Thursday, June 30, 2005

Marketing Writing Wisdom from Susan Greene

An excerpt from Susan Greene's Web content guide follows.

MAKE YOUR WEB CONTENT MORE READABLE
By Susan Greene
Most of the people who visit your website won’t read every word. More likely, they’ll scan to find the information that’s relevant to their needs. Therefore, you want to write your copy to make it easy to skim. Here are some suggestions:

· Use strong headlines.Grab your reader with a headline that essentially screams, “You must read this!” That is, lead with your strongest benefit, the main reason someone is going to be interested in what you have to offer.

· Use lots of subheads.Subheads break up big blocks of copy. They also, in just a few words, summarize what the upcoming paragraph is all about. They tell readers where to “jump in.” Someone who scans your page should be able to get the key points of what you’re saying by looking at the subheads.

· Use bullets and numbered lists.Like subheads, bullets and lists break up big blocks of copy. They convey large amounts of information in concise form. People like reading lists. The white space around them helps set them apart from the rest of the copy and attracts the eye. Use bullets for lists when the order doesn’t matter. Use numbers for procedures or steps, when the list should be followed in order.

· Use white space.Don’t cram every inch of the screen with text. White space helps make a page more scannable and less intimidating to the reader. Leave lines of space between sections to help set them apart and look for other opportunities to use white space.

· Keep sentences short.The Internet is not the place for long-winded, complex sentences. Because text on a screen is harder to read than text in a book, you need to keep your sentences concise. Basically, use one thought per sentence. Break long sentences into two.

· Keep paragraphs short.If you look at the newspaper, you’ll notice that most paragraphs are two to four sentences. Apply the same rule to website copy. Readers tend to skip over long paragraphs. Stick to one key point per paragraph.

· Keep line width short. If your line width is too long, it will be hard to read. Use columns, if necessary, like newspapers. A good rule of thumb is 40 to 50 characters per line.

· Use colors, bold and italics for keywords. If you want to make certain important words stand out, put them in a different color or use bold or italic type. Don’t use underlines because these usually suggest hyperlinks.

· Use illustrations. Even on the Internet, a picture is worth a 1,000 words. If you can actually show the reader what you’re talking about, you’re more likely to make your point.

..... There's more.. Check out the full list at Susan's site

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Ultimate FAQs Make Web Marketing Easier

This is part of a chapter from my new book: "The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing."

It applies equally to any Web venture, and to retail dealings, as well. Just ignore the eBay context below, and think about how you can use FAQs to educate customers and close business..

Write FAQs to Improve Your Marketing

eBay item descriptions serve multiple purposes, one of which is to act as a retail sales person. In a traditional retail environment an effective salesperson takes the opportunity to present the product in the most favorable light possible. She calls attention to details, recommends uses for the object and answers questions. On eBay, a Frequently Asked Question section (FAQ) serves the same purpose.

FAQs:
* Dispel fears
* Overcome common objections
* Communicate benefits in the Q&A format
* Clear up nagging questions that don’t fit into selling copy
* Educate less experienced prospects
* Clear up technical concepts
Let’s say you sell those new mini-bikes, the tiny little motorcycles that you see buzzing around suburban neighborhoods.

Buyers have lots of questions about these bikes that need answering before they move forward with bids. Here are just a few:

* Do I need a motorcycle license to drive one of these?
* Are they safe?
* Are riders required to wear a helmet?
* Can a regular motorcycle mechanic work on them?
Imagine how long it would take to answer every question of every prospect via email. An FAQ solves the problem and gives you a new opportunity to stress benefits and reduce resistance. You also spare yourself the loss of a customer who goes to a competitor’s listing to find the answer to their question.
Hint: Only one out of 10 people with a question will take the time to actually email you. So, nine others had the same question but didn’t bother. If you don’t address details and FAQs up front, you’ll most likely lose those nine “invisible” customers.

Many sellers find that FAQs are much easier to write than prose-style text. The whole Q&A process really gets the creative juices flowing.

Once you’ve put together a compelling description for one of your products, you’ve got a boilerplate for other products. Click the “Sell Similar” button (Figure 1) to reuse that description wherever you need it and adjust as necessary.

