Influential marketing publication The Drum published a story on its website recently that shows the perils of not telling the truth on your website.
The story emerged after Manchester based am-webdesign posted pictures of its office on its site and Facebook page that weren’t all they seemed. Another design agency, Raw from Salford, took to Twitter to launch a furious tirade against am, claiming the studio pictures are in fact theirs, and not am’s. And it would seem that Raw is to be believed as you can see its logo on the offending photographs.
To make matters worse, the company also claimed to have designed make-up artist Heather Conlan’s new website, which the New Yorker quickly denied on Twitter. am-webdesign also implies on its site that it has worked with some of the world’s major brands, which also appears not to be the case as twitter users quickly cast further doubt over its claims. Other design companies soon joined the Twitter conversation, asking am to stop using their images.
That’s the thing about the internet and social media. Anyone who doesn’t tell the truth tends to get caught out. Very quickly. News spreads like wildfire as Twitter users tweet, retweet and add comments. Word travels extremely fast in the online world. If you’re the one caught out, your integrity and reputation will be damaged irreparably.
Your website’s purpose is to sell. To persuade readers to use you rather than your competitors, so it has to tell people what you do, how you do it and how to contact you. But it has to tell the truth. Talk about your experience, put case studies on and put together a portfolio showing the work you’ve done for your clients. But don’t make claims you can’t back up or pretend you’ve worked for someone you haven’t. They’ll find out and, as you can see, you’ll look pretty stupid and probably lose business from it.
Make sure your website tells the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
am-webdesign has so far refused to comment on any of these claims.
I’ve just been given a copy of a business book. I don’t really like business books but decided to read this one for two reasons. The first reason is because I wrote the foreword and secondly, because it says on the cover that it’s “THE business book for people who don’t read business books!”
That sounds like me I thought.
The book talks about marketing and growing your business by harnessing the power of the Internet, and a few other tips and tricks from one of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs. Most of the content was fairly standard stuff, and was all useful advice. But one section really caught my eye.
This chapter was entitled “Writing Great Copy and Sales Copy.” As a copywriter, that immediately pricked my attention. I’m always interested to read what other people think about the value of what I do, and their opinion of how to do it. So I started to read, and by the end of the chapter I was applauding with a big grin on my face.
Here was one of the country’s best-known and respected business people passionately writing about the importance of copywriting. They discussed the proliferation of people writing nowadays, thanks mainly to the rise of blogging and sending emails, and how lots of people think they’re writers but aren’t in reality. The rest of the chapter went on to discuss how you should write the best copy you can on every medium you use to communicate; be that ads, websites, direct mail or even your Facebook page. Writing copy that sells means you’ll never go out of business was the message.
But there was one line in particular that made me gasp out loud. I’ve written it word for word:
Here’s the truth: Writing is the most important skill in business. Really.
That’s a message I couldn’t agree with more. I write copy for businesses almost every day of the week. I write different types of copy for different types of businesses but it all has to do the same thing – sell their business or product.
Finding the words to make a business sound better than anyone else’s is a real skill. You have to compel readers to buy, and hook them in without them realising it. You need to understand what makes people buy something and put that down on a web page or brochure. And writing bad copy can have a devastating effect. Would you trust a company whose website was full of spelling mistakes, poor grammar and was so badly worded you couldn’t understand it? Probably not.
So, I congratulate this business book and its message about the importance of great copy. And who knows, I might even start reading more of them.
2012 has seen a huge increase in companies using Content Marketing to increase their exposure and ranking on Google. Its growth can be attributed to Google’s Panda and Penguin updates that place organic, original content as the key component in SEO.
But what is Content Marketing, and how do you go about it?
Let’s look at the Wikipedia description:
“(Content Marketing) is an umbrella term encompassing all marketing formats that involve the creation and sharing of content in order to attract, acquire and engage clearly defined and understood current and potential consumer bases with the objective of driving profitable customer action. Content marketing subscribes to the notion that delivering information to prospects and customers drives profitable consumer action. Content marketing has benefits in terms of retaining reader attention and improving brand loyalty.”
