OK, so the majority of us will make excuses for our website (me included) and say it needs work, it’s on my list of things to do, or my clients’ work must come first.
OK, so hold that thought for a second. What if you were to bring ‘website development’ to the top of your list for just an afternoon – what changes could you achieve?
I’ve critiqued a number of websites in my time, and the good news is, there are lots of small adjustments that can be made to help move the game on. Small adjustments can turn into bigger changes over time, and when you start to see the results, the momentum has a habit of gathering speed.
It’s worth noting here that a website is never really finished – it’s best to consider it as work in progress. Google likes lots of lovely fresh content, so think of it as is an ongoing work of art. It’s not your company brochure, far from it. Your website is like a journal, detailing everything that’s going on in your world and most importantly in your customers’ world.
So, start by asking the question: Where does it hurt the most? Is it the cover image, the words, the navigation? Is it the fact that your call to action is almost non-existent? Are there internal links to help keep people interested and on your site for longer? What is the bounce rate? Is it too high? …the list goes on.
An independent view
If you’d like an independent critique of your website, complete with strategy and plan to make thinks a whole lot better, I’d be happy to help.
From corporate ID, through to web design and build there are lots of ways improvements can be made. I’ll look at the content too – an area in which I take a keen interest – to make sure your site is saying the right things to the right people in the right place.
We’ll start with one key objective – to create a website you’ll be proud of and from thereon in, things will only get better!
It seems that more and more, we are all striving to be ‘experts in our field’, better than and more informed than the rest.
But in our quest to be the best, are we in danger of being boring or even irrelevant? Sharing knowledge is a common element of a content writer’s brief. “Show my customers how much I know, that I’m a thought leader and the go-to person for help and advice”.
So, my challenge is to balance this drive for ‘showing off’, with ensuring we’re not talking over the heads of our target audience, but giving them the information that they really need.
Yes, it’s important to show knowledge and expertise – but it’s how these skills benefit our clients that readers are interested in. So my approach is to take the in-depth expertise and spin a commercial angle onto it.
It’s all about the outcomes – what’s the answer to that ‘so what?’ question.
Take a look at this example:
“So you have the most advanced technology in the UK but how does that benefit my company? Oh, so you can cut traditional production times in half? Now I’m interested!”
By addressing the pain points suffered by customers, (in this instance, a lengthy production time) you’re more likely to strike a chord. It puts your product or service offerings into context so that customers instantly grasp how it is that you can help them.
We acknowledge that we are all time poor, that we have just a few seconds to capture and engage with website visitors. Offer answers to your customers’ problems, talk about the issues facing them right now and they will respond in a positive way.
A place for ‘heavy’ content
There is of course a strong case for serious, knowledgeable copy and for including it on your website. Perhaps though just not right at the front. ‘More reading’, ‘knowledge hub’ etc, however you want to call it, signposts your more considered, detailed and thought-leading pieces to those that are interested in the finer points of your knowledge.
White papers, e-books and other publications are the perfect resting home for in-depth content, and are very valuable in proving your prowess, and positioning your business as a leader in its field.
So please take a look at your website and be sure to look at it through the eyes of your typical customer. Ask yourself if you are giving them the information they need in a friendly, palatable way, and whether your content needs a re-shuffle, to deliver the best possible online experience.
If your business is one of the majority whose product offering can appeal to many, how do pitch your content to attract audiences from different target markets?
If you were selling oranges for example, it might be helpful for the orange buyer to understand why they should choose your oranges rather than someone else’s.
To start with, you need to understand who your orange buyers are.
One group could be an athletics club for example, who are interested in the re-hydration qualities of your fruit. Another group could be a health club, keen to find the most nutritious oranges they can buy. Then there are parents looking to buy oranges that their kids can easily peel.
Essentially, you’re selling the same product, yet your buyers have different needs that must be satisfied if they are to decide it’s right for them.
Hence the power of target marketing. Generic content risks being ‘vanilla’ i.e. with little by way of interesting ‘hooks’ to reel your buyers in.
In the marketing industry we talk about business verticals – different market sectors that have different needs and priorities yet happen to be in the market for the same product.
So, how can your copy reflect those different needs?
By talking directly to your audience, using a language they understand, and hitting the specific pain points of each sector, you’re showing those buyers that you appreciate their needs, and that you can provide exactly what it is they are looking for.
With content, very rarely does one size fit all. And the more that you can pitch your content to specific target groups, the more likely it is you’ll receive enquiries.
