Disclaimer: I was introduced to Dee on Twitter by @1230jackie. When I heard she was signing copies of her new book at Waterstones’ in Croydon, I went along to meet her in real life. It would have been churlish to leave without buying a copy (and I’m no churl!). So I did, at £15 (although it’s currently selling at £8.42 on Amazon.) Here’s my personal response.
I was particularly interested to read this book because I’ve recently published a marketing book of my own – The Little Fish Guide to DIY Marketing – which made it to top 10 in its category on Amazon within two days of launch. This doesn’t compare with Dee’s book, however, which has attained top 150 on Amazon overall and number 1 ‘business book’ in the bookstores. So am I jealous? Yes!
I self-published, but Dee published her book through Chris at Filament Publishing. She raves about his support. Among other things, he inspired her to add a page at the front detailing who the book is for. A great idea.
Reading her biography, I find that Dee and I have more than just authorship in common. After a career in the corporate world (me too), she started her own consultancy in 2001, the same year as I did. We both have RSI, although hers is worse than mine. I still type, but Dee dictated her whole book using Dragon software. And both our books are packed with commonsense tips for small businesses and startups.
She’s an award-winning marketeer, and I agree with just about everything she writes. So what key points did I pick up?
Make the customer the centre of your universe. Understand what matters to them, the triggers that make them say ‘yes’, and the barriers that make them say ‘no’.
The power of ‘lumpy’ mail (direct mail with a suitable gift enclosed). On page 105 Dee suggests sending the packaging from a gift that addressees have to collect from your exhibition stand. Genius!
You don’t have to be unique to be successful. This flies against conventional wisdom about defining your USP (Unique Selling Point) but probably leaves most readers relieved.
The power of your brand comes down to what your customers think about it I agree! (See page 196 for more information).
I was slightly surprised that so much of the book focuses on copywriting. Chapter 2 is ‘How to write compelling copy that leads to sales’, and chapter 3 is ‘How to write successful sales letters’. I shouldn’t have been. As a copywriter, I’ve written a book about marketing, so why shouldn’t a marketeer write a book that includes copywriting!
Pages 78-82 include before-and after-copywriting examples. I do the same thing in articles I’ve written for @freshbusiness – see the links in my Writing Without Waffle blog.
I do like the honesty of the approach Dee takes in her sample sales letters that start from page 119 onwards. For example:
- Letter 3: ‘Compare the service you currently receive with the service we can offer you.’
- Letter 4: ‘Are you still getting your Omega 3? If not, then please enjoy the complimentary 7-day supply enclosed.’
- Letter 6: ‘We know we’re not your first choice. Could we be your second choice when you need urgent backup?’
I’m sure she has her reasons, but I do have a tiny quibble about some of the other wording she’s used on her letters (mind you, I’m a copywriter, so I would, wouldn’t I!) e.g.
- ‘I’d like to introduce our Gatwick-based business to you…’ doesn’t answer ‘What’s in it for me’ from the customer’s point of view. I would have written something like ‘Did you know about the Gatwick-based business that…’
- Not ‘We are delighted to have secured top speakers…’ but ‘You’ll be able to glean insights from top speakers…’
- And instead of ‘You can email us…’ I would put ‘We will contact you…’
You can download my own free sales letter template that matches the advice Dee gives about using a Johnson box, bullet points and a P.S.
Meanwhile, on page 175, she talks about sending a covering email with your press release. However, the latest advice is to send your press release in the body of the email, as journalists are unlikely to open any attachments.
But back to the similarities…
Dee includes plenty of case studies, as I do in my Little Fish books. Mine are presented in tint boxes and I have noticed that my readers generally go to these stories first.
On pages 205-207, she shares good and bad straplines. I did the same thing recently, in this article I wrote for @freshbusiness.
I was keen to learn from Dee, and so was somewhat disappointed to find so many guest contributions – over 55 pages!
Sue Atkins and Dawn Brewer write about blogging from page 248 to 254. Pages 262-282 are given over to Lesley Morrissey to write about online copywriting (she compares websites to the Derby and Grand National, as she did in an article she contributed to my @freshbusiness newsletter).
Pages 300-312 are by Sam Garrity, writing about SEO (search engine optimisation). And Karen Skidmore contributes social media advice on pages 282-299. Her content is spookily similar to the training course I run (which might even be the subject of the third in my Little Fish series). She likens LinkedIn to a business conference, Twitter to a cocktail party and Facebook to a coffee morning or post-work pub outing. She also states ‘Who knows, by the time this book is published there may be a whole load of new social media opportunities.’ Sure enough, Google+ has recently been launched, although it doesn’t yet offer business pages.
Chapter 8 is in Q&A format – a good way to shift between topics. I had the same inspiration for my books when I was out in Spain. Dee’s first answer gives exhibition tips. I covered those at the end of my second book, The Little Fish Guide to Networking (networking is mentioned in Q7 and throughout ‘Ultimate’). Then Dee covers how to motivate your sales force, including advice from Helen Reeves on page 350. Now, that’s one subject that I didn’t think of!
This is a review, so I’ve been deliberately picky. And, despite the few points I’ve mentioned above, I have to agree with the main recommendation that Dee gives throughout – ‘Use a copywriter’!
She also repeatedly reminds us to ‘be charming’. And when I met her, she was. So it’s hard to be jealous of her book’s success. I can only hope my books do half as well as hers, and then she might ask me to contribute to her next one!