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It’s Easy to Spot Amateur Copy—by Lewis Bassett

August 13th, 2014

It’s easy to spot amateur copy.

Amateurs don’t know how to express anything other than excitement. So it’ll be high energy, full of hype, exaggeration and exclamation marks.

“Our new mouth-watering deserts are guaranteed to light your valentine’s fire! You’re in for a fun night! Hurry up and book now!”

Great copy should be conversational.

You should be speaking to your prospects the same way a friend might, if they were discussing the topic over a quiet drink after work.

There’s place for excitement. But there are so many other emotions you can – and should – express. (E.g., fear, shame, intrigue, suspense, tenderness, anger, sadness, surprise, benevolence, optimism, etc.)

We tend to do this naturally in conversation. And great copywriters know this.

But what if you’re not a great copywriter? Does this mean you can’t write great copy?

Probably. But it doesn’t mean you can’t write good copy.

There’s a simple and easy way to write compelling copy. And if you follow it, your work will be better than 90% of all the other rubbish that pollutes the Internet.

You don’t need any training. And you don’t need any specialist techniques.

Here’s what you do.

Go out and pitch your offering to as many people as you can. These must be people that are in a position to buy it.

Make sure you record every pitch you make. (There are plenty of iPhone apps for this.)

What you now have is compelling, conversational and natural copy.

You might need to clean it up a little. And you might want to add or remove a few points.

But what you have is proven to work, because it already won you the sale. Put it on your website, and it’ll almost certainly outperform what is on there right now.

Carpe diem.

Lewis Bassett
Director, Bassett Providentia Ltd

Copyright © 2012, Bassett Providentia Ltd

Lewis Bassett is an online marketing consultant and speaker, and helps companies to increase their revenue. Bassett Providentia Ltd is his consulting practice. For more information and to subscribe to his email list visit www.bassettprovidentia.com.

A Quick Guide to Website Content

July 14th, 2013

Quick Guide to Writing Website Content

Writing content for your Website (or any marketing material for that matter) can be quite challenging. If I had to give one piece of advice it would be to keep your content as informal as possible so it’s not refined it into generic marketing drivel. What good is a Website that sounds like a million others?  I’ve found that it’s often the first pass at writing your content that can be the best at establishing that authentic tone that truly resonates with your visitors.

The Vital Elements for your Website

Effective communication on your Website can be compared to effective Interstate highway billboard communication — your visitors are going 70mph and if you’re not concise and clear they won’t bother slowing down to read your message. Research has established that visitors to your Website will make a judgment within a few seconds regarding the credibility and quality of your business (initially based on the graphic design) and then they will want these fundamental questions quickly answered:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you do?
  • Where do you do it?
  • How can they learn more or try your product?
  • Why are you the best choice?

This last item is called your Unique Value Proposition and is extremely important . . . in fact it should permeate all elements of your marketing communication.

The Front Page

The front page of your site is that “billboard” that needs to provide answers to these questions or a clear one-click path for your users to get those answers. Don’t make your visitors guess about these answers or which link to click to get them, otherwise they’re apt to just leave and look elsewhere. Website visitors tend not to be very patient.

Provide Proof

For those visitors who are interested in your unique value proposition, a vital supporting section is the proof section . . . it’s one thing to say you’re the greatest at this or that, but offering your visitors credible proof is going to carry exponentially more weight than you just saying so. Examples of proof sections include testimonials, portfolios and/or photos of your staff and or customers engaged in providing your products or services to clients.

Photos as Proof

MeAs the old saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” and this couldn’t be more true on your Website. Visitors are not going to invest the time to read 1,000 words about how great you are (even if they did, they wouldn’t believe it) but they can’t help but seeing a prominently displayed photo that, if done correctly, can instantly and powerfully communicate your values and help establish trust.

The Web is cold, impersonal and untrustworthy by nature.  Avoid at all costs stock photos with cheesy models posing. The only thing you’ll accomplish is to make people wonder if your business is legitimate. Rather, make this an opportunity to develop an instant personal bond with your visitors which you’ll find is extremely potent towards establishing credibility . . . offer photos of you in an authentic setting, whether it’s a photo that provides some personal insight on your bio or photos that show your business making real customers of yours happy.

