2 Tips to Write More Readable Copy

When was the last time you checked your copy’s grade level reading scores? American’s reading ability is declining. And you could be writing over your prospective customer’s ability to understand your message. In the U.S., average reading levels are at about the eighth grade level. But 1-in-5 U.S. adults read below a fifth grade level. And surprisingly, 14 percent of U.S. adults can’t read

When was the last time you checked your copy’s grade level reading scores? American’s reading ability is declining. And you could be writing over your prospective customer’s ability to understand your message. In the U.S., average reading levels are at about the eighth grade level. But 1-in-5 U.S. adults read below a fifth grade level. And surprisingly, 14 percent of U.S. adults can’t read according to the U.S. Department of Education, National Institute of Literacy.

Grade level reading scores from high school students has dropped. It’s now at fifth grade levels, and is an ominous sign for the future.

Even the writing and delivery of Presidential State of the Union addresses are at lower grade levels in the most recent generation than in generations past. President George H.W. Bush averaged 8.6. Barack Obama averages a reading level of 9.4. Bill Clinton, 9.8. George W. Bush, 10.0. Compare these scores to over fifty years ago with Dwight Eisenhower at 12.6 and John F. Kennedy at 12.3.

Given these declining readability statistics, chances are more likely than not your copy is written above the reading ability and comprehension of your prospects and customers.

So what to do?

Two tips:

First: research and test your copy to identify the reading level of your market. For reference, TV Guide and Reader’s Digest write at the ninth grade, and USA Today at a 10th grade level.

Second: use the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease and Grade Level test. It’s in Microsoft Word. Go to “Review,” “Spelling & Grammar,” and after you spell check your document, you’ll see readability statistics. You’ll see the number of sentences per paragraph, words per sentence, characters per word, percent passive sentences, Flesch Reading Ease (the higher the better) and ultimately, your Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score (lower is usually better, depending on your audience).

For passive sentences, a lower ranking is better than higher. Target 10 percent or less. The passive voice is not as interesting and exciting as the active voice.

If the Reading Ease Score is lower than you want, and Grade Level score is higher than you want, isolate paragraphs and sentences to identify problematic copy. Then here’s how you change the score:

  • Use smaller words
  • Shorten your sentences
  • Shorten your paragraphs

A review of your copy’s Reading Ease and Grade Level is an essential step that should be automatic every time you write and evaluate copy.

And in the interest of self-exemplying, here is the Flesch-Kincaid score of how the copy for this blog post ranks:

  • Sentences per Paragraph: 3.0
  • Words per Sentence: 14.0
  • Characters per Word: 4.9
  • Passive Sentences: 3%
  • Reading Ease: 51.8
  • Grade Level: 9.5

How to Avoid Being Banned by LinkedIn When Connecting

“Your LinkedIn account temporarily restricted.” It’s a common message for sellers these days. It’s easy to be restricted or even banned by LinkedIn—simply for requesting connections with prospects you don’t know.

“Your LinkedIn account temporarily restricted.” This is a fairly common message for sellers these days. It’s easy to be restricted or even banned by LinkedIn—simply for requesting connections with prospects you don’t know.

If your connection requests are not accepted by prospects often enough LinkedIn will remove your ability to make connection requests. Being restricted from sending connection requests (phase I) and being totally banned (phase II) by LinkedIn is common. Ask around. You’ll be surprised.

Stop Asking for Connections
Being connected is more useful for nurturing leads—less effective for earning near-term meetings or starting relationships. Want to avoid being restricted or banned? Want more appointments from LinkedIn?

Stop sending out connection requests. Sound crazy? Hear me out. Today I’ll tackle:

  • Why you don’t need a connection on the approach,
  • When you should ask for the connection and
  • How LinkedIn fits in (best) with your prospecting process.

Why You Don’t Need a Connection
Connecting with a newly targeted prospect on LinkedIn is a terrible idea. Yet I still see social selling “experts” recommending sales reps make connections—as a means to introduce themselves to prospects! But what if you didn’t need the connection?

What if connecting was preventing you from getting more response & appointments?

“Ok, Molander. So why isn’t it a good idea?”

Well, it’s against LinkedIn’s rules. Plus, you probably don’t need it anyway.

