Guest Name : Liston Witherill
Guest Link : http://goodfunnel.co/
Guest Bio : Liston Witherill is a digital marketer and CEO at Good Funnel. He helps tech and info businesses understand their customers to sell more by improving conversions through copy, persuasion, pricing, positioning and automation. After serving as Director of Marketing for a $10M company, Liston declined their CMO position to instead pursue his own business. He has a MS in Environmental Science and a BA in Political Science and Economics. He’s an environmentalist and hiphop artist, too - but that’s a different story.
Have you ever sat at the computer and looked at the blinking cursor of death and wondered...what the heck do I write? In this show, I talk with Liston Witherill of Good Funnel. Liston shares with us how to get your customers to write your copy for you using his STOR system.
If you’ve ever sat down to write a welcome series of emails or maybe listened to episode one of this podcast with Chris Davis, and you thought, “That is the perfect system for welcome series.” You sat down at the computer and you looked at that blinking cursor of death staring you in the face and thought, “I still have no idea what to write.” Well, today’s episode is for you, because I have Liston Witherill on the show. He’s from Good Funnel and he’s going to tell us how we can get our customers to tell us exactly what to write in those emails. Liston, what’s important about the first few emails a prospect receives from us?
Liston: Well, there’s so many things that are important, but the first the I want to do, Neil, is relate this back to your first podcast, which was with Chris Davis. One thing that Chris emphasized that I totally agree with is what he calls the three Cs. He said, “Clear consistent communication.” I think the first most important thing and he’s totally right on this, is making sure that your communication is living up to the initial promise that we’ve given someone. What I mean by that is whenever we ask someone for their email address and ask for permission to stay in touch with them, it’s for a reason. We’ve given them something to entice them to do that. It’s a transaction. When they transact what we want to make sure is that we’re fulfilling that initial promise. We also want to set our tone with people and one distinction that I make in terms of thinking about how do I create email campaigns or how do I create really any messaging in my business whatsoever, is the difference between messaging and copy. Stay with me here, Neil, because I think this-
Neil: I want to flesh that out, because I’ve been around this world quite a long time and I’m not sure I could tell you exactly what you mean by that. Yeah, what is messaging versus copy?
Liston: The way that I approach this and I’ve taught lots of people how to become better copywriters and what I’ve realized is that people put a lot of pressure on themselves to sit down and do some creative writing exercise, which is 100% the wrong approach. Messaging is what to say, what are those key messages that we need to communicate the people, what are their pains, what are the key benefits that they’re seeking in a product. Then copy is how we say it, so our tone of voice, do we use jargon or not, are there specific ways that we need to talk to people, are we formal, are we conversational, do we choose to use humor. Those are very, very different things, so when you’re thinking about putting together your email campaigns or really like I said, any business communication, what I would challenge you to do is sit down and write out what are those key messages. Then put them in order. What are the things that are the most important things for me to talk about, those key messages to convey. Then really literally sit down and write out bullet points.
Then after you have those bullet points, those key messages will then be transformed into copy. Each bullet point, piggybacking on what Chris said, if I’m giving someone a lead magnet and it has the three things you need to know about whatever, my next three emails could expound upon each one of those points. Each one of those points, relating back to this idea of messaging versus copy, each one of those points is probably a key message or feature that we want to communicate to people. Then we’ll turn it into copy. We’re right about it in a way that is communicating to our customers the way that they need to be communicated to.
Neil: If I’m sitting down I’m just sitting myself at the keyboard and I just start writing copy, that’s the wrong way to approach it is what you’re saying is I should be starting more with a bullet list of my key points.
Liston: That’s the way we teach everybody to write, because it really guarantees that you’re going to stay on track and you’re going to be saying the right things. If you sit down to do a creative writing exercise with no guidance whatsoever, you are almost certainly going to be off track and not say the right things.
