Tag Archives: marketing

Rules to Sell By: Customer Feedback Counts

Seeking out and heeding customer input as early and as often as possible is often the key ingredient that can spell success or failure for budding businesses.  But, far too many entrepreneurs fail to do this and therefore make key decisions (packaging, distribution, targeting) that cost them dearly down the line.

Honest feedback is what we do at TrySome. We help brands to give the people what they’re asking for, not what they think they want.

Give the people what they’re asking for, not what you think they want.

It’s also why I was so stoked to join the panel of experts on the topic of Customer Feedback and Market Research at the “Artists & Eats: Celebrating Women Entrepreneurs” event at their Soho location in NYC on International Women’s Day.

Here’s a recap of what we discussed or click here to see the blog post in full!

GET ACTIONABLE INPUT FROM THE RIGHT AUDIENCE(S):

  • Validate your target market; don’t make assumptions about who is buying your product and why.
  • Friends and family are not valid targets.
  • Ask specific questions of qualified customers that enable informed decisions.
  • Get feedback anonymously so that it will be honest.
  • Do not wait for everything to be “perfect” before gathering input.
  • Enable dialogue with your customers to gain feedback and build relationships.

DEDICATE EFFORTS TO TRULY KNOW AND LOVE YOUR CUSTOMERS

  • Observe, analyze and listen to create an avatar of your target customer(s).
  • Build on the avatar(s) over time; again don’t wait until everything is perfect.
  • Don’t be afraid to commit to a niche and work it.
  • Go beyond demographics to understand the human elements; what (and who) drives behavior and decisions.

YES, YOU CAN AFFORD TO DO MARKET RESEARCH!

  • Be creative with technology; tap into online polling/surveying tools that work for you.
  • Utilize your own online presence to gain feedback.
  • Consider the value that bringing in a pro can provide – saving valuable time, doing it right and moving you ahead more quickly.
  • Recognize how research can come from your day-to-day customer interactions. Favorite example of the night:  Work a market to test your pricing; if 8 in 10 buy — your price is probably to low; if 2 in 10 buy — your price is too high!

BEING AN ENTREPRENEUR CAN BE HARD – AND LONELY – BUT DON’T FORGET SOME BUSINESS BASICS

  • PLAN; map out your vision and what it will take to get there from the beginning – even though it may change.
  • COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS cannot be overlooked; without it, how can you differentiate your product?
  • Let go and delegate when you can; it’s impossible to do it all if you want to grow.

 

This ugly af writing tool is actually a secret weapon

A brand’s website is its storefront. So what does that make the headline… the window dressing? The display case? The sales tag? The devil is in the details, especially when it comes to the presentation and display of a brand’s message.

It’s a lot of responsibility, which is a trait I’ve never been known for, instead outsourcing the headline writing task to the editors. Well, no more. Now I’m the Head of Content at AirHelp, which means I’m the brand equivalent to the website’s Editor-in-Chief. I’ve got to say that it really is lonely at the top. I have no more editors to turn to. So, naturally I turned to the Internet.

Take one: Editorial headline writing 

The Columbia University headline guide tops the SEO search and therefore naturally became the only page I used for reference, but gawd is it boring af. I mean look at it. It reads like a undergrad curriculum. It uses words like “imperative,” which any good journalist knows is 1.) an adjective and is therefore lazy sentence structure and 2.) not likely to please the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test. It makes three good points, though.

  • Headlines are usually written as an afterthought (true)
  • Readers look at headlines and photos first (true)
  • It must be correct, “easily understood,” interesting and set the tone of the article (non-negotiable requirement)

Take two: Advertorial headline writing

K, well, we’re not amateurs here so let’s move beyond the basics and into the real shit … the Advanced Marketing Institute’s Headline AnalyzerThis site could not be more ugly … or rude. It’s algorithm straight up judges your headline writing skills so hard and without empathy that it is now my most favorite tool to play. Here’s how it works.  

