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4 Common Subject Line Mistakes

I must be getting old...

Email. It has become as familiar to us as brushing our teeth. Many businesses use its easy, affordable, and instant communication abilities for their marketing campaigns. But don’t let email’s ease-of-use and large numbers lull you into thinking all your letters are reaching your prospects.

What do I mean? Well, an email really consists of two main parts: the subject line, and the body (the body can be broken into other sections but we won’t go there today).

Continue reading 4 Common Subject Line Mistakes

10 Places to Put Stories in Your Marketing

Stories allure readers

Narrative. –noun 1. a story or account of events, experiences, or the like, whether true or fictitious.

People like good content. This is probably why over the past couple years there has been a lot of focus on the power of narrative in marketing. Understanding why stories are so popular will give you your prospects’ coveted perspective and help you use stories more effectively in your own marketing campaigns. I’ve suggested ten places for stories in your marketing communications to get you started. Continue reading 10 Places to Put Stories in Your Marketing

Blogs: Opportunity or Waste of Time?

image of a door knockerTelephones. Automobiles. Television. Personal computers. Cell phones. At one point each one of these inventions was seen as an excessive luxury embraced only by a fringe population. Today it’s difficult to imagine our lives without them. It’s time to add blogs to that list.

Blogs have redefined the way we gather information and share opinions. A recent MarketingSherpa article states that many B2B marketers report that it’s their team’s blog, not the company homepage that is now the most popular entry point for visitors. When it comes to total views, Continue reading Blogs: Opportunity or Waste of Time?

10 Article Ideas for Your Blog or Website

Fuel your content
Fuel your content

So you have a website. Ten years ago, even five years ago, it was perfectly acceptable to have a static website that sat there and did nothing but occupy space.

Times have changed. Websites are filled with content, they’re interactive–they engage readers, build communities, introduce your company, educate prospects, engage prospects, establish credibility…need I go on? Today, businesses have a myriad of tactics and tools available to allow them to turn their website into their marketing and relationship building hub. All of it hinges on quality content. Continue reading 10 Article Ideas for Your Blog or Website

7 Surfer Questions: Does Your Website Have The Answers?

Let’s banish any notion that the internet as a marketing and communication platform is only a trend. There’s no trend, it’s a reality of business communications and customer engagement. Given this reality, why do so many websites fall short of providing the information their visitors need?

There’s more at stake than a missed opportunity. Missing content risks depreciating your brand. Here’s what you need to know.

Most people turn to the internet more than any other source of information and support, including experts and family members according to a survey by The Pew Research Center. Whether you’re the Head of IT looking for a more efficient software solution, a high net worth individual investigating personal risk factors, or a a parent comparing schools: everyone approaches their search with the same list of questions whether they’re aware of them or not.

Knowing this can help you refine your site and increase its effectiveness. Here’s some help on assessing your website’s current communication strengths and weaknesses. Pinpoint the spot on your website where it answers the follow visitor questions and see if it aligns with the accompanying recommendations. If you can’t find it, it’s time to write it.

1. Am I in the right place? So basic. So essential. A visitor cannot become a prospect and later a client unless they know your site is exactly where they need to be.

Accomplish this by naming your ideal target near the top of the page or state their problem in a clear concise way. Within a few seconds of landing on your page the reader should be able to say, hey, that’s me! This site is talking to me.

2. Who are you and do you have what I need? Be clear about what you’re offering and why it’s a benefit. Drop the mind-numbing business-speak. Your words should be in your client’s vernacular, not the industry jargon (unless, of course, that’s how your clients speak to you).

This information should be offered immediately after the reader realizes they are indeed, in the right place.

3. Who else have you done business with? Testimonials, case studies, and online portfolios are all ideal places to include this information.

4. Will you be able to solve my challenges? Your prospect is looking for specific examples that relate to them. Here is where case studies and success stories accomplish some heavy lifting. Many websites fail on this front. They are so busy listing their mission statements, work ethic, state-of-the-art technology and cutting-edge knowledge that they forget to provide examples of a problem a prospect can relate to.

5. Do you have any educational material I can download, review and show my team? Until this point your site has been talking about how your company is a problem-solver. It’s time to cough up some proof. Blogs, articles, white papers, reports, guides, how-to pieces: all of these demonstrate that when it comes to helping clients you walk the walk. Why? Because these documents help the prospect solve a problem.

6. What’s it like to work with you? You know those educational materials listed above? The prospect hasn’t even hired you and your generosity is helping them. They’ve helped me and I haven’t even hired them. Imagine what they could do if I pay them!

7. What’s the next step? Your landing and home page should lead the reader by the hand to the next step. Tell them in no uncertain terms what you want them to do. You may want to send them to another part of your site to learn about your services, gain more confidence, learn more about your company, etc. Be sure to tell them.

In addition to articulating the recommended next steps you should have your contact information easily accessible. Don’t bury it in a drop down menu or in small print on the bottom. It’s not a treasure hunt, it’s a website. Make it obvious.

