Tag Archives: business

The Email Cliff

1 May

If you’ve had someone skim your email and click delete without reading it all, you’ve experienced this fact firsthand: our readers are only willing to give us a certain amount of attention before moving on.  The more words you write, the harder it is to get people to read them

 Illustrating that statement might look something like this:

Email not

This is close…but not exactly how readership works.

But that’s not really how readership works.  It’s not a linear function, where increasing your blog post or advertising email by a certain number of words means that you’ll lose a predictable number of readers.

How does it work?  Have you ever decided to read or not read an online article based on its page length?  Or received an email at work and condemned it to some buried folder after reading 1/3 of it because you had to scroll for days to see all the text?

At some word count, at some unfortunate sweet spot, our audience decides that our written message is too long to engage with and stops reading.

At this word count or page length, the majority of our audience clicks delete or x’s out the brower window, creating a steep, ugly decline in readership.  I call this steep decline the email cliff:

Ouch...your audience fell off the cliff, but you're the one hurting.

Ouch…your audience fell off the cliff, but you’re the one hurting.

For all of us that want to be read instead of deleted like spam, the email cliff means we should do two things:

1) An extra sentence doesn’t necessarily mean losing a small number of readers.  It might push the majority of your readers over the edge of the email cliff.  That’s why when we’re debating whether we need another bullet point or sentence, we must scrutinize whether that extra bit is really needed.  

2) Different audiences have different cliffs.  Your mom might read pages and pages of an email before she decides to stop reading.  Colleagues will probably jump off the cliff sooner.  And potential customers?  They tumble off the cliff after a paragraph or two (if we’re lucky).  We need to think hard about the audience we’re writing to and craft a message accordingly.

Email Cliff 4

If you think about the cliff, you’ll be a click-through champion.  And more importantly, the important things you have to say will be heard!


Subtle Cues And Crabs

15 Apr

If you tug too quickly on the string, the crab drops the chicken and sidesteps away.  If you drop the net in the water too aggressively, the ripples frighten off your prey.  It’s only when you pull the string in one finger width at a time, when the crab realizes it’s being hunted only after it’s in your net, that you land your catch.


Click to see some crabbing on a string!

I recently began using an iPad in sales calls.  It’s a powerful tool for product demos, but it scared away my prospects.  Why?

To ensure I could quickly launch into a demo, I flipped open the case cover and logged in before sales calls.  In an industry where prospects give sales people a very limited amount of time to present their wares, I thought having my iPad ready for action would be a strategic advantage.

But as soon as I walked into a prospect’s office, his eyes shifted to my open iPad and his pupils dilated in fear.  The iPad was my net, and I had clearly dipped it into the water too early.  Before I even got to qualify, nonetheless demo my product, the prospect darted away like a crab.

Revealing our sales tools too early and rushing to make our pitch is a sure way to scare off our catch.   And sometimes, it’s just a subtle cue, a signal of the demo to come, that alarms our prospects.  In my case it was the open iPad.

As soon as I realized my mistake and closed the case before walking into offices, my prospects opened up to me again.

Are you scaring away your crab?

Are You Ready?

29 Mar

I ran a focus group yesterday to record product users (in this case 18 year olds) giving our product glowing endorsements.

What I captured on film instead is two of the most opinionated teenagers you’ll ever meet bashing our product.

These outspoken attendees called the product trivial, degrading, insulting.  You can hear the tension in my voice on the recording, the strain of me nodding my head and asking “explain further…” when all I wanted to do was lash back.  They’re wrong and I know it.

But it doesn’t matter what I know. Or what I think.  I seethed for hours after the focus group until I realized how naive I was to expect a love fest of a focus group.  How silly I was to think I could control the feedback they gave me for the camera.

Focus groups attract two types of people: those in it for the money, and those who want to be heard.  The second group is the only group that matters, and they’re often critical.  You’re not going to like everything they say.  The point isn’t to control their feedback.  It’s to have their feedback control what you do.


Be sure you can answer yes to all of these questions before you run a focus group:

Are you ready to listen?

