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Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

More about headlines

Headlines are so important that I thought it useful to elaborate on the previous post.

If the headline doesn’t catch people’s attention they will not read your marketing so here are two rules for a killer headline:

Rule 1 – the headline must work as a standalone as a sentence

Rule 2 – the headline must make the reader want to read the next sentence

I came across one article that suggested the 50:50 rule. This is that 50% of your time should be spent writing the headline and 50% on the rest of the copy. I am not sure this is correct but it is worth bearing in mind. So is that fact that advertising guru David Ogilvy rewrote a headline for a car advert 104 times and master copywriter Gene Schwartz often spent an entire week on the first 50 words of a sales piece.

How much time and energy do you put into your headlines?

To help make sure your headlines are there best they can be here are 8 checks that will help you create powerful headlines:

Check 1 – Does the headline promise a reward for reading on

Check 2 – Be specific e.g. 7 reasons…

Check 3 – Is there is a well defined audience in the headline?

Check 4 – Avoid all negatives

Check 5 – Does the headline create an emotion?

Check 6 – Avoid headline that just provoke curiosity

Check 7 – Be clear and direct

Check 8 – Avoid cleaver or cute headlines

Keep in mind that if you are writing copy for your Website that it can be useful to include keywords in your headlines.

12 types of headline to improve your marketing

Sackmans, Accountants North London, are committed to writing posts that will help you grow sales, increase profits and boost cashflow.

Picking up on the last post I thought I would write about the use headlines of headlines in Direct Response Marketing.

The headline of an advert, Webpage or letter is the advert for the advert, Webpage or letter. By that I mean that the headline sells the rest of the copy. If people don’t read the advert, stay on the Website or throw the letter without reading it the headline isn’t good enough.

So, with that in mind it makes sense to put a lot of energy into creating the headline. And, it makes sense to test before you invest serious money.

From my research I think there are broadly twelve different types of headlines and they can be combined:

  • News
  • Guarantee
  • How to
  • Benefit
  • Question
  • Reason why
  • Testimonial
  • Command
  • Free
  • Advice
  • Warning
  • Quick solutions


In the previous post I used a question headline “Do you know the 7 traps that kill 98% of start-up in the first five years?” But, I could apply the other types of headline to the same topic:

News – Announcing the new report – 7 traps that kill 98% of start-up in the first five years

Guarantee – Survive the 7 hidden traps that kill 98% of start-ups or get a refund 100%

How to – How to survive the deadly traps that kill 98% of start-ups

Benefit – Sidestep the 7 hidden traps that kill 98% of start-ups

Reason why – 7 reasons why 98% of start-ups don’t survive the first five years

Testimonial – Learn how I overcame the 7 hidden traps that kill 98% of start-ups

Command – Stop risking going bust from the 7 hidden traps that kill 98% of start-ups

Free – Free report on 7 hidden traps for start-ups

Advice – Advice for start-up to help avoid the 7 traps that force 98% to go bust in five years

Warning – Alert…don’t start a business without knowing the 7 traps that force 98% of start-ups to go bust in five years

Quick solutions – Instant success by avoiding the 7 traps that kill 98% of start-up

I hope this post help you create and test headlines for your marketing.

The magic forumla

Competing with Accountants North London , I know Sackmans needs to offer a lot more value than our competitors.

As well as high levels of service, and proactive tax planning, this means being able to help businesses grow sales, improve profits and boost cashflow with practical business advice.

A key part of this is marketing and I have written before about how small businesses can’t use brand based promotion because they don’t have enough money to make it work. You need millions to even get started. So, instead I advise clients to use Direct Response Marketing.

A key element of Direct Response Marketing is good copy writing and there are many great books on this subject but I’d thought I’d share some thoughts.

The well established formula in marketing is AIDA which stands for Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. According to Wikipedia AIDA was first used in an article in 1921 but similar formulas were used in the 1800s.

This type of approach has worked for many years but I am not convinced this is the best approach for now.

For a start, I’m not sure starting with “Attention” is the right approach because it encourages you to think of a cleaver headline rather than a valuable one. I suggest starting with “Thought Provoking”.

An attention grabbing headline for Sackmans could be “Introducing A Unique Accountancy Approach For Start-Up (And Young) Businesses”. In the advert, Webpage or letter I could then go on to explain in detail what I do and how it will help start-up businesses.

A Thought Provoking headline could be  “Do you know the 7 traps that kill 98% of start-up in the first five years?”

Imagine you are a start-up business and got two mail shots with these headline. Which do you think people will be more like to carry on reading? Something that bangs on about my firm’s service or something which may educate you?

I recommend starting with “Thought Provoking” because it encourages you to write copy that is interesting.

I could write a free report called “The 7 start-up traps” and promote this rather than promoting Sackmans. When someone responds and reads the report I will be seen as a trusted advisor.

I can then engage with them and start to build a relationship based on trust which hopefully will develop into a commercial relationship.

So, my formula is TEEA which stands for Thought Provoking, Educational, Engaging and Action.

Finding your drivers

The theory (or thinking behind your business) is the most important thing in your business; it drives everything and it’s what we should be focussed on and measuring.

Our theory at Sackmans that if we bring you interesting, thought provoking and useful business insights then you will use and recommend us. So, at one level…if this post bores you then the chances are it and we will not be a success. But, if it fundamentally changes your entire view of using numbers to manage your business then I think we have more chance of being successful.

This is why I am interested to get feedback from people about our blog. The higher the scores for the blog the more chance we have at being successful by winning and retaining the best clients.

So, here is a four step formula for developing your business theory and finding your business drivers:

Step 1 – observe

To construct a theory you just need to start by observing the world and asking “what is important to your customers?” And you need to challenge yourself with questions like:

  • How do you know what your customers want?
  • How do you know what will bring a customer back?
  • How do you know what will get a customer to refer your business?


Now, this is observation of the real world. This is not an ivory tower theory process.  It requires you to go out in the real world and observe human behaviour and talk to people. 

Step 2 – categorise

Next, you and have to categorise and rank what is important.

Some things are much more important than other things so you need to rank the criteria. And, you need to simplify it. What are the top three things that matter to your customer?

Step 3 explain

You need to be able to predict or explain the theory. This is the “so what” part.

If someone says to you “so what does this mean” you need to be able to say something like “if we do these three things customers will be happy and 95% will return”. When you can say this you know that your theory and the measurements or judgements has predictive power.

Step 4 prove

Finally, you confirm or disprove the theory and if it doesn’t work you develop another theory.

It could be that you need to go through the process a couple of times because what you think customers care about may not be what they care about most. And, you will also need to go through this on an ongoing basis because customer behaviour changes. Humans are not static, we change and evolve.

Our expectations are evolving every day. Our customers’ expectations are being shaped by other organisations that are not even your competitors. You may not run an amusement park but if your customers go to Disney World then they are going to experience a level of customer service that is going to make them less tolerant of bad service of every other organisation they deal with.

The chances are your customer and potential customers are using brands like Apple, FedEx and buying things from Amazon and in doing so they are receiving great customer service.

So, you may need to up your game!

Think about a hotel which changes your towels and bed sheets every day. You are probably only going to care if they you don’t do it! Or, do it wrong with dirt on the towels or sheets.

Fresh bed sheets and new towels is not going to make you go back or tell your friends because that is something that is a basic expectation. So, this is a never ending process. What should we measure and what is important to our customers.

Now, this may seem like all this is hard work but I prefer to think of it as smart work. It is basically developing a business strategy, designing and innovation which is where you get maximum leverage.

A good idea can come to you in a second and literally be worth millions. It can be the difference between you working hard for the rest of your life or having financial independence.

It is also a fantastic opportunity because if you can develop a better theory than your competitor and use measurements and judgement more effectively, then you will discover, develop and retain competitive advantage.

Now, it’s your turn…you need to stop reading and start thinking. This is how you are going to beat the competition, you need to out-smart them because there are always bigger and stronger competition who have more money than you.

If you’d like some help then book an On-Track Review.

Giving update

As we approach the end of the year I thought I’d post a summary of Giving at Sackmans and take this opportunity to thank those people that helped.

We signed up as a member of B1G1 in April 2013 and so far this year Sackmans has given.

  • 6 goats to rural families to have sustainable income for a year
  • 10 people in need required medication
  • 357 days of access to life-saving clean water to people around the world
  • 110 days of education support to disadvantaged children
  • 10 children a school uniforms
  • 100 great learning tools to children who need them the most


One way you can help us give more now (and in the future) is by recommending us to friends, family and business associates. Remember, Sackmans are Chartered Accountants and Chartered Tax Advisors so you all tax planning opportunities will be explored.

Perhaps the best way to recommend someone is in person but there are some electronic ways to make referrals. Here are some things you can do to recommend us include:

  • Include us in your email newsletter
  • Use your email and cut and paste a message to people you feel may benefit from a review of their accounting and tax position
  • Post a status update once a week on LinkedIn
  • Use LinkedIn to email all your contacts
  • Post a message on relevant LinkedIn Groups
  • Tweet a link to this page
  • Post an update with a link on Facebook

An amazing interview

I have a copy of an amazing DVD interview between an accountant and a very successful business owner.

Over 250,000 businesses in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and England have benefited from watching this interview. I could over 20 key lessons that will give you:

  • New insights into how to approach your business
  • Ways to increase profits and business value
  • Ideas how to increase your prodictivity and performance


If you would like me to arrange for you to watch the video at home send me an email .


How to increase prices – part 1

You may be able to increase your price by one or two percent  without losing any customers. But, if you want to increase your price 10% or 20% then it is probably worth taking actions to reduce the chances of losing customers.

You can do this by re-launching your service, product or brand in a way that takes the focus away from just the price.

If you are going to be more expensive than the competition, you need to give people a reason/s to pay the extra. This can usually be done as a package with new guarantees, safeguards, higher service standards and more benefits because when you do that you can justify a new higher price.

Let’s take the example of a roofing company.

Most construction businesses usually turn up in filthy vans and roofers are normally covered in black tar. They turn up at your house unannounced, saying they have some spare materials from another job , asking to take a look at your roof.

Let’s imagine that a typical roofing company struggles to charge more than £5,000 for a certain type of job.

Now, let’s think about a business that positions itself as a “professional” roofing constructor with guarantees. When the owner turns up he says “I know that some people in my industry have a bit of a bad reputation for going on to the roof and kicking things off and telling you that they need to be replaced. Well, we don’t operate like that, but I don’t want you to take my word. So, on our Website we have video written testimonials from people in the local area about the service we provide”.

Then he bring out a leather folder and says “here we have some of the most recent client surveys because we carry this out at the end of every job”. You can see surveys with people saying how wonderful they are.

He could then goes on and says “I guess you would like to be comfortable that we will provide exactly the same kind of service to you and that why we have a range of guarantees built in.

First, you have a guarantee that we call the turn up and clean up guarantee. If we don’t turn up when we said we would turn up and if we don’t clean up at the end of each day to your satisfaction we will deduct £50 pounds off the bill. We will do that for every single day that if we don’t turn up on time or clean up at the end of the day.

Our second guarantee is you don’t pay for the job until it is completed the way you liked it. In other words when we think we are finished we give you an opportunity to check and if you’re not completely delighted with the work we have done for you simply don’t pay us, until you are delighted.

Now, we will ask you to tell us why you are not delighted so we can put that right, but you don’t pay until you are delighted. This means you will not feel ripped off because you always get exactly what you want. You will not pay until you get exactly what you wanted.

Our third guarantee is this when we leave we guarantee that roof wont leak and if does leak within three years we will come back and fix it for free. And, we won’t hide in the meantime; we will contact you each year to ask how your roof is and after 18 months we will do a site visit to check that it is showing signs of leaking. That’s how strongly we believe in what we do”.

Those kinds of guarantees will already make you think well this roofing contractor is really different, but that’s not it.

They also set a new service standards because he goes on to explain; “as you notice we all wear this uniform” and he points to his clean overalls blue with a very stylish logo with the name of the roofing contractor firm on the chest. He tells you that “every single one of our team is wearing this because they are employees, not just some cheap contractors that we sub contracted the work out too to sell you short.

He says “we all want to feel good about the people who are working in your premises. You want to trust them. This is part of our way of showing you.” He says “we asked customers about their concerns about roofing companies and they said that they are a bit nervous about working with a contractor because you have to take their word because not many people want to go up a ladder on the rook and have a look at the damage.

So,  we take a video recorder up the ladder and film the damage and show you exactly so you know we are telling you that truth. And, then when we have done the work will take the camera back up there and film it again, so you can see that we have done what you have paid for. You know you’re getting exactly what you want exactly what you are paying for and that’s not what we all did because our job finishes at the end fixing the roof”.

How do you think that compares to the other roofing contractors?

Could they charge £5,500 instead of the normal £5,000? What about £6,500 for the additional service standards and guarantees?

This is just about:

  • Cleaning up
  • A check up
  • Wearing a clean uniform
  • A video
  • Developing a script


If you think about it, putting right work that is faulty is what the business needs to do anyway!

What about referrals. Do you think the customers are more or less likely to recommend this type of business?

The vast majority of people will pay a little extra if they get a lot more. That’s the point when you create guarantees, safeguards, new service standards and benefits.

When you re-launch what you currently do most people, not everybody, will say OK. They’ll pay you 10%, 20% or even 30% more.

Remember, you maybe able to afford to lose 20%, 30% or more clients and still make more money.

Marketing by numbers

Marketing by numbers is about approaching marketing as a professional. Amateurs waste money and go on gut feel, professionals are commercially minded and use numbers to help them get the most from their marketing.

There are lots of numbers in marketing including the number of customers, average spend, hits on your Website and your email open rate but one number above all will determine your entire marketing strategy; that is the Lifetime Value of a customer. Once you have this, you can work out how much you can afford to spend to acquire a new customer.

You really must have these numbers before you do any marketing because they give you massive leverage.  You will be able to do things your competition will not understand and your customers will respond to.

The lifetime value of a customer is how much profit this customer will give you over the time they do business with you. And, I recommend you take into account referrals because they should be a key part of your marketing.

So, let’s use the example of an accountant whose average fee is £2,000 and let’s say they make £500 profit after allowing for all overheads, employees and a notional salary for the owners time. If that client stays for an average of seven years the client is worth £3,500. But, if they refer three other clients in that time, their value goes up to £10,500.

Now, a typical accountant is unlikely to recognise the lifetime value of a client because Lifetime Value is a marketing concept. Instead, they will think a £2,000 client is worth about £2,000, because that is how accountancy firms are bought and sold.

They will probably only want to spend £500 to win a new client, because they are always trying to make a profit. The trouble is, £500 is not a very generous budget and this may compromise the entire marketing strategy because they fail to invest enough time, energy and money putting together and managing campaigns.

However, if they embraced the Lifetime Value of Customer, then using the same percentage of 25%, they would be happy to pay £2,000 to win a new client. This means the accountants can afford to invest in professional marketing. They can buy a quality database, mail more than once, follow up and engage the client with numerous meetings.

Having this mindset means you can afford to make compelling offers and provide a bit extra support in the early stages of working together to build a solid foundation.

So, before you move forward on your marketing, do two things:

1. Work out the Lifetime Value of a Customer

2. Calculate how much you are prepared to pay to buy a new customer

When you have these numbers you must also make a commitment to manage your marketing by numbers. Everything should be tracked and reported on. You need to innovate, orchestrate and quantify. Come up with an idea, take action and measure the results.

Always test first and it’s useful to assume the test will fail. This will help you put it into practice quickly.

Psychology and marketing – part 2

We saw in part 1 that we sell feelings, the question is what types of feelings?

This is where we can look at Maslow’s model model of the levels of motivations of humans.


Our most basic needs are physiological, the continued existence of our physical body.

These are our strongest needs. They include things like food, shelter, and warmth. Unless our basic physiological needs are met we will not concern ourselves with a higher need.


Once our physiological needs are met and we know our body will survive, we need to feel safe. Our search for safety at a fundamental level it’s about protection from the elements and feeling safe and secure. Our need for safety also expresses itself in more subtle ways. For example we feel safer and more secure in familiar surroundings. This is why people often feel resistance or fear toward change.

Our fears of risk or loss come from a fear of the need for safety not being met.

Some of the things that we do to help us feel safe are to purchase insurance, put money in the bank, have a business that we feel will be around for a long time and save for our future.


When we are confident that our physiological and safety needs are met, our next desire is love. This is not really about romantic love, although that is part of it, but more significantly the need for connection or belonging.

Human beings do not like to live in isolation. We are social animals and that is why being sent to Coventry hurts. Being connected with others is an important need and is a strong motivating force that serves as the basis for all relationship building.

Love also includes a sense of approval and acceptance as well as being acknowledged and valued for who we are and what we have accomplished.

The seeking of love, approval and acceptance is a very strong need that explains a lot of our behaviour in the world.


According to Maslow, our need for self-esteem is the need for us to feel good about who we are and what we have accomplished in our lives.

We need to experience this satisfaction internally, as opposed to receiving approval and acknowledgement from the outside.


The need for self-actualization is the highest human need. This is where you have complete satisfaction, a feeling of well being and peace. When you have this you are content and are in a state where you are motivated to serve others.

How to use Maslow in our marketing 

Segmentation is a key part of marketing and knowing people’s motivation will enable you to communicate at the right level.

If you are selling cars you may have a different message to a family with a Volvo than to a young male with a sports car. One is after Safety, the other is looking for love and approval.

Make sure you are marketing and selling feeling. And, make sure they are the right types of feelings.


Psychology and marketing – part 1

Marketing is about communication, persuasion and influence so it’s useful to have some understanding of psychology around human behaviour. At the end of the day, customers are people and people are emotional animals. We all buy emotionally and justify logically.

Remember, all customers are selfish. Customer only care about their pain or their pleasure. If you are talking about you and what you do in your marketing you are broadcasting on the wrong channel. Your customers are listening to Radio WI fm – they want to know What’s In It For Me.

So, it’s vital we understand our customers motivation so we can communicate effectively.

Now, the truth is that most of what we do in the developed world is done for “wants” rather than “needs”. Think about it, we are way past need; we need an Iron Lung if we can’t breathe but do we really need to wear expensive jewellery, go out for dinner, drive a BMW, have that new kitchen, replace our golf-clubs, own a holiday home or spend the money we do?

No, most of what we spend is not needed so the question is why do we spend money? What motivates humans? Well, a useful concept to explain this is Maslow’s Hierarchy or Needs.

Dr. Abraham Maslow was a psychologist who specialized in human behavior. He created a pyramid that shows a hierarchy of the human needs that he believed were the motivators of people’s actions.

According to Maslow we seek to fulfil our most basic needs first. These are at the bottom of the pyramid. Each of these needs must be satisfied before we concern ourselves with the next need in the hierarchy. The key point is that humans are driven to reach the top of the pyramid but will only move up as each lower need is fulfilled.

What’s interesting is that we are not always conscious of the true motivation for our actions and nor of your customers. When you ask people to explain why they do things it’s usually because it makes them feel good.