Your ideal customer is looking for you. Will they find you?

Google Classic: Please Allow 30 Days for your Search Results (Original artist unknown) #Google

Marketing is often a process of badgering people to take an interest in stuff they don’t want to solve problems they don’t have with products they can’t afford.

Advertisers cast wide nets and end up catching all the wrong consumers. But they persist because they catch enough of the right consumers to make their methods worthwhile. And who cares about all the bycatch? It’s just collateral damage.

To my mind, inbound web marketing offers an altogether more satisfying connection between producer and consumer, a connection that’s instigated and directed by the party in need.

Web marketing flips the flow – so customers seek suppliers. And that’s an incredibly powerful difference, because…

When customers come to you, they are ready to buy

With inbound marketing, customers come to you.

Customers identify their own need and determine their preferred solution.

They search for products and services to meet their needs. They single you out as a potential supplier. They make contact. They have some questions, but because they’re already clear on their problem they have a clear sense of what they need.

And because they’ve done some searching, they know what you offer. They know how you work. Heck, they even read that blog post you wrote last week, so they have taken the time to reinforce their motivations for choosing you.

And because they came looking for you (and found your up-to-date website complete with case studies, team bios, a physical address and informative blog posts) they don’t have any doubts about your credentials or your ability to fulfil their order.

The inbound lead is ready to buy. You have less work to do – less effort to persuade them to buy. Instead of dragging a prospect reluctantly through a sale you can casually guide them to the destination that they selected.

The inbound lead has identified themselves as your ideal client – because they think you’re the ideal supplier.

The inbound lead has an immediate need for your business, and they have decided to spend money now with a business like yours.

Is your ideal customer landing at the feet of your competitor?

Customers with an immediate need for your products and services – who have a budget to spend – are looking for you.

All you need to do is make sure that your business is findable.

If your business is not findable – if your competitors are more prominent – then these promising prospects will head directly for your competitors.

Catch the perfect customer

If you’re interested in being found by your ideal customer, I may be able to help. Send me an email or give me a call.

Put a price on their head: what’s the value of your next customer?

Project 366 #239: 260812 Stay On Target!

How much are your customers worth? How much does an average customer spend with your business? What’s the average lifetime sales of a customer?

Without knowing the answers to these questions (it’s basically the same question re-worded) you can’t evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing. You might also struggle to decide how much to spend on marketing.

However, if you know that the average lifetime value of a customer (CLV, LV or LTV) is £1,650, you can plainly see that it’s worth spending £500 on marketing each month in order to bring in new customers.

Much of the work I do is about bringing more customers to your door. So let’s put a price on their head. Let’s figure out what each customer is worth so we can decide if it’s worth devoting more – or less – time to content marketing.

In a future blog post I’ll look at ways to calculate the lifetime value of your customers.

Better business cards?

Beansniss cards

One of my co-werkers here at The Werks, web designer Jay Alvarez, recently launched her new web agency: Root Interactive.

The new website is delightfully different, with the pages leading off down a series of bean stalks (you must try it yourself), but the most delicious detail of her brand is the unusual approach she took for business cards – or beansniss cards (sorry) – which she printed on butter beans.

One of her business cards is currently growing in our office.

(For)getting a Return on Your Social Media Marketing

Social Media ROI

Do you ever wonder if the time you invest in Twitter, Flickr, Facebook and your blog is worth the effort? It’s a reasonable thing to wonder, but I suspect that for most small businesses it’s better to just relax, enjoy it, and see what emerges.

Everything in life can be monitored, tracked, charted, monetized and commoditized. But that doesn’t mean you should.

If you are asking “is all the time I spend on Twitter really worth it?” – it’s probably not. If you enjoy socialising with your friends and contacts, then continue. If it feels like work and it just soaks up your time without giving anything back, spend less time on it.

Of course, for mega-corporations with marketing departments, there will always be a need to quantify the effectiveness of something like social media. And that’s fine.

What do you think? Is social media a waste of time? Or a useful way to connect with the people around you?

How to Do More on the Web – Part 4

See also: P1 / P2 / P3

Part 4: Helping Searchers Find Your Site with SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)

People are looking for you. Every day, they go to a search engine (like Google, Yahoo or Ask) and type in the words that reflect their query. The search engine scans the internet, and offers a list of results that match their query.

If your website appears high up the list, the searcher may click on your site. If your site is the 120th result in the search results, you will probably not receive a visit from that searcher.

An overwhelming majority of people never make it to the second page of search results. This means that if you’re not on the first page, less than 20% of people will even see your website, and even fewer will actually click through to your site.

