Well, I finally got around to uploading part of my sample portfolio

July 8, 2015 by Leave a comment

I've been futzing with my portfolio page for the better part of a couple months, trying to figure out how I wanted it to look. I finally realized I was just putting it off by trying to make it perfect, so I stripped it down and made a very basic page for it. I'll worry about making a prettier one the next time I do a whole site revamp.

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Elevators and money

April 6, 2015 by Leave a comment

How many of you out there could tell a potential client what you do or offer in the space of time between one floor and the next while riding an elevator? How many of you have actually even thought about this situation? Granted, there's a lot of industries that wouldn't see a lot of benefit of creating what's known as an elevator speech, but by the same token, they don't hurt to make one for yourself either.

In fact, there's a good reason for creating one even if you never plan on using it. The value is due to the actual process of creating one to start with. An elevator speech, by necessity, has to be short, sweet, and to the point. There's just no time to meander all over the place when you really only have 30 seconds or so to get your point across. Nor do you want to be winging it when it could mean the difference between getting the job/sale/contract or not.

Realistically, you want three different versions of your speech. More specifically, not different in content, but different in length.  Your basic one should be less than twenty words, and ideally, less than fifteen. That size allows you to make quick small talk and still have time to give someone a clear, concise understanding of what you offer. It should roll off the tongue smoothly. In other words, rehearse it in front of a mirror until you have every inflection and nuance mastered. Diction make a huge difference in the message you convey to the other person, so mastering these points allows you to control, at least what's within your power, the other person receives.

The other two elevator speeches are basically just expansions on this basic message, one that's around a half minute in length, and one that's forty-five seconds to a minute in length. Any longer than that and you're going to start giving the prospect enough information to say no to. If they're truly interested in what you have to offer, based off of one of your speeches, it would be more beneficial to actually arrange a meeting instead of trying to rush a sale in a situation that's not conducive to it.

So, with all that said, why did I imply it's beneficial for all business owners to create one, even if they don't ever plan on using it or needing it? For one simple reason, actually. It forces you to focus on what your core message is for your business, the main reason for its existence. You can look at it almost like a mini-mission statement. Once you can distill your business down to fifteen words or so, it can provide you a filter to hold up against new opportunities to see if they make sense. By the same token, you can hold it up against your current operations to see if there's anything you're doing right now that doesn't make sense based off of what you've just determined to be your core mission.

Not bad for fifteen to twenty words or so, is it?

So with that, tell me what you think in the comment section down below. Do you think coming up with an elevator speech can help your business, or do you think it'd be a waste of time?

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Online review sites… Who needs ’em?

March 9, 2015 by Leave a comment

Online review sites. You either love ‘em or hate ‘em. If you’re a consumer, it’s where you go to check out a business before going. If you’re a business, you tend to hate them and wish they’d just go away.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, online review sites, like Yelp® and FourSquare®, allow consumers to rate and review your business, often without your knowledge or input.

Consumers love these sites because they can quickly get an idea of what other people thought about your business. They can quickly get a feel for what they’ll experience, based off what others report, when they interacted with your business.

On the flip side, most businesses hate these sites for pretty much the same reason. It takes direct control of their online reputation out of their hands and puts it into the hands of strangers. Their biggest gripe, and fear, is that anyone can put whatever they like on these sites, regardless of accuracy. Put another way, this ‘anyone’ could be their competition, a disgruntled employee, or even a customer who didn’t get special treatment. Even worse, they can leave this review without the business owner having any ability to remove fake reviews.

The funny thing is, these sites can also be a huge source of new customers when used correctly. They can also be the source of competitive business intelligence; data that used to cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to research just a few years ago. The big trick is to view what these sites offer with an open mind.

The biggest thing to keep in mind when you start doing your research is, not all bad reviews are bad and not all good reviews are good. Some bad reviews can actually improve your sales, while some good reviews can actually lower your sales.

In a talk given by Panagiotis Ipeirotis (YouTube® link here), he discovered that some negative reviews, when the reviewer mentioned specific issues that the purchaser didn’t feel were relevant, tended to act like a positive review. In other words, because the negative review didn’t list something that the next customer cared about, they were more likely to buy.

Because the negative review was specific in the complaint, the customer reading the review felt the reviewer was more trustworthy. By the same token, a very general “this item is awesome” type of review tended to be mistrusted because there wasn’t anything specific about it. It tended to lower sales because they didn’t describe why it was so great.

So if all you’re looking at when you check your reviews is whether they’re positive or negative, you’re overlooking the possibility that those negative review might actually be helping your bottom line.

Another aspect of looking at your negative reviews, and to a lesser degree your positive ones, is that they might actually be valid. For example, if you get several reviews stating that employee X is rude, you might want to investigate whether employee X is causing you to lose customers.

Especially in the food business, where atmosphere and customer service can contribute to having repeat clients, having rude or inconsiderate employee can easily break you.

Several years ago, the only way to get this type of information was to hire a secret shopper(s) to come in and pretend to be a customer. Now you have the opportunity to open a website, type in some words, click a few buttons, and have access to that data for free.

Even better, you can gather the same type of research about your competition. Just by surfing on over to their page, you can get an idea of what they’re doing right by studying the good reviews.

You can also spot opportunities to differentiate your business by seeing what your competitors is getting negative reviews on and doing them better. And again, it’s all free at the click of a button.

The hardest thing about doing this research is that you take it too personally. When someone is talking about your business, your baby, you might have a hard time distancing yourself from this information. Instead of taking the information provided and looking for ways to improve your business, you might take the reviews personally.

Unfortunately, taking it personally usually leads to one of two outcomes… You either lay into the reviewer that left the negative review, assuming the site allows it, or you completely avoid the site.

Of the two, ignoring a negative review is the worse option. You can always go back and change your review. You might also have the ability to privately contact the reviewer, depending on the site. Just by reaching out to them and apologizing, they’ll sometimes change their review to a more positive one.