Neil: Yeah, I can see that, because the times that I’ve sat down without really a plan, who knows what’s going to happen, just wanders and goes wherever it will. Then I’m not sure I end up where I wanted to be originally. Basically, you’re saying that I need a plan and that the message is my plan and then the copy is kind of the … I don’t know. What would you call the copy, kind of the cream on the top to make it more relatable, palatable, whatever that word might be?
Liston: Well, I’d say the copy is your fleshed out plan. It’s your actual deliverable. It’s the product that you’re creating and giving to people. One question that a lot of your listeners probably have at this point, Neil, is well how do I come up with the plan? What are those messages? Then how do I decide how to turn it into copy? Which words do I actually use in order to communicate things effectively? I know you’re an Ontraport guy, which means you’re very focused on automating things. Hopefully, your audience is very like minded. If you’re listening to this, you probably are. One thing I would say is to build in either a survey or an ask.
We’re big at Good Funnel on asking people to tell us in their own words what are their key pains, what are the things that are just bugging the crap out of them and driving them to a new product or service and what are the benefits they’re looking to realize? Like what is their dream state? How would things be different for them if we could solve those problems? There’s a variety of ways that you can get to that information, but I want to really leave you with three big things that anybody listening to this can do in order to find out what are those key messages and how are my customers talking.
The first one is to just talk to five of them. Go to your existing customers or clients, if you’re a consultant and email them and ask them, “Hey, can I spend five minutes on the phone with you to figure out why did you choose my product? Where were you before? What alternatives did you entertain?” These kinds of questions to get an understanding of what’s motivating people. Then record all of that, so record the calls, write down what they say word for word and look for key phrases. I’m going to come back to this idea of how do we know what to pull out of the information that we gather. That’s number one is interview five of your customers, and number five-
Neil: I think most people could do that. Yeah, that sounds doable. Okay, what’s number two?
Liston: Number two is to go out and steal what they say. There’s lots of ways to do this, but what we recommend is … It depends on your business, but there’s often product or service reviews publicly available online that people write about your competitors. Go out and look at what people are saying about your competitors or about you, if you have reviews available. Start to actually copy and paste that into a spreadsheet and take out the key findings. One way, if say you’re in a B2B software company, which is what a lot of our clients are, is you can go to a site like Capterra, G2 Crowd, GetApp. There’s hundreds of thousands of reviews about different products. If you’re in a consumer product, you can go to Amazon and look at what people say about the products on Amazon. A pro tip there is to sort by the five star reviews, what do people who love this product say about it, and then sort by the one star reviews, what are the big problems that people have with the product.
Then the third way, Neil, is to just send a survey and build that right into your Ontraport or whatever automation tool you’re using. Build that into your automation and send a survey to all of your customers and ask them a few questions about why they bought from you, what were they doing before, what obstacles did they face before signing up. I think an obviously question now is, “Okay, I’ve gone out. I’ve interviewed five customers. I read what they said in different reviews and testimonials. I’ve sent them a survey. Now, what do I do with all of this information?” What we do-
Neil: Exactly, yeah. This is what I hear from clients over and over, just people in general, is “I don’t know what to write.” Even when they have this information, many of them have great testimonials or this access to this general information, they still don’t know what to write. How do we translate this pile of info into copy?
Liston: I have an answer for you, luckily. Neil: I figured you would, yes.
Liston: What we do is what we call STOR analysis, S-T-O-R. I have an article about this on my website and it’s how to turn customer testimonials into more conversions, so people can go and read more about it. The first thing, the S is for sticky messages. We’re looking for verbatim quotes from people that just stick out in our mind.
I’ll give you an example. I’m working with a client. They’re called focuster.com. It’s a todo app. When I was interviewing one of their customers, what she said to me really stuck out in my mind. She said, “It’s so common that I start my day and before I know it, my entire day has evaporated.” My entire day has evaporated. That’s something that just … It’s a different way of talking about the same thing. To me, that’s a sticky message. I’ll give you another example. When I teach this live, I put up an example from a review that someone wrote about Sales Force, which is a CRM app, if people don’t know. It helps people track and predict their sales. What this one person said is, “I love Sales Force, but it’s always breaking the bank as my team grows.” Breaks the bank as my team grows. If you’re a lower price CRM, you could easily take that sticky message and say, “Pipe Drive, the CRM that grows with your team without breaking the bank.” It’s right there for you to take it. That’s one category, sticky messages.
