Is Your Web Content Compelling?

Feature-Oriented Content

Way back in the early days, advertisers would go to great lengths to tout the features of their product or service. Their goal was to convince you that the quality of their product or service was superior. Think of how excited you got when you read the product’s promotional literature. It probably sounded like a technical owner’s manual. An owner’s manual tells you about the details of a product.

Feature-oriented language reminds me of the old television show, Dragnet, where the police would say, “All we want are the facts, ma’am”. Features = facts. Feature-oriented content is telling someone about something. Not very convincing, in fact, it’s downright boring. Feature-oriented content is what’s known as ‘tell’ content. “Let me tell you about X, Y and X features of my product of my service. Where’s the compelling sales message?

Benefit-Oriented Content

Towards the end of the early years, some creative advertising writer thought that advertising messages should focus, not only on the features of a product, but, also on the benefits of the product they are selling. And so, benefit-oriented content came flying in to the mainstream. Benefit-oriented content answers the question, “What’s in it for me, the customer?” Benefit-oriented content sells, not tells. This type of content convinces customers that your product or service will help them. Customers want to know what your product or service can do for them.

Use benefit-oriented content on your website, brochure, or any other printed material. Start with a short headline. Try to use less than seven words in the headline. Next, write a few sentences of introductory content followed by a bulleted list of benefits. Use as few bullets as possible in order to keep your message clear and concise. Always put a call-for-action on the bottom such as Call Me, Email Me, Go To My Website, etc. Don’t use gratuitous graphics or stale free clip art.

Here’s an example of how features can be turned into benefits. This example is taken from Varidesk’s (the manufacturer of stand-up work desks) promotional content I found on their website.

Example of Promotional Content Used by Manufacturer of Stand-Up Desks

FeatureBenefit to Customer
Patented two-handle design coupled with a spring-assisted boost-enabled lifting mechanismMakes moving from sitting to standing quick and easy
Desk works either standing or sittingPerfect way to increase energy, your health, and productivity
No hardware needed to secure desk to workstationEasy to install

The Benefits column definitely answers the question, “What’s in it for me”.

Now it’s your turn. Think about your business. In the left column, list three features of your product or service. On the corresponding right column, turn each feature into a benefit.

What Product or Service Do I Sell?

Feature                                                                              Benefit to Customer
1.1.
2.2.
3.3.

 Now that you’re comfortable features into benefits, get to work on re-writing all your promotional content.

Big Numbers – Little Impact

Let’s say you’re asked to write a public service announcement promoting diabetes education. You might start out by writing something like, “Do you know that more than 29 million people in the United States suffer from diabetes?”

However, after reading this, your reader might ask, “what does this have to do with me? I can’t relate to 29 million of anything”

What is it about these large numbers? I believe that using large numbers to make a point can easily overwhelm people’s senses. Here’s an example of how large numbers can be overwhelming.

The Pew Internet Research Project (www.pewinternet.org) collected data about social networking and online usage. They found that 71 percent of online adults use Facebook, 17 percent use Instagram, 21 percent use Pinterest, and 22 percent use LinkedIn. Facebook alone has about 191 million users in the United States.

Don’t get carried away by using big numbers.  Applying large numbers (demographic or economic) to help you understand your local market might not portray an accurate picture. For example, do 71 percent of adults in your geographic area use Facebook? Probably not.

Back to the public service announcement. How would you relate to the question,

“Do you have a friend or family member who has diabetes?” Most likely, you’d say “yes, I can relate to that”. This is an effective way to connect with your audience.

What can you do to avoid using large numbers when creating content (online or print) to promote your business? Here two of the most important things to keep in mind:

  • Think small – If you are starting a business that serves local or regional customers, get data from local business organizations (Chambers of Commerce, economic development associations, etc.). Use the data to get an understanding of the unique demographic characteristics of your market.
  • Make it personal by telling a story – talk directly to your audience using common words and phrases to draw them in. Most people can relate to a short story. The diabetes example above can be expanded into a story about how someone prevented himself or herself from becoming diabetic.

Beware of getting lured into the world of big numbers.