  1. Enter the headline into the text box (20 words or less, obviously)
  2. Select your industry category
  3. Submit your headline for analysis

Recently, the AirHelp tech dudes hosted a hackathon and the video that came out of it is so, so good that I knew the responsibility (ugh, this word) of selling this window display to the public was all mine. I tried 15 options before settling in on “Tears and caffeine are the two ingredients to a successful hackathon.” My score was a 45.45% and I officially ranked as a professional copywriter as I tapped into the blend of Intellectual and Spiritual. Hellz yeah.

Take three: Professional headline writing

This tool tests your resilience. It requires you to be a mix of both editorial and advertorial and I’m determined to beat it at its own game. The score indicates your headline as a percentage of Emotional Marketing Value Words (EMV)

It’s also where it gets super judgy, explaining, “Most professional copywriters’ headlines will have 30% – 40% EMV Words in their headlines, while the most gifted copywriters will have 50%-75% EMV words.Essentially, if your headline is less than 30% your writing is terrible. To put that into perspective, the English language contains approximately 20% EMV words – I’ve ranked at 10% more than once.

The ideal headline comprises three predominant emotions: Intellectual, Spiritual and Empathetic. Intellectual impact words are best aimed at people in the fields of education, law, medicine, research and politics. Spiritual words are for New Age and health-related markets as well as women, children and other ninnies. Empathetic words bring out profound and strong positive emotional reactions.

Just in case you were wondering – this headline scored a solid 60% EMV words. I’m officially gifted.

 

How to write a press release

Trying to sell your product or service, but at a loss as to how to elbow your way through to the front of the media stage?

Journalist stage fright is very real. ‘Journos’ are scary. I know this because I was one. I was trained to be a human-stone wall who hid her opinion while casting a skeptical eye. I never took any fact or truth at face value until I substantiated it myself. The good news is journalists are people too, and with a little preparation and self-deprecation, these walls will chip away.

Let’s start with the basics of a press release.

1. The Five W’s

Raise your hand if you remember the five W’s from English class? It seems obvious, but many business owners, and even public relations professionals, forget to include these equally important aspects in their press release. Who are you; What do you do/sell; Where are your headquarters (this is especially important to local media)/Where is your product or service distributed; Whendid you open/expand/relocate; and Why are you contacting me?

2. Define yourself clearly

You should be able to state the reason why you’re writing the press release in one sentence. This sentence goes in the first paragraph (Google: the inverted pyramid). I know, I’m mean. But consider this – you have about 15 seconds to explain — simply — what you want them to know before they move on to the hundreds of other emails in their inbox. Not much different than a marketing email, is it? Don’t worry, you can further expand on your company’s background at the end of the press release in the “about us” paragraph.

Tip: Be careful not to use industry jargon. The media doesn’t use industry speak because of the depth and breadth of its audience.

3. What’s the benefit to the public?

This should be a part of your business plan and behind everything that you do, so if it’s stumping you, it is time to take a look at your business model.

4. Highlight the hook

Journalists are as attracted to small businesses as they are to large Fortune 500 companies. They’re itching to break a story and loathe having to write up something that’s already been covered a million times before. We write about corporations because they’re sexy and increase our SEO, but we report on small businesses because we want to beat our competitors to the next new thing.

Mid-sized businesses tend to get lost in the fold because they don’t have the resources to market themselves but they also don’t need us as much “love.” You can pick up the slack by pointing out exactly what it is that makes you different from your competitors. You know how you’re better and different, so show the facts without selling yourself.

5. Include contact information

Always let the journalist know who they can contact if they’re interested in more information. Sorry PR folks, we want to hear directly from the horse’s mouth, be it the product developer, engineer or the C-suite exec. Finally, always, always include your website URL.

