Glen Parker | Direct Marketing Copywriter

Pretty Websites, or Marketing Machines?

direct marketing website warning 300x65 Pretty Websites, or Marketing Machines?

It’s obvious that business owners are a huge target for advertising companies.

And as print media continues to produce dropping response rates (generally speaking), with Yellow Pages’ print business struggling for survival, the focus has switched to online marketing.

In my experience, it’s common for sales people from advertising companies to use a strong mix of guilt, fear and pressure to get business owners to part with $5,000 to $20,000…normally without asking many questions about the business they’re trying to sell to.
Problem is, most of these websites will never generate an income – let alone earn back the money invested in them by the business owner.

If you’re in a situation where you’re looking to “explore internet marketing”, here’s some quick pointers:

  1. Forget the silver bullet - Yes, I know you’re too smart to listen to the “build it and they will come” sales message commonly used. But to be clear, just having a website does not online profits make! Online marketing is rarely a “set and forget” arrangement.
  2. Know the purpose of your site – Are you wanting to sell products or services directly from the site, via shopping cart or instant pay system such as PayPal? Are you looking to offer a free bonus / report / sample, in exchange for contact information? Are you simply wanting an “online brochure” which you can refer your customers & prospects too for further information about what you do? Knowing this information up front is essential, before you spend any money on a new website or online marketing
  3. Is your website a direct marketing website, or purely a “pretty picture” – Assuming you do have a website already, any online marketing driving traffic to your site MUST have lead capture ability. That is, similar to the previous point, it must have a place where visitors can leave their email address (minimum) and name, along with other contact details as necessary. Rough rule of thumb, ask for just name & email address first to maximise response (people are still very hesitant to leave more than this info before they know you, like you and trust you!) A pretty website will NOT let you maximise your return from any marketing effort you do, as your visitors will be lost forever!
  4. Do you have a follow-up system in place - it’s one thing to capture the information from your visitors, it’s another thing to stay in touch with them. Ideally you’d be offering a multi-step marketing system, whereby a visitor can be educated in automated emails… given examples of how you’ve helped previous clients… hints on how to overcome some of the problems they may be facing related to your industry… and maybe (ideally!) an offline direct marketing package or postcard
  5. If looking to advertise in an online business directory, what options do you have - there are plenty of online “portals”… websites developed by smart marketing companies targeting a specific industry (eg carpet cleaning), with directory listings sold to such business owners for $200 to $1,000. My personal view on these sites: if you’ve got the ability to post videos, backlinks to your website(s), “free text” about your business, additional images etc, then you may find value in such sites. But… and it’s a big but… it’s important to remember you’ll be competing on a very level playing field with these sites & often only able to compete on price. A dangerous place to be, and a bigger problem than I can explain in this post!
  6. Don’t be pressured – if the offer “won’t be good unless you say yes right now”, walk away. Seriously! Online or offline, you don’t want to find yourself in a situation we’re you’ve agreed to spend good money on something you don’t understand (technically or even the true benefits). If a company has to resort to high pressure / guilt / manipulation to get you to spend money with them, they do not care about you or your business… just their sale. They will not be around to answer your questions 5 minutes after the sale

So before you jump in & waste money on any kind of advertising online, be sure you’re doing so from a position of confidence, trust & knowledge – without those things you’re making yourself a more vulnerable target for quick-sale-and-move-on-to-the-next-victim salespeople.

Better still, put a strategy together with the help of a trusted business advisor for your entire online marketing approach, and implement different aspects as your confidence (and profits) grow.

Popularity: 4% [?]

Jingles: Biggest Marketing Scam Ever?

Business owners are the target of so many advertising and marketing companies. Companies eager to extract their cash in exchange for “image building”… “brand awareness”… and other such almost-impossible-to-measure ” benefits.

Now, I’m not strictly against those terms. They can be, and ideally are, the by-product of good marketing & customer service. But if that’s all you’re getting…?

For the owner of a small to medium sized business, ideas like this will put them out of business damn quick. And that’s one reason why I’m such a fan of direct marketing websites, direct marketing emails and offline direct marketing campaigns.

Measurable results. Relatively low cost. The ability to test without being locked in to 6 month or 12 month advertisements.

But of all the traditional advertising and marketing schemes out there, surely few are more evil than the jingle.

Let me be clear – I hate jingles.

Just so there’s no confusion.

But why, you ask? Aren’t they a clever way of helping your ‘brand’ to be remembered by the public? Surely, this is a good thing?

Look, I don’t listen to the radio very much but when I do, there are a number of jingles which have me jumping for the controls to change the channel. I mean… really? Who writes these things? More over, who pays someone for the finished product, and actually thinks they’re good?!

The worst of the worst – “ABC Industries… helping people…” and other such meaningless trite. Who gives a rip? Who else are you going to help?

Or one I heard recently… “<brand name> Builders… building dreams… build your dream with <brand name> Builders>”

  1. Yup.

Powerful stuff.