Clearly, it’s crucial to appear as high as possible in the search results whenever people are searching for an organisation like yours.

Getting Started with SEO

A good place to start is keywords. Keywords are the words that people use when searching. Your keywords may be your:

  • Company
  • Industry
  • Products
  • Services
  • Brand names
  • Activities
  • Key people
  • Common questions that people ask

Pretend that you are a potential customer. You are looking for yourself. Now think: what keywords would I use when searching for the things I provide? Make a list of all the words that you would use.

Think laterally, and remember that not everyone uses the same words to describe a thing. Consider every synonym and possible way of approaching a query.

Now, go to the Google Keyword Tool, and type in your list of keywords. Google will provide you with an extended list, including every similar term that it thinks is relevant. Bear in mind that Google is just a computer, so it may produce a few bad results.

Google’s Keyword Tool is useful for two reasons. Firstly, it helps you consider all relevant keywords, and may suggest a few that you hadn’t thought of.

Secondly, it shows the monthly volume of searches for each term. This means you can see exactly how many people are searching for each keyword – which means you can decide which keywords are worth aiming for.

A Note on Selecting Keywords

Because ranking highly in search results requires a concerted effort, you should prioritise the search terms that will bring you people who want to buy something.

So if you’re a hairdresser, there is little value in attracting a million people who are searching for hairdressing advice. Those people are not likely to be buying anything. A more profitable search term is hairdresser Brighton, as this suggests the searcher is looking for someone to cut their hair.

Pursue the keywords that will bring in relevant traffic. If a hairdresser appears #1 in search results for hair loss, there is no real benefit. The hairdresser would get lots of visits, but the visitors would not be looking for hairdressing services – making the visit pointless and without value.

Using Keywords in Your Website

Google ‘reads’ the pages of your website. If you use words like hairdresser, hair, products, beauty, conditioner, shampoo and styling, then Google will know to offer your website when people search for a hairdresser.

There are a few important places that keywords should be used:

  • Meta keyword
  • Meta description
  • Page title
  • Headings
  • Sub-headings
  • Body copy
  • Links

Meta Data

Meta data is information contained within the code of a website. It’s invisible to human visitors, but readable by search engines. Think of meta data as a signal to the search engines.

Every single page on your website should have a page title, meta keywords and a meta description. These are all opportunities to tell search engines what that page is about. Don’t be tempted to stuff keywords into these areas – just be honest and use keywords that relate to the content on that page.

On-Page Keywords

Headings and sub-headings are deemed to be important carriers of information by the search engines.

How does a search engine know what text is a heading? Because web developers put headings inside heading tags. The main heading is encased thusly:

<h1>Main Heading</h1>

The second heading uses <h2> and so on.

It’s important that, wherever possible, your headings include relevant keywords for that page. Using keywords in this way does not have to mean artificially stuffing keywords into every space available. It’s often perfectly logical to include keywords in relevant pages, because they help your human visitors to scan a page quickly, and know that it contains relevant information.

Once you have written headings and sub-headings that contain keywords, ask your web developer to make sure they are contained in heading tags.

Body Copy

The text beneath your headings is known as body copy. It’s important that this copy also contains your keywords. Don’t worry about how often your keywords are used.

Providing that your copy is clearly about the subject you are hoping to appear in search results for, and you use the language that other people use when thinking about that subject, Google will be able to interpret your website correctly.

Links and Anchor Text

It’s important to understand how search engines interpret links in your website’s pages. The important thing about every link on your website is your choice of anchor text.

Anchor text is the text that makes up a link. In this link: Jam Jars, the anchor text is Jam Jars.

When search engines ‘read’ your web pages, they read and follow links. Because my link to the website of Freeman & Harding has the anchor text Jam Jar, search engines assume that Freeman & Harding has some relation to Jam Jars.

This is a crucial point. It is very important that you understand how search engines interpret links. Every link on your website has multiple benefits. Links not only help your visitors to navigate your site, but they help search engines understand where your links are pointing.

If you use anchor text without keywords, you lose an opportunity to guide the search engines’ interpretation of your website.

Link Anchor Text Example

A hairdresser might have a link on their Home page, leading visitors to their Products page.

Good: Now view our professional range of hairdressing products

Bad: Click to view our hairdressing products

The good example contains relevant keywords, and gives search engines some context. The bad example is a wasted opportunity, unless you are hoping to rank highly for something as generic as products (which would be folly).

