Thursday, 19 July 2012

If Your Web Page Sucks, SEO Won't Save It

Get your web page right before you concntrate on SEO
Photo by John Morgan

 Can't See the Web for the Trees?

Seth Godin makes a valid point in his FREE ebook on web marketing and copy - No amount of SEO will make your customer buy if the web page isn't properly set up to offer him/her anything.

In other words, sometimes we become obsessed with little details, or the next big thing, overlooking the fundamental precepts required, in web design, ad writing, or even life itself...

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

5 Powerful Steps to Persuasive Writing

Headings

Get used to writing good headings. No, not just good headings - brilliant, witty, eye-catching headlines. Funny, poignant, memorable headings. Use the tabloids for inspiration. Or a carefully managed swipe file.

Swipe file (see above) 

It's not STEALING, it's a legitimate process - learning from what has been successful in the past. If that means ads from the 1940's then that's fine. If it's modifying web copy you saw a few weeks ago that's fine too. But there's a thin line between adapting working designs or copy to your own ends and PLAGIARISM. People don't take kindly to being mugged.

Short, pithy sentences

Cut out the long sentences. Anything over 15 words is like going up Everest. Nice view, but it's cold up there. You want people to be warmed by your sentences, not falling off the end of them. Single word sentences are OK. Throw in a longer one to change the rhythm. Don't let the reader switch off - KEEP their attention.

Few adverbs and adjectives

Adjectives are good in small measure, like seasoning. Adverbs are the same, but are often unnecessary. It makes copy look flowery. It keeps the message hidden. So, where possible, pare down your prose to eliminate (most) adjectives and especially(!) adverbs. Use strong nouns and verbs of motion and excitement instead. And if you're not sure what ADJECTIVES and ADVERBS are, then it's time to find out. Now.

Learn to edit

You need to love editing. Get to love pruning, paring, rewriting. This is the process during which the DIAMOND hidden in your lump of stone is revealed. No one writes great copy first go. Get the ideas down. then EDIT.

Monday, 16 July 2012

L plates for a new Mozart

We're always learning

That's the truth of it, the unwritten law of life. Stumbling, blathering, making mistakes as we go along. Stopping, getting STUCK. Taking a wrong turn, taking a U-turn. Going round in circles.

No one starts with a great plan. Even Mozart had to learn things. Obviously he picked them up quicker than most of us, but then he was dead at 35.

Some of us are slow learners. But that shouldn't stop you from changing tack, improving or reinventing yourself AT ANY TIME. Life is like that - full of opportunities.
I'm learning copywriting. I'm further along the road than Mozart was. And I, like lots of people am less than focussed. I've got distractions, in the shape of a loving family and a job working for someone who doesn't really care about my ambitions. 
But all that doesn't matter. I'm learning and I don't intend to stop.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

The Customer is Queen

We haven't had a King for a while, so it seems appropriate to modernise the adage I've used for the heading. And you don't need to be a Royalist to appreciate the sentiment - your customer should always come first.

It seems obvious, but you'd be surprised how many firms neglect their customers. Of course the MDs and directors of these places would be horrified at the suggestion. 'We love our customers,' they will tell you. 'We pride ourselves (etc., etc.) on customer support.' But do they really?

In over 20 years working in the print industry I've seen plenty of evidence to the contrary. One firm in particular, let's call them Puffin Print, has been in business for 30 years. In the beginning the owners were sharp, young and hungry. They hadn't achieved anything yet. Customers were giving them work and paying well for it. Profit margins were high, and the Internet hadn't come along. Print was the medium of choice for advertisers and promotions. They appreciated their customers, and they looked after them. Lunches, nights out, visits, extended customer support - all strategies that helped the firm grow, and grow rapidly.

Slowly things began to change. Margins got tighter, customers shrewder. Despite increased pressure on prices Puffin was growing and needed new business to feed the increased levels of staff and overheads. They kept supporting their existing customers, the 20% which, accurately adhering to Pareto's principle, contributed 80% of the firm's turnover, but the love was slowly fading to familiarity.

Customers need to feel loved. They are human beings after all. They want to know that you appreciate their custom. They also want you to concentrate on them. And your support should come in many forms. Listen to them, answer their fears. Let them know they are important to you. It is after all easier (and cheaper) to look after customers you've got than to go off searching for new ones.

Something else happened at Puffin. The MD and the directors got comfortable. They had made money, been successful and slowly lost their hunger. Then the Internet arrived and the print industry changed. Print runs got shorter. Email and direct mail began to target niche markets with greater effectiveness. So Puffin lost their focus, and the loyal customers that had been with them from the beginning started to fade away.

Of course business is complicated, and Puffin's story reflects that. There is no one reason why this (imaginary) firm is now in a difficult place. The workforce is shrinking and the company has failed to adapt to new technologies. The website is static - a gesture to the new order rather than a showpiece for vibrant copy and a strategic vision. The original MD is close to retirement. The once hungry directors have either taken redundancy or moved on.

We'll revisit Puffin later as they attempt to revitalise their business by adopting a more integrated approach to marketing. Their main problem will be developing a strategy and sticking with it. That will mean finding out who their customers are and what they really want from a modern printing business. It's a cornerstone of modern business and management strategy. Yet ironically, if they'd paid more attention to customer support for longer than those heady, developing years, they would already know.