend more time doing what you’re already good at. That time investment makes you great, which leads to higher prices, happier customers, and more business.

Are you acting like a chameleon – trying to mold your business to suit every possible situation and need?

Or are you sorting the people you can help the most from your pool of visitors and prospects?

You can help some people – your tribe – better than anyone else in the world. So hang up your cape and focus on them.

Leave Superman for the comic books.