Compelling Product Copywriting – A Recipe For Success

I was visiting a client that produces designer jewelry and tableware and had the opportunity to get up close and personal with his stunning pieces.

 

As I held one of his forks in my hand, I could feel the heft of the metal and the curvature of the handle, feel an appreciation for his spiritual vision along with the superior artistry, craftsmanship and elegance of his ladder-style design that was inspired by angels ascending into heaven.

 

That experience helped me rationalize that it was a $40 dinner fork.

 

Then I went to his website…

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Don’t Send Out Another Marketing Email Without This Checklist

I recently contributed an article to Business2Community and Yahoo Small Business Advisor on what to check before sending out your next email newsletter or promotional email. It was so popular and well-received that I wanted to re-post it here for my readers who may have missed it.

The original article was posted here and reprinted below:

In the fast and furious world of email marketing, it’s surprisingly easy to overlook an important element or error in your message, creating embarrassment and lost revenue opportunities for your business.

Email is an extremely valuable and cost-effective tool to engage existing and potential customers. From subject lines to the email content itself, each aspect should be carefully considered and reviewed to ensure proper relevance, accuracy and style. Only then will you best represent your brand and generate the most impact.

Forgetting to include the date of an event, missing a call to action, or even the dreaded typo can create a negative impression of your business and drastically reduce the effectiveness of your email. It’s happened to the best of us. A highly capable colleague of mine recently forgot a call to action – even with four other individuals checking over it!

So, I prepared an email marketing checklist that you, too, can utilize before hitting the send button.

  • Dont Send Out Another Marketing Email Without This Checklist image Checklist Noun project 5166.svg Is the content interesting, valuable, and important to the reader? The fastest way to burn out your list and decrease the effectiveness is by sending emails for the sake of it; those that offer no clear benefit to the reader.
  • Has your subscriber list been cleaned of unsubscribe requests or hard bounces since your last send?
  • Are you using a From: name that is more recognizable and enticing than [email protected]?
  • Is your subject line compelling and under 50 characters?
  • Is your email scheduled to be sent out at a time/day where you tend to get a lot of activity?
  • Are you sending the message out to your entire list, or just a segment of it? Is it going to the correct segment?
  • Are you using words in the subject and/or body that raise red flags for spam checkers, such as Free, $$$ or CAPITAL LETTERS?
  • If you have any dynamic, personalized fields, are they populating correctly?
  • Is the most important information “above the fold” so readers can see it without scrolling down?
  • Do your images within the email campaign have the correct alt text and title text to ensure that content can be read if images aren’t being displayed?
  • Do you have clear calls to action as both graphics and text to ensure the reader clicks through to the page where you want them to go?
  • Do you have any grammatical mistakes or typos? Especially if you wrote the content, these can be easy to miss so consider getting extra sets of eyes to check.
  • Are you using trackable URLs on all of your links so you can track the performance of your email in your analytics?
  • Is there an easy way to unsubscribe?
  • Have you tested the email on various web browsers to ensure proper formatting and compatibility?
  • Does your email render properly on mobile devices?

After sending out your next email and following the checklist above, compare your deliverability rates, open rates and click-through rates with your previous emails and see if you can start tracking a difference. After a few times, these tasks will start to become automatic. However, it’s always a good idea to refer back to make sure you aren’t forgetting any.

This email marketing checklist will increase the likelihood of your emails being received, read and acted upon, which puts you in a better position than a lot of your competition and will help you continue to grow your business.

Have you ever sent out a marketing email and realized later that there was a mistake or issue? What did you do about it? Leave a comment below or let us know about any other tips to add to our email marketing checklist!

 

9 Signs It’s Time to Update Your Website (and How to Fix It)

CIO Magazine recently published some great tips on how to tell if your website could use some updating, featuring input from yours truly. There are several relatively quick and inexpensive improvements you can make to improve the overall performance of your site, while others require more in-depth planning and development. Let’s sum up the nine signs that the article points out along with some added points from me:

  1. Your Traffic Isn’t Converting Into Sales – Or leads. If your website isn’t achieving your intended goals, you need to address it or you are wasting money and effort. Try split-testing to find updates that improve your website performance.
  2. Your Site Has High Bounce Rates – Customers aren’t finding what they are looking for. Your site may be hard to navigate, but you should also look at the sources of traffic and make sure you’re not advertising in places that don’t drive interested visitors.
  3. Your Site Takes Forever to Load – People are impatient and no one likes waiting around for pages to appear. Additionally, search engines take page load speed into consideration when ranking your site.
  4. It’s Difficult to Add Content or Update Your Site — Without Having to Pay Someone a Lot of Money to Do it for You- Content management systems such as WordPress or various ecommerce platforms should make it easy enough for someone non-technical to make basic updates to your site content if necessary. You shouldn’t need to pay a software engineer to change 3 words on a page.
  5. Your Website Isn’t Mobile Friendly – A responsive design allows your website to automatically resize to fit the device the user is on. With the drastic increase in mobile browsing, tablets, and other devices, you’re missing out if your site isn’t mobile friendly.
  6. No Way to Opt In/Sign Up to Receive News or Promotions – The vast majority of visitors leave your site without taking the intended action. You did the hard work of getting them there in the first place. Be sure to make every effort to capture their email address so you can continue to engage with them.
  7. Your Content is Stale – A store doesn’t carry the same products forever. Keep your products and your content fresh. Both your customers and search engines will find you more relevant.
  8. No Social Media Links – If you want people talking about your brand and products, include social following and sharing buttons to help get the conversation started.
  9. Your Buttons Look Dated – A quick and easy way to improve the overall look and performance of your page. Test more eye-catching colors or include graphical cues that help identify your conversion path to your customers and monitor your analytics to see how it impacts your goal conversion rates.