The second one is triggers. What are those external things that are causing people to entertain your product or solution and what’s going on in their life that’s causing them to start this search and start to think about buying? That’s another thing we want to categorize. The second to last thing, the third thing, is objections. What are the things that got in that person’s way of signing up? Then finally, it’s repetition. What are those themes that you just keep hearing over and over and over again? If you’re in the B2B space, it’s always something about saving money, making money, getting more time, communicating more effectively, better collaboration, things like this. What are those things that you hear over and over and over again? That set of sticky messages triggers objections and repetitive themes. That’s going to be your list of messages that you’re going to use and turn into copy.
Neil: I like that. Speaking of repetition, we’ll just say that one more time, so we got sticky, triggers, objections and repetition. If I pull all these things out … I’m looking for these phrases then or these words that they’re using that fit one of these categories, so then what? Then what do I do with these things?
Liston: That is a great question. We’ve covered the science of copywriting so far.
Neil: We’ve got the easy part. Liston: Now comes to art.
Liston: Yes, now comes the art where you need to sit there and make some strategic decisions. Certainly, as you go back and review, we’ve gone and we’ve taken interviews, testimonials, surveys, probably dozens or maybe even hundreds of data points and we’ve condensed it down into these four different categories. How do I decide what I’m going to use?
Neil: Can I interrupt you for one second? You said we’re going to condense it down into these four categories. Does that mean I have one item from each category or do I have multiple items in each category?
Liston: No, I would just record everything. You have essentially a spreadsheet with four columns: sticky messages, triggers, objections, repetition. We’ve recorded everything that we’ve found as we sort through all of this information. Now the question is … You can’t say everything. We know that there’s probably going to be too much there to say everything. You’re going to need to condense it down. Typically, we like to see, figure out what are say the top five to ten things you may be able to communicate on a home page and make those our top priorities for messaging. You will need to make some of that decision on your own. How do you make that decision? Well, one is what is your brand? What are the sticky messages, triggers, objections and repetitive themes that are on brand for you? What are some messages that you could say that your competition either isn’t saying or isn’t effectively owning in the space? That’s another way that you can look at it. You’re going to need to prioritize your messages say into really shoot for this target of five to ten top messages and then rank them in the order, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, and on. That’s going to be your hierarchy of how you talk with your customers. Neil: I like that. I’m about process and things, so yeah, if we can have a process or a system to get this message out, the more I can do that and not rely on just creativity and, like you said, the art of copywriting, that would really be useful. I think most listeners could do that. Liston: I think anybody who listens to this could do it on their own, absolutely, 100%. This process is very repeatable. I totally agree with you.
Neil: Let’s go back. Earlier you referenced Chris’s episode we did, which was, for those listening, was for episode one of the podcast. The very first episode was Chris Davis talking about his loaf of bread theory or system. If we’re trying to create that system, how do we use these four pieces, your STOR method, how do we put that together with what Chris talked about, to build a clear message or copy?
Liston: Absolutely, so like Chris said, I would always start at the product. He was 100% right on this, as he was with everything he talked about on your show. What he says, and I agree with, we’re going to start with the product and understand what are the things that are driving people to this product. One template we like to use for copywriting is pain, dream, fix, this formula. Have you heard of this, Neil?
Neil: I’ve heard of similar. I’ve not heard this exact verbiage, so say that again. We had pain, dream, fix.
Liston: There’s another…
Neil: I’ve always heard pain agitates solution.
Liston: ADA, right?
