Author Archive

If you write it they will come? Not necessarily

| Saturday, March 2nd, 2019 | 1 Comment »

If you write it, thyey will come.A tight economy means you need more focused marketing efforts

In a tight economy, doing more with less is the reality for product marketing managers. Many companies slash marketing efforts that focus on branding and name recognition and get back to basics – lead generation. In recent years, white papers have emerged as a staple in the product marketer’s toolbox, largely due to their reputation as powerful lead generation tools with an attractive cost-benefit ratio.

 In fact, the power of an effective white paper to connect with prospects and produce abundant, quality leads is unparalleled. According to the TechTarget 2008 Media Consumption Benchmark, “80.5% of buyers find white papers to be either very effective or somewhat effective in the decision making process, more so than any other marketing tool.”

 Why white papers fail

Even so, some white papers simply fail to generate leads. And no one can afford to spend precious resources on efforts that return lackluster results.

 When white papers don’t perform as expected, the quality of writing is usually at issue. According to a recent MarketingSherpa report, the main reason white papers fail is their readability factor; “the topics are uninteresting, titles blah, and content far too salesy or just plain dull.” 

 Many organizations make the mistake of thinking that a white paper is just another data sheet, or just another product brochure, and turn this critical piece of writing over to an engineer or junior marketing copywriter.

 The problem for product marketers is that, in a market saturated with marketing messages, a poorly written white paper is not only a waste of the time it takes to produce it, but could end up turning off prospects and sending them running to the competition.

Outsourcing costs less and produces better results

Creating white papers that command attention and deliver leads is a highly specialized skill. A professional white paper writer charges from $4000 to $7000 for a white paper depending on the market and their experience level. While hiring a professional writer may, at first glance, seem like an unwarranted expense, when you look at the numbers it starts to make a lot of sense.

Tasking an internal employee to write a white paper when they are not practiced at it can take their time and focus away from more business critical projects for a considerable period of time. The deadline tends to slip as other initiatives pop up and take precedence, and soon your white paper is not only poorly written, it’s late to market and has cost the whole team in productivity and added stress.

By outsourcing your paper to a professional, you get a compelling white paper with a greater ability to attract leads, much faster and without the drain on your internal team. Still think it’s not worth it? Ask yourself this – how many solutions do I have to sell to recoup the investment? Now, in this economy, can you afford not to?

Web Copywriting 101 – Begin with the End in Mind

| Saturday, September 8th, 2018 | No Comments »

Web CopywritingOccasionally a web copywriting “rule” is so deeply ingrained in your subconscious that it becomes second nature, and you forget that not everyone else knows about it. I was reminded of one of these rules the other day when I was having a meeting with a new client.

They had written their own web copy on their first iteration of their website, and were looking for some professional polish to take their marketing efforts to the next level. This client was one of the few that had written pretty strong, benefits-oriented copy all on their own, but they had made one big mistake that was preventing them from getting the response that they wanted.

A Common, Yet Fatal, Mistake

Ironically, the mistake was that they knew exactly what response they wanted, but hadn’t crafted the design or the copy to elicit any response at all. When I asked them what they wanted a client to do after reading their website, they immediately answered “give us a call for more information.”

But there was nowhere on the page that invited to reader to call for more information. In fact, the “Contact Us” page had no phone number listed on it, and the company phone number was actually hiding in very small font in the web footer. No wonder the phone wasn’t ringing off the hook.

Don’t Leave the Reader Hanging

Your web reader is busy and impatient, but also open to suggestion. Every page design needs to work in harmony with the copy on every page to get the reader to do exactly what you want.  And that means that your creative brief needs to spell out exactly what your call to action is so that the designer and the copywriter can work together to make sure you’re getting the response you want.

If you want her to call for more information, you need to make sure that the phone number called out as a separate element on every page and that you invite her to call with a eye-catching call-to-action – preferably both in the body of the copy and above the phone number in your eye-catching call-out box. If you want him to download the latest white paper or sign up for a webinar, you need to do the same.

Need help crafting compelling calls to action for your website?  Give me a call.

Are You Sitting on an Email Marketing Goldmine?

| Thursday, August 23rd, 2018 | 1 Comment »

Email MarketingWith budgets tight and sales yet to bounce back, most companies are accustomed to (tired of?!?!) trying need to do more with less. But instead of sitting around bemoaning your shrinking budget and skyrocketing lead generation goals, try getting off that pretty tuchus and seeing what kind of marketing gold you might be sitting on.

