Last week, I had what may be THE best example of everything I try to ensure my clients know they don’t have to do, marketing-wise. It was a bad enough experience, in fact, that I ended up asking for a refund.
Being the mostly-positive bean that I am, however, I figured that there must be a lesson or two in there. And wouldn’t you know it, when I started to look, there were quite a few of them.
Here’s the bullet pointed version of what happened, and what I learned from each step in what turned out to be a cascading sales and marketing failure.
(For those of you who haven’t met the term before, FUBAR is an acronym that stands for “F-ed Up Beyond All Recognition”. I’m not 100% sure, but I believe it started its life as WW2 military jargon.)
It all started when someone I’d built a good relationship with recommended a free video on the “next evolution” of the Law of Attraction (LOA).
And because I’m currently doing an LOA coaching certification programme, I checked it out. (I’m at that stage where I’m a total sponge. I’m trying to read/watch anything and everything so I can figure out my own take on the more problematic aspects of the LOA.)
And that’s where the issues all started…
#1 Firstly, the video was LONG, and the visuals were nothing but a transcript of the voiceover that scrolled across the screen. There was also a strange rhythm and wavering pitch to the narrator’s voice, as though she was trying to hypnotise the listener but not quite pulling it off.
Up to the point I stopped watching, all she’d done was wax lyrical about her own story.
#2 I got bored around the 10min mark, and ended up making use of the helpful “Click here to go to the text presentation” link. (Why? Because I was curious to find out more, but wasn’t ready to buy yet.) That “presentation”, however, turned out to be an 8,500-word sales page for the video’s upsell product.
To be clear, I don’t have an issue with upsells generally, but I DO twitch when someone tries to hide their existence behind doublespeak. Despite all those problems, however, I decided to buy the product. (Like I said – I’m a freaking sponge right now.)
#3 The moment the sale cleared, I was redirected to a new sales page for an upsell to the upsell. Before I could even access my new product, I was being asked for more money.
What’s worse, this sales page didn’t really tell me what the second product was or how it related to the first. All I could see was that this new thing was double the price of Product #1, so I looked for the “No thank you” link.
#4 That’s when I realised that the only way to escape this page was to close the tab. Keep in mind: my email access to the product hadn’t yet turned up. And apparently, I wasn’t going to get access to a download page either.
So as I closed the tab, I started to idly wonder if I’d been scammed. (Hey, it does happen.)
#5 Luckily, an email with my access details turned up shortly afterwards, and all was well until… I realised that the product itself fell pretty damn short of the sales page promises.
It wasn’t *terrible*, you understand. It just… felt like a standard LOA offering, with a little kinesiology thrown in for good measure and some other stuff at the end that I found hard to get my head around.
#6 I flirted with the idea of asking for a refund, but it seemed more trouble than it was worth. I figured that maybe I was alone in not immediately seeing the paradigm-changing value of the stuff that appeared at the end. Maybe if I truly gave it a go for a month or two, I’d make it work.
Meanwhile, it seemed unfair to ask for my money back.
#7 Then the clincher happened – five days after buying, I got my first email followup. The email title was “Tanja, I’m confused”, and the slightly-paraphrased initial paragraph read, “Call me crazy but I can’t understand why you haven’t already bought Product #2. I mean, you want to be successful at doing-what-you-bought-Product-#1-to-do, don’t you?”
I have no idea what the email said after that: I stopped reading, hit unsubscribe, and told the sender exactly WHY I was unsubscribing. And then I went and asked for a refund on my original purchase, because anyone who’d send an email like that is NOT someone I want to be learning anything from.
OK, let’s look at this cascading marketing FUBAR step-by-step, and see what lessons we can take from each point in the process…
Lesson 1: If you must use video on your sales page, make it short and interesting
I actually don’t know how long this video was, because there was no time-bar at the bottom of the frame (a personal bugbear of mine). Given that I hit the 10-minute mark and the narrator had yet to hit the point of her story, though, I’m going to say it was “Far. Too. Long.”