Figure 1: Sell Similar allows you to easily re-use boilerplate description information
The whole process is not all that daunting – especially when you have so many ways to dive in and so many techniques at your disposal to get the process going. You can:

* Write FAQs
* Estimate value
* Use the bucket brigade
* Link features and benefits
* Zero in on positive factual information

We’ll have more tips and tricks in the Fine Tuning Your Descriptions section ahead, and Chapter 5 goes even deeper into the persuasive approaches that work best on eBay.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Marketing Writing Tips: Selling - Writing - Speaking

  • The message is about the reader and his interests, needs, and desires, not you and your wants.
  • It should contain some significant promise of benefits (again to the reader), implicit or stated.
  • The benefits should be concrete -- easy for your reader to imagine.
  • Any claims you make should be supported by facts.
  • Difficult concepts should be included only if you can clearly illustrate them with examples and analogies.
  • Simple is better. One overriding idea presented repeatedly in different ways and with building evidence is much stronger than a string of related but distinct ideas.

Post-Writing Quality Control Checklist

  • Set the thing aside and let it sit for least an hour
  • Read it again and flag stumbling spots
  • Break up paragraphs to increase pace (variety is the spice of life). Go with short graphs first, then vary the amount of lines from 3-5. Sprinkle in some one line paragraphs, if possible.
  • Break long sentences into two simple, shorter ones
  • Eliminate extra words
  • Eliminate “thats"
  • Eliminate words with “tion” “sion” “ance” “ate” “able” “ment”
  • Eliminate excessive adjectives
  • Eliminate passive voice (this includes “is” “are” “can” etc.)
  • Eliminate cliches
  • Make cannot and is not into contractions for conversational tone
  • Pay particular attention to commas, making sure they’re right (right for the particular customer, too)
  • Make sure bullet lists start with either a “How to” phrase or a number or a powerful verb or…
  • Write rhetorical questions into your copy that can be answered in the affirmative (YES!)
  • Make sure you have some numbers for impact (specific numbers are better than generalized ones). Keep the % and the numbers themselves. Don’t spell out.
  • Proof read on paper and mark it up
  • Read it aloud

Monday, June 27, 2005

Benefits And Technical Features

“Secret Sauce” Features vs. Technical Nonsense
Some vendors and manufacturers crave differentiation so desperately that they devise strange, incomprehensible product features. They get into all kinds of trouble describing crazy features and “XM-3000 performance statis­tics” that are lost on the potential customer’s dream receptors.

If your product really does something different, if it’s oozing with “secret sauce,” then certainly highlight that. However, do it by connecting with buyer benefits and keeping it simple.

Here’s a good benefit list about a Palm handheld device that was listed on eBay:
• Read and reply to your business and personal e-mail.
• Send an SMS message and collaborate quickly with colleagues.
• Type an e-mail to your team on the thumb keyboard.
• Use the phone feature to make a call and take notes at the same time.
• Edit spreadsheets, documents, and presentations on the Tungsten W handheld’s crisp, high-resolution color screen.
• Keep track of calendars and contact information.

Notice the seller didn’t lead with confusing features like “Motorola MC68VZ328 33 MHz Display, TFT active matrix - reflective - 16-bit (64K colors).” Those may be important when it comes time to compare the device to others, but the dream needs to be sold first.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Marketing Lessons from eBay Live

I attended a seminar by the legendary "Griff" this morning (He's an eBay icon known for developing the marketplace and educating sellers). He was going down eBay memory lane, from AuctionWeb to EchoBay to billion-dollar greatness. Fun stuff, great speaker.

Marketingwise, one thing that stuck out was his story about the beginning of eBay's listing fees. Originally, AuctionWeb didn't charge fees, but once they started, they quickly figured out two of the more valuable marketing and pricing lessons known to man:

1) Once you charge for something, people attach heightened value to it.

2) Once you charge for listings people become more discriminating about what they list. Both of these factors contributed to the early success of eBay.

The first point is marketing 101. Things that are free are generally considered of little worth. Even Internet sites like eBay, sites that originated in the free, communal ethos of cyberspace, benefit from the introduction of basic monetization. If somebody wants something good, they’ll pay for it. If it’s free, it’s suspect. A free cotton t-shirt is generally cruddy, for example. There are, however, designers who sell cotton T-shirts for $60+. What’s the difference? – Quality, Value and Perceived Value.

