Who are you selling to? The answer may surprise you!

Content Marketing, copywriting, coppy, writing

Are you selling to yourself?

That may seem like a silly question, yet it’s one of the most important questions in marketing. Why? Because business owners tend to market their products as if they were selling to themselves, when they should be marketing to their prospective clients or customers.

Now, if you are a lawyer and your prospective clients are lawyers, that works fine. However, if you sell to people whose needs and wants are different to your own, you need a different approach.

For example:

  • Read the marketing of most accountants and you will find lots of statistics and graphs. This is what accountants love, but not their prospective clients. The prospective client wants to know what the accountant can do for them and their business. They want to know why they should hire this accountant and not an equally qualified competitor. They want the story behind the stats. They want to know how the accountant will help them build a better business.
  • Read the marketing of most web designers and it’s filled with jargon and buzzwords. They talk about things like; HTML5, Java, CSS, standards compliance and responsive design. These are things designers know are important and love to talk about. However, those terms mean nothing to their prospective clients. Their prospective clients want a professional looking site. They want a site that is an asset to their business. They want to know how a new website will help them commercially. They want to know they can trust the designer to do a great job.

Anyone using that approach is leaving money on the table. Don’t let it happen to you.

Match your message to their wants and their needs

Take a look at your marketing from your prospective client’s vantage point. If possible, ask a prospective client to read your marketing and tell you what it says to them. Determine if you’re marketing based on what they need to hear, or what you assume matters.

Also, check to see if you are using their language or yours. Sometimes we get so used to industry terms and buzzwords, that we forget they are meaningless and confusing to everyone else.

In a nutshell: The better you communicate how valuable your services are, the easier you will find it to attract great clients or customers.

P.S. Here’s why you should never use buzzwords in your marketing.

A powerful marketing lesson from a 19th century artist

Back in the 1800’s, Edgar Degas said: “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see”.

The same is true of great marketing

Successful marketing paints pictures in the mind of a prospective client. It doesn’t list a series of facts or features. Instead, it talks directly to the needs and wants of your clients. It shows them how you can help them. It also shows them that you’re passionate about helping them. Everything is rooted in what’s best for the client. Everything.

Ineffective marketing paints a picture of the provider. It’s all about their business and the products or services they offer. It reads like a 1990’s sales brochure. It’s dry. It’s dull. It’s forgettable. It’s also extremely ineffective.

The message, my friend, is simple: If you want to attract better clients… paint better pictures.

How to grow your business in a uniquely valuable way!

get noticed, stand out, attraction

You are the biggest asset your business has. Those are not just kind words. They are based on fact.

Allow me to explain.

The Internet has presented business owners with a series of benefits and challenges. One challenge, is that it is now extremely easy for competitors to discover and copy one another’s best ideas. It’s little wonder then, that providers in just about every industry now offer an almost identical range of services.

Today, I’m going to show you how to overcome this challenge and build a massively valuable marketing asset for your business.

How to stand out in a meaningful way

Some things are easy to copy. For example, if a local restaurant starts opening an hour earlier and then attracts an extra hour’s worth of profitable trade, it’s simple for competing restaurants to do the same.

However, some things in business are extremely difficult to copy because they’re based on unique, human experiences. A wonderful example of this is the use of a newsletter or blog, to showcase your expertise and knowledge.

Here’s why it works

You are unique. You have a unique collection of life experiences, which your unique mind processes in a unique way. When you write (and speak) your communication style is unique too.

This uniqueness allows you to stand out from the pack and connect with your future clients!

Here’s an example of what I mean. Both Seth Godin and I write about marketing, yet we write very differently:

  • Seth grew up in a very wealthy family and was educated at Stanford — along with the CEO’s of many of the world’s leading companies.
  • I grew up in extreme poverty, the son of penniless immigrants.

It would be extremely difficult for either one of us to write like the other. For instance, when Seth thinks about being broke, he (thank God), won’t recall his mother begging for food to feed her children, the way I do.

So, when Seth and I write about business owners experiencing hard times, we will see the hard part extremely differently. This is reflected in what we write and how we write.

