How to make people give a damn (about you + what you’re selling)

Photo by paul wallez on Unsplash

Despite all romantic ideals to the contrary, the crux of all creative work, art, copy, advertising, marketing, sales, or strategy comes down to a simple goal:

Whatever you do, you absolutely must convince people to give a damn about you and what you offer.

This relentless pursuit of consumer attention is the reason why everything from wit and humor to borderline-creepy, ultra-specific sales tactics are at work day in, day out, to grab and harness your brain.

These are techniques that, when used correctly, can make you look twice, assess, and digest new information— at least for a moment.

Translation? They’re strategies designed to make people give a damn.

However, the consumer’s decision to give a damn or not happens in roughly 7 seconds flat.

To make the stakes even more absurdly high, the consumer’s final opinion at the end of that teeny time frame often becomes their opinion for life.

This makes damns the most illusive, precious commodity in marketing — and currently among the hardest to acquire.

Back in the 1970’s, humans were bowled over to discover they’d been served upwards of 500 ads every single day. These days? It’s closer to 5,000.

That’s also a lot of doubtlessly-wasted damns along the way — because once people give a damn about something they eventually realize is low-value, or out of integrity?

… It’s twice as hard for them to give a damn about something similar.

Yep, even if yours is the best, prettiest offer on the planet.

Yep, even if you do a great job of explaining it.

Tragically, reeducation doesn’t always equal immediate revenue/opinion changes either.

All over the digital business world, this reality is becoming more and more apparent. (I’ve written about it a few times, including here and here.)

The fact is: These days it’s extremely easy to get in front of people… but extremely difficult to make them actually care enough to invest their time or money — a.k.a. give a damn.

So: We can easily agree damns matter and are harder to attract with each passing day.

Now the question becomes: How do you begin to pick them up in the first place?

How do you turn people from not-caring into totally-and-absolutely-caring-all-the-time-customers — or at least caring enough to open your emails, or share your latest blog post?

I’ve got a few ideas.

Give your neck a good crack and let’s get into it.

5 ways to make people give a damn about you + what you’re selling.

Way #1: You first.

Seriously.

Demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that you give a damn about your audience first — and not just about what’s in their wallets — before you sell anything.

Find out what they need most and give it to them — for free if you can.

Find out what their insecurities and fears are and address them outright and offer a solution.

Find out what their goals and dreams are and be willing and open to show them the path to get there as publicly as you can.

This initial damn-giving on your end makes all the difference in your content and business.

This is also the deciding factor between, say, an opt-in gift — a free offer to convince peeps to sign up for your email list — that flops or catches fire.

Here’s what I mean:

If you look around at what everyone else in your industry is offering for their opt-in gift, and use that as your guideline (instead of giving a damn about your audience first)? Sad trombone noise.

Chances are if you take this route, your peeps will either already know the information, or will perceive it as a cop-out ploy they’ve seen 100 times before.

Needless to say, this is a damn-killer.

Contrastingly, if you create an opt-in gift based on something you know your people genuinely need and want, because you did your research or asked them? Your existing people love it, and new leads tend to pour in. Good ones.

As one example, consider comparing a “How to write a blog post” opt-in gift against one that promises to teach you: “How to write blog posts that feel fun and fiery to write — and get crazy engagement”.

The first one? Eh, you know the score.

The second? That’s what you really want deep down, right? Who doesn’t?

The second one shows I took the time to figure out what peeps really wanted. More sign ups. More wins. And more sweet, sweet damns.

When you genuinely care, you can show your audience that you genuinely understand. And when you genuinely understand, you can create better things for more people.

And when you make good stuff for more people — you make more money, and feel good about life in general.

And really, who doesn’t want that!?

Way #2: Don’t bullshit.

Bullshit is an instant damn-killer.

And, while there is a line between “bullshit” and “marketing tactics”, it is perhaps not as woefully thin as some might assume.

It comes down to refusing to make promises you can’t keep.

Never make guarantees you can’t follow through on. Do not fudge information or your expertise in the name of getting your paws on an additional email address or ten.