One of the most overlooked veins of gold at most organizations is the “email list.” In a surprising number of companies, this list is dutifully compiled and then left in a dusty corner. No one seems to own it, and worse – no one seems to know what to do with it.

Old clients, current clients, prospective clients – it doesn’t matter. If you’re not doing all you can with that list you’re leaving prospects on the table. There simply is no better resource for dirt cheap lead generation out there. So, what should you be doing with your list?

Newsletters – Keep your email circle of friends up-to-date with the latest news about your company, your products and your industry. Keep it brief and to the point with links to deeper information on your website if necessary. Avoid fancy graphics and pictures that need special permission from the user to download.

Email blasts – If something big goes down – a new product release, a sizzling industry story, or a big “oops!” you need to explain, keep your email circle informed with a proactive email blast. Keep blasts to a minimum to decrease your unsubscribe rate.

Surveys – Surveys can help you get even MORE marketing gold from your customer base. It also brings participants into your inner circle and helps them feel more a part of the “family.” Offering a drawing for a gift certificate will help encourage folks to participate.

I once heard tell of a company that had an email list that had grown from various sources over a period of years, and was spread across several departments that rarely communicated with each other. They had NEVER it used for anything. Once they decided to start using it – to send out a series of newsletters, emails, and surveys – the response they got was amazing. Their open rates, click-through rates and participation rates were through the roof and their unsubscribe rates were remarkably low. It turns out that their email circle was just dying to get involved, and all they had to do was ask!

Autoresponders – What Are They and Why Don’t You Have One Yet?

| Saturday, August 11th, 2018 | No Comments »

email autoresponderWhile most folks in the B2B marketing world have certainly heard of email autoresponders at this point, these set-it-and-forget-it marketing tools still have a fairly low adoption rate. In some cases that’s because they aren’t seen as a good fit with the types of products and services being offered. But in many more I suspect it’s because they simply aren’t understood very well.

What is an autoresponder?

An autoresponder is an automated message sent in response to either an email or a web form inquiry. It can be something as simple as “Thanks for contacting us!” to a series of ten or more emails sent at specific, pre-determined intervals.

At a very basic level, you set up the response in an autoresponder system, and set the parameters for when it gets sent. The automated program then takes care of the rest. Almost everyone I know uses either ConstantContact.com or AWeber.com to handle their autoresponders, but there are many providers out there catering to specific needs and budgets.

Who needs an autoresponder?

I would argue that unless company emails and web inquires go to a specific person who responds personally to each one within a few hours, you should – at the very least – have an autoresponder set up that thanks the person for contacting you, lets them know when they can expect a response from a real person, and provides them with a phone number they can call if they need help right away.

Using autoresponders to walk prospects through the sales cycle

A more sophisticated (though not necessarily more complex) way to use autoresponders is to set up a series of emails that helps walk a prospect through the sales cycle. For example, if a web visitor fills out a contact form on your website and checks a box saying she would like more information on product X, you can respond with a series of emails that go something like this:

1 – Immediately: send the prospect a thank you email along with a product brochure. Give them the contact information for a sales rep if they should have any further questions.

2 – Week one: send the prospect a follow up, including a deeper piece of collateral, such as a case study involving the product. Again provide a call to action with the email and telephone number of a sales rep.

3 – Week two: Send a helpful email with a few FAQs and a client testimonial.

4 – Week three: Send the latest white paper and offer to set up a web conference to go over the solution with all members of the decision-making team.

5 – Week 4: Send along an industry report on the subject.

6 – Week 5: etc…

As you can see, setting up an email responder series for each of your products and services creates a hands-free follow-up system that keeps you top-of-mind with your prospect for weeks or even months.

Of course, be sure to follow SPAM guidelines and always make it easy for a prospect to “stop receiving emails” if they want to. It’s only good business.

Have you set up an autoresponder series that ought to be featured in AdAge?

Been annoyed to tears with an inappropriate or unwelcome barrage of auto responses?

Share your stories in the comments section!

Three Steps to Make Sure You Get What You Want from Your Freelance Pro

| Sunday, August 5th, 2018 | No Comments »

Hire a freelance pro copywriter

Hiring a freelance marketing pro, copywriter, web designer, etc. is a great way to get fantastic results without laying out the cash required for a full-service agency or full-time employee. But hiring a freelance pro is not the same as ordering a pizza for delivery; you will have to put a little work into making sure your freelancer has what they need to succeed. And doing it right isn’t that complicated, it just takes a little concentration and a brief conversation before the project begins.