Even if your budget is low, consider hiring a professional photographer to work in conjunction with your Web designer. While you may spend a bit more on the project, you’ll be establishing a significant competitive advantage.

I’m still amazed that with all the material we offer on our site, and the myriads of photos of our past projects, I often have prospects and clients commenting on my profile photo which shows me with my family. People want to trust the firm they’re hiring and my willingness to share this type of photo is very effective in helping to establish that bond (as you might of guessed, that’s the photo on this page).

Website Content 101

September 7th, 2012

The content of your Web site is crucial and should be developed to quickly answer the basic questions and needs of your specific target visitors. Research shows that you only have a few seconds to entice your visitors to stay so it’s vital that you present obvious choices for them to find the information they need. In addition clear and compelling navigation options need to be present that allow your visitors to easily recognize where they should click to proceed through the sales/information process.

If your visitors become confused about what your site is about or how it applies to them, they are likely to just leave and look elsewhere. The goal of your front page is to allow visitors to qualify themselves as prospects for your business or organization and to proceed through the sales process by accepting a call to action that you offer. Call to actions can include purchasing online, contacting you for an appointment, subscribing to your newsletter/blog or whatever the specific next step is in your sales process.

The Essential Questions Visitors to Your Site Will Need Answered:

  • What do you do? One of the most common mistakes that sites make is not being clear on exactly what they are providing. The more complex of solution you offer the more important it is to provide this answer in easy-to-understand language. The essence of what you do should be the basis of your organization’s mission statement, but answering the “What you do” question will also include the specific products or services  you’re offering.
  • Why you do it? This is related to an organization’s vision statement but needs to be expressed in concise language free from industry jargon. Telling visitors “why you do it” is a means of establishing credibility and positioning yourself as an expert adviser for recommending a solution to their needs.
  • Why are you the best choice? This question is the most vital for new prospects and should be answered by your unique value proposition. Your unique value proposition is simply a concise statement of how you
    meet their need better than anyone else
    .  In addition to stating your unique value, you need to back it up with real-life examples. The most effective support will be testimonials, portfolio’s of your past work, and third party reviews or endorsements if available.
  • What can I do? This is the question you want most asked because it means your visitor is satisfied (or at least intrigued) with the answers to their first three questions. They are asking how to proceed through your sales process. This doesn’t mean they’re necessarily ready to buy, but they’re willing to take a step closer. Your site needs to present unambiguous action items for your customers to answer their question of “What can I do?” by providing conspicuous “call to action” links in the body of your front page and the navigation menu.

How To Provide the Answers

Here are a few key principles for answering your visitors’ questions :

  1. Be concise. Paragraphs of text on your front page will bury the answers to your visitors’ questions and result in a high abandon rate. Your front page, and navigation bar, should be thought of as a map that clearly directs people to more detailed information on the destination of their choice, without them having to think twice about their choices. While, supporting pages will provide more detailed answers the still must avoid verbosity to be effective.
  2. Communicate in layman’s terms and avoid your industry’s jargon. Realize that much of the internal language your organization uses may have no relevance for your visitors.
  3. Provide clear call-to-action choices for all types of visitors. The fundamental questions presented above provide answers for newly aware prospects through “trial” or first-time buyers. If you anticipate clients, customers with an ongoing relationship with your organization, to be frequent visitors you need to accommodate the needs of these visitors. Other visitor types can include press, investors or employers. The answers to each type of visitor questions need to be presented in proportion to the importance they have towards achieving the overall goals of your site.

See also: It’s Easy to Spot Amateur Copy

Business Blogging – How to Succeed

February 15th, 2012

The Premise

As businesses continue to discover the blogosphere and the benefits and repercussions that come along with it, too many marketing managers are simply applying the principals and practices learned in Advertising 101 and/or sales training seminars to construct their blogging strategies. In other words, I have noticed several blogs on corporate Web sites that have been written in a manner similar to what one would find on a product description page. This is in fact a significant blunder in blog creation because it dilutes the true purpose of a blog; which is to organically engage with people in meaningful and purpose driven dialog. The fact is, consumers don’t read blogs because they’re interested in hearing a sales pitch, but rather they desire to scratch beneath the surface so as to discover the degree of actual value a product, service, or brand may provide to them personally.