Links to Your Website (Backlinks)

Search engines use complicated mathematical models to calculate the relevance of websites to a searcher’s query. One piece of the equation is the number of links to your website from other sites.

These links are also known as backlinks. Search engines consider every link to your site to be an indicator of quality, on the assumption that nobody would link to your website if you had nothing good to offer. The more links your site has pointing to it, the better the search engines’ perception of your site.

This is why many website owners will beg, steal and borrow in order to gain good links to their website. Good links are valuable, and can have a significant influence on your site’s performance in search results.

Good Links, Bad Links

Not every link is good. A link to your website from a ‘bad neighbourhood’ – a part of the web populated by spammers – is not worth much, and could even lower your site’s reputation.

Links are good when they are placed in good, reputable websites. Good links are also those that use keyword-rich anchor text.

If somebody wants to link to your website, ask them to use anchor text that reflects the keywords people use when looking for you.

Developing Good Links

It’s not easy to gain links. The best approach is to offer things that other people want. Then people will want to link to your website. Without some kind of useful content, it’s hard to justify links to your site.

Guides, tutorials, resources, interviews, articles and blogs and are all good, honest ways of providing useful material that people will want to link to.

One effective strategy is to write articles for other websites. Many blogs request contributions from outsiders – and these normally offer authors a by-line (a one-line bio that says who you are and what you do) and a link or two to your website.

Writing one-off articles for good, well-established blogs takes time, but you will gain good links from a quality website. The alternative is…

Article Marketing

An article marketing industry exists which purports to help people gain links by offering their articles for free to any website owners who want them. It’s a nice idea, but the reality is that the only site owners who want these generic – often poorly written – articles are spammers or people with low-grade blogs. So you might get a few links, but they will be from such poor sites that they provide absolutely no SEO value. Good links come from good sites with at least some PageRank.

Directory Submission

Many people believe that submitting their site to hundreds or thousands of directories is the easy way to gain links. While you will gain plenty of links, those links will be buried in the depths of dusty directories, far from the eyes of man and a long way from anywhere valuable.

DMOZ is the most important directory, closely followed by Yahoo (which you will have to pay for). Join a few other directories, but don’t invest a huge amount of time in this. Very few people use directories to search for businesses.

Further reading: Bad SEO: Polluting the Web

Advertising

There are many ways to advertise on the web. Advertising can be costly, but it can also be very effective. A well-judged ad in a well-chosen space can drive significant numbers of qualified visitors to your website.

Google Ads

If you decide to run a Google Adwords campaign, one of the most important things to do is to run two different adverts for the same product or service. Monitor which ad is more successful, then replace the less successful ad with something better. Running a split campaign allows you to constantly refine your ads.

Because Google Ads are very small, the copy must be used with care. Every word counts!

Example:

London Cocktail Bar

Covent Garden Cocktail Bar WC2
No Hire Fee for Private Parties
www.theinternational.uk.com

A note of caution

It’s easy to spend lots of money with Google Adwords. They can be very successful, but make sure that the return warrants the investment.

Writing for Your Customers – Your Web Copy

The words on your website’s pages are what do the work of selling, persuading, inspiring or communicating. Graphic design, imagery and clever web technologies like Flash help to create an impression, but it’s the copy that talks to your visitors*.

(* Unless you’re offering complex or novel software or web applications, in which case a professional screencast may be the best way to demonstrate your offering. Not sure what a screencast is? Ask me – I can recommend a professional screencaster.)

At the start of this guide I asked you to think about your customers. When you come to write copy, draw on your findings. Your copy must appeal to your visitors. It should start by telling them quickly and clearly what’s on offer. Then it should explain why that offer should interest them.

Make sure your copy details the features of your products and services. Then, explain how those features provide benefits to the user.

Further reading:
Writing for the Web – A Quick Guide on What to Write and How to Write It
10 Ways to Instantly Improve Your Marketing Copy

How do Your Customers Think About Your Products?

What language do they use? Make sure you use this language in your copy. Your internal corporate language may be jargon-rich, and intimidating or nonsensical to outsiders. Don’t try to sound clever or ‘professional’ by littering your copy with fancy words that only industry-insiders will understand.

Good copy is conversational and uses words that everyone understands.

Bad copy is cold, formal, and distancing.

Good copy brings people into your world.

Bad copy creates a barrier.

Short sentences are good. Contractions (can’t, don’t) are good.

Simple, plain English is good. Clarity is good.

When writing copy, aim to deliver a message. As soon as the message is delivered you can (and should) stop writing.

