"But it's not for everyone": How negative can you go?

30 replies
I would like to get your thoughts on how negative you can get in a "It's not for everyone" section of a sales piece.

I am writing up a description of our house for a sabbatical rental website. We're near a bunch of colleges and hoping to rent out the place to visiting academics for the spring semester, January - May. I know who our ideal customer is, and it's someone who is going to love being out in nature and who will not be fazed by a harsh winter or by some minor inconveniences. We want someone who is not going to get upset if they find a mouse in the house or having to check the propane tank and change the house water filter every two months, things like that.

My question is how starkly do you think we should portray the negatives after fully portraying the positives? They're actually only negatives to someone who is not accustomed to country living. We love our location and don't mind any of these factors in the least. But to someone who was expecting a suburban or urban setup, they would be horrible. And we want to screen out the wrong people.

Unlike most sales situations, we need only one customer, so I am thinking it's OK to be really frank about the downsides. What do you think?

Marcia Yudkin
#but it not for everyone #house description #negative
  • Profile picture of the author splitTest
    Originally Posted by marciayudkin View Post

    Unlike most sales situations, we need only one customer, so I am thinking it's OK to be really frank about the downsides. What do you think?

    Marcia Yudkin
    The "mouse" part caught my eye... As a big guy who absolutely hates mice, I'd say be frank about those downsides. If I saw a mouse or two, I'd want to vacate... The place would get bad reviews to say the least, and I might even want my $$ back.

    Most people I know hate mice as much as I do...

    Not only that, but propane tank & water filter maintenance sound like stuff which -- if neglected -- might prove a headache to you the owner. At minimum you'll get phone calls if there's a problem. My advice -- spell it all out & find the perfect tenant...
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  • Profile picture of the author Alex Cohen
    Originally Posted by marciayudkin View Post

    I would like to get your thoughts on how negative you can get in a "It's not for everyone" section of a sales piece.

    I am writing up a description of our house for a sabbatical rental website. We're near a bunch of colleges and hoping to rent out the place to visiting academics for the spring semester, January - May. I know who our ideal customer is, and it's someone who is going to love being out in nature and who will not be fazed by a harsh winter or by some minor inconveniences. We want someone who is not going to get upset if they find a mouse in the house or having to check the propane tank and change the house water filter every two months, things like that.

    My question is how starkly do you think we should portray the negatives after fully portraying the positives? They're actually only negatives to someone who is not accustomed to country living. We love our location and don't mind any of these factors in the least. But to someone who was expecting a suburban or urban setup, they would be horrible. And we want to screen out the wrong people.

    Unlike most sales situations, we need only one customer, so I am thinking it's OK to be really frank about the downsides. What do you think?

    Marcia Yudkin
    Marcia,

    Look for a way to make each flaw a selling point.

    As examples, a house water filter means the occupant won't have to buy bottled water. And using propane to heat and/or cook with is cheaper than <whatever>.

    Any other fears or concerns a potential occupant has can be dealt with when you actually talk to him or her.

    Alex
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    • Profile picture of the author marciayudkin
      Any other fears or concerns a potential occupant has can be dealt with when you actually talk to him or her..
      It's my own fears and concerns that are prompting me to want to rule out the wrong people! I would estimate that nine out of ten people who think they would enjoy country living would actually not be able to handle it. It's worth a lot to me to get those people properly discouraged.

      I think I will not mention mice in the listing, for example, but someone who would consider a mouse cause for requesting their money back needs to get turned away quickly. In truth, I don't know anyone who lives where we do who never gets mice occasionally. It's not a mark of poor maintenance, it's a mark of country living and you simply deal with it.

      I also want to discourage people who would nod their heads at instructions like, "You can't throw anything other than toilet paper into the toilets" and then ignore them because they think that's stupid. Again, that's another part of country living.

      My neighbor sublet his house one winter when he and his wife went off to Cuba and the sublettor simply could not learn that you had to put down sand on the driveway if you wanted to be able to get up it. Put down sand and you're fine. Don't, and you stay stuck at the bottom. I don't know whether or not this ruined his rental experience but clearly he was missing some element of common sense that people who know how to live in the country have.

      Marcia
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      • Profile picture of the author marciayudkin
        As a big guy who absolutely hates mice, I'd say be frank about those downsides. If I saw a mouse or two, I'd want to vacate... The place would get bad reviews to say the least, and I might even want my $$ back.
        Thanks, that is very funny and helpful.

        We have a condo in Maui that is on the ground floor and in wet years sometimes get mice. One woman who rented it wrote me privately that they found a mouse and got rid of it, and then never mentioned the mouse incident in her highly positive public review. She told me they got mice at home, too, so it was no big deal. Maybe such people are rare, but that's what I'm looking for!