How to Write a Blog

In actuality, there is no set formula or templated prescription for writing a successful blog other than to keep the content real and relevant for the reader. The content should be structured so as to capture the emotions of the reader/consumer and in a manner to solicit feedback. In many cases, this strategy goes beyond product-centric content and taps into the lifestyle of the audience; creating a customer-centric forum that harnesses emotions and develops a level of interest with significant impact for the reader.

In summarizing the elements required to produce a successful blog, remember to:

  • Develop content that is beyond the scope of your product
  • Emotionally engage the target audience by talking about values, lifestyles, and subjects that keep people awake at night
  • Ask for honest feedback
  • Develop a mechanism to pass the blog along to other readers

How to Promote a Blog

Truth be told, successful blogs really don’t require a major media blitz to create a following if they are constructed around relevant content, as mentioned above, and if they incorporate a technological infrastructure to support a loyal following. For instance, RSS integration is a tool that is designed to build traffic to a blog site while encouraging repeat visits through a syndication method that is non-intrusive. In other words, RSS doesn’t clog up email and it helps the audience discriminate relevant information from spam through keywords and descriptions.

The Benefits of Blogging

Cutting through all the complex definitions of blogging, the most direct description is that of an online forum for authors to post comments and/or questions so as to solicit feedback. For businesses, blogging should not be viewed as an extension of an advertising campaign, but rather a medium to connect with customers and stakeholders. Companies that utilize blogs effectively will discover that their audience is more than willing to provide constructive feedback, in some cases eliminating the need for focus group style market research.

Additionally, blogs provide consumers with content they can search out for themselves, without having to rely solely on corporate-generated commentary. As a consumer, I appreciate the chance to view reader responses to corporate-generated content since it allows me the opportunity to experience the product/service from a peer’s perspective. For instance, if I’m preparing to make a purchasing decision, I as a consumer want to be well informed of the value that I would possibly receive from others that have bought before me. This is a great lead in for some common objections companies hold toward blogging.

The Objections

In my experience as a consultant, the two most common blogging objections that I run into include 1) the risk of negative feedback and 2) the lack of time. Starting with the negative feedback dilemma, companies must come to grips with the fact that not everyone can be overwhelmingly satisfied; and whether marketing managers like to hear it or not, the conversation about their company’s products and services is already taking place amongst consumers. Blogging simply provides an avenue for sellers to participate in the discussion.

To overcome this first objection, any company of worth will have loyal customer evangelists who are willing to extol the company’s virtues and provide testimonials via an online forum if provided the opportunity to do so. For companies wondering how to accomplish this feat, the key is in identifying those customer evangelists and inviting them to participate in the online discussion. Although almost any company will have its share of detractors, it also has a large network of customers who will willingly go to bat for the company so as to defend it from critics. If a company is unable to identify any customer evangelists, that organization is in serious need of evaluating their customer service program because they probably won’t be doing business 5 years from now.

To address the second objection, time is always a factor in business operations, one of the critical resources that is severely limited and often leads to the downfall of organizations that are unable to manage it wisely. However, blogging shouldn’t be viewed along the same lines as a company picnic or corporate birthday celebration, but as a critical component of customer relations. Without a doubt, blogging requires a significant commitment, however the burden of blog management can be mitigated through a smart and comprehensive strategy involving multi-blogger participation, strategic content parameters, and scheduled posting dates.

The Conclusion

In all, blogging is merely a tool that companies should leverage to envelop customers into brand loyalty and evangelism. If thought of as an extension of traditional advertising, the blog will ultimately fail because there will be a disconnect between the corporate message and the expectations of the reader. To succeed, keep the content real and customer-centric, and remember to implement technical mechanisms such as RSS or pass along links to broaden participation via social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

YOUR FEEDBACK is appreciated, please reply to this blog with any questions or comments.

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