Your unique voice

Your life experiences will cause you to write very differently from your competitors. The only caveat here, is that you need to allow your personality to shine through your writing. If you try and sound like someone else, you lose your unique voice — the very originality that will allow you to stand out.

Now, compare that to the generic approach most business owners take with their newsletters and blog posts. Instead of delivering useful, valuable information from their own unique perspective, they churn out a series of thinly-disguised sales pitches. They then wonder why it isn’t working.

Allow your unique voice to communicate value. These brief tips may help:

  • Learn about the challenges facing your marketplace. A great way to do this is to connect with them on social networks and listen. [Compare this approach, to the typical service provider who uses social networks to broadcast.]
  • Provide answers to the most pressing challenges facing your marketplace. This positions you in the mind of your prospective clients, as a source of expert help and advice.
  • Share case-studies of how you have helped people, who had similar challenges to your prospective clients.
  • Turn up regularly! Treat your newsletter or blog as a high priority business activity. If you think it’s hard to write regularly, remember that writing is a lot like speaking — and you speak every day.

The unique connection these prospective clients form with you, is a massively valuable marketing asset.

Think of it like this: Who are they going to hire?

  • Some stranger they find on Google.
  • … or you, someone they feel a connection with and whose expertise and knowledge they already know about.

Yes. You win!

PS: This will help you — How to get more clients from your newsletter or blog.

The most incredible article about headlines you’ll ever read!

incredible headlines

Here are some ideas, which you can use to massively improve the results of all your written marketing.

It’s all about the marketing power of headlines.

Your headline has to capture the reader’s attention

It doesn’t matter how great your message is, people need to read it in order for the message to have the desired impact. That’s where your headline comes in. The headline’s primary job is to attract attention and motivate the reader to carry on reading.

Think about it… the headline is what inspires prospective clients to open your email. It’s also what motivates them to read your blog post or article, when someone shares it on a social network. It’s what grabs their attention and interest when they see one of your advertisements.

Advertising legend David Ogilvy was in no doubt regarding the importance of headlines. He famously said: “When you have written your headline, you have spent 80 cents out of your dollar.”

Treat your headlines with the importance they deserve. Give yourself plenty of time to craft the best headline possible. The following tips and examples will help you get the balance right.

Your headline should accurately reflect the theme of the content

Because headlines play such a huge role in getting your content noticed, it’s tempting to over exaggerate them. [Yes, the headline of this post is a tongue in cheek example of what I mean].

Sometimes called link bait or click bait, these attention grabbing headlines are proven to generate trafficThe reason I strongly recommend most people reading this not to adopt that headline strategy, is this:

Your headlines make a promise, which your content needs to deliver on.

Make your headlines as inspirational as you can. Use words that will compel people to read what you have to say. But make darn sure that your content backs up the promise of the headline.

Your headline needs to be written for your target market

Your marketing message is intended to connect with a very specific group of people: Your prospective clients or customers. The headlines you use should do the same. This means speaking their language and addressing their concerns and opportunities.

Here’s why this matters:

  • By focusing your headlines around the interests of your target market, you help your marketing message to attract the attention of the right people.
  • Conversely, by using headlines that attract the attention of a wider group of people, you cease to be directly relevant to your target market.

In other words, use headlines that are directly relevant to your prospective clients.

Your headlines should match your medium

If you’re writing a headline that’s intended for a print magazine, newspaper or flyer, you have certain freedoms, which you don’t have when writing for the internet. For example, if you want your internet article’s headline to be fully displayed in search results, you need to use around 55 characters or fewer. Going beyond that limit will see your headline cut short.

If your headline is intended for email marketing, you need to take other things into consideration. For example, if you include exclamation marks!! in your subject line, along with a number and maybe a word that’s in ALL CAPS, it’s highly likely to end up in a lot of spam filters. Email software looks for certain common factors used by spammers and if it sees them in the email headlines you use, it could wrongly treat your marketing as spam.

In short, when it comes to headlines, you need to adapt depending on the medium you’re using.

