How to Get Your Message HEARD

IN: Marketing

So, I’m flying from Costa Rica to Ecuador this afternoon.

I like to leave these little announcements on the blog in the event of my sudden (and unreported) death, kidnapping, violent torture and just to give my ex-boyfriends a little extra something to be bitter about.

If I never post again, will someone at least throw a birthday party in my honor? It’s on the 24th. Just stay away from serving smoked salmon on those evil little crunchy tostadas. Those are just awful. AND they hurt my teeth. AND salmon is on Ashley’s barf-if-ingested list, right along with lobster (we’ve been over this), cow tongue, scrapple, things evilly covered in mushrooms, mushrooms themselves, stuffed mushrooms, magic mushrooms, or anything on the menu at fancy places with dishes I can’t pronounce (often with mushrooms)–JUST TO GET BACK AT THEM FOR THEIR PRETENTIOUSNESS. (As an expatriate constantly in foreign countries, you’d think I’d be used to not being able to pronounce menu items. I will not attempt to justify this blaring contradiction.)

For those of you thinking, “Holy smokes, is Ash going to attempt teach the copywriting workshop from a blazingly hot and hormone-drenched* hut in Ecuador???”

…the answer is no. I will be in Chile by then. I can, however, find a hut if you think it adds appeal.

(Just so you know, I thought about making that whole last paragraph huge and centered, just to mess with you. And then I decided not to. I suspect a thank you is in order.)

I’m actually writing today not because I’m leaving for Ecuador (though I am, baby, with my dear friend Kyle Hepp, international wedding photographer extraordinaire, who Chris just featured in his $100 Start Up); rather, I’m writing because I saw something today while driving in downtown San Jose, Costa Rica, and I wanted to share it with you, because it will help you sell your services or ideas more effectively:

What the what, right?

That was my first reaction, too. The sign reads:


6,000 bottles were used to make this piece.

In Costa Rica, EVERY 15 MINUTES, a wave like this one ends up in rivers, beaches and oceans.

Recycling isn’t enough.

Choose returnable glass containers. 

Impressively depressing, right? That said, I’m not telling you this to encourage you to use returnable glass containers. I’m telling you this because this sign can help you sell more.

This sign is an excellent example of a tactic that you’d use when you want your message to BE REMEMBERED and INSPIRE ACTION, and it has everything to do with taking an abstract concept  that’s too far beyond our current comprehension to even imagine (let alone care about or feel compelled enough to take action) and turning it into something that instantly communicates the message in a way that’s tangible–with a little shock value for good measure.


They could have just said that X number of tons of glass is deposited into the earth’s rivers, beaches and oceans every single day, and rallied for your help. The problem with that? No one knows what the hell a ton looks like, or feels like, or is. We know it’s big, sure, but we don’t encounter real tons of anything in our every day lives, and therefore that lack of contact makes the term unrelatable. In turn, when we hear it? It doesn’t register. We can’t feel the word, so to speak–we have no emotional connection to it. And when that happens, words–and messages, mind you–fly right over our dense little heads.

On the other hand, the way they did do this was brilliant, and here’s why:

  1. Nothing’s left to the imagination, because there’s a physical (and attention-calling) representation right in front of you, helping both draw attention to the message, but also tangibly illustrate the point
  2. The physical representation aside, the more compelling component are the words–they broke down the facts and figures into bite-sized chunks that real human beings can understand (15 minutes, 6,000 beer bottles). (Since 6,000 is still a relatively large number, in this case the physical representation was a good supplement.)
  3. Since the facts are bite-sized and carry shock value when broken down into simple terms, the message becomes memorable
  4. The wave concept not only ties into their message of glass going into bodies of water, but also plays off of our emotions–big waves scare us (think tsunami), and because waves can be intimidating, using a wave in this context helps make us feel a sense of urgency.

How does this apply to your ability to sell more?

Does your service provide intangible results? (Life coaches who try to sell their clients on “feeling empowered,” I’m giving you the eye right now.) (Life coaches do have this particularly rough, as there’s never any tangible evidence of the work they’ve done.)
Are your biggest selling points things that your customers don’t even understand? (Photographers who try to sell their services by talking about the type of lenses they use, I’m giving you the eye now.)
Are you starting a movement, and crafting a message around an idea that, for most people, is out of sight–and there for doesn’t exist? (Very much like the example presented.)

It all boils down to the ability to do one thing: Make your results, your selling points, or your messages more relatable, more tangible, and something we can actually envision–not because we’ve heard of it, but because we’ve had some sort of personal experience with it.

I’m not hiring a life coach to feel empowered.
I’m hiring a life coach so I can strut down a New York City sidewalk in my brand new red skinny pants and high heels, winking at all of the construction workers and feeling my butt rock from side to side, before I walk coolly, confidently right into Marie Claire, stare down the sleek ponytail receptionist right in the eye, and ask who I talk to about a job.
Now that’s an outcome I can imagine. We’ve all seen that girl. When I see her, I’m not thinking in my head: “Jeez, I sure could use a little more empowerment.” I’m thinking, “Hot fuck, I want to be her.
So sell me on that, instead.
Because that’s what I really am hoping you’ll help me do.
And furthermore, that’s what I’m willing to pay for. 
So give it to me.
*Hormone-drenched: The physical effect that occurs immediately after a sighting of 5 or more members of the male species with their shirts off. Particularly common when said group of males speak a foreign language.