Or in other words, if you post regularly updated content on the Internet, you’ll have a better chance of attracting more customers. It sounds easy on paper, but doing it properly takes planning, time and a set of clearly defined objectives.
So, if you’re thinking of embarking on a Content Marketing campaign, here’s what you should consider first.
It’s All About You
Establishing your company voice, brand guidelines and USP is vital before you start thinking about any Content marketing. Document them and issue guidelines to staff and any external agencies you use. These guidelines should apply to every form of communication, including your website, social media, PR and blogs.
Consider Your Audience
Think about who you want to appeal to, and develop your content accordingly. Give them something of value that they can respond to. And if you can get them to share it or like it, that’s even better. Have a chat with your colleagues to discuss what you want to talk about, seek feedback on it and look at what’s worked well previously.
If your competitors are using Content Marketing, consider what they’re talking about and commenting on. Research helps too, so use it to find forthcoming events in your industry. Or new technological updates or change in legislation. Thinking about these in advance means you can plan months ahead about what to write about.
What Form Can My Content Take?
Whatever form you want it to. The easiest and most effective is a blog, either linked to your website or as a standalone platform. But you could also post audio podcasts, videos to YouTube, and pictures and infographics. Publish a mixture of articles, whitepapers, reviews, guides and blogs of events to make things interesting and fun. Don’t just regurgitate news items from the net – turn the issues discussed into relevant, entertaining stories your customers will relate to. Keep things original though, as Google and the other search engines will see any heavily copied items as SPAM.
Think About Which Platforms to Use
There are lots of platforms available in the digital world where you can post content. And not all of them may be right for your business. A social media presence is vital as it’s where your customers and competitors are. Set up a Twitter account, make a Facebook page, start your own blog and create a YouTube channel. Link them all to your website, and update them regularly. These all work in real time, so they’re all a fantastic way to talk to your customers. They can reply to you instantly, provide you with invaluable feedback and engage with you in ways they could never have done before.
Dedicate Resource to it
Can you manage your Content Marketing strategy and delivery in-house? Some companies have the expertise needed inside their organisation, and are able to dedicate time to it. If you don’t, consider outsourcing it to a freelancer you trust. A copywriter, journalist or PR Agency should be able to help you. But make sure you meet them regularly, give them a copy of your brand guidelines and keep them in the loop with what’s going in in your company.
It’s no use doing all this work if you don’t know how successful it is. Agree beforehand how you’ll measure the results. Are you happy getting more hits on your website, higher engagement with your customers or do you want to base it on simple monetary returns? However, you do it, keep accurate records and always measure your results compared to your activity. Less activity will mean a reduction in results.
Content Marketing’s a great tool to build awareness of brands, engage with customers, build audiences, increase visitors and ultimately, raise revenues.
Why not give these tips a try with your Content Marketing campaign.
Here’s a scenario you might be familiar with: your website looks great and conveys exactly the kind of image you want it to. Your shiny logo’s displayed prominently on every page, your portfolio page is filled with brilliant examples of what you’ve done, and there’s loads of glowing references from satisfied customers saying how fantastic you are. But still you’re not converting sales from it, so what’s the problem?
There’s no call to action – that’s the problem. This is something that an awful lot of businesses forget when thinking about their website. But they’re vitally important. They’re an instant way of getting your potential customers to become confirmed customers. Just imagine you want to buy your mum a bouquet of flowers for Mother’s Day, so you start looking online at local flower deliveries. Two companies in particular catch your eye, you like the look of their sites and their flowers represent good value for money, so who do you choose? What if Florist One loudly proclaimed “Mother’s Day Bouquets 25% off, call 012345678 today” on its home page but Florist Two had no such offer? You’d choose Company One because of its call to action.