Yes, it seems like a logical first step but it’s blind, cold. You don’t know the other person and LinkedIn’s goal is to protect people from un-solicited correspondence. Yours!

So what is the best way to make your approach on LinkedIn?

What’s Your Process—and How Does LinkedIn Fit in?
When I first meet students I pop the question: How does LinkedIn fit into your prospecting process. Ninety-five percent of the time I get the same response.

“I need to figure that part out.”

Well enough. I know it feels right to use connection requests as a way to make contact—once you’ve identified a potential buyer’s profile. After all, there’s a big CONNECT button staring you in the face!

But connecting makes no sense from a process and relationship perspective. It can also get you banned.

For example, LinkedIn connection requests are:

  • Restricted to 300 characters
  • Impersonal (automated requests are forced on mobile devices)
  • Against the rules if you don’t know the prospect!

LinkedIn connections can be accepted, ignored or declined—just like your calls or emails. They offer nothing better. In fact, they come with restrictions, are often impersonal by default and are not permitted. They’re risky!

Connect With Prospects Later
Let’s shift to process. It is best to “connect” off of LinkedIn first—then connect on LinkedIn to further (nurture) the conversation.

This takes full advantage of what connections give you (and avoids the risk of being restricted).

Think of it this way. Outside of LinkedIn, what’s the difference between a successful sales rep and one who struggles at prospecting new business? Getting connected on LinkedIn? Nope!

It often boils down to your ability to give prospects an irresistible reason to talk with you.

This is what all the social selling gurus don’t like to talk about. It makes me crazy. They’re never telling us what we need to do to experience success—only what we’d prefer to hear (to experience momentary satisfaction in having taking action).

Why and How Connecting Later Works
When prospecting, your goal is to create an urge in the prospect to talk to you. If you don’t create that urge you don’t get to talk with them. Period.

Social selling on LinkedIn is all about helping prospects feel honestly curious about how you can help them. How you can solve a problem, relieve a pain, avoid a risk or fast-track a goal for them.

Once you’ve attracted them, then you’re in a stronger position to:

  • Understand when (and if) they’ll transact;
  • Discover how many decision-makers are involved in choosing you;
  • Have your connection request accepted (avoid going to jail!);
  • Effectively nurture & close your lead!

This is why it is best to meet off of LinkedIn first—then connect on LinkedIn to further (nurture) the conversation.

Once connected, you can message freely, monitor prospects, allow them to monitor you and such. You don’t need to worry about any of that until you’ve been given a reason to—by the prospect. First, you need their permission.

You need them to want the connection.

But What if LinkedIn Is my Starting Point?
The most dangerous (yet common) LinkedIn mistake sales professionals make is connecting with new prospects as a starting point. Avoid this practice.

You are smart to use LinkedIn—to identify and pre-qualify buyers. Next, use InMail, email or the phone to make initial contact with them. Confirm your prospect is a viable near-term or future buyer.

Then connect.

Having connections serves you better by earning them. Being connected is more useful for nurturing leads—less effective for earning near-term meetings or starting relationships.

LinkedIn’s InMail (or standard email) is a better path toward earning a relevant discussion first—then the connection.

Keep connections in context of your selling process. Connections are a nice-to-have, not a must have! Do you have questions about making this technique “come alive” for you? Let me know!

3 Ways to Waste Time on LinkedIn, but Feel Good About It

Ever feel like beating down all those bad tips for LinkedIn that we’ve all had enough of? You know, the tips and tricks that give us a week’s worth of satisfaction—followed by that sinking feeling. “Ugh… why did I invest any time in that?!” Well, today is your day to call out those time-wasters and discover what to do instead.

Ever feel like beating down all those bad tips for LinkedIn that we’ve had enough of? You know, the tips and tricks that give us a week’s worth of satisfaction—followed by that sinking feeling. “Ugh … why did I invest any time in that?!” Well, today is your day to call out those time-wasters and discover what to do instead.

No. 1: Share Quality Content Focused on Providing Value
“I have seen little (okay, I’m exaggerating) to no success using LinkedIn,” John Reeb of the Colorado Leadership Institute told me.

“I have tried to add value to anyone who reads what I post … so that they gain some kind of expertise or learning that helps them in their day-to-day work… yet I’ve receive virtually no feedback nor any sales from it,” Mr. Reeb told me in a candid LinkedIn exchange.