Ignoring the sites completely, on the other hand, means you have no clue what’s being said about you, and by extension, denies you the opportunity to address bad reviews. If bad reviews start piling up, especially about things that can be fixed, then it’s only a matter of time before your customers start going elsewhere.

So the question really becomes, how can you make the most of these review sites? Quite simply, actually look at them. Read what comments are being left, both good and bad.

If they’re bad, figure out if they’re things you can fix. Contact the reviewer, see if they’ll give you another chance. It won’t hurt to reach out to them and try, and it could actually benefit you in more ways than one.

That reviewer might not just change the negative review to a positive one, they might actually tell others about their experience, about how you, the business, actually listened to them and cared enough to right their wrong.

A few minutes of your time can build tremendous goodwill and might even lead to more customers. All because you took notice of a reviewer’s complaint and cared enough to try and make it better..

Even if they won’t change their review, you might be able to determine how to improve the next customer’s experience based off of why you got the negative review originally.

Just so you don’t think I’m just trying to sugarcoat it though, I will say that there’s always a chance that they just wrote a review out of spite, or because they couldn’t get their way, or yes, because a competitor wrote it to hurt your business. It happens. It’s just the cost of doing business.

Now, assuming I convinced you to start looking at online review sites in a different, more positive light, the next step is to actually log onto these sites and:

  • Claim it: Most sites have a process you have to go through to take ownership of the page, allowing you to control the information posted, like menus, services you provide, etc.
  • Put your info on it: Actually put your correct business information on the site. Since these pages are customer generated, they may have incorrect info on the site, like hours of operation, a bad address, or bad phone numbers, etc.
  • Read the reviews: This can be the most time consuming part. Depending on how popular your business is and/or how tech savvy your customers are, you might only have a couple, or a couple hundred, reviews to go through.

After doing these steps, you then need to set up a schedule for checking your page on a regular basis. The more frequently you check, the more likely you are to catch a negative review early, meaning you can reach out to the reviewer and try and address the issue before they stew about it. The downside is that you have to take time away from other duties.

Or you can review your site less frequently. The plus is that you’re not spending as much time on it. The downside is, if you get a negative review, you’re less likely to change their mind the longer the review stays up there.

So it becomes a balancing act. Or you can have someone else do it at your business. The plus to that is, they’re less emotionally attached, so more likely to review the information analytically. The downside is, they’re doing this instead of what they’re normally doing in your business.

The third option is to hire a 3rd party to do it for you. A third party can normally devote the time needed to get the most out of data provided. A lot of them can also monitor the web to see if your business gets mentioned online, either on a different review site, from a blogger or food critic, or possibly even from a news report from a paper or magazine that posts their articles on their website.

So in the end, you have a choice. These sites aren't going anywhere. In fact, they’re only going to get bigger and more authoritative. You can either ignore them or embrace them, but keep in mind, if you ignore them, you do so at your own peril. Choose wisely.

So what are some of your reasons for or against monitoring your business page profiles on sites like Yelp® and FourSquare®? Put your comments in the section down below.

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Just an admin note.

February 9, 2015 by 2 comments

Getting ready to purge my user/subscriber list here. What this means is, if you want to remain a subscriber to this site, respond to this post. Otherwise, I'm going to delete your account off the site. This includes anyone who signs up between now and next week Sunday, 2/15/15.

If you don't post a response on this post by then, your account will be deleted sometime shortly after that. Sorry for the inconvenience.

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Ever have this happen to you…?

August 4, 2014 by Leave a comment
Desktop with 3 monitors

A snapshot of my new desktop system

Ahhhh... After being forced to work on a decade old computer system for the better part of 6 months because my main system died, cutting into my income because the old system couldn't do all that I needed it to do, unboxing and setting up a brand new, high end system was something rather exciting to do over the weekend.

After about a half hour into it, I started to feel something amiss. I had 3 monitors, but only 2 DVI connectors. I had assumed that, based off the description of the computer on the website and the conversation I had with the sales rep over the phone, I would have gotten some type of adapter to hook up all 3 monitors.

I figured no big deal for the time being, I can use the HDMI connection to hook up the 3rd monitor and call them on Monday. Unfortunately, no matter what I tried to do, I could only get 2 of the 3 monitors working. Now the system itself could SEE all 3, but it would only show a display on only 2 at a time. I could get the system to switch which monitors were active, but never all 3 at the same time.

I spent the better part of the weekend trying to find information on the company website to try and figure out what I was missing. Having been a computer tech for almost 15 years, I knew it was something simple. I just assumed it was because of them not sending me an adapter and the video card could only power 2 of the displays, software-wise, without the adapter.

That Monday, I called their tech support. After explaining my issue, the rep was at a loss for words. They took over my computer and spent almost an hour going through the same steps I had already tried several times over the weekend, with the same results.

“What about an adapter, which I specifically asked for when I ordered this system?” I asked.

“Oh, we don't have those types of adapters.” was the reply.

“Well, so what you're saying is, when someone orders a system from you with more than 2 monitors, your standard reply is, 'Oh, so sorry, we don't provide you all the equipment needed to run the system you just spent over $1,000 on'? I find that hard to believe.”

With that, I got kicked up to a 'supervisor'. After another 15 minutes of back and forth, I was told that I needed to talk to another department for said adapter. I asked the supervisor that, since they'd already wasted over an hour of my time, could they contact the other department for me to get the adapter, I was advised it was no problem.

That was over a week ago, and no response. Also, absolutely no information on the site for how to hook up more than 2 monitors, even though the site shows that the video card I paid extra for could run up to 6 monitors.

It took me actually looking up the video card manufacturer and emailing them directly that I was able to find out how to run all 3 of my monitors. It did require an adapter, but not the one I had originally thought I needed. I was able to get the adapter locally for just under $25.