These three areas are where professional marketers earn their keep. In Griff’s story, eBay realized that listings increased rather than decreased when they started charging fees. When people realized that listing on eBay was something of value, something that could help them make money and reach a large audience, they gravitated toward it. It’s conceivable that since eBay listing was free for so long that others kept away from it, perceiving it as illegitimate or suspect in some way

The second point helped eBay grow quality listings. The introduction of listing fees forced people to be careful about what they listed and refrain from posting as much junk as possible. The quality of goods on the network improved, and eBay benefited as a result. Win, win.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

eBay Live Blogging

I'm going to be in San Jose tomorrow, Fri and Sat for eBay Live. If you'll be there, send me an email, and we can meet up -- phil@qualitywriter.com. I'll be posting observations and new info as it comes available. Lots of info of interest to eBay sellers as well as regular marketing gurus will be revealed.

Best,
Phil

How to Ask for Referrals

I receive a great newsletter everyday called Early to Rise. It features collections of articles and tips for passionate/enthusiastic businesspeople and entrepreneurs -- everything from business strategies to health tips.

This morning, the email newsletter included a great article on asking for referrals. They'll post the article tomorrow (it appears from their site).

Here's the gist... When you ask for referrals, use open ended questions -- preferably ones that start with the word "Who." As in, "Who else do you think could benefit from the products/services I offer?" Closed ended, yes-or-no questions (as in most cases) make it too easy for the person to decline. The article also talks about how many referrals to ask for (hint: the more the better, according to their research).

In addition to asking for referrals in person, ou should include requests for referrals in your email correspondence, in your newsletters and on your Web sites. You'll actively build a future for your business and spread the word quickly about your success and value.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Web Usability, Fonts and Readability

This is an interesting read about fonts and web usability/readability. If you want people to read your ads and product descriptions comfortably and stick with what you're saying, you need to consider some of the ideas in this article. There are a lot of factors to consider, but you can vastly improve the experience by making just a few simple choices.

In search of: The Best Online Reading Experience

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Coffee Shop Marketing

I'm in a Diedrich coffee shop right now. It's the runner up to Starbucks in this neck of the woods. They hired a new ad firm -- as is obvious from the new posters all around the place. The posters depict happy Diedrich customers and employees and feature snappy headlines and subheads (I'll post the pictures once I get home).

One says, "The've got my favorite chair to go with my favorite drink. Life is good." This is a good example of placing the customer and his perceived benefits on center stage. It's generally a good thing to do. They were smart not to lead with "Diedrich-this and Didrich-that and Mocha-this, etc." They're drilling down to what it means to choose and stick with a coffee shop. There are really nice chairs in here, by the way.

The subhead reads, "Make yourself at home with comfortable seating and genuine people." This is doing two things. 1) It re-enforces the benefits, and 2) it differentiates Diedrich's vis a vis the competition (namely Starbucks). The implication is that Starbucks is full of phony yuppies. At least that's my take.

Pretty solid stuff. I'll post the pictures soon so you can get the full effect.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Newsletter Promotion: 10 Questions to Ask Yourself

1. Do you give gifts that your target audience appreciates?
2. Does each issue contain both subscribe and unsubscribe information and links?
3. Do you ask readers to forward the letter to friends?
4. Do you test different subscribe wording and button formats on your Web site subscribe pages?
5. How much information do you require on your subscribe form? (hint: keep it minimal)
6. Is your subscription process complex or quick and easy?
7. Do you network and partner with similar/complementary content providers to grow your list?
8. Do you have newsletter archives, and are the pages search engine friendly?
9. Do you offer readers a reward for sharing your newsletter and signing up new readers?
10. Do you offer information on forums and blogs to promote your newsletter?

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Sunday, June 12, 2005

5 Keys to Hiring Technology Marketing Writers

1. Find someone who knows marketing writing, not a manual writer, a programmer or a graphic design firm. (If you hire a design firm that provides writing, make sure that their writers are professionals with skills that demonstrate a high level of ability and experience.)