We could stop here but there is one more thought prospects will have churning inside their minds before they push the “contact us” trigger.

8. Are you worth the effort and expense? This is an underlying concern your prospects will have as they review everything on your site. While all your efforts serve to reassure a prospect that your organization is worth it, there is a humble tool that most websites don’t use to its full capacity: the FAQ page. Expand your FAQ page to address all the naysaying issues and concerns head-on. Anticipate your prospect’s tough questions and write them in plain view.

Now you have the questions. It’s time to go to your website and find the answers.

P.S. If you still believe you can just shrug off the importance of having a robust website with killer communication let me gently point out that you’re reading these words on a website…online.

On that note, did you find what you needed?

K. Marley is a professional content writer who helps businesses communicate their value to their prospects and customers. Make contact at http://www.kmwordsmith.com

Originally published on: Jun 1, 2010

Who’s Your Mentor

Classroom with Three Figures

By guest contributor Luis Martinez

The word mentor comes from Greek mythology.  In Homer’s tale of the Odyssey, Odysseus had a son named Telemachus. Odysseus needed to go and fight the Trojan wars.  Realizing he would be away for long periods of time, he asked his trusted friend, Mentor, to tutor and teach his son Telemachus. So the noun – mentor – traces its roots to that era. Today we use the noun, mentor, as a verb; we talk about mentoring someone.   Continue reading Who’s Your Mentor

10 Resolutions Revived by Case Studies

Do you hear that fizzle? That’s the sound of all those collective business New Year’s resolutions fading away.
The secret to keeping a resolution is in how you set your goal. Instead of goals that rely on the unpredictable behavior of others, establish goals that give you the control and accountability. Continue reading 10 Resolutions Revived by Case Studies

The Surprising Answer to What’s Missing?

3D Character and Question Mark

By guest author Luis Martinez

Looking at my work and life experience from both sides of the desk–as an employee, manager and even company owner I often wondered, what was out of balance when things weren’t going right? You know the feeling. When you do the work, give it your all, are fairly compensated and the end result still doesn’t taste good? What’s up? What’s missing?

Appreciation. That’s what’s missing.

Think about it.  Why do you sometimes feel empty after having done a great job chasing down a problem for a customer?  What is that kick-in-the-stomach feeling when the boss seems oblivious to great results from your efforts, and instead picks on some trifling detail? If you are a manager or business owner, why do you shrug and shake your head when an employee leaves your business after training them and teaching them a new craft for months, or years?

Appreciation would have made all the difference.

Appreciation isn’t always about financial compensation. Despite being well paid you are bound to have days when you feel, well…unappreciated.  Attempts to measure appreciation are personal: we each recognize an exquisite balance between tangible compensation (salary, bonus, benefits, insurance plans, company car, window office, etc.) and intangibles (a smile, a letter of gratitude, a congratulatory email, a pat on the back, a warm referral, etc.). 

When either tangible or intangible compensation is out of proportion to the other, we know it.  At the extremes, we won’t stay in a company where we are paid appropriately but the management or the culture is unappreciative or in some cases, downright toxic.  We all have examples. I once quit a company that was the top in its industry. The work was interesting and could even be described as prestigious. Sadly, the mental abuse nullified my handsome salary.  So no, money is not enough. 

On the other end, if you work for a company that is cash strapped, and the owner and management is well behaved, friendly, accessible, approachable and appreciative but misses payroll from time to time, well, you have only so much patience for them.  Appreciation is good but you still need to pay your bills. 

Appreciation is necessary on both sides of the desk.  The manager/owner wants to see smiles and supportive gestures from employees who recognize the opportunity presented to them. The employee or contracted worker wants managers to express gratitude for a job well done, a customer appreciating a problem resolved, and recognition from peers. 

Let’s challenge ourselves to be the change we want to see. Reach out to someone right now at this very moment and let them know how much you appreciate them. Better yet, incorporate appreciation into your company culture. Consider infusing your internal communication with:

  • cards,
  • thank you letters,
  • recognition in newsletters, and 
  • personal emails.

Establishing a company culture of appreciation will send a positive message to potential hires and keep you and your organization well-balanced and mentally satisfied. In case you’re wondering there are bottom-line benefits here. Customers aren’t the only ones who spread word-of-mouth. You and your staff use word-of-mouth to communicate your organization’s credibility. All things being equal who wouldn’t prefer to do business with the organization with a reputation for appreciation. So try it. You’ll like it. And if you do please let me know…I’ll certainly appreciate that you did.

Luis Martinez is the owner of Gran Altura’s, Getting There. He has many years experience coaching and advising employees, peers, and executives and has held senior level assignments at Fortune 500 Companies. Join the ranks of highly accomplished individuals. Get the job and attain the status you deserve. Learn more about Getting There.

What Gives?

A gift

 
Giving. It’s a celebrated act during the holidays but not so much for business communications. Or is it? A recent study by the university of Massachusetts Dartmouth discovered that the fastest growing businesses are the ones that are boldly engaging in social media.
 