Why is all this important? Quite simply, even though I've been a loyal customer of this company for over a decade, having bought 4 or 5 systems over that time-frame from them, quite honestly, I don't know if I'd ever buy another system from them again.

Some of the other stuff I left out of this story was how, on the day I wanted to purchase the system, their entire site was down for upgrades, so I was forced to call them up to order the system. Also, it took 3 tries to get the order to flow through the system. Honestly, the first time was because of my bank trying to protect me from theft/fraud since it's not every day I drop $1,300+ on a computer system, so I'm not holding that against them.

Since they weren't able to accept my card, they offered me the option to pay via PayPal® with the assurance that I'd get an email within 3 hours to allow me to pay, giving me enough time to call my back to lift the block. That email never came but I was able to call back and order the system over the phone.

All this mess could have been avoided if they had made sure of 3 very simple things. If they had done these 3 things, I wouldn't have had any reason not to purchase from them again, even if I had run into the same issues of missing adapters.

  1. Make sure the business site has all the information that might be asked. If they had provided the same information that the video card vendor had provided me, I would have been able to ask for that bit specifically when I ordered. If they had advised me that they didn't carry that cable, I could have ordered it from a 3rd party vendor to have it at my house at the same time I got my new system.

  2. Make sure your tech support have accurate information. I had told the rep exactly what the problem was, even showing them the issue on the screen when they took over my system. The rep completely ignored me and kept trying to do other things that had absolutely nothing to do with the issue, and at one point, almost made it worse when I took control back to stop them.

  3. Especially after having me spend as much money as I had with them, own up to your mistake and try to make it right. If that supervisor had just said, “No problem, I'll get you that cable or at least find out what type of cable you need if we don't carry it,” I would have been satisfied. I had actually tried to find the adapter I needed before I had contacted tech support, but had gotten the wrong one, getting me frustrated because I had expected the adapter to come with the system to start with.

If those 3 things had been done, I'd still be singing the praises of that company. Now that I have the adapter, I love the system itself, but I can't trust the company to support me if I have an issue in the future. I also know their site's going to be worthless when it comes to getting technical help as well. I can't imagine what would have happened to someone who wasn't tech savvy in the same situation. They probably would have boxed it back up and sent it back for a refund on the premise that, if you can't provide what I asked for, nor can you support what you sell adequately, then I need to go somewhere else.

So you need to ask yourself, do you have good information on your site for all the products and services you offer, or do you assume they'll be able to fill in the blanks? I can assure you, some of your visitors will have the motivation to do it, but not the majority. If they have to struggle to find the information they're looking for, they're going to go somewhere else.

The same goes for your staff, or at least the ones that come in contact with your customers. Do they know enough to answer most questions a customer might ask them? Most customers will understand if the rep doesn't know all the answers, but the rep should make the customer feel comfortable in the fact that the rep is going to take ownership of the issue and track down the information for them.

As the saying goes, if you don't take care of the customer, someone else will.

So have you ever had this type of issue before with a company, either because they had inadequate information on their site or because their reps weren't trained well enough? Let me know in the comments below.

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Funny thing about throwing your back out…

July 14, 2014 by Leave a comment

The pain was excruciating. I couldn't turn my upper body, lean over, or cough without feeling like a screwdriver was being driven into my back. Just the thought of picking up a glass of something to drink almost caused me to break out in a cold sweat. If you've ever thrown your back out, you know what I'm talking about.

It had happened while helping get my Mom into the car to take her to a doctor's appointment. Because of her age and health issues, she's unsteady on her feet. With that being said, I was in the process of walking her down a wheelchair ramp when her legs gave out on her. Thankfully, I was close enough and fast enough to catch her and literally hold her 190# of, at that point, dead weight. Twisting in place I was able to get her seated in a chair safely. Unfortunately, I doubled over in pain almost immediately.

To make a long story short, I was bedridden for a day while heavily medicated, and it took nearly a week before I was back to normal. "So why is this important?" you might ask. It's simple, really.

During that week, I would have done anything, or paid anything within my ability, to have the means to get rid of that awful pain. Think about that for a moment. If you, my wonderful reader, had come up to me right after I had injured myself, and offered me some magic pill or strange yoga posture that would have taken the pain away, you could have been several hundred dollars richer. That's about how much I lost from being unable to work for a week.

The point is, if you had been able to get rid of my pain, you would have been my hero and you would be hard pressed to get me to stop singing your praises to anyone who would listen. The same goes for your current clients and customers. If you can find a way to help stop their pain, whether it's a smoking cessation program, or helping them get over feeling guilty about not being able to play with the grand-kids by helping them get in better shape, you'll become a hero in their eyes.

Once you become their hero, they'll become your greatest salesperson. So what can you do to help with your prospect's pain? Figure out how your product or service can do that and you'll always have a steady stream of new customers.

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Published in General Post

Are you using your advertising dollars where it’ll do the most good?

June 23, 2014 by Leave a comment

So I was reading a book the other day called:

80/20 Sales and Marketing: The Definitive Guide to Working Less and Making More (This links to Amazon, where I get a small commission for each purchase)

I found a lot of what he was saying in his book to be quite interesting. It also got me to thinking about how often business owners overlook what this means. The primary think he talks about in his book is the Pareto principle, what most people know as the 80/20 rule.

What this principle means, in a nutshell, is that 80% of your results comes from 20% of your effort. The remaining 20% of your results comes from the remaining 80% of your effort. It’s a statistic that holds up under quite a few different circumstances. In a sales department, it usually winds up being 20% of the sales force are making a majority of the sales.

Granted, it doesn’t always break down to exactly 80/20. Sometimes it might be 77/23, 82/18, or something similar. It’s close enough to make some pretty accurate guesses as to what might happen if you change X to affect Y.