**I first wrote this in 2012, but it’s still applicable today. What do you think?

Tips to avoid the #Millennial meltdown

Oh, Millennials, what are we going to do with you? Everyone wants to #reach you, to #engage you and to get you to spend your #money. Why, oh why, won’t you just tell us what we can do for you? Oh, what’s that you say? You mean you have been telling us this whole time? Huh ….

Tips to avoid the Millennial meltdown

Open your ears, the Millennials are talking, says Melvin Greer, Senior Fellow at Lockheed Martin and author of “21st Century Leadership.” A majority of Millennials — 59 percent — turn to their trusted network of friends and family as the primary influencers when making a purchase.

Millennials don’t just use products and services; they are the products and services they use. The generation associates a part of themselves with thCCW Millennials THUMBNAILeir preferred brands and is hyperaware of how a brand not only meets their service needs, but also their personal needs. Because they have such
high expectations for hyper-personalization, they therefore require mass-customized experiences.

Millennials are digital natives accustomed to having any kind of information available to them at any time. Instead of worrying about meeting these high expectations, consider using their knowledge and ideas: ask them what they want and they’ll give you the exact products and service ideas they want to buy
from you. It could be as easy as that.

If you’re wondering why you should jump through hoops for the youngest purchasing generation it’s because once you’ve got ‘em, they’ll be yours
forever.

Tips to avoid the Millennial meltdown

Trust in brands and institutions are waning across the generation. They are well-trained in sniffing out inauthenticity and need to believe that a company has integrity to follow through with what they say. It may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s important to be aware that Millennials are at the top of this reciprocal ecosystem. They will represent almost half of the U.S. workforce by 2020. They will also represent about $1.4 trillion in spend – about one third of all retail sales projected for that year.

You may see them as one small fish, but collectively, they are all sharks in a large network that wields the power to create or kill your company, Greer says.

Millennials are a viral group that can lead to large-scale changes in the future of consumer behavior. You’ll be taking the reigns alongside them if you find the sweet spot at the center of mass customization, authenticity and technology.

“The Joy of Pepsi-Cola” is found in its global model

It’s not always a joy when you’re undergoing a global transformation in an organization like PepsiCo. As if it’s not hard enough to drive a new agenda with global processes, you must also make an effort to properly sort through all of the pushes and pulls to remain locally relevant. This is no easy feat when you’re driving the change in a company that’s larger than some small countries.

Even if your company doesn’t have 260,000+ employees across 84 countries, you still need to be of two minds when implementing a global shared services strategy. What does this mean? We asked Shakti Jauhar, PepsiCo’s Global HR Operations and Shared Services, to explain.

Shakti HeadshotSimply put, you should think globally when the value is driven by consistency and standardization. Conversely, you should think locally when the value is driven by the needs and variations of specific markets, he says.

For example, motivations and rewards systems are different in different countries. These are initiatives that you don’t want to standardize across the globe. “It’s all about harmonization, and at the end, making sure that harmonization takes care of whatever the local regulatory environment is and the local needs are,” Shakti says.

Tomorrow’s successful Shared Services models will sink or swim on the backs of your HR professionals’ ability to be adaptive, agile and analytical. They will only be able to do so if you throw them the lifejacket of standardization. Demonstrate the high-level need for change management, communication and engagement to the executives on your team. Meanwhile, you’ll also need to listen to the positive and negative experiences of the locally-based teams to make sure you’re taking a constant pulse of the changes. Their feedback will provide you with the data you need in order to make timely and effective adjustments.

The amount of knowledge and data that will continue to stream in to centers across the world will require analytical abilities that have perhaps never been seen before. Thankfully, technology will step in to help carry this burden. The ideal center has a three-layered approach to technology, according to Shakti. It’s built on a very simplistic technology infrastructure that supports any given cloud-based application platform, which allows the organization to maintain the technology as it moves and changes. On top of it all of this is all of the devices.

Now is the time to set up a support structure for those processes that lend themselves to self-service, whether it’s employee management or HR, so that the affected business teams are free to leverage technology instead of the old process. Although technology ends up playing a large role, transformation is not about technology, it is about process. It’s about being able to leverage the information, and the data, to be able to help the business goal, he says.

