It’s Mailbox Monday!
As usual, every Monday I open up the ol’ Mailbox and see what kind of pressing questions you have for me.
To have YOUR question about marketing, selling, business-building, copywriting, or life answered here… Just shoot it to me by email at [email protected].
I’ll add it to the queue and you’ll get your answer in an upcoming issue.
Today’s question reflects a concern I see from copywriters all around the world…
And the answer provides far more value that the question might superficially suggest.
Here’s today’s question…
My most pressing need right now is getting clients to trust me. I’m a conversion copywriter and I want to sell my services in English. But I’m not a native English speaker. That’s a barrier that I need to overcome. How do I get my prospects to trust in my abilities in that scenario?
First things first, addressing the obvious question…
Should a non-native English speaker sell their services in English? What are the challenges and the advantages? I want to get this out of the way first and address it directly. Then, I want to get at the deeper — and much more powerful — issue of getting your clients to trust you.
In short, I believe and have seen for myself that there are HUGE advantages in taking direct response methods currently being taught in English, primarily in Western economies, and taking them elsewhere.
A quick example. At Titans of Direct Response, I met two gentlemen from Germany, named Norman and Helmut. Norman was founder (in 1976) and Helmut was current CEO of VNR Publishers for German Business.
They are a German-language publisher, based out of Bonn, Germany, that takes American marketing strategies and even publications, and translates them into German.
They’ve formed partnerships with American publishers, as well as developed their own publications and brands. They study American marketing. They hire American marketing experts to go visit them in Germany, and teach their team.
They’ve grown from startup to a 414-member staff generating €123 million annual revenue. They’re the eighth-biggest specialty publisher in Germany. And they currently have over 310 active publications.
If, in 1976, Norman had discovered direct response marketing and decided to offer his services to English-speakers in America, he may never have developed such a spectacular business.
And here’s the thing. He’s not alone. There are probably millions of Normans around the world, who have learned direct response from primarily-American gurus, brought them back to their home cultures, and created massively-successful businesses.
(Side note: Is this because Americans are exceptional and everyone should model our marketing? Not necessarily. We do have the longest history in direct marketing, a very consumerist and marketing-positive culture, and a whole ton of gurus. Also, I’m from America, so I have an inborn America-centric perspective on this question. But the same could apply to learning from anyone in any culture.)
There’s so much opportunity in this path, I’d be remiss if I didn’t highlight it as your first and best option, even as you’re suggesting something completely different.
But if you’re looking to live the freelancer lifestyle, you are probably running up against a common barrier, selling your services in your country.
With America having the most developed direct response community, we have more companies here than anywhere else that know the language of direct response. So if you’re talking about selling yourself as a copywriter, or building funnels, or writing sales letters… There’s a natural attraction to want to go to American markets.
Also, American companies tend to value direct response talent higher, which makes them attractive for freelancers. If you’re looking for a $20,000 or even $5,000 project, you’re more likely to find in from an American company than companies from pretty much anywhere else.
In following this path, you’re pushing against a double-strong wall of resistance.
First, there’s the language barrier. If English is not your primary language and you’ve never lived in the country of the market you’re speaking to, you have the potential to simply have a disconnect. And that’s important. Since we’re persuading with our words and need a connection to get conversions, it’s important to avoid simple things like using mistranslated words. A good editor can help with this, and companies may be more or less willing to work around it — depending on how good you are at the sales pitch — but it’s a force of resistance you’re choosing to work against when you choose this path.
Secondly, is culture. Since so much of really good copy is about connecting on a level beyond mere words and benefits, it helps to share cultures with your market. Or, at the very least, be intimately familiar with their culture, to the point you can sound like one of them. With modern tech, the distance between any two points on the globe is shrinking, but there’s something natural about speaking to folks within your culture that’s very hard to replicate without spending years and even decades in a new culture.
All of this to say, by choosing to go after foreign markets, you are choosing a harder path.
I’m not necessarily trying to tell you it’s the wrong path. I’m not trying to dissuade you. I’m just being as realistic and accurate as possible about the path itself.
An alternative that I’d recommend, even if you want to sell marketing services, is to pursue your local market. In every corner of the world, there are businesses that want more leads, customers, sales, and profits.