Anyway, what’s surprising is, a lot of people know what this 80/20 principle means, but they don’t really take advantage of it, or they don’t believe it pertains to them and their business. The problem is, it actually does pertain to them in some form.

Whether it’s something as simple as turning your bookkeeping over to someone else because you invest too much time in it for the return on investment you get from it, or outsourcing your cold calls to a 3rd party company because the cost per lead from the telemarketing company is cheaper than how many you get from your employees who get paid by the hour, in some way, you are affected by the 80/20 rule.

Where this rule really starts to show up is when it comes to your repeat customers. What this principle says is, for every 100 repeat customers you have, 20 of them will bring in 80% of your revenue. Think about that. Possibly 80% of your advertising might be wasted on those 80 people who only bring in 20% of your revenue.

Most business owners don’t ever take the time to analyze their customer base in this way. If you do take the time, you can focus your advertising on the people who make up most of your revenue. Another way to look at it is you can be more straightforward in your advertising to the 20%, i.e. we have this for sale at X price. Think about how Apple© advertises their next iWhatever.

All it takes is a press release saying, “Hey, our newest widget is going to be for sale on XX date for $YY. See you there.” What happens? You have Apple© fanboys, and girls, camped out in front of the nearest store for hours before they even open, just to get something that is marginally better than the last widget that was released.

Do you think Apple© dumped a bunch of money into that advertising promotion, sending out ad after ad, building up a campaign over several months to get them to buy? NO! All they had to do is appeal to their 20% group with a simple message that, “Hey, it’s new, it’s shiny, it’s available, and it’s from Apple©,” and they come running. Heck, they probably could have sent a one shot email to get them to come running.

On the other hand, the remaining 80%, the ones who probably have other types of phones, those are the ones that Apple© has to put in a real effort to reach. Whether it’s trying to compare feature sets and benefits, to pricing, to range of colors and cases available, Apple© has to put in a lot more money and effort to reach that 80%.

So… Why am I going on and on about this? It’s simple. How much money are you throwing away by either sending an advertising message to your 20% that’s overkill, or not spending enough on the advertising to reach your 80%.

More importantly, are you losing money overall trying to reach that 80% only to bring in 20% of your revenue? If, instead, you focused on that 20%, who bring in the 80% of your revenue, the group most likely to purchase from you again, would you really be losing that 20%. The saving you’d get advertising to a smaller group along with the higher response to each individual advertisement might actually make up the loss in revenue from not advertising to the other 80%.

The only way to determine something like this is to put your numbers under a fine tooth comb and test what happens when you start shifting your advertising budget to lean more towards the 20% or 80% group and see how the numbers work out.

A simple 20% change in how you spend your advertising budget could add up to an 80% impact to your bottom line.

Tell me what you think. Do you think it’s better to advertise more to the 20% to save on advertising costs, or is it better to lean toward the 80% since they’re the ones that’ll be harder to sell? Tell me what you think in the comment section below.

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Published in General Post

Hello [Insert name here]

June 9, 2014 by Leave a comment

The other day, my wife got pretty excited about a package that arrived. Apparently, it was something she’d been waiting for and just couldn’t wait to open. Now, to paraphrase the immortal words of Zig Ziglar, my wife is a decided auburn hair color, meaning she decided she wanted her hair to auburn.

In fact, she’s been doing her own hair color for as long as I’ve known her (going on 16 year), and I have it on good information (I.E. She told me so) that she’d been coloring her own hair for most of her life. With that type of background and experience, when I found out what the package contained, her enthusiasm bewildered me.

What she had received in the mail was hair coloring from a company she’d seen via an infomercial. Trying to figure out what the big brouhaha was about, I started asking questions.

“So dear, what’s so special about this hair coloring opposed to what you normally get in the store?”

I don’t remember her exact answer, but it was something along the lines of, “They made this hair color especially for me!”

By that point, I was a little intrigued. I’d never seen her get excited about hair color. A good percentage of the time, I don’t even know she’d touched up her coloring unless I notice the bottles in the trash. So trying to figure out why this was so different, I watched as she showed me what the box contained. By this point, I have to mention that her excitement appeared to have reached a plateau and was starting to come back down to what I figured would be a normal level, but when she read what I assumed was the instructions, she got all excited again about it being hair coloring made especially for her.

The reason I’m going into such detail about all this is because of what I read on that one sheet of paper that was in the box. While my wife continued to happily rummage around in the box the hair color that was made “especially for her,” I took a glance at what was written on that sheet of paper. What I saw was a brilliant example of not only great marketing, but a very astute knowledge of what makes a customer loyal

I’ve included a picture I snapped with my smart phone of the sheet of brilliant copywriting this company included in their package. This one sheet of paper turned this product, from just being custom mixed hair coloring, to my wife’s own special blend. The formula ID starts with my wife’s initials. It says it was prepared for my wife’s name. It reiterates it’s a custom color created solely for my wife, and even suggests which hair color specialist mixed it up for her.

At no time did it feel like they forced her name into this sales letter. And make no mistake, this was a very powerful sales letter. It told her indirectly that, if she wanted to get more, all she’d have to do is call the company and reorder HER special hair color.

This brings me to the question I want to ask you. How well do you know your prospect or customer? Do you provide just the right amount of personalization to get them excited about purchasing from you? Do you run the risk of going overboard, maybe to the point that the customer feels uncomfortable? Or are you at the other extreme where, even if it’s not your intention, you make them feel like just another number? Getting this right can make a huge impact on your sales. If you can transfer that feeling of ownership onto your customers and get them excited about the purchase, they’re much more likely to purchase from you again. They also have a tendency of becoming your best spokesperson, excitedly telling everyone they come across how great you are. And that’s something that money can’t buy.

So let me know what you think down below. Do you agree, disagree, or aren’t quite sure?  Also, if you have a particularly effective or unique way to make your customers feel like your products are especially meant for them, I’d love to hear about it as well.