2. Find a marketing writer that knows the technology industry. Go even further, and see if your prospective technology writer can get technical and speak with your developers, engineers and product managers. With the software and hardware industries as broad and developed as they are, try to find a specialist that knows your industry.

3. Find a technical writer with EXPERIENCE. The best way is to ask for clips. Good writers/geeks should have a Web page like this one, with links to pdfs and writing samples.

4. Determine whether the freelance writer you want to hire is truly professional. Don't waste time on hobbyists who may or not be around when you want them in on conference calls, interviews or meetings.

5. Get a marketing technology writer with good people skills. Even if they're not going to be working on site, people skills count. Oftentimes, individual writing projects turn into larger projects which require project management skills and team-oriented organization.

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Saturday, June 11, 2005

16 Writing Rules That Help You Sell

Writing/Editing Checklist

Excerpt from "The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing."

1. Write like you’re talking directly to the prospect (use the word you).
2. Forgo “style copy” and use “selling copy.” Style copy is vague and moody, while selling copy is no-nonsense. It identifies needs, desires, and problems and satisfies them.
3. Support assertions with evidence and examples. Tangible, mentally vivid examples help pull readers through the text.
4. Make sure you accurately describe the item’s condition.
5. Break complex sentences into shorter, clearer sentences.
6. Arouse the curiosity of the reader (rather than satisfy it).
7. Provide readers smooth transitions so they don't pause and click over to some other listing.
8. Write compelling benefits into headings and subheads.
9. Use real facts and numbers (for example, use “57 satisfied customers” instead of “dozens of satisfied customers”).
10. Go back and weed out excessive adjectives.
11. Edit your copy for misspellings and grammatical errors.
12. Provide a compelling offer at the end of every description (more in Chapter 5).
13. Offer a solution. Don’t waste time on theory, probability, and speculation. Good writing establishes well-defined problems and offers easily understood solutions (more in Chapter 5).
14. Avoid exaggeration.
15. Use “selling” words in your keyword title, if necessary.
16. Utilize customer comments and testimonials in your description.
end box

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Friday, June 10, 2005

Marketing and Liking

Andy Uhlig over at SmarteHomebusiness.com posted a short, powerful "Top 7" article by Jo Han Mok. It's called 7 Things You Must Do If You Want To Increase Your Traffic.

I would also add that you should personally mix with people in your industry (customers and other experts) to show them that you like them.

What?

Yes - this has been upheld by psychologists. People who understand that the person selling them something likes them also understands how that person will work with their best interests at heart. It's got to be genuine, of course. And it doesn't matter if they don't like you! This liking will open doors for you, increase your traffic, and help build your business perception (or brand) into one that customers respect and admire.

BTW, is there any magic to the number 7? Just wondering -- my new eBay book is called "The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing."

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Coffee Is for Closers! Second Place Gets a Set of Steak Knives!

Everyone who's involved in writing Web pages for business sites should be "closing" on every page of the site. That means making an offer, asking the reader to take the next step, or asking for the sale.

I admit, I'm not best example for my advice. Each page on this blog should ask people to take a look at my book or entice them to fill out the free newsletter form you see in the upper right corner of the page (it contains bonus info and more in-depth reports). I could also encourage readers to consider hiring me as a writing consultant or call me to talk about training their own writing staff. I need to be more diligent about this.

In any event, when you continually close throughout your pages, you increase your chances for success. You build deeper relationships with customers and prospects; you guide readers through your site; you usher people toward the shopping cart; you up-sell and cross-sell, loading their cart up with extras and complementary products; and you generally get them to move in your direction or begin saying yes to your entreaties.

That said, you may be asking, "What's up with the title of this post?" (Hint: rent or download the movie Glengarry Glen Ross.)

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Thursday, June 09, 2005

Ogilvy Fast Facts

OGILVY FAST FACTS

· When selling collectible Olympic coins, the silver coins consistently out-sell bronze and gold. (Same results with medium Cokes, by the way.)

· Under the category "Get Creative with your direct marketing!": Prospects for a new Cessna Citation business jet were sent carrier pigeons with an invitation to take a free ride in the jet. The recipients were asked to release the birds with their address tied to its leg. Some of the recipients ate the pigeons, but several returned alive, and at least one Citation was sold – for $600,000.