Ask a friend or colleague to review your copy. The best reviewer is someone who is unfamiliar with your products, services and industry.

Ask them if, after reading your copy, they understand your offer enough to consider buying something from you.

Provide Detailed Information (for Those Who Want It)

While it’s important to deliver information carefully, in a controlled manner, don’t forget that visitors to your site may have many questions. You need to answer their questions.

Ensure that detailed information about your products, services, working methods, company structure, key personnel, qualifications, contact details, clients, experiences, attitudes, world-views and waist measurements is available to those who want it.

Obviously, the key thing is to make this information available, but not unavoidable. Don’t litter the path of the fleet-footed – the nimble visitor who wants a modicum of information before they decide whether or not to contact you.

Calls to Action

Your website exists to achieve something. Whatever that may be, it probably requires your visitors to take some kind of action. Now, if you want somebody to vote, or buy, or register, then you must ask them to do so.

The simple of act of asking a visitor to take a course of action is called a Call to Action. It’s as easy as writing:

  • Order now
  • Subscribe here
  • Register today

This may sound obvious, but it’s often overlooked. The Call to Action is an essential ingredient in successful websites.

Social Proof – Evidence of Previous Interactions

Because the web is fertile ground for spammers, con-artists and thieves, web users are naturally cautious and suspicious. If you want to sell on the web, you’ll need to address this issue. How can you build trust with just your website?

One very simple and honest tactic is to harness the power of social proof. Social proof can be provided in the form of testimonials, client logos, a portfolio of past work – anything that proves that your organisation has done real work with real people.

It’s good to get into the habit of requesting testimonials from clients. If you’re shy, try LinkedIn’s interface for requesting recommendations. This way you don’t have to put anyone on the spot.

If possible, display testimonials with links back to the person or company who provided it. This gives your social proof depth and authenticity.

Giving It All Away

Offering a sample or some kind of free trial is a good way to begin a business relationship with your new customers. Free samples are another way to overcome the problem of trust: by sampling your goods or services for free, people can evaluate your offering without any risk.

Improving Your Search Engine Performance by Providing Useful Content

A popular strategy for getting more visitors is content. If you are an accountant, your website may not be very interesting. You can reasonably expect people to visit your site when they want an accountant. Everybody else is going to ignore you.

Clearly, if you’re an accountant and would like a more lively website, you’re going to have to add something more interesting. If you provide useful or informative information – in the form of guides, articles, calculators, widgets, links, tools or advice – then people will visit your site. People will also link to your website, which will help your search engine performance.

A great example of providing useful content to customers and website visitors is http://www.yorkshireaccountancy.co.uk/

Creating a Journey through Your Website

Every page of your website should have pathways. Always give your visitors places to go. Each page should lead logically to the next. Gradually lead each visitor through your website – enticing them with your product’s benefits, explaining your product’s features, answering all of their questions about the ordering process, reassuring any concerns they might have, and finally asking them to place an order.

Contact Details

Make it easy for people to contact you. Don’t hide email addresses – you may be worried about spam but a good spam filter will prevent 99% of junk getting through. Have a contact form, but also provide an address, a phone number and all relevant email addresses. Websites that only offer a contact form appear to be distancing themselves from their audience, or just plain hiding.

Further reading:

Gaining Trust on the Web

Social Media

‘Social Media’ means blogs, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, forums – any media that involves or allows social interaction. Social media allows a website to exist in other spaces. Social media allows you to appear before new eyes – finding a new audience and expanding your reach.

Social media is difficult for businesses to use well, because these are largely social spaces, not commercial. The people who inhabit social spaces often resent organisations that burst in with a marketing agenda.

If you want to explore social media, and how it might help your organisation, step in cautiously – listen, look, and contribute gently. Represent you first and your company second.

Further reading:

Twitter: Make the Most of Every Tweet (You Receive)

Corporate Twittering: A Marketing Mess in a Social Space?

Why Twitter? – Method in the Mayhem

Twitter – the Simplest Little Big Complicated Website in the World

Straplines

One of the most crucial aspects of a successful website is clarity. From any page, at any point in your website, it should be immediately obvious where you are, and what is being offered.

A strapline, tagline or slogan is the short sentence that accompanies an organisation’s logo at the top of their website.

The strapline is a good opportunity to increase clarity, and explain exactly what you do.

Good straplines are descriptive and short. Bad straplines are witty, clever or vague, such as: Creative solutions for business.

The End

That’s it for now. I’ll compile all of this guide into a PDF for you to download. As I probably said at the start, I wanted to put down a few ideas for selling on the web – a few basics that website owners should know.