        Marcia Yudkin
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  • Profile picture of the author nmwf
    I saw something similar on one of those Court TV shows in which a person sued a cabin rental association for false advertising. The rental assoc. advertised the plot as "rustic" and "charming." But they lost the case after the cabin was shown to be infested with insects, vermin, and mold.

    Could not for everyone mean not for anyone?
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    • Profile picture of the author splitTest
      Originally Posted by nmwf View Post

      I saw something similar on one of those Court TV shows in which a person sued a cabin rental association for false advertising. The rental assoc. advertised the plot as "rustic" and "charming." But they lost the case after the cabin was shown to be infested with insects, vermin, and mold.

      Could not for everyone mean not for anyone?
      I think I also saw this show. That's where these kinds of cases end up if you're not forthright. Most people hate mice.
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  • Profile picture of the author joe golfer
    "Are you a veteran New Yorker who has no problem riding a giant rat to work when you miss a cab? Then you'll LAUGH at the occasional mice you'll encounter in this country home."
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    • Profile picture of the author marciayudkin
      Sounds like some of you city folk think it's ridiculous or horrific to be living someplace that might occasionally have mice. But I discussed it with my neighbor this afternoon and she said she has never heard of anyone - not a single household - in our area that never had mice.

      By the way, we have bears and moose and beaver too. And a night sky with no street lights within a mile in any direction.

      Loads of people are very happy where we live, and for the right customer the peace and quiet and natural surroundings are heaven.

      If anyone else has constructive suggestions on how to paint an appealing picture that's also realistic, I appreciate your comments.

      Marcia
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      • Profile picture of the author Alex Cohen
        I've been living in rural America for over 30 years. And despite the inconveniences and the negative situations living here have caused, it's otherwise been a nice way of life and well worth the trade offs.

        If someone had tried to warn me ahead of time, I would have brushed off their concerns and continued to forge forward.

        I think you're worrying about something you have limited control over. There are no perfect tenants and there is no way you can 100% control a potential tenant's expectations.

        And to anyone afraid of field mice... get a grip. The worst thing that will happen if a mouse appears is you will be startled... and when it sees you, it'll run away in an opposite direction.

        Alex
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        • Profile picture of the author Kay King
          I don't think you have to be "negative".

          Put down sand and you're fine.
          So you leave a few bags of sand (or kitty litter which is what we often use) with instructions on how/when to use it.

          Any house in an area of extreme weather should have a list of instructions with phone numbers to call for help or advice - places to get supplies, etc. For a country house in extreme climate, would hurt to have a short list of "what to do if...."....the pipes freeze, you need a plumber, there's a mouse in the house (sharing is caring), etc. Nothing fancy - just the basics to make the tenants feel like they have backup if they need it.

          Make the negatives into positives - snow, slippery roads, the occasional field mouse coming to get away from the cold. You can state those as "fun positives" and people who don't like those things will get the message. That could be a paragraph on the "joys of country living"...

          Require references and a damage deposit - mention self sufficient people and those who value quiet and privacy will enjoy this home thoroughly while those who must have Starbucks should consider a rental in town instead.

          No reason a warm/welcoming property description can't also get your points across.
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          • Profile picture of the author Kay King
            It's my own fears and concerns that are prompting me to want to rule out the wrong people! I would estimate that nine out of ten people who think they would enjoy country living would actually not be able to handle it. It's worth a lot to me to get those people properly discouraged.
            I think your opinion of people really is the problem. Why would you estimate 9 out of 10? What about people who previously lived in the country or were raised in the country or who have always wanted to try living in the country?

            For the right people - this could be a great adventure.
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            • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
              Marcia; In your particular example (very well explained), it's not a matter of going negative. It's a matter of clearly painting the real picture.

              You can write the negatives in a poetic way, but be clear about what you mean. The audience will self select. And what sounds like a negative to some, will be very attractive to a few.

              Only a few people will be interested, but these will be a perfect match for your offer.
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        • Profile picture of the author splitTest
          Originally Posted by Alex Cohen View Post

          And to anyone afraid of field mice... get a grip. The worst thing that will happen if a mouse appears is you will be startled... and when it sees you, it'll run away in an opposite direction.
          Field mice (in the field), bear and moose & beaver are fine...

          House mice are nasty. They leave feces around. They can chew through packaging and ruin your food. They can wake you up at night & even end up in your bed.

          Sick mice are an ugly sight. Dead mice smell, & sometimes they die in places where you can't get to the carcass to dispose of it.

          There are lots of reasons visiting academics won't appreciate mice, especially if they aren't used to having them around.

          Make the place sound as appealing as you can, but be clear and truthful for your guests, especially about something like mice.

          As others have said, it's probably best to emphasize that the place is great for someone accustomed to rural living (including the occasional critter in the backyard & "environs")...

          Emphasize that you need someone tidy, who'll secure their food and not leave it laying around, so that mice & bugs aren't invited (that way they'll know there's the possibility of mice making an appearance)...