LinkedIn gurus claim being seen as an expert in your field is the killer strategy. But it’s not. It’s the reward for having an effective approach.

We’ve been told “share and they will come.” But merely sharing valuable content on LinkedIn won’t help you find clients. Instead, start bold, truthful discussions in LinkedIn Groups. Post updates on issues that competitors wouldn’t dare go near.

Give potential buyers a reason to listen to you, to care about your words-to pay attention to you. Tell the truths your competitors don’t want told. Tell the truths you’re a little scared to tell!

Ask yourself what shocking truth can you reveal that:

  • Gives insight on an idea customers never heard before.
  • Busts a myth your clients have been told is true—that isn’t!
  • Confirms their suspicion that some sellers are telling “white lies.”

Successful social selling often means helping prospects believe in a new, more useful point-of-view-in a way they can act on. That’s where your lead generation offer plugs in. In fact, what to post on LinkedIn updates isn’t nearly as important as how you post.

No. 2: Comment Frequently on Group Discussions and Prospects’ Updates
You can’t throw a cat without hitting an expert espousing this time-wasting tip. Let the truth finally be told. Participation on LinkedIn is the cost of entry. Learning how to apply social media copywriting is the force multiplier.

Success depends less on how frequently you update your profile status, how often you participate in Group discussions or what you say. You’ll get more responses (and leads) by investing time in structuring words to be provocative.

Instead of wasting time patting people on the back, disagree once in a while. Invent ways to make potential buyers curious about your ability to solve a problem, remedy a pain or fast-track a goal.

Don’t get caught up in the popular nonsense: show you’re human, give-give-give before you get and (my personal favorite) tell a good story. As with any relationship in life, having personality and being interesting is the entry fee. It’s essential. Makes sure you know how to write social media posts so they provoke a response.

The key to turning LinkedIn interactions into business leads is following a social media copywriting process.

At the highest level, this process involves:

  • Getting to the point immediately.
  • Having something honestly new (and useful) to say.
  • Not saying too much too fast. Being a little mysterious.

No. 3: Connect With Prospects
Perhaps the most dangerous tip is connecting with prospects you don’t know. Again, self-appointed gurus are the problem, not the good people (you) using LinkedIn.

Have you ever been banned by LinkedIn for requesting connections with prospects you don’t know? Know anyone who has?

Being temporarily banned by LinkedIn for this practice is very common. Yet we never read anything about it or hear anyone talking about this problem at conferences.

Fact: If your connection requests are not accepted often enough, LinkedIn will remove your ability to make requests.

LinkedIn prohibits contacting distant prospects. LinkedIn is not a good place to contact people whom you don’t have (at least) a second degree connection with, and whom you don’t have specific knowledge about.

If you have a new prospect—who you’ve never spoken to-it’s probably not a good idea to request a connection on LinkedIn (outside of an InMail message). That is, until you have better proximity to the prospect … better ability to approach once they know you or have a high probability of accepting the connection request.

From a practical view, here’s why: Because this is not what LinkedIn is intended for. It’s not what the founders built LinkedIn to do for sellers.

In fact, LinkedIn wasn’t originally built with “social selling” in mind. Just like Facebook wasn’t built for marketing.

That said, LinkedIn and social selling are evolving into a great match. In fact it’s the bedrock of their growth plan as a business. But be careful. Connecting with prospects is where a lot of sellers go wrong and pay the price!

Questions about any of my tips? Disagree with my perspective? Let me know. Good luck to you!

Privacy – More or Less

As marketers, we should be gravely concerned about the questions of privacy and the ethics surrounding collection and use of what many email recipients consider private information. Please bear with me as I continue my commentary on the topic

As marketers, we should be gravely concerned about the questions of privacy and the ethics surrounding collection and use of what many email recipients consider private information. Please bear with me as I continue my commentary on the topics.

The line between business and marketing email is often blurred, and what affects one nearly always affects the other. Not surprisingly, privacy—and the lack thereof—is of heightened concern to businesses and individuals alike these days. With new and frequent discoveries concerning alleged abuse by both government and private agencies, this shows no signs of diminishing.

