Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

Category: Copywriting (page 1 of 25)

Stop dumbing down your marketing. Really. Stop it!

dumbing down

It’s tempting to dumb down your marketing message. Surely, if you dumb it down enough, everyone will understand it. Everyone will have their questions answered. Everyone will be happy.

The challenge is, you don’t sell to everyone. So, you’re marketing to the wrong people!

A smarter approach

The most effective and powerful marketing messages are those, which your clients or customers understand. Messages that are highly relevant to them. Messages that speak to them directly. Messages that inspire them to take action and motivate them to hire you or buy from you. You can’t achieve that by dumbing down for the masses.

If you’re not making enough sales or attracting enough clients, I have a suggestion for you. Instead of dumbing down your marketing message, look for ways to smarten it up. True, not everyone will understand your message. However, your prospective clients or customers may think you’re exactly what they’re looking for.

Oh, and here’s some important advice that will help you!

Here’s why I refuse to SEO my blog posts

Following last week’s post about how to make your blog stand out and build a great readership, a number of you asked the same question. You wanted to know why I chose not to bother about Google. Why I decided not to SEO my work.

Here’s the answer.

Broadly speaking, there are 2 ways to build a blog:

  1. Do what’s expected. To obey all the so-called rules of blogging — such as focusing on SEO.
  2. Refuse to do what’s expected.

I very deliberately chose the second option.

Here’s why

As a marketing professional, I knew it would be extremely hard to stand out if I used the same approach as other marketing bloggers. So, I decided to ignore SEO when I write.

How does this improve my work?

Think of it like this: Just imagine how terrible your favourite book would have been, if every page had been SEO’d. Think how dreadful your favourite love song would have been, had the singer SEO’d their feelings, instead of expressing them. That’s what happens when you write for SEO robots, rather than people.

By ignoring SEO, I get to write in a 100% natural way, which readers find easier to connect with.

This is why there are no pop-up boxes on my blog. When your readers connect with your message, you don’t need pop-ups…. you already have the reader’s attention!

Interestingly, Seth Godin’s blog, the world’s number 1 marketing blog, ignores SEO too. There are no pop-up boxes there, either. The same is true for Mitch Joel’s blog. That’s not a coincidence.

[Note: As I explain here, this approach is not right for everyone. However, if you're looking to grow a valuable community of readers, it can be exceptionally effective.]

A business lesson too

In business, just as in blogging, there are 2 broad approaches. The first way is to do what’s expected. The second way is to refuse to do what’s expected.

Guess which group finds it easiest to get noticed?

How to make your blog stand out and build a valuable readership

Last week, the folks over at Cision ranked Jim’s Marketing Blog as the country’s number 1 digital marketing blog. Soon after, I started getting requests from people, asking what I thought made my site stand out. There are a number of things, but I think the following is as good an answer as any:

I don’t chase Google for search traffic. Instead, I write exclusively for people. This gives me the freedom to write the way I want to. It also gives me a huge advantage over the vast majority of marketing bloggers, who SEO their ideas, rather than write directly for the reader.

Allow me to explain.

Google rewards over-long content

The problem with that, is that your readers value brevity! They are busy. They want to get the key information they need, quickly. They want you to get to the point. However, Google’s algorithm needs lots of words in order to work.

The guys at Buffer recently suggested 1600 words was the sweet spot and it wouldn’t surprise me if they were right. Others say 1000 words. So, bloggers are taking an idea which could be epxlained perfectly in 300 words, and stretching it out so that it’s 4 or 5 times longer than it should be. That’s why there’s so much over-long content out there. So many waffle words. So much fluff.

Google rewards the over use of so-called keywords

To make it possible for Google’s algorithm to have a clue what you’re writing about, it needs you to repeat certain words over and over again. More often than you would normally. You need to put them in the title, in the subheadings, in the image alt tags, in the body copy, in bold, in italics.

Of course, that’s not part of natural writing! It’s jarring to the reader. It weakens your message as readers wonder why you keep repeating certain words too often. Google may like it. People don’t. As it’s people who buy from you or hire you, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
[Note: That's why I wrote this. Stop writing for Google. Really. Stop it.]

Sure, Google’s algorithm is super-easy to game. People, however, are harder to convince. They look for value… insight… generosity of spirit. These are all human elements.

In short: If you’re struggling to build a connected community of readers, write for people, not an algorithm. If you sell ads and need page impressions, write for Google. If you think you’re writing for Google AND for people, you’re not doing either as effectively as you could be.

Is this common mistake scaring customers or clients away?

switch

How easy is it, for a new client or customer to switch to you?