          Maybe also invite them to bring their cat along...

          Probably better to get into all this when you speak with them directly though... (that is, not in the ad...)
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  • Profile picture of the author jessegilbert
    Banned
    Maybe you could mention the type of tenant you are looking for:
    and describe them in good terms like: hardy, resilient
    who doesn't mind the gravel rd or occasional critter...
    The place is durable and cozy for the weather but this is country style living and we prefer someone who knows 100% they can handle it...
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  • Profile picture of the author RickDuris
    Marcia, first of of all, the "negatives" you speak of are only negative if YOU say/imply they are.

    For instance, mice are not pests.

    Mice are occasional guests that have wandered in from a frosty night in your enchanted forest. A quick schwoosh of the broom and they know they've overstayed their welcome.

    To the right tennant, they'll find them rather romantic.

    I specialize in selling luxury things that have "dings." I call them. When I'm writing copy for these, I always tell people what they are. Joe Karbo taught me that. It adds credibility.

    - Rick Duris

    PS: Also, take a look at J. Peterman's various descriptions for inspiration on romancing products. The J. Peterman Company | Vintage Inspired Women's and Men's Clothing, Accessories, Luggage, & One-of-a-Kind Merchandise.
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    • Profile picture of the author splitTest
      Originally Posted by RickDuris View Post

      To the right tennant, they'll find them rather romantic.
      On WF, all things are possible.
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  • Profile picture of the author leilani
    What a discussion!! Whew!

    Tell em this is country living and disclose. Then give them the solutions.

    Or

    Leave the mice out, the water filter and whatever else in the ad. Just disclose "country living".

    Tell them when they call. "You'll be renting a place that is based on country living. You wouldn't mind changing the water filter every 2 months or check the propane tank occasionally, would you? We're in the country and mice may get in the house. We can tell you how to handle that. Does that kind a thing bother you? If it doesn't, great! If it does, then, this may not be the place for you."

    Just thinking it through.

    Leilani
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  • Hey, from the sh*thole where I'm at right now, "country living" sounds kinda cool.

    Apple pie cookin' in the range, horizon loaded with swayin' trees & mountains, Walt Whitman boundin' across the yard in a sun hat.

    So I'd just say something like, "this place has all the benefits of good country living, from X to X to X. (Great if you're cool with that, but if you're a town guy — give us a call!)"

    It's either this or, "prepare to be eaten by insects, invaded by rampaging bison, held hostage by bandits — and suffer no phone, no TV, no wifi, no store within 100 miles, no hope even of aliens abductin' ya because this place is so darn remote and backwater not even the vacuum-lovin' space dudes are goin' anywhere near it..."
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  • If there is an elephant in the room (or a mouse in the kitchen).

    Highlight it - explain it all and get it over with.

    This way the good people know and either run like hell - or don't mind one bit.


    Steve
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    • Profile picture of the author marciayudkin
      Thanks, everyone, for your comments. Here is what I wrote up.

      Additional comments welcome. I'll leave the mouse discussion for later, after someone responds.

      Nature Lover's Dream! Furnished Western Massachusetts Country Home Close to Five Colleges

      Quiet rural location is perfect for an individual or academic couple who want a peaceful, inspiring setting for writing, with the cultural resources of Smith, Hampshire, Amherst and Mount Holyoke Colleges nearby, as well as the University of Massachusetts and the arts and dining mecca of Northampton, Massachusetts.

      In winter, you can snowshoe or cross-country ski on trails that stretch for miles in many directions (we'll leave you info on the trails). Wildlife includes moose, deer, bears, beavers, raccoons, porcupines, rabbits and mink. In warmer weather, you have access to a nine-hole golf course and a swimming lake that is also good for kayaking or paddleboarding. Long walks or runs are ideal here, too, with three different five-mile circuits on roads with very little traffic.

      Suitable for 1-4 people, our furnished contemporary-style house on 4 acres includes, on the main floor, an eat-in kitchen and small living room with cathedral ceilings, two bedrooms, a study, one full bathroom and a half bathroom. Downstairs is a spacious office with full bathroom and many windows offering a scenic view of the marsh behind the house.

      The master bedroom has a fairly new, firm queen-sized bed and the second bedroom a brand-new double bed. Both the master bedroom and the kitchen have French doors opening out onto separate decks. The kitchen includes an electric stove, dishwasher and microwave, and the living room has a spinet piano, which you are welcome to use. We will be buying a brand-new washer and dryer for the basement.

      Heating is via a high-efficiency hybrid system fueled by propane and electricity. The main floor also has central air-conditioning. Telephone service and Internet access (DSL broadband cable) are through Verizon. We have wired modems in the downstairs and upstairs studies. If you prefer wi-fi, you can easily arrange for wireless modems with Verizon. For cell-phone service at the house, we recommend AT&T.