People will find out sooner or later, and once trust is killed, you’ve killed it forever.

And, while being more specific, clear, and honest may not get you 1,000 new leads, it’s much more likely to get you 100 leads who are genuinely invested in you, your point of view, and what you have to offer.

(And trust me, it’s way easier to sell to those eager 100 than the blasé 1,000 you managed to scoop up by feeding them nonsense — because you’ve shown the 100 that they can count on you to deliver.)

Figure out the biggest promise you can make, and push that. Make it real, make it feel as impressive as it is, and show results. The folks who are on the look out for you will find you, be impressed, and want to know more immediately.

Way #3: Front-load with (real) value — without making demands.

The nice thing about the current deafening din of the digital world? Transparency has never been sexier.

For example, I recently went into fangirl convulsions when I discovered I was included in a sales letter from the king of email marketing himself, André Chaperon for his program Sphere of Influence. You can check it out right here, because it’s awesome.

But my fangirling isn’t the most compelling part of the story. (Obvs.)

In his sales letter, Chaperon digs into his use of pre-sell pages to sell products.

In a nutshell, pre-sell pages are long (long!) form blog posts that share resources and offer the actionable, could-totally-apply-this-to-my-business-right-now ideas that tie into the philosophy or goals of a larger offer — usually soon-to-be-launched. At the end of the pre-sell page, you invite people to learn more about your offer by signing up if they wish.

It’s a breathlessly brilliant strategy, and there’s no paywall or opt-in required to get the info. You don’t have to give him your email address, phone number, or credit card. You don’t have to wait til the third missive in the nurture sequence to find out what’s really going on.

And you know what? It works.

Presell pages aren’t a new concept, but their current impact is the symptom of the continuing, churning-sea-change underway in the marketing world.

While pre-sell pages may not grab as many email addresses as, say, that dearly beloved 3-part video training series strategy, I’d wager this tactic turns into more sales way more easily.

Reason being? By NOT hiding your stuff behind a paywall, you create memorable, high-value experiences, and those who sign up will be frothing at the mouth for whatever you have to offer.

You give the value. You build the trust. Then, and only then, do you offer the invitation.

… And then you can watch as your perfect customers willingly dish out their damns.

Way #4: Concentrate on “giving the right people the right stuff at the right time” — a.k.a segmentation.

I put that last part in quotes because Chaperon talks about this a lot in his work, (#transparency) and uses variations of that phrase. Definitely take a deeper look at his stuff if you haven’t already. But in the name of this blog post, I’m gonna drill into what this means for you right now.

In today’s climate, leads are less of a numbers game and much, much more of an engagement game.

There’s a saying in marketing that I parrot non-stop: “You can make a million bucks off a 200-person list, and $0 off 10,000 disinterested people.”

Those 200 people are who you should be chasing. Not the 1,000.

Theirs are the damns you most want to acquire.

Because think about it. When you cast a net in the ocean, you can:

  1. Cast a big ol’ net in a place you heard there were lots of fishies, where all the other boats go.
  2. Cast a smaller net, but spend time researching what fish you want most, where they’re swimming, when there will be fewer boats, and what kind of bait those fish are most likely to go gaga for.

The first net may bring in some of the fish you want… but it will also bring up a lot of other things you probably don’t want; like inedible species, and some old tires, toilet lids, boots, beer cans, etc. That’s just the nature of the big net.

The second net may bring up fewer items on the whole… but you’ll likely bring more of those tasty fish you were looking for in the first place.

This is where segmentation comes in; i.e. creating “buckets” for your buyers — whether they opted into a certain freebie, or got certain results from a quiz, or answered questions in particular ways on a survey, etc. — that place them in specific groups depending on their desires, goals, struggles, and buying habits.

While I understand the basics of segmentation, I’m no expert, but if you want to link up with someone who is: Ryan Levesque’s book “ASK: The Counterintuitive Online Method to Discover Exactly What Your Customers Want to Buy…Create a Mass of Raving Fans…and Take Any Business to the Next Level” is all about this. (That’s not an affiliate link by the way, it’s just a great book.)