Clearly worth $10k – $20k plus air time.

Where do I sign…

Sorry for the rant. It just pains me to see business owners sinking good money into such crap! If you’re a business owner, and you’re seriously considering a jingle – even despite my ramblings – well, go ahead & do so on the following conditions:

  1. You don’t need the money you’re about to “invest”. Wouldn’t notice it gone at all
  2. You already have a great business and are not depending on the jingle to produce profits instantly (or ever)
  3. Your wife / husband / partner said they will leave you, if you don’t get a jingle written icon smile Jingles: Biggest Marketing Scam Ever?
If I was a musician and wanted to make more money, I’d probably write jingles. Business owners, like everyone else, like to see their name in lights… or in music. I mean, it’s a pretty easy sell – “We’ll write a song about your company (“your baby”), with a catchy phrase and rockin’ sound track!”
No proof of results. No guarantee that it will generate sales. Or that it won’t completely annoy the public icon smile Jingles: Biggest Marketing Scam Ever?
Seriously. If you’ve got money you don’t need, I urge you to invest it on a medium where you can see an ROI. Try a postcard campaign to activate your old accounts. Send an email to your best customers, inviting them to a VIP event / promotion exclusively for them.
Heck, take your family on a holiday!!! You’ll get far better returns than wasting money on a jingle.
Oh, and to those who would argue that a jingle helps you be “remembered in the mind of your prospects” – sure. And so would running naked through Pitt St Mall on Christmas Day. But the key point is, does it cause them to spend their money with you over your competitor?
If you can prove this in the positive, then go ahead by all means and get your jingle written.
Just don’t be offended when I change the radio station the second I hear the music start.

Popularity: 9% [?]

I’m a little disappointed.

Following in the wake of the GFC and a shift in consumer behaviour, a number of house-hold names have been forced to close their doors this year.

 

borders store closing 300x210 Borders... Angus & Robertson... Colorado... and then?

Borders Closing

From the outside looking in, it would be easy to speculate that this outcome was inevitable for companies sellingproducts which can be obtained cheaper online. The way that society is buying books has changed dramatically over the last 5 years or so (Amazon and Booktopia to name a few, Kobo and similar ebook readers for iPhones, iPads & Android devices with vast online libraries of ebooks).

Interestingly, both Borders and Angus & Robertson have links on the first page of Google for “online book store” (for my location here in Sydney, at least) out of over 50 million search results. So clearly both companies have spent some time & money on SEO and actually thinking about their online presence. Of course, being found is only half the challenge of direct marketing icon smile Borders... Angus & Robertson... Colorado... and then?

colorado closing 300x222 Borders... Angus & Robertson... Colorado... and then?

Colorado Closing

Personally, I was a fan of Colorado’s clothing for many years. Several of my friends, too. They seemed to offer a fair balance of quality for price, and I found my Colorado items lasting longer than almost all other brands I wore (as I type this, I’m wearing – amongst other things – my favourite Colorado jeans & Colorado shoes. Really.)

However, they were also fond of HUGE sales – regularly offering 30% to 60% off may be excellent from the buyer’s perspective, but it’s funny how profit margins are reduced by such sales. Just saying.

I don’t know much about Angus & Robertson, to be

angus robertson closing 300x225 Borders... Angus & Robertson... Colorado... and then?

Angus & Robertson Closing

honest. I never really cared for their range of Business & Marketing books (my most frequented section of bookstores.)

On the other hand, I did enjoy – and frequent – Borders regularly. To be honest, there’s not a lot I didn’t like about Borders. In many aspects, I’d have said they had a solid business model. And I couldn’t have been the only one – a recent survey showed Borders were the #1 rated company for Customer Service. In fact the author of the linked-to article at CustomerThink.com has some excellent reasons for the company’s demise. It’s worth the read.

 

Popularity: 58% [?]

Using Video On eBay Boosts Response?

If you’ve been using the internet for more than a few months, chances are good that you’ve bought or sold something on eBay.

Personally I’ve not been the biggest user of eBay – at time of writing, I’ve got 48 feedabacks @ 100%. And most of this was received years ago.

So when it came time to list some of my electronic items on eBay recently, I felt like I was starting again with the system.

I decided to use eBay’s own Turbo Lister tool, which allows you to setup the listing offline & upload at your leisure. Using what I’ve learned from my direct marketing copywriting, SEO and general marketing experience, I crafted a rough-&-ready “sales letter” template:

  • Attention-grabbing headline (granted this wasn’t the typical “4 U’s” model, but it targetted my target audience (PC gamers) effectively
  • Descriptive sub-head
  • Conversational copy, with humour sprinkled throughout
  • A “Here’s what you get” list
  • A video of me, and the stuff I was selling – in use (a walkthrough of the major components, & me using the product “live”)

Using this same approach, I successfully sold my Sony PSP for $117, where most were selling in the $80 to $100 range.