Knowing what to expect and what is expected of you will help your project go smoothly and ensure you get the best possible results. Your pro should actually help guide you through these three steps – if they don’t, proceed with caution.

1)      Be prepared to bring your freelancer up to speed. No matter how qualified, experienced or specialized your pro is, if he or she has never worked for your company before you will need to give them what they need to hit the ground running. For most projects this can be a link to your website and a copy of any style or messaging guides you have developed. It is helpful to send this over before the first project meeting so that your pro has a chance to look it over and prepare any questions.

2)      Be specific about what you want. Professional or not, freelancers aren’t mind readers, and there are a lot of industry terms that get thrown around pretty loosely. If you’re talking about a “white paper” but what you really mean is a case study or solution brief, you’re not going to be happy with results. Talk about length, audience, tone and content. Send over some examples of similar work you have admired. Your pro can guide you to the right terminology.

3)      Give appropriate feedback. Let’s say after all the prep work you still got something that wasn’t exactly what you were expecting. Shooting back a terse email that says “This isn’t what I wanted – try again” is a sure-fire way to not get what you want on the revision either. Give specific feedback on content (Is it correct? Is it covering what you wanted it to?), messaging (Is it addressing the right audience? Is it conveying the right message?), tone, length, and purpose will make your revision rounds much more productive.

Hiring a freelancer is easier than doing it yourself, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a little prep work involved on your side. Knowing what to expect and being prepared for the experience can lead to a smooth happy experience for everyone.

Freelancers and employers – Do you have any more tips on how to make projects run more smoothly? Share them in the comments section!

Web Copy, White Paper, Case Study, Blog…What I’m Working on Right Now

| Wednesday, July 28th, 2010 | No Comments »

White papers, web copy, case studies, blogWhenever I get a call from a new client, they are very interested in what type of copywriting projects I usually work on. At cocktail parties (OK I don’t really go to cocktail parties, but you know what I mean) I get asked the same question. But like the weather in New England, the answer can depend on the hour.

Over the course of my 15+ years writing mostly B2B marketing communications, I have worked on just about every type of writing project there is. Of course, what I am working on tends to change with the times; 15 years ago I was less likely to be writing blogs and web copy, while today I am less likely to be writing direct mail pieces and physical sales letters, since these have almost completely morphed into email marketing.

To satisfy the curious, I thought I would share a list of the projects I have worked on this month.  While not totally representative, it should give the curious a peek into what types of copywriting and design I do.

This month I:

  • Finished up a 12 page web copywriting project for a Cloud-based search portal company
  • Created the design – in Microsoft Publisher – for a case study I wrote last month for a Cloud services vendor
  • Wrote over 100 “ghost blogs” and keyword optimized press releases for various attorneys and law firms across the US
  • Finished up several pieces of sales collateral (brochures, solution briefs, sales sheets) for the world’s largest IT company
  • Started creating a Power Point Presentation on writing copy for the web, which I will share with the marketing department of a billion-dollar corporation
  • Updated a LinkedIn profile and gave some social media tips to a busy executive
  • Wrote email newsletters for a law firm, a school supply company, and an internet sales distribution consultant
  • Met with a financial services client about creating a website for the firm’s new direction
  • Began updating a series of product manuals for a company that manufactures clean-air monitoring devices for materials processing plants worldwide
  • Went to lunch with one of the greatest professional copywriters of all time, Peter Bowerman, who was kind enough to meet some of his fellow professional copywriters for lunch one day during his vacation
  • Completed a few blog posts for www.savvyb2bmarketing.com, a marcom blog I started with 5 other professional marketers about a year ago.

Some months I do more web copy, other times I am totally immersed in creating a white paper, and still others I crank out sales kits and product sheets. But all in all, it was a pretty busy, fairly typical month for me.

If I can help you with a case study, blog, white paper, some web copy, or anything else, please don’t heistate to contact me!

3 Simple Title Tweaks That Can Help White Paper Marketers Drive More Leads

| Tuesday, July 20th, 2010 | No Comments »

Drive more leads with good titles

You have created the perfect white paper.  But you can’t drive leads or close sales if your target market doesn’t notice it.

Luckily, grabbing your prospect’s attention is as easy as spending some focused energy on your title. And once you understand the formula, it takes almost no time at all to transform your paper into the sought-after gem it deserves to be.