Liston: Yeah, ADA, exactly, is the common one. Basically, it’s the same template, just a little bit simplified and easier to understand. What are the key pains that people have? What is their dream state? How do we fix their current pains in order to get them to their dream state?
Neil: Those first two, the pain and the dream, we could probably pull right out of those four categories that we found, like word for word, correct?
Liston: Absolutely, and if you set it up correctly, then your product is the only logical fix, right?
Liston: That’s what we’re going for in our copy. Just to answer your question head on, in order to apply this system to what Chris talked about, what we’re really looking for is how do we build towards that fix? It really depends on your products. I’m not going to get too specific here, but I think the key to think about is how do you agitate the pains of whoever signed up for your lead magnet? How do you agitate the pains and then paint a dream state for them, culminating … In your last email, where you talk about the fix, how to fix this whole thing. You’re going to break it down into smaller and smaller steps until you get to the ultimate fix, the culmination of this, which is … By the way, similar to what I’m doing now. Let me just make this a little bit more concrete.
I’m telling you about my STOR analysis and I’m telling you your frustration is you don’t know what to say, you don’t know how to gather the information. Now I’m giving you the answer. Here’s a process to follow: interview people, go out and find reviews, send a survey, categories it with STOR analysis. If you don’t want to do that, I can also provide the solution for you directly. That’s my business. If I want you to-
Neil: Wait a second. Did you just give us a pitch? I think you did.
Liston: I did, unwittingly, right? I just wanted to make this real for people to let them know this is how we think about everything we do for our clients and in our business.
Neil: Yeah, you just gave us the real world, ultimate example that people could follow for themselves. They just have to figure out those pieces and put it into that same format. Would you suggest that for your … Okay, remind me. It was something dream, fix. Pain, dream, fix.
Liston: Pain, dream, fix.
Neil: Would you suggest that we had an email for each one of those categories, an email for pain, email for dream-
Liston: I would use that template for each email.
Neil: Oh, okay.
Liston: There’s two ways to think about it. It can be layered multiple times, so each email could have the pain, dream, fix formula in it. Then the whole email sequence could also be speaking to an ultimate pain, dream, fix, settle. In other words, let’s take you for example, Neil, or let’s take … Give me an example, Neil. How can we break this down for people to make it more tangible?
Neil: Yeah, I’m not … An example of a kind of company? We could have a-
Liston: Let me advertise for you for free right now.
Neil: Sure, I won’t stop you. Go ahead.
Liston: So nice of you. What a good host. The guest always knows best, right?
Neil: Right, right.
Liston: You’re in the automation business. You’re an Ontraport expert, right?
Liston: What is your lead magnet? What’s a lead magnet that you use?
Neil: Oh, one of them I use is my auto responder system, so for people that are new to Ontraport, how to set up an auto responder in Ontraport.
Liston: How to set up an auto responder in Ontraport. Okay, right. When you’re giving out that whole thing, on the one hand, each email is probably going to talk about the first four or five steps you need to take. Am I right?
Liston: Okay, so maybe it’s identify the key processes of your business or figure out what your offer is and work backwards from there. In email number one, if it’s about identifying key processes, the pain is do you ever find yourself doing the same thing over and over and it never gets faster? Part of the problem is you don’t understand the processes in your business. Here’s what you need to think about.
Neil: Got it.
Liston: This is a powerful way to paint the dream state. Imagine if you could have a business that runs predictably and every time you do something, it gets faster. Don’t you want that? Here’s the fix. Over the course of that email sequence, you’re going through pain, dream, fix with each of the five emails, but that whole sequence is also designed to show people they have all of these pains. There is a dream state, which is creating automatic, systemized processes in your business that’s technology aided with Ontraport could lead you to this dream state. By the way, you can do it by yourself or if you need my help, Neil Kristianson, I can do it for you. Let me know if you need my help.
Neil: Okay, so would we-
Liston: Does that make sense?
Neil: Yeah, that makes sense. Each one of these emails would have the pain, dream, fix formula in it. Then would we have a ultimate final email or two that’s the big call to action of the … Summarizing that whole process we just went through, that whole series of emails we just went through?