If you’ve got any more signs, be sure to leave a comment below!

Introduction to SEO

An Introduction to Search Engine Optimization

Everyone wants their business to appear at the top of the Google search results. However, most business owners don’t have the first clue about what it takes to achieve this. Google results are broken up into 2 sections – paid and organic. Paid vs Organic Search The most important part to recognize is there is no quick and easy way to get to the top of the organic (free) results – unless you want to risk getting penalized. It takes considerable planning, time, and effort.

Moz offers a comprehensive introduction to SEO, but for the sake of simplicity, here are the fundamentals you should understand.

1) Determine Your Target Keywords

Building a SEO strategy starts with selecting good target keywords. It’s important to make sure your keywords are highly relevant, not overly broad (as those will be more difficult to compete for), but popular enough that there is some interest in the terms.

Tip:  If you have existing traffic to your site, examine your analytics to find out how your visitors are finding you and look for keyword clues there.

2) Optimize Your Website For Your Target Keywords

With target keywords in mind, it’s time to begin implementing your SEO strategy throughout your website.  Each page on your website needs to include the various elements that help Google understand the relevancy of the page. Each website page should have the following elements focused around one of your keywords:

  • Page Title (under 70 characters)
  • Meta Description (under 155 characters)
  • H1 & H2 Title Text (break up main content by describing it with sub-headers)
  • Alt Text (every image needs a title)
  • Keyword in Content (a few times, naturally)

Tip: Write content for your users, not for search engines. Create useful, information rich, and original content for your website without “stuffing” it with keywords, and you’ll find that both users and search engines alike will benefit.

3) Develop An Ongoing Website Content Strategy

Once you build your site, it’s important to continuously create new content. This helps grow the amount and quality of pages that are relevant to your business, as well as ensures your site doesn’t get stale, which is something Google looks down upon.

Great content answers the questions your audience is asking in their minds (or out loud), informs and educates, exudes candor and authenticity, and is ultimately captivating. Google looks favorably upon this engaging content that serves the user well and keeps them on your site.

To further support your website content strategy, you can create a blog.

Companies that blog get 55% more web traffic and 70% more leads than those that don’t. – HubSpot (Inbound Marketing Company)

Every new post that you publish is an opportunity to target new keywords. These articles can also be promoted and distributed socially to drive additional traffic to your site and help you build authority.

The key to effective blogging is to write about the kinds of things your visitors are interested in learning about. Don’t be overly promotional about your own products or services. As mentioned, your content should be authentic and valuable.

Tip: You can create links to pages within your own site to help create connections between your content.

4) Obtain Quality Backlinks

Inbound links to your website, or backlinks, are created when other websites link back to your website as a relevant resource in support of their content. Obtaining links from vendors or other partners as well as authoritative sites within your industry can send great signals to search engines that your site is relevant.

Finding good distribution channels for your content is critical so that your target audience may discover it and ultimately link back to it. Be proactive about promoting your site and content through channels such as social media and engaging with your audience outside of your site and you can really speed up the process of search engines taking notice.

You can also contribute quality content to other relevant sites, typically in the form of guest blog posts.  The idea behind guest posts is that everyone wins.  The site posting your content gets quality content that benefits their audience, while you get to expose yourself to a new audience and position yourself as an authority in your industry.  A natural, properly placed link back to your website you also provide a quality inbound link that will benefit your search engine optimization efforts.

Tip: Backlinks are no longer about quantity as much as they are about quality. Focus on creating valuable content that earns you relevant backlinks from prestigious sources.

5) Analyze, Refine, and Repeat

It’s important to monitor your metrics to determine what tactics are most effective and uncover new opportunities. Give extra attention to keywords that aren’t moving enough and repeat the steps you took that brought results in the past. You’ll get better as you go and as you build momentum, you’ll see an exponentially increasing impact.

Tip: Without reviewing and understanding your metrics you’re working blindfolded. Use tools to help you plan your strategy, manage your tactics and monitor your results.

Conclusion

This should serve as a road map for your efforts and help you understand the time and resource commitment that you should expect.