To understand how important titles are to the success of your white paper, imagine that you have created a white paper about your company’s newest software offering. It is designed for improving throughput in a manufacturing plant. Your preliminary title reads:

 ABC’s new software positively affects throughput for manufacturing plants

So far this title sounds very professional and seems pretty focused. But try to imagine how it sounds to your ideal target. A little self-serving? A little dry? Delving into what your prospect wants to hear can help you craft the titles that will grab their attention.

Step One: Identify the problem

Business executives buy solutions to problems. When creating the title for your white paper, ask yourself “What’s in it for them?”

In our example, it sounds like we have identified the problem: a need for better or faster throughput. But let’s dig a little deeper. What does a manufacturing company get when they have better throughput that they are not getting now? If they can produce more units with the same number of employees, they are lowering their costs and therefore increasing their profit margin. That’s way more exciting than “throughput.”

Step Two: Identify the prospect

No one wants to waste time reading about a solution that is not relevant to them. Again, in our sample title, it seems that we have identified “manufacturing plants” as our target, but we can be even more specific. The IT director is the person who is likely to making the decision on software purchases.

Step Three: Identify the solution

Our solution is a software product. But there are a lot of software products out there. If look closer, we can also identify that it is a user-friendly software product that requires little technical savvy and that it can be implemented in less than a day.

Voila: The perfect title for your perfect paper

Now all you have to do is put it all together:

 A manufacturing IT director’s guide to user-friendly software solutions that can begin increasing profit margins today

Following these three simple steps will help your white papers stand out and help you get more return on your white paper investment.

What is a Hi-tech Marketing Copy Writer?

| Monday, June 7th, 2010 | No Comments »

hi tech marketing copy writerLet’s start out real simple; a copy writer (or copywriter – as it is sometimes spelled) writes copy for all sorts of things, from cereal boxes to TV ad scripts and a whole lot of stuff in between. Usually they get a set of guidelines from or conduct an interview with a client and then make the information sound polished, interesting and grammatically perfect.

A marketing copywriter is more of a specialist; this person writes things like sales collateral, web copy, case studies and other specific tools you might use to market to your potential customers.

A marketing copy writer does more than just create polished copy based on your guidelines, he should be able to help guide what you are communicating by asking the right questions (or using your existing creative brief or messaging guidelines) and using fundamental marketing principles to craft persuasive copy that fits in perfectly with your marketing objectives.  

If someone is billing himself as a marketing copywriter, he should have a degree in marketing or several years of experience writing copy for marketing collateral (or both).

A hi-tech marketing copy writer takes that specialization one step further, leveraging deep experience working in hi-tech industries to deliver polished marketing copy about hi-tech or other hard to understand products. A high tech marketing copy writer is primarily a translator – using a broad knowledge of technology to ask the right questions and turn “geek speak” into customer-friendly marketing collateral.

If you work in a hi-tech industry is it necessary to hire a hi-tech marketing copy writer for your marketing collateral? Not necessarily – a talented marketing copy writer can get the job done. But working with someone well-versed in technology who is comfortable dragging saleable product benefits out of engineers can lead to a better end product with less hand-holding and teeth-gnashing along the way. And that’s worth spending the extra time to find the right person for the job.

If You’re Not Doing This with Twitter Already You Should Be

| Thursday, March 11th, 2010 | 1 Comment »

Twitter

A little while ago I had the pleasure of attending the Rockstars of Social CRM event in Boston at the Renaissance Marriott, hosted by Chris Brogan and Radian6 (#soccrm on Twitter for those of you who are interested).

Now I am the first to admit that I am a social media newbie, but when it comes to CRM I have a lot of experience from back when “twitter” was something schoolgirls did when you made an off-color remark. But the event last night opened my eyes to some very interesting new ways that social media – and especially Twitter – can help with both offensive marketing and defensive (customer relationship) marketing, including customer service.

In particular, I was interested in what Frank Eliason, Director of Digital Care for Comcast had to say about how they are using Twitter to enhance customer service. He is on twitter as @ComcastCares. He actually reads and responds to tweets but that is kind of old news. Frank takes it a step further. For example, when Fox dropped its feed during a football game awhile back, Frank went straight to Twitter, which was of course lit up with tweets about how Comcast had dropped the game. Frank, having no idea if the problem was with Comcast or not, used Twitter to search for any tweet that had to do with the game blacking out, and discovered that dish users and other cable providers’ customers were having the same problem.

