What Children's Literature Can Teach Copywriters
What can writers learn from children's books? Turns out, a lot.
A while ago, the great giant Hubspot published a notion that digital marketers (and regular marketers, I guess, if those still exist) had been theorizing about. Boiled down to its essence, the idea was to update the idea of a "sales funnel." A sales funnel is simply a visual mechanism whereby you assign leads a different status in the sales process. You can go here to read more about a sales funnel.
While the funnel isn't devoid of use or purpose, marketers ascertained that it was problematic and perhaps insufficient. Ultimately, any intelligent marketer knows that messaging and sales efforts are about people. Thus, the flywheel—born of customer-centricity—went viral. The central circle is the customer, around which all sales and marketing activities and other delineations orbit. The customer is king. The customer is core. The customer is all.
Now, to counter that extreme language, it's important to remember that customers (more than ever) are interested in a partnership. The idea that the provider and recipient are on equal footing and in cooperation is an important value proposition. What you can offer to a prospect, how you can improve their lives and support them, is now an integral part of brand messaging.
And lead nurturing sequences are how its done on a medium or large scale. For solopreneuers and start-ups, your lead count may be low enough that you can literally achieve one-on-one lead nurturing. You can literally know your customer's names and build meaningful relationships. The second you scale, you've outgrown that. But you shouldn't outgrow the ethos of it.
Customer-centricity transforms messaging because it removes the funnel catch-all and promotes individual recognition and care. In this system, more is not better. For many kinds of businesses, this is immensely important. Depending on how much a customer is worth to you (customer value, lifecycle, all of that), it may be extremely worthwhile to spend time nurturing qualified leads. Whether you need a few or a lot, all of these lead nurturing sequence ideas can be scaled to fit your business.
Here's how you implement great copy to thoughtfully invite prospects to a journey that ends in a sale.
DMs are gold. Hear this: if you are religiously posting on Instagram or other social platforms and wonder why your engagement is low, it's because you aren't using direct messages. There is a goldmine of potential here. If untapped, you are definitely missing out on paying customers.
Direct messages are valuable because they always get seen. Always. Get. Seen. Worried about email open rates? Not a problem here. These are red-dotted, auto-alerted, center stage messages. Use them wisely.
What you CANNOT do on a DM is be obnoxious or salesy. This is where you reflect back to the touchpoint of who this conversation is about: not your business, your customer.
You can create auto reply DMs or regularly go in and DM whole lists (depending on your size). A good DM lead nurturing sequence should be:
There will be no completely plug and play scenario for these. As people engage you, of course you'll have to respond correctly. Otherwise, you sound like an idiot. Here's a framework I use for clients:
It's important that you don't start asking for favors, even for feedback, through lead nurturing DMs. These people have not yet bought from you (or haven't bought from you in a while). They are, by nature, cold leads. Don't bug them. The second you do, they will shut down. If done right, this well-spaced, well-crafted DM lead sequence can get them into your living room, where you can close a deal.
Marketing texts have the same advantage as DMs: they get seen. Most people have a panic attack if their phone is ever out of arm's reach. You get a rapt audience. 90% of text messages get read in three minutes or less. However, where you may think DMs are short, texts are even shorter. People may be glued to their phones but their attention span for marketing content is very low. That means the pressure is on: in text marketing, every single word counts.
Here is an example of a lead nurturing text sequence:
SURPRISE: no ask. I'm not even kidding with this. Some businesses get really precious about their communication and think every single piece of copy has to be a closer. But, remember, you're dating this lead, not forcing it to marry you at gunpoint. Chill out. Just be nice. There is a huge surprise element on this for a lead, too. Typically, the first text I get from a business is asking me to fill out a review. WRONG. I don't want to give you anything else yet. I don't even know you, man. Just be sweet, nice, winsome and NOT NEEDY. This is a partnership, not a totalitarian regime. Ok, I'll stop before I exhaust your capacity to read metaphors.