The only 2 types of headline that matter

There is a lot of debate among marketing professionals, regarding the correct way to use headlines. They take entrenched stances, each insisting that their approach is the only strategy that’s professional or effective. In almost every case I have seen, they totally miss the point.

When it comes to the headlines you use in your marketing, there are just 2 broad categories worthy of your attention.

  1. Headlines that work for you and your business goals.
  2. Headlines that are failing you and your business goals.

You need to find the correct balance for what you want to achieve. And it will differ depending on your brand, your industry and your business model.

For example, Upworthy and BuzzFeed have grown into massively successful media businesses, using a controversial, yet very powerful headline formula. Many have labelled their approach as being link bait or click bait. Here’s a nice piece from The Guardian that looks at Upworthy’s headlines. Now, it’s not a strategy that would work for my business. However, it’s proven itself to be an extremely successful strategy for the Upworthy and BuzzFeed business models. It’s fortunate they ignored the one-size-fits-all mantra. My point here, is that you should leave your options open.

I hope you’ve found this useful. More importantly, I hope it inspires you to improve the effectiveness of your own headlines and titles.

Worth reading: 5 Steps to improve the success of all your written marketing.

This is a marketing message. Really. It is!

Content Marketing, copywriting, coppy, writing

In today’s post, I’m going to show you how to make your marketing so attractive, that people would miss it if it wasn’t there.

Think about it: Most of the marketing messages we receive are unwelcome. At best, they are the price we pay for being able to watch a YouTube clip or listen to a radio station. At worst, marketing messages are an unwanted, annoying intrusion.

The good news is, marketing doesn’t need to be this way.

How some brands get it right

Some of the marketing we receive is welcomed. For example, when Evernote send me their newsletter, I read it. Always. Why? Because it’s packed with tips on how to get the most value from the Evernote app, so users can organise their ideas and improve their work flow. As a daily Evernote user, these tips and ideas are of huge value to me.

Yes, I have made additional purchases because of the Evernote newsletter. However, they have never sold me anything.

Think about that for a moment. It’s extremely powerful!

Leigh inspired me to write today’s post

Earlier today I received a message from a reader. Leigh said that she reads my blog via email. The reason she got in touch is that she hadn’t had an email from me for 5 days. She wanted to make sure everything was OK. It turned out to be a problem with her new email provider. But that’s not the point.

The message behind Leigh’s email may not sound that important at first glance… but it is. It’s a powerful example of the effectiveness of content marketing.

I’ll explain why in a moment.

The best content marketing delivers value

Just like the Evernote newsletter I mentioned, the best content marketing is packed with independent value. [Note: By independent value, I mean that the content itself delivers value, independent of the reader needing to purchase anything].

When people connect with effective content marketing, they feel like they have gained something. Because of this, they welcome it in a way that’s impossible to achieve with a sales pitch.

A great way for you to get this right, is to ask yourself the following question: “If I stopped publishing my newsletter, blog posts, email marketing or social networking updates, etc., would people miss them?”

This is a marketing message. Seriously!

If you think my blog posts aren’t marketing messages, think again. Yes, I give you useful information for free, without pitching you anything, but consider this:

  • Hundreds of people email me every week, because of something they read on my blog or in the email version of the blog.
  • A subset of these great people will become clients of mine or customers of my audio program.
  • Other readers become advocates and recommend my services to their friends.
  • Some share my blog posts, helping me reach more people.

Now consider this:

Think for a moment how useful it would be for your business, if you were receiving emails and phone calls all day every day, from interested people who already knew all about you and what you do.

What next?

Provide your marketplace with useful information, not sales pitches. Make your content marketing about the reader, not about you. Help them solve their challenges with your expertise. And let people know what you can do for them [like that short message below], so they know where to come when they need expert help they can trust.

Remember… the process of giving and receiving starts with the giving part.

Read this. It will help you: How to make your Content Marketing more compelling!

Bloggers: Why too few people read your blog and how to fix it!

blogging, blog tips, content marketing

This is a very important post. If you want to get more business, feedback and recognition from your blog, this could be exactly what you need to know.