Are you ready to be criticized and instead of arguing, push your retorts deep down into the pit of your stomach?

Are you ready to make changes?

Feedback is coming.  Are you ready for it?


The Little Man That Sits On Your Shoulder

1 Mar

The little man that sits on your shoulder is usually a mischief maker.  He whispers naughty things in your ear and urges you to do no good.

Shoulder Devil

But a different kind of little man is described in The Art of The Start, one who doesn’t tempt you to make trouble, but keeps you on track during your presentations.

When I present, I’m constantly reminding myself that what others get of my presentation is my #1 consideration—that the audience is all that matters.  But when we start talking, it’s VERY easy to lose sight of this.  We begin to ramble, the focus on our audience disappearing.  We say everything we want to say, not just what the audience needs to hear.  Soon, the session is more about us, and less about everyone else in the room.

Here are two guards against this mistake:

  1. Write an e on the back of your hand.
  2. Guy Kawasaki’s little man trick.  When he gives a presentation, Kawasaki imagines that there’s a little man sitting on his shoulder, asking him “So What?” after everything he says.  “How does this help the audience?  Why is it important?  How can they use it?”  If the talking point is important, it’s worth explaining further and making crystal-clear.  If it doesn’t help the audience in some way, cut it.  Simple as that.

Two little tricks, same result: a presentation that’s not only focused on your audience, but moves others to action.  I use both now.  So should you.

Sending Out 1000 Letters Without Including Your Name

16 Jan

I’ve made this mistake.  I don’t want you to make it as well.

For marketers and sales people, mail merge in Microsoft Outlook is an extremely powerful (and free) tool.  You create a Word Document containing your email message, upload an Excel spreadsheet with your contacts and their email addresses, and click send.

And voila!  You’ve just sent a beautiful note to 1,000 customers and left them your contact information.

Unless you didn’t include your contact information.  I learned the hard way that messages sent through mail merge in Microsoft Word will not include the Microsoft Outlook signatures that are automatically included in all of your other emails.

Why is your signature not automatically included?  I have no idea.  I would think that Bill Gates has enough money to get two Microsoft products, Office and Word, to better communicate.

Don’t send out 1000 emails without including your name.  Just make sure you include your signature at the end of the document you’ve written for your mail merge.  Don’t assume your contact information will be automatically included in your emails, because it won’t.


If anyone needs help setting up a mail merge, just let me know!  I can be reached at Kresse.john@gmail.com.

My Biggest Success Came From My Biggest Mistake.

14 Jan

One of my biggest mistakes as a sales rep led to one of my very biggest sales.  And it taught me a lot about working with others, both professionally and personally.

As a textbook sales rep, I worked a situation at Northwest Vista College for nearly a year.  At first, my potential customers were wary.  They openly voiced their distrust of sales reps, having been burned multiple times by the company they currently were working with.  But over the course of a year, I developed a relationship with each committee member, winning their trust.  Eventually, they invited me to present to their faculty.

At the presentation, they loved our content.  Our commitment to service.  And the incredibly low price I quoted them, a price point they couldn’t resist.

A price point that was HORRIBLY wrong.  A price that I had carelessly misquoted.  A price they now expected after the presentation, but that my company could never honor.

When I realized my mistake, I called my contact on the committee.  I thought their excitement for working with me and my chances of making the sale would quickly evaporate.  They were clearly suspicious of dishonesty from publishers, and it looked a lot like I lied about price to just to close the sale.

After I admitted my error, my contact told me she’d get back to me and hung up the phone.  An hour later, she let me know they’d be working with me for the next three years.

I had won the sale, not in spite of my mistake, but because of it.  They were impressed at my honesty, with me coming clean so quickly and putting the order on the line instead of sweeping the issue under the rug.  They didn’t choose my product.  They chose me.

When a customer buys something from you, they’re not just buying the product, they’re buying the person they bought it from.  I didn’t need to be perfect to close the sale…just honest.  It’s my best closing tool.   

%d bloggers like this: