Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Do you go with the Yugo for voice talent?

By Propulsion Media Labs Talent #8 Marty M.

Before I became a full-time voiceover talent, one of the jobs I held was production director for a notoriously cheap radio station.  There was no equipment redundancy in the recording studios, so if something failed all production ground to a halt until the unit could be repaired.  This took a long time because they were too cheap to hire a full time engineer.  They were so cheap, they refused to pay a little extra to be tied into the office building’s backup generator.  So whenever the power went out, the station was off the air, resulting in the loss of advertising revenue and listenership while every other company in the building conducted business. 

I was surprised to learn that some of that attitude rubbed off on me.  During a conversation with a friend who knew I was planning to become a freelance voiceover professional, I told him that part of my brilliant strategy would be to charge less than all of the other voiceover talents out there.  He said “that’s all fine and good, but keep in mind that not everybody wants to drive a Yugo.”

For those who don’t remember, the Yugo was a car built in Yugoslavia and imported into the U.S. in the mid 1980’s and sold for $3995 brand new.  Totally unencumbered by the engineering process, the engines blew and the electrical systems failed after just months of use.  Mechanics used to joke that the real purpose of the rear defroster was to keep your hands warm while you were pushing your Yugo.  You’d have to look long and hard to find a worse car.  But there were a lot of people who purchased them, unable to resist being able to purchase a new car for such a low price. 

Although there were no Yugos on the road at the time of this conversation, my friend’s point was clear.  Not everyone wants to drive the cheapest car.  If they did, you would never see a Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, Acura, BMW, Infiniti or Tesla on the road.   You wouldn’t even see an Accord, Camry or Focus. 

By mistakenly believing people will only pay for something if it is the rock bottom lowest price, like the radio station described above, I would be doing more work for less money, possibly resulting in lower quality work.  This is true for any product or service, and applies whether you are providing those goods/services or purchasing them.  It’s a form of “limitation thought” that holds businesses, and the overall economy, back.   

I contend that the radio station’s el-cheapo approach actually cost far more in lost revenue and listenership than they ever saved.   How many times have you used the restroom at a restaurant, and they have set the motion-activated paper towel dispenser to spit out a 4-inch length of towel?  You end up waving your hand across the sensor multiple times to get the amount of towel needed to dry your hands.  But the restaurant forgets that the extra wear and tear on the dispenser motor caused by additional activation cycles results in premature failure, costing more in repairs than what could possibly be saved by limiting the amount of paper towel dispensed.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you throw your budgets out the window and purchase a Maserati.  Nor am I saying that a professional should charge more than what is considered reasonable and customary for the good or service that they provide. 

I am saying this: if you are in the market for something, consider basing your purchase decision on the real value, not necessarily the lowest price.  In their quest for a small price tag, the Yugo purchasers actually got almost nothing for their $3995.   

Likewise, whether you are a voice-over professional, a media production company, a financial planner, a dentist, or any other business, it’s okay to charge what you are worth.  Not everybody is looking for the rock-bottom price.  And those that are don’t respect your expertise, time and investment into your business.  It may take a production company one day to edit and produce your media project, but what you are paying for is that one day, plus the investment they’ve made in state-of-the-art equipment AND the years (perhaps decades) of experience their personnel possess.

For buyers and sellers alike, it’s okay to trade-in the Yugo. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Copy Is For Your Prospect, Not You

By Propulsion Media Labs Talent #54 Jim R.

I live in multiple worlds: one as a voiceover talent, another as copywriter for clients in various business sectors featured in print, web and broadcast mediums. Put another way: I can put thoughts and sales pitches into words and bark ‘em into a microphone – for a fee, of course. Bank deposits are a beautiful thing.

I see a bunch of, ahem, ‘writing examples’ during the course of a business day. Some are brilliantly written, many are sloppy and usually about the client or their sale. Granted you need an offer – but getting a starving crowd to your door or website requires copy based on the wants, needs and desires of your ideal prospect.

See, it’s easy for marketers and business owners to adopt the age old platitude that if you build it, they will come. The reality is 180-degrees the opposite.

Are you listening closely to your customers and prospects?
What keeps your prospects up at night? What situation would they like to eradicate from their life right now? How do they speak and verbalize their need? What itch do they have that only you can scratch?

For example, in my local area there is a hearing aid retailer who seemingly has a different message every few weeks. His pitch ranges from price, to the fact we change as we get older (that TV spot features footage of him playing drums in a college band) to the heart-tugging plea that hearing loss means you’ll miss what your grandkids are saying. None of this really matters to a hearing aid prospect.

The hearing aid industry has done extensive market research which reveals the actual reason why a seasoned citizen buys a hearing aid. The real reason they buy is fear – that their adult children interpret their hearing loss as Mom or Dad becoming feeble and time to be shuttled into a retirement or nursing home.

I have two older brothers who wear hearing aids – they each went through this. My wife tells me I’m on the same path, by the way. I pretend I don’t hear her!

A spot addressing the nursing home reality for the hearing aid market will cut through the clutter and squarely address a prospects concern, fear and offer a solution to what’s keeping these prospects awake at night, staring at the ceiling fan.

OK, so how do you tap into your prospects mind? The best way is to ask your current clients, customers and patients why they chose you and how they’ve benefitted by the association. This might also be a good time to ask them how you can better serve them.

It also wouldn’t hurt to ask your best customers for a testimonial. I sometimes write something up for clients and ask them to make whatever changes they want to make, sign it and return it to me on their letterhead. Easy for them and I have a client saying how great they think I am. Way more believable to a reader than my saying it about myself. You’ll be able to use these testimonials in your print, broadcast and web marketing initiatives, too.

Now that you’ve received some feedback from your best clients, write yourself a letter from your ideal, composite customer. “Dear Mr. Big, what I really need is a better way to control my __(blank)__. If only someone could solve _(blank)_, my biggest worries, pain and frustration would go away.” This is a trick copywriters in the direct-marketing field use to make sure they have an accurate demographic and psychographic profile and understanding of the prospect they're writing an ad for.

A friend of mine, who is a best-selling author, further fleshes out the details of the characters in her novels by “interviewing” them. I’ve seen her do this and it looks like a séance. The bottom line is that she obtains an acute awareness of the characteristics of the people she brings to life in her books. Her characters always seem very real when you read her books, too. The interview technique might sound a little “out there,” but I encourage you to do the same in order to accurately profile your ideal prospective customer.

The more your broadcast, print or web copy is completely aligned with how beneficial your product is to your target client, the more these people will beat a path to your business with cash and credit cards. You have what they want, they have what you want.

Maybe that old axiom should read: build it right – and market it right – and they will come.