Ultimate FAQs Make Web Marketing Easier

This is part of a chapter from my book: The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing.” (McGraw-Hill, 2005)

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.

* 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.

How to Clean Up Passive Voice in Your Marketing and Sales Copy

These quick tips help you eliminate passive voice from your presentations, scripts, articles, white papers, case studies and other marketing collateral. . . 

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.

Here’s the definition of passive voice.

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
– is acceptable 😉
– 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.

REMEMBER: Clean, Active Writing Sells Product (Period) 

4 Tips for Epic Post Card Marketing – Direct Mail

I recently listened to a Truth About Marketing podcast with guest Terry Dean, who’s a marketing hall-of-famerInterestingly, Dean talked a lot about direct mail marketing and how it’s really good for beating the clutter of the email inbox.

So, I went back and dug up one of my posts on post card marketing.

Here are some of my tips for helping you get your post cards read.

1) If the recipients know you by face, name, or company name include that prominently on the card. People like to see people and know people and hear from people. Leverage that, especially if you’re sending cards to people who hear from you on a regular basis (as with email newsletters, regular business communications and so forth).

2) Write a headline for the card that speaks to or is about the recipient (not about you or your company or your product). Grab their attention, but make the recipient the focus. For example, “How Often Do You See Limited Edition Widgets for Less than $100?” speaks to the recipient. And, “The Top 10 Causes of Dry Skin” makes the recipient’s problem or need the focus.

3) Put news in the title: “New Orthopedic Neck Brace Helps You Sleep More Soundly”

4) Make an offer in the headline. “Summer Sale Starts This Friday — Free Shipping for Valued Customers Like You.”

There are plenty of other strategies. I’ll cover more of these in future posts. Remember, you can mix these up, too, and create layered messages. That includes mixing the photo concept with the headline.

How to Write Business Copy that Sells – A quick checklist

1. Establish the audience right away and keep focused on them
2. Forgo ‘style copy’ and use ‘selling copy’
3. Break complex sentences into shorter, clearer sentences
4. Arouse the curiosity of the reader (rather than satisfy it)
5. Provide readers smooth transitions so they don’t look up and get distracted from the piece
6. Write compelling benefits into heads and subheads
7. Support ideas with vivid examples
8. Use real facts and numbers (i.e. ’57 satisfied customers’ vs. ‘dozens of satisfied customers’)
9. Go back and weed out excessive adjectives
10. Provide a compelling call to action at the end of every piece (or prominently in an ad)

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 Card Marketing: Part 2

Joy Gendusa, founder of PostCardMania, knows the how and why of sending post cards — repeatedly. She is dead on when she 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.

Ogilvy Fast Facts

  • Ads that are designed to look like editorial pages gather far more readers than those that don’t.
  • Never put large amounts of white type on a black background (reverse). Some say never do it, period. Study after study has proven that it’s difficult to read.
  • Write to the self-interest of the reader rather than treating your audience as a large company or group of people.
  • Companies sometimes change ad agencies because one agency can purchase circulation at a slightly lower cost than another. They don’t realize that a copywriter who knows his craft (the experience and skill that induce people to read copy) can reach many times more readers than a copywriter who doesn’t.

The Magic of Newsletters

Newsletters are priceless for so many reasons – some obvious and some not. First, the obvious reasons.

When you sustain a valuable dialogue with your prospects and customers, you stay connected and available for whatever opportunity may materialize. Nobody knows where the next great business opportunity is going to come from. It could come from a partner, a friend, a business acquaintance, someone who was just forwarded your newsletter, an ancient customer, someone looking over the shoulder of the person reading your newsletter, a prospect. so many different possibilities. Newsletters keep you in the game and in the minds of whoever your audience may be.

Newsletters show your audience the mind-set, personality, needs and aspirations of your organization. In formal marketing communications, you may not have the flexibility to do this due to various creative and bureaucratic constraints. It’s much easier to just come out and say things in a newsletter. When your customers and prospects know “where you’re coming from” it brings their guard down a little and lets them feel like they’re not engaging a big sterile corporation.

When you write newsletters that provide valuable information, the readers learn more about your business, and you do, too! No matter what business you’re in, creating a newsletter is an exercise in understanding the value of your business and finding ways to communicate that to your audience. It’s another way to get your marketing brain chugging along. Writing reinforces the things you learn.

I could go on, but I won’t because I want to get to the not so obvious reasons for writing newsletters. I just read about these hot ideas in…you guessed it…another newsletter. When you write newsletters and archive them on your site, you raise your rank in search engines. The key words in each story you write are “spidered” by search engines and those pages contribute to your rank. If you write about things that are critical to your business, the page will show up when those key words are entered into Google, Yahoo, AlltheWeb, MSN, etc. Other sites will link to your newsletter archives, too, and that helps boost your overall ranking. And, since your site it constantly adding new information, you’ll get another swift kick up the ladder. Search engines like “fresh” sites, and the ones that add content get spidered more frequently. I’m going to start making Web pages of my newsletters ASAP.

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"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.


Coffee Shop Marketing

I’m in an obscure 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 customers and employees and feature snappy headlines and subheads.

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 “cappuccino-this and mocha-that, 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.