Let me know if I’ve missed anything significant!

How to Do More on the Web – Part 3

hypesite

Part 3: Thinking About Your Website

Websites are versatile, powerful extensions of an organisation. Your website can do many things, but not without your help. You may have expected your website to take care of itself, to run quietly in the background, pulling in customers and generating new business.

You might not have a Website Manager, or Webmaster, or Weblord, or someone steering your website through the crowded digital seas. But to find success on the web, somebody (probably you) will need to start thinking about your website. And that somebody will need to add and remove content, make changes, update information, spread the news and find an audience.

Left to their own devices, websites do absolutely nothing. Without human involvement, websites are lazy, good-for-nothing cash-sponges.

Working Out Where You’re At

Before you think too much about where you’re going wrong, or what you should change, look at your website’s traffic statistics. You should be able to see things like:

* Daily visitor numbers
* Popular content (what people are looking at)
* Traffic sources (where people came from)
* Length of stay
* Bounce rate (percentage of people who leave your site immediately after arriving, without viewing a second page)

If you don’t have access to this information, ask your web developer to provide it.

If you have this information, spend some time looking at it. Analytics data can highlight many things. Such as:

Misleading inbound links

If your website appears highly in searches for cheese pizzas, but you only sell cheese cloth, then people may come to your site looking for something you don’t offer. As soon as they realise their mistake they will leave. If lots of people do this, your bounce rate will be high.

A high bounce rate could also indicate that nobody likes your website. Is it ugly? Offensive? Poorly constructed? Horribly written? A hideous website could be turning customers away. Ask a few trusted friends and colleagues for a brutally-honest critique of your website.

Dead-ends

Look at the most popular exit page. This is the page that your visitors look at before leaving your site. If the most popular exit page is a contact form, or the sales/enquiry page of your site, then people are doing what you want.

If you find that an unusual page is popping up as a frequent exit route, check the page for any suspicious activity. Is there something wrong with the page? Does the navigation work, and are visitors offered a next step on their journey?

Unusual Traffic Sources

The list of traffic sources can be revealing. Sometimes visitors come from unexpected places. And sometimes this can show a new way of finding people.

Unusual Keyword Choices

Scan the list of keywords that people have used to find your site. Any surprising choices? Keep your eyes peeled for anything that suggests people are searching for you with keywords that you hadn’t considered. It may be worth integrating these keywords into your copy a little bit more.

The Complexities of Web Analytics

Web analytics is a large and complex field. Explore it as much as you feel is necessary. For many small organisations with a website to keep alive, a weekly perusal of the statistics will suffice.

Of course, don’t just gormlessly look at a few numbers: think about what they imply. Draw meaning from the numbers. Consider what those numbers say about the people who visit your site. When looking at website analytics, you’re looking for insight into the minds and behaviours of your potential customers.

Gathering Web Analytics – Use Google

Google Analytics is a free program that provides fantastic traffic stats. If you don’t have it, or something similar, ask a friendly web developer to install it for you. If you don’t know a friendly web developer, ask me – I know several very charming geeks.

Getting People to Come to You

The biggest problem that any website faces is invisibility. The web is stuffed with great websites, and if you want any chance of being seen, you’ll have to fight for people’s attention.

Websites do not automatically generate traffic. Without a good reason to visit your site, nobody will visit your site.

If you want a healthy flow of human traffic to your website, you’ll need to purposefully cultivate that traffic.

In Part 4, we look at Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

See also:

Part 1: A Thoughtful Approach to Crafting Web Success

Part 2: Thinking About Your Products and Services

A Very Bad Sign (Literally)

Pavement signs are fantastic – your business can leap beyond the boundary of your premises and stand in the path of potential customers. What a jolly good idea!

But, it does help if the sign contains some tempting invocation to pull people towards your enterprise. I recommend you strive for something marginally more persuasive than this:

A Bad Sign
A Bad Sign

Internet Marketing Gurus – What do they know?

Have you ever bought a product or service from an Internet Marketing Guru?

I’m trying to learn more about the curious world of the Internet Marketing Guru and would love to hear from anyone who has worked with people like:

  • Ewen Chia
  • Andrew Reynolds
  • David DeAngelo (Eben Pagan)

How to Do More on the Web – A Few Ideas

How to Sell More on the Web:

A Thoughtful Approach to Crafting Success

This guide isn’t just about selling more on the web: it’s about achieving your goals, whatever they are.

