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Avoiding The Third Degree Syndrome In Marketing

by Mark Silver

When you last wrote a flyer or a webpage, or when you last read one, what was the first bit of text on it, after the headline? I'm willing to bet you beads to bogarts that it was a series of questions. Like this list I just saw on a website I randomly picked off of Google: "Are you: Feeling that more meaningful success and far better results are possible in your life, career or business?

Wanting to be more fully engaged in your business or career, and achieve greater happiness and balance in your personal life? Wanting to discover your 'purpose', or 'values', develop your leadership capacity, and achieve goals that are truly important to you?"

It's a common way to start out your writing, because it's easy. Unfortunately... it's not so effective. What questions do. Questions engage the reader. They ask the reader to read it, comprehend it, and then search into their own experience and come up with an answer.

In other words, it puts the reader to work. Here's a question for you: does your reader really want to do all of that work right off the bat? No. Your reader needs your help- that's why they're looking at your website. They're tired. They're probably overwhelmed. And they probably feel a little helpless around what you can help them with. You've got them right where you want them. (Not.)

Sit down and shaddup! Dark and smokey room. Tough guys in cheap suits with shoulder holsters and sunglasses. A bright light in your face- BAM! "Where were you on the night of April 15th?" "Who came to your apartment at 2am?" "Where did you last see Colonel Mustard-- in the library with the candlestick?" You're getting the third degree. Don't you feel welcomed? Isn't it helpful? (Not.)

The Third Degree Syndrome

Leading off with questions is what I call the Third Degree Syndrome in marketing. You've got your sunglasses on, and the spotlight is on the reader- you're making them look at themselves and their problems in the harsh glare of the fluorescents. Give your readers a break. They aren't criminals, just the opposite. They're looking for help. Leave off the intimidating and probing questions right at the first. So, what do you start with? Well, let's see...

Keys to Opening Your Marketing

* Start with Empathy.

Instead of questions, use an empathetic statement. An empathetic statement is one that names an observation and a feeling. An observation is an actual event that happened- an action someone took, a thought someone had. A feeling is an emotion that comes up around it.

Example: "If you're like most entrepreneurs, you probably feel a little overwhelmed looking at all your to-do lists." How does it feel to read that statement? Even though I just wrote it myself, I still took a deep breath of relief just reading it.

* Use 'You.'

There is a tendency to want to connect with the reader- and it's a good tendency. However, one strategy that doesn't work is using 'We.' Using the word 'we' instead of 'you' drains power and directness from what you are saying. When we tested this point in one of my classes, everyone agreed. 'We' came out sounding wishy-washy, weak. 'You' came out powerfully, connecting, and because of the power, considerable more empathy was delivered in the statement. Think about it. How do you have conversations with your friends? I bet you use 'you' when talking to them, dontchya?

* An example.

Let's take that first question from the beginning of the article, and turn it into an empathetic statement. Here's the question: "Are you feeling that more meaningful success and far better results are possible in your life, career or business?" An empathetic statement that replaces this question might be: "You're getting close into midlife, and you've done... okay so far. But, perhaps you're noticing that some of your success feels hollow, without much meaning. And, some of your most important goals feel out of reach, or completely out of sight." Read the question, then read the empathetic statements. And notice what happens for your heart.

Your next step? Go find those Third Degree questions at the top of your marketing- your flyers, your website, wherever, and replace them with empathetic statements. And see what happens.

The best to you and your business,

Mark Silver

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About the Author:

Mark Silver is the author of Unveiling the Heart of Your Business: How Money, Marketing and Sales can Deepen Your Heart, Heal the World, and Still Add to Your Bottom Line. He has helped hundreds of small business owners around the globe succeed in business without losing their hearts. Get three free chapters of the book online:

Copyright (c) 2007 Mark Silver

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