The Blue Fairy got laid off in the latest round of budget cuts.
Her friend and fellow fairy godmother, The Institutional Green Fairy, said, “Why don’t you start an online business? You love making that exercise clothing, and there’s totally a market for it.”
The Blue Fairy thought about it and decided to give it a try. She created a product line, called it Glitterrific, and built an online store and website and Pinterest and Twitter and alla dat.
Then she sat back and waited for the money to roll in.
Instead, she got a trickle of orders. Her buyers were wildly enthusiastic, but there weren’t enough of them. “Nuts!” squeaked The Blue Fairy.
She went to The Pinstripe Grey Fairy for advice. The Pinstripe Grey Fairy had retired from fairy godmothering after numerous customer complaints about “boring” wishes – like excellent liver function and perfect parallel parking skills – and was now a business advisor.
The Pinstripe Grey Fairy looked over the records and approved of The Blue Fairy’s costings and price per unit.
The Pinstripe Grey Fairy examined the business model and found it to be competitive with the industry.
The Pinstripe Grey Fairy looked at the marketing and made a small “Ah-ha!” noise.
The Blue Fairy squeaked, “What is it? What’s wrong?”
The Pinstripe Grey Fairy replied, “It’s a classic problem when fairy godmothers go into business. You don’t know how to make the ask.”
“Make the what?”
The Pinstripe Grey Fairy said, slowly and calmly and rationally, “You pushed the wand for, what, six hundred years? Except for that side gig in the 40s. Thousands upon thousands of times of going to the innocent-and-the-deserving-and-the-children-of-destiny, as per section 43, and granting their heart’s desire.”
“I sure did!” squeaked The Blue Fairy.
“And those innocent-and-the-deserving-and-the-children-of-destiny customers, they always asked for something. “Will you give me hair white as snow, skin black as coal, marry the prince, slay the dragon, open the franchise.” Always they ask for something.”
“No-one ever asked me about franchises…”
“Really? But my point stands. Fairy godmothers are excellent at answering questions. They get no practice in asking them.”
“Oh!” squeaked The Blue Fairy.
“And that’s a problem, because I’m in business now!”
“Yes. For example, you have a sales page for your glitter sweatbands. You list all the qualities of the sweatband, you tell them how much it is, and then you have a sparkly Buy Now button. But you never actually ask them to buy.”
“I see!” squeaked The Blue Fairy. “It’s like those innocent-and-the-deserving-and-the-children-of-destiny customers who don’t actually make a wish! They say, “My stepmother is cruel and I think she’s planning to have me imprisoned.” but they don’t actually ask us, “Could you turn my stepmother into a melon?” They were so frustrating!”
“Precisely. Well put. The same applies to your Weekly Sparkletasticness newsletter. You tell people it is, ah, “Full of glittery wonderfulness!” but you don’t actually invite them to sign up. I’m guessing you also don’t ever ask people to look at your website, or ask them if they would like to buy your products.”
“I don’t believe I do!” squeaked The Blue Fairy. “How do I begin?”
How To Make The Ask
On sales pages
A sales page is, in essence, one big question: Do you want to buy this thing I am offering? It is amazing how many people fail to ask any kind of question on their sales pages.
Easy fix! Before the Buy Now button, ask a question.
The simplest is “Are you ready for [outcome]?” The Blue Fairy’s question might be “Are you ready for the most glitterrific Pilates session of your life?”
In your marketing
Whenever there is an action you want your readers to take, ask them to take it.
Want comments? Ask for them. Want people to sign up to your newsletter? Ask them to do it. Want people to read your new, asking-a-question sales page? Yeah, you know.
Instead of refining your elevator pitch, work on your Golden Question. That’s the question you ask when you’ve met someone who you think could be a great fit for your offering, and you’d like to open a conversation on that topic.
Example: “Do you think that exercise clothes should have glitter?”
Then you listen to them talk. You have a conversation about the thing you do. And if the conversation goes the right way, you get new clients.
If it’s this simple, why don’t we do it?
Because 50% of the possible answers to the question are, “No.”
We are setting ourselves up to the possibility of failure and rejection, and if your pulse does not elevate slightly at that prospect then you are a cyborg.
What your rejection-adverse brain often fails to remember is that not all “No”s are the same. For example, when you invite someone over for dinner and feed them ten delightful courses, if their response to offered cake is, “No, I couldn’t possibly fit any more food in.” then you won’t run crying from the house feeling rejected.
There are “No”s which are a rejection of you as a person, and they never fail to sting. You can get better at dealing with it, but that does seem to be one of those things we’re hard-wired to find painful.
But most of the “No”s you receive as a business person are not about you. They’re about the person saying them: what they want, how much money they have, whether they prefer a different colour/style/size/aesthetic/method, how busy they are right now. (Or how much roast beef they ate earlier.)
The better you get at that internal distance (“They aren’t saying “No” about me, they’re saying “No” to the offer.”) the more your business will flourish. Because 90% of your competitors are still too scared to ask.
So how do you get learn to make the ask?
The only method I know of that will create that internal distance is practice. Lots and lots of practice.
I think there are stages of the ask. The first stage is the implied question, “Would you be willing to pay $x for this?” which a lot of starting biz owners struggle mightily with. (Again, mostly because they’re conflating “What this doodad is worth to you” with “What I am worth”.)
Then there is learning to make the ask in your own safe places, like your website.
Then there’s learning to make the ask in external, but still pretty safe places, like networking events and Twitter circles of friends.
Then there is learning to make the ask without any of those safety nets.
I have no idea what the ask after that one is, ’cos I still find that last one really difficult. I’m working on it.
I challenged a client to try this, and then realised that I needed to refresh my skills in it, too. (It appears that a long dose of depression reduces your confidence in ways that you might not even notice for some time. WHO KNEW.)
Anyway, so we are making one ask, every day. It is extremely uncomfortable, and we’re glad to be doing it.
Want to join us? Make one ask, every day. It can be small or big, to a friend or a client. Just step a smidgen outside your comfort zone and build your marketing muscles.
Then, tweet us with the hashtag #maketheask so we know, and can applaud you.
Do you have trouble making the ask? Have any tips to share? Tell us in the comments!
(Nope, that ask didn’t count. That one is easy-peasy for me. Watch the hashtag to find out what my ask is today!)