Many business owners make a very good case, for switching to them from your current provider. They get prospective clients and customers fired up. Motivated. Money in hand… however, they make switching to them too painful, so they lose the business.

Here’s an example of what I mean, based on my own situation right now.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and my pain

I’ve been considering switching my main production computer, from a Mac to a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 machine. I’m a Microsoft guy and have been since Windows 3.0. However, last year I bought a MacBook Pro and fell in love with it. I went on to buy the MacBook Air I’m writing on right now, plus a desktop Mac. I love the Apple hardware, but miss having a touch screen computer. I also miss all the software, which is available only on Windows.

The problem I have, is there’s a lot of pain involved in switching to Surface Pro 3.

For example:

  • I’ve invested thousands in Mac hardware and software over the past year. This will be largely unused if I switch. As a result, there’s a lot of pain associated to relegating the equipment. If I sell it I’ll lose a fortune. If I keep it, it will just sit there depreciating in value. Ouch!
  • I have all my files in Apple’s format. The pain of converting file formats is considerable.
  • All my peripherals are Mac. So, I’d need to buy everything again; a Surface Pro keyboard, compatible external hard drive, stylus, shoulder bag, etc . There’s hundreds in additional costs there, adding to the financial pain.
  • Then, I’d need to invest a day of my time, setting the new device up and connecting it to all my accounts etc. My time doesn’t come cheap.
  • … and there’s nothing meaningful that Microsoft do, which comes close to helping me (or anyone else) with all that pain.

So, instead of switching to the new device being a simple decision, I’m probably not going to do it. I’m too locked into the Apple universe now. I don’t dislike Macs. Far from it. I just really like the flexibility of the Surface Pro 3. Yet, it seems Microsoft are unlikely to get my money. Switching is just too painful.

In addition, Microsoft miss out on a massive amount of ongoing, free publicity, as I won’t be blogging about my experiences with the Surface Pro 3, on one of the world’s most popular marketing blogs. With a significant audience of business owners, I’d have been worth a fortune to Microsoft, and at a time where they really need to get business owners interested in them. More importantly, it’s entirely likely there are customers you have missed, who could have helped your business similarly, but they were not prepared to pay the price for switching. Think about that for a moment.

Where’s the pain in switching to you?

This raises 2 important questions for you and your business:

  • What are the pain points a new client or customer will encounter when switching to you from their current provider?
  • How can you reduce or eliminate their pain?

By focusing on making the transition to you as painless as possible, [then communicating that clearly], you massively increase your chances of winning new customers.

Consider the whole picture

Even if there’s an upfront cost associated to you making the process painless or less painful, weigh the cost against the lifetime value of a new customer. Sometimes, a short term cost can turn into a hugely profitable investment.

If you already have processes in place to make it easy for new customers to switch to you, make sure you are getting that message across. Explain that switching to you is a breeze — that your team will handle the process, etc.

In short — Find the pain involved in switching to you and work hard to reduce or eliminate it. Then, make sure prospective customers know!

What everybody ought to know about The Small Print

Have you noticed something about the small print we find in marketing and on packaging?

The small print is small for a reason

They don’t really want us to read it! It almost always tells us that the advertising message isn’t as good as it sounds or that the product we’re buying doesn’t look as good as it does on the packaging, etc.

Here’s a thought…

How would you feel, if you read the small print in the marketing or on the packaging of a product, and found that it actually confirmed that the product was as good as they said, in the LARGE print?

How would your prospective clients or customers feel, if YOUR small print did the same — if it showed that you were telling the truth, with nothing to hide in the small print.

Think about that for a moment! There’s some real magic there.

Something to ponder

Could using the small print in a positive way, help you massively improve the impact of your marketing? [Hint -- Yes. Yes it could.]

25 Reasons to write a business blog

business blog, blogging for business

Without doubt, business blogging is the most powerful and cost effective marketing tool I have ever encountered.

Here are 25 reasons, why I recommend business blogging to you.