Google Is on the Hot Seat
It’s easy to despise Google. The company is a ridiculously successful behemoth that collects an immeasurable amount of data they then choose to use, sell, share and—seemingly arbitrarily—withhold in their quest to profit from what many recipients of email believe to be private thoughts, browsing experiences, correspondences, search phrases and more.

In two separate cases, Google’s collection and use of email data is being challenged.

In the first, a group of private email users have claimed Google illegally intercepted, read, and mined information from their private email correspondence in order to better understand the recipient’s profile and deliver targeted advertisements. (Wait. That sounds a bit like what I do as a marketer …)

In September, California Judge Judy Koh rejected Google’s bid to dismiss the case based upon their argument Gmail users had agreed to allow interception by accepting the company’s terms and privacy policies.

As the legal wrangling ensued, the lawsuit lost a bit of steam when the judge ruled these plaintiffs could not band together in a class-action suit because the proposed classes of people in the case aren’t sufficiently cohesive. Her ruling may well impact a number of other email-privacy cases in which she will be asked to rule, including lawsuits against Yahoo and LinkedIn. (In other cases, Facebook and Hulu are defending their right to monetize their members’ data.)

In a submission to the court, Google has said users of Google’s email service Gmail should have no “legitimate expectation” that their emails will remain private. A “stunning admission” of the extent to which internet users’ privacy is compromised, proclaims Consumer Watchdog (CW), a US pressure group.

This causes me to ponder: Yes, of course, Google collects more information than we do—but is it simply because they can? If we, as marketers, had the ability to collect to the same degree, would we? Is the difference between Google and my company the temperance with which the small business (compared to the conglomerate) would collect? As I said in my last blog, Spider Trainers—and other marketers—should proceed carefully, respectfully, and exercise care in not just what to collect, but how to use it. But is that a distinction without a difference to the average recipient?

Students’ Consent
In a similar lawsuit, students in California have come toe to toe with Google claiming the company’s monitoring of their Gmail violates federal and state privacy laws. This case, being heard by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, was brought by nine students whose emails were subject to Google surveillance because their accounts were provided in part by Google in their Apps for Education suite; a suite touting more than 30 million users worldwide, most of whom are students under 18.

Google admits to scanning student emails to serve students targeted advertisements even though display ads are not shown in Apps for Education. Contained in a sworn statement, Google “does scan [student] email” to “compile keywords for advertising” on Google sites.

What’s different about this case is the age of the typical recipient. FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) issued in 1974, ensures the privacy of records of students under the age of 18 and, as big as Google is, they should not be immune to legal constraints of this act. Like the previous case, the students are seeking class-action certification for the case.

This begs the question: Are marketers immune? Perhaps in our B-to-C events, we too must be mindful of the age of our audience. Certainly we know that we are collecting more than most of our recipients imagine. What preteen suspects that emails from her favorite store are actually vehicles for accumulating information about her buying behaviors in order to send her more relevant email offers?

Extending Acceptance
The pivotal topic in many of these Google and Gmail users discussions should be this: Even if the sender understood and agreed to the terms and conditions, that consent could not and should extend to the recipient who has not consented and who is probably unaware their data and profile is being assimilated from these communications. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is also concerned about Google’s ability to build detailed profiles of Gmail users by augmenting email-collection data with information collected by Google’s search-engine cookies, though Google denies such cross referencing occurs.

The Government
For most adults, searches are easily defined. If law enforcement suspects of us wrongdoing, they get a warrant, search our house, our car, our locker, and then seize the evidence of a crime. With an email account—be that Gmail or any other—it’s different. Emails are seized first and then searched for evidence. It’s similar in approach to the argument of the Obama administration for collecting every American’s phone records—law enforcement doesn’t know what is relevant until they have reviewed it all. In other words, it’s a fishing expedition on a grand scale.

So, it’s not just the private sector misbehaving if a federal judge has found it necessary to admonish our own justice department for requesting overly broad searches of people’s email accounts—nearly all of whom have never been accused of a crime. It’s widespread, but worse; all data collectors are at risk of being painted with the same brush. It’s coming to this: If you’re collecting data, you must be committing some sort of offense in the form of invasion of privacy, and perhaps even acting illegally. (Wow! All I wanted was to send you a personalized dog food coupon because you have three mastiffs and a poodle named Fred, Pete, George, and Ginger.)