“So, if I have that three-layer infrastructure, I can then plug and play all the new startup innovations that come in, plug them in, leverage them, use them, be more efficient, plug it out, and put in a new one if I need to,” he says. “At the end of the day, we need to be agile in order to get to that point where we can start to really leverage what is coming to us from an innovation perspective, from all these startups that we think about and we talk about all the time.”

This is a summary of an interview with Shakti Jauhar from the HR Shared Services event.

Write like a 5th grader to make more money

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough,” – Albert Einstein.

Let me explain what he means: Your copy should be #basic. Overly-complicated copy is filled with adjectives, adverbs, countless clauses, technical terms and business jargon. This is costing you money.

The science behind it is hiding right under your fingertips and within your favorite word processing software. Microsoft Word is equipped with this fun little tool called the Flesch-Kincaid readability test, which is a formula that determines how easy-to-read your copy is to the average American.

The idea was born of the “plain language” movement in the 1960s, which itself was an attempt to increase the comprehensibility of government documents. It has since been fleshed out to become a very useful metric for marketers and advertisers to tailor copy to their targeted audience.

Brand experts will tell you that the key to writing a killer slogan or tagline is for it to be memorable, emote positivity, and differentiate the brand from its competitors. All of this is true, but what is missing is the simplicity of language.

Are writers allergic to simplicity? They shouldn’t be, considering the most successful slogans are also the most plain: Nike’s “Just do it.” McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It.” Visa’s “It’s everywhere you want to be.” 

Keep it simpleThis is vital to ensuring that your brand doesn’t become trapped and die in its primary channel or media. How does a brand come to life across all its touch points and in a consistent manner? Through consistency in product design and software – all of which translate to a cohesive experience.

There are visible and physical languages, said Michael Lenz, Director, Global Brand Experience and Design at Cisco, but the human touch – using words to fulfill the brand promise – is often what is missing.

You don’t change your identity when switching jobs or locations, so why would your business change its voice depending on the channel? The marketing. The labels. The colors. All should deliver on your brand’s promise. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, then take into account that the average Cisco user has 3,200 touch points. It hasn’t always been easy for them, either.

They knew there was a problem when one customer wrote-in, “I am a solid Cisco fan, but how many hours do they expect me to waste trying to understand their shit?” Yikes.

The problem was that no one understood what the hell Cisco was talking about. They had to undergo a massive overhaul to remove any engineering or product developer “speak” within their copy. It took several revisions, but the resulting copy became short and relevant; bold and human, Lenz said.

No one wants to read copy that is “too” anything: too educational, technical or clunky. Have you ever read Insurance policy packets? Painful. French author Marcel Proust? Brutal.

The next time you sit down to write, imagine that you’re a musician or composer. Consider that writing words on the page is no different than scribbling down musical notes to draft a song. Words, sentences, paragraphs and pages also need a melody and an obvious beat to them.

So, channel Taylor Swift the next time you’re tasked with drafting an article, marketing email or advertising copy. Her songs are so successful because they’re repetitive (most people must see or hear phrases eight-to-nine times before it sticks), but mostly because they’re simple.

 

Simplify your readability in these four steps:

  1. Click the Microsoft Office Button Office button image, and then click Word Options.
  2. Click Proofing.
  3. Make sure Check grammar with spelling is selected.
  4. Under When correcting grammar in Word, select the Show readability statistics check box.

Why less is always more in marketing emails

What differentiates a good marketing email from a bad one, in your mind? Perhaps it’s the imagery or the use of fonts. Maybe it’s the copy – or lack thereof.

My theory of “less copy is more money” was proven valid last week in one of my company’s sponsorship emails.

The entire email is an image with strong calls-to-action.
The entire email is an image with strong calls-to-action.