Time for a little more sophistication
It’s good to know who your customers are, and where they are in the buying cycle. Have they bought from you before, enquired but never bought, or do they need educating about all the wonderful reasons why they should buy from you?
Existing customers may appreciate news from you about new products or add-ons to the products they’ve already bought. And they may like to receive a voucher off their next purchase as an incentive to buy again. Or you may wish to include an early bird discount to recent enquirers to push them towards a purchase if they are procrastinating.
New customers may be easier to convert if they are eligible for an introductory offer.
You get the idea. And hopefully get the gist of why targeting your content can add a strong commercial advantage to your business.
Who would you like to do business with?
It might sound like an obvious question but if you’ve an ideal client in mind, check out your online resources to see if they are pitched to attract interest from this group. Perhaps you’d like business from abroad, from a particular sector such as charities, retail or online businesses only.
Take a little time to think about which clients could award contracts that would really make a difference to your business, and create specific content that will draw them in.
Use blogs to target your different markets too, and signpost to those blogs on Twitter using the sector hashtag that’s relevant to the content. It will start to put you on the radar of the businesses you’d like to have a conversation with, whilst showing them that you’re a serious provider in their field.
I’ve been very disappointed twice recently, by big name brands that quite frankly, I’d expect better service from.
One was a holiday company with whom I’ve booked a trip of a lifetime (I’ve a big birthday coming up!). They sent me an email recently to request the balance of payment. Fair enough, the balance is now due, however, the tone of the email was not what I would expect from a well-known holiday brand.
The words that upset me were: please keep in mind that if we don’t receive your payment by your balance due date your holiday will be cancelled.
What? So no provision for the possibility that I may not receive that email or I may be away on business or another holiday? Do I not get a second chance? These words were in the 3rd line of the email – not at the bottom, away from the rest of the message where it could have been added in the form of terms and conditions and in a more friendly tone.
So, I complained. I explained that I had high expectations when booking with this firm, after all, their marketing is second to none, and customers are left in no doubt that they need not expect compromises when holidaying with them.
I also stated that, based on the company’s outstanding reputation, I was even more disappointed at the tone of their letter than I might otherwise have been.
Which is why it’s so important to deliver on expectations. Marketing is only worth its salt if it is true to the word and customers receive the product or service that they were expecting. Anything less just leads to disappointment and feeling let down.
The response to my complaint was equally disappointing: whilst they stated that their intention was not to offend customers, this notification had come from their accounting team.
There’s a point here for all companies to note: make sure all departments in your company are aware of the marketing activities going on and see themselves as equally responsible for delivering on expectations no matter what their role in the company. Every member of staff is a company representative.
Moving on, my second disappointment has come from large retailer from whom I made a purchase last October. Since then I have been bombarded with emails, each one complete with an unsubscribe button that, when clicked, takes you to a normal web page, and not an unsubscribe page. Quite simply, there is no option to unsubscribe.
Despite many emails to complain and bring this to the company’s attention, I’ve been assured that my email address will be removed from their marketing lists (though this may take a few days) yet I’ve received virtually no acknowledgement that the unsubscribe button doesn’t work.
I’d expect a company of this size to operate in accordance with email marketing rules and not repeatedly send emails with the same non-functioning unsubscribe option – especially after the fault has been reported.
This blog may seem like a rant, and perhaps it is to some extent, but it’s to make an important point. Whoever you are, whether your company is a multi national conglomerate or a sole trader, it’s absolutely crucial to deliver on expectations. Don’t set yourself up for a fall with misleading marketing messages, as people, like me, won’t be too forgiving.
For those of you too young to remember Max Bygraves, this isn’t gratuitous use of slang, more a reference to an old phrase of the past, used by a once famous singer – yet it’s a phrase that has considerable relevance to today.
Because marketing people talk a lot about telling the story of your brand. It helps to promote buy-in, loyalty and understanding of what your company is about.
And I’d like to reference a couple of instances in pop culture where story telling has won the day.
The 1st and 2nd best selling singles in the UK of all time relate to real life events – Candle in the Wind by Elton John and Do they know it’s Christmas by Band Aid, they’re kind of real life stories. The 3rd best selling single is Bohemian Rhapsody, it tells a story of a guy that just killed a man, you might remember it!
And in a poll by Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine to find out the best song lyrics of all time, listeners voted for Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon.
I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand Walkin’ through the streets of Soho in the rain He was lookin’ for the place called Lee Ho Fooks Gonna get a big dish of beef chow mein
Do these words conjure up a picture for you, set a scene, even give you a tangible feeling? They take you on a journey, and that’s the point I’m trying to make.