In this case against the justice department, Judge Facciola concluded prosecutors must show probable cause for everything they seize – especially since it is possible for companies to easily search for specific emails, names, and dates of content relevant to an investigation. It’s therefore not necessary to ask for all electronically stored information in email accounts, irrespective of the relevance to the investigation.

Education
It’s going to become necessary to become educators—we marketers must educate our clients on appropriate collection and use in order to delineate what we do from what is happening with Google, NSA, Yahoo, and others. Without our input, and our self-regulation, it is quite possible that we will be spoon-fed rules of engagement—and likely that those rules will reduce future access to less than what we have now.

With the caching of images and relegation of email to specific tabs, Google is already getting in between us and our recipients by intercepting data to which we’ve already become accustomed. It’s a slippery slope to be sure, but we do have an opportunity to steer this downhill roll in a direction that will protect our ability to be good marketers in a healthy balance with the privacy of our recipients.

In Other News…
In an ongoing case, a U.S. appeals court has again rejected Google’s argument that it did not break federal wiretap laws when it collected user data from unencrypted wireless networks for its Street View program.

In the U.K., the High Court ruled Google can be sued by a group of Britons angered when using Apple’s Safari browser by the way their online habits were apparently tracked against their wishes in order to provide targeted advertising. Google asserted the case is not serious enough to fall under British jurisdiction.

Microsoft is feeling the heat after acknowledging it read an anonymous blogger’s emails in order to identify one of their employees suspected of leaking information. The FBI was involved only after the emails had been read.

Maybe I need a new blog: Privacy Erosion.

A Weird, But Effective Shortcut to Generate Sales Leads on LinkedIn

See what I just did? You chose to read this article—probably because the headline provoked curiosity. It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book, the basis of effective copywriting. True, there is no silver bullet for generating sales leads on LinkedIn. However, there is one habit that consistently brings my students and me more success generating leads online: Giving customers a reason to click and take action—relieve that nagging pain or take a step toward an exciting goal.

See what I just did? You chose to read this article—probably because the headline provoked curiosity. It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book, the basis of effective copywriting. True, there is no silver bullet for generating sales leads on LinkedIn. However, there is one habit that consistently brings my students and me more success generating leads online: Giving customers a reason to click and take action—relieve that nagging pain or take a step toward an exciting goal.

Yes, creating curiosity that lures customers to act seems like an obvious strategy. So, are you and your team doing it?

Engagement Is NOT the Goal: It’s the Entry Fee
At the simplest level these are our goals:

  • Grab attention, hold it long enough to…
  • provoke engagement in ways that…
  • earns response (generates a lead).

Will you agree with me? If you don’t get response to content placed on LinkedIn, you’re wasting precious time.

Will you also agree engagement is not the goal on LinkedIn? I know we’ve been told it is. It feels strange saying it’s not. But engagement is the beginning of a courtship process.

Whether it happens on your profile or inside LinkedIn groups, engagement is the entry fee. It’s your chance to create irresistible curiosity—or let your customer click away.

LinkedIn can be a big time-saver. It can scale your ability to generate leads. But only if you adopt a successful paradigm, one where engagement is the beginning, not the end. I’m talking about a world where it’s easy to get response—using a system to get customers curious.

3 Steps to Generating Leads on LinkedIn
Here are my best tips on structuring what to say and when—so you create hunger for more details in potential buyers. Remember, intense curiosity is the goal.

The idea is to give prospects temporary satisfaction. When you post updates, engage in LinkedIn groups or dress up your profile, answer customers’ questions in ways that satisfy. However, make sure your answers cause more questions to pop into their heads. That’s when you’ll hit ’em with a call to action that begins the lead generation journey.

Here’s where to start—either on your profile or in a LinkedIn group where prospects can be found: Answer a question your target market needs answered in a way that focuses on a nagging pain or fear. The idea is to directly or indirectly signal, “this discussion will help you overcome _____” (insert fear or pain).

If responding to an existing question make your comment suggest, “I’m here with a new point-of-view” or “I’m here with a fresh, new remedy to that pain.”

When you communicate follow these guidelines:

  1. Get right to-the-point. When you start or contribute to a LinkedIn group discussion be like a laser. Don’t make readers wait for the solution. Hit ’em with it. However start by…
  2. Revealing slowly. When it comes to all the juicy details of your remedy take it slow. Slow enough to encourage more questions—to create curiosity in the total solution. When you do this, make sure you are…
  3. Provoking response by leveraging customers’ curiosity.