This is an example of the email for our upcoming event, SSOW. The subject line was simply (Your company’s) Involvement in Shared Services & Outsourcing Week. 

This is why I thought this email was so great:

  1. The calls-to-action are extremely apparent
  2. The use of colored fonts against a dull background really pop aesthetically and are very professional
  3. There are no block lines of copy – because that is really all that’s necessary!!!
  4. It treats the reader with respect – want to see the agenda? Click there. Want to see the list of attendees? Click here. Want to Register. Click here. The imagery and words are implied, therefore we don’t need to tell them what to do, which leads me to …
  5. The epitome of great writing, and therefore great marketing emails, is to “show” and not “tell.” What does this mean? We’re showing them how to navigate the email and more importantly, we’re showing them the value they’ll receive at the event through easily digestible tidbits.

Anddddd….. drumroll please.

How did it perform??

The marketing manager says,

While still aesthetically appealing, the reader is drowned in copy here.
While still aesthetically appealing, the reader is drowned in copy here.

“There were three things that we did differently with this email that we were a little bit worried about:

  • No downloadable links. Only requests that pop up to an email
  • We had only TWO items they would request: Spex Prospectus and Current Attendee List
  • A image based email with hardly any text. So almost like sending an infographic. And of course making it look fabulous and pretty :)”

All three test  had very positive results:

  • 19 actives. 7 of these we received in the first 10 minutes.
  • 21% open rate

Compare that to the previous email (on the right) that had:

  • 1 active
  • 11% open rate

Well done, well done.

Create great copy: Things to remember

Who says that writers don’t know science? Writing is a science! If it weren’t, then anything that was ever written for marketing or advertising purposes would do its job and make you fast cash.

Know your audience.

The more you know, the better targeted and relevant your copy will be. Ask yourself:

  • —What does their everyday life look like? Who do they work with? What websites do they read?
  • —What are they passionate about? Hobbies?
  • —What past products/services have they purchased and how does your offering compare? Once this is identified, however, it’s ineffective to use comparison words in the copy itself. For instance, instead of saying “Our vacuum cleaner is better than the common household brand.” You identify how it is better, ie., “Our vacuum cleaner has five times the suction as other brands.” Now you’re showing them, not just telling them.

Identify key motivators.

A gerund is a noun acting as a verb. It ends in
A gerund is a noun acting as a verb. It ends in “-ing.” Awesome cartoon courtesy of Boggletondrive.com.

Great copy motivates people to feel, think or do something. One way of achieving this is by addressing them personally.— I don’t mean to say that you should call them out by name – I mean that they need to trust you. They need to like you.

  • —You can reach users by speaking directly to them – be conversational and as specific as possible. Avoid sweeping statements.
  • —Don’t use passive voice — write in the present tense (avoid gerunds, or, the “ing”)
  • —Short, Simple and Sincere (one way of doing this is by avoiding adjectives)

Layout matters.

The way you position words, pictures and paragraphs in your website copy or email are important.

  • —Indent sections & number paragraphs
  • —Capitalize and BOLD sparingly. Does anyone underline anymore?

What’s next. 

—Include a testimonial.

  • It’s always better to have someone else say how great you are so that you don’t have to. A brief and convincing quote from a respected source adds credibility to your campaign.

—Keep your copy clean and concise.

  • Cut unnecessary words and consolidate ideas.
  • Have someone else read it to see if they understand the message.

—Avoid weasel words.

  • Weasel words include: may, maybe, hope
  • Instead, use words that emote power and prestige:  will and can

10 marketing email phrases to avoid

The Grammar Gram is back. Time after time, I find myself making the same edits to emails across the board – old habits die hard. We all know by now that brevity is key, so if you won’t take my word for the below, perhaps you’ll take Inc. Magazine’s tips?