You don’t have to sell them “copywriting” by name. In fact, you probably shouldn’t.
You should structure and offer and process and approach that’s designed to get them more leads, more customers, more sales, and more profits. Use your copywriting skills, of course. But let their results be your focus.
Let your bilingual studies of the best marketing strategies from around the globe be your advantage. But focus on how you can get those universally-desired results at home, in your local market.
You can use this approach to become the biggest fish in your small pond. And prosper.
(If you’re looking at how to structure your offer and payments around client results, I recommend both The Copywriter’s Roadmap To Building A Core Offer and Copywriting Royalties and Pay for Performance, available with BTMSinsiders membership. 37 bucks gets you instant access to both, and the entire BTMSinsiders catalog for the next month.)
Now on to…
How to build trust with potential clients, while breaking down barriers…
Here I’m going to generalize.
I’m going to refer to breaking down barriers. Which could be the language barrier. But it could be something else. For example, getting a client to hire you for your first copywriting project. Or getting them to experiment with a new idea. Whatever.
I’ve practically spent my entire career pushing boundaries. It’s how I’ve come so far, so fast.
With that, I’m always grappling with this challenge.
“No, I haven’t done that. But I know I can make it successful.”
That’s practically been my entire business mantra.
In 2005, a few months after discovering direct response and deciding I wanted to go into marketing, I scored a job running marketing for a small IT training publisher — even though I had ZERO experience. Here’s that story.
Before I’d ever written a long-form sales letter, I wrote an irresistible offer letter to David Bullock to land him as my first freelance client. Here’s that story.
I have so many stories like this to tell. Like the time I got my boss’s boss to buy a full-page ad when my boss was out of town — and we’d never run a full-page ad in the past! It ended well, even though I was told never to do that again!
Then there was the time where I got one client into online summits costing six-figures in production costs… And quickly turned those into 10,000s in leads plus $100,000s in profits.
Or just about every time I’ve decided to write for a new market, with zero experience.
Or when I was so audacious to take on Brian Kurtz’s Titans of Direct Response promo, for an event featuring the world’s best copywriters and my heroes.
I know this starts to sound like bragging, but it’s all to make a point.
Even though I came up in a middle class household in the middle of the United States, am mostly college educated, and have definitely not faced anywhere near the challenges that so many others have…
I’ve made a practice of confronting barriers head-on, and busting through them.
And, it’s been hugely beneficial for me and my career.
And along the way, most of the those barriers have involved getting other people on board. Getting clients, bosses, and others to buy into the vision I have that I can succeed, in spite of the barrier that I’ll need to bust through to get there.
This comes down to one of the most important sales principles you could ever learn.
People buy conviction.
I’ll keep this short, because my time spent writing this is running long.
People don’t buy benefits, or features. They don’t buy solutions to problems. They don’t buy uniqueness or fit or service or quality, or the best price. And they don’t even buy confidence.
All of these things contribute to the sale.
But ultimately, what they want to know, is, “Will this get me the outcome I want.”
And when there’s clear and utter conviction that the answer is yes, on the part of the person doing the selling, “they’ll crawl over broken glass on hands and knees” and other trite illustrations of how far they’ll go to buy.
If you have complete and utter conviction — even in the face of all obstacles — that you can get your prospect exactly the result they want, you’ve got the sale.
“But what if I can’t …?”
I know the objection. I once heard Dan Kennedy say that you should buy Donny Deutsch’s book, Often Wrong, Never In Doubt, even if you never plan to read it. Just put it on the shelf, where you’ll occasionally read the title as you walk buy. That’s how Deutsch built and sold an ad agency for $280 million, and became a television celebrity. By never letting doubt creep in, even if he might be wrong.
Did he work his butt off to be right as much as possible, to achieve what he said he was going to achieve? Absolutely. He had no intention, even in adopting this phrase, of being a fraud or a charlatan. And neither should you.
But you do need to move through life with the conviction that you’ll figure things out as you go, even as you bust through barriers and take on new challenges.
And then work your butt off to make sure you’re right.
When every fiber of your being resonates with that conviction, trust will be automatic.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,