Yes, be action-oriented and specific. But avoid being so complete that readers become totally satisfied with your words.

Make Your Answers Generate More Questions
Think of this like a successful dating encounter. Masters of the courtship process have always known the secret to creating intense curiosity: Being a little mysterious. Suggesting “I’ve got something you might want.” Holding a little information back. Strategically timing the sharing of information.

We’re trying to get the other person to be curious about us. So the best way to spark curiosity is to answer questions in direct ways that satisfy—but only for the moment. Answers should generate more questions … spark more curiosity in what we are all about.

Of course, we need to be credible. We cannot risk playing games with the other side. Yet being a little mysterious is fair play. It encourages more questions. This is how to generate leads on LinkedIn.

In business it works the same. Your ability to start generating sales leads on LinkedIn will be determined by an ability to answer questions in ways that provoke more questions from the buyer. Good luck!

Convince Prospects You Can Change Their Success Rates

Is generating leads with LinkedIn proving frustrating and difficult? Probably because you’re failing at tempting prospects to click more deeply and explore what you’re all about … in ways that help capture a lead. Here’s how to provoke response—get people to dive deeper into your blog post, explore your LinkedIn profile, register for a webinar or whitepaper download, email or call you.

Is generating leads with LinkedIn proving frustrating and difficult? Probably because you’re failing at tempting prospects to click more deeply and explore what you’re all about … in ways that help capture a lead.

Here’s how to provoke response—get people to dive deeper into your blog post, explore your LinkedIn profile, register for a webinar or whitepaper download, email or call you.

Success depends on your ability to prove to customers that you can change their success rates (before they purchase and in ways that earn you a lead).

The One Thing That Determines Success
Generating leads with LinkedIn depends on creating intense levels of curiosity in prospects. You’ve got to get them hungry for more information about solutions to their most urgent situations. But not the solutions you sell.

Your first meaningful interaction with prospects cannot be one they pay for. You’ve got to give customers a “taste of success” in advance of their purchase. This gets them confident in their own abilities and trusting you.

Here’s What to Say (to Get Response)
“What do I say to prospects when they don’t want to talk about what I sell yet?”

Whatever matters to them.

The best way to start generating leads with LinkedIn is to ask yourself, “What’s keeping my typical customer up at night?”

It sounds obvious, but are you doing it?

When interacting on LinkedIn, talk about answers to your prospects’ problems, methods to avoid risks or ways to achieve goals, but in ways that don’t immediately connect to what you sell.

Whether in a LinkedIn group or private email, present yourself in a way that leaves the prospect wanting more. This part will make or break your success.

Being provocative takes practice, but it’s the only way to earn a lead when using LinkedIn.

Promise to Change Your Customers’ Success Rate
No matter what you’re selling, you’ve got to give people a reason to start a focused conversation with you. Changing their success rate is that reason.

There are three “places” to converse with prospects:

  • LinkedIn groups
  • Email
  • Your blog

In all cases your challenge is the same: Be relevant and provocative enough to earn prospects’ clicks (to your blog).

Here’s how to begin:

1. Be clear, helpful, yet not 100 percent thorough. Lay out knowledge, tips and actionable information in ways that encourage more questions. Be specific but not so complete that readers become fully satisfied. Find ways to share actionable information in ways that make readers crave more examples.

2. Bust a myth. Few things attract and engage customers more than telling them “Let’s face it. What you’re doing is popular yet not effective. Here’s the secret on what actually works. I’ll prove it to you and show you how to get more of what you want.” By using this provocative technique you’ll create more response and a distinct voice for yourself. You’ll start generating leads with LinkedIn.

3. Make a clear call-to-action. You’re not selling. Instead, saying, “I have a cure for that” or “I’ve experienced that pain, suffered and here’s my three-step system to fix it.” Then make the pathway (to get that system, knowledge or quick fix) clear. Give content away free in return for a lead. Invite contact via LinkedIn’s email system or presenting a link to your website (if allowed in the group).

The opportunity standing before you is terrific. Giving prospects a way to better understand their problem or gain confidence over it can help what you sell become the obvious next step. In this way your product isn’t something to consider buying; instead it is a logical next step in a journey prospects find themselves on. Good luck!