But more impressive was the response to my listing of my Q6600 gaming-friendly computer, with monitor + much more.

To my amazement, that listing generated 512 unique page views, and 56 “watchers”!

Now, I’m no eBay guru by any stretch of the imagination, but I have to say, I was well chuffed with that response icon smile Using Video On eBay Boosts Response? Check out my eBay listing here:

Q6600 Gaming PC

When the winning bid came through, the winner’s father also came along to help pick up the computer & components. We had a small chat, and he said to me, “You did a really great job with your eBay listing… it was great!”

We didn’t have time for specifics, but I thanked him for the feedback & replied that I tried my best to be open & honest with whatever I was selling. Video, by the way, is a fantastic way to do this.

Openly this listing had some mistakes. Turbo Lister didn’t “wrap” my ad text, and there are no horizontal scroll bars in eBay listings. This meant that some of my text was “cut off” unless you left-clicked on the sentence & dragged the mouse around…

Secondly, I listed this ad at 11:30pm on a Sunday night on a 7 day listing. This means the winner would likely have to be awake at this same time to win. While I could argue that my target market (young males who play computer games) would not consider 11:30pm “a late night”, it’s still not ideal and probably cost me some $.

Thirdly, I didn’t think through the postage side of such a large, heavy item. I made the dangerous assumption that people wouldn’t want to risk – or pay the high cost of – having the gear delivered via courier (clearly Australia Post was out of the question!) I received numerous requests along the lines of, “Would you be willing to organies a courier to <suburb in Perth>?”

So, here’s what I’ll be doing fo rmy next eBay listing to get maximum response & selling price:

  • Keep the same template as the computer listing, but with manually-wrapped lines (to avoid losting words off the page!)
  • Make a video which includes my face at the start, providing a quick introduction to me and what I’m selling (to build credibility & trust)
  • Keep the copy in line with direct marketing copywriting standards
  • List my item at 8pm on a Sunday night
  • Think through all possible postage options & questions people may have, and answer them in the sales copy

I don’t list on eBay often, but when I do, I’ll post my findings here. If you pick up one or two tips that help you, my job here will be done! icon cool Using Video On eBay Boosts Response?

Popularity: 45% [?]

How to double your business in 2011

If the queues out the door & down the street at major Apple retailers at the launch of the iPhone 4 wasn’t  evidence, this latest announcement shows the strength of the Apple brand.

Apple’s earnings almost doubled in the last quarter thanks largely to the previously-mentioned iPhone. US$5.99 billion.

How you like them apples? <boom… tish… yeah ok, I know, bad joke>

Anyway, according to the story, Apple experienced some manufacturing issues which prevented them from being able to spit out enough of the devices to meet demand. This news was reported back in March 2010, but the company CFO is confident they’ll get it sorted real soon & start maximising their profits.

Hard to believe we’ve almost said goodbye to the first 4 months of the year. No doubt the major retailers will be putting up Christmas trees & tinsel in a few weeks icon smile How to double your business in 2011

20dollarpile 277x300 How to double your business in 2011So how’s your company tracking so far for 2011? Reaching your sales targets? Struggling with fallout from the GFC? Somewhere in-between?

Clearly Apple’s results won’t compare with your own. Just in case you were wondering. But I do speak with a lot of business owners, by nature of what  do, and one of those business owners recently told me she’d managed to more than double her business in the last 12 months, largely through direct marketing.

Truth is, it doesn’t take the extremely deep pockets of a company like Apple, to make a big difference to your own bottom-line. Many of the smartest marketing ideas take little or no money, such as:

  • Saying “thank-you” to past clients. It’s stunning to me how few business owners do this, but the upshot is that when “thank-you” is heard by your clients & customers – even your prospects – you can see great results over time. A phone call, a card, a gift basket or a VIP event (for high value clients) all go a long way to build your client relationships (and referrals)
  • Upselling & Cross Selling McDonalds added millions of dollars to their bottom line every year with the simple question we all came to hate – “Would you like fries with that?” You can use the same approach in your business, offering additional services or products to existing customers. Offer the “deluxe” pack when they enquire about the “basic”. Offer a discount if they buy 3 or more of an item. Offer a free widget for spending $x or more. Even something as simple as sending a catalogue or “limited time offer” when you post out their next invoice – you’re going to write to them anyway, you may as well make it profitable and it’ll cost you (practically) nothing more
  • Encourage – and ask for – referrals. One of the most effective ways I’ve seen of getting referrals is to list all the ways you will work with / help your customers, then with the final point, stating that as a result of all this effort, you expect your customers to share their experience with other like-minded individuals, “a small thing to ask, and a simple way to help us continue to provide this great service.”

There are plenty more, but this should at least give you some inspiration to look for ways to grow your own business in 2011 – I hope you see great growth this year, even if you don’t manage to reach $6 billion!

 

Popularity: 72% [?]

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