· "Get Creative!" redux: Another advertiser wrote a letter in Greek to the headmasters of private schools, selling cooking stoves. When some wrote back that they could not read Greek, he sent them another letter – in Latin. This produced orders.

Quote

"Outcome only improves when you ignore it and attend to the nitty gritty."
--- from article "Attentional Control in Tennis" by John F. Murray, Ph. D. http://www.tennisserver.com/mental-equipment/me_11_95.html

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Free Competitive Analysis Tools

Frank Ross, who writes the Home-Based Entrepreneur blog, posted an excellent article on competitive analysis. You can apply his tips to individual products or market segments. The Google Toolbar is free, and you can trial the other products he mentions for free, too.

I added my $0.02:

"If you're in a highly competitive market (and can't get out), there are things you can do to set yourself from the crowd. For example, think about how your product is different because it comes from you. What do you do that's "different" (think Apple ad campaign here)? Do you ship faster? Do you offer extra goodies (extra training, education, etc.)? Are you known for spotting the next trends? Think about differentiators, and figure out how you connect with your particular audience... then figure out what keywords these people are searching. Figure out how they want to be engaged. Understand what their real motivators are. These are the keys to the castle."

The book "The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing" shows you how to use eBay itself to perform market analysis and competitive analysis. I'll address this topic further in future posts.

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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Clean, Active Writing Sells Product (Period)

DECODING PASSIVE VOICE
Although I have a BA in history and an MA in journalism, I don’t edit like a tweed-wearing, ruler-cracking, cat-eye-glassed English professor.

That said, I do think it’s good to reduce the amount of passive voice used in marketing copy. Sometimes using passive voice is acceptable (like right there), but usually it just adds another layer of code which the reader must decipher. Some examples:

- are always
- it was
- is becoming
- it’s
- generally: was, is, are, were, should be, can be + verb

Some might argue that the present forms, like "is coming," "are appearing," etc, are not technically passive. It’s best to weed these out, though. Use active verbs that stand alone.
Search for these words in your documents, do a little rewriting, and you’ll be fine.

marketing writing ebay copywriting advertising technical tech writer writing work healthcare technology business internet blog web media journalism news books book

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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Reach Your Customers Via Satellite

Wired News ran this story about Google's satellite mapping system back in April. If you click through the photo links, you're in for a treat. Incredible images, both breathtaking and cute.

Where is it all headed? I was thinking that I might start selling corn field ad placement services on eBay. I could write killer ads, link to them and charge by the click.

Any other ideas? Post here to let us know how you'd take advantage of this new service.

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Q: Why Hire Phil Dunn? A: You Might Not Want To.

In a world where California is the state known for political rationality, where children beg for brussle sprouts, and where everyone who wants an oompa-loompa gets an oompa-loompa --- EVERYONE would hire Phil Dunn. But that’s not really sane, is it? (BTW – I’m not an oompa-loompa)

The fact is that I’m only a good fit with certain types of clients.

I love the organized types who know what they want and why they’re producing a particular piece.

I love those who come from a sales and persuasion angle (i.e. customer/bottom-line results oriented).

I’m into strict deadlines that are the result of realistic production steps. Obviously, this is my dream scenario, and I’m pretty happy when I work with an individual or a team that’s got one or two of these covered. I’m completely aware, however, that production schedules can be tighter than a locker room wedgie. I know many marketing directors/managers who are so overworked that they can’t hear the bell between rounds, and they’re beginning to enjoy the smell of the canvas. Sometimes I find myself drooling on the canvas. However, even those of us who get knocked around appreciate it when goals and timelines are clear.

So – I might not be the one to hire if you prefer a more loose style of production. Many companies create good materials with free-and-easy approaches. I’ve worked that way and will probably do so in the future. However, I can tell you what usually happens. I accept the project, the deadlines are crazy, I don’t have enough information, and the marketing contact is focused on other things. The copy gets turned in, and it’s not exactly what the department had in mind. I usually provide copy that everyone likes on the second run-though, but even then it’s not clear what the copy satisfies in terms of goals and audience. Without a clear vision, the copy "works" but doesn’t exactly achieve anything.