How to Make Subject Lines Work Overtime

Emails are a series of components working together to motivate recipients to act. The subject line has always been a front-line player. Its ability to capture attention in a flash is critical to getting people to open the email for more information. The best subject lines are the ones that stop people before they can move along to the next message. This isn’t an easy task because today’s hectic lifestyles are filled with distractions. The only messages that get through are the ones that hit the target for an immediate need or are from trusted sources. The best messages combine trust and need

Emails are a series of components working together to motivate recipients to act. The subject line has always been a front-line player. Its ability to capture attention in a flash is critical to getting people to open the email for more information. The best subject lines are the ones that stop people before they can move along to the next message. This isn’t an easy task because today’s hectic lifestyles are filled with distractions. The only messages that get through are the ones that hit the target for an immediate need or are from trusted sources. The best messages combine trust and need.

The challenge for marketers creating email messages is creating trust and targeting needs. Trust comes with time. If your customers and prospects are consistently treated well, they will trust you. Targeting needs is much harder. Even the best analytical minds cannot predict with a high level of accuracy all of your subscribers needs at a given time. Missing the mark by a few days is the difference between a sale and a lost opportunity. Google is working to change that. The Gmail field trial that is currently running changes the email marketing game.

The enhanced Google search delivers a personal experience. The results are delivered from the web, Google Drive, Google Calendar and Gmail. This extends the life of emails exponentially for companies whose subscribers haven’t achieved InboxZero. Emptying the inbox every day and reaching the goal of InboxZero is elusive to most people. They try, but the best they can do is take care of the most pressing messages and leave the rest to another day. After all, there are more pressing demands than deleting messages most of the time.

When your subscribers search for products or services featured in your messages, they will be reminded of your email. Having a subject line that includes the search terms increases the likelihood that they will open your email and breathe new life into the campaign. This means that your subject line has to work overtime to deliver a better return. In addition to motivating people to open the email now, it needs to give them a reason to open it later. For example, if your business sells sunglasses, the subject line of “New Styles Just Arrived” becomes “Just Arrived – New Styles from Oakley, RayBan and Gucci.” When a recipient uses Google to search for “Oakley Sunglasses,” your email will appear with the detailed headline.

The same rules of engagement for subject lines still apply. The only difference is you want to add high quality keywords that will target recipients when they are searching for items or services you are featuring. The following subject line best practices have been adapted to help you capitalize on the new opportunity:

  • Put the most important information in the first fifty characters to capture attention and create a sense of urgency. Use the space after the first fifty to add targeted keywords.
  • Make the first two lines in the email consistent with the subject line. This is a good place to provide additional information and emphasize the keywords.
  • Avoid spam triggers in the subject line and first two lines of the email. Otherwise, even if the email happens to make it past the spaminators and into the inbox, Google will most likely ignore it.
  • Be your brand’s self. Your customers trust you, so create subject lines that make it easy for them to recognize your company.
  • Test, test and test. Don’t rely on other people’s experiences. Test to see what works best for your company.

The field trial is in progress now. If your subscriber list has a high volume of gmail users, you may want to start testing now to find the best ways to capitalize on this opportunity. Knowing Google, the senders who get opened the most are more likely to be at the top of the results. Shouldn’t that be your company?

Hashtags: #smartnewmarketingtool or #riskymarketingmove?

Call me out of touch, but I really don’t understand the fascination with hashtags. The hashtag gives Twitter the ability to collect all tweets about that topic into one collective location. That makes it easy for Twitter users to join the conversation by reading, retweeting and adding commentary. If enough people tweet and retweet about the hashtag word or group of words, it’s considered a topic that is “trending” (i.e. it’s popular).

Call me out of touch, but I really don’t understand the fascination with hashtags.

The hashtag gives Twitter the ability to collect all tweets about that topic into one collective location. That makes it easy for Twitter users to join the conversation by reading, retweeting and adding commentary. If enough people tweet and retweet about the hashtag word or group of words, it’s considered a topic that is “trending” (i.e. it’s popular).

Of course marketers have smelled an opportunity to leverage the hashtag because what could be better than having consumers talk about your brand—especially if the brands themselves sparks the conversation?