The post was inspired by an email I received from Shannon. She kindly gave me permission to share part of it with you. Here’s the core challenge she wanted help with, along with my answer and lots of tips and examples to help you build a successful business blog.

Here’s what Shannon wanted to know:

“I’ve been blogging for close to three years now. It’s been frustrating to say the least! […]  I have no idea what I’m doing wrong and I’ve followed the advice from [she mentioned a very well known blogging site] totally.  I’m just about ready to quit.  Can you take a look at my blog and tell me what I’m missing?”

I did take a quick look at her blog and it’s exactly the same as countless other business blogs, following the same, general blogging advice.

Here’s what the challenge is and how to resolve it!

Blogging is exceptionally effective

I’ve worked in marketing since 1987 and nothing I have used, studied or witnessed, comes close to the marketing power of an effective blog. Period.

So, why has Shannon and the vast majority of business owners, seen such poor results?

Without doubt, the main reason is that blogging is often touted, incorrectly, as the written equivalent of painting by numbers. In other words, you follow a set of rules and success will follow. This myth persists because it’s repeated by well known bloggers, selling generic guides and programs on how to grow a successful business blog.

The polar opposite is actually true: The closer you follow the same general format, rules and techniques as everyone else, the less likely you are to achieve anything worthwhile from your blog.

Here’s how I created one of the world’s most popular marketing blogs, using a more individual approach.

I didn’t SEO my posts

I decided to write for my readers, not Google. This gave me the freedom to express my thoughts, rather than SEO my thoughts.

Shannon’s blog posts are written using SEO software. This means they are often too long, just so she can reach her minimum SEO word count and keyword density. Posts that should be information rich and 250 words long, are filled with fluff to make them more SEO friendly. It has totally robbed her of her voice and individuality.

Google likes it. However, it reads like crap. As a result, Shannon attracts drive-by traffic, rather than client enquiries.

Tip: Read this – Stop writing for Google. Really. Stop it!

I didn’t guest blog

I focused on building my readership, by producing the most useful content I could and then made it extremely easy for people to share it.

This approach works even better today than when I started in 2008, thanks to the popularity of social networking sites.

Many bloggers waste their best material on other people’s blogs, because their blog guru convinced them it’s a great idea. It’s one way to build your readership, but certainly not the best. Or the second best. Shannon told me that she has guest blogged a lot, with nothing to show for it. She’s not alone.

Build your own platform. Put the primary value on your own turf. Don’t be someone else’s unpaid content provider.

I removed comments

It was summer 2013, when I removed the commenting feature from my blog. Blog commenting is a vestige from the days before social networks. It was also a huge time suck for me, as I often got 2500 spam comments a day.

It was still a tough decision though. The only other person I knew who’d done it was Seth Godin, and he had a very different reason. But it was the right thing to do. So I did it.

Back then, I was attacked. Social media gurus said you HAD TO have comments on your blog or it wasn’t a blog.

Today, the mood is changing.

Since I removed comments, other popular blogs including; copyblogger, Chris Brogan and Michael Hyatt, have done the same. And they’re absolutely right.

My point is that you need to question perceived wisdom. Then if you believe something needs to change, do it your way. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you — be prepared to lead. We need more leaders.

Shannon has comments enabled and she gets very little feedback. Many comments are from people trying to get backlinks or score free advice from her. This lack of so-called social proof, does nothing to enhance Shannon’s reputation. It also makes her blog look like a ghost town, when prospective clients check her out.

I didn’t fill the blog with affiliate links

When I recommend something to a reader, it’s a genuine recommendation and I don’t get a penny for it. The trust of my reader community is worth far more to me than affiliate money.

Shannon’s blog home page has affiliate banners for 3 products. None are related to her profession. It makes her site look cheap, which is toxic for a service provider.

I didn’t pump my posts with buzzwords

Disrupt, ruckus, growth hacking, big data, intersection… buzzwords like those fail twice.

  • Firstly, they make informed people cringe.
  • Secondly, they confuse the uninformed. That’s a bad idea if you want people to understand your message!