These words are clever, and they work, and songs like these appeal to our human instinct to want to know more.
The people that love these songs are highly likely the same people that you’re trying to sell to. So, now you know what they like, use this as a guide to help you create your next blog or website content, promotion or presentation. Tell a story and you’ll have a captive audience.
The Innocent brand famously tells the story of their start-up. The founders sold their new smoothie fruit drinks at a London music festival, and asked customers whether they should give up their day job and make their smoothies a full time commitment.
Customers voted with their empties – filling the ‘yes’ bin (yes they should give up their day jobs) in vastly more quantities than the ’no’ bin, giving an overwhelming thumbs up to the product.
It’s a twee story, some might say, but it’s worked wonders for their profile.
So what’s your story? Think Richard Branson selling magazines at school, to Alan Sugar selling car aerials and electrical items out of a van with an initial investment of just £50. Do you have a start-up story that explains how to got to where you are today?
Stories take people on an emotional journey. They help consumers engage with your brand. If you’d like a chat about how we can create a story around your brand, I’d be pleased to help.
Think about it for a moment – it’s your marketing communications that tell your customers what to expect if they have dealings with your company.
So, shouldn’t your staff be singing from the same hymn sheet?
There’s a lot to be learned from the content writers you employ. They put themselves in the position of your customers, and ask themselves “what is it that will encourage me to buy from your company?” It’s how they’re able to create copy that resonates with the target audience.
The copy they produce answers all the right questions, it reassures potential buyers, educates them and may even entertain them too along the way.
Above all, it instils an expectation about the exact experience, service or product they can look forward to when they transact with your business.
And here’s where it all goes wrong…
The words themselves are meaningless if they are not backed up by actions. Every copywriter portrays an optimistic view of how a business operates. The spanner in the works is reality!
Which his why it makes perfect business sense to use marketing content as the number 1 tool for staff training – covering company ethos, competitive advantage, customer service, product information, delivery expectations and so on.
It’s time to take an honest look at the quality of your service – and if your people are not mirroring the image created in your marketing, you’re failing your customers.
There’s a lot to be learned from marketing copy. It’s not just about paying lip service to the notion of good customer service; it should accurately encapsulate the real substance of your business. It’s about creating an authentic reflection of who you are and what you deliver on an individual, one to one level.
And consider this, a good independent content writer will deliver valuable insight into how the market works, what your customers expect and how to join up marketing with deliverables. Food for thought indeed.
Christmas has been and gone, and with it lots of instructions – new child’s games, more adventurous recipes than usual to cook up in the kitchen, and technical household gadgets that should be simple to use but aren’t!
Which made me spend more time than usual thinking about who writes these instructions – and how do they test them?
I spent no less than 2 hours constructing a constellation globe – my 9 year old left me to it after about 10 minutes – is it just me? Am I less patient than most? Or are we right to grumble about complicated, hard to follow instructions?
I battled on with the constellation globe in the hope that it would all be worth it in the end, but alas, a perfect result was not to be. Thankfully my daughter forgave my paltry attempt and says it’s the best she’s ever had (and as it’s the only constellation globe so far in her short life, that’s not difficult!)
So, my plea here is for all manufacturers and cookbook writers – please oh please take care with your instructions, and have them tested, tested and tested again so we’re not filled with dread and bewilderment when we read them.
Here’s to a fabulous New Year, which should go with a bang, so long as we follow our firework instructions to the letter!
The lazy man’s terminology starts and ends with solutions – you’ll have come across it many times I’m sure.
But what does it actually mean? What does it tell you about how the company you are reading about can actually help you?
Some people even use the word in their Company name – it’s just so banal.
Storage solutions, IT solutions, recruitment solutions… the list is endless. But whoever you are, whatever you do, using the ‘s’ word is guaranteed to position your company way behind the competition. Continue reading →
A bit like Stumbleupon. I often come across useful info that’s worth noting – somewhere.
And here is that somewhere.
So, recent discoveries are:
Save battery life on your iPhone by switching to Airplane mode if battery is low to make it last longer, and when charging to make it charge faster.
Aim for a zero inbox – it’s quite refreshing! Use folders, and apply discipline to action, file or bin your emails. And unsubscribe to feeds if you find you’ve not had time to read in the last week.
And a tip from me: If you’re writing your own content, then apply one rule – the ‘So What’? rule. If your content has a so what factor your readers will be interested, if not, you’ve gone off on a ramble!