A lesson from 15+ years of Google Ads management...

I’ve managed Google Ads campaigns, on and off, since October 2007. It’s something I’ve been involved with for so long it shadows you throughout your career.

One rule of thumb I learned early on was to acknowledge the problem your customer faces in your ad; then open your landing page by describing the symptoms of that problem.

After all, as service providers we’re all problem-solvers. You’ll attract more attention by showing potential clients you’ve already run the gauntlet they’re facing. You know more of the pitfalls and have the scars to show it.

This idea of starting with the problem extends to email marketing too. In your first email in the Lead Incubator sequence, you want to tell a story that illustrates these scars. The scars will be immediately recognisable to your ideal client. They might even come to see the problem in a whole new way just by reading your story.

I’ve forwarded my own example of this email below. If you sell high value services where people work with you directly, then you must demonstrate your understanding of the problem your client faces. Otherwise, your ideal client won’t see any urgency about contacting you. They’ll pass like a ship in the night.

I’m holding a free webinar on Thursday 26th October, looking at the Lead Incubator sequence in details. Calendar links for the webinar are here.


---------- Forwarded message ---------

Subject: Lead Incubator Email 1: Demonstrate the Problem

Hi there,

No potential client wakes up in the morning thinking about your business. They might however wake up thinking about the problem you can solve! So demonstrating your understanding of this problem is the starting point in your Lead Incubator sequence.

My industry happens to be marketing, which contains a myriad of nasty problems. I began learning about them aged 15, working my first and only weekend job in a local garden centre...

I remember cleaning a moss-covered path on my first day with a half-broken dustpan and brush, when I was approached by a customer.

“Excuse me mate,” he said, “what type of compost do I need for an Acer tree?”

Uh oh. The ground may as well have opened up and swallowed me whole.

With some trepidation I pulled the walkie talkie from my belt cord. I tried to remember: were you supposed to press the button and talk? Or were you supposed to press the button and wait? I opted for the latter. In the back of my mind a tiny voice added: “what if this is the day you stammer again??”

I really hated that tiny voice.

“Hello Rob, was that you?” came the reply. Thank God.

After a while I settled in at the garden centre. I became no longer afraid of the walkie talkie. I even learned that Acer trees like acidic ericaceous compost. As do Rhododendrons. But not roses - better to use John Innes No. 3.

I learned that I could find answers by asking the right questions, without becoming an expert myself. Which really was the only option because I was only willing to learn so much about plants.

At Christmas the place would go crazy selling Christmas trees. We’d sell perhaps a thousand trees over two weekends. There were four weekend staff outside, including me. All lads. So of course we would ‘compete’ to see who could sell the most trees.

My own sales technique was fairly basic. I wouldn’t bother with much small talk, and lacked the flair of the other guys. I’d pull out two or three trees, and say something like “hmmm… that’s a nice shape...

One day I was pulling an especially fat Christmas tree through the netting machine. I hadn’t seen that an elderly lady had wandered behind me - probably to ask about compost or roses or something. Suddenly the tree burst through the machine. I fell backwards with a lunge and elbowed her in the head.

So I assaulted more customers than I should have done; and didn’t sell all that many trees with my ‘take it or leave it’ sales technique.

Not that a Christmas tree is an especially complicated sale, but it’s still an emotional purchase given that the entire family sits around it opening presents. The customer has to be reassured it’s the right one of the few hundred in front of them.

So I decided early on that I wasn’t much of a ‘sales person’. I didn’t have the ‘gift of the gab’. And I definitely wasn’t comfortable ‘winging’ a sale on the fly.

A lot of the marketing I see online follows the same tactics employed by some of my tree-selling garden centre colleagues. Grab their attention! Don’t let them go! Pursue the sale at any cost!

I’m more of the school of thought that it is better to get to the truth than the sale. If what you offer isn’t right for the person you’re speaking to, it’s better to establish that truth and move on. This is the direct opposite of the way most marketing works.

Today’s Lead Incubator email was demonstrating the problem. I’ve put this email first in the series for a number of reasons. 

For high value, high trust sales, you need to demonstrate a deep understanding of the problem at hand. Your reader needs to feel like you understand the problem at hand better than they do.

Telling a story to illustrate the problem allows you to dig at the symptoms of the problem. Symptoms are manifestations of the problem that every potential client will recognise. For me, those symptoms were my abject failure in a conventional sales role. I tried to do what they told me, and it just didn’t work.

The problem is also the logical place to start because it follows the conventional before / after, problem to solution narrative arc.


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About the author 

Rob Drummond

Rob is the founder of StorySelling.biz.

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