Top online marketing myths

Top 5 Online Marketing Myths

Jumping into online marketing with unrealistic expectations or a misunderstanding of what is required to position yourself for success is a surefire way to waste both time and money. So, I put together the top 5 online marketing myths and misconceptions that I’ve heard from friends and clients:

Online Marketing Myth #1:

My product is so good, I don’t need marketing

This is probably the #1 online marketing myth that many business owners and entrepreneurs still believe. “All I need to do is post my idea on social media, and it’s definitely going to go viral!” While the internet offers a great and (sometimes) inexpensive medium to get the word out about your company to a potentially large audience, you’re competing with the millions of other companies and websites all vying for attention, mind-share, and wallet-share. So while it absolutely helps to have an exceptional product/service and can even be critical to the long term success of your business, you still need to get the word out and then convert visitors into customers once they are at your site. Apple spent millions (and later billions) advertising the iPhone even though it was a game-changing product. And while it’s great to have viral, easily share-able elements in your marketing, the expectation of your business going viral, or even a reliance on that happening is simply not a marketing plan.

Online Marketing Myth #2:

People will buy my product because it’s cheaper than the competition

First, people have to actually know you exist. Offering a cheaper price than your big name competition doesn’t do any good if no one knows about you. Some of the products I offered through my sites were cheaper than what Amazon.com sold them for. Yet Amazon probably sold 10 times the amount of that product than my company did, because Amazon has far more customers and greater awareness. Cheap prices don’t automatically translate into massive word of mouth, PR and market share. You still have to create awareness using fundamental online marketing tactics and still have to convey a sense of trust and value that goes beyond just offering similar features to a competitor at a lower price. Incidentally, it’s wise to consider if can you still offer such low pricing once you factor in the time and expense associated with creating awareness for your site.

Second, the problem with focusing on price is that it leads to you getting the type of customer you’re asking for: price shoppers. [Tweet “Focusing on price gets you the type of customer you’re asking for: price shoppers.”] Alex Turbull from Groove (a customer service SAAS product) puts it well:

[Price shoppers are] higher maintenance, far less loyal, and gone at the drop of a hat when a cheaper option comes along. Plus, if you try to compete for customers on price, a bigger player can always lower their prices to bleed you out of business. We learned that we had to compete on other differentiators. Ones that actually made people want to do business with us because we were the best choice for them, not because we were the cheapest. We needed customers who were motivated by more than price.

Tony Hsieh, founder and CEO of Zappos.com has said the same and even stopped offering to price match competitors for these same reasons.

Online Marketing Myth #3:

I want the most traffic possible to my website

There is a big difference between attracting traffic and the right kind of traffic.  Getting 100 highly qualified prospects to your website of which 15 become leads or customers is better than 1000 visitors of which 10 become leads or customers. The online marketing myth that says your goal should be to get as many eyeballs as possible on your site is simply not accurate. That’s likely to be expensive and ultimately unproductive. You goal is to create content that has value and appeals to your target audience to attract them to your site and to focus on marketing through channels that you believe will produce relevant prospects.

Online Marketing Myth #4:

I created a great site, so my work is done

You’ve hired great designers to create a beautiful website. Spent hours coming up with the copy for each page. It’s gone live and your friends and employees you showed it to think it looks great. You’re all set, right? Not even close. If you aren’t expecting to have to consistently create great content and find ways to engage your customer through a variety of channels outside of your site to build an audience, your investment in your attractive new site could be for nothing. It’s a lengthy, time consuming process to start generating meaningful traffic. Make sure you have allocated the time and budget to execute an ongoing online marketing plan. Your great new site will hopefully help convert those visitors into leads and customers, but even the site itself is always a work in progress.

Online Marketing Myth #5:

I don’t sell products online, so I don’t really need to do internet marketing

At the very least have a presence on the web so that customers, business partners and even potential employees can quickly and easily find out more about your business and the products or services you offer. Ensuring that your presence accurately and reflects your brand can help your business build a relationship with your customers that extends offline. Furthermore, it makes your brand more memorable next time they are in the market for your product or service or passing by your location. Even using your site for non-transactional purposes such as to generate leads or cultivate a mailing list allows you to locate customers online and drive them to your offline business. Finding new customers and engaging existing customers through online channels even for an offline business is critical to the success and growth of your business.

What others can you think of? Be sure to leave it in the comments!

Small Business Marketing Ideas from Self Empolyed King

19 Creative Small Business Marketing Ideas

Fellow entrepreneur, Inc. 5000 honoree and proponent of small business marketing ideas, Mike “Self Employed King” Kawula, posted a list of 19 Creative Marketing Ideas to Grow Your Business. I was happy to be asked to contribute some thoughts on PR to the list and enjoyed reading other small business marketing ideas on networking, web marketing, leveraging customer loyalty and other practical ideas for small business owners. I use many of these small business marketing ideas myself and many can be done without a huge commitment of time resources. 

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