Neil: Okay, cool. I like that. You just gave me more ideas about … This is the problem with hosting this show is every guest gives me an idea about what I need to go do and therefore, I have way too many … I had enough ideas before I started this and now I have way too many.
Liston: Now you need to redo your entire auto responder sequence and rewrite your whole website. Sorry about that.
Neil: Oh yeah, for like the third time this month. Yeah, exactly.
Liston: I can relate.
Neil: What have I not asked you about so far? What are we missing that people need to know about this welcome series of email or how to get started with these basics of copywriting?
Liston: I don’t think we’ve missed anything, but I just want to give the cliff notes version here.
Liston: Part of my vision for my company was to be able to teach every business in the world how to sell with the written word and make it their highest performing sales person. The way to do that effectively is to really have a customer centric business. It’s not about you. It’s about them. When we’re in business, we’re selling something to someone. My worldview is go out and talk to those people and make sure you’re delivering value to them and understanding what makes them tick and most importantly, how do they make decisions. When we learn that information, that’s when we have a powerful set of marketing and sales tools that not only works better for us, but creates a clearer and more valuable experience for our customers. That’s what I would leave the audience with.
Neil: Oh, I like that. That’s good. It’s a good wrap up. Maybe we should just, exactly, stop there and not try to ruin it anymore, because that was a nice way to summarize everything we just talked about. All right, Liston-
Neil: Yeah, it was great having you on the show. Thanks for being here and yeah, great information today. Thank you.
Well, a couple key takeaways today from what Liston had to share with us. The first thing that I came up with was that concept of copy versus messaging. Messaging being the bullet points, the features, the highlight reel of what you need to convey to your prospects and customers, and copy being the language and the tone of how you convey those things. I guess you could say it’s kind of like the pieces in between the pieces, how you connect those bullet points together. I like that concept, because so many times I have found myself just sitting down starting to type and not really thinking about where I’m going or what exact message I need to convey in this email. While every email has a goal in my mind, I don’t always have all those pieces figured out. I like this concept that Liston shared with us.
The other thing I really liked from Liston today was that concept of STOR, sticky, triggers, objections and repetition. Sticky being that thing that someone says that you just go, “Oh my god, that’s genius.” You just latch onto and you’re just going to repeat over and over again, and triggers being those things that trigger why your customers reach out to you, and objections, of course, the things they object to about your product or service, and repetition is kind of that cliché thing that your industry says over and over and over and over again until everyone is sick of it. But probably is valid because they say it over and over again and everyone’s used to hearing that. I liked how we categorized all these different assets that he brought together into these different categories so that he could get a mixture of these in his emails and his copywriting. He wasn’t just all about triggers or all about repetition. He would have these categories to choose from. I really like that concept and I like that STOR. I’m going to remember that.
The last thing that Liston talked about that’s going to stick with me is his concept of pain, dream, fix. Now, I’ve always heard the pain agitates solution, but I kinda like the pain, dream, fix better. I liked how he built that in each email. He had a mini version of pain, dream, fix in every email he did that’s kind of that overarching theme where we lead them to the ultimate fix, which of course, is your product or service. I really like that. I’m going to remember that pain, dream, fix. If you liked what Liston had to say today, head on over to goodfunnel.co and there you will find, on Liston’s homepage, you will find a place where you can opt in for his cheat sheet for creating copy, where he will teach you some of the basics of copywriting. I think it has some things similar to what we talked about today, but it goes much deeper than that. If you head on over to http://goodfunnel.co, you can get that from Liston.
Now, if you’re new to this world of email marketing and automation, then you should head on over to http://beyondtheoptin.com/quiz where you can take a quiz about what you’re currently doing with email, what you’d like to do with email and I will help you figure out the ultimate automation platform for your business. That’s http://beyondtheoptin.com/quiz. That’s all for today. Until next week, I’m Neil Kristianson.