That might mean selling tickets to your gigs, or getting donations for your charity, or building support for your big idea. Whatever you’re trying to do, the principles and ideas covered will apply to you. Just bend the suggestions until they make sense for you.

Good websites are full of people’s ideas. Anything worthwhile needs a bit of brain-space. As soon as you start thinking about your website your chances of success increase dramatically. Most websites suck and fail because they are designed and built in haste and then left to gather dust. Always view your website as an evolving work in progress.

If you get stuck, and can’t find a way to progress, email leif@kendallcopywriting.co.uk – if I can spare a few minutes I’ll think about your conundrum.

This guide should answer questions like:

  • Why doesn’t anyone visit my website?
  • Why do people come to my website, but never buy anything?
  • What can I do to create interest around my website?

Who is this for?

This guide is designed to help anyone with a website. If you’re a very experienced website creator/owner/manager then this guide might not offer anything new. But if your website doesn’t do a lot, then you might find a few useful ideas.

Success Doesn’t Have to Lead You to Evil

Selling more things, or recruiting more donors, or persuading people that your scheme is brilliant does not need to involve under-hand tactics. Success does not require evil.

If you’re offering something useful then you should let people know. This guide is all about how you can let people know.

Part 1: Thinking about Your Customers

Before you think about your website, you need to think about the people that you created it for: your customers.

  • Who are they?
  • What do they want?
  • Why do they want your products?
  • What can you offer them?
  • Where are they?
  • How can you get in front of them?

Who Are Your Customers?

If you’re going to sell anything to anybody, you’ll need to establish who wants what you’ve got. Are they:

  • Young, old, or in-between
  • Male or female
  • Organised around a niche
  • Highly web-literate or borderline Luddites
  • Pinko liberals or conservatives?

Identify your target audience. Think about who they are. Imagine you are them. Step into their shoes and consider their motivations. Ask yourself:

  • What do I want?
  • What am I trying to achieve?
  • What are my concerns?
  • What would make me happy?

Why Do Your Customers Want Your Products?

Okay, so you know what you’re offering, what it does and why people use it… or do you? Do you really know why people use your things, or engage your services?

You might think you know exactly what people are doing with your stuff, but you might be surprised to learn that people are misusing your products – or that they really just want your services for a reason other than the ones you intended.

Luckily, it’s easy enough to find out what your customers are up to. Just ask them. And you don’t need to set up a survey and harvest reams of data. Just call a few people and have a chat.

A few examples of products that have found unintended uses:

misprod

Thanks to the following for their suggestions:

http://twitter.com/mikebrondbjerg

http://twitter.com/SpaSpy

http://twitter.com/kathburke

http://twitter.com/Angpang

Meeting Your Clients in the Middle

Your products and services might be valued for reasons other than the ones you know about. If people think about your work in different ways to you, address this in your website’s copy.

Related blog post:

Apple’s Honesty Policy

What Can You Offer Your Customers?

Are there other ways you could help your customers? Are there additional products or services that fit with your existing range? What would people like from you? How can you make people’s lives better, easier or more fulfilling?

Don’t just assume that your products and services have to stop where they are now. If there’s something more you can offer – something real, something useful and desirable – then start offering it.

Crafting Your Offer to Match Your Customers

Many businesses decide what they do, then create products and services that they think are required, then offer them for sale. Rarely do businesses ask what is required – what is wanted – and then offer it.

It’s easier to sell the thing that people want, than it is to sell the thing that you need to sell. So if you’re struggling to sell something, consider changing it until it meets people’s needs.

Again, it’s a good idea to spend time talking to your clients. And don’t make it complicated. Just pick up the phone, dial a number, say hi, ask some questions.

Related blog post:

Don’t Treat Your Website Like a Commodity

End of Part 1

That’s it for Part 1. Part 2 will look at your products and services (although really we’ve already thought about this, but in relation to how your customers think about your products and services.) Part 2 is the shortest section.

In Part 3, we’ll explore the aspects of your website that might be failing. This will cover SEO, social media and other wonderful things.

The Absence of Marketing

Oh, and did you notice that I haven’t mentioned marketing ? There’s a good reason for that. Many people in marketing are disreputable,  unlovable rogues who smarm their way through life with slick grins and thin lies. ‘Marketing’ is a word so loaded with negative connotations that I prefer to discuss ‘marketing’ without using the word.


Networking not working? Why You Might be Getting it Wrong

Business meeting
I’m a big fan of networking events. I think it’s good practice for anyone in business to get out and be seen. Meet people, introduce yourself, explain what you do. It’s nice to meet the other people who are working around you. And it’s useful.