I’d prefer to:
1) Know the audience intimately and work with marketing directors that value this step,
2) Set distinct goals with respect to desired outcome, and
3) Settle on style, aggressiveness, and topics covered prior to launching the research and writing phase.

When these three simple points are addressed, we can create lots of persuasive, engaging, and tight (but not wedgie tight) pieces.

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Monday, June 06, 2005

Top 10 Lists Are Cool

Top 100 lists are even cooler -- if you have 100 things to list. This list -- by marketing, social networking and buzz expert Chris Abraham -- has been open in my tabbed browser for several days now. I know I'm going to get into it soon and check out everything (tech/software/hardware recommendations). Until then, it just sits up there and drills the words Chris Abraham into my subconscious.

The marketing writing point here is that you should use Top X lists. They come in many flavors -- with "Top 10" popularized by David Letterman, "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" popularized by Paul Simon, and "The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing," popularized by yours truly.

These types of lists always capture attention, the numbers POP, and the whole format draws people in by asking them to make a judgment on the validity of the claims. If you have a good supporting list, these formats can really work wonders for your authority and expertise positioning.

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Small Business Rules

Here's an excellent discussion about an ongoing phenomenon -- the micro-sizing of business. The article is called "Small is the New Big," and it's good news for eBay sellers, ecommerce vendors and consumers of every stripe.

It's on Jeff Jarvis's Buzz Machine blog.

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Eliminate Honesty from Your Copy

Don’t you love it when people sprinkle the words "honestly" and "frankly" into their conversation? It sounds like rookie car salesman banter.

When written in marketing copy, the effect is even more disturbing. It often shows up in these forms: "in truth," "truthfully," "to be completely frank," and "quite frankly." It’s supposed to sound conversational, but ends up arousing suspicion.

On further examination, these words often point to areas in the text where confidence is lacking. Go back and purge them from your copy and try to figure out what’s bothering you about the promises you’re making.

Cut the conversational salesman speak and just make claims that you know your products and services will back up. It’s easier that way. If you follow my advice, your writing will connect with readers a bit more. If you don’t, well, frankly I don’t give a damn.

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Sunday, June 05, 2005

"Where Is Your Hungry Crowd?"

Frank Ross has a great blog called Home-Based Entrepreneur. The blog title makes it sound small business oriented, however the tips and articles within are useful to pretty much anyone in business – from Fortune 100 on down. Well written stuff.. and very relevant to the issues of the day.

Here’s bit from his most recent post:

“A) Who and where is your hungry crowd? It is no use trying to sell burgers to people who are just leaving a restaurant. They are not hungry. If you want to sell something, your very first task, even before you decide what to sell, is to ask "what do people want"? If people are desperately hungry, they want to be filled, if they are dying of thirst, they want to be quenched, if caught in the rain, they want to be dry, and if feeling lonely, they want to be loved. Get the general idea?

"B) When you know what they want so much they would sell their own mother to get, your next question is "what product or service can you provide them that would meet their need or want?"

"Be careful to distinguish between SOLUTIONS and PRODUCTS. People caught in the rain don't want an umbrella, they want to be dry. People who are insecure don't want a fancy, expensive car, they want to be noticed, admired and envied. The mother with a newborn does not want diapers - she wants her baby to be dry and comfortable.”

Whether you’re thinking about ways to improve your existing business or starting up a new one, these kinds of questions need to be revisited frequently. Building business and increasing profits takes insight and creative thinking. Going through these exercises will help you generate ideas and discover new angles for improvement.

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Friday, June 03, 2005

Post Card Marketing: Part 2

Joy Gendusa, founder of PostCardMania just posted a great article on the how and why of sending post cards -- repeatedly. He is dead on when he recommends repeating, rinsing, repeating.. and so on.

The following are some actual post card writing suggestions that add to that article. They'll help you get better response rates on promotions, drive more traffic to your business, and generally keep you in the minds of your target audience for longer periods of time.

Make offers on the front of the card. Give them a reason to buy or flip the card over. Free reports, discounts, and premiums can all go into titles on the front of the card.

Include "news" in titles and subheads. Nobody wants to hear something they've heard before. If you've got a new story to tell, make it POP.