 

Example of a great personalized sales letter

Sales Letter from eSalon

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Published in General Post

Not entirely dead yet.

June 7, 2014 by Leave a comment

I would like to apologize. I have been on an unexpected hiatus for much longer than I expected. Since my last post, I've had several family emergencies, catastrophic computer damage (my main system and backup system both went down for the count. I'm actually writing this on a 9 year old bargain laptop running Windows XP), significant financial hardship, wrote a book on writing, and finally an enforced introspection of what I wanted this business to become.

After much reflection, and getting the rest of my ducks in a row, I believe I'm going to carve a new path for my business. Over the next month or two, I'm going to be significantly overhauling my business and what type of companies I want to serve.

I also plan to start having regular updates to this blog again, along with having a monthly newsletter. So for those of you who have stuck around, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I'll hopefully make it worth it to you all.

Keep your eyes peeled for the content changes that'll be happening over the following weeks, and again I thank you. Have a wonderful weekend.

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Published in General Post

If you’re getting a bunch of emails from me…

October 30, 2013 by Leave a comment

I do apologize. I'm in the process of setting up my newsletter with a completely new provider company, so unfortunately there might be some growing pains.

If you're not getting any weird emails, feel free to ignore this update.

 

Admin

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Are you leaving money on the table? Or how being lazy may have cost me business.

September 30, 2013 by Leave a comment

Ok, I admit it. I’ve been being lazy. Sure, I’ve tried to rationalize it away: I’m too busy, nobody will notice, my blog does a well enough job, ad nauseam. No matter how I try to convince myself otherwise, it’s still the same answer… I’m being lazy.

What nefarious chore have I been such a slacker about, you ask? It’s the task of creating and writing my own, ongoing enewsletter. I’ve been tricking myself into believing that a monthly blog post counted as a type of enewsletter, but I knew deep down that it wasn’t the same.

For one thing, a enewsletter, an email version of a printed newsletter,  is designed to be easily shareable, either by forwarding to friends, family, or business associates, or by actually printing it out and sharing. Trying to share a blog post, on the other hand, is much more difficult and restricted. Making a marketing piece more difficult to share is the last thing you’d want to do.

Your prospects and customers want everything to be as easy as possible. Making something more difficult just means there’s going to be a percentage of people who won’t do what you want. The more difficult the task, the less people will go through with it.

Granted, an enewsletter might not be what you think of when someone says marketing piece, but it really is. It doesn’t work by direct selling, however. The magic in having an enewsletter is that it puts you in the position of a trusted adviser. In other words, you’re the expert. By positioning yourself as an expert, you automatically gain value in the eyes of your prospects and customers and usually lowering their sensitivity to the price of your products and services.

Another benefit of having an enewsletter comes from providing you a platform for getting in front of your prospects on a regular basis. By staying top of mind, when the prospect is finally ready to buy a product or service, you have a MUCH higher chance of being top of mind.

The main strength of an enewsletter is how well they help you build relationships with your customers and prospects. As just about every business book advises, businesses are built by relationships. By striving to be truly helpful from month to month, most prospects and customers start to look forward to your newsletter.

By providing valuable information, you develop the trust between you and your target audience. That trust, over time, becomes a valuable relationship that can help sway a prospect to buy from you when everything else is equal.

Another reason why enewsletters are so valuable and help sales comes down to a well known statistic in the sales field. That statistic is: It takes between 3-5 contacts before a prospect feels comfortable enough to purchase from a stranger.

Having that contact, especially when there’s no sales pressure involved, very easily moves a prospect along the path to trusting you so they’re much more willing to buy from you. Regular advertising: classified ads, direct mail, newspaper spreads, etc, can’t hope to develop the same level of trust that an enewsletter can generate.

Sure, those other means of advertising are important and I would never suggest not doing them, but dollar for dollar, you have much more to gain by having an enewsletter working for you than not.

With all that being said, I know it’s high time I start offering an enewsletter myself, a “practice what you preach” if you will. So within the next month or two, expect to see a notification going out, and obviously a blog post, letting you know when the first issue is available.

If there’s anything you want to see discussed, any topic that you have a question about, please feel free to contact me and let me know. I’ll try and address it in an upcoming issue. You can reach me at:
enewsletter@penultimatecopywriting.com

  I'll normally get back to you within 1-2 business days. I can't wait to hear from you.

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Is email dead?

September 16, 2013 by Leave a comment

  With all the different Social Media sites out there, (Facebook®, Twitter®, Pinterest®, Linkedin®, and others), a big question to ask is:

  Does it still make sense to do email marketing?

  One of the big factors generating this question is email overload. With more and more spam, scams, chain letters, and newsletters filling up our email boxes to overflowing, It’s hard to see how your marketing message can be noticed in the flood. It’s a very valid point, but as we’ll see, the alternative can be significantly worse.

  What most companies don’t really realize is that they don’t really ‘own’ their ‘friends list’ on their respective Social Media site. While it’s a great feeling to have the likes, shares, follows, and friending happening on your page, the big problem is that you don’t actually have complete control over those interactions, which one business found out recently.

    Matt Kruse, the developer behind a browser extension called Social fixer, found out the hard way what this really means. (LINK TO FULL STORY HERE).  On September 1, 2013, he had on his Facebook® page:

·         A support group that had approximately 13,360 members

·         Approximately 338,050 Likes for their main page

·         Approximately 1.47 MILLION followers on their interest list

  I say approximately for all those numbers, because there’s no way to know for sure what the actual final numbers were. On September 2, 2013, when he logged into his administrator page, he found out that his page was unpublished by Facebook® themselves, indicating he had broken some rule. The only recourse he had at that point was to click on the appeal button.

