Tuesday, March 11, 2008

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007


3 Steps to Mistake-Proof Your New Website

"I don't really need a shopping cart."

"I can just send out my ezine as an email."

"My website name will be very specific to my current business."

When you're growing a business, it is tempting to focus on the
short term. A shopping cart seems like an expensive hassle.
Blogger.com gives you the fastest, easiest blog set-up. And
your website name? Well, at least you bought a domain.

Then you get growing pains. You realize you have no way to
track your ads. Your upscale clients want to use their credit
cards and pay fast. Your business expands in scope and now
you face a branding challenge.

My suggestions:

(1) Get the least expensive version of a top quality
shopping cart as soon as you can possibly afford it.
Get ready to take credit cards before you need them.

My very first client actually called me on the phone.
He was ready to hire me on the spot. His only question:
"Do you take American Express?"

Fortunately, I could say yes. By a stroke of luck,
my shopping cart was up and running.

(2) Learn how to use the cart as fast as possible so
you won't leave money on the table. Christina Hills, the
Shopping Cart Queen, helps you make money with the cart.
Get her reseller version, which includes valuable tips.

Start here.

(3) Plan content for easy reading and smooth navigation.

Make it easy for readers to discover what you offer and buy from you.
For example, look at Robert Middleton's
website marketing system.

And of course if you're considering your site, I would recommend
signing up for my Diagnostic Service.

We'll discuss your notes and plans. I would not be surprised if I saved you 10 times the cost of the service. Yes: that's only a drop in the bucket to what simple mistakes can cost.

I know. I made most of them. I've hired many resources that didn't help. For my current list of recommended services, click here.

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Thursday, October 04, 2007


Does Your Website Radiate Energy

Have you ever noticed how you feel after visiting a
website? Most of us don't realize how we react
emotionally. We might feel a little bored. We might
find ourselves reaching for the mouse to click away.

Or conversely we're drawn in to the website. We want
to stick around: we feel good while we're there.

In my experience, when your website radiates energy,
readers hang around. They want to stay, just as they
want to hang out with vibrant people. And they're more
likely to click through to sign up for your offerings
and page through your articles.

Five tips for energizing your website:

(1) Use strong verbs that carry emotional charges and
communicate energy: : Smash, Hammer, Develop, Master,
Triumph, Crush.

Use strong verbs in your headlines as well as opening
bullet points and even lists. But strong verbs are
like cooking spices: use sparingly and creatively to
create flavor. And be natural: readers notice when
their copywriter seems to be grasping for novelty.

(2) Create a show room, not a tea party.

Phrases like, "Welcome to my site," and "Please look
around my website" will signal, "I'm not really
comfortable with marketing."

Let's face it. Your visitors know they're welcome.

After all, you bought a domain name and paid for
hosting! And of course you want them to look around:
you've provided at least one menu bar. Like, duh.

That said, I know a few people who violate this
guideline, yet attract lots of business. I would
encourage them to run a test, comparing the
"welcome" site with a more direct
marketing site. Some markets respond to gentle.

(3) Paint word pictures.

We've all heard "perfect life," "take it to the next
level," and even "boost your business." Instead, let
your readers put themselves in the picture.

"Imagine yourself in a bookstore, standing next to
your published book..."

You can be even more vivid:

"Imagine yourself signing your first published novel
in the Miracle Mile Borders Bookstore..."

(4)Choose photos and images that supplement your copy.

Photos of sailboats, mountains and rivers. Woodland
scenes. Sunset over the Golden Gate bridge. If you're
a scenery photographer, include them all. If you're a
sailing instructor, definitely include photos of
sailboats, preferably with yourself in your
instructor's role.

But if you're a business consultant, use photos of
yourself working with clients. If you use stock
photos of people, dig for photos you won't find on
every site. There's one photo of a young woman with a
laptop that seems to show up everywhere we look.

(5) Quote yourself -- not Chopra, Gandhi, Kennedy,
and other iconic figures.

Don't get me wrong. These folks are worth quoting.

But for your website, use your own words to share your
message. You'll come across as more authentic and
convincing. Your readers stay focused and, yes,
feel energized by your words.