But call to actions don’t have to promote special offers. They can invite your reader to make contact with you. And simple ones often work best, like – “Click here now” or “Call me today” but take care to vary the message across your website. Repeating phrases like “buy now” don’t work as the reader will just feel like they’re being sold to, so mix the phrases up but avoid being vague or passive. Saying “If you think we can help, then please call me” is nowhere near as effective as saying “Call me now, and see how we can help you.” Be bold but keep it customer focused and friendly.
Your customers need to be able to connect with you instantly. So try adding a few simple call to actions on your site, and see those enquiries turn into sales.
As of February 2011, there were over 116m blogs available for public view on the net. Think about that figure for a minute: 116m. That’s a huge number (and here’s another one to add to the ever increasing total). It’s more than anyone could ever read in their lifetime if all they did was read blogs 24hrs a day for the rest of their life. If you haven’t ever blogged, you might read this and think the cyber-world doesn’t need another blog, so I won’t bother. Wrong. Giving the cyber-world another blog may just be the best thing you could do for your business.
When consumers go online, it’s often to find someone who can provide a service for them. They might need a tradesman, a new car or want to book a holiday. So what do they do? Type the relevant words into a search engine, start with the top listing and go down the first 3 or 4 until they find one they like the look and sound of. And often that can be a blog instead of a website. That’s because many blogs are loaded with keywords and phrases designed to drive traffic to them, and they are usually linked to a business website. Blogs can make you appear to be industry experts, the go-to company in your field. Plus, you can post links to your blog on social media sites for people to read. And that means more business.
So, how do you go about writing a blog? Well, it’s not as daunting as it seems. First, think of a subject. Choose something you’re interested in or your business specialises in. Then do some research to see what other people are writing about on that subject. Be inspired but don’t copy – plagiarism is never looked kindly upon. Next – write your blog! Just write and see what comes out, then read it, read it again and again making edits and improvements as you go. I always write mine on a word document first, and then copy and paste onto the blog page. Then when you’re happy with it, you need to publish it. And that’s not difficult either. There are loads of free blogging sites on the net, like WordPress or blogger.com. It takes seconds to create an account and most of them have free apps so you can blog on the go on your smartphone or tablet. Perfect for when inspiration strikes and you’re not near a screen.
Make sure your blog post’s not too log either; around 500 words is perfect. Don’t use too much jargon that most people don’t understand, and try to let the writing flow. Your blog will have stacks of competition for readers’ attention, so keep it interesting. And update your blog regularly, but only when you have something relevant to talk about. Don’t just blog for the sake of it.
Hopefully, this has inspired you to catch the blogging bug. If you do, pretty soon, you’ll see the benefits as consumers and other business owners will see your expertise shine through your words. And then the referrals will start to flow.
Many marketing experts have predicted that 2012 will be the year of increased online content, both in video and written form. Blogging and article-marketing will continue to remain highly-influential means of business communication; even more so now given the almost infinite ways of sharing that information. And this is where a new challenge faces companies in the online world – they are content sharers not content producers. So the coming year should see the need for writers to produce exciting, relevant content for businesses looking to increase and improve their online presence.
And of course the content needs to be optimised so consumers will be able to find it. That presents another problem: how do you produce interesting content that can be found by search engines without it appearing spammy? My answer: write first and optimise later. What I mean by that is to write the content organically as it comes to you. Say what you want to say and get the point of the piece across first and when you’re happy with it add in the relevant keywords and phrases.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to think like a customer. What search terms will they use when looking for the product you want to talk about? Try a few different ones and make notes about the results and see which blogs or websites are consistently near the top. Then replace some of your words with the words and phrases you used. That should then mean your content will rank highly with the major search engines listings. Don’t overdo it though – anymore than 4 or 5% and it will be rejected as spam.
So that’s my advice when tackling any online content: write first and optimise later. Let me know how you get on.