  Fast forward less than 2 week later, on September 11, he was notified that his page was completely removed, his admin and personal accounts were blocked from posting, or even liking, anything on Facebook®. The same was true for all the admins and moderators associated with the page as well. They even went so far as to block his wife’s account.

  In the space of less than 2 weeks, for unknown reasons, 4 plus years of hard work growing a thriving community was destroyed. What’s worse, I’m willing to bet that Mike has no way to contact a good percentage of those followers to tell them what’s going on. As far as those followers are concerned, his business disappeared overnight.

  One has to wonder how many of those followers are going to go through the effort to track down what happened to this developer. Will they take the time to try to find his website, or did he lose them for good because of apathy or another developer that’s still accessible?

  This is why, with all it’s faults, email marketing will never go away. With email marketing, you have a means to collect your prospects and clients contact information easily, and the list you create from this marketing effort is yours to control. Nobody can take it away from you. In addition, if you provide email content like newsletters with material that’s actually helpful to your customers, they’ll get used to receiving and opening it. If you’ve done your job right, they’ll actually be looking forward to it’s arrival.

  If your customers are used to getting email from you that’s truly beneficial to them, when something dire happens, you have a ready means to get the word out as to what happened and to let them know you’re still around.

  Now I’m not saying that you should stop any effort at using Social Media to build your business. What I am saying is, develop a way to capture your visitors contact information, even if it’s just a name and email address. Then provide a regular, consistent form of contact with your customers through email, whether it’s a full blown newsletter, a quick tip, or if you’ve gathered enough information through other avenues, maybe holiday and birthday greetings.

  At the end of the day, your business lives or dies by your ability to communicate with your prospects and customers. If you don’t take advantage of all the different tools available to you that fit your business, you’re only going to hold yourself back. Making email the backbone of that communication system means that you’ll always have a way to talk to them, even if you lose a communication limb or two.

  Do you agree or disagree? Let me what you think in the comments section.

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System Update – 9/10/13

September 10, 2013 by Leave a comment

I finally decided to add some type of email notification system to the site. After you log in, you should have the option to sign up to receive an email notification when a new blog post is up. If you have any problems signing up for it, let me know and I'll manually add you.

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NLP and written advertising

August 26, 2013 by Leave a comment

When most people talk about Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and interacting with other people, they're normally referring to face-to-face interactions. An area that receives little attention is how NLP can help print advertising, both online and hardcopy.

One of the big precepts of NLP deals with representational systems and modalities. In layman's terms, it means that people have a preferred way to interact with the world based off the five senses. Some people are more visual, while some prefer auditory stimulus, for example.

For example, a visual person tends to use phrases like, "I like what I see here." or "Do you see what I mean?" For a more auditory person, you'd more likely hear them say things like, "I don't like what I'm hearing." or "Do you hear what I'm saying?"

Granted, there are three other senses, touch, taste, and smell. While a majority of people identify seem to identify with the first two, touch/kinesthetic does come in a distant third, while the remaining two are rarely the primary modality. Usually they wind up being a secondary modality.

Why is this important? It's important for the same reason getting to know your prospect is important. It's all about persuasively, and effectively,  getting your message across to your prospect and getting them to take action. Knowing what representational systems and modalities they use can help make your message more effective by unintentionally making the message harder to understand for someone who prefers one sense over another.

So what are some of the words that people with these representational systems tend to use? Below is a short list of words that are frequently used for each representational system:

Visual

Clear-cut, hazy idea, focus, look into it, hindsight, make a scene, pinpoint, etc.

Auditory

Clear as a bell, discuss, earful, loud and clear, speechless, tongue-tied, word for word, etc.

Touch/Kinesthetic

Boils down to, heated, hang in there, slipped my mind, weighed heavily, tied up, etc

So when it comes to writing your marketing message, whenever possible, try to incorporate words and phrases that include different representational systems. It'll allow your message to be persuasive to a wider audience and it'll help build trust in your company because, in the prospects eyes, you speak their language and that your message rings true.

What are your thoughts? Do you think incorporating into your marketing message language that addresses the different representational systems would help or hurt your message? Leave a comment down below and tell me what you think.

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Are landing pages really needed?

July 22, 2013 by Leave a comment

 

I had to go to Wal-Mart the other day to get some plastic bins to pack up some stuff that we were going to put into storage. When I got there, I found out that they had changed the layout since the last time I had been there, so the great hunt for the bins had to be undertaken.

 

For the next 10 minutes or so, I walked up and down several isles, getting more and more irritated by my inability to find what I had gone there to get. Being a stereotypical man, I didn't want to ask anyone where they might be located. I just figured I'd eventually find them. After my long search, I finally found the isle that held the bins I was looking for. Mission accomplished.

 

What, you may ask, does this have to do with landing pages? Quite a lot actually. When someone comes to your website looking for something specific, whether it's due to an advertisement they've read, a friend referred them, or from Googling you, they want to see specifically what they were looking for. The last thing they want to do, after arriving at your site, is to hunt around for said item.

 

Another parallel is that, during my search, I really don't remember what was on any of the shelves when I was walking down any of those isles. It wasn't until after I found what I was looking for that I really took notice of what was around me. The same is true for your web visitors. Assuming they stick around long enough, and are motivated enough, to try to search for the item they want, they're not going to notice anything else you have to offer until they find what they came to your site for in the first place.

 

Granted, having many things to choose from is great when someone is just browsing around your store, or website, a customer is never going to browse around until after they accomplish their mission of finding whatever they came to you for first. Then, and only then, does it make sense to offer items directly related to what they were looking for originally.

 

What I mean by this is, if someone comes to your site looking for a specific type of surfboard, then an appropriate landing page is going to talk about nothing other than that surfboard. It's only after that prospect puts said board in the cart that it might make sense to suggest surfboard wax, but not a car battery.