  1. Business blogging encourages you to keep learning, so you have something useful to share.
  2. Business blogging can generate regular (daily), targeted business leads. The caveat here, is that you need to learn how to write well and how to market your blog. If you’re prepared to do that, it can improve your business beyond recognition.
  3. Business blogging is the best way to build a huge, targeted, professional network. You don’t need Linkedin or any other network, when thousands of people already know who you are, exactly what you do and how to contact you. Think about that for a moment.
  4. Business blogging allows you to reach people… lots of people, with your message. That’s because blogging scales to infinity. In other words, a post can reach one person or a million people, yet it still takes you the same amount of time to write it.
  5. Business blogging is more fun than watching prime-time TV.
  6. Business blogging is also far more rewarding than watching TV.
  7. Business blogging publicly demonstrates your ability to show up regularly. Reliability is highly valued in business. Just imagine how useful it would be for you, if your marketplace knew you could be relied upon, before they even spoke to you.
  8. Business blogging provides a showcase for your knowledge. This is enormously valuable. People who hire me, know all about my work long before they ever speak with me.
  9. Business blogging increases your professional profile, as new people discover you and your work every day.
  10. Business blogging gives you the best tool on the planet, for building a community or tribe.
  11. Business blogging gives you a voice. If you have something important to say, people will hear you. This is especially the case if you stick with blogging, for long enough to build a large readership. How long does that take? About a week longer than the typical blogger is prepared to invest, before she gives up.
  12. Business blogging inspires people to email you, to say how your work helped them. This is far more rewarding than most people imagine.
  13. Business blogging makes you a more informed reader, as you understand the work and creativity that people put into their written work.
  14. Business blogging causes you to have to regularly dig down deep, really deep, to find something worth sharing. That sounds like hard work, but just as lifting weights builds your physical muscles, digging down deep builds your mental muscles.
  15. Business blogging makes you a better communicator. I’m convinced that regular blogging has improved my communication skills across the board, not just in writing.
  16. Business blogging is a great way to connect with your marketplace. By making it easy for readers to contact you, you open a valuable channel of communication. This provides you with an insight into what your marketplace is thinking… what matters most to them and what they need. This kind of insight is worth a fortune to your business.
  17. Business blogging makes you a lot better at asking questions.
  18. Business blogging also encourages you to question your own opinions, to ensure they stand up to scrutiny and are worthy of your readers.
  19. Business blogging encourages you to regularly do research, increasing your own knowledge base.
  20. Business blogging can get you recognised in the mainstream press, for being named the most influential blog in your class, by the world’s biggest PR company.
  21. Business blogging allows you to build fantastic contacts. My initial contact with my friend Nile Rodgers, started because of something I wrote here on this blog a few years ago.
  22. Business blogging teaches you to look at things from more than one perspective. By writing for others, you need to know what the world looks like, through their eyes.
  23. Business blogging provides you with a creative outlet, which helps you grow as a person. In fact, blogging has been the most powerful professional development tool I have ever used or researched.
  24. Business blogging ensures you remain constantly curious… this is priceless.
  25. Business blogging allows you to build a business asset, which grows in value with every passing week.

The secret to marketing that spreads AND sells!

junk mail

I have a very effective marketing idea to share with you today. You’re going to love this!

I’m going to show you how to create marketing, which people will value and that’s powerful enough to inspire them to hire you or buy from you. It’s based on the work I do with my clients and includes a brief case study, which you can learn from.

So, let’s get started.

Receiving or paying attention?

It starts with understanding that there’s a huge difference between someone receiving your message and someone paying attention to it.

For example, TV viewers are sent targeted marketing messages (commercials) during TV shows. What do most of us do? We fast forward through them or if watching the show in real-time, we go and make a coffee. Just because they send their messages, doesn’t mean we are paying attention.

For your marketing to work, you need to get a great message in front of the right people. In order to get this correct, here’s the key question we need to ask ourselves:

If I stopped my email marketing campaign or I stopped publishing my blog posts, newsletter etc, would people really MISS them?

As a quick look at the marketing you receive every day confirms, for most people the honest answer to that question is NO! We get bombarded with dull, uninspiring sales messages all day and see them as an intrusion, rather than something of value.

Of course, for that tiny minority of small businesses who DO produce marketing, which people genuinely value and would miss if it were to stop, the sky is the limit.

I’m going to share the process required to make this work for your business later in this post.

First, we need to understand why there’s so much dull and ineffective marketing out there.

Dull is cheap. Dull is fast. Dull is simple!

It’s cheap, fast and simple to create dull marketing and get it in front of a lot of people. As a result, there’s no barrier to entry today.

Things were very different a decade ago. Back then, if a small business owner wanted to send a mail shot to 50,000 people, she’d have to spend some serious money.

  • She’d have to cover the cost of the mailing list.
  • Then she would need to pay for all that paper and the printing.
  • Next she would need to pay a company to get the letters folded and inserted into the 50,000 envelopes.
  • Then there’s the huge postage costs for those 50,000 pieces of mail.

All in all, it would cost many thousands. She would need to think long and hard about the value of what she put into those envelopes. Get it wrong and she would pay a hefty price!