Shannon’s blog uses lots of content marketing buzz words. This, combined with the keyword loading she does for her SEO, means readers have no personality to connect with.

I made 1 rule and stuck with it

I made a rule, which I have stuck to since summer 2008. It’s simply this

I will only publish a post when I have something useful to share and I’ll make sure I find something useful, often.

This means I often write when it’s easier not to. I update older posts daily, to keep the information relevant. Blogging is a primary business activity for me, rather than something I fit in. As a result, I write when I’m extremely busy, when I am tired and even when I’m not feeling great.

Your rules

The Internet is packed with sites that offer largely the same, general advice on how to build a successful blog.

Their advice seems to make sense, until you consider that by following it, you become invisible – lost in an ocean of millions of other bloggers using the same, general advice.

If you’re following what they say, you will be able to identify with Shannon’s situation.

In short: Your blog needs to be as individual as you are. Otherwise, you’re invisible.

Tip: This post asks an important question: Bloggers: Are you 1 question away from 10,000 daily readers?

5 steps to increase the success of all your written marketing

Content Marketing, copywriting

Today’s post will show you a way to massively improve the effectiveness of any important content you write. It will also show you how to avoid one of the most common and damaging copy writing errors.

Stop limiting your options

Most people will write their initial piece of content, call it their draft copy, then tweak it until it’s as good as they think they can make it.

The challenge with that approach is that you are working from the mindset that the initial draft is the best foundation for the content. This is almost never the case! You need to write from the best foundation possible, not simply the first draft you write down.

The most effective content comes from experimenting with ideas and one of the best ways to get new ideas, is to refuse to restrict yourself to working from one perspective.

In other words, instead of writing an initial draft and then building on it, you commit to writing your message in 5 or more different ways. By writing the content in a number of different ways you open up new possibilities, which often lead to breakthrough ideas that make your content massively more compelling.

Yes, it takes longer than writing from one perspective and hoping it will work, but the goal of your content writing is not to write as fast as you can – it’s to write the most commercially valuable content you can.

It works like this

  1. Write down exactly what you want to achieve from your content, so you know what your outcome is.
  2. Next, write down what kind of action you want the reader of your content to take. For example; email you, call you, visit your premises, fill in your survey, etc.
  3. Then, write 5 pieces of content, which address the previous 2 points as clearly as you can.
  4. Remember, you are not looking for 4 revisions of your initial piece of content, but 5 fresh perspectives to help you achieve the outcomes you listed in points 1 and 2.
  5. Finally, look for the most compelling of your 5 pieces of content, then build upon it.

If you do that, you give yourself a greater chance of writing your content from your best foundation – not just the one you thought of first.

Yes, sometimes that initial version will be the best, but every time it isn’t, you will have improved the quality and effectiveness of your writing.

3 Ways to turn testimonials into marketing gold dust

testimonials

Your clients love you and you have some great testimonials. Today, I want to show you how to transform those testimonials into a massively valuable asset for your business.

I was prompted to write this, after I added some testimonials to a page that promotes my individual marketing sessions. In just 72 hours, using the 3 ideas I’m about to share with you, bookings surged by almost 50%.

Here’s what I did and how to make it work for you and your business.

The 3 Key factors

First of all, here’s the page I’m going to be referring to. If you take a look, you will see that I have used the testimonials in a very specific and highly effective way.

Here are the 3 key factors behind the success of those testimonials.

1. The testimonials are in the correct place

Many business owners have a dedicated testimonials page. This is extremely ineffective. Your prospective clients need to see testimonials in context! Testimonials need to be right there, as a part of the message they’re reading.

This makes your marketing message stronger, because an independent 3rd party is confirming how valuable your offering is, at the exact point where the prospective client is forming their opinion.

2. The testimonials stand out, rather than get in the way

Even when a business owner places them on the same page as their marketing message, they usually use the wrong format. Typically, the testimonials will be placed into the text of the marketing message.

The challenge with that approach is that it breaks up the flow of your message. It gets in the way. It weakens what you have to say.