Absolutely they are. Many businesses still communicate with their customers the old-fashioned way; that is by letter through the post. And while this isn’t as instant or cost-effective as an email or social-media campaign it still has its place in business today. Letters can be filed or left on a desk, or even stuck on the inside of a kitchen cupboard so they can be referred to time and time again. So when you send letters to existing or prospective customers, it’s vital that your letter is well-written, contains the relevant information and is appropriate to the reader.
As a copywriter, I’ve written lots of letters for clients from direct mailings to letters that advise a business has moved premises or merged with another company. And I use the same principles regardless. Whether it’s a marketing letter designed to get more business or a general information letter, a company’s written communication reflects on how the company deals with and interacts with its customers so it’s really important to get it right.
Your company logo, address, email and telephone numbers are a must at the top of letter along with the date. And make sure you include the customer’s details too. It goes without saying that getting their title, name and contact details right is probably the most important part of the letter. Get it wrong and the letter will be thrown in the bin no matter how well written the rest of it is.
Use the most relevant title for the customer. If you’re not on first name terms with the addressee, call them Mr Smith or Mrs Jones etc. Letters are still expected to be reasonably formal in style and should fit a certain format, so stick to the format where you can. If you’re sending letters out to certain professional, then address it Dear Landlord etc. Start your first paragraph by explaining why you’re writing to the reader – what’s the purpose of the letter and why should they read it?
Then fill out the details. If you’re offering something, expand upon it and tell the reader what they need to know. Make sure all pertinent details are included.
Follow this with a call to action. The customer will hopefully want to take you up on the offer so tell them how they can do it. Or if you’re writing for a different reason, leave simple contact details here or point them to the top of the letter where you’ve already given your details. The final paragraph should recap what you’ve already said to the reader, and thank them for taking the time to read the letter.
When it’s time to sign off give your full name and title. And make sure you use either yours sincerely if you know the person’s name, yours faithfully if you don’t or today’s more informal but friendly sounding Kind Regards. Just make sure it’s relevant to the reader.
I always like to keep the tone relaxed but business-like, and use a clear font in size 11 so it’s easy to read. Don’t use slang or language the reader won’t understand. And whilst you can use far more words than on the average webpage, I wouldn’t exceed 1 page of A4 unless really necessary otherwise there’s a danger it won’t get read all the way through.
Used together with a great website, social media and email marketing campaign, a well-written letter can be a very relevant weapon in your business marketing armoury, and make a nice personal touch for your customers, so don’t stop doing it. And if you’re unsure where to start – I’m happy to help.
P.S – Use a P.S where possible at your letter’s close as this is a powerful sales tool where you can add on another offer you’ve forgotten to tell the reader about, like a small free-gift for early replies or something of interest to the reader.
As a professional copywriter, one of the services I offer clients is a free copy-review, particularly on website copy. This is where I cast my eye over any written copy the client already has and offer tips on how it could be improved and most importantly, bring in more customers.
It’s not about getting out the red pen and scribbling all over their work with clever comments and wanting them to see me after class. It’s more a case of taking what the client’s already got and putting it across in a different way. After all, they’re the clients’ words. They know their business better than I do. I simply make the words more customer focused, compelling and focussed on the USP of the business.
I have noticed a few trends recently though, and I’d like to share a few of these with you so you can avoid making the same mistakes on your websites.
- Make it personal – use you, yours, you’ll etc wherever you can. People buy from people so make your copy talk to the customer.
- Show your personality. Usually your business is your passion so let it show in your writing. Don’t be afraid to use adjectives to describe what you do. No one wants to read about how many ISOs you’ve got and your life story. Instead use words that empathise and show you understand your readers’ lives.
- Ask the reader a question – and then answer it. Again this shows understanding and personalises the site, and lets your reader know how you can solve their problem.
- Sentence length. Keep them short. If your sentences (or paragraphs) are too long, people won’t read them. A 20-word max for sentences is about right.