But networking isn’t always useful. Networking can become a circuit of the same dudes in shiny suits – everyone selling, nobody buying.

The key to good networking is to attend events that your customers go to. Meeting other people in business is nice, and it’s always useful to have a solid network of connections – but nice networks and connections won’t pay the bills. You need to meet potential clients, not a bunch of people who want to sell you something.

So, who are your customers, and where do they hang out?

(Picture courtesy of llawliet via Flickr)

Ryanair’s Marketing Suicide – Idiot Bloggers Bite Back?

Ryanair responded to a blogger’s post about a glitch on their website with juvenile, aggressive comments. (You can read the full Times story of Ryanair’s peculiar response to a blogger’s innocuous post here: Ryanair, best for cheap.)

Ryanair are a budget airline. The entire business is run on a shoestring in order to provide cheap flights. Clearly, shoestrings don’t create the most joyful of workforces, and perhaps this is the cause of the vitriolic reaction to a well-intended post by a blogger.

The interesting thing about this story is that Ryanair have followed up negative and bitter comments on the original blog post with official statements that are even more damning:

“Ryanair can confirm that a Ryanair staff member did engage in a blog discussion. It is Ryanair policy not to waste time and energy in corresponding with idiot bloggers and Ryanair can confirm that it won’t be happening again.

Lunatic bloggers can have the blog sphere [sic] all to themselves as our people are far too busy…”

Now, the reason this is crazy is because, even if Ryanair really don’t care what bloggers think or write, and even if Ryanair are happy to create such a negative media storm needlessly and pointlessly, then they should care about the effect of all the negative links. “Idiot bloggers” may have a considerable impact on the results that appear when people search for Ryanair.

Perhaps the people who want extremely cheap flights don’t care about the negative publicity…? Is that why Ryanair think it’s acceptable to behave in this manner?

Whatever happens, it’s sad that Ryanair couldn’t have joined the online discussion in a more sociable way!

Marketing Doesn’t Have to Be Evil

Short version:

Some marketers are evil. All they want is money. They don’t care how they get money, or how they get money for their clients. They don’t care about morals, authenticity, reputation or karma. But marketing doesn’t have to be evil. It can be authentic, honest, open and useful.

Long version:

Marketers have a bad reputation. Why? Maybe it’s because they often prioritise selling over ethics. Maybe it’s because they use sneaky, manipulative gimmicks to increase sales. Maybe it’s because they are relentless with their marketing messages, rarely stopping to listen.

Marketing is not inherently evil. Marketing does not begin from a default position of evil. Marketing has become loaded with negative connotations, but all it means is offering a product or service – originally the process of taking your farmed produce to the market, where you would sell or barter it for money or goods.

Now, assuming that your products and services are not evil, and that they are genuinely useful things that people want or need, and can derive some benefit from, then offering those things for sale (marketing) can’t be evil.

I’m working on a guide to selling on the web, which won’t contain a single evil idea. All of the advice will be nice ways to sell genuine products in an authentic way.

Why Twitter? – Method in the Mayhem

Short version:

Twitter , while seemingly pointless, is actually useful. If you’re clever and persistent, you can use Twitter to:

  • Let contacts get to know you as a person
  • Develop existing relationships and create new ones
  • Learn about your friends, colleagues and contacts
  • Demonstrate your intelligence/wit/charm
  • Get answers to your questions
  • Find new clients
  • Find volunteers to help you get things done

Long version:

This post is all about how I accidentally started lobbying for Twitter, and the justifications I gave for its use. If you don’t know already, Twitter is essentially a website that allows you to create your own account, then post short messages (limited to 140 characters) that answer the perennial question: What are you doing?

Twitter is loved and hated – to some it’s a beautiful device that brings them closer to their world, and to others it’s an inane time waster and an unwanted surge of information in an already overloaded world.

I recently found myself evangelising on behalf of Twitter at a party – I was recommending Twitter to a social media consultant, who viewed Twitter as an unnecessary additional distraction.

So, how did I justify Twitter?

1. By demonstrating usefulness

I gave real examples of how Twitter had been genuinely useful to me.

Example 1:

I’ve been working on writing guides recently, and when I wanted some readers to give me feedback, I turned to my Twitter followers.

And nearly ten different people responded. And those are ten people who volunteered to read my guide. I’ve since received their feedback and revised my guide.

Without Twitter, I would have had to email the people I thought would be most likely to cooperate, or most interested in providing feedback. With Twitter, I can broadcast the request and let interested people decide for themselves. It’s less pressured, more casual, and more effective because of it.