He was able to instantly 1) Realize that the problem was with Fox and not Comcast, 2) let the call center know that the problem was with Fox and not Comcast, 3) Let the field engineers know that the problem was not with Comcast, so they could stop troubleshooting, and 4) Get on Twitter and let his followers know that the problem was with Fox and not Comcast. His followers retweeted and a major customer service fiasco was averted. Pretty cool right?

Now, how is this relevant to B2B?

Monitor the airwaves

There have long been clipping services that will find and aggregate any news mention (TV or print) of your company and send it to you on DVD. www.newsclipsetc.com is one company I am familiar with. You can also set Google to alert you of any mention of your company on the web. For proactive PR and customer service reasons, I hope you are already doing this.

Using Twitter (and especially tweetdeck) makes it way too easy to monitor what is going on with your customers so you can head problems off at the pass. You should always have a search window open with your company name as the search term. Then when someone mentions your product – either in a positive or negative light – you can respond to them directly, with a “thank you” or an offer to help. Can you imagine a better way to surprise and delight your customers – not to mention all their followers who can see what is going on? And if something goes spectacularly wrong, like it did for Frank that day, you can be on top of it long before you would have heard about it through regular channels.

One of my clients, Three Deep Marketing, offers a service where they will monitor all social media for you, and help you design a full-scale social media campaign complete with a dashboard to monitor performance across selected channels. Check them out.

Have you had any experiences using Twitter or other Social Media for improved customer service or to enhance customer relationships? Please share them in the comment section below.

Are you over-promising and under-delivering?

| Thursday, March 4th, 2010 | No Comments »

Customer Relationship MarketingGuy dies and goes to limbo. Devil shows up and says, “Hey this is your lucky day! We’re going to let you choose if you want to go to heaven or hell.” First he shows the guy heaven: a bunch of placid folks in white robes floating about. Then he shows him hell: a raucous party in a hip night club. The guy thinks for a minute, and then picks hell. But when he gets there, it’s fire, brimstone, and eternal torment.  “What happened to the night club?” he wails to the devil. “Oh that?” says the devil, “That was just the marketing brochure.”

Marketing is all about engaging your customers, showing them you feel their pain, and demonstrating that you know how to relieve it. But what happens after the sale? Not your problem? It is if you want to sell anything else to that customer – or to anyone that customer interacts with. After all, we’ve all heard the saying “a happy customer tells one person, and an unhappy one tells anyone who will listen.”

I am talking specifically about customer service here, and it comes to mind because I have had two fantastic customer service experiences in the last few weeks – both of them from the types of companies from whom I have been trained to expect (and put up with) very bad customer service. Both vendors sell me services for my business. Both blew away my expectations and have me totally in the bag as a customer when it comes time to renew my contracts. Who are they? The first was Verizon Wireless, and the second was Fallon Community Health Plan. That’s right. The phone company and an insurance provider.

Waging a Customer Relationship Marketing Campaign

This brings us to the subject of Customer Relationship Marketing (CRM). CRM is a school of marketing founded on the principle that it is easier to sell more stuff to someone who has already purchased from you than it is to go out and get a brand new customer every time. And research has borne out that repeat customers tend to increase the dollar amount of purchases over time, are more likely to buy new products from you with a shorter sales cycle, and will personally recommend you to their colleagues (this is marketing GOLD).

This might seem anathema to marketing professionals. After all, if you stop needing to get new customers, don’t you stop needing marketing?  Au contraire. It takes a really savvy marketer to look at the big picture and develop the plans and programs that keep customers satisfied and keep them coming back. And I’m not talking about cardboard punch cards and free lattes here.

 A few very effective CRM strategies include:

  • Making sure your post-purchase service is on a par with your pre-purchase service (read: GOOD customer service – not punting them off to a heavily-scripted call bank in a third-world country)
  • Following up with new customers, making sure they are getting what they expected out of their solution, and helping them if they are not (I actually worked with a small company president who personally called all customers within a week of the sale to make sure they were happy with their purchase- Wow. But a quick email can also be very effective.)
  • Keeping in touch with past customers to let them know about new products, training opportunities, or webinars
  • Asking customers what you could be doing better and following up on their suggestions
  • Providing a forum for customers to interact with your experts and other customers to get help and tips

Have you implemented any CRM programs in your business? If so, how effective have they been? We want to know.