They say marketers can increase the likelihood of getting a response to emails by avoiding the following trite and ineffective phrases. I agree and disagree with some of the below, so here goes:

  1. “I hope you are well…”

The idea behind this phrase is to express positive concern for the customers so that they will think kindly on whatever you’re about to propose. However, unless you’re actually friends with somebody, inquiring about his or her health rings false.

Hannah’s take: I start most every single one of my personal emails with this line. I would never use it in a marketing email, however, because it’s a waste of precious, precious time and space.

  1. “I am writing to you because…”

These are just wasted words. Customers already know that you’re writing to them with some purpose in mind. Rather than pointing out that you’re writing for a reason, jump immediately to the reason.

Hannah’s take: Agreed. This goes along with my most-hated remarketing email the begins like this – “I wanted to check in with you and see if anything has changed since my last outreach…” If I were the recipient, I’d already be moving my mouse to the delete button. How about instead replace it with, “Have you given a second glance to the materials I sent over a couple of days ago?” “We were wondering if what’s holding you back could be reversed with …” or “Given your expertise, we believe your attendance at the event would be invaluable to …”

  1. “In today’s business world…”

Sentences that begin this way always end in a platitude, like “managers must be cost-conscious.” Telling customers something that’s painfully obvious doesn’t make you seem like an expert. It makes you seem like you think the customer is stupid.

Hannah’s take: I can’t summarize better than the above, but the good news is I rarely see this! Side note: Editorializing (where you’re gratuitously offering an opinion on a matter for which you’re not an obvious expert) is different than leading in with a quote or statistic.

  1. “[Our product] reduces costs and increases revenue.”

Every product that’s sold business-to-business makes these exact same promises. Unless you can put numbers on them, talking about cost savings and revenue growth is just so much empty noise.

Hannah’s take: PREACH. Again, I don’t see this very much, if at all, but could you imagine….

  1. “[Our product] enables/empowers users to…”

Either your product does “X” or customers do “X” with your product. The concept of “enabling” or “empowering” customers to do “X” adds extra verbiage and an unnecessary level of abstraction.

Hannah’s take: This kind of verbiage usually happens when the copy of a marketing email is pulled from homepage copy. It should go without saying, but not everyone on the team is a prolific writer and therefore no one’s writing should be taken word-for-word in your emails. More importantly, however, website copy and email marketing copy are in two different media – therefore the messaging needs to target the intended audience.

  1. “[Our product] was designed specifically to…”

The idea behind this phrase is that “if it was designed to do ‘X’ it must be good at doing ‘X.’ ” However, customers don’t care about your design process; they just want to know how things will be better if they buy “X.”

Hannah’s take: Eh, moot point

  1. “I would like to know if you’d be interested…”

As a general rule, customers don’t care about what you want. Stating your wants and needs keeps the focus on you rather than on what you can do for the customer. Your credibility suffers accordingly.

Hannah’s take: While I agree that customers don’t care about “us” or “our company,” I’m not sure if this phrase really means that.

  1. “I am absolutely certain you will enjoy…”

Really? Absolutely? Either you’re exaggerating or you’re insane, because you can’t predict the future and you certainly can’t read the customer’s mind before the customer has even had a chance to think about your offering.

Hannah’s take: CHURCH

  1. “Please don’t hesitate to call me at…”

In addition to being corny, this phrase is presumptuous. It’s like you’re claiming that you’re so busy that normally you’d resent it if the customer called, but in this case you’d be delighted.

Hannah’s take: I don’t agree with the description, but I do agree that we shouldn’t be putting the responsibility of outreach into the hands of the prospect. You must go after them time after time. Do you all agree?

  1. “For more information, visit our website…”

First, your customers know that there’s information on your website, so pointing that fact out is wasting words. Second, most customer are in a constant state of information overload anyway. Just put the URL after your signature.

Hannah’s take: The URL in your signature thing obviously won’t work all the time, but like I’ve said many times people know what to do when you provide them with a link, email address or phone number. It is wasted space and it is kind of treating them like they’re stupid.

Until next time!