Today, everything has changed

That same business owner today can hit 50,000 people using cheap email software and her laptop. It costs just a little of her time. If it fails, maybe tomorrow’s one will work. It’s never been cheaper or easier to push dull, uninspired, poorly thought out, uncreative marketing out the door.

So, that’s exactly what a lot of people are doing. This is why there’s so much junk in your email inbox and on your social networking accounts.

Here’s what you need to do to get it right!

There is an alternative approach I want to share with you, so people welcome your marketing, share it and hire you or buy from you. It requires that you take the exact opposite approach, to 99% of the marketing you see out there. 

It’s about shifting the focus of your marketing, so that it’s primarily of benefit to the people who receive it and secondarily of benefit to you. It’s about producing content (audio, video, blog posts, newsletters, mail shots, flyers, social networking updates etc), which provide independent value to those who receive it. This means they get genuinely valuable or useful information from it, independent of them needing to spend a penny with you.

An example of how this works, based on one of my clients

Imagine you are a dog owner and after a trip to the vet, you subscribe to their dog owner’s newsletter. It gives you tips and ideas, to help you keep your dog healthy, fit and happy. At the bottom of each email are their contact details, so you can call them when you need a vet. You find this free information so useful, that you send it to 10 of your dog-owning friends.

They subscribe and then do the same… then these new subscribers share it too, and on and on it goes. The amazingly valuable, highly-targeted readership grows and grows.

Soon, that vet (a former client of mine) was talking to thousands of local dog owners and positioned themselves in their marketplace, as THE place to take your dog for all its veterinary needs. Their newsletter was eagerly anticipated by it’s readers… yes, people wanted to hear from them and valued what they had to share.

Compare that vet’s approach to the typical marketing messages we see.

  • That vet doesn’t need to run expensive radio ads.
  • They have no need to buy mailing lists.
  • They don’t need to waste valuable hours at networking events.
  • They certainly don’t need to pester people on social networks or ask strangers for recommendations on Linkedin.
  • They don’t need to invest in anything, other than the creativity required to produce a genuinely valuable newsletter, with useful content.

That example shows how a business can grow a massively valuable marketing asset, by sharing real value — rather than pushing unwanted messages. If you invest in creating this kind of value driven marketing, it will improve your business beyond recognition.

In short: Stop pushing predictable marketing at people. Focus on attracting clients instead! This means sharing value, something your marketplace will embrace and share. Soon, you too can have a valuable, growing community of people, who position you in their mind as the obvious choice, when they need the type of service your business provides.

Don’t let that guy ruin your marketing

So, who is that guy?

He or she, is the person who doesn’t ‘get’ what you’re saying. They can’t see the value. They can’t see your point. They frustrate you with questions that show zero understanding of your message.

Why that guy is different

Here’s what makes that guy different, from a prospective client or customer who needs clarification:

That guy is not in the market for whatever you are offering. Their questions come when there’s nothing wrong with the value you provide or the way you explain your value. The problem occurs because that guy is the wrong audience for what you have to say, but they haven’t figured that out.

They’re puzzled. They’re confused. And even though they will never be in the market for what you provide, they feel the need to ask you a series of confusing, frustrating, irrelevant questions.

I found that guy on a blog today

I was prompted to write this, after reading a series of comments left on a blog post. The blogger wrote a compelling, well reasoned piece on the value of building a community. The commenter totally missed the point. He asked the blogger to explain things, which were crystal clear.

The commenter was totally baffled, regardless of how hard the blogger tried to explain her point. He was a fish out of water — the wrong audience for the blogger’s message, yet he insisted on asking half a dozen frustrating, off-topic questions.

So, how can that guy ruin your marketing?

To avoid questions from that guy, there’s a temptation to dumb down your marketing, so as to address every possible misunderstanding. This fails you on 2 counts:

  1. By dumbing down your marketing in anticipation of that guy, answering every potential question in advance, you end up with vague, over-long copy. This massively reduces the power of your marketing message. Brevity sells.
  2. By dumbing down your marketing, you write for that guy and NOT your prospective clients or customers. This is the exact opposite of what marketing is about.

Whether you write the marketing content for your company, are a blogger or a newsletter provider, resist the temptation to write for that guy. Write for your target market. Always.

Clarity is the key

The most effective marketing, is marketing that inspires people to take action. It compels them to buy from you, visit you, hire you, call you or email you. This can only be achieved when you write with clarity, for your ideal profile of client or customer.

Trying to anticipate and answer every misunderstanding, in advance, which that guy comes up with, will detract from your message. It will destroy your marketing. It may also drive you a little crazy.

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