Within the last 20 years, there’s been a huge change in advertising CTA’s (Call-to-Action)—especially in television. First, many commercials ended by showing an 800 numbers, and that was quickly followed by the vanity 800 number. With the advent of the web, marketers substituted URL’s for 800 number. After it was discovered that the consumer didn’t know what to do once they landed on a website home page, the MURL was invented (www.nameofbrand/specificpage). When Facebook exploded on the scene, brands wanted you to visit and like them on their Facebook pages. But now, it seems, all of that is old school.

Many of the most recent Super Bowl commercials didn’t end with phone numbers, web addresses or any mention of Facebook. Instead, a hashtag was offered up in front of a pithy subject line as a way to get viewers engaged in a dialogue about the commercial itself (and, ultimately, the brand).

I find it interesting that during the Super Bowl this year, millions of dollars were spent on each 60-second spot, and yet several marketers risked it all by using a single CTA: a predetermined #groupofwords. I could understand if the hashtag was in addition to other CTA’s, but in most of the instances I observed, it was the standalone close on the spot.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have never even bothered to look to see what topics are trending on Twitter. Maybe I’m not cool enough to care. But I’m not 100 percent confident that throwing a hashtag in front of a topic will generate a POSITIVE conversation about my brand. So why would you place your brand at risk after you’ve spent hundreds of hundreds of thousands of dollars?

Creating “brand evangelists” has always been a core goal of any brand—people who support your brand, talk about it, recommend it to others and basically act as your mouthpiece by providing personal endorsements. But does doling out a hashtag topic guarantee that a positive conversation will ensue? Not in my book. #marketinghashtag

How ADP Is Netting Big Leads With Twitter and LinkedIn

Business process outsourcing (BPO) provider ADP is leading the way in creating leads and sales with social media prospecting. ADP’s sales force is using social media to discover and then solve prospects’ problems in ways that break down barriers and bypass those doggone gatekeepers. Once they’ve broken though the noise salespeople are quickly moving the discussion off of social media-DIS-engaging. Here’s how they’re doing it and how you can do the same.

Business process outsourcing (BPO) provider ADP is leading the way in creating leads and sales with social media prospecting. ADP’s sales force is using social media to discover and then solve prospects’ problems in ways that break down barriers and bypass those doggone gate-keepers. Once they’ve broken though the noise sales people are quickly moving the discussion off of social media DIS-engaging. Here’s how they’re doing it and how you can do the same.

ADP’s sales staff is getting more first-time meetings, more often, by giving prospects distinct reasons to invite them in for a presentation. They’re proving themselves as being worthy of consideration by giving prospects a high degree of confidence in their ability to offer value.

Breaking Through Barriers with LinkedIn and Twitter
Doug Plourd is a major accounts sales executive at ADP who is successfully using LinkedIn for business leads. Yes, his approach uses a relatively new social platform (LinkedIn) to research key decision makers but how Plourd is netting leads and accounts isn’t new at all.

He also is using Twitter—another relatively new social platform. Yet, again, the reason Twitter is so effective at generating new business leads for him is not technical nor new.

Plourd is using relatively new, “social” tools in combination with a very old, effective idea.

Solving problems for customers.


In the above 2 minute video you’ll hear how Mr. Plourd is gaining access to key decision influencers and decision makers by:

1. Listening for his prospect to express a pain he could remedy (or a scratch he can itch)

2. Acting—actually proving that he can provide relief to the prospect; thus, transferring confidence to him/her

3. Asking for the appointment (the opportunity to demonstrate his ability to eliminate other, related business pains)

None of the above ideas are new and that’s precisely the point. Don’t let all the hype-and-spin of social media marketing get you off-track. Yes, the digital tools are changing rapidly but what works is not revolutionizing sales and marketing despite all the bluster!

Give Customers & Prospects Confidence with Social
The best way to get more business appointments with social media is to avoid what most “experts” claim works. Trying to grab attention on Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs and Twitter won’t work. Instead, the best way to earn appointments is to exploit social media’s greatest strength: Its ability to create emotional response.

Do you want to start using LinkedIn for business leads? Start giving your prospects the confidence they need as buyers. The trick is to do it in ways that increase their ability to feel emotionally grounded and intellectually stronger—fully equipped to do what they want to do. Talk more with you about buying!