- Vary your layout. Don’t just justify all paragraphs – put some in the middle of the page or embolden them. And leave lots of spaces between them. These all add interest and make the page easier to use.
- Use a clear, easy to read font. I like Verdana or Tahoma as I find them friendly looking and easy on the eye.
- And finally – and probably most importantly – include a least one call to action! Many people neglect this on their websites and deprive their customers the chance to buy there and then. Give them as many opportunities to finish the sale as possible. Customers don’t want to be spending hours clicking through pages for your email address or telephone numbers – they want to do it now, so give them what they want.
Have a look at your own website now and see if it includes any of these in its copy. If it doesn’t, have a go at writing it this way and see if it makes a difference. I’m sure your customers will notice!
And of course, if you’d like a professional copywriter to have a look at your copy and offer some advice, simply click here now.
Have you seen any of this year’s Guiness Book of World Records entries? Among all the many remarkable achievements and genuinely amazing records, there’s a man from Doncaster who owns the world’s biggest toy Dalek collection. And there’s a lady from Las Vegas who’s made it into its pages for growing her nails to an incredible 3.1m on her left hand and 2.92m on her right hand. Other first-time world-record holders include the owner of the world’s fastest wedding chapel and Aevin Douglas from New Orleans, who has grown the largest Afro on the planet, measuring a massive 4ft4 across its circumference.
So why am I writing about people with strange collecting fetishes or who’ve done strange things to their bodies? Because they’ve got themselves noticed. They have marked themselves out as different and people remember them for that.
In today’s competitive business-world, you need to get your brand noticed. Consumers show very little loyalty and are all caught up in the 24-7 365 days a year culture. Today’s news is tomorrow’s fish and chip paper, as someone once said.
So how do you make your business standout from the crowd?
You could try doing something weird to one of your body parts or start searching toyshops for plastic children’s TV show spin-offs. People are sure to remember you for that for a little while. Or you could do something much more realistic and practical that will bring real rewards to your business – get your brand noticed. To do that, identify your Unique Selling Point and tell everyone what it is; over and over again. If you can help your clients get a competitive edge over their rivals, tell them you can do that right away – don’t bury it at the bottom of your website or brochure.
All too often, I’ve come across websites where the business talks about how great their Customer service, commitment to quality and prices are. They tell you how many ISOs they’ve got, and how they’ve built the company up from scratch over the last 20 years. All well and good, but that’s no different to the thousands of other businesses out there doing exactly the same thing.
So if your website sounds like that, think about what makes you different to everyone else and start your homepage again. Find your USP and shout about it. It will really help grow your business, not your nails or hair.
Did you all see the article a while back on the BBC website about spelling errors on websites costing industry millions? For those of you that didn’t, or if you’d like to read it again, here’s the link http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-14130854
The findings of the article concluded that misspellings put off consumers as they worry about the website’s credibility, and they went on to demonstrate this by deliberately spelling certain words wrongly on a website, correcting them and looking at the changes in sales afterwards. The figures were twice as high. A graphic indication of how important getting it right is.
And I’ve found some shocking examples of some of the UK’s largest household names not getting it right. For instance, there’s a page on Britain’s biggest health insurer’s website that carries the banner “Health insurance that’s always on top of it’s game” Spot the mistake? It’s is a contraction of it is or it has. What they meant to say was “its game” – without the apostrophe. Its is a possessive adjective or possessive pronoun of the word it – in other words, use its when you want to say something belong to someone or something else – the dog is in its kennel, or there is more to Chester than its wonderful architecture.
But the best examples I saw were on a poster at Scotch Corner services on the A1. One of the country’s best-known chain of betting shops had a number of posters on display there, advertising their new mobile app service. And one of the fantastic features of this app was that is was “lightening quick” and gave you access to “1000’s of bets online”.
So that’s a phone app that can change my hair-colour quickly, where do I sign up?