      Amenities that come with the house include three bicycles and two sets of snowshoes and poles, as well as, of course, plates and silverware for 6, cooking utensils, linens and blankets. If you arrive with just your clothing, personal items and computer, you should be fine.

      Neighbors will respect your privacy, but if you want to make local connections, there are well-educated, interesting professional people within walking distance and an excellent public library one town over.

      But it's not for everyone.

      This is not suburbia. You're 15 miles away from a full-sized supermarket or a Starbucks. Please be sure you can take ice and snow in stride. You'll have a snowblower and shovels to use, or you can sign up for a neighbor's plowing service (at your expense). A free sand/salt mixture for the driveway and walkways is provided by the town. You should have an SUV or front-wheel-drive vehicle to get around safely in winter.

      Satellite TV access is through DirecTV, and reception fails during heavy rain or snow. You may have to sweep snow off the satellite dish after a storm.

      The house is on a septic system, and the kitchen does not have a garbage disposal. You'll need to respect rules like not discarding anything in the toilets except toilet paper and changing the water filter every two months. For trash disposal, our town dump is open one day a week (Saturday), and you also have the option of using a dump in Northampton that has hours 6 days a week.

      For the right person, couple or small family, who would be rather hardy, self-sufficient and accustomed to country living, this sabbatical rental offers a wonderful setting for a quiet retreat. Please ask as many questions as you need to so we can help you determine whether it's a good match for you.
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  • Profile picture of the author ChadHaynes
    I'd do something like:

    Seasoned vets to country living will know what to expect. If you've ever (common endearing-but-irritating country living experience), you know what's in store.

    But if you're a city-dweller looking for an escape from the smog, here's a few things you should know.


    People who consider themselves country living vets will still read them. But with this frame, they're reminded of endearing memories from their own lives. The negatives are put in a positive light because they're attaching them to their own country living experience, which overall, your target will have enjoyed.

    And of course, urbanites will get an education. If anything's a no-no for them, they decide against your offer.
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  • Profile picture of the author Bruce NewMedia
    Marcia, your ad is good.

    Just add a link to the Chevy Chase movie, "Funny Farm"
    where he gets a country house to do his writing.

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  • Profile picture of the author splitTest
    Good copy. Goes down smooth. Doesn't read like an ad. Sells without "selling."

    But why doesn't it mention the rental period? (In your original post you say it's from January to May... Ad makes it sound like an indefinite rental...) I'd think the length of lease is an important detail ... A "retreat" sounds short...
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    • Profile picture of the author Alex Cohen
      Marcia,

      It's good to dimensionalize benefits. The specificity brings them to life.

      But I wouldn't dimensionalize the flaws. Be general with them. When you converse with a prospect, if they ask about a specific flaw, give them more info then.

      Alex
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      • Profile picture of the author marciayudkin
        But why doesn't it mention the rental period?
        Good reason why not: On the specific website that the ad is designed for, that is marked clearly elsewhere besides the ad itself.

        Marcia
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  • Profile picture of the author gemmom24
    Hey Marcia, are you going to add pics? Is this for VBRO or Homeaway? I always scroll through the photos first then read the description. I'm sure you could come up with some pretty amazing pictures to complement the copy.
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  • Profile picture of the author Cam Connor
    The "it's not for everyone" thing is just there to build credibility, so I''d stay pretty light with it. Having it in there is good enough, because it demonstrates that you're not just trying to throw it onto anyone who will take it, but actually want to make sure that the buyer is a good fit for the merchandise.

    I think just having the words "it's not for everyone" is most of the battle. Then just keep it light, general, and of course, brief.

    And also, thanks for posting something related to Copy and worth a discussion.
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    • Profile picture of the author marciayudkin
      The "it's not for everyone" thing is just there to build credibility,
      Actually, in my case that is not so. I truly do not want the wrong customer for this offer because the stakes of getting the wrong person are pretty high. I actually do want the person who would freak out if they knew what they were in for to freak out and go away.

      Marcia Yudkin
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      • Profile picture of the author Cam Connor
        Originally Posted by marciayudkin View Post

        Actually, in my case that is not so. I truly do not want the wrong customer for this offer because the stakes of getting the wrong person are pretty high. I actually do want the person who would freak out if they knew what they were in for to freak out and go away.

        Marcia Yudkin
        Ah, yea, buyer's remorse... that too.

        -Cam
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  • Profile picture of the author esmarshall
    perception is a powerful thing and people view things very differently
    one person's idea of bad is another person's bliss
    you should probably tell it how it is or paint a very "real picture" (as someone mentioned)
    if you do that, then its not gonna resonate with just anyone
    and then you be left with more serious applicants
    targeting is gonna be a factor but as long as thats done properly
    then i dont see why you wouldn't be able to get that "one customer" you want
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