10 Expert Views on Print vs. Digital Marketing

 

The kind folks at MetroVista interviewed me and nine other marketing experts to get our take on print vs. digital marketing. Here’s one part of the introduction to the article.

  • Print marketing offers its audience a sense of creditability; it takes time to write, edit, publish, and distribute. The web can be full of, well, “fake news”.
  • Print marketing might actually have a higher visibility rate because it cannot be as easily disposed of by a click of a finger. Your consumer will at some point hold your information in their hands, not just on their phone.
  • Print marketing targets those who are not always logged in online (cough Baby Boomers). Do you know how long it took my dad to stop printing our driving directions and just use his phone?

You can find the entire article HERE

 

 

Top Ten Words & Phrases to Avoid

words

Here’s my Top Ten Words and Phrases to Avoid when writing anything. In my opinion, these words and phrases hold little or no meaning to the reader. I notice when some people write (especially their resume or bio), they tend to use these words. It seems like the writer can’t concretely articulate their message, so they use these words and phrases as a default. This reminds me of the infamous words of Curley from the Three Stooges, who profoundly stated, “I’m tryin’ to think, but nuttin’s happening!”

I have to admit I use some of these words or phrases, some of the time. Nobody’s perfect.

The Top Ten Words and Phrases to Avoid are not jargon words. Jargon is defined as “special words or expressions used by a particular profession or group that are difficult for others to understand.” Jargon is “technical talk.” The use of jargon has been adequately covered in my two treatises Why I Hate Jargon in 69 Words and Here Comes the Jargon Police.

Here’s my Top Ten Words and Phrases to Avoid in no particular order:

  1. Behavior
  2. Opportunity
  3. Concern
  4. Utilize
  5. In-depth knowledge
  6. Extensive experience
  7. Process
  8. Heavily involved
  9. Move forward
  10. Wide variety

 How are you going to eliminate using all or some of these words or phrases?

Ask yourself two questions:

  1. Is there one particular word or phrase I use when I can’t think of anything specific?
  2. Are there other words or phrases I can substitute?

Now you’re aware of these words and phrases, you can take the opportunity, using your extensive experience and in depth knowledge to move forward while utilizing a wide variety of alternative words and phrases. Oops, look what I did!

Why I Hate Jargon in 69 Words

jargon visual

Why I hate jargon:

“This matter of language is important. Professional jargon –on Wall Street, in humanities departments, in government offices-can be a fence raised to keep out the uninitiated and permit those within it to persist in the belief that what they do is too hard, too complex, to be questioned. Jargon acts not only to euphemize but to license, setting insiders against outsides and giving the flimsiest notions a scientific aura.”

From Can You Keep a Secret by George Packer, The New Yorker, March 17, 2016

What do you think?

Unraveling the Mystery of Effective Email Marketing: Secrets Revealed – Part 3

In Part 1 of Unraveling the Mystery of Effective Email Marketing, I gave you some background information about how I created a profitable email marketing campaign. In Part 2, I shared a research study that showed the effectiveness of email marketing. And, I listed seven content-driven email tactics I use to generate revenue.

In this, the last installment of Unraveling the Mystery of Effective Email Marketing, you’ll learn three email-marketing secrets

  1. Break it down. If possible, break down your email list into at least two segments…one list should be your current customers/clients and one list should be your prospective customers/clients. It doesn’t matter how many names/emails addresses you have on each list. Prospective customers/clients and existing customers/clients have different needs. Tailor your message to the unique needs of each group.
  2. More is better. However, be aware of email fatigue and email overdose. The more you blast out your emails, the more likely you’ll increase the number of responses. I can’t give you a magic number of how frequent you should send emails in order to increase sales. Just keep on blasting.
  3. Less is better. What? I’m not contradicting myself at all. Go ahead and write a draft of your email in a Word document. When you’re satisfied that you’ve clearly communicated your message, step away from your computer for an hour or so minutes, have a cup of coffee and then return to your computer. Re-read your email and delete at least half of the copy. Yup, one half. Can you do it? Your reader will appreciate the brevity of your message.

Now it’s time for you to dive into the sea of email marketing. If you get stuck or frustrated, reread the excerpt from the McKinsey Report in Part 1 of Unraveling the Mystery of Email Marketing. Good luck.