Keep the word count low, and make every word count. You can do this by sticking to one subject or offer per card. Don't confuse the reader by broaching several topics or creating complex offers.

Develop urgency in the text. Your writing style can be urgent, but it's even more effective to create actual offer urgency. "Limited time only," "limited supply," "buy now and save 10% off," "free shipping in June with orders over $25" -- these all create offer urgency.

Finish with a call to action. Tell the prospect what you want them to do next -- call you, email you, go to your store, or send you money "right now!"

There's more info and links on this topic in Part 1.

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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Google AdWords: Writing Clearly and Succinctly

If you want to get your mind around how important it is to write clearly and succinctly, take a spin through the following article:

http://jimbursch.typepad.com/cadcoop/2005/06/searchrelated_a.html

It talks about how Google employs writers to help companies develop those three line ads in Google AdWords. It's a type of Haiku for commerce -- a highly sought after talent these days, apparently.

Great article, fascinating subject, the wave of the future. Hemingway would have loved the whole concept (maybe).

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Top 10 Journalism Lead Hooks for Marketing and PR Efforts

In case you don't have time to read the post prior to this one, I boiled down some of the journalistic lead hooks into a short list (no particular order). If you think about these emotional drivers that populate the newspaper and news programs every morning, you can get a better understanding of how to connect with people and create compelling stories for press and PR purposes.
  1. Fear - Everyone's afraid of something (hunger, thieves, the cold, the heat, war, crime, natural disaster, poor health...)
  2. Peer recognition, adulation (celebrities, business leaders, heroes..)
  3. Guinness Book of World Records-type stories (largest pickle, fastest pie eater...)
  4. Physiological danger (medical/health topics, famine, disease)
  5. Security (home, financial, insurance, children's safety..)
  6. Human interest stories (heroes, helpers, leaders)
  7. How to/tips/purchasing information (think Consumer Reports and technology/media review columns)
  8. Psychological fear/threats (as related to security, business, competition, imagined illness...)
  9. Event information (concerts, movies, cook-outs, fairs, employment events)
  10. Travel/Food/Outdoors/Lifestyle information
Take a look at your business and then think about how your products and services fit into any of these areas. You'll be surprised at how many different ways you can frame your product or service as an "issue" or "happening" for press releases, case studies, customer communications and so on.

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Attention-Grabbing topics and Journalistically Sound Leads

Ok, as promised, here are some more thoughts on: "attention-grabbing topics and journalistically sound leads."

Once you've developed some story ideas, you want to identify the ones that will bring in readers and capture their imagination. It's a good idea to think like a journalist or a newscaster. Leading news stories focus on emotion to grab attention and capture the imagination of readers/listeners/watchers. Think about fundamental emotional drivers, like those related to physiological needs, security, love and affection, self-esteem, and self-actualization. The news is littered with all these kinds of stories (albeit sensationalized and exaggerated).

Many of the ways we connect with customers fall into these hierarchies, and considering that most of us can get enough food and shelter, the categories that go beyond physiological needs become especially important. What many of us want is more:

· Time and efficiency so we can get more food and shelter
· Long term security
· Protection from psychological fear (real, imminent, or imagined)
· Acceptance into groups
· Approval of family
· Approval of peers and co-workers

We also yearn for self-actualization that lifts our spirits and lends meaning to our livelihoods, day-to-day activities, and relationships.

If you consider these drivers when evaluating your story ideas, you'll be able to weed out the good ones and associate them with your products.

Now, as far as item descriptions go, you need to think about the classic 5 W's (Who, What, Where, When, Why/How) that journalists use to define standard leads in news stories. Make sure you include the facts of your story (or product) high up in the description copy. If you can weave a compelling story line or problem/solution around your product, all the better. We'll talk more about stories and success stories later on.

Remember - good stories can be used to present products or your business (About Me page). They can also be used in outside communications that go directly to your customers or potential customers -- as with newsletters, press releases, and media stories about your business.

Think about the story/news hooks that pertain to your business and products, and you'll be able to promote your business much more effectively. Customers will understand what you sell much more easily, and outsiders (in the media and word-of-mouth circles) will be able to easily communicate what it is that's great about your business.

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