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Headline Formulas?

Recently I ran across an article from a "name" website marketer,
advocating a headline formula. Ask a question. Mention struggle.
And so on.

The problem is: Not all markets respond to any formula.
Dan Kennedy (the copywriting mega-guru) says some markets don't
respond to long copy sales letters. Michael Fortin sometimes
uses new headline formats instead of questions.

I tested 2 forms of headline on my website

The first was a question type headline, the kind you learn in
copywriting. The current headline out-performed the question
significantly, with twice as many click-throughs.

Like I say: Three four-letter words of revenue-generating
websites: COPY. TEST. LIST.

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Monday, September 24, 2007


If You Build It, They May Not Come

People are getting smarter. A few years ago, I would meet dozens of clients who jumped into a business feet first. Marketing seminars and ebooks focused on tactics, such as article marketing, or accountability.

Today one of the most-asked questions is, "How do I know I have a market?" And we're getting better answers than, "If you build it and send out positive vibes, they will come."

Don't ask where I heard that. You don't want to know.

Three tips for the smart new marketer:

(1) Does your market match your medium?

Some products and services can be sold effectively via the Internet. Others will do just fine in a live bookstore, but die on the Internet, and vice versa.

To take just one example, nearly every Internet marketer recommends Robert Cialdini's book, Influence. But if Cialdini had offered Influence as an ebook for the first time through an Internet website, I suspect he would not have attracted buyers. Like Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point, another live best-seller, it's too theoretical.

Of course, if Cialdini or Gladwell wrote an ebook today, who knows what would happen?

(2) Do you have evidence that people will pay for what you offer?

"I have an idea for a new service," Georgina wrote. "When people get ready to move, they have trouble packing. I will come to their homes, coach them on how to pack and also deal with the emotions of moving."

Georgina has a nifty idea but I bet she finds few takers. Those who pay for their own moves are reluctant to pay professional movers to pack for them (although it's often cost-effective). And although relocation can be as traumatic and expensive as a wedding, let alone a party, the notion of "relocation planner" has not caught on the same way "wedding planner" has.

"No competition" has a nice ring to it...but often means "no interest."

(3) Can you test your market?

You probably know that Tim Ferriss, author of Four Hour Workweek, tested his title on the Internet, using Google adwords, even though his book targeted live bookstores.

Before writing a full book, launching a campaign or (especially) starting a business, you can test your idea with: adwords (google, yahooo and/or msn); a complimentary teleseminar (and a repeat to test for novelty effect) google analytics sales page for a mini-version of your ultimate product tests through your shopping cart..and a whole lot more.

Setting up a test will help you find your audience, fine-tune your promotions and choose a name for your product and website.

Tests are so powerful, I would actually encourage clients to learn the basics or hire help before launching a website and product. For instance, I just tripled click through rates by adding a hyphen to a title word (midlife to mid-life). And my subscriber ezine response doubled when I changed the background color. No change in copy, type face or text...just the background behind the sales letter table.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Anyone can backtrack

Some months ago, the New York Times decided to add a new layer of monetization to its popular website. Certain popular articles -- notably op-ed pieces -- were designated Times Select, available only by subscription. The cost was minimal.

But apparently not enough folks were interested. I suspect some readers simply gave up on the website. Anyway, given the web, most of us could find these articles with a few keystrokes. Or our local newspapers reprinted the under a licensing agreement.

So the Times quietly withdrew the Times Select feature. Now anyone can read anything.

Even the Great Gray Times has to take a step back now and then. Sometimes a business model sounds good on paper, but falters in practice.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007


Offensive promotons: getting and sending

On September 11, Perry Marshall sent out a promotional
mailing. He noted that crises could create opportunities, and
he is launching a new elite mentoring program. He reminded his
readers that six years ago, he was just getting start on what
is now a wildly successful business.

In today's teleclass, Perry acknowledged that many readers
found this email offensive. When they wrote, he said, he apologized.
He lives in Chicago, hadn't known anyone affected personally, and
didn't mean to offend. He also noted that many companies benefited
from 9/11 - and some listeners chimed in to note that flag manufacturers
were quick to take advantage of the patriotism in the air.