Essentially, the goal of segmentation is to help you get extremely targeted with your messaging, so you’re not blasting out the same “Buy my thingie” email to 100% of your list when 98% can’t or won’t give a single damn about your offer. Segmentation allows you to focus all your energy on that precious 2%.

As a follow up to the value of segmentation: At an event I spoke at last month, I got to ask legendary Copyhackers founder Joanna Weibe, “What’s the biggest mistake you see people making in marketing?”

Her answer was: “They forget about segmentation, or ignore it completely.”

So: You don’t have to take my word for it. But consider taking hers.

Way #5: Show up consistently, and with conviction. Demonstrate that you get it with words and deeds.

There’s this quote from legendary drag performer RuPaul that reads: “Know who you are, and deliver at all times.”

While this is a favorite principle of mine for success and general existence on this planet, it applies perfectly to marketing and personal branding, and the cultivation of damns in a crowded marketplace.

In order to show up and deliver, you have to know what and who YOU give a damn about, and share that with gusto.

You also have to know HOW you want to show up. Are you funny? Irreverent? Passionate? Incredibly sweet and kind? Are you a cynic? Do you see the beauty in all things? What bullshit are you tired of? What secrets are people not talking about enough?

If you don’t have the answers to the above questions yet, find them A.S.A.P. Then, go all in.

This will create a consistent vibe for your business which, along with the look and feel of your copy, graphics, and website, will make you both memorable, trustworthy, and an irresistible damn-magnet.

I should add: Consistency does NOT mean you have to play it safe or avoid taking risks. In fact, you must take them in order to make the right people give a damn about what you offer.

As one example, let’s talk about my girl Margo Aaron’s site, That Seems Important.

She took a risk with her website content. As founder and operator of The Arena, a mastermind for high-level business owners and marketers (which I just joined, by the way — and it’s awesome), she could’ve easily made her website parrot the same copy we’ve all heard 100 times.

“Do you want to make more conversions in your business?

Do you feel stuck in a sad hole of poverty?

Join my mastermind to have all your problems solved.

That will be $50,000 pls ty.”

Instead, Margo’s site makes about 50 self-referential jokes about marketing that only marketers will get. Check out the first few lines of her homepage:

This works to immediately turn off people who aren’t a fit for her, and turn on industry pros who can’t wait to give her all their damns. Myself included.

… In fact I laughed so hard, and gave so much of a damn after seeing this website, I immediately tracked Margo down on social media and posted her website on one of my favorite writer’s groups to share the love.

In my opinion, the best marketers get sales, get strategy, and get the joke. And oh does Margo ever get the joke — and that’s how she shows up every single day.

The risks she took for it paid off in a lump sump of ALL of my damns. And I’ll keep buying whatever she’s selling.

Now please make no mistake: As with all marketing and promotional advice I offer, you need to give these ideas time to work.

You can’t plant seeds in the ground and throw Facebook ads at them until they sprout.

The same is true for your business.

In order for your mighty field of damn-givers to blossom, you have to ready the soil (give a damn about your peeps first), fertilize them (with the good stuff — not bullshit), water them, but not too much (give all the right stuff away at the right time), and tend to them every day (show up).

If you’re not ready to put in that kind of footwork? That’s OK. But all the shortcut tactics you’ve heard will only send you back to this square one eventually.

I’m pretty sure it’s in the Bible somewhere: The more damns thou giveth, the more thou shall receive.

And once you give ‘em? The more you’ll get in return with time.

It’s not just the best way to build a long-term, profitable, sustainable business.

I suspect it’s the only way there ever was.

Hillary Weiss is a copywriter, ghostwriter, writerwriter, and creator of The Wordshops: Copywriting Courses for Unconventional Entrepreneurs. Since 2011, she’s been the pen, voice, and verve for 200+ brands and counting, and specializes in brand voice development and big-money messaging for profoundly rad brands with something real to say. For more stuff like this, and to jump on her mailing list, hop over to hillaryweiss.com/subscribe. To get your hands on her course, stop by http://thewordshops.org.


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