If you take a look at what I did, you’ll see that the testimonials are delivered as images… clean, clear white text on a deep grey rectangle. These text images are placed to the right of the actual content, so they are there to be seen, yet without them breaking the flow of the message. This allows you to get the balance right, between making the testimonial highly visible, yet not putting it in the way of your marketing message.

3. The testimonials are short and relevant

Most testimonials you see business owners using are way, way too long. Using lengthy testimonials wrongly presupposes that your prospective client is going to wade through the fluff, to find the key, relevant reassurance she needs.

Lengthy, diluted testimonials lack the impact of a short, relevant statement. They are also too long to use within your marketing message. So, find the key point or points of the testimonial and discard the fluff.

Remember: You worked hard to earn your testimonials. Now it’s time to make your testimonials work for you.

Successful marketing leaves clues

success leaves clues

When it comes to marketing, success leaves clues. By following these clues and learning from them, it’s possible to significantly improve your marketing.

For example, spend a few minutes thinking about the following:

  • The last marketing email, which you were motivated to open because it had a powerful subject line.
  • The last marketing email you read, which persuaded you to take action. [To ask for information, pick up the phone, make a purchase, etc.]
  • The last blog post you read, which you were motivated to bookmark, save or share.
  • The last advertisement you saw or heard, which led to you making a purchase.
  • The last service you experienced, which impressed you so much that you wanted to tell your friends about it. Read this. It will help.
  • The last newsletter you received, which you forwarded to your friends.

Turning clues into results

Each of those examples contains a clue. To uncover the clue, you need to answer this question:

What can I learn from this example of marketing success, which I can adapt and apply to my own marketing?

By studying marketing success, it’s possible to make better marketing decisions. The good news here is that there are examples of successful marketing all around you.

Bonus: You can also learn a great deal by studying terrible marketing and uncovering why it was so ineffective. Knowing what to avoid is enormously valuable, too.

How NOT to write the perfect blog post!

blogging topics r

The Internet is packed with inaccurate, generic advice on how to write the perfect blog post.

Here are a few common examples you may already know:

  • Your blog posts should be a certain length.
  • So should your blog titles.
  • You should use adjectives in your blog titles.
  • You should write clickbait titles, like: “21 Ways to excite your readers — number 6 made me scream!”
  • You should publish your posts at a magical ‘peak time’, on certain days of the week.

There are dozens more of these predictable rules, churned out by content marketing experts. So, if you adopt this generic approach to blogging, will it help you build a large, valuable readership?

Err… no. In fact, it will do the exact opposite.

How to be ignored

Following the same blogging format as everyone else is not only ineffective, it’s the perfect recipe for how to be ignored.

Think about it: You simply camouflage your blog posts, when you write them based on the same, predictable format as everyone else.

Oh, and if you publish your posts at that peak time they tell you to, consider this: There is no such thing as a optimum publishing time.

It varies from industry to industry and country to country.

For example:

  • If your target market are people who run hospitality businesses, bars, hotels, etc., they work late and start later than most businesses. If your target market are graphic designers or web developers, they also tend to work very late and start later too.
  • Different cultures have different working hours. I work with companies all around the world. My American clients are generally in their office earlier than my European clients. My European clients tend to work later.
  • Middle Eastern business owners often have a working week, which runs from Sunday to Thursday.
  • And… if you do publish your posts at the so-called peak time recommended by all the content marketing gurus — think about it: Your posts will be fighting for attention, along with every other blog post, published by people who fell for the same toxic advice!

In short: One size does not fit all. If you’re following generic blogging advice and your blog isn’t growing the way you want it to, it’s time for a more sensible approach.

How to make it work

The key is to put your time, energy and creativity into doing things YOUR WAY. Be useful. Provide value. Show us what you know. Turn up regularly. Lead, rather than follow.

That’s what attracts people’s attention. It’s also what inspires them to read your work, share your work, hire you and buy from you. I used this approach and built one of the world’s most popular marketing blogs. I have also never needed to speak at blogging conferences in order to make a living or write guest blog posts, in order to reach more people.

PS: Here’s some advice on building a great readership.