 

Once your prospect makes their purchase, and only then, should you ever route them to your main site. Granted, you may lose a few sales here and there because your new customer doesn't want to create a second order. You'll lose a lot more sales though by diluting the focus of your sales message before they made their first purchase.

 

It's always a lot easier to get a customer to buy from you again than it is to get them to make an initial purchase. So creating a landing page that helps them overcome their buyer's resistance will do more to help you create a relationship than just throwing a bunch of products at them and hoping one catches their interest.

 

What do you think? Do you feel landing pages aren't worth the time and effort to create, or do you feel that it's a great online advertising tool?

 

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In direct response advertising, less is more…

June 27, 2013 by Leave a comment

No, this doesn't mean cutting back on your advertising budget, but what it does mean is using your advertising budget more effectively. The main way to do this is to narrow down the list of prospects you're trying to reach.

What I mean by this is, instead of casting your net wide, trying to catch as many people as possible, instead focus more on the type of person who's going to want to purchase your product or service. In other words, don't waste advertising dollars on someone who'll never purchase your product. For example, I don't care how tender and juicy that black angus steak might be, you'll never be able to spend enough money or be persuasive enough to convince a devout vegan who's a card carrying member of PETA to buy it.

What is a more effective use of your budget is to first get a real good picture in your head of who your ideal prospect is. I mean a real, living, breathing picture in your mind of who and what your best prospect would look like. Once you can firmly picture what your ideal client looks like, you'll be one step closer to creating a much more powerful advertising piece. You'll be able to focus your message with laser-like intensity, burning away all objections.

Once you can firmly envision your ideal client and gear your material to talk to them specifically, you'll be sending out less advertising material, advertising that'll be much more effective.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Why? And finally, who is your ideal prospect?

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What is a copywriter?

April 8, 2013 by Leave a comment

After attending a recent networking and business development workshop, it became pretty apparent that small business owners, especially new ones, have either never even hear of the term copywriter, or have heard  the term but don’t have a clear idea what they do.

At the most basic level, and this is a very broad generalization, a copywriter is a person who writes copy, a fancy word for text, that tries to persuade someone to take some sort of action. For example, signing up for a newsletter.

This is different from what a journalist or technical writer does. These two types of writers write to be informative. They’re not trying to get you to do anything about what’s being written, just to pass along specific knowledge about something, like a recent event or how to use a certain feature in a piece of software.

A copywriter, on the other hand, writes with the intention of getting the reader to take some sort of action or feel a specific way about a product or service. That action could be anything: continuing to read the copy, clicking on a button on a web page, filling out a form and mailing it, or voting for a particular candidate.

It could also be to feel emotionally charged about a product or service, like mentally experiencing the feel of wind in your hair while driving a convertible, or fear that you won’t be able to get a shiny widget because they might run out.

Copywriters can be generalists, or they can specialize in a particular niche. A generalist, as the name implies, only specialize in the craft of copywriting. They are the Swiss army knife of the persuasive writing field. Whether it’s creating a direct mail package or a postcard, web page to email message, they have the ability to write effective marketing pieces. They tend to have a very broad area of knowledge on numerous topics.

The downside is that they usually, but not always, need more lead-time to do a good job on any project they do. A lot of this lead-time is so they can do the required research to sound intelligent about the product or service. They also need to determine the correct “voice” needed for the audience they’re writing for. They don’t want to talk down or talk up to a prospect; instead, they want to sound like a peer that they can trust. Getting this right takes time.

A specialist, on the other hand, usually has deep knowledge about a much more specific area of expertise. This could be knowledge of a specific industry, like high tech or the self help field, or a specific type of project, like only writing direct mail packages, landing pages, or email advertising.

Because of their focus in a specific area, they usually have a strong grasp on who they’re writing to along with having a good working knowledge of the topic in question. This means it's quicker for them to be able to get the project they specialize in completed for the client. Another benefit that comes with specialization is that, since they’re more familiar with the prospect and how they think, they’re usually able to write more persuasively than a generalist might be able to do.

The downside of hiring a specialist is that they tend to be more expensive than a generalist, similar to how a specialist doctor tends to charge more than a general practitioner. Another possible downside has more to do with how they fit into your overall marketing effort. In other words, if you hire a landing page specialist, you may also need to hire someone who can write the postcard to direct prospects to the landing page.

Going back to the general practitioner versus the specialist physician, the general practitioner might do a good job for most of your medical needs. If you’re having an unusual issue with your foot however, the podiatrist might be a better option to go to than letting the general practitioner try and research the issue and make an educated guess as to the problem.

At the end of the day, a generalist copywriter might not be any better or worse than using a niche copywriter. It all comes down to what you hope to accomplish with your marketing efforts. In a future article, I’ll cover the differences between direct response type copywriters and ad agency type copywriters.

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Published in Articles

Why use landing pages?

April 1, 2013 by Leave a comment

In the offline world of direct marketing, one of the main components of a successful marketing letter is only having one "Big Idea". The more ideas you try to introduce into your sales letter, the less effective it becomes. One reason behind this is due to giving the prospect more information to think over. This gives them more reasons and opportunities to say no to your offer.

Everything in your marketing letter should focus on supporting and strengthening that one big idea. Most top direct response copywriters would tend to agree.

The question then becomes, if it's such an important and effective method to improve the response rate for offline marketing material, then wouldn't it stand to reason that it's just as important to your online marketing? In many cases, it's even more important since you usually have less time to make an impression.

For example, one of the more popular methods for advertising on the web is by pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. PPC is a method to have your advertising message to show up on search results by means of specific search terms. Having the right keywords can make or break your PPC marketing plan.

If these keywords are popular, it can become very expensive to have your ad show up enough times to justify the expense. Say someone is interested in a specific make and model of TV, like a XYZ super LCD. When they go to the search engines to find someone who sells a XYZ super LCD, assuming you paid enough, your ad for that particular make and model TV would show up at the top of the search results.