2. Hey, wanted to let you know about a [price cut, special offer, limited time]. Tap here to check it out!
Now, you offer something. You. do. not. ask. for. anything. Don't ask them to do something for you. You have not earned the right for a favor yet. You're still relationship-building. Offer something free, useful, or a limited time price cut. You can drive scarcity and exclusivity a little - after all, you want them to feel special. Because they are.
3. Would you mind taking a second to [let us know about, test this product, give feedback].
You're in last-ditch mode now, so you can ask for something. SOMETIMES, companies have huge success by asking for a trade at this point: free sample to review? Beta test something? Sign up to be notified when...? There is an opportunity to get something valuable here. But remember, it's still not about you. You're not wringing them out for any value before discarding them. Leads can exist in your system for weeks or months before they buy. Don't let any messaging you send, even a last-ditch effort, turn them off.
BONUS: texts have another cool feature. Especially if you are offering a deal or incentive, you can ask recipients to forward the message to a friend for "extra credit" or an upgrade. That's called advocacy and if we were still in the funnel, it would be the final stage.
Email sequences are probably the most familiar form of lead nurturing. Here's the one huge mistake businesses make: these automated emails are considered a completely autonomous process that requires no oversight, editing or input. STOP THE PHONE. Or, pick it up, actually, because these leads need to hear from you.
Email sequences don't work if they are not updated AND if they feel like a robo message. I don't care what a robot says. I don't believe what a robot says. Even your most cleverly segmented email campaigns aren't going to appeal to me, because I can spot an unedited template from a mile away.
Yes, if you are a big business, there is no way your digital marketing team is typing out 10,000 emails a week. I get that. That's real. But there are ways that you can craft copy that feels way more personal than it is. And this will literally spell your success or demise with nurturing leads through emails.
Lead nurturing email sequences are usually between 3-5 messages, launched by a form fill and spaced to deliver ever few days for a couple of weeks. Just because it's boiler plate doesn't mean it has to be boring. Here is some insight on the adjustments you can make to improve open rates and have these email sequences actually work:
Emails tend to monologue. You get the feeling they are distinctly one-sided and, if I walked away, would this person even notice? Ask questions. Prompt and probe. Address pain points. Don't be afraid to be more casual. Your tone in this will make all of the difference.
You may be using Keap by InfusionSoft, Constant Contact, Mail Chimp or one of the other 79,000 CRM systems... all of them can be customized. These coded fields will automatically insert information like name, etc. Your ability to do this goes back to the quality of your data. It may be essential to circle back to web forms and other sources of info. The BEST, most robust info will allow you to personalize templated emails so they feel warm.
Some marketers have the idea that all of your efforts exist in these discrete areas: video, audio, podcasts, downloads, text. Emails should offer a kaleidoscope for consumption. Break up block of texts that no one is reading. Add imagery, soundbites, video links and even downloads with every email. Let these be value-packed, highly engaging, media-filled pieces of content that capture new leads.
What do you want people to do? Don't clutter emails with 12 CTAs. Drill down into a single action item. This will serve two purposes: clarify the customer path and clear up your data.
This may be a bottom of the barrel exercise, IMHO (I have MANY colleagues who disagree with me here), but chatbots have potential. I'll admit it. There are plenty of ways that carefully crafted copy can work to nurture leads. They're immensely helpful to answer common questions and direct prospects around your site or products. I do not think they should be the bread and butter of your lead magnet/nurture/conversion strategy. But they aren't off the table.
Lead nurturing and relationship building are an entirely different way of communicating. They aren't the flashy "BUY NOW" "ON SALE" "LAST CHANCE" kind of work, although that has a time and a place in marketing copywriting. This kind of writing is more elegant, restrained and deeply intentional. You can learn how to do this. Anyone can.
If you're ready to up your game and learn to write better copy, here are some ways I offer support:
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