I was surprised by the mailing but not particularly offended.
For one thing, I now empathize with anyone who does mailings. We are
under pressure to send out so much "stuff:" ezines, blogs, promo
letters and more. Inevitably we'll slip and say something that rubs
readers the wrong way.

Of course, it's harder to overlook insensitive remarks on race,
religion or aspects of personal life, such as the Don Imus slurs against
the Rutgers basketball team. One reason: we know that these remarks
go from mind to mouth. If Don Imus genuinely respected female basketball
players of any race, he would never have said anything.

When I taught college, I have to admit we used to get pretty cynical
about our students. Then I taught for group that officially discouraged
comments about current students and encouraged respect. We could still
give tough but fair grades: otherwise I wouldn't have taught there. I
won't be associated with academic giveaways.

But I found that when we were encouraged to respect our clients, it was
easier to deal with them when grading and commenting. There was no split
between public and private persona.

If you genuinely respect your clients, you'll deal with the appropriately...
naturally...although occasionally you will rub someone the wrong way. It's
inevitable, if you're also going to be authentic.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Why the Phoenix Mercury Really Deserve Their Trophy

The WNBA likes to give awards. Best offensive player. Best defensive player. Best all-around (won this year by Seattle's own Lauren Jackson...okay, we also share her with Australia). And a new award: Best sixth man (they don't say "sixth woman").

Then there were playoff awards: MVP, winner and so on.

But if I were giving awards, I would award the Phoenix Mercury the best website as well as the league championship they just won. Check it out:

These folks were amazing. Throughout the playoffs, the home page flash intro was changed as the team advanced -- always optimistically. "1 and 0." "Tied 2 for 2."

And every time the site opened with a montage of photos from the last game.

Inside you can find dozens of videos of the team -- satisfying the soul of the most die-hard fan. They even give us a tour of the players' locker room, directed by MVP Cappie Pondexer, where we learn that superstar Diana Taurasi "has so much stuff she needs two lockers."

I could say "I wrote about them when..." Check out my blog entry of July 14, 2006: Copywriting and Basketball.

Phoenix deserved to win: great players, great heart, catchy "Mighty Mercury" tune and (most important) an awesome website.


More Copywriting Tips: Benefits...or Pseudo-Benefits?

You've probably learned the difference between features and benefits - A feature is what a product has or is. But even experienced marketers get confused, especially after visiting dozens of websites that present pseudo-benefits as the Real Deal.

Features are characteristics that physically describe your product or service. For a good example, go to a mail order catalog or the individual product descriptions on an electronics site.

For example:

Thebridge line holds up to 50 people and you can mute out callers. Generate financial reports with just one click of your mouse. Pay bills by phone. Batteries included.

Marketers who are new to the world of copy frequently get critiqued with, "Too much emphasis on features! Where are the benefits?"

A benefit

-- is what your buyer gains from a specific feature.

-- answers questions like, "So what? How will I be different after I make this purchase?

-- describes how the product or service will help customers solve their problems.

Benefits and features are connected by the "so that…" bridge. So you often see bullets like these:

"Batteries included so that you can begin using the product as soon as you open the package."

"One click financial reports so you get immediate statements, ready for your accountant."

"Pay by phone so you can pay your bill 24/7."

Alas, these bullets highlight pseudo-benefits. They expand on the features.

Real benefits are more emotional. They go right to the heart and the wallet. They're about results. They tell a story. For example:

One-click financial report: I can spend more time with my family instead of sitting at the computer generating reports.

Pay by phone: You don't have to spend half an hour looking for your checkbook, finding a stamp, wondering if the post office lost your check.

Never pay late fees. Batteries included: I won't get mad because I have to make an extra trip to the store to buy the batteries I forgot.

As always, tailor benefits and features to your market.

For a target market with hectic schedules and frequent travel, the best benefit to "pay by phone" can be, "Never miss a payment in Des Moines because you're in Bangkok."

For parents of young children, "batteries included" can mean, "Never disappoint your kids when they want to try out their new toys."

Bottom line: When you've got a story to tell, you've probably uncovered the real benefit.

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