Social media is powered by the interactions between people. So what are these successful businesses doing? They’re giving.
 
In his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, author Robert Cialdini uses scientific scholarship to explain what influences our decision-making. He introduces six principles of ethical persuasion (no torture here): reciprocity, scarcity, liking, authority, social proof, and commitment/consistency.


How do these tie to giving? Recipricocity, liking, authority and social proof are all big players in social media and content.

When someone offers something of perceived value the recipient automatically feels a sense gratitude and an obligation to reciprocate. It’s human nature. If you give me something useful I’ll give you something in return. That something can range from a few minutes of my attention to positive word-of-mouth to money.
 
Social media allows us to publicly share what we choose to return. This builds on another of Cialdini’s principles; social proof (if all my peers support this, it must be good).  
 
Something wonderful happens when you produce high quality, helpful content. Readers will start to see you as an authority on the topic and they will like you because you helped them. See how this works?
 
Marketing through giving also creates some pretty cool side-effects.
 
Authenticity. One article, one tweet, one update: giving in social media and marketing isn’t a one-shot bullet. Nor is it snake oil.  Giving repeatedly helps prospects really understand who you are and what you can do for them. In his 2009 White Paper Success Summit, Michael Stelzner used the analogy of a bank account. Every time you give you’re making a deposit. Every time you ask for something (a call-to-action) you’re making a withdrawal. Overdraw on your account and you’ll be penalized. Manage your account well and you’ll develop a credible and trusted reputation.
 
Integration. Giving allows you to tie traditional and online marketing methods together. Businesses are advertising the availability of helpful information in lieu of announcing features. This information is then made available through social media channels, email, or hard copy. That’s a lot of touch points for your investment.
 
Enthusiasm. A positive, can-do attitude. Facilitating awareness and learning. Wouldn’t you agree these are desirable qualities and actions? The best communications, either through content or conversation, radiates these elements.
 
If you like this article and are on Twitter please consider retweeting it. Nothing like an example!   

 

K. Marley is a professional content writer who helps businesses communicate their value to their prospects and customers. Make contact at http://www.kmwordsmith.com. 
 

On Giving

by Luis Martinez

What are you giving away – with no expectation of return?  What part of your value or of your services are you rendering to others as your gift for the greater good?  And, you may be asking, why this topic today?   Well, if you suspect that this topic was chosen in December to set the reader up to make a philanthropic donation to a worthy cause, you’re right!  Your cause.  This is a business topic – about your business. 

We establish our businesses to earn an income, to be economically self sufficient, to be productive for ourselves and others.  That is understood.  But there is room in that profit motive equation for charity, not just the traditional type of charity of benevolent donations to worthy causes, but charity with an intent of benefiting the greater good, of which we are also a part.  Sounds circuitous, doesn’t it?  Let me use two specific examples to illustrate, one of a local entrepreneur, the second one of a national magazine.

My friend Scott owns a neighborhood bicycle shop.  I’m an avid cyclist, and needed some new cycling shoes a few years ago. I went through several catalogues and found exactly what I wanted.  The shoes were identically priced at $179.99 in three catalogs. I took all three catalogs to Scott and said to him: “These are the shoes I want.  Please order them from your sources and I’ll pay you the catalog price, so you can have the profit.”  He ordered the shoes and a few days later he called me to come pick them up.  When I came to get the shoes he charged me $120.  I said, “Scott, you’re giving me a big break here, sixty dollars…”  He said, “No problem, I made my money.”  Well, can you guess what I’ve been doing ever since?  He gave me a $60 savings that I wasn’t expecting so I’ve been buying every article for bicycling from him, and singing his praises!  Wouldn’t you? How many customers have I sent his way who have bought his high end bikes?  He gave of himself, expecting nothing – we didn’t have an agreement, not even implicitly, for a price break.  But in doing so he gained a great deal more. (Visit Scott Likly, Towpath Bicycles, Pittsford, NY)

The second example is the magazine, Fast Company.   When it launched, the publishers held to a principle of sharing and giving their information, the content of their articles, freely and openly.  Now, more than a decade later I still look forward to receiving Fast Company in the mail for its contemporary and timely content.  But wait, there’s more.  I love to go on their website and search their archives for topics of interest: on leadership, entrepreneurship, branding (personal and corporate), social media–the list is long. Fast Company archives are easy to find–and are free.  Many other publications, including our city newspaper, charge at least ten bucks for an archived article.  At Fast Company they have adhered to a spirit of giving – a spirit that others need to emulate. 

Look at the evidence: in this article I’ve just told you about two enterprises that keep on giving.

Is your brand known for giving?

Luis Martinez is the owner of Gran Altura’s, Getting There. He has many years experience coaching and advising employees, peers, and executives and has held senior level assignments at Fortune 500 Companies. Join the ranks of highly accomplished individuals. Get the job and attain the status you deserve. Learn more about Getting There.