Also, many people follow me on Twitter who I’ve never met – let alone emailed. So I’ve had relative (and in some cases total) strangers giving me valuable feedback. Without Twitter, that would not have happened.

Example 2:

Back to my writing guides… I realised that having nice looking PDFs would probably help the guides get distributed and get read. So I needed a designer.

As the guides are going to be completely free, and freely distributed, I’m trying to avoid spending money on them. So how do you find a designer who is willing to work for nothing more than a discreet marketing opportunity and a dose of good karma?

I was wary of even asking anyone to work for free, because I’m sensitive to the fact that many people receive requests for work on spec, or on the promise of equity. But I asked the Twittersphere, happy knowing that nobody could reasonably resent my request, because it’s so easy to ignore.

And you know what? I had two offers from designers, willing to take a look at my project. Currently, Emma Nicol from Door 22 is working on the guides (the guides are now published). Thanks Emma! I should point out that Emma only agreed to even consider helping me out because we had become better acquainted through Twitter.

2. By suggesting that not using Twitter means you miss out

What’s happening in your town? What are the latest web apps, memes or theories that are bouncing around cyber-space? How do you know about all the ‘latest’ things?

Twitter can be a great way to keep up with the world. People tend to Tweet about their new discoveries or latest passions. So you get to hear about them.

Increasingly, conversations are taking place within Twitter. Ideas blossom, burst into life, crash, burn and die before they’ve even left the Twittersphere. If you’re not on Twitter, you’ll never know.

3. By explaining the value of the seemingly inane

So you’ve looked at Twitter, and got annoyed because people post messages (or Tweets) like:

Now, everyone has their own idea of what is useful, what is boring, what is rude and what is pointless. The beauty of Twitter is that you can constantly refine your Twitter stream. If someone consistently Tweets about stuff that doesn’t interest you, block them. It’s easy.

But, it’s worth considering that even ‘inane’ messages about what people are eating or cooking or blogging about, are giving you a window into their lives. You may have a strong network of business contacts, but how well do you know your contacts as people?

Twitter gives you a great opportunity to get to know the people that you work and network with. Twitter also gives you a great opportunity to meet new people. And yes, that means meeting people in real life too!

4. By explaining that I’ve found work through Twitter

I’ve encountered new clients through Twitter – people I might never have met had it not been for a connection on Twitter.

For many people, Twitter is a great way to maintain contact with their network, and to expand their network in new directions. There is probably no greater way to casually, gently tell people that you exist.

In conclusion

Twitter offers powerful benefits. But you have to contribute before you’ll ever get anything from it. If you view Twitter as just some way to find people to do things for free, or just as a tool to promote your blog, or just as a forum to moan about your boss, then you’ll probably struggle to really enjoy it.

View Twitter as something bigger; something that you do because it’s fun, something that just happens to be very useful.

Further Reading:

To avoid accidentally annoying lots of Twitterers, I recommend reading Josh Russell’s article on Twitter etiquette.

How to Grow Your Twitter Network (How to Find More Followers) by Gregor Spowart

A Missed Opportunity

What is this?

till receipt

It’s a missed opportunity.

As I sorted my receipts (for expenses purposes), I took a trip down memory lane. I remembered meetings and coffees and lunches and appointments and clients and friends. When I found the receipt above, I remembered thinking that the cafe had failed to set up their till properly.

So rather than being reminded of this particular cafe, and seeing their name again, I get an advert for the Sharp XE-A212 till.

Maximising potential

Marketing is all about little opportunities like this. It’s just about gently reminding people that you exist.

Google isn’t everything: how Google doesn’t exactly reflect the real world

I’m going to say something that is bloody obvious, but bears repeating: Google’s search results do not always reflect real life.

What I mean is that many successful businesses have quite under-nourished websites, which appear on page 2 or 3 of any relevant SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). While a number 1 position in Google’s results may be the Holy Grail of web marketing, it clearly isn’t everything.

What’s my point?

I help my clients find success on the web. I use Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and off-site tactics to drive people towards their websites. I look for ways to generate interest and income in and around their websites. But it’s crucial that my clients and I remember that the web is just a part of the business environment.

Perspective

The web is a great place, and it’s very useful for businesses, but it should not be the only aspect of a firm’s marketing activities. A website makes a perfect platform from which to start and to focus marketing activities around – but businesses also need to stand up in the real world. Those who don’t risk being overtaken by their more active counterparts. You may be winning the war on the web, but what are your competitors doing in real life?

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