Unraveling the Mystery of Effective Email Marketing – Part 2

In Part 1 of Unraveling the Mystery of Effective Email Marketing, I gave you some background information about how I created a profitable email marketing campaign. Before I tell you how I did it and how I got such an unexpected response and profitable conversion rates, I want to share the following with you.

Here’s a quote from McKinsey & Company regarding email.

Why marketers should keep sending you e-mails
McKinesy & Company Insights
January 2014
By Nora Aufreiter, Julien Boudet, and Vivian Weng

“There’s a reason your inbox always seems jam-packed: e-mail marketing works. But companies can get smarter about ensuring every message counts.

If you’re wondering why marketers seem intent on e-mailing you more and more, there’s a simple explanation: it works. E-mail remains a significantly more effective way to acquire customers than social media—nearly 40 times that of Facebook and Twitter combined (exhibit). That’s because 91 percent of all US consumers still use e-mail daily, and the rate at which e-mails prompt purchases is not only estimated to be at least three times that of social media, but the average order value is also 17 percent higher.”

I’m generally skeptical of research that reports such dramatic statistics. My skepticism was diminished after I read the above.

How did I do it? Based on the feedback from the workshop, participants told me they wanted to learn more about certain marketing topics. This information was all I needed to move forward with my email campaign. My approach was straightforward.

  1. I included at least one practical marketing tip in each email
  2. I limited each email to approximately 325 words
  3. If I used information from an outside source, I’d include a link to that source
  4. I did not promote my book in the body of the email. However, on the right column of the email was a box that had a link to my book’s website.
  5. Since I was known to all of the recipients of the email, I did not have to establish my credibility each time I sent an email, I could just jump in and share content
  6. I used an informal style of writing and always wrote in the second person
  7. I did not include any unnecessary graphics or pictures

I broke my rule of just presenting tips in one email. I used a testimonial from a past workshop participant. This participant appreciated the help I gave her in our individual coaching sessions. I had a hunch this approach would add a personal touch to my email campaign.

Every time I sent an email, I would get at least one person requesting and signing up for my one-on-one coaching services.

Watch for the final episode of Unraveling the Mystery of Effective Email Marketing.

Unraveling the Mystery of Effective Email Marketing – Part 1

This is the first episode of a story about my experience using email to generate sales (or in my case, generating clients). I’m going to present the facts and of course, throw in my opinions.

My message to you is: mail marketing works.

The goal of my email campaign was to sell my one-on-one business advising and marketing services.

Facts:

  • I used a list of participants who, over the past two years, attended my Marketing Professional & Personal Services Workshops
  • I started with 124 names and increased list to 169 names over two years.
  • I sent 13 emails to these participants over a 2 year period
  • I changed the body copy and headline (SUBJECT) for each email

You might think that 169 names is a tiny number of potential customers/clients. Remember, all of these people attended my workshop and knew me. I also have segmented lists of other types of potential clients (for example, purchasers of my self-help book Critical Connections – a Step-by-Step Guide to Transform Your Business Through Referral Marketing).

Every month for one year after attending the workshop, participants received an email from me called Marketing Tip of the Month. These emails contained tips, tactics, and ideas. At the bottom of every email, I would say, in one brief sentence that I was available for one-on-one coaching.

Quick history lesson: In the days before the Internet and social media, personal and professional service providers and small business owners never gave anything away. The customer had to pay for anything tangible you gave them. This practice did not include time spent in a selling mode. Seasoned professionals told me, “My time is valuable, and I am the subject matter expert. I’m not giving anything away”.

There was one caveat. If you published or were quoted in a newspaper or magazine article, clip the article and send it to everyone. If you came across a news article of interest to your customers, do the same. This was not seen as giving something away. It was another way to stay connected to your customers.

Nowadays, we’re seeing a shift from ‘don’t give it away’ to you gotta give stuff (content) away.

Back to today: Approximately every two weeks I sent emails to the all of the participants. Within a week of sending out the emails, I’d get at least one response. All of these responses converted into paying clients. 13 emails – thirteen new clients over a one year period.

How did I do it?

Watch for Part 2 of Unraveling the Mystery of Effective Email Marketing.