All that money would be a waste if your ad directed them to your main website homepage. Your visitor will take one look at your main page, scan it for less than 10 seconds, and unless you have something on that page that talks about that make and model of TV, they’re going to hit their back button, leave your site, and go to the next one down the list.

The main reason for this is due to the belief and understanding that, because that ad showed at the top of the search, it would have specific information about that product. The second, and just as important, reason is due to having multiple choices to make, like which link to click on to get them closer to their goal.

Most websites have a lot of links and other distractions that show up on the front page. All these distractions weaken the PPC ad that you used to draw this prospect to your site. What makes much better sense is to remove as many distractions as possible.  This is where a landing page would come in.

A landing page is, for the most part, the online equivalent of a direct marketing letter. Everything on a landing page is designed specifically to focus your prospect down the sales funnel until they make the buying decision. It does this in several ways.

The biggest reason is that it provides continuity between the PPC ad copy and the landing page copy. When done correctly, the prospect has no confusion as to whether the landing page relates to the PPC ad. If the ad stated, “Click here to see the lowest prices for XYZ super LCD,” then the landing page would have a headline that would follow along the lines of, “The lowest prices for XYZ super LCD anywhere on the web, guaranteed!”

Another way the landing page works is by stripping away all other distractions on the page. When built correctly, a landing page is only going to have information or sales copy that directly connects to the information that brought them here. Continuing with our example, the landing page would only talk about XYZ super LCD. There wouldn’t be any links, unless they lead the customer further down the sales funnel, on the page to lead them to other pages on the site. In fact, there would be no way to get of this page except by either continuing further down the sales funnel, i.e. Buy now, or by hitting the back arrow.

The way the copy on the landing page is written would also be laser focused to draw the prospect further and further down the sales funnel until they reach the point where they have to make a buying decision.

Said another way, there is nothing on this page to distract the customer from concentrating on the object of their desire, no mistake that they’re on the wrong page, and everything is designed to help them buy what they were originally searching for.

Unless you’re willing to develop such focused pages to complement your online, and even offline, marketing, you’re going to see very poor results from your marketing efforts. The name of the game is focus and continuity with your marketing efforts. Anything less is going to be wasted money.

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Workshop – “What’s next” Small Business Workshop Series 3/21/13

March 20, 2013 by Leave a comment

Going to the "What's Next" small business workshop. More info here . Looks to be interesting. Having SEO and Social Media segments, along with several other segments that look to be interesting. Hope to see you there.

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Published in General Post

The importance of navigation clarity and simplicity

October 1, 2012 by Leave a comment

One of the major faults a website can have, beyond not having valuable content, is having a poor site navigational flow. What I mean by this is, how many clicks does it take your visitors to find the information they're looking for. If you're unsure, you may be losing a significant amount of prospects because of it.

One of the most important things you can do to make it easy to navigate your site is to reduce the amount of clicks it takes to get from where they arrive at your site to where they want to be. To understand why, you must first understand how someone would arrive at your site in the first place.

One of the more important things to keep in mind is that not every visitor starts at your homepage and proceeds from there. Your website isn't like a standalone storefront where everyone has to come in the front door and proceed to the section they're looking for. Because of the way the internet works, it acts more like a mall than a standalone building. There's going to be multiple entry points to your site.

Hopefully, some of these entry points are going to be from organic searches done from a search engine. This works by having relevant information on your site that the search engine indexes. After it gets indexed, when someone types in their search terms for what they're looking for, the search engine looks at its index and displays the results for the prospect to review. The more pertinent the information, the higher on the page it displays.

For example, if someone is searching for a specific brand/style of shoe, if you have that particular shoe available on your site, the search results would provide a link to that specific page of your site, not your homepage.

Paid for searches may also be an entry point for your site. If you're utilizing some form of pay per click (PPC) marketing program, then you'd be able to specify which page the searcher would arrive at. Having that prospect arrive at your home page wouldn't be the best use of the traffic generated by your PPC efforts. I'll delve further into the reasons why in my next article.

A third possible way for someone to come across your site could be due to your offline marketing programs. Integrating your online and offline marketing efforts will only improve your results from both. What can really improve the results of both is having a landing page created specifically for each offline marketing package so you can increase the relevance of the information the prospect sees when they go from your offline marketing effort to your website.

A final way someone might arrive at your site is by referral. This method you really don't have any direct control over. This referral could be from someone telling their friends about your products and services, it could be from someone's blog entry, or it could be from some type of review site. Either way, it's traffic that you have no control over where it's coming from or where on your site they're being directed to.

So to review, web traffic can from:

  • Organic searches
  • Paid for searches
  • Offline marketing efforts
  • Referrals

Now that you know how someone makes it to your website, how they move around your site will be easier to understand. The harder it is for someone to find what they're looking for on your site, the more likely it is that they're going to click the back button and leave so they can look elsewhere.

Every time someone has to click on a link to find information, the more likely they are to leave your site. In other words, you're going to lose a certain percentage of visitors every time they have to go to another page to find the information they're looking for.

Ideally, you want the information they're looking for located on the first page they arrive at. Realistically, you want to aim for three or less clicks to get from where they arrive to where they want to be. This is especially important for sites that offer products for sale.

Think about sites like Amazon.com®. When you arrive at their site, they have popular categories listed on the left and a search bar on the top. Entering a search term returns relevant results based off of popularity and how well it matches the search term. Clicking on the link gets them to the page they want.

That's all done in 3 clicks. If it's what they wanted, they can purchase it in as little as one click. It might seem simple but it's a very important concept to remember when developing your site. Keep the navigation simple and limit the number of clicks a visitor needs to click on to get their information.

 

What do you think? How big of an impact do you think your site's navigation is having on either keeping your visitors on your site or causing them to leave for a site that's easier to navigate? I welcome your comments.

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