Additionally, I can’t see the point in having a video that does nothing but scroll through the text of the words you’re speaking. The purpose of video is to engage people visually: if you can’t do that, it’s probably better to just go old-school and stick to copy.
Lesson 2: Include benefits in your CTAs that respect your reader’s intelligence
I’m a big fan of calls to action that clearly communicate the benefits your reader will experience once they click. That said…
“Skip to the text presentation”, however, is NOT a benefit. And when your reader discovers that you’re calling your sales page a “text presentation”, all you’ve done is cast doubt on your own credibility.
Lesson 3: Only include info on your sales page that your reader NEEDS to know to make a good decision
It’s true that long sales pages CAN sell some products really well. But 8,500 words isn’t a long sales page – it’s a short ebook.
And in this case, the first ~2,500 of those words were just the detailed backstory behind why this person created their product. That was then quickly followed by another ~1,800 words lavishly describing each of their product’s features, and the bonuses that come with it – again, in excruciating detail.
Yes, absolutely, talk about your own story. And sure: let people know exactly what they’ll be buying. But only include as much information as your reader needs to know to clearly decide whether or not your product is right for them.
Basically, if I hadn’t been in sponge-mode, there’s no way I’d have even considered buying this product.
Lesson 4: Upsells have a time and a place (and it’s not right after the sale clears)
There’s nothing wrong with having a second, higher end product that will enhance your customer’s experience with whatever they initially buy from you. And there’s nothing wrong with letting your customer know about that second product either.
But for the love of all the gods, let them get their heads around THE INITIAL thing first, and make sure they feel good about having bought it. Reassure them that they’ve made a smart decision. Remind them of the benefits that they’ll now experience. Let them know you’re there to help and answer any questions they have.
Don’t just immediately hit them up for more money.
Lesson 5: If you ignore Lesson 4, give people an escape option
In the moments after they’ve handed over their cash to you, most people are feeling a tad vulnerable. They’re also expecting to get immediate access to whatever-it-was they just bought. So if you send them off somewhere else, they’re going to find it annoying. (Not a great start to your relationship with them.)
That annoyance will then only increase by an order of magnitude if you don’t give them some way of going wherever they were expecting you to immediately send them. They may even begin – as I did – to wonder if you’ve scammed them. (REALLY not a good start to your relationship.)
So if you absolutely, positively HAVE to hit people with an upsell after they buy, make sure you give them some way to say “No,” and continue on to enjoy whatever they just bought.
(Plus, pro tip: also make sure your upsell page is crystal clear about what the second product is, and how it builds on the first. But again: don’t be surprised if people still get pissed off. You’re keeping them from going where they want to go, so they have a right to a little irritation.)
Lesson 6: Make sure your product actually delivers on the promises in your sales page
I shouldn’t have to say this. Unfortunately, however, the reality is that WAY too many marketing gurus try to push their clients into overselling their products.
It’s OK to talk about the awesome results that your clients have achieved in the past. It’s also OK to “meet your readers where they are now” and acknowledge their genuine pain points.
But when your reader buys from you expecting one thing and they receive something else? You have a problem with your sales copy – pure and simple. So be honest – and clear – about exactly what people will receive, and what it will do for them.
Lesson 7: Be VERY careful about your followup communication
I could write an entire blog post on all the lessons I took from the single email that triggered me to ask for a refund. However, we’ve already hit 1,600 words in this post, so I’ll limit myself to these top three:
Who knew bad marketing could be so valuable?
As a copywriter, my initial response to this kind of marketing FUBAR is annoyance. I know marketing doesn’t HAVE to be this way, and I don’t want my clients to believe that it does.
BUT… I also know that experiencing what you don’t want is a rich source of learning about what you do. So with that in mind, I’m going to invite you to think back over ick-filled marketing you’ve received yourself in the past.